Wednesday, 29 June 2016

G.L.O.S.S. 'Trans Day Of Revenge': Important, Articulate, Ferocious.

Art by G.L.O.S.S. Courtesy of G.L.O.S.S. Bandcamp.(2)
                                                                                                                                     
Over the last week I’ve been repeatedly listening to 7 minutes of some of the most exciting hardcore punk likely to be released this year. Trans Day of Revenge is the 5 track 7 minute second release by American Trans punk band G.L.O.S.S. Their first release in January 2015 was titled Demo and came out only four or five months after they had started playing together(1). G.L.O.S.S. is made up of Corey Evans on drums, Julaya Antolin on bass, Sadie Smith on vocals, Tannrr Hainsworth on guitar and Jake Bison also on guitar. That their musicianship was honed from experience in other previous bands (1) is apparent in the quality of their original release but Trans Day Of Revenge takes it up another level. The 5 tracks range in length from the 1.00 ‘Out From The Desk’ to the epic 1.54 ‘Give Violence a Chance’ which means the 'Repeat' button on your player is going to take a hammering!
It’s important to understand this band and release as an expression of Trans Resistance in a hostile culture, and judging by the comments on their Bandcamp page people have found hope, encouragement, empowerment and comfort in these tracks (2). Importantly the 5 tracks link up different resistance struggles in American/Western society, Black Lives Matter, Anti-fascism, coping with sexual abuse, LGBTI struggles. G.L.O.S.S. realise and articulate the inter-connectivity of oppression, joining the dots in a racist, sexist, heteronormative society. This band say more in 7 minutes than most manage in 7 albums!   

Trans Day Of Revenge starts with the aforementioned ‘Give Violence a Chance’ which judging by the chorus is a song of solidarity with another oppressed section of American culture. ‘
‘Fuck the peace keeping, Fuck the calm
The investigation is a fucking con
The truth is known beneath the gun
Black lives don’t matter in the eyes of the law.’ (2)

Track 4 deals with the complex pain of life after suffering sexual abuse as a child.
‘Childhood shame/internal blame
Incest bore a complex pain
We live and die/Against the grain
For ourselves we live
With pride’. (2)

Last track up is my favourite, if you can keep from moving to this you probably need to check your pulse! Title track ‘Trans Day Of Revenge’ is about strength and resistance in the daily struggle of being a Trans person in a Transphobic world.

Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit are important, articulate, ferocious, encouraging . If you doubted that punk could still be a vehicle for the voice of the oppressed, the marginalised, if you doubted it could still be a rallying call and a point of resistance and hope then listen to Trans Day Of Revenge and doubt no more!



Bibliography.

  1. Joshi, L. (2015) The Redemptive Femme Fury of G.L.O.S.S. http://archive.seattleweekly.com/home/958148-129/girls-just-wanna-live-outside-societys
  2. http://girlslivingoutsidesocietysshit.bandcamp.com/album/trans-day-of-revenge

Sunday, 26 June 2016

The Referendum- a Working Class Revolt? No.

I've read lots of explanations of the Referendum result... Old v Young, Precariat v Salariat, a working class revolt against the political establishment...
However most of the people I know who voted Leave are old and affluent or working and affluent, none of them voted out of insecurity-what they have in common is that they read right wing newspapers and have a low level of engagement in politics. (No-one voting Leave talked to me about democratic deficits, neoliberal corporate projects or EU protectionism.) So from what I hear and see this was not an expression of protest by the Precariat against the establishment, after all what are Gove, Farage, Johnson and the right of the Tories?
What the media is missing, as it daily presents itself as neutral observer of a political process rather than as the big player in that process that it actually is, was that this result was the effect of years of anti European, xenophobic propaganda emanating from a neoliberal political/media elite who have convinced masses of people that problems caused by domestic policies are the fault of another. The affluent and the Precariat have been taught over years to blame the EU and migration for domestic problems of de-industrialisation, a hollowed out economy, low levels of social mobility and lack of investment-all home grown economic and social problems. 
This Referendum was never primarily to do with international politics but power plays within the Tory party and between the Tories and UKIP but it has changed the UK's relationship with the rest of the world, relationships within the UK and could have profoundly negative cultural effects as it has emboldened far right racists and xenophobes.
If we are unlucky we are going to find out soon what an even more right wing UK government freed of EU constraints looks like and I really don't think that the poor, the precarious and the vulnerable of England and Wales will be better off.


Friday, 24 June 2016

King Champion Sounds: Post Punk Psychedelic Krautrock!

Photo by Thierry Laroche.

You know when you hear a track for the first time and it’s completely exciting and intriguing? Well that’s what happened to me in 2013 when I first heard ‘Here We Go Again’ off Different Drummer by King Champion Sounds on Radio 6. Jangly guitar, horns, driving rhythm, superbly crafted lyrics that drew me in so that I wished I could read them and ponder their meaning-this was special stuff! Later that year, in the October, I got to see them at The Buffalo Bar, London supporting The Nightingales (though to be honest I didn’t see the headline band). KCS debut album Different Drummer is an eclectic mix and live they were as good as I had hoped, the songs had that extra 10% you always hope for. A year later they released their second album Songs For The Golden Hour which concentrated and developed their unique style. This September they release their third album To Awake In That Heaven Of Freedom and that seemed a great reason to ask founder Ajay Saggar for an interview!

Could you tell us about how King Champion Sounds came about-initially it was for a one-off gig wasn't it?
AS: My previous band The Bent Moustache were asked by promoter Sjoerd who works at a great venue called Occii in Amsterdam if I’d like to open with the group for Mike Watt on Sunday 24 February 2013! I had no hesitation in agreeing to do the show, but told him that the only proviso would be that I would do a one off special show…..it was to be a 30 - 40 minute “piece”……a special arrangement for this one night. So I wrote all the music, and demo’d everything in my home studio……and then had to find a band. G W Sok was the first person I asked if he’d like to be involved in this one off project….to write lyrics, and sing….to which he agreed. My whole idea was to incorporate a horn section and a string section as well, and so had to spread the net out for them too. I asked Oli, from the band Shrug, based in England, if he would play bass, to which he agreed. I needed someone who could play as tightly and repetitively as Steve Hanley from The Fall…..and Oli is perfect for that. besides that, he was also an old friend of Mike Watt, having collaborated on recordings with him in the past. The drummer situation was a tough one…..but I had enormous luck when I randomly asked Amber, daughter of Kat from THE EX, if she knew any drummers, and she said “Yeah, check out Mees Siderius”. Mees was then 17 years old, and I wrote him an email and sent him some music. He agreed to join the project too. I didn’t meet him / had never heard him play, until that first practice together! The horn section came about when I asked Ditmer, and old musician friend of mine with whom I’d collaborated with for several years, if he knew any other blowers in the area, and he recommended Chris. I got the band together on a Friday (without Jos) and we rehearsed all the music for a solid 12 hours. On the Saturday, Jos joined us, and we rehearsed with him for another 12 hours. On the Sunday, we played a fantastic show. We had such great feedback from people, that the idea came into my head to maybe record what we had done and release it under a different moniker. We played our first official show as King Champion Sounds on Wednesday 17 July at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, opening for the YEAH YEAH YEAHS (at their request!). The rest, as they say, is history

Had any of you worked together before in other bands?
AS: I had asked Jos to contribute vocals to the last The Bent Moustache album. Ditmer I had also worked with, playing improv gigs in and around Amsterdam. But we all knew each other from the fact that we were interested in each other’s musical projects throughout the years.

When KCS started did you have a clear idea of what you wanted or did the sound evolve?
AS: Yeah I had a pretty clear idea in my head as to what the band would sound like, and the different musical fields that I would like to have the band drop their toes into. Basically I write all the music and we develop this in the studio. The songs structures / riffs are mine, and I always start with drums and bass as the basis, and get all that on tape. Once that’s down, then you can start building the rest of the temple. The tunes are sent to Jos as soon as possible for him to start on his lyrics, and in the meantime, I start work on recording guitars and other instruments, and then I’ll get the horn section in last. A lot of the time I know exactly what other instruments will be used to embellish the whole thing, and then it’s a case of finding musicians who can help you out on those particular fronts….like a string section, or guitarists, or vocalists, etc etc.
The sound does evolve for sure, but that’s more to do with work in the studio with editing / mixing / production work. We don’t have the time to meet together and jam out ideas or sit in the studio for days working on songs. The songs are what I offer to the band, and they nail it in one or two takes in the studio.
Having said that, the sound has a red thread running through it all over the course of the three albums made, but I feel we have made huge strides in how the songs are arranged and the variation of the style of songs has always remained eclectic, but on this new, and third, album it sounds like the perfect sonic journey when you listen to the album from start to finish. That took a lot of work and time and energy.

How would you describe your sound-were there any influences?
AS: Well on my press release for this album I wrote the following : "The album is a music lovers delight reigning in psychedelic krautrock jams, post-punk dub, free jazz spirituals, hauntological soundscapes, spoken word poetics, blazing electronica, and more”,that probably covers it pretty well haha.
Influences…….that’s a hard one to nail down because as a lifetime music lover and vinyl junkie whose tastes span a wide spectrum of music, stuff seeps through both intentionally and unintentionally, but the most important thing is the end result. The song is the most important element in the whole equation. The feeling you get from listening to it, from playing it, how it moves you. And all art is influenced in one shape or another.

You songs engage with political and social issues, is that something you wanted from the start- a band with something to say about society?
AS: The lyrics are the domain of Jos and they deal with personal and public politics. His personal and musical background have emerged from a political background having been involved with the squatting movement in Amsterdam from the early 80s onwards and he was a member of a political punk band…..and his writing leans towards politics. People who say they are not interested in politics are kidding themselves as everything they do in their daily lives is directly affected by politics. And so to be able to write about it without giving a sermon or a lecture is a fine art and that is something that Jos has been able to do most successfully for many many years. He is a great lyricist who is able to present hope and light out of every dark situation. And asking Jos to join the band and to be the lyricist / singer was a deliberate choice. The music and ideas behind the band had to have a firm grounding, and his lyrics do just that. Luckily he agreed to join!

What sort of issues have you explored in your songs?
AS: That’s a pretty broad question seeing as we have made three albums with a lot of songs within and so the subjects covered are wide and varied. Jos’ lyrics are not black and white whereby you can pin his opinions in an obvious way……but he has a fantastic manner of building a story around a subject and leading you on a journey….the self -discovery of the subject and the issues surrounding it are part of the beauty of his words

Was that why you recruited GW Sok as lyricist/singer? Or an unintentional-but positive- consequence?
AS: It was an intentional choice. I’ve known Jos for over 30 years (I saw The Ex for the first time in 1985 / 6 in the UK) and we have been friends ever since then. I’ve always admired his lyric writing, and we have collaborated in the past on other things……and he was always the person I had in mind for this group. Luckily he agreed to do it…..and till now it’s worked out extremely well

What was it like recording the first album Different Drummer-it is very eclectic!?
AS: Well most of the music I had already written beforehand and so knew where it was going to anyway. The eclectic element is not per se a prerequisite, but it evolves organically out of the music that is written. Most of the members of the band have a pretty wide musical palette and therefore bring in different elements into the whole equation. The diversity of the record(s) is unique and either can be celebrated fully for the wide and far reaching styles…..but there remains a common thread running through it all - it’s like a journey……or people can get confused that it doesn’t always adhere to a well worn and familiar musical path. I have always made records that sound like compilation albums, but well constructed comps hahaha

...and the bonus track on the CD, ‘Massivemissivemessage from the Weird Mouth' is different again-how did that come about?
AS:  I had the music already, an electronic journey. I’d been experimenting with home made oscillators and with various synths and had the musical canvas which needed a vocal over it. My friend Michael Nolan a poet from Manchester, whom I’ve known for many many years, and I’m proud to call a dear friend, was the man I asked to do something on the track. He actually didn’t listen to the music at all beforehand, and I recorded him down the telephone line whilst he was on holiday in Sunderland!!! He did it all in one take, and I just sat in the studio open mouthed as he recited the spiel down the line. Just stunning!!!

Has the creative process changed with each subsequent album?
AS: The approach to writing and making the music hasn’t changed drastically over the 3 albums. I write all the music beforehand, demo I and record it all in the studio, and then send the jams out to the musicians so they know what to expect. Then I always start with the drums and bass, and nail that in a day or two. That is the bedrock for most of the tracks, and I will send this to Jos who will start on his lyrics. I then add all guitars and extra instrumentation, and also get Oli to add extra stuff as well. After this, I get Jos to do his lyrics, and then later get the brass boys in, and we score everything and record their parts. Then come all the extra guests….strings, guitars, vocalists, etc etc.
The process is lengthy but the important thing is that you remain focused and know where you want to go with the whole thing, and keep it well planned. To date it’s gone well, even though it costs an enormous amount of energy. The results speak for themselves I think

Is song writing for KCS a very collaborative affair, more like a collective or does one person come in with a more or less completed song?
AS: I usually write all the music and the lyrics are handled by Jos. Regarding the shape of the whole thing, it’s pretty much my call on how the boat is steered musically……but this has come about due to different things. The whole thing was my idea and I have a pretty firm idea as to where I would like the whole thing to go, and so can be termed a control freak if you wish. But also due to the fact the members live abroad, are away on tour constantly with other acts, have jobs, go to college, etc, its very hard to get everyone together to practice and write music together. In an ideal world that would happen, but we have different things going on in our lives.

Have you been pleased with the response you've had-the KCS sound is quite unique?!
AS: Yes the response to both the records and to the live shows has been amazing. I think the records have gone from strength to strength…..the new album that is due out in September 2016, is a classic! It’s going to be a double album with an extremely wide range of styles and surprises, but the sound is uniquely King Champion Sounds. We had a lot of guests playing on this album who tapped into the KCS vibe very quickly…..people like J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.), Mike Watt (Minutemen / The Stooges), Tom Carter (Charlambides), Alasdair Roberts, Johanned v/d Weert (Rondos) and more.
The live shows have been explosions of energy….both onstage and offstage. The band have really gelled hard when playing live and it’s a super dynamic band. The gigs have been very well attended and the feedback we have had from audiences all around Europe has been tremendous.

You are releasing a third album in September- you seem to have involved some notable musicians on this album, how did that come about? Has this led to a shift in the bands sound?
AS: There are indeed a whole host of great guest musicians involved on the new album. This came about as I thought that some songs needed a fresh element bringing to the sound, or carrying to a different level, and for that we needed help. I’ve collaborated with Johannes v/d Weert (Rondos) in the past, and he and Jos rapped together on a track (for real!). The tracks “Mice Rats Roaches” needed a blistering guitar solo for the last part of the song, and seeing as solo-ing isn’t a strong point of mine (some might say guitar playing isn’t either…but we’ll leave that one for now haha), and I thought lets ask a friend whose whole life has been one long solo…..J Mascis! For a hauntology piece I needed an improv electric guitar player who would add fire and passion and evil to the track, and Tom Carter was the man for this…..I met Tom back in 1995 when I toured the USA with Donkey, we stayed with Tom and Christina (Charlambides) when we played in Austin, Texas. The spoken word piece needed a distinctive man, with a distinctive voice for whom words are always important…..and Mike Watt fitted the role. He asked me for a theme to write about, and it was post-Paris attacks, and there was the whole Trump presidential bid, and Syria was escalating etc etc….and so I asked him to use the theme of fear. The piece he recorded is utterly beautiful. Alasdair Roberts added great acoustic guitar and improvised vocals too this piece.
The sound didn’t shift as such…..the core element of the sound is KCS. But I definitely feel that the songs have developed significantly over the 3 albums we have made, and there has been real strides made in the dynamic and quality of what has been rendered. I am extremely proud of this new record (as I am of the first two off course).

Are you hoping to tour this album later this year?
AS: KCS will tour in mainland Europe between 16 September to 1 October taking in Holland, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium. We will play in the UK in late February / start of March.

Are there any countries where KCS have been particularly well received-any ideas why?
AS: We’ve always gone down well in France…..they have a knack of hooking onto the energy being transmitted from the stage and soaking it up on the dance floor and reciprocating that energy. But I have to say, that most audiences in most lands that we have travelled to and played in have given us extremely favourable reactions…..for which we are always grateful. Playing music live means sharing something special with other people and the energy formed and shared in a concert hall is a unique and powerful thing which can lift you to higher places. Certainly in these times, music is the ultimate healing force……

I think you are based in Holland-how is the music scene there-are there lots of opportunities for playing live?
AS: I’ve lived in Holland for over 24 years now. The music scene is pretty vibrant…..alot of young bands doing their thang and vying to get seen and heard…..like anywhere else. Trying to get shows can be tough….but there is an underground scene in some towns where independent promoters / groups of people are willing to put on perhaps new and young bands because they hear something special in the music, as opposed to following trends and fashions. But there are also a lot of established clubs + venues that pander quite often only to acts whom they know will sell a significant number of tickets and cut out the opportunities for newer bands to play there…..which is highly unfortunate, and unfair. But there are networks and groups of independent minded people who do work together to create something outside of the mainstream and these places and people are unique and to be cherished.

Thanks to Ajay for his time!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Teeth Of The Sea: Incendiary, Danceable, Cinematic Rock!

A few months ago I went down to The Lexington in that London to see White Hills, the special guests were a band I had heard of but not heard, Teeth Of The Sea, I’m so glad I got there early! Teeth Of The Sea were amazing! They’re either very danceable rock or very rocky dance I’m not sure which but so intense and exciting! They self describe as ‘ an incendiary sound that marries the aural enlightenment of an avant-garde sensibility with the reckless abandon of trashy rock & roll’ (1) Seeing the wide demographic present in the audience busting some moves as their set progressed was...err...interesting! TOTS  is comprised of Mat Colgate, Mike Bourne, Sam Barton and Jimmy Martin (2), they formed in 2006 and released their first album ‘Orphaned By The Ocean’ in 2009. They’ve since released four subsequent albums (3). After the gig we chatted about the possibility of an interview and over time it happened!

You've been together about 10 years now and produced four full length albums Orphaned by the Ocean, Your Mercury, Master, and Highly Deadly Black Tarantula. Do you feel each one is a shift in style and feel? Is each album distinct or are there continuities that spill over?
Sam: We've always tried consciously to keep moving, I don't think any of us have ever been interested in establishing a trademark sound and then honing that. Whilst there's a lot of common ground between us musically there's also pretty big differences in taste there too, as well as constantly shifting listening habits so it would actually be more contrived if all our records sound the same as it wouldn't reflect us as people at all
Mat: Personally I try and change parts of my methodology with each release as a way of inspiring new approaches and sounds. My purchase of a drum machine was a big kickstart for parts of HDBT, for example. Having said that I would hope that you can listen to any of the albums and know that it's TOTS.  

Are you getting nearer to your ideal-a teleologic process- or is it an evolution which could go anywhere?
Sam: I can assure you there's no overriding purpose or ultimate goal at work here, any and all shifts in sound or methodology exist purely to keep ourselves interested and keep the process enjoyable. I think anyone who knows us would agree that the idea of a master plan is pretty ridiculous! I suppose that's what might make it interesting for people to follow though - no one knows where we're going next mainly because the members of the band themselves don't have a clue.
Mat: It's nice to think that we have the flexibility to go pretty much anywhere with our music but obviously there are limits. I don't think we'd ever be in a position where a salsa album would seem the right thing to do. Our ideal process is pretty much the one we've got: we all listen to loads of music, watch a load of films, read a bunch of books, drink a few beers and then start playing. It all comes out somewhere.

As well as TOTS you seem to have a lot going on around the edges, side projects, collaborations. Could you talk us through some of them? How do those involvements then feed back into TOTS progression?
Sam: As mentioned before we all have pretty disparate, ever-evolving tastes and hyperactive, restless personalities so it's good to keep busy and indulge these things. Mat runs & DJs a disco/techno/industrial night (The Meat Packing District) and Jimmy plays guitar in newly-resurgent NWOBHM legends Angel Witch, Mike and I do a modular synth & trumpet drones/beats/loops band called Hirvikolari together plus Mike also does a pure modular duo called Metal with Jamie Paton of Caged & Aviary. On top of that we've all at some point done bits & bobs on other bands recordings/gigs. Whilst on a general level all and any creativity outside of TOTS is going to be of benefit to the band I don't know that anything specific from these necessarily feeds back into TOTS because even before we were doing any of the other projects we'd bring all these disparate influences to the table anyway. I guess from a purely technical level playing in Hirvikolari probably helps me with stamina/technique/understanding my set up etc, just the boring stuff really. I honestly don't know what any of the others would say to this question though!
Mat: The Meatpacking District is my very loose and personal interpretation of what a 'Disco' night consists of - meaning that I get to play everything from Front 242 to Donna Summer to Queen Samantha to Zombi. It definitely feeds into my contributions to the band. Disco has been an obsession of mine for years now, it's spaciousness, use of repetition, adaptation of experimental techniques into more 'accessible' forms, social radicalism and sheer danceability are a continual source of fascination to me. It's also a very easy music to get wrong in interesting ways, which for a musical klutz like myself is extremely useful.

You've also re-imagined or written soundtracks for films and books including 'A Field in England' and '1984' (4). How did those projects happen, were you asked to cover those films/books or were you able to choose the source material? (Did you see the stage production of '1984' in London last year-what did you think of it?)
Sam: It's a band of cinephiles so I guess the soundtrack angle was always there in the way we sounded, the word 'cinematic' is probably in every review of every record we've ever made! The first actual film-related project we did was on New Year's eve 2009 when we performed a cover of the entire Flash Gordon soundtrack whilst all in home-made costumes from the film. After that we were approached by the Branchage Film Festival in Jersey to do a project in 2011, which is when we readapted/recut Neil Marshall's bonkers trash epic Doomsday and composed an entirely original soundtrack to it. It obviously wasn't a complete disaster because after that we seemed to become a bit of a go-to band for Philip Ilson who not only helps program Branchage but also organises the London Short Film Festival as well as having a curatorial role in a number of International film festivals. That's basically where the commissions for both A Field In England (which we performed at the Cork Film Festival in 2013 and then at the London Short Film Festival in January 2014) and 1984 (which we performed at CERN in Switzerland, the Transylvanian Film Festival in Cluj, Romania and Latitude Festival, all in 2014) came out of. I think it's been a total privilege to actually be involved in all those events, the film work has taken us to some amazing parts of Europe and we've met some brilliant people through it, a very different setting to a traditional rock gig/tour/festival.

The word that seems to crop up a lot when your non-soundtrack music is being discussed is 'cinematic'! In fact I read one comment that suggested your latest album, Highly Deadly Black Tarantula, is best understood as a soundtrack to an as yet unmade movie (5)! Has that been a conscious element of the creative process or has it been 'by osmosis'?
Sam: Ha! See my previous answer re 'cinematic'. I don't think we ever sat down and said that we want our music to sound like a soundtrack but I suppose there's two things at work there: 1) we're obviously all influenced a lot by individual acts like Goblin or Tangerine Dream, who created a particularly atmospheric strand of soundtrack work in the 1970s, and also the way certain directors (eg Kubrick) place music within their films. 2) In putting an album together as an instrumental band we tend to always view it more as a single complete work than perhaps a band with lyrics does (where each song is explicitly about a different thing maybe it's more difficult to do that). The lack of explicit verbal narrative can also lead a listener to respond in a way more akin to a visual piece of work, which obviously ties in again.
Mat: The absence of 'lyrics' tends to draw people toward that comparison, I think. That and the fact that we're certainly not averse to a bit of epic grandstanding. Lots of my favourite instrumental music has a synesthesiac quality and evokes images and events. Obviously we're all massive fans of Goblin, Tangerine Dream - particularly their 'The Keep' soundtrack in my case - and Angelo Badalamenti, but I'd also add Barry De Vorson's 'Warriors' soundtrack, Coil's Unreleased 'Hellraiser' project and the Cliff Martinez' soundtrack to 'Only God Forgives' to that list. We're all massive movie heads - I'm actually a film journalist in what passes for my 'civilian' life - and it can't help but rub off. Cinema is pretty much all we ever talk about in the rehearsal studio.

How does your music take shape, does one person bring a piece or does it emerge from collaboration?
Sam : Initially we always used to just come to the rehearsal room with absolutely nothing prepared and then make a din until something of interest emerged. We'd then just record all our rehearsals and slowly put tracks together that way. These days we still do that a bit but we've relaxed our policy on 'pre-prepared' material, any one of us might have sketched a loop, beat, riff or melodic idea at home and bring it in. Where it goes from there though is anyone's guess, the writing is always a democratic process so each individual generally gets to do whatever the hell they want over anyone else's idea (with the caveat that equally anyone can suggest any other member try anything out they think might work). For the last album we actually tried to keep the compositional detail as simple as possible until we got into the studio so we could have the freedom to write as we were getting the stuff down, which was great and something I'd be keen to carry on with for future TOTS releases.
Mat: Improvisation is at the heart of how TOTS compose, but we will occasionally bring ideas down to the studio with us - a drum loop here, a drone there, a piece of found sound. Anything can be the bedrock of a composition. Personally speaking, I tend to be on the lookout for particularly tasty noises. Not necessarily 'notes' I should point out, but a good gristly piece of noise or crackle will usually get me started on the right track.

In a band where there are few lyrics what subject matter provokes your song writing and how does that subject matter inform the song's final outcome? Is it difficult to transpose anything discernable of the original stimulant into music without lyrical content?
Sam: In all honesty we never, ever talk about what something's 'about', we tend to discuss the creation of tracks/albums more in terms of sounds/images/atmosphere and put stuff together around that. That's not to say we don't all bring our individual stories/feelings/opinions to the table it's more we like to leave the idea of 'meaning' open ended so that people can impose their own narratives/stories onto it. As a listener that's obviously one of the really key things about instrumental music, whether it's classical, jazz, electronic music, soundtracks etc. In answer to the second part of your question, yes, these things can take massive tangents along the way dependent on what everyone's individual contributions are. It's not something I think any of us is worried about, providing we're all happy with the way it ends up.
Mat: Again, I can only speak personally on this one, but I tend to be more inspired by different compositional techniques than any particular subject matter. I love trying stuff like cut-ups, automatic writing, random processes and the use of found sounds as kicking off points. I don't consider myself to be a particularly 'inspired' artist in the traditional sense, so these are great techniques - tricks, if you will - to get the brain going. Having said that, a lot of the last album strikes me as being fairly angry. Why the fuck would it not be?

I saw you for the first time supporting White Hills at The Lexington in March-I couldn't work out if it was some of the most danceable rock or rockiest dance that I had heard, in terms of danceable intensity it reminded me a little of ATR! Were you happy with that gig-there seemed to be a lot of movement going on in the audience!
Sam: Yeah, loved that show. The Lexington is one of our favourite venues in London and we're all big fans of White Hills, both as a band and as people. Terrascope the organisers also did a bang up job of promoting the show and looking after us, again really nice people. When there's a situation like that where  there's a hell of a lot of goodwill in the room between all parties plus everyone is doing their job very well it makes everything about 10 times easier. On top of that the audience was totally having it and we managed to avoid any major technical fuck ups so yep, a really great night!
Mat: I love it when people dance at our shows! I wish more people would. Dancing is one of my principal joys in life, so to inspire that reaction in other people is fantastic. I was at Berghain for the first time recently and the view from the balcony down onto the packed, writhing dancefloor was one of the most powerfully moving things I have ever seen. An incredible thing to witness and be a part of. Interestingly enough, as a friend of mine pointed out recently, TOTS are one of the only bands you'll ever meet where all the members like to dance. Seriously, line up the 5 percent lagers, stick something that goes BANG BANG BANG onto the stereo and watch us go. It's quite something

Mat kept a diary of your tour with Thought Forms and Esben and the Witch and it made me realise that you can have no idea what you are coming into at a gig (6). How much does the immediate environment -the audience/building affect you or are you fairly self contained in terms of performance?  
Sam: Well, two directly opposing yet nevertheless completely true cliches here: 1) if you go onstage at a less than well attended show with the intention of giving anything less than your absolute utmost to the cause of rock'n'roll/partying/noise/whatever then you're basically a dick and are ripping off the few people decent enough to haul their sorry asses out and watch your ponderous antics. 2) The bigger/more up for it the audience is the better the show is going to be. So yeah, put simply, we never really get depressed by small audiences but to not get a lift from a really great crowd would be perverse.
Mat: Well there is of course the famous 'What would Wolf Eyes do?' rule, which ensures that even if there are only three people in the audience they will still witness an unparalleled amount of lunging and fist pumping. Obviously playing a sold-out show is going to make you feel good in a way that playing a half-full venue isn't but we always give it our best. We're old troupers really. We love the smell of the grease paint. "The show must go on, dear..." etc etc.

What films, books, authors have you been enjoying lately? Who would you cite as musical influences, if anyone?
Sam: Film: I went to see a fantastic documentary about Ornette Coleman last night called 'Ornette: Made In America' by Shirley Clarke (1985) that was easily one of the best musician documentaries I've ever seen. Really experimental in it's editing with fantastic footage of him performing Skies Of America with the Forth Worth symphony orchestra interspersed with interviews with people like William Burroughs, Brion Gysin and George Russell. Absolutely inspiring stuff.
Book: I'm just getting to the end of Kieron Pim's biography of David Litvinoff 'Jumpin Jack Flash'. Litvinoff was this curiously mercurial figure in 1960s London, a gay Jewish guy who'd grown up in pretty severe poverty but in adulthood inhabited all these different social milieus, from running with the Krays to being friends with the Rolling Stones and Francis Bacon. It's a great study of London at the time and a lot of the social codes of behaviour that he could flit between really effortlessly.
Musically: We've all got too many influences to list really, but a short list of key names for me would feature Miles Davis, Eno, Butthole Surfers, the aforementioned Ornette Coleman, Delia Derbyshire, Funkadelic, This Heat, Jon Hassell, Annette Peacock, David Bowie, Liars, Oneida, Colin Stetson, Kate Bush, Throbbing Gristle, Lee Morgan. Worth pointing out though that lists of this nature always tend to canonize more classic, established artists whereas I'm probably just as influenced by dancing around at 2 in the morning to some Nigerian psyche or banging techno record that I can't the name of as I am by some of these folks' music.
Mat: I've watched a bumper crop of good films recently. 'Green Room' is a good one - look out for that in May - and I adored Severin Fiala and Monika Franz' 'Goodnight Mommy', which was genuinely thoughtful and disturbing horror that kept me guessing right until the end. All things considered however, I think 'Hail Caesar!' may well end up being my favourite film this year. The sight of George Clooney delivering mock-pompous dialogue while dressed as a Roman general could have been made for me and I was tearing up with sheer joy at points. I've gone on about 'Batman V Superman' in detail elsewhere, but I am still very intrigued as to what effect that titanic. flailing mess of a film will have on the superhero movie genre in general. Also, how fucking good is Rainer Werner Fassbinder?
Comics-wise, I finally got around - after about twenty years - to finishing Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell's 'Zenith' which was just as satisfying as I'd always hoped it would be. I've also been getting heavily into the work of Italian artist Guido Crepax, whose erotic works are wonderfully kinky with a lovely sense of pop-art unease to them. Looking forward to the new Daniel Clowes as well. Plus 'Batman' is really good fun at the moment, which is always makes getting out of a bed that bit easier.
Influences? Blimey, where to start? Afro/Cosmic disco, dark Italo and synth stuff, loads and loads of prime period industrial - TG, SPK, Cabs etc -, Whitehouse, Ramleh and the whole scene that surrounded the Broken Flag label, vintage Brit psych, lots of extreme metal - the more extreme the better, particularly Gnaw Their Tongues, Aevangelist and The Body - Regis and the Downwards label, clattery agit-punk... anything under-produced, murky and aggressive tends to get my vote. Also that 'Gqom Oh! The Sound Of Durban' compilation excited more than anything has in years. Everyone should listen to that.





Bibliography

(1) http://teethofthesea.bandcamp.com/

(2) https://www.facebook.com/Teeth-Of-The-Sea-115594505139423/info/?entry_point=page_nav_about_item&tab=page_info

(3) https://www.discogs.com/artist/1293689-Teeth-Of-The-Sea

(4) McCracken, S (2015). Daylight Come: An Interview With Teeth Of The Sea. Nov     2015 http://thequietus.com/articles/19185-teeth-of-the-sea-interview-highly-deadly-black-tarantula

(5) Diver, M. (2015) The Lead Review: Mike Diver On Teeth Of The Sea's Highly Deadly Black Tarantula. Nov 2015  http://thequietus.com/articles/19134-teeth-of-the-sea-highly-deadly-black-tarantula-review response from Arron Leslie, Nov 2015.

(6) Colgate, M. (2013) Features: Teeth Of The Sea Tour Diary- with Thought Forms and Esben and the Witch. Oct 2013 http://www.the-monitors.com/2013/10/29/teeth-of-the-sea-tour-diary-with-thought-forms-and-esben-and-the-witch/

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Tense Nature by Brian Case.(Hands in the Dark Records)

Photo by Zoran Orlic .
'Tense Nature' is the new album by Disappears front man Brian Case. Disappears have been described as Krautrock but their albums have such a sense of moving on, seem so distinct and subtly varied that any one label isn't going to come anywhere close to describing them, and their last album 'Irreal' saw them stripping everything back. Those trends continue on this solo album. This is a work that explores a very different musical territory to Disappears and in that there is a strange continuity, if Disappears are always moving on then so is this, if 'Irreal' was a stripping back then this takes it further. According to Hands in the Dark 'The songs are all built around the idea of tape loops or lock grooves, working with snippets and phrases of sound. Brian sampled guitar or small drum loops before cutting them randomly. The sequences and their imperfect nature were then reworked into a sort of momentum, built using Case’s own perception of the new fragments'. That's how it was done but what does it sound like? Fascinating! Its like listening to a really great sci-fi film! The album is made up of 12 tracks of varying lengths each one complete in itself with it's own inner cohesion and structure but nothing jars with the unity of the whole. It is a meticulous creation/construction.  In some ways the individual tracks and the album as a whole are closer to a piece of aural installation art than rock or pop and would be as at home in a gallery as a music venue. In feel the tracks range from the mysterious (DCIN) to the ominous (Sisix) and it is always at least slightly unsettling. Having listened to it a few times I would say it is an album whose intelligence and subtly become more apparent the more time you invest in it. If you are wondering where to place it in your album collection as a work of intriguing experimental minimalism it would probably slot in next to Tomaga quite nicely.



Thursday, 2 June 2016

Valentina Magaletti; Renaissance Woman.

Photo by Valeria Lopez.

Drummer and multi-instrumentalists Valentina Magaletti is possibly best known as both the drummer of psych band The Oscillation and  for her work with Tom Relleen as experimental band Tomaga, whose music has been described as sounding like 'radio messages from a distant constellation alerting us to the existence of art forms we had barely imagined'. Valentina was also the drummer on Blackest Ever Black releases; Raime and Moin, has recorded with Shit and Shine and is drummer with new London band Vanishing Twin. Highly rated by fellow musicians she took time out from a hectic schedule to kindly give an interview

I noticed on your 'Facebook' page that you are from Bari and studied Law in Italy, when did you first start playing drums and decide to make drumming your 'career'?

I started playing drums when I was 9 years old and never stopped since.
My academic life never constituted an obstacle between my musical effort and my Law Studies. I graduated in Law in my hometown in 2000 discussing a Dissertation on Intellectual Property. I have always found the two worlds compatible, and I had always time to tour, record and study at the same time.
When I first moved to London I was working part time for the Witness support at the Crown Court. Only in recent years I had to stop my full time occupation to dedicate myself exclusively to my music career.
 
Was it a difficult decision?

It has never been a difficult decision. I guess I planned and schemed my future in the way I’ve always wanted. I managed to work full time and go regularly on tour until I decided that I wanted to travel more and use all my mornings to make music in the studio or to have more time for myself. I felt very privileged and grateful to have a job in London that allowed me to own my own place and to choose how to live my life. I respect enormously people who work hard in order to achieve their goals and in a way my “office years” make me proud of myself. I currently teach Italian and drums when I am not touring.
 
How did you end up moving to London? Was that a 'musical' thing?

After my first school trip to London in 1990 I literally felt in love with it.
I visited the city regularly with some friends year after year. I remember organising all my summer trips to catch all the music festivals, Reading, Glastonbury etc…
It has always been a musical city for me but also a city able to enhance your freedom.
I instantly felt at ease with the grey urban landscape and find it incredibly beautiful and inspiring. I moved here the day after my thesis and started answering band ads straight away.
 
You play(ed) in, and with, quite a range of bands; Shit and Shine, The Oscillation, Tomaga, Vanishing Twin, Raime. Do these different collaborations change the way you have to play and interact with the other musicians? You must have to adjust your style a lot!

Tomaga and Vanishing Twin are more “my projects”. Hence my style is integral part of the sound and I don’t need to adjust it.
With the other bands you mentioned like Raime for example, I played on their albums witnessing the shaping of pieces of work written by someone else.
It is fair to say that, my inputs in this scenario differ slightly as I need to “ interpret” what other artists’ want to express though my drumming or simply perform strictly some parts.
I find it hard to change my drum style but I consider myself quite versatile. 

Tomaga is Tom Relleen and yourself, the rhythm section of The Oscillation- is that how you started playing together or had you worked together before? How did the idea for Tomaga emerge?

The Oscillation has always been Demian Castellanos project. He is a great writer and producer. In the studio he always plays everything but the drums. As a live band we toured extensively and Tom and me naturally developed a strong musical alliance that eventually started suggesting we had something to say outside The Oscillation.
I guess Tom felt somehow restrained covering just “the Bass player” role. He is a great musician, Interested in the recording and producing side of things, he is very curious and always keen on experimenting with sounds and materials.
This is pretty much how Tomaga started with no expectations whatsoever. 

You started Tomaga in 2013 and have had four releases I think, plus a split with Orlando-how does the recording process evolve? Is it the capturing of improvisation or is it more structured?

After the first limited cassette EP, we recorded our debut album “ Futura Grotesk” in 2013. Part of the material that didn’t make the final album track list ended up on a second cassette “Familiar Obstacle” that eventually was repressed on LP. The split with Orlando started as a joke. We wanted to write a soundtrack for an imaginary video game.
We haven’t found a precise way to write music yet. I am not even sure we are ever looking for one.
Surely there is both improvisation and structures but we haven’t nailed a precise ratio yet.
We constantly listen to old and new records and sometimes in trying to recreate a certain soundscape we find a “Tomaga” way to express it.
 
Tomaga's music is experimental and instrumental, would you see it as the musical equivalent of abstract art, the transposing of ideas and concepts, experiences and emotions into another form?

All our work so far has been like a collection of feelings, places and random events that somehow we felt the need to capture. I find that our modus operandi could be intrinsically linked to the collage aesthetic rather than abstract art. I would love to be the Hannah Hoch of drums! You can find a decent dose of paranoia, manic depression, black humour and surrealism in our compositions not necessarily “abstract” in the sense that the word entails.
Field recordings and homemade musical instruments are the main tools and the canvases vary. We recorded in many different locations; from our “Bunker” in Bethnal Green to a beautiful Tuscan colonic countryside retreat and this certainly helped our musical transposition of ideas into “ other” form.

I saw Tomaga at Colchester Art Centre with hardly anyone there (with Housewives-an amazing gig) and I've seen your gigs where the crowd just keeps growing the longer you are on! Does the immediate environment-the audience/ building-affect what/how you play or are you fairly self-contained? 

One of the things I love the most about Tomaga is how versatile the whole project can be.
Both Tom and me are always up for playing as much as possible. So far we played in village squares, museums, churches, little theatres, contemporary museum and huge festivals.
I am always pleasantly surprised to find out that no matter where we perform we manage to establish a connection with the audience. It doesn’t really matter if there is one, four, two hundreds or a thousand people watching you. What it matters is that there is a musical
dialogue between the band and the audience. That is my idea of measuring how successful Tomaga  (or any other band) is. 
 
Do you draw on, or are you influenced by,  any non-musical cultural resources (eg films, books, visual art) in your creative process? You are a big art fan, are there any visual artists you find particularly inspiring?

If you ever come to my place you will instantly be introduced to my Horror Vacui.
I keep whatever stimulates my imagination and I love drawing and making collages.
Endless posters, collages, screen prints, flyers, photos, imaginary creatures, cut ups form newspapers, magazine, anatomy books, stickers, tiles, masks, little sculptures. I consider my creativity a way to exorcize my paranoia.
Currently I find art brut particularly inspiring, the naivety, the unconventional, the fantasy worlds , everything created unwillingly outside of the established art scene.
The work of Wall, Ramirez or Adolf W├Âlfli  for example, perfectly described as “Pulsating with organic life, his patterning—which employs everything from clock hands and buildings to snails and birds—is evocative of musculature one minute, an illuminated manuscript the next” has a big influence on my taste.
 
Could you tell us about Raime and your work with them, has it been a long standing collaboration?... and Vanishing Twin?

Yes ,I started working with Raime when they were recording their fantastic debut album 'Quarter Turns Over a Living Line'. The record is the first release on the incredible successful record label “Blackest Ever Black”. We met in Hackney Wick long time ago through mutual friends. They are fantastic guys and extremely talented producers.
Since the first recording we collaborated periodically and I played drums for their alter ego project“ Moine” and for their latest work “ Tooth “ (out on the 10th of June 2016).
I will be playing European and international shows with them starting from this June.

Vanishing Twin is a brand new project, led by Cathy Lucas also known as “Orlando”.
We recorded an album in North London produced by one of my favourite drummers and producer Malcom Catto (The Heliocentrics, Mulatu Astatke, Madlib etc...). We signed a record deal with Soundway so you’ll be soon able to hear the album.( Out in September.) I am extremely proud of this work as it took us almost a year to finish. It is extremely orchestrated, and magnificently performed by incredibly talented musicians. It is an intriguing mix of Library, Exotica, and soul jazz and popcorn music. 

How have you found being a woman in rock music? Often in mainstream pop women's physicality seems to be emphasised, and some female musicians have written about having to cope with casual sexism. How have you found the music scene, have you experienced much sexism and gender stereotyping or have you been pleasantly surprised by your experience?

I never considered myself as female drummer or a woman in rock music,  but simply a drummer.
I have always refused to answer ads and I have been extremely sceptical about bands seeking female musicians. It means nothing to me. The way you play an instrument can
only marginally change according to the sex of who plays it. Certainly playing death metal or really loud and heavy beats on the drums requires more strength and could possibly be more suitable roles for male candidates so, I am not ruling out exceptions.
However music is just a way of expression, a force able to unite and separate us and in my head it has no gender, neither changes accordingly to the genders of the musicians.
I have to admit that in my list of favourite drummers I have only few female musicians but I am sure this could be just a coincidence or my ignorance in discovering new artists. 
As far as the casual sexism goes, yes every now and then I feel victim of preconceptions or conventions but I attempt not to be affected by them.
I had the occasional “ You are very good drummer for being female” or once on stage ready to sound check being asked “Are you the drummer?” but in general the audience who come to see Tomaga is incredibly open minded and free from stereotypes so it really doesn’t offend me. Who cares really?

Who has influenced you both musically and more generally?

This is a tricky question.
It would be very limiting citing few artists as I find new inspirations daily in my life.
Not only browsing my extensive record collection but reading and attending events (theatre, gig etc…).I guess what comes out from my music is a random mix of my feelings filtering whatever catches my mood, my feelings and my ears.
In my head, I know this might sound arrogant, I try to distinguish a genuine product from a derivative one and base my influence on the former.
 
What current bands are you excited by?

There is a lot of great labels and great stuff out there! I am naturally excited by all the “Negative Days”(our imprint) and “Hands in the Dark” releases like:
Brian Case’s from Disappears debut album, Blutwurst debut album (out this autumn), MFU Home Tapes ( that hopefully will come put on LP soon), Pierre Bastien, The Heliocentrics, Bzz Bzz ueu and almost everything from www.musicalacoque.it, Rocket Recordings, Blackest ever Black, www.dieschachtel.com, www.finderskeepersrecords.com etc etc….

How is the rest of 2016 looking? Have any of the bands you play with plans for new releases ?

The rest of 2016 looks pretty busy but incredibly exciting. I have a lot of shows booked and few recording sessions scheduled. Raime is out on the 10th of June ( Blackest ever Black), Vanishing Twin ( Soundway) will be out second week of September ,the new Tomaga album should be out the first week of September.( Hands in the Dark/ Negative Days)
Moreover I recorded an album with new project called “UUUU” with Graham Lewis, Matthew Simms (Wire) and Tighpaulsandra (Coil) currently being mixed. (Not sure when it will be out on EMEGO).

Big thanks to Valentina for her time, interview and music.