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Alec Empire The Maccabees The Low Anthem BM Linx Man Like Me

Issue 45 В© 24 April - 8 May 2009
Your Free Guide
To Live Music
In The Capital
do believe the hype...
page 7
IacNk Daaniel’s
en e 9
see pag
The Maccabees
BM Linx
Man Like Me
The Low Anthem
Plus, In This Edition: Speech Debelle
The Miserable Rich Ye Olde Axe Sleepercurve
65 Days Of Static News Reviews and Listings
Issue 45 В© 24 April - 8 May 2009
Most employers tend to get quite snotty if they catch
you on Facebook or Myspace or whatever when
you’re supposed to be working. We can’t actually go
out and say they’d be cool with you checking and
updating Twitter every five seconds, but we live in
hope. londontourdates is now a’twittering away,
which means that even when the fresh, glistening
buzz of a new issue has worn off and you’re getting
itchy for the next one, you can see what’s going on at
tourdates Towers, every second, of every day. Even
when we’re in the bathroom, if you’re so inclined. Go
to for the full skinny.
Of course, in between describing an entire mag in
140 characters every 140 seconds, we actually
manage to drag some stories together, and there are
some corkers this time around. Of major interest to
us – and, it appears, to every human in the known
world at the moment – is Little Boots. It’s that electropop vibe that, no matter what you feel about it in
recorded form, seems to work so damn well live.
Of course, the Boots might have met her match with
Speech Debelle. In many ways the polar opposite of
the flamboyant Boots, Speech’s personal, intense
take on hip-hop is winning over fans.
It doesn’t hurt that her debut album, Speech Therapy,
is absolutely one of the finest records released so far
this year. It’s hip-hop, over live jazz, and it’s on Big
Dada – which, frankly, is about as high a seal of
quality as you can ask for when it comes to hip-hop.
We don’t know if Speech is on Twitter but judging by
her out of hours activities (she was “at the pub for a
burger and chips and to watch the football” when we
called) we somehow doubt it.
And now, we will attempt to finish this missive in 140
characters or less. Journalists can’t count, so this
may be tricky. There - no space.
Funk from the frozen north Geordie boys Smoove & Turrell
There can’t be many
men like Man Like Me
And this year’s award for musical
eclecticism goes to: BM Linx
Sleepcurve and 65 Days of
Static - good bands, just don’t
ask them about those names...
These Little Boots are made for walking.
And that’s just what they’ll do
Speech Debelle - jazzing up British hip-hop
Oh come on - strippers, beer,
live music? What’s not to
like? Shoreditch’s
Ye Olde Axe
The Maccabees get better and better, they say
Up late and loving it all the live reviews
Listings – next week’s
Albums reviewed
Jazz, metal, piano ballads.
Anyone know what to
expect from Alec Empire?
Thought not
Plus: The Low Anthem - big on creationism. Not big in Texas, we guess p4.
The Miserable Rich - not miserable. And not rich. Barely solvent at best p8.
Umblical Brothers - wacky Aussies talk music. Uh-oh. Brace yourselves. p14.
And now we
present to you…
A few hours before we spoke to Geordie funk merchants Smoove
and Turrell, they found out that they’d been booked to play both
Glastonbury and the Big Chill. Nice. Their brand of funk is getting
serious love at the moment, with 6Music getting on board and
Radio 2 booking them for a live session. As they drove down to
London for the session, we spoke to producer and beatmaker
Steve Moore, otherwise known as Smoove, while his partner
John Turrell chipped in with live album selections and certain
unintelligible clarifications.
Annie Mac. Radio One presenter. Club DJ. Raconteur(ess?).
And now, apparently, curator. Or at least, we assume so - we
haven’t asked her if that is, in fact, the title for someone
who appears on the bill as �Annie Mac Presents…’
Anyway, Miss Mac is indeed presenting a
rather slick collection of artists at the end
of the month at Koko. Plan B, Chase
and Status, Rage and Takura, bashment
king Toddla T, Mujava and Rachel
Barton. Oh, and Little Boots, who
we get to rock with elsewhere in
this edition. It goes down on
April 30. For tickets call
0870 432 5527.
How are you and what have you been up to recently?
Rehearsing like mad! We’re on the road at the moment, driving down from the North.
We’ve got a lot of gigs coming up, so just going like crazy.
What are the five albums that have most influenced you?
The Pharcyde – Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
Cream – Disraeli Gears
Ray Charles – Live
Steely Dan – Aja
Stevie Wonder – Inner Visions
Under The Influence
Where did you grow up? What was it like for a budding musician?
I grew up in Sunderland, and the whole band is from the North East. There are a lot of
good musicians coming up now, but the North East has always been kind of restricted.
Cities like Leeds and Manchester enable you to make connections, but up where we’re
from it was always quite hard.
Heavy as
The online tags for the
upcoming Antichrist Special at
Club Collosseum in Battersea
read as follows: bondage
industrial heavy metal punk goth
rock manga anime. So, quite a
varied night then. One thing you
can be sure of is music heavier
than a Judas Priest amp: we are
talking, after all, about acts with
a lot of consonants in their
names. You know, Cavey Nik,
DJ Stixx, DJX, Knine…those
sort of names.
It all happens on April 24.
For ticket info call
0207 627 1918.
If you could be a musician in any era when would it be and why?
Now. Everyone goes on about the swinging sixties, but I reckon you can do more with
the production techniques nowadays. We like mixing the old with the new.
Is there any particular venue you’d like to play and why?
Festivals, definitely. We’ve played Cargo and Luminaire, and at times I prefer those
small, intimate venues, and sometimes I like to rock with 60,000 people. So
Glastonbury and Big Chill should be fun.
What was your first musical instrument?
I had the drums when I was about sixteen…no, hang on, my first real instrument would
have been the turntable. I’m a scratch DJ, and I had a turntable when I was twelve – in
What books have you read and what films have you seen recently?
Let the Right One in – a Swedish arthouse film. I don’t like big Hollywood
blockbusters. And I’ve just read Richard Pryor’s autobiography.
& Turrell
If not a musician, what job would you have had in the real world?
An artist. I studied art and sculpture.
Do you prefer playing live
or recording in the studio?
That’s a tricky one. What
do you think John?
[Turrell. There follows a
slightly inaudible answer]
Playing live, yeah. Why?
[Yet another inaudible
response] Yeah, you just get an instant reaction from the crowd.
Any burning ambitions?
To be the greatest funk band in the UK and further afield. To follow in George
Clinton’s footsteps.
Anight of mystical magic and fantastical happenings.
by Brondesbury BR and Kilburn tube.
Live Preview
here have been many, many albums that deal with
the conflicts raging within those brought up with
faith. Two of our greatest lyricists, Greg Dulli and
Craig Finn, have created masterpieces founded on
the hypocrisy, comfort and iconography that are
inherent in organised religion. The other side of the coin
- and the other faction in a vehemently fought battle in
America’s schools - is creationism, the thorn in the side
of governments inextricably linked with the church.
With Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, Rhode Island’s The
Low Anthem have crafted an album that frontman Ben
Knox Miller says “derives its energy from the conflict
between the two sides”.
The title calls on both sides of the coin, asking if Darwin
has torn away the comfort blanket of the omnipotent
creator God, to whom do we turn when “the water’s all
around us”, as Miller sings on opener �Charlie Darwin’.
“To distill it down,” he says, “we mean it very sincerely.
The record has this secular bent to it, the fear that there’s
nothing looking after us or grounding our lives in
purpose or meaning. It also has this very basic longing
for identity and community. Like, oh my God Charlie
Darwin! Darwin cut the root of the Christian-based
ethics that I was raised in, the Protestant work ethic, the
guilt, all the things that are the core principles of our
identity. Even though the root has been cut, we still live
those values which have become ingrained in our nature
without being able to understand why. The record is
deeply confused and hopeless but still very much
longing for that community and sense of purpose. Oh
my God Charlie Darwin! It’s a pun but it’s also a genuine
expression of fear and panic.”
Six months after self-releasing Oh My God, Charlie
Darwin, The Low Anthem find themselves revisiting it
in the illustrious company of Bob Ludwig, possibly the
most famous man to sit on the other side of a mixing
desk. After signing two big time deals, with Nonesuch in
the US and Bella Union in the UK, the band were
offered the opportunity to remaster the record with
Ludwig. “Bob comes from a classical music
background,” says Miller. “He started doing a lot of
work with Nonesuch because Nonesuch has an
incredible classical catalogue. They asked if we wanted
to do it. It was still a lot of money but we wanted to make
sure the reissue would have something special about it
and would feel like moving forward, even though we’re
The risk the wrath of God
putting out something that we’ve been living with for a
long time.”
Therein lies the biggest potential pitfall for a much-loved
band signing to labels such as Nonesuch and Bella
Union, the homes of Wilco and Fleet Foxes respectively.
With the inevitable re-release of pre-label records come
the questions. What does the re-release offer that won’t
leave the devoted feeling aggrieved? What justifies fans
spending money on another copy of an album they
already own? The Low Anthem resisted the cheap trick
of adding bonus tracks or alternate takes. “There were
some things where it was like �I wish I coulda done this’
or �I wish I coulda done that’,” says Miller, “and there
were some songs where I think we maybe missed the
mark a little bit and we could have recorded them a little
better, in ways that are informed with how we’ve
performed them since then. We were asked if we’d like
to do any re-tracking or remixing and our thinking was
that we’ve already released this record. It is what it is
and we love it. It’s a record of that moment in time when
we put it out and we’ll just take all the ideas and sit on
them until the next thing. But we won’t move back in
time into material that we have already published.”
It’s a rarity for a band to get the chance to go back to an
album six months after its release. When The Low
Anthem returned to Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, they
found a collection of songs that differed from the
incarnations they now played live but a record of which
they were still immensely proud. “It was better than I
remembered,” says Miller, “When we were recording,
mixing and mastering the first time it had been in our
ears for around six months and we had no distance from
it. I couldn’t really hear the songs anymore. In the
recording process, it’s hard to enjoy your own work. Six
months later, listening back, I was actually really
he back room of Ye Olde Axe in Hackney is filled with
dilapidated couches, crumbling footstools and peeling
wallpaper. The boozer has a proper stage opposite the bar, but
it’s empty at the moment, and the noise of a rehearsal session
echoes out into the nearly empty pub.
If you were to have ventured into the back room of Ye Olde Axe last
Thursday night, you would have seen something pretty cool. You
would have seen a bunch of musicians - among them the members
of Man Like Me, a female vocalist, a guitarist, a musician wielding a
massive horn and a saxophonist. They were having a rehearsal
session of unsurpassed funkiness, cranking out an acoustic version
of MLM song �Donut’. It sounded damn good, and it looked like
they were.
The bar didn’t remain empty for long. Later that night, standingroom-only would turn into hang-on-for-dear-life as MLM took the
stage to a packed solid boozer. Earlier, though, the three members –
vocalist Johnny Langer, MPC-jockey Pete Duffy and �Trombone’
Jerome – met tourdates in the massive outdoor area for a chat.
They’re a ragtag bunch; Pete, despite being one of the more vocal
members of the band, looks fairly shy and fidgety. Johnny is a tall,
rangy guy with a clipped haircut, and Jerome is a rotund American
with a rolling voice which resembles his instrument of choice.
They continually take the piss out of each other, to the extent that
we’re not always sure when they’re joking and when they’re being
serious. Getting a straight answer is sometimes difficult.
Right now, they’re discussing their tour experiences – Europe, the
US and the UK are all discussed, though at this moment Jerome’s
snoring is being debated, as is Johnny’s tendency to spit phlegm
rather than swallow it. Talk soon turns to an incident in Los Angeles
Pete: “I hid behind a car in LA. We were in Compton, and someone
fearin’ Middle America
Ben Knox Miller tells
Mark Grassick why
excited. We don’t spend a lot of time listening to our own
records. I hadn’t heard it in six months but I loved it. We
listened to what Bob gave us and heard how much he
warmed up the sound and how full it sounded. He did a
really beautiful job.”
With OMGCD finally put to rest, only the remainder of
this tour stands between The Low Anthem and their next
record, a project Miller is keen to get at. “We’ve got two
records worth of stuff that we’re sitting on right now,” he
says, “We want to get this reissue out, push it hard and
then get back to work. We’re always looking to the next
record and right now we’re chomping at the bit. This is
the first record we’ll have made that’s funded by a label
so we want to make sure we don’t do it the easy way.
We’re definitely very aware that we want to be
producing and crafting it ourselves in a way that feels
like the same struggle as the last record and the one
before that. The blood, sweat and tears that come with
the insanity of producing your own record are such an
important part of the vibe that comes out of it.”
Since the initial release of OMGCD, things have
progressed at an astounding rate for the band but Miller
has not been swept away by the momentum. “We’ve
kinda been doing the same thing all along. It was just me
and Jeff as a duo for a long time and our philosophy was
that it was only the two of us so we could figure out a
way to make a living just by working hard. Just touring
regionally and barely making a living. That was our
goal; do that and then we’ll be able to put all of our time
and efforts into the craft and into honing what we’re
doing with the sound and the records. Everything that
has happened, I feel was worked very hard for. It never
seemed like anything came free or easy. It wasn’t a
situation that you make a demo and give it someone and
hope that they make your luck for you. The day-to-day
for us hasn’t changed at all. We’re driving in our minivan trying to keep up with Ray Lamontagne’s giant tour
bus. Never sleeping, always travelling, we’re still doing
all the same things we used to do. It’s just that now there
are other people doing things too.”
The three slightly bizarre
members of
tell Rob Boffard why
they are the way they are...
Man Like Me
had weed, and I kind of took one toke, being careful,
but next moment I’d completely lost my mind and I
was hiding behind a car.”
“I like dropped the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen to
go and walk him around Compton,” says Johnny.
Jerome: “The most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen?
Johnny deadpans: “The most beautiful girl I was ever
gonna get!”
Their music is a bit like this. It takes the piss just
as much as their conversation, with narratives
of confusing, stupid, ridiculous urban life
over instrumental backdrops which
owe just as much to J-Dilla and
The Streets as they do to
groups like Imperial
Leisure and Seventh
Son. The group
maintain, though,
that they are a
live act more
than anything
Says Johnny: “We
get away with as
much as we can. We have
more than the abilities of one
man on stage.” Pete chips in, saying that
normally the group don’t rock with other
musicians (though there are rumours of an
acoustic session later on) but still manage to
bring it live.“Put as much shit in there as
possible, fill every moment with the kinds of
gimmicks that keep them guessing.”
Johnny: “And then bring in a person like
Jerome who actually is musically talented.”
Pete: “We didn’t want to be one of those
bands that just puts a laptop on the stage
checking his emails while everyone else is
playing. We do something we can be a bit
more proud of.”
Jerome, who although he talks with a broad
smile across his face, doesn’t say all that
The Low Anthem play
The Slaughtered Lamb
on 13 and 14 May.
For tickets call
020 7253 1516
much, agrees. “I think people respond positively. They’ve never seen it
put together like that before, and if you can see something you’ve
never seen before…”
There is no question about what Jerome brings to the band, beyond his
matching sense of humour. His trombone is the most eye-catching
thing on stage when MLM rock live. “The trombone is the sexiest
instrument in existence,” he argues passionately. “What is there not to
like about it? A seven foot phallus. I think I like it because it’s the
closest instrument to the human voice; there’s no break, no strings,
keys, no certain things to hit, it’s just from your mouth.” Of
course, this is a man who, in one of
the MLM videos, walked
around in a giant nappy
playing the
trombone. One
senses he’s
probably a little
hard to take
The MLM sound –
that monster mix of
huge beats, halfrapped-
Live Preview
Try Before
B e for e
You Buy
half-sung vocals and a brash, insistent, attention-seeking undercurrent
– is brought to the fore on their debut self-titled album. MLM, who
have been around for five years, struggled to release the album, finally
finding a home on Our Time Records. They maintain that despite the
struggles, and turning down good small deals (Johnny calls it “being
dumb”) the album is something they’re proud of; Jerome admits to
having one of the songs as his ringtone. But do they think that
musicians – and hip-hop artists in particular (even though they
themselves are not strictly hip-hop) take life too seriously?
Johnny disagrees. “I think rappers are allowed to take it seriously. I
think it’s other people that take it too
Pete: “I’m scared of rappers.”
Jerome: “I don’t think rappers have
any more right to take things too
seriously. If you’re a gangster rapper,
what are you doing in the studio? If
you’re selling drugs or pimping hoes,
what in the studio appeals to you?”
“Don’t shatter my dreams!” cries Pete.
“I don’t want to be a rapper, I just want
to be their friend.”
Jerome: “They ain’t doing the
shit they tell you they do.”
Johnny: “To be honest, I’d
love to be an MC or a
rapper. Actually, I’d
just like to know
one.” Johnny is not
considered by his
bandmates or
himself to be an
MC; more of a
singer than anything
else. Like most of
MLM, it’s a bit hard
to pin down.
Later on, when
MLM change into
sharp(ish) suits and
take to the stage,
the gig is a roaring
success. Our live
review is at the
back of this issue,
but when they
come rock your
area, get in line.
Man Like Me play
the Camden Crawl on
24 and 25 April.
For ticket info call
0871 220 0260. is the nation’s top website
for unsigned bands and the fans who love
Thousands of band profiles with MP3s for
you to check out and download means
our site is the best place to bone-up on
the artists playing live in London before
you set out for the venue.
Better yet, it’s absolutely free to use for
both bands and punters.
Here are a couple of acts gigging over the
next fortnight. We like �em, but don’t take
our word for it. Log on to
and give them a listen...
We’ve always
been a little
mystified as to
actually what
was. To us, it
seemed to be
just on the
wrong side of
But if math rock
is 65 Days of
we’ll be at their
Dingwalls show, protractors in hand. The Aphex-Twin-ish
vibe of their live guitars and crisp drum and bass
percussion, not to mention their dab hand at controlling
tempo and mood, makes them an industrial, quietly
aggressive combination that should be seriously crazy on
stage – especially once their guitar solos get going. Not
sure we get the name though; only 65 days? The band (who
seem to be pretty flexible with the name, going by 65DOS,
65 Days or just plain old 65) don’t provide an explanation.
Nevertheless, it should add up to something good.
To hear 65 Days of Static MP3s, go to
They play Dingwalls on April 26.
For ticket info call 01920 823098
A sleeper curve, apparently, is a
term used by Steven Johnson to describe how �the
idea of popular culture being beneficial to an individual’s
cognitive development’ (Ah, of course! How could we
have forgotten?) When the Steven Johnson-lovin’
Sleepercurve take to the stage, sleep will probably be
the last thing on anyone’s mind – though, of course, we
can’t be certain popular culture or indeed cognitive
development won’t make an appearance. Sleepercurve
make easy, lightly produced yet still solid rock music, and
they’ve rocked across the country supporting bands like
the Rumble Strips and Pete and the Pirates. Get in.
To hear Sleepercurve MP3s, go to
They play Dublin Castle on April 28.
For ticket info call 020 7485 1773.
photo: londontourpix
his is a first for tourdates. What you’re reading was
actually intended to be a gig review. It was going to
be an album review also. But then we saw BM Linx
A bit of background first. The second album by the
New York trio dropped on our doormat a couple of months
ago. Nobody knew what to make of it, but everybody
loved it. The disco-revivalist element in the office saw the
band as Daft Punk or Underworld for the indie guitar
generation. Those of us on the rockier side of the generic
divide heard a fine hard rock band with some sophisticated
electronic bells and whistles attached. What everyone
could agree on was that all eleven songs on Black
Entertainment were gorgeously crafted and shot-through
with irresistible lines of melody.
Still, when it was announced that the band would be
playing a showcase gig [pictured right] at the Monto
Water Rats this month, it was hard to guess whether we
would be seeing Orbital or Led Zeppelin.
We saw Led Zeppelin.
My God, they rock hard, do the Linx on stage. Those
luxuriantly textured album tracks are stripped back to their
rocky core and turned all the way up to eleven without
sacrificing a single note of Tony Diodore’s memorable
tunes. This is not the tuneful hard rock of, say, Journey this is raw, hard-riffing underpinned by deep foundations
of melody. It blew us away, to be frank. Which is why
you’re reading this.
We caught guitarist, singer and songwriter Diodore as his
band were due to play a final show at the Camden Barfly
before returning home.
It had to be asked: why the disparity between the album
and the live sound? “Yeah, we get that a lot,” says
Diodore. “It wasn't something we planned, it just
“The songs, for the most part, are written in my apartment
in New York, in a little studio I have there. And then when
they get brought out on the road they end up getting heavier, more raw, more rock
�n’ roll. It’s just been part of a natural progression, but it does surprise some
people. They come expecting something that’s mostly electronic but what they get
is a rock band. I mean, I hope it’s different in a good way, but I can understand
why people find it disconcerting.”
It’s a credit to the quality of Diodore’s songwriting, of course, that his music is
able to translate in the way it does, but why does it translate, exactly?
“I think it’s because the music is written kind of piecemeal,” he says “I write a bit,
then we take it into the studio. I do all the vocals in my apartment - just to save
money because real studios are so terribly expensive - but when we get out into a
live environment, which is so different to how we record, it just naturally becomes
hard rock.
“I think there are places on the album that sound the way we do live: �The Outlaw
Jimmy Rose’, for example, that’s us live, right there, and �Red House Been
Empty’ is pretty close too. But anything from our first album sounds very different
That first album is quite a different animal to Black Entertainment. How does
Diodore characterise his development as a songwriter and performer?
“The first record is very New Wave, totally electronic,” he explains. “I wrote it as
a kind of exercise when I’d just left one band and was feeling pretty disenfranchised and thought �to hell with it, I’ll just write a record’. We formed the band
after that when I got together with John [bassist
Jonathan Murray] and Griff [drummer Andrew
Griffiths], so that although I can still write
most of the stuff in my apartment, we’re
able to bring in these live elements and,
bit by bit, we’re moving towards a
full-on Led Zeppelin style of
That might suggest that the natural
way for BM Linx to develop
would be to eradicate the
electronics entirely. Is that the
“No, that'll always be part
of the sound, but I’d
like to simplify it
a bit. But I
Electro-innovators in
the studio, searingly
powerful hard rock
band on stage.
Richard Hodkinson
goes in search
of the real
know… there are so many cool things going on in music
right now - there’s a band called Holy Fuck that are
doing some really interesting stuff - and there are so
many interesting directions to follow that I don’t know what’ll happen next time
we record. But I would like to simplify because, y’know, I really like heavy stuff.”
The thoughtful and engaging Diodore is also an inventive lyricist, whose streetlevel musings bring to mind the spare, idiosyncratically American prose of
Raymond Chandler. Or Raymond Carver, for that matter. Listen to the taut
opening lines of �The Outlaw Jimmy Rose’: �Now I know this kid by the name of
Jim Rose / Scrawny little punk get drunk break your nose / And he bought himself
a gun one day after school / For them Indiana boys that’s just what you do.’
Great riffs, great tunes, great words. Am I gushing here? Better reintroduce an
element of that traditional music hack cynicism here: tell me Tony, who the hell
listens to this stuff?
“It’s a pretty broad audience, I guess. In New York we get a lot of hipster kids, but
we were just in San Antonio where the audience was young but diverse, which is
kind of what we want without having to dumb the material down.
“What I thought was cool was when we got a song on Ryan Seacrest’s show on E!
News - they played our video about six times, so we got lots of people buying our
song �Kids On Fire’. But when you log on to iTunes to buy it, it also tells you
what other stuff they’ve been buying too, and it was, y’know, Britney Spears and
Rihanna. Which we thought was hilarious, but also kinda awesome, because those
kind of people aren’t typically exposed to this kind of music very often.”
Perfectly true, of course. But despite citing influences as diverse as Black Sabbath,
Daft Punk and acoustic guitar virtuoso Leo Kottke it’s a fair bet that BM Linx’s
very particular take on hard rock will be sitting on a lot more iPods in the
near future. I bet they’ll be around a lot longer than
Rihanna too.
BM Linx aren’t playing anywhere in
London for the foreseeable future.
Sorry about that - we promise to give
you prior warning next time.
In the meantime, their album Black
Entertainment is out on Craze
Factory. We recommend it. A lot.
Or had you worked that out
for yourselves?
Live Preview
The hype is
struggling to
live up to
Little Boots,
as Michael
finds out
Live Preview
ictoria Hesketh is beginning to learn a few
things about hype. Having already recorded
a T4 live performance this morning, she has
to be in Germany in a couple of hours. In
between she’s on the phone to English
journos who all want their fifteen minutes. She has
a long day ahead of her. She’s already beginning to
sound jaded. It’s only quarter past twelve.
The 25-year-old singer (a.k.a Little Boots) has just
got back from LA where, among other things, an
entire Carson Daily show was dedicated to her.
She’s already been voted the hottest act of 2009 by
pretty much everybody in the know. They’re
calling her the future of pop. The next Lilly Allen.
The PR machine is truly in motion. For Hesketh,
the pressure is on.
“It’s quite daunting I guess, but I just have to get on
with it now,” she tells me. “The real test will be the
fact that the album is coming out soon, how well
that does, how many people actually genuinely
listen to it, and how it does on the radio and stuff.
“All that stuff is actually really, genuinely
important. However many critics said you’d do
well and how ever many taste makers you win over,
it’s still not gonna secure your future as a musician.
“That’s just got to do with how many records you
sell, so kind of – without being cynical – all the
hype is really not that important. I want to be a
musician and make a career of it, so I’m nervous for
the release, you know.
“I think there’s also quite a lot of expectation on it,
and I feel like the critics will be ready to pounce but
you know, we’ll see. Hopefully they’ll stick by me.
I think people would say that it’s like I’m releasing
my second album, because there’s so much
expectation on it.”
Like she says, Hesketh has truly been a hit with the
taste-makers. Her brand of electro-pop falls
somewhere between Ladyhawke and Girls Aloud,
Goldfrapp and Kylie on a good day. It’s catchy.
Good. She can obviously write a tune and the
production is every bit as slick as you’d imagine.
�The future of the pop’, though, seems a bit bold.
It was only a year ago that Victoria Hesketh had just
left a minor indie band called Dead Disco and was
yet to even come up with the name Little Boots.
“It was actually a really hard decision,” she tells
me, of leaving the band. “It really did take me quite
a long time to say, �no, I’m gonna go and do
something else’, you know. Obviously, now I
realise that it was the best thing that I could have
done but it took me quite a long time to come round
to that decision. There was never just one moment
where I decided to do it. There was always things
pulling me in different directions which was quite
Clearly, the singer made the right choice. And from
that point she made the decision to go �pure pop’
(an early audition with Pop Idol might have been a
clue here). There’s pop, though, and then there’s
pop. Clearly, Hesketh had no vision of being the
new Kylie Minogue. She writes her own songs,
plays her own instruments. She has a hand in the
In fact, stuff like Kylie and Girls Aloud is just what
Hesketh wants to get away from. It’s that generic,
manufactured sound that she sees as having made
British pop music so stayed and uninspiring in
recent years.
“I think what I love about British pop music is that
legacy of all the slightly eccentric characters there’s
been, from like David Bowie to Elton John to Kate
Bush to Hot Chip, you know. It’s all just has that
real British eccentricity in it, but at the same time as
being really poppy. There’s a lot of character in it
you know, it’s not just straight-forward. I love that.
And what about the current scene? “I think there’s
some more interesting stuff coming through now,”
she says politely (she doesn’t want to start a war).
“I guess if you look in the charts at the moment
there’s a lot of kind of stuff like Akon, which I find
quite unimaginative really, a lot of that kind of stuff.
I think there’s loads of more interesting British stuff
coming through right now though. More interesting
indie, electro and dance stuff coming through
which is fusing a lot more with pop these days.”
The Little Boots album is out in June and it looks
set to deliver on the hype. She describes the record
as “pure pop”, but says it is “dark and electronic”
too. On it she’s worked with LA super-producer,
Greg Kurstin (Lilly Allen, Britney Spears,
Ladyhawke, Kylie Minogue) as well as Joe
Goddard of Hot Chip (“Some things are just meant
to happen - I’m a big believer in fate”), and has
even found time to duet with Phil Oakey.
“I had written a track which always felt like it
should be a duet and needed male and female
vocals on it,” she says. “I knew somebody who
knew somebody who knew him, and when they
said we might be able to get him, I was like �oh that
would be amazing’ because I’m a huge Human
League fan.
“They sent it to him and he was apparently really
into it, so it was just amazing when he agreed to do
“I didn’t actually get to meet him though. The only
time he could do it was when I was in LA. It was
actually really annoying that I didn’t get to meet
him, but we sent lots of emails and stuff.”
The fact that not meeting Phil Oakey was a difficult
cross to bare for Hesketh is something that speaks
volumes about the singer’s credentials as a
connoisseur of British pop. Lilly Allen might not
know who Oakey was. Girls Aloud definitely
And in her background, there’s a history that shows
this is a dedicated musician. Okay, she may have
auditioned for Pop Idol, but she’s also played the
harp in a prog-rock band, has done jazz gigs in
restaurants, and wrote her university dissertation
on… “originality in music and the concept of jazz
and stuff like that”.
A multi-instrumentalist, these days as well as
singing and playing the piano and Stylophone,
she’s also turning her hand to �the tenori-on’.
Consisting of a hand held screen that’s made up of
a 16 by 16 grid of LED switches, the tenori-on is
impressive to say the least.
“Somebody I worked with in the studio once had
one so I borrowed it and started mucking around
with it and got really into it,” she explains. “I
bought one myself and then ended up getting a few
more and just found myself really liking it.
“It’s a Japanese design. It’s made by Yamaha. It’s
like a sequencer, basically, that lights up. It takes
quite a while to master. You have to know what
you’re doing I guess. It’s quite easy to do for a bit
of fun but if you wanna do something more serious
then you have to take a bit more time. But it’s well
worth it.”
When the Little Boots album comes out in June
we’ll see whether Victoria Hesketh is going to be
�just a bit of fun’, or �something more serious’.
With so many predicting big things, though, at the
moment the future looks anything but little…
Little Boots is playing
the Camden Crawl
on 25 April. For ticket info
call 0871 220 0260
do something different
Boots In
Tue 28 Apr 7.30pm
Spanish Bombs:
Tribute to
The Clash
A supercharged evening of Clash
repertoire from some of the hottest
Latin artists on the planet.
Featuring RubГ©n AlbarrГЎn
(CafГ© Tacuba) Alejandro Escovedo,
Amparo Sanchez (Amparanoia)
Blanquito Man (King Chango)
Jonaz (Plastilina Mosh)
Bruno Garcia (Sergent Garcia)
Moyenei and many more
Tickets from ВЈ15
0844 848 8434
Produced by the Barbican in association with Como No!
The Barbican
is provided by
the City of
Live Preview
wo AM in my hostel bed / My
eyes stay red, my body ain’t fed /
I got butter but I ain’t got bread /
And I’m smokin’ on my last
These are the first words you hear on Speech
Debelle’s remarkable debut Speech Therapy.
The track on which they appear, �Searching’,
is subtle, brutal and extremely well written,
setting the tone for the album. But what could
make someone want to write this?
Speech says it came from a real bad situation.
“I tend to write in hindsight. That’s why a lot
of the songs have more closure at the end; I
have more of an explanation of why I was in
that situation. What I was looking back on
was a time when I was in the hostel. I was just
hungry. You had, like, fridges and freezers that
are for everybody. On about two occasions, I
stole somebody’s bread because I was so
hungry, drinking mad amounts of coffee
because it filled the stomach. The whole song
is real, but it’s indifferent. I kind of wrote it
maybe a couple of months after that
For the album, Speech certainly drew on her
own turbulent history; a deep well of both
pain and love that, even as a rookie artist, she
taps into beautifully. Example: breaking down
the story of how she ended up in the hostel at
age 19 a bit further: “I was kicked out of
home. I wasn’t getting on with my mum and
her boyfriend, and I wasn’t doing much as
download chart
for the week beginning 26 Jan 2009
As voted for by members of
To hear these tracks and
thousands more, or to upload
your own band’s tracks, log on
for free today!
1 "You And Me"
last week - | weeks in chart 1
Why oh why do bands insist
on spelling their names with
alternating upper and lower
case letters? Do they think it
makes them look edgy and
avant-garde? Honestly, it
makes them sound like utterly
morons. We’ll allow it for
rOmP though, even if it
makes us cringe to type their
name. Their brand of
unashamedly old-school rock
made a major impact on the
chart – first week, number one
with a bullet. Steven Raet’s vocals on �Writing on the Wall’
show why they’ve made such a big impact. It’s big.
2 "Destroyed By The Look Of Love"
The Scratch
last week 25 | weeks in chart 3
3 "Broken Toy"
Bad Season
last week 5 | weeks in chart 3
Staying solid at
number three are
They’ve got a
nice Americana
vibe going, with
some great vocals
Chatterton and
Ian Partis. The
laid-back tune
Change’ – we would call it a ballad, but Bad Season are
probably fairly nice guys and don’t deserve name-calling – is
sitting nicely in our funky little website player,
and making press day a damn sight easier. Crazy guitar solo
too. Plus, our exec editor used to play in a band with their
guitarist, so we’ll give Bad Season a pass this week, even if
their rise wasn’t as meteoric as The Scratch or rOmp.
4 "Growing Old Disgracefully"
Mark Emmins
last week 26 | weeks in chart 2
5 "Endless"
Personal Oxygen
last week 9 | weeks in chart 3
To hear the entire Top 40, log on to
gigs \ info \ mp3s
well, in hindsight, I can look back and kind of
see that I wasn’t doing much, wasn’t working
– I didn’t want to work, I didn’t want to go to
further education. I can understand why it was
quite tense in the house.” She’s 26 now.
What sets Speech Therapy – and Speech’s
live show in general – apart is just how her
stories are expressed. Speech (“It’s not my
birth name, but I’ve had it for a long time.
Debelle is a family name and I’ve been called
Speech for a long time.”) sets herself apart
from the crowd by eschewing typical hip-hop
beats. No chopped samples or looped drum
breaks here; it’s live instrumentation all the
way, which she reckons makes for a cracking
live show – even if her description of it is a bit
“I’d say something like…it’s not a show, it’s a
meeting,” she explains, leaving us a little
confused. “The songs I have [deal with] very
real life issues; not just relationships but the
bad side of relationships or the point where
it’s about to get bad, so not just the average �I
don’t love you any more’, but the turning
point. A lot of the times it’s about interaction
with the crowd. I say, don’t be shy, it’s a
meeting, we all came here to enjoy ourselves
and relate.”
OK, think we got you there. But how do the
subtleties of her music translate to the live
show? When artists like Atmosphere and El-P
rock a set, they often find the nuances of their
music lost among heads who, well, just came
The Ballad of S
here has been a resurgence in contemporizing folk music for the
mainstream as of late, be it via acoustic instruments or simple,
acoustic ideas. Take the phenomenon of Fleet Foxes for example,
or simple pluckers like Johnny Flynn, Mumford & Sons or Laura
Marling, and one can see folk’s scope on the charts burgeoning,
with the acoustic guitar or mandolin taking as much of a role as the
keyboard or synthesizer. Yet, calling a slew of musicians who share
similar ideals under an acoustic paradigm �folk music’ often detracts
from the intricacies hidden beneath their melodies. The same goes with
any style of music, of course. Boil it down to one word and the sounds
that make it come alive go into hiding.
But there are similarities that bind together the aforementioned acts, aside
from their collective mainstream
success. One case for this
revolves around their desire to
keep things unplugged and rely
on traditional Appalachian instrumentation. Instead of an electric
guitar, acoustic six stringers,
mandolins and banjos ebb and
flow through simple strums and
fingerpicks. This changes the
tonality, timbre and feel, taking
the music back to a place where
substance dictated style, and not
the other way around. And this,
all of this, has resurrected folk,
and its rightful place in the
Another act responsible for this is
Bristol’s The Miserable Rich.
While the band purveys music far
from traditional folk and roots,
their desire to keep things a little
quieter and more acoustic has
seen comparisons made to
everything from The Carter
Family to Johnny Flynn, Laura
Marling and even The Incredible
String Band. Instead of the
traditional trap set line-up, the
band infuses mandolins, violins and cellos into the mix, creating a
brooding blend of folk that encompasses influences as far reaching as
rock, indeed and soul. “To be honest, I don’t think we play folk music,”
replies songwriter James de Malplaquet.
“On the first album, there are rock songs, jazz songs and pop songs – and
a fair bit of soul too. Maybe two songs are folk. Sure, We are an acoustic
band, but that isn’t synonymous with folk. We’re probably an indie band
more than anything.”
This first album, Twelve Ways to Count, is what has elevated The
Miserable Rich to the level they enjoy now. The songs, mostly written by
de Malplaquet, were composed before the band formed, turning the
recording into an exercise of a new collective finding a sound, rather than
recording an album proper of music they were all previously familiar
with. “Our first record was largely a treatment of my songs as we formed
a sound and a band,” discusses the songwriter. Now, the band is readying
a new album, one they have finished but do not plan to release until the
end of the year. Twelve Ways to Count was only released in November,
and as de Malplaquet discusses, while the band is keen to release new
material all the time, they have to be as patient as possible, for the greater
good. “Our first album is out this week in France, and while the old
album is old to us, it’s only been around since November in the UK. Still,
we have a new album ready to go, alongside a set of EP covers we’ll be
releasing before the new album, so there is lots in the pipeline.” This new
in it for
The Mis ain’t
money, as
Shain Shapiro
album, currently titled by the band but held under tight secrecy, is
promised as a fuller, more collaborative affair. This time the album was
conceived, recorded and produced as band, rather than a set of songs
from a singular songwriter. “This next one is basically the band’s first
record as a complete outfit,” adds de Malplaquet. “I’m not the only
writer, and some of the strongest songs on the album were written by
other band member. Plus, we collectively had the material all ready. I
personally pressured the band – not without complaint I might add – to
get the thing recorded quickly, as well as this EP of covers so that we
could release it whenever seemed the best time for the people whose
business it is to promote it. That is going according to plan.
Live Preview
to party. How do her and her band deal with
“They have to relate to it,” says Speech of the
audience. “If you’re living you have to relate
to the same experiences I do - regardless of
creed, colour - there are some things in life
where it doesn’t make a difference where
you’re from, how old you are, you experience
pain, love, confusion, wanting to achieve
more. And I have a great band!”
It is this band, in part, that make Speech
Therapy. The live, jazzy backdrop works in a
subtle harmony with Speech’s heavily
accented, liquid voice. Speech herself,
strangely, recalls a �Slippin’-era DMX, as
strange a influence as you can find but one
which is kind of appropriate. There is the
same level of self-examination, of enormous
depths of soul-searching. You wouldn’t expect
it from a veteran rapper, let alone a rookie on
her first album. Even on the odd missteps,
there is no doubt that the album oozes quality.
And there is a reason for this, see, there’s
another bizarre twist in the tale of Speech
Debelle. She is not, as you might think, signed
to an obscure indie label, one with perhaps a
couple of folk bands and maybe a soft-spoken,
black-clad DJ on the side.
Speech is signed to Big Dada. As in: Roots
Manuva, Infinite Livez, big-time-bashmentdubbed-out-Witness-One-Hope-dancefloorcraziness. That Big Dada. And that means that
while she no doubt enjoys unlimited creative
freedom, she also enjoys the legendary
production values that the label brings to the
Speech, for her part, sounds very happy that
the kings of big and bizarre music wanted to
rock with her. “I think it’s a good place for
someone like me. I have ideas that would be
harder to do at big labels, so it’s a good place
for me creatively. The path has been set for
me; when I first talked about signing with
them my first question was, Roots Manuva is
the biggest selling artist, how much does he
sell? To me that’s the benchmark to what I can
Roots is certainly giving her the helping hand;
he warbles the hook on �Wheels in Motion’ on
Speech Therapy. Speech explains that
although she wanted to have an opera singer
on the track originally, Roots stepped in after
being played the track by Big Dada head Will
Ashon. And a hand-up from Roots – as former
tourdates talent Jimmy Screech knows – is
always a big look.
“I’m the first female artist they’ve signed,”
says Speech. “I think for the label it’s a very
new project. Everyone is behind it. Being in a
good home is key to what you can achieve.”
Speech Debelle
talks to Rob Boffard
about keeping hip-hop
real personal
Speech Debelle is at the Notting Hill Arts
Club on April 23. For tickets call 020 7460
4459. To read the tourdates story of Big
Dada’s 10th Anniversary back in ’07, go to
Speech Debelle
“Still, it remained a very down-home, acoustic affair, much like the first record.
It was recorded in my bedroom and lounge, with most of the strings added in [the
bedroom of] our friend Tom [from Shoreline and Son of Noel and Adrian],”
continues the singer. “He’s got a nice wooden floor and a quiet house. We
recorded the first album solely at my last house, and didn’t really feel the need
for change. This is because everything has to be done on a zero budget these
days. Originally we wanted to go away and record the new album in a haunted
house somewhere, but we just couldn’t get everyone together at the same time.
In the end, we recorded in a two-week period in March, only actually recording
on about six afternoons total.”
While the material remains closely guarded, The Miserable Rich, as a whole,
promise that both the new album and EP of covers improves upon their
introduction, as this
signals the debut of a
complete band, one
contributed equally.
“This is the sound of
a group of musicians
who have played
together, got tired,
desperate, loved and
hated each other
around Europe for a
year,” beams de
Malplaquet. “To me,
there is much more
dynamic material on
personally write too
many ballads, and as
a band, we write a lot
faster and with more
ferocity, I think.”
Until the release of
the record, The
Miserable Rich will
refine the songs live,
beginning with a
week at the Union Chapel. Many new songs will be road-tested, as the band
slowly moves on from Twelve Ways To Count. In addition, two demo versions
of new songs, �Monkey’ and �The Time That’s Mine’, will be released on iTunes
this week, allowing a sneak peak into what’s next for the Bristol acoustic
collective. It’d be advisable to buy tickets to the show now, because come the
end of the year, when the new album is delivered, folk will have another gun in
its arsenal with which to assault the charts.
The Miserable Rich
play the Bush Hall on 5 May.
For ticket info call 020 8222 6955.
Win an
Jack Daniel’s
courtesy of It’s world’s most famous sixand you could win one
the JD Set! string
signed by members of all the
bands playing on this year’s JD
Set tour. Just log on to and answer one simple
question. It’s free to enter and the prize is as hot as the JD Set lineup coming to The Luminaire on 15 May.
Details of the show, plus terms and conditions can be found on
Competition closes 12 noon, 15 May 2009. Open to over 18s only.
We weren’t completely sold on Ye Olde Axe. We reckon that
we’ve got a pretty good handle on most venues in London, but we
weren’t entirely sure about this one. A combo old-school East End
boozer and strip club which features occasional live bands and a
popular rockabilly night? It’s sounds like the kind of venue that
barrels along one inch from the surface of the road, existing by
sheer dint of will and because no repo man will actually go near
the place.
Then again, there are strippers. And we visited the place, and we
found that while it was unquestionably a strip pub with live music
intentions, it was a pretty impressive one.
Things didn’t start off so well. As is usually the case with these
little profiles, we phone up the owner and/or manager and arrange
to chat. No-one answered the phone at Ye Olde Axe all afternoon.
Later, an enquiry of one of the busy staff members in person
elicited the response that the manager, Tom Melody, was around,
but we probably wouldn’t find him.
OK then.
Further calls the next day dug up very little. We were told – with
typical East End bolshiness – that no, there was
nobody there who knew anything about the history of
the venue, no, nobody wanted to speak to us just then,
no, the manager wasn’t there and would we call back
We did. To no answer yet again. At this point we were
willing to can the whole exercise, but it’s an
interesting place, and it’s been around since at least
1850 (though the current pub has only existed since,
apparently, the beginning of the 20th century). So
here’s what we do know.
The place has a history. There’s a rumour that has been
doing the rounds for some time that says in the 1970s,
while the pub was undergoing some major rebuilding
work, two bodies were discovered underneath it.
Naturally, their ghosts still haunt the building, though
whether they’re unhappy to find themselves in a pub
with strippers, booze and music for all eternity is not
The pub itself, despite the stage and the stripper poles
hanging off the roof, is actually the quintessential
boozer. Lippy bar staff, slightly whiffy atmosphere,
aging décor – all of which give the place a certain
Your guide to
essential bricks and
mortar - the venues that are
home to the capital’s
greatest live music events
Ye Olde Axe,
Is this getting out of hand?
Although we now have eco-driving, energy saving
lightbulbs, emissions targets and the G-Wiz electric car,
someone, somewhere has decided that this is not good
No, this faceless bureaucrat (or more likely, some overcaffeinated PR person) says: we must do more. The Planet
Is In Our Hands. Hence, Wood. Meet the festival that cares.
Held in Braziers Park, Oxfordshire, Wood (May 15-17)
prides itself on not only being the ecological equivalent of
an acoustic guitar set, but of actually hosting lots of
acoustic guitar sets. Oh, and organic music, whatever that
may be (banging on trees perhaps?). If you can look past
the bureaucrat/PR guff, there are some solid acts on offer
here: Brakes [pictured right], Karine Polwart [left],
Stornaway and The Week That Was.
We quote directly from their manifesto: “The event runs
entirely on renewable energy and aims to highlight green
issues and through participation promote an ecologically
friendly lifestyle, with composting toilets, showers heated
by wood-burning stove and a solar-powered stage.” To be
honest, there will probably still be mud, it will still
probably rain, an army of tent-carrying lunatics will
descend on a bunch of fields for a weekend, loud noises
will commence, drunkenness will occur and a stonking
good time will be had. Who said that music couldn’t save
the world?
For ticket info go to:
charm. It has a large outdoor area too, and a serious sound system and
turntables set up to go with it. The massive octagonal clock tower at the top
of the building – with three clock faces – hints at a much grander interior. It
does, however, serve pints in plastic cups – so a little bit different to your
average boozer then, and not to its credit.
And then, of course, there are the Rockabilly Rebels nights. And that’s when
Ye Olde Axe goes completely up the wall.
Imagine at around, say, eleven odd on a Saturday night, the stripper whose
breasts you’ve been staring at suddenly getting up and leaving, only for a
bunch of guys with hair gel and black leather jackets to come in with their
girlfriends (sailor tatts proudly displayed) and start jitterbugging on the dance
floor. Reckon that might cause you to splutter into your pint. At any rate, the
venue seems to attract the hip Shoreditch crowd for these nights, and hey,
since when was combining strippers with twist music a bad idea?
Just be warned; it gets kind of rowdy. See our Man Like Me live review on
page 13 for further evidence.
69 Hackney Road, Hackney, E2 8ET
020 7729 5137
Oh please...
Tube: Old Street (Northern Line)
Buses: 26, 48, 55
Boozer with boobs
For the first time in the history
of rock �n’ roll the toilets are
being used as
a selling point
for a festival.
toilets. Really.
The Wood
festival in
has an
agenda, as
you may
hugging is
Clapham Omnibus
Live Preview
Will Jakeway,
29, Musician,
Finsbury Park
What’s your
favourite London
music venue?
The Forum in
Kentish Town. I
saw Elliott Smith
there and he’s my
favourite ever
musician so it holds
good memories.
Large enough
without being
What’s the best gig
you’ve ever seen?
Bob Dylan at The
Brixton Academy
was up there. I’ve
seen him loads of
times and he’s been
awful in the past,
which made it good
to see him put in a
really great
What’s the worst gig you’ve
ever seen?
Weirdly, it was probably Bob
Dylan at Wembley Arena. The
sound was awful and I was in
the seats right at the top so I
felt like I might as well have
not even been there. I could
have been outside.
What was the last gig you
went to?
Angus and Julia Stone at The
Roundhouse. It’s a really nice
venue and was a good show.
It was actually better than I
thought it would be because I
wasn’t that into the album.
What was the first gig you
ever went to?
Oasis at Earls Court in 1995. I
was 15. When they opened
the doors I ran straight to the
front. When they started
playing I thought I was gonna
die because the crowd
Which band from throughout
history would you have liked
to have seen?
It might sound obvious but it
would have to be The Beatles.
Probably in their later days
though when they weren’t
even touring, so it would have
been very difficult even then.
The humble
punter’s –
eye view of
live London
rlando Weeks is a man who
appreciates an impressive
package. When it comes to
music buying The Maccabees
front man is really quite old
fashioned. Having never downloaded a
song (“I wouldn’t know how.”), album
packaging and artwork is something that
means more to the South London based
singer than your average iTunes
generation squirt.
“We’ve managed to get a great artist to
do a portrait of us for the cover,” says
Weeks of the new album, due for release
in May. “We got back off tour and have
been trying to finalise the artwork for
the album for while, get it ready for print
and all that nitty-gritty.
“We really believe that you have to
make it really special so that when
people open it they feel like it’s worth
buying the physical copy as opposed to
just a download.
“I just think that with artwork if you
have gone to all this trouble to make the
music, you sort of fall short if you don’t
put the effort into making the artwork
good and making it worth buying the
Come on though. Do you really expect
us to believe you’ve never once been on
limewire? “I really don’t download
anything. I like having a physical thing.
I mean I’m sure that one day when I
can’t afford school books for my
children because I’ve got a Yellow
Storage thing full of CDs that’s costing
me an arm and a leg, I’ll change my
mind. But for the moment I actually
enjoy having a real thing and look
forward to opening it up and everything
that goes with that.”
After the success of their 2007 debut,
Colour It In, it won’t just be the artwork
that Maccabees fans are looking
forward to with the release of the band’s
follow-up, Wall Of Arms, on 4 May.
First single from the album, �Love You
Better’ (released on 27 April), is
typically Maccabees. Another low-fi,
tender, love song, Weeks wears his
bleeding heart on his sleeve with all the
quiet intensity of earlier hits like
�Toothpaste Kisses’ from the first
album. The single has a darker edge to it
than pervious Maccabees releases
though, and it’s something which backs
up the promises of a less breezy sound
that the band have told us to expect from
the second record.
And unsurprisingly, we’re also pledged
a more �mature’ effort the second time
around, though the subject matter is still
very much in the �up close and personal’
mould that has characterised Weeks as a
song-writer since the band formed in
“I’d hope it’s more grown up,” he says.
“I mean we’ve all grown up a bit I think,
so I suppose that would be reflected.
Lyrically, it’s still the same things that I
feel I can justify talking about. You
know, family and friends and loved
“It’s pretty much always from personal
experience or from one degree of
separation. I wish I could write from a
more fantasy-based perspective. I wish I
the ability to make something up and
still make it sound good, but I can’t.
Maybe one day. Maybe one day.”
And The Maccabees sound... How
much has it moved on from the first
album? “As far as I’m concerned it’s
just better,” I’m told. “It sounds less
naïve. We’ve kind of kept the same
spirit, but I think this one sounds maybe
more delicate. I hope that people can see
an improvement on it because I can
definitely see one. We have definitely
tried to push ourselves. The recording
and the production on it are just a bit
more grand too I suppose.”
Production duties on Wall Of Arms fell
to Bjork, Arcade Fire and Coldplay
collaborator, Markus Dravs, who
oversaw the recording over a period of
three months between studios in
Liverpool, Reading and Paris.
Weeks describes Dravs as a mediator,
who was able to find a middle ground
between what the five members of the
band wanted the record to sound like.
“He was just very good at finding that
sound that satisfied what we all thought
we wanted, you know. We are five
pretty opinionated people – we all listen
to very different stuff - and he was able
to just step back and find that happy
medium, and in the end we had
something that didn’t sound like any of
us individually but sounded like The
Maccabees, which is how it should
sound I guess.
“He sorted us out actually. He was fab.
Honestly, he is the nicest man and also
just a very, very clever record producer.
He really has a great ear and the kind of
insight that I don’t know how you get. It
was very intense at times so it was really
good to have him around.”
“It may sound simple, but I guess at the
end of the day the producer’s role is to
produce, you know, to make the thing
happen. And that’s just what he did.”
Originally from South London, The
Maccabees spent time living in
Brighton, and were labelled a Brighton
band the first time they came around.
There was something about their sound
on the first album that separated them
from the hoards of London bands
around at the time. There was a purity to
the music and to the song-writing. They
sounded somehow cleaner, less cynical;
and talked about love and relationships
rather than taking drugs in Hoxton.
There’s a part of you that would like to
believe this had something to do with
the sea air, but judging by Orlando
Weeks’ reaction, that might be ever so
slightly romantic…
“We’ve all moved back to London
now,” he laughs, “apart from one of us
who’s still there, living on a balcony. We
had finished university and Brighton is a
fairly small town to be honest. I mean
it’s got a lot going for it but I think I just
associate it with a certain period now,
you know.
“It’s probably a really good place to
bring up kids though. It’s safe, and
pretty and green. I desperately wanted to
get back to the smog. I wanted the
cancer.” That’s more like it…
Michael WylieHarris
gets better
and moves
on with
The M
The Maccabees play the Roundhouse
on 25 April as part of Camden Crawl.
For ticket info call 0844 482 8008
Album Reviews
Bat For Lashes
David Saw
Feeding Time at the Zoo
It helps to make sense of the second
Bat For Lashes album if you know
that it’s produced by David Kosten,
whose solo career as Faultline was a
distillation of glacial electronic
melancholy; and that the Yeasayers
turn up on a few tracks to �provide
bass and beat programming’. The
former explains some of the shift
from weird acoustic folky backing to
weird electronic folky backing and
the latter gives you an idea of how
she’s brought in some of the current
�80s revival onto the album. Two
Suns itself is a fine thing, continuing
to build on the impressive Fur And
Gold and neatly side-stepping the
more overt Joanna Newsom
comparisons. Khan’s lyrics don’t
always stand too much scrutiny, but
she’s a master at evoking mood. The
development of her sound suggests a
canny artist, as well as a talented one
even if the themes of duality running
through the album seem overdone something you’d largely pass over if
denied a press release - but as a
record of her personal turmoil, it
Richard Davie
David Saw knows what he’s about.
Not only is he completely
restrained, melodic guitar music, but
one of his songs on Broken Down
Figure is called �Buy This Record’.
Admittedly, the song isn’t really
about keeping the struggling
recording industry afloat, but his
heart is in the right place.
Unfortunately for him, �Buy This
Record’ is the most interesting song
See, staying true to what you believe
and making the music you most want
to make – which is clearly what Saw
does – doesn’t mean it’s going to be
interesting or exciting. Broken Down
Figure is painfully inoffensive; there
is very little to get excited about here.
It’s perfectly competent, but since
Look, if you like relaxed strumming,
then Saw is probably a safe bet. But
remember kids, home taping is
killing music; and the chances are
that David Saw won’t save it.
Rob Boffard
There are some things in life you can
rely on. One of them is Doves. In the
four years since we last heard a new
Doves album a few things have
New Rave has been and gone, Bono
has tragically died in a freak yachting
accident (sorry, I was dreaming for a
minute then), and a little thing called
MySpace came to being. Some
things, though, will never change.
unmistakably like, well… the first
three Doves albums. That’s not
necessarily a bad thing (this is a great
album), but you’d think a record that
took four years to make might sound
slightly more brave.
Multi-layered, moody soundscapes.
introspective, downbeat Manc rock
with fizzingly, euphoric dance
crescendos. This is heavy on
atmosphere. Music to get lost in.
Everything you’d expect from
We just thought there might be a few
more surprises.
Michael Wylie-Harris
London-based Fanfarlo, fronted by
Swede Simon Balthazar, headed
over to Tarquin Studios in
Connecticut to record debut album
Reservoir with The National’s
producer Peter Katis, and, to some
degree, it was a worthwhile trip.
Opener �I’m a Pilot’s marching
drums, piano-driven melody and
delicate orchestration achieves the
same anthemic qualities as much of
The National output. So too do a
handful of other tracks built around
piano riffs and smart arrangements.
Yet while Reservoir has its share of
memorable hooks and well placed
instrumentation (including a homemade “magnetic square wave
current generator” dubbed a fanfarlophone) combining to create an
agreeable whole, the album
struggles a little to maintain interest.
Balthazar has a singing style
reminiscent of David Byrne, particularly evident on �Finish Line’.
Nothing wrong with that, except too
many Fanfarlo songs simply wash
over you and leave little lasting
Jake Bickerton
We’re always a little wary of record
label compilations: if you’ve got so
many artists on you’re roster, then
why don’t you just release their
albums? Yes, we know it costs a bit,
but come on, do this properly or not
at all.
Fortunately, YNR have two things in
their favour: they are good at pushing
their artists (such as Kashmere,
Jyager, Sir Smurf Lil, Asaviour, all of
whom have dropped hot sets) and
they reek of good music.
So while Feeding Time isn’t always
as representational of the label’s output as well as it should be, there are
some serious highlights to be enjoyed
Like lyrical trickery? That’ll be
Dubbledge and �Alphabets’. Big
bass? Kyza’s �Dutty Boy Stomp
Down’. Flows? Smurf and the Last
Skeptik’s �End of the Day’. Of
course, if you like half-arsed raps,
Joker Starr and Tranquill are there
It could do with a bit more polish, but
you can still rely on YNR.
Rob Boffard
Two Suns
Broken Down Figure
Iris Records
Kingdom Of Rust
Heavenly Records
Big Dipper
Various Artists
YNR Productions
New albums rated for
your listening pleasure
Please Release Me...
Jon Hopkins
Mr Lif
The Horrors
happened to punk spirit?’ when
Gallows signed to Warner Brothers,
but it seems not much has changed
since �77. Gallows aren’t the first to
mix apparent life-or-death dedication
to playing with live fast, die young
nihilism. And Warner is no worse a
media manipulator to get into bed
with than Malcolm McClaren. That
punk bloodline is highlighted by
Carter’s opening growl of “the queen
is dead”, setting a familiar grim tone,
which fans needn’t fear has been
compromised. Musically this may be
a different beast to independent debut
Orchestra of Wolves, utilizing
atmospheric Sabbath sound effects
and strings on that opener The
Riverbank, and later even an acoustic
guitar. It’s more accessible, indeed,
but for diversification rather than
brutalized the ears so relentlessly it
made them numb, while Grey Britain
throws enough curveballs that each
track forces you to pay attention to a
unswervingly brutal.
Alison B
We’re a bit dazed. We’ve just
finished listening to Jon Hopkins’
It’s a deeply spaced out, trippy
collection of chilled pianos, light
strings and meaningful chords,
occasionally livened up by the odd
drum and bass loop. It should suck
like the suckiest vacuum cleaner
ever. These sorts of things usually do.
But it doesn’t.
It’s sodding brilliant.
Maybe it’s because it all sounds a bit
distant, or maybe it’s the superb
mastering job done on this record.
Insides will do what a million CafГ©
Del Mar compilations didn’t, and
actually relax and stimulate you at
the same time.
Admittedly, we did listen to this on a
lonely highway between Twecu and
KwaSandile in South Africa’s
Eastern Cape, at 6AM, with the sun
poking over the horizon to start a
chilly autumn day.
But it’ll be pretty good everywhere
else, too.
Rob Boffard
The production on this album is
If folk music from the western
Xinjiang province is not your bag
then you will be able to at least
marvel at the rich sound of this
Chinese gem..
Mamer sings with a warm bassy
croak while gentle guitar and lilting
dombra fill in the gaps, and if at
times the morose low-fi threatens to
teeter your speakers off the table and
disturb sleeping dogs - as on
�Mountain Wind’- you soon get used
to the sonic depression.
Of course I’ve no idea what he’s
singing about (for what it’s worth it
don’t sound like no Chinese I ever
heard) but to help you along, the
tracks for the most part are given
simple one-word English monikers �Eagle’, �Blackbird’, �Man’ - and
seem designed to evoke wistful
contemplation of mother Earth as
you light another scented candle.
This is no bad thing. [Really? Ed]
If the language is alien then
hopefully the sounds won’t be.
Paul Coletti
There are timely albums. And then
are albums from Mr. Lif.
Where other MCs are happy to
recycle old beefs when dropping
their albums (we’re looking at you,
Rick Ross) Lif is like the Boston
Globe of hip-hop. He’s first on your
doorstep, every time, with a lot to
say about modern-day America. In
this case, home repossession, police
brutality, corporate skulduggery and
not trusting the government simply
“because it has a friendly face now”.
If this sounds dull, it isn’t. This is an
album so atmospheric and drenched
in quality that it easily ranks as one
of the finest releases this year. Both
the vocals and the beats sound like
they’re coming through the world’s
biggest hotbox; Lif’s sucked-up,
gravelly voice sounds like he’s
spitting after a massive toke of the
blunt, and the production is layered
with shimmery samples and
basement-shaking drums. And then
there’s �The Sun’, which is the
single of the year thus far. Forget
today, you need to hear this right this
Rob Boffard
From the outset The Horrors looked
like past victims of a music industry
which has almost forgotten what the
term �artist development’ means; all
the striking looks and big backing to
make it happen, and not quite the
songs - yet.
It didn’t happen with 2007’s Strange
House, and their relationship with
Loog Records was over soon
It would be nice to declare that the
dark garage rock promise heard on
that first recording is fully developed
on this XL Recordings sophomore
effort, but instead the band appear to
have panicked into changing tack
The substance of Primary Colours
tends to be similarly distorted under
the obvious influence of producer and
Portishead mainman Geoff Barrow,
creating something more akin to The
Editors or Joy Division than the
�gothic Sonics’ of Strange House.
Again, it has its moments, but there’s
a sense that these ideas aren’t
developed to their fullest potential.
Alison B
Grey Britain
Warner Brothers
Double Six
RealWorld Records
I Heard It Today
Bloodbot Tactical
Primary Colours
XL Recordings
Bloc Party
London Olympia
11 April
photo: Rachel Lipsitz
London Olympia
11 April
If Bloc Party had a hard time doing battle
with the dreaded Olympia, then for Foals it
was even more of a challenge. The Oxford
five piece were the band of 2008 and it
showed. Having re-invented the checked
shirt, re-invented �math rock’, and –
frankly – re-invented Bloc Party, this is a
band that truly sum up the phrase �style
over substance’. You may have guessed…
We do not like Foals!
While Kele Okereke had the charisma
(though not necessarily the songs) to just
about pull this off, Yannis Philippakis most
certainly didn’t. Clever billing (this was
like putting The Bootleg Beatles before
The Beatles) meant those who came to see
Bloc Party would almost certainly be
Foals’ fan too; but while this assured the
band weren’t short on support, it didn’t
stop their set from feeling very much like a
warm up.
Foals played all the hits and some new
stuff too, but if Bloc Party weren’t quite
�big’ enough to fill this space, then they
were never going to manage it.
Michael Wylie-Harris
Life In Film
Man Like Me
The Anomalies
The Race
At The Lock Tavern
on Easter Sunday the
resurrection of Jesus
celebrated with the
kind of hushed,
religious reverence
you might expect from
such an important
Drink, drink and more
drink was more like
the order of the day.
After all, it’s Easter…
we’ve got Monday
Sunday’ was not the
most Christian of
affairs. Upstairs at
�The Lock’ the Bloody
Awful Poetry DJs
�Soundtracks’ (music
from films) set during
the day and everything
got quite messy.
Oddly, perhaps the
most serene aspect of
the evening was the
headline performance
of bright, young indie
things, Life In Film.
The London-based
four-piece played a
typically subdued set
that included standout track and upcoming single release,
�I’m Sorry’.
Steely, stripped and
considered: this is ice
cool, accessible post
punk. Are these boys
the new White Lies,
we asked ourselves?
Hang on a minute,
aren’t White Lies the
new Editors? It all got
a bit confusing… We
were very, very drunk!
Michael WylieHarris
Man Like Me are a good
enough live act that they’d
probably quite comfortably fill
somewhere like Koko or
Cargo or any decent sized
venue. Of course, a decent
sized venue this was not. This
was Ye Olde Axe, a raw EastEnd boozer (which we take a
closer look at in Re:Venue on
page 10 of this edition). Ye
Olde Axe is many things;
medium sized venue is not one
of them. It’s a pub slash strip
club, with a tiny stage. And
even before MLM got up, it
was rammed.
Actually, rammed is perhaps
not the right word. Try
crushed. Or squashed. It
seemed every single person in
the East End had turned out
to see the funk/rap/dance
combo launch their debut
album. If you were in the
middle of that crowd, you
were quite literally a captive
audience. People were hanging
off the bar.
Good thing they were
entertained. MLM are a
supremely competent live act:
rehearsed, slick and cohesive.
Lead singer Johnny Langer is
a master of crowd interaction,
and it’s a pleasure to see
something as unusual as a
trombone on stage. Whether
the group was gyrating up and
down to the rambunctious
�Donut’ or screaming for
hands in the air on the partystarting single �London Town’,
the crowd felt them.
MLM’s brand of out-ofcontrol party music may not
always succeed on record, but
there wasn’t a hotter party –
or a more packed one –
anywhere in London this
night. Go see them – just bring
a set of crampons.
Rob Boffard
Anyone who goes to a gig in
London this week, or in fact
this year, will be hard pressed
to find a band that
incorporates a higher number
of musical genres to their set
Anomalies did at Camden
Influences from Boys of both
the Beastie (rapping) and Pet
Shop (synthesisers) variety
feature in most of the ten
songs played, but it’s the ska
undertones, melodic indie
guitars, the odd meaty
Morello-esque riff and the
Prodigy, Azzido Da Bass and
Pendulum samples from DJ
Mayhem that give the fivepiece their edge as they
constantly bounce up and
down in energetic unison.
As they constantly swing from
one genre to another, pace
changes are numerous and
executed with flawless timing
and precision, quite a feat
considering the intricacy and
tempo of their sound.
The Anomalies’ party-piece,
however, is saved until the end
of the set. MC Mouthmaster
Murf asks the crowd to
nominate three words as
subjects for a freestyle, and
before you know where you
are, smilin’ is being rhymed
dishwashers are being used as
a clever analogy to �staying
Following this, a shoe, a
stuffed animal and a crutch are
passed forward through the
85-strong crowd as topics for
an impromptu rap, and more
comedic freestyling ensues.
It’s unexpectedly funny, which
is an added bonus to
compliment the bold and
inventive music.
Joe Tyler
Reading quintet the Race
have enjoyed a steady rise
in the world of nice-boy
indie-pop, a world that is
already bursting with an
assortment of yawn-evoking
bands. Tonight they find
themselves at Dublin Castle,
where the quintet jostle
onstage, barely able to
manoeuvre their instruments
around the miniscule
platform. What is instantly
evident is that jack-in-a-box
vocalist Dan Buchanan has
seemingly been wound up
and let go, scattily pogo-ing
around the stage. Apart from
Buchanan, there is very little
else going on, movementwise: a �heads down and
down-to-business’ ethic is
much in evidence. What the
Race deal in are lush
soaring widescreenatmospherics and the aching
vocals of Buchanan (opener
�Killer’ is a prime example)
who, throughout, is
obviously desperate to
escape the restrictive one
metre squared area in which
he is caged.
The mid-set apex �Rude
Boy’ is crisp, quirky and
demonstrates all the
adolescent indie qualities
that saw Cajun Dance Party
rise to prominence last year.
�I Get It Wrong’ and
�Moorwood’ are the band’s
crescendo-filled anthems
that bear the weight of their
set. Lush melodies escalate
into atmospheric avalanches
of squeaky-clean indie
perfectly efficiently, but it’s
hard to shake the feeling
that it’s all been done before
and probably been done
better. After all, where are
Royworld and Air Traffic
Ash Meikle
The Lock Tavern
12 April
Ye Olde Axe
16 April
Camden Barfly
14 April
The Dublin Castle
24 March
The London Olympia is a peculiar venue.
Like Earls Court without the surrounding
seats, it feels like a deserted warehouse or
disused aircraft hanger. At one end a bar, at
the other a stage. Nothing in between.
�What’s so unusual about that?’ you might
well wonder, and you’d be right, because
in truth this venue’s not that different to a
lot of London’s other grand halls. But
there’s something slightly off-key about
the Olympia. A certain feeling of
emptiness. It seems, somehow, a bit postapocalyptic. In short, it makes Wembley
Arena look atmospheric – and that’s
saying something.
It could be the fault of the band though.
Bloc Party are one of those acts that never
seemed to quite follow through on the
success of their first album. They
promised so much, but never quite
Tonight though, I don’t think we can
blame them. Despite the fact the biggest
reception comes for anthems like
�Banquet’ and �This Modern Love’ (both
off the first record), the band do seem in
punchy form.
Front man Kele Okereke, illuminated by
giant TV screens either side of the stage, is
in determined mood and the Bloc Party
sound – all synths, pounding drums and
jagged guitars – is taking no prisoners.
Recent hit �Mercury’, with its repetitive,
distorted vocals and onslaught of
electronic aggression, perhaps sums up the
night. There’s something missing.
Something that’s not quite there. This is a
band that doesn’t quite deliver, in a setting
where – more than anywhere – you really
need to.
Michael Wylie-Harris
There are bands that could only have
issued forth from the fertile, if
unsanitary, loins of Shoreditch.
Indeed, it’s almost impossible to
imagine some of them playing
anywhere else, in front of any other
audience. Kasms are such a band. I
bet they get a nosebleed if they ever
get as far as Camden Town.
This need not be a bad thing,
however - at one time it would have
been difficult to imagine Blondie
playing anywhere other than
CBGB’s, until the whole world
wanted to see them. Kasms are a few
strong songs away from their �Denis’
moment, although the recent single
�Bone You’ has undeniable raggyarsed, hyper-active punk appeal.
Where this (ahem!) �Shriek Beat’
quartet are so engaging is in the
energy of their live performance,
particularly that of singer Rachel
Mary Callaghan, who spends more
time on the floor than on her feet, legs
akimbo and generally going out of
her way not to be mistaken for a
graduate of Cheltenham Ladies
It’s all loud, it’s all ill-mannered and
it’s all proper, street-level rock n’ roll.
Hoxton style. Richard Hodkinson
The Macbeth
11 April
photo: londontourpix
Live Review
Gig Reviews
Gig Reviews
Plan B
17 April
photo: Rachel Lipsitz
15 April
Aural History
The latest act from the seemingly endless female
singer/songwriter conveyor begins with a quiet, wistful
opener that showcases her impressive voice. The full
band join her for �I Hate The Way’, which burns slowly
with a sinister keyboard before erupting into a glorious
wall of noise. These songs are too big for the cavernous
Cargo. They are made for the open air.
Unfortunately, the novelty soon wears off as
Scattergood adopts the same format for the majority of
her songs. This gradual build-up is one of two themes
to run through her music. The other is, predictably,
lyrics that never deviate from the old chestnut;
romance. Lyrically she owes a great deal to Lily Allen
and Kate Nash, indeed, forthcoming single �Please
Don’t Touch’ could quite comfortably slot into a Nash
set. As such, it is three years too late for her to be
characterised as a pioneering artist. That said,
Scattergood is an engaging performer, embracing the
crowd with her offbeat style, which suggests that she
will hold on to her audience.
Richard Bowes
On an atrocious night in
south London where the
pounding rain makes it feel
like the world is coming to an
end, a handful of those in the
know take refuge at Brixton’s
Plan B for what’s dubbed as
one of the freshest new nights
in town: On the Real. Put
together by The Doctors
Orders who did a fine job
celebrating J Dilla’s life a
couple of months ago at
Cargo, expectations are high.
And we’re not disappointed,
with a star studded line up of
underground pioneers taking
to the wheels of steel. The
place is rammed to the
rafters with good vibes.
Milling around from room to
room, it’s hard not to get
sucked in by the atmosphere.
As every record passes, we’re
transported further and
further back in time.
Rich Medina is the night’s
show piece, commanding the
crowd with thick doses of
black music that transcend
genre, and it’s not hard to see
why he comes from the
States so hotly tipped.
There’s a real sense of
community in here and it
feels fitting that an area so
often associated with all the
wrong things should host a
night boasting a plethora of
DJs spinning tunes from a
genre often associated with
all the wrongs things. As the
event comes to an end and
we’re forced to face the
British weather once again, a
glimmer of warmth still
burns inside – top draw.
Charlie Hearn
Transglobal Underground
9 April
photo: Mike Eccleshall
Rich Medina/On the Real
Polly Scattergood
Although billed as an album launch party for
Transglobal Underground’s recently released Best Of
album, Run Devils and Demons, this gig was, in effect,
the closest you can get to an indoor mini-festival
without actually laying down turf and importing a rain
The Hanging Ropes kicked off the live proceedings
with their infectious mixture of bluegrass and
burlesque. Despite having no rhythm section at all they
managed to whip up a foot storming reaction from the
eager crowd. Great stuff. Dreadzone Soundsystem kept
up the energy, with DJ Greg Dread blasting out
Dreadzone orientated set of classics one after another,
thus giving the awe-inspiring and immensely versatile
MC Spee the ammunition required to go hard. By the
That this
are amassing a cult following is selfevident tonight. Showcasing their
second album Rules , their delectable,
sparse disco-funk is fused with
metronomic guitar pop. �1517’ indie
The Whitest Boy Alive
17 April
time the Transglobal Underground hit the stage, there was
a palpable sense of expectation. They did not disappoint.
They tore through a 90 minute set of classics – from the
very first single (�Templehead’) to the most recent
(�Dancehall Operator’). For the uninitiated, TGU
produce an incredible blend of just about every danceable
musical style from across the globe, from smart Latin
beats to clattering Dhol-led rhythms. Sitar mingled with
vocal samples, bass guitar with bhangra. With so much
going on at one time, it could be a disaster – but it isn’t.
It just sounds magical.
TGU don’t play many gigs, preferring instead to stick to
festivals and outdoor events. On the strength of tonight,
they should be doing a great deal more of both.
Michael Eccleshall
hooks intertwine with the Balearic club
sound that made Friendly Fires such a
sumptuous proposition of late.
Willowy frontman Erland Oye’s in
playful mood tonight, mastering an air
trumpet solo , while the band’s hybrid
sound shifts constantly, mixing velvety
lounge-style electro with that whiff of
the Ibiza vibe. �Courage’ incites a
The Umbilical Brothers
The Umbilical Brothers are two Aussie
comedy stars who use mime and puppetry
to make people laugh. They’ve released two
live show DVDs and have performed in the
US on the David Letterman and Jay Leno TV
shows. David Collins seems fairly sane, but
Shane Dundas says he was born twelve
thousand years ago on the planet Zargoth.
Which would explain the answers below.
What’s your favourite album and song ever?
For sentimental reasons I’d have to say the first album
I ever bought - New Order’s True Faith. It was after
seeing the video much later that I realized that that’s
what I wanted to do with my life:
produce weird ass shit.
What was the best year for
music and why?
2002. The Umbilical Brothers
release their multi-digit selling
dance single �Don’t Dance To
This’. Why? Even though it goes
nowhere near tin, let alone gold,
it achieved our aim- to go to the
ARIA’s (Australian Record
Industry Awards) and more
importantly, the after party.
What’s your earliest musical
Being dragged along to see Cats.
Need I say more? OK, I hated it.
Is there any particular album or song
you never want to hear again in your
That freakin’ Barbie song. There should
be a law about producing music that eats
into your brain and makes you want to
kill yourself.
crowd seizure and the electromelancholic �Figures’ exhibits the
diversity of the band’s material.
�Signature Burning’’s sparse, slick
simplistic beats typify their sometimes
tinny sound on record, but soaring
synths allow the song to bloom on
stage. All told, WBA are pretty
seductive tonight.
Ash Meikle
If you could go back in time which musical figure
would you like to meet?
No need to go back in time. Nick Cave. Or I guess I
could go back in time to one of his Birthday Party gigs
and ask him to put the needle down, get past this
rubbish and onto the next part of his musical life,
which just keeps getting better and better.
Who would you put in your fantasy band (drums,
bass, guitar, vocals)?
Animal from Muppet Show on drums (controlled by
Ginger Baker from Cream), Rebekah Whitehurst from
the Sexy Finger Champs on bass (nothing sexier than a
female bassist), an 18 year old Ace Frehley from Kiss
[pictured, obviously] on guitar (before he fried his
brain), and me on vocals.
What’s the best gig you have ever been to and why?
Woodstock �99. Mainly because we were on the bill.
We performed on the main stage after James Brown.
What was the first gig you ever
went to?
On a school night I went to see
The Screaming Tribesmen. I
was the smallest person in the
room, and the only one not
wearing a leather jacket, or
carrying a knife. Loved it.
What was the last gig you
went to and how was it?
The Wiggles.
Unfortunately they weren’t
giving it the full wiggle.
CD, Vinyl or MP3?
John or Paul?
East Coast or West
West Coast
Dylan or Elvis?
Live Preview
ust describing Alec Empire’s music is task that would require more words than are available
here. �Diverse’ and �contradictory’ might be a good start for a catalogue which spans more
than 20 years, and takes in jazz, hip-hop, the co-founding the Digital Hardcore label
and the sound it lent it’s name to, a spell as a metal mag cover star and even an
unlikely gig scoring the blockbusting The Fast And The Furious : Tokyo Drift.
The most accurate generalization that could be made, though, is that only the
unexpected is to be expected. So should we be surprised that he has recently written his
first piano ballad?
“I think when you hear it it’s quite logical”, Empire says of the track, which appears on
forthcoming E.P Shivers. “It’s very dark, it’s got a sort of Kraut Rock vibe to it... [parts
of that E.P] reflect the new party scene that’s going on here in Berlin right now, but bigger
sounding than all the minimal stuff that has been coming out of Berlin. Still, fans might
be shocked”. Almost certainly, since Empire admits he was only spurred on to
approach the piano after a German journalist joked “�the day you write a piano
ballad, your career is dead’. Then I was like �okay, I actually have to do this!’”, he
That sentiment is quite typical. One of the few constants in Empire’s mixed-up
musical output has been a recurring theme of youthful rebellion, and a teenage urge
to be contradictory for contradictions own sake. It’s seem most obvious in Atari Teenage
Riot, Empire’s former band with Nic Endo, with whom he collaborates again on Shivers, and
is picked upon in numerous other recording aliases and song titles.
He admits his tendency to move rapidly from one musical idea to the next is partly borne from a lack
of patience (which makes Endo one of the few collaborators who continues to complement Empire live and
on record; “she has a very different approach... she’s very precise and the way she creates sounds takes a little
longer”) and confesses that he finds amusement in antagonizing his own fans. Having gone to the polar opposite
of everything Digital Hardcore Recordings stood for on last album The Golden Foretaste Of Heaven, by opting
for an analogue recording, he now tells “if I see a DHR fan with like a shaved head and army clothes and a DHR tshirt [the image associated with this aggressive period of Empire’s career] at a show I’ll want to play a slow song.
If this guy won’t stop screaming �Harder! Harder!’ it gets softer and softer. But that’s a fun thing”, he says, a smile
showing in his voice.
This attitude should make conversation with Empire infuriating, but in truth it’s not long before you come to
appreciate his peculiar sense of �fun’, and find yourself laughing with him. And of course fun and laughter
are perhaps not to be expected here either, given that the other on-going theme to Empire’s music is
uncompromised political commentary, with origins in a West Berlin upbringing and formative years
spent on the city’s political punk circuit. It’s this background, he suggests, that gives him a sense
of perspective allowing for a less-than-serious approach to the popularity contests of the music
world. “At the end of the day it’s music”, he shrugs, “a good example is that video I made with
Patrick Wolf [another regular collaborator, with whom Empire produced the track Vulture, and
its accompanying provocative promo short]. Some people were so angry about that, and to
me that sort of thing is funny. I know some people, especially guys, were like �What is
this!? It’s so gay!’. People get so angry about that stuff and then their own country goes
to war, or gets involved in war, and they don’t say anything! To me that’s insane...”
he sighs.
Although Empire is often considered a political artist he chose on The Golden
Foretaste... to focus on “pretty personal stuff”, perhaps, predictably, to prove
the point that he “[doesn’t] have to write political songs all the time... it was
almost like people expected me to say stuff against Bush back then, and that
would so predictable”. Now however he states of Shivers that it contains one
Metal, jazz or
of his “most directly” political songs yet, Baby Skulls. In typical style this
Kraut Rock - even
comes not when Bush-critique lite was so in vogue that once unapologetically dumb pop punks Green Day were credited with driving the
his most ardent
bandwagon, but at a time when Empire feels “a lot of people are
fans never know
almost totally won over by Obama”. He concedes that this “is of
course the signal that change is afoot”, but still goes on “I’m not
what to expect
stupid, and I don’t mean that as a criticism of the people that are
impressed by him, because that doesn’t help anyone right now.
next from
But I see people almost turning away from politics because
they thing �ah, there’s this new rockstar type guy’... and that
makes it even more important that we watch what’s
Alison B takes her
happening, and don’t switch off just because he looks a
best guess
certain way and has a certain way of talking”.
Empire often feels his musical contemporaries are
especially guilty of such apathy. “I expect much more
from [the music scene] at times”, he says. “I think the
scene has almost got itself into that trap, where
nobody can really say something. You know German
radio stations don’t really want anything political on
air, and in general the scene has become maybe too
compromised in the past decade. I mean it would
be great of course if something similar to punk in
the late 70s would happen again”, he declares,
when the topical theory that times of recession
can produce the most confrontational art is
raised, continuing “as a music fan I link music
with strong political statements to just exciting
music, because I think then people mean
what they say... but I’m questioning if that
can happen at this point, where festivals
and venues are so sponsor controlled. I
think more musicians should speak out,
but I think a lot of opportunities are missed
on the current music scene”.
Throughout the 90s Empire based Digital
Hardcore Recordings out of London, until a
sense that the British scene has reverted from
radicalism into the safety of retroism led him to
relocate back to Berlin. So it is that he approaches
returning for a unique show in Camden on 1 May, which
promises to air some old Atari Teenage Riot material not
played live in years, with mixed feelings. “I have tried to
stay away from playing ATR songs”, he admits, “but I
think now enough time has passed and I know a lot of
people are really excited about us doing those old tracks...
I’m kinda looking forward to it”, he adds. “We wanted
to do that show because it’s May 1st, which is the tenth
anniversary of ATR playing those �riots’ [an outdoor show
in Berlin, which saw the entire group arrested for �inciting
violence’], and because the 2nd”, he continues, not
missing a beat, “is my birthday”. It’s just the sort of
conflicting reasoning you might expect from the fun-loving
face of West German activist art.
Alec Empire
Alec Empire plays The Underworld on 1 May.
For ticket info call 020 7482 1932
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Thur Apr 30
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Tube: Kilburn
Lyceum Theatre
0870 243 9000
21 Wellington Street
Tube: Covent Garden
Monto Water Rats
020 7813 1079
328 Grays Inn Road
Tube: King’s Cross St
0871 917 0007
323 New Cross Rd SE14
Tube: New Cross Gate
The New Cross Inn
020 7729 6097
22 Kingsland Road
E2 8DA
Tube: Old Street
The Old Blue Last
The Old
Queens Head
020 7739 3440
83 Rivington Street
Tube: Old Street
0207 739 7033
38 Great Eastern St
Tube: Old Street
020 7354 9993
44 Essex Road N1 8LN
Tube: Angel
020 8463 2000
Peninsula Square
Greenwich SE10
Tube: North Greenwich
020 7288 4400
16 Parkfield St in the N1
Centre N1 0PS
Tube: Angel
02 Shepherds
Bush Empire
0870 771 2000
Shepherd’s Bush Green
W12 8TT
Tube: Shepherd’s Bush
Peter Parker’s
Rock n Roll Club
4 Denmark Street WC2H
Tube: Oxford Street
The Pigalle Club
020 7287 3834
215-217 Piccadilly W1J
Tube: Piccadilly Circus
Plan B
020 7681 3731
418 Brixton Road SW9
Tube: Brixton
Powers Bar
0871 917 0007
332 Kilburn High Rd
Tube: Brondesbury
Proud Galleries
020 7482 3867
The Stables Market
Chalk Farm Road NW1
Tube: Chalk Farm
Purple Turtle
020 7383 4976
61-65 Crowndale Road
Tube: Mornington
Queen Elizabeth Hall
0871 663 2501
Belvedere Road
Tube: Waterloo
Ray’s Jazz Café,
Foyles Bookshop
020 7437 5660
113-119 Charing Cross
Road WC2H 0EB
Tube: Leicester Square
Ronnie Scott’s
020 7439 0747
47 Frith Street
Soho?W1D 4HT
Tube: Tottenham Court
Royal Albert Hall
020 7589 3203
Kensington Gore
Tube: Knightsbridge
Rhythm Factory
020 7375 3774
16-18 Whitechapel Road
E1 1EW
Tube: Aldgate East
Rough Trade East
020 7392 7790
Dray Walk, 91 Brick
Lane E1 6QL
Tube: Liverpool Street
The Roundhouse
020 7424 9991
Chalk Farm Road
Tube: Chalk Farm
020 7833 2022
275-277 Pentonville
Road N1 9NL
Tube: King’s Cross St
0871 917 0007
125-129, Middlesex St
E1 7JF
Tube: Liverpool Street
Slaughtered Lamb
0871 0757 467
34-35 Great Sutton Street
Tube: Farringdon
0870 863 1010
1 Leicester Square
Tube: Leicester Square
The Spice of Life
020 7437 7013
6 Moor St W1D 5NA
Tube: Leicester Square
The Tabernacle
020 7221 9700
Powis Square W11 2AY
Tube: Ladbroke Grove
Tommy Flynn's
020 7387 3691
55 Camden High Street
Tube: Camden Town
Millenium Pier
020 7623 1805
Tower Hill, Tower Bridge
Road EC3
Tube: Tower Hill
The Troubador
020 7370 1434
263-7 Old Brompton
Road SW5 9JA
Tube: Earl's Court
020 7664 2000
Manning Hall, Malet
Street WC1E 7HY
Tube: Goodge Street
The Underworld
020 7482 1932
174 Camden High Street
Tube: Camden Town
The Unicorn
020 7485 3073
227 Camden Road
Tube: Camden Town
Union Chapel
020 7226 1686
Compton Terrace
N1 2UN
Tube: Highbury and
The Vibe Bar
020 7247 3479
91-95 Brick Lane
E1 6QL
Tube: Liverpool Street
The Victoria
Tower Hamlets E3 5TH
Tube: Bethnal Green
Wilmington Arms
020 7837 1384
69 Rosebery Avenue
Tube: Barbican
Wembley Arena
020 8782 5500
Empire Way, HA9 0PA
Tube: Wembley
The World's End
0871 917 0007
174 Camden High Street
Tube: Camden Town
is an independent
publication produced by Cultural
Times Publications Ltd in association
Issue 45 В© 24 April - 8 May 2009
Cover: Little Boots plays
Camden Crawl on 25 April
Rob Boffard
020 7226 6545
[email protected]
Chief Staff Writer
Michael Wylie-Harris
020 7226 6512
[email protected]
Staff Writers
Alison B, Helen Culley, Mark Grassick
Editorial Contributors
Jake Bickerton, Richard Bowes, Paul Coletti,
Richard Davie,Michael Eccleshall,
Charlie Hearn,Ash Michael,
Shain Shapiro, Joe Tyler, Emily Wither
Mike Eccleshall, Rachel Lipsitz,
Advertising Sales
Call 020 7226 6508 or email:
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Raymond Dickens
020 7226 6313
Editorial Director
Richard Hodkinson
020 7226 6545
[email protected]
Cultural Times Publications Ltd
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