Lacewings

A collection of interviews

Interview with Malcolm Eden of McCarthy januari 22, 2007

Filed under: Intervjuer — lacewings @ 2:08 e m

”Oh, human life, we would like to value it / But if there’s no profit in it, what’s the point?”

Few persons have had the ability to say as much in two minutes as Malcolm Eden did with his lyrics during his time as vocalist and songwriter for the British janglepopsters McCarthy. From the first single, ‘In Purgatory’ (1986), to the last, ‘Get A Knife Between Your Teeth’ (1990), his lyrics boiled with anti-capitalistic propaganda. But despite the often very aggressive lyrics, McCarthy managed to make wonderful, ultra-melodic jangle pop that in some strange way fitted Eden’s lyrics like a hand in a glove.

McCarthy were formed by Malcolm Eden (vocals, guitar), Tim Gane (guitar) and John Williamson (bass) when they were about 14 years old and were at school in Barking just outside London (the same school protest singer Billy Bragg attended, by the way).

”I could play a little guitar because my brother taught me, so I taught Tim to play the guitar and John the bass” Malcolm tells me in his first interview about the band in a decade. ” We had trouble finding a drummer. I think Gary joined in 1984. He made a big difference because he was technically much better than the rest of us. At that time, just after punk, when the first Rough Trade records came out, it didn’t seem very important to us to be technically proficient. It never did.”

When you are 14 years old, you often don’t have strong political views, and that was the case with the boys in McCarthy (which by the way was called something else from the start, but Malcolm can’t remember the name. The name McCarthy was meant as a joke, taken from the American politician Joe McCarthy, who started a witch-hunt against communists in the USA in the nineteen fifties) . They were influenced by punk, most of all The Sex Pistols, but they also played Buzzcocks-songs because they were easy to play.

But in 1979 when Malcolm was 16 years old, Margaret Thatcher first became Prime Minister of Britain, an event that would change his view of the world forever.

” She had a very forceful way of putting her arguments. Nobody in the opposition really had an answer to her. That’s why she kept winning elections in fact. To find a good answer to the Tories, you had to go to the root of the matter. That’s what got me interested in Marxism.”

In 1986, the band took their saved money and recorded a single on their own label, Wall Of Salmon. The single was called’ In Purgatory’, and had a limited edition of exactly 456 copies,. That single now costs between fifty and sixty pounds if you ever see it up for sale.

”We sent our record to a record label called Pink. They signed us up and started to get us gigs. After C86 and Red Sleeping Beauty it was always easy to get gigs. Even abroad. I loved playing in other countries. People were always very kind to us.”

That C86-cassette, released by the New Musical Express and Rough Trade in 1986, proved to be important, not only for McCarthy, but to guitarbased indiepop in general (See Tommy Gunnarsson’s recent feature on the whole C86 movement in the Archives section of this magazine for more details about this cassette-Ed) . Bands like The Pastels and The Shop Assistants would be forever associated with the genre that was named after the cassette. McCarthy also contributed to this tape with one track ‘Celestial City.’

”We were very lucky to be on the C86 cassette. It’s what first got us attention. Musically we were pretty similar to those bands. I think our general attitude was a bit different though.”

Usually Tim would write the chords and record them on a four-track, and then Malcolm would add the bass and melody.

”Gary did the drums, although Tim and I used to give him suggestions. I put the lyrics on last. Some of the songs I wrote on my own, like ‘Frans Hals.’

Malcolm is still satisfied with the lyrics he wrote back then, but he thinks that he might have written some things a bit more elegantly.

”But I still think a lot of them are quite pertinent and funny. Although naturally I wouldn’t say the same things the same way today. Not because I’ve changed my mind, but because the world has changed. The other members were always very supportive. They agreed with the general tendency in my lyrics, I think. I had a few big arguments with Gary about politics. But generally we were all on the same wavelength.”

After the C86-compilation, Pink released the first ”real” McCarthy single, ‘Red Sleeping Beauty’, which was a poetic stab at the Thatcher regime. In the song, Malcolm sings that he has been sound asleep for twenty years and that ”she won’t wake me”. But above all, the song has one of the best intros of the popmusic history, an intro that during a mere minute goes from a few simple guitar chords to a cacaphony of guitars and rolling drums. The B-side isn’t bad either. ‘From The Damned is probably the roughest song the band ever recorded (in competition with ‘In Purgatory’), with Baker’s drums once again the focus.

McCarthy didn’t stay very long with the Pink Label. Their second single, the aforementioned ‘ Frans Hals’, was their last for the label, and their next stop would be new label September Records, who released the classic ‘The Well Of Loneliness’ as a single in October 1987, a single that ended up in the British Indie Charts’ Top Ten (‘Frans Hals’ actually came in at Number 4). The same month, the long awaited debut album, ‘I Am A Wallet’, was also released, containing short, fast songs that could be read individually as a political manifesto. Titles as ‘The Provession Of Popular Capitalism’, ‘The Wicked Palace Revolution’ and ‘The International Narcotics Traffic’ speak for themselves. But the record didn’t sell very well, and in an interview for Swedish fanzine ‘Sound Affects’ at the time of ‘I Am A Wallet’, Malcolm said that the band was ignored, something that he doesn’t agree with today:

” I don’t remember saying that, and I’m not sure if I agree today. We were only a little group, but we got quite a lot of attention. In the beginning, all we aimed at was to make a record and play some concerts. Everything else was a bonus.”

Despite the setbacks (?), the band continued to be productive, and as soon as February 1988, a new 12″ single hit the shelves, with a new song called ‘This Nelson Rockefeller’ as its lead track. On the B-side re-recordings of three old songs (‘The Funeral’, ‘The Way Of The World’ and ‘The Fall’) could be found, plus one more new song, ‘The Enemy Is At Home (For The Fat Lady)’. But why did they record two songs from ‘I Am A Wallet’ just months after its release?

”We didn’t re-record the songs because we disliked the originals. I think we did it at the suggestion of our manager, who wanted to put out two singles one after the other, very quickly (‘This Nelson Rockefeller’ and ‘Should The Bible Be Banned?’). We didn’t have enough songs for B-sides, so we redid some older songs. It was partly to experiment with drum-machines and keyboards. Up until that moment a lot of the ”indie” people really liked us, but they saw this move to re-record songs as the Ultimate Betrayal. Notably the people who did the Sarah record label in particular.”

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Only two months later, another 12″ single was released, the foresaid ‘Should The Bible Be Banned?’ The title track questionsif the Bible encourages murder. Eden sings of a person named Dave who has just killed his brother with an axe, and finds support in the Bible’s story of Cain and Abel for his crime. Finally, he sings ”should the bible be banned / to keep the peace”.

Then it took almost a year until we heard from McCarthy again, this time with a new single ‘Keep An Open Mind Or Else’, the band’s first release on Midnight Music. The single was a taster from the album ‘The Enraged Will Inherit The Earth’, which was released in March 1989. Now the band had a new producer, Ian Caple, and despite the album being more polished than the debut, it doesn’t feel as brilliant as the first album.’ I Am A Wallet’ had a kind of unproduced feeling, something that really fitted McCarthy’s music, and now that they had a more producer-type producer,something was missing. But that isn’t to say it’s bad, no not at all. Here we find masterpieces such as ‘Governing Takes Brains’, ‘Throw Him Out He’s Breaking My Heart’ and ‘Boy Meets Girl So What’. Malcolm agrees with my feelings about their second album.

”Some of the songs on the second album were badly done. I prefer the first and last albums. We were very happy with ‘We Are All Bourgeois Now’ (the song the Manic Street Preachers covered), and some of the songs on the last album were quite well done, I think. I like’ I Worked My Self Up From Nothing.’ We could have recorded most of the songs a lot better though. I don’t think I was a very good singer either, to be frank.”

I really must say that I can’t agree with the last thing Malcolm mentions. Personally, I think Malcolm has (had?) a very pleasant voice, which was not at all bombastic like many other indiepop singers at that time in the UK. In other words, it is a voice that can never annoy you.

Only a month or so after the second album was released, a new single reached the stores. This time it’ was an EP with the name ‘McCarthy At War’. On the EP, there’s a remixed version of ‘Boy Meets Girl So What’, plus three new songs, of which ‘All Your Questions Answered’ probably is the best, with a superb guitarhook, and Malcolm singing ”who destroyed our industry? / who can tell me that? / the Germans swamped the market with their German products”.In ‘The Lion Will Lie Down With The Lamb’ he asks all the global industry corporations (he mentions IBM and General Motors) to move away from South Africa, so that the people there can be free.

Now the band started to feel that they couldn’t achieve much more, and a split up was not very far away. But despite this, they released what was to be their last album in April 1990, ‘Banking, Violence And The Inner Life Today’. By this time the band had also been joined by Laetitia Sadier, a fan that had hooked up with Tim during a tour in France. They became a couple, and she got to sing in his band. On ‘Banking, Violence… the production was even more polished, but this time they made a better job out of it. Kevin Harris, in co-operation with the band, managed to create a sound that fitted their songs perfectly. The album also found the band taking a big step with their songwriting. The songs developed very long titles (such as ‘I’m In The Side Of Mankind As Much As The Next Man; and ‘Tomorrow The Stock Exchange Will Be The Human Race’) and they also had longer durations. Many of the songs are more than four minutes long, which was very rare in the early days of the band. McCarthy’s last single, ‘Get A Knife Between Your Teeth’, is also featured on the album and it is a song that has a production that is very characteristic of the period. This was a time when Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses were very popular, and McCarthyjoined the Madchester-wave for this one song only, with baggy drums, wah-wah guitars and everything else that was part of the scene. Maybe it was a attempt at a hit single, maybe not. It didn’t turn out very well though, and shortly afterwards, after a final gig at the London School of Economics (something that according to Malcolm was just a coincidence), the band decided to quit.

Tim and Laetitia formed Stereolab, and also started their own label, Duophonic, a label that as well as nearly all Stereolab’s records also released two records (one 7″ single, and a 10″ minialbum) by Herzfeld. Behind that pseudonym was none other than Malcolm Eden.

”If possible, Herzfeld’s records were even more badly recorded than McCarthy’s records. I tried to use keyboards as well as guitars. They weren’t very dance-orientated however. It wasn’t that different from McCarthy.”

When you read about McCarthy’s split-up, it always says that they were tired of being ignored, but that isn’t the full story, according to Malcolm:

”I think the others would have carried on a bit longer. I didn’t want to though. I had the impression at the time that we’d reached a plateau in terms of audience and our songs, and we weren’t advancing. We could naturally have carried on, repeating ourselves over and over again, but that would have been terrible, Plus, although there weren’t any tensions between us, the fact that Laetitia had more or less joined the group for the last tour did break up our former cohesion a little bit.”

”I’m glad we stopped when we did. I think pop music is basically for young people and not for fifty-year-olds. I know some fifty-year-olds do carry on, but it’s hardly ever a good idea.”

There was a rumour on the Internet that Malcolm had become a gardener in Paris after the split, but he says it’s just a joke made up by Tim. He has in fact never gardened in his life. What John and Gary did after the split isn’t part of the story, but Malcolm says that he only has contact with John, who he meets a couple of times a year. He hasn’t seen Tim and Gary for five years. John works at the music publisher BMG in London, and he thinks Gary works at a book publisher, and as far as he knows they don’t play music anymore.

There are actually two McCarthy songs recorded during the ‘Banking, Violence…’-sessions, but they were never mixed, and therefore never released.

”John and Tim thought they weren’t good enough to go on the compilation [‘That’s All Very Well But…’, released by Cherry Red in 1996]. One was called ‘Who Will Rid Me Of These Turbulent Proles?’ I was really pleased with it. It was one of my best lyrics. It’s recorded but not mixed unfortunately, so it’s a bit rough. The other was a joke disco song that Tim did. It’s called ‘You Had To Go And Open Your Big Mouth’. Laetitia sings a few lines on it. We had very long titles towards the end. It’s in a fairly rough condition too.”

Some people thinks that bands like The Manic Street Preachers have taken over McCarthy’s place in pop music, so I had to ask Malcolm what he thinks of them.

”I’m afraid I don’t know the Manic Street Preachers very well, although I’ve heard the two songs ‘Charles Windsor’ and ‘We Are All Bourgeois Now’) of ours they’ve done, of course. I can’t see too many groups with the same kind of attitude as ours. But perhaps I just don’t know them.”

He also tells me that hardly ever buys records nowadays, and that music has lost it’s meaning for him.

”I buy classical records sometimes. I like Bach very much. My wife bought the last Madonna album, so I had to listen to that quite a lot.”

Instead, Malcolm says that the lyrics remain the most important to him, and he tells me that he has written a book that hopefully will be out on 2002.

”The book is about a woman who discovers an unusual amount of dog mess all over the town where she lives. She spends the book trying to find out why there’s so much of it and where it’s all coming from. This was partly inspired by life in Paris, which is certainly the dog mess capital of the world, although naturally they don’t mention this in the guide books.”

He is also writing a second one right now. But what authors does he admire?

”I like Bertholt Brecht, Jaroslav Hasek, Karl Marx, Shakespeare and Diderot a lot.”

He also says that he sadly doesn’t have any outflow for his views except his books.

Speaking of the views, are they the same as they were 15 years ago?

”Yes. Although I try to develop my opinions in interaction with what is going on around me. It would be foolish to carry on repeating what was said fifteen years ago, since the world has moved on. I don’t know if you have extreme left-wing parties in Sweden, but the mistake they make in France and Britain is to carry on repeating the old line, as if the world hadn’t changed out of recognition in the meantime.”

”I think today the most important thing is to stand up for politics in a general sense – the idea that people can change the world. I have nothing in common with the people who demonstrated in Seattle, for instance. I don’t think they want to kick the world forwards, but kick it backwards. They’re not really in favour of progress or reason. Quite the contrary. If I wrote songs today they would be taking the piss out of homeopathy, environmentalist doom-mongering, animal rights, and standing up for reason and the human race.”

In the lyrics Malcolm wrote for McCarthy he often spoke of the subject of anti-capitalism, and in one song he almost goes too far. The song is called ‘Use A Bank I’d Rather Die’ and is available on the ‘Banking, Violence…’ album. There he sings ”We won’t use cash, no, no, no / we let no cash soil our hands” and that he would rather give his money to charity. This made me a little curious; did Malcolm live and learn, or was he just acting?

”Almost all of the McCarthy songs are sung by a ”character”, like a character in a play. I often don’t agree with the sentiments expressed in the song, quite the reverse. This is the case for ‘Use A Bank I’d Rather Die’. People sometimes used to accuse us of compromising. They assumed that anyone with political principles can’t possibly compromise at any time. Which I don’t agree with at all. If your general position is advanced by a compromise, then it can be a good thing. This is more or less what that song is about. I think the character in the song refuses all compromise and ends up in all kinds of hopeless contradictions.”

But what did you do with the money you earned?

”We didn’t get very much I’m afraid. We all signed on the dole and used the McCarthy money to buy books and records and so on. We never got any advances from anyone. But I still get a little bit of money today, because Cherry Red re-released all our albums. But as you might imagine, this isn’t much. The money we should get from The Manic Street Preachers’ cover will certainly be a lot more than anything from our own records.”

Finally I asked Malcolm if he ever listens to McCarthy nowadays.

”Not very often. When I do listen though, I sometimes wince, and say to myself ”We could have done that better” or ”We should have changed that bit”. But I also think some of the songs, with all their faults, are quite exciting. They sometimes make me laugh too, when I hear a funny line that I’ve forgotten about.”

And a reunion seems very unlikely…

”This is a highly unlikely scenario, I think you’ll agree. I think it’s a bit sad when old groups get back together. The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, The Beatles, etc. People do these reunions either for money or else to relive their lost youth, I should say. Either way it’s a bit pathetic.”

Well, a McCarthy reunion seem a bit unlikely, I’ll have to agree. And unnecessary. The band recorded three wonderful albums and a bunch of brilliant singles during their lifetime, and I think I can cope with that. But maybe my neighbours would like to hear something new…

Annonser
 

Interview with Stuart Moxham of Young Marble Giants oktober 5, 2006

Filed under: Intervjuer — lacewings @ 8:53 f m

ymg.gif If you have ever heard the Young Marble Giants, I’m sure that you won’t have forgotten the experience. In the three years in which they were together between 1978 and 1981, they recorded just one album ‘Colossal Youth’ and a handful of singles. There are few other bands, however, that have ever managed to sound so fresh and original, or been such a seminal influence on so many musicians during the last two decades. They proved that you can create great pop music with very few ingredients. Mostly they just used a drum machine and a bass guitar to back up singer Alison Statton’s sweet, fragile voice. Maybe, however you don’t know very much about this Cardiff trio, so we at Pennyblackmusic thought that we might help you out a bit. We have for you, therefore, an interview with guitarist, organist and songwriter Stuart Moxham.

How and when did you become interested in music?
– Does anyone have a choice about becoming interested in music? It surrounds all of us from day one, surely?

What kind of music did you grow up with?
– My parents are music lovers – in fact my father is a singer. They are also church goers, so we were raised with hymns, carols, Gilbert & Sullivan, Lerner & Loewe, classical music, the radio of the ’50’s, and then eventually all the hits of the 60’s and 70’s. I have an elder brother who was in the Royal Navy and brought home an early stereo from the Far East and also had a brilliant record collection. I remember singing ‘Twist and Shout’ (the Beatles’ version) in Gladstone Junior school playground. It seemed then as though the Beatles had a new single out every week. I dug the Stones, too -grew my hair long in the early ’70’s – you get the picture.

Did you play in any other bands prior to Young Marble Giants?
– I was introduced to playing guitar by my friend Matthew Davis who later formed a group, playing covers, called True Wheel in which I was the singer and second guitarist. My brother Phil was the bassist. We played regularly for a while in Cardiff.

How did Young Marble Giants form?
– True Wheel faded away and, after an abortive attempt to collaborate in a second group with Phil, I decided to form my own group, to do my own songs. I invited Phil to join me in my new venture and he told me he’d teamed up with Alison, a backing singer in True Wheel, and that they were now a musical unit. I therefore took them both onboard.

What were your influences?
– Some of my personal major ones were: Beatles/Cat Stevens/Led Zeppelin/Neil Young/Early Roxy Music/Eno/Eno/Eno/Kraftwerk/Steve Miller/Police/Bob Marley etc.

Where does the name Young Marble Giants come from? On the ‘Final Day’ 7″ sleeve there is an excerpt from a dictionary. Does it come from that?
– It comes from a book about classical sculpture. We’d given up trying to find the name – one idea was the Clones – but even then it was too obvious. Then I was flicking through this book which was Alison’s and saw the sentence with those three words and thought it was perfect.

Why didn’t you use a ”real” drummer in Young Marble Giants?
– Have you ever met any real drummers? No, seriously, we’d only worked with one previously and he was a pain in the arse and had a lot of heavy gear which we had to carry. Plus drum machines were so sexy then. We wanted everything easy – why make work? Plus we were anti traditional rock/record production/arrangements – we wanted our great riffage to be unadorned – it didn’t need tom toms, cymbals, and some hairyback trying to write songs on his drum kit!

Did you have any goals with Young Marble Giants?
– Er, just a few…to get a record deal and therefore to get the hell out of Cardiff, which was the capital of a musical wasteland; to become necessarily famous and generally fulfil the rock’n’roll dream. To avoid a straight career at all costs. I’ve subsequently discovered that I’m useless at most jobs anyway. I was made to write songs, man!

young-marble-giants-colossal-youth-353154.jpgHow did the music press react to your records back in those days?
– Very favourably – we had reviews to die for. Of course there are always a few fuckwits who don’t get it but luckily none of them were in the music press!

Why did you split up?
– The usual undiscussed reasons. Tired and emotional bollocks, ego, and so on

After the Young Marble Giants split, you formed the Gist. What was that? Was that your solo project?
– Basically yes. I wanted to have a name that sounded like a group and I liked ‘The Gist’. I included various musical friends as well as my brother, Andrew, who is the person I have played and recorded with by far the most of anyone.

You also produced the second Marine Girls album ‘Lazy Ways’ in 1983. How did you get to do that? Did you know Dan Treacy (The Television Personalities frontman was helping to promote the group at the time) or any of the Girls?
– Cherry Red records rang. I didn’t know of them at the time so I asked for a tape and liked it immediately – it was so refreshing to hear love songs from the female perspective.

Today, the Welsh music scene is very much alive, but what was it like in the early 80’s?
– It seemed that nobody in living memory had ”made it.” The music industry could not have been less interested in Wales and confidence was always zero among young groups. You had to be in London or Liverpool. Or Scotland. Or anywhere. The English hate the Welsh because the Welsh are soulful, passionate Celts. The English find all that messy and soppy because they don’t have soul. Same thing with the Irish, the Scots, you name it. The English have enormous self belief and arrogance, aggression and thick skins. Everything you need to get on in life and found an Empire! Having said that I choose to live in England and enjoy the subtlety and unflappability, the coolness of southern Englishness. Life’s a mystery. Thank God. All the best things in life are unsolvable mysteries. Science is limited. End of ramble!

What do you think when you listen to those old records now?
– I almost never do but of course it’s intensely personal for me if I do. I can see the merit in them and I love them. They are like old friends.

What is your favourite YMG song?
– ‘Nita’

What are you doing nowadays? Are you still making music?
– I live in a cottage in an old village in deeply rural England. I am married with three young children and I pay the bills by being a driving instructor. I have a studio at home and am trying to get to grips with producing my music on my own CDR label, hABIT records, for release via the Internet. (Watch http://www.appelstein.com/ymg/ for developments but don’t hold your breath.) I play gigs, if I’m asked and if I’m paid, so that means virtually never! I play covers for a theraputic/spiritual event each Friday evening at a drug and drink rehab clinic. I am in a band of church bell ringers locally. I sometimes pick up a guitar and play half a song before rushing off, usually to do something less enjoyable. But then what isn’t? Hope springs eternal and I still cling to the belief that a) there is justice in this world and b) if I stick at it, one day I’ll have a huge hit or three and go back to being a full time musician/recordist. Sad, really, but we must have our dreams to prevent reality from doing our heads in.

young-marble-giants.jpgWhat are the other two members doing now?
– I’m not the best person to ask – all I know is that Alison has been a chiropractor in Cardiff for years and Phil currently looks after polo ponies at his rural home outside that city.

I read somewhere that you worked on the Roger Rabbit movie. Is that true?
– Check the credits (Writer’s note: I have, and according to imdb.com, he was a painter during the production of the film.)

Have you thought about a reunion? I read something about a reunion of sorts at the Rough Trade anniversary last year…
– Constantly, for years, but with no enthusiasm from the others it was too much like hard work. It just ate away at me. I came close a couple of times and last year’s Rough Trade gig was the closest. I’ve given up now. Big shame because I know we could produce more shitkicking music if only the will was there. Life gets in the way though.

What is the single greatest moment in your music career?
– Tough question. There have been so many great moments, especially great gigs. Perhaps the summer of ’93 when I recorded three consecutive albums, one in London (‘Random Rules’) and two in Chicago (‘Barbara Manning Sings With The Original Artists’ and ‘Plan A’ – although that one has never been released.)

If you had the chance, what would you have done differently with the Young Marble Giants career?
– Taken a step back and not stupidly let it dissolve. Treat it as a professional occupation rather than a vehicle for my hang-ups.

What do you listen to now?
– My own stuff as I record it, plus old chart music on Radio 2 because local radio stations, outside London, are shite. I don’t know why.

 

Interview with Chris Zither of The Essex Green

Filed under: Intervjuer — lacewings @ 8:36 f m

essexgreen_band2.jpgIf you were to make a family tree with all the bands that the three core members of the Essex Green are involved with, it would make a pretty large tree. We have Sixth Great Lake, the Ladybug Transister, Finishing School… well, you see for yourself. But now, Christopher Zither, Jeff Baron and Sasha Bell have taken some time to record their third album as the Essex Green, ‘Cannibal Sea’, the follow-up to the fantastic ‘The Long Goodbye’, that was released back in 2003.
Pennyblackmusic tracked down Chris from the band, and chatted to him about the band’s musical history and his thoughts about the new record among other things…

How did you get into music? When did you start playing an instrument? What kind of music did you grow up with?
– I grew up in a household without much musical taste. I seem to remember a lot of bad musical soundtracks and cheesy things like ‘Hooked On Classics’. I started on the clarinet when I was around 10 years old because my mum was convinced it was the easiest instrument to learn on… that may be true but the collection and cleaning of spit always grossed me out. I always wanted to play the piano. I taught myself on a cheap little Casio several years later… plucking out tunes from TV shows like ‘Cheers’, ‘Hill Street Blues’ and ‘Charlie Brown’. Once I got into high school my instrument was my voice. I was in any and all the singing groups that existed in the school: musicals, madrigals, choirs, and barbershops. I learned the guitar in university when I first met Jeff Baron. That was 15 years ago.


How did The Essex Green come about? I understand you formed the band after your earlier band Guppyboy split up.
– Essex Green came directly out of Guppyboy. It was born out of a move from Vermont to New York City. One member of Guppyboy, Zack Ward, didn’t want to move. Once that became clear, we decided we were going to start another group and rearrange things a bit. The personnel changed and the sound changed.

What were your major influences when you started out, and how have they changed over the years?
 Um… well, when we were starting out we listened to the Zombies, the Kinks, Dylan, Fairport Convention, Os Mutantes and a lot of Elephant 6 bands… it’s moved through a number of phases over time. Everyone listens to slightly differently things now. Nowadays we are listening to a bit more country music… some folk music.

essexgreen_band1.jpgHow do you write the songs in The Essex Green. Is it a team effort, or do you write on your own? And what comes first – the lyrics or the music?
– We all write separately nearly 100% of the time. The process is probably quite different with each person and even with each song. I personally tend to write the music first. But some lyrics may guide the direction of a compositon from the outset.

If you get to choose one song you wish you had written, which one would it be?
– Today it would have to be ‘Come On Eileen’. Could there be a better song? I challenge you…

Well, I think should be able to come up with something…
I read somewhere that you were planning a solo album. What happened with that? Is it still coming out?
– I read that too. I’m not sure what the answer to that question is. I imagine that everyone in the world is working on a solo album of some type or another… Completing a project like that is something that would take me a while to let go of…. It is much easier to set loose something into the world for inspection and digestion if you are one of many parts of the creation. To be the only name on it is a different story. Short answer – most of the songs are written and strong, but it’s going to be something that I am in no hurry to finish.

How would you describe the Essex Green to someone who have never heard you?
– 60s and 70’s inspired folk/pop. That’s my best guess.

essexgreen_live.jpgDo you have ”regular” day-time jobs, or can you make a living out of your music?
– I do freelance webdesign. Sasha works in documentary filmmaking. Jeff works in recording. Not necessarily ”regular” jobs ‘cos we need to be able to take time off for touring and recording. But the cost of living in New York does restrict how much time we can take off. We would definitely tour or record more if we could afford it. We are far away from making a living in music. The industry is one of the most financially depressed in the arts for a multitude of reasons. I could go on for hours about that but I won’t.

On your new album, you give a special ”thank you” to Sweden. I understand that you like Sweden a lot, which is mutual, as the Swedes like you guys a lot too. What do you think is the reason why you are so successful there?
– Sweden is a country that has embraced our music and had the ability to embrace it. By that I suppose I am referring to the previous answer when I talk about the state of the music industry. Sweden was a country whose national radio was able to allow smaller bands like ourselves to be played in primetime and reach people’s ears. It just doesn’t happen anywhere else that we have been to. Even your Norwegian neighbors seem to have a similar hierarchy of corporate control in the broadcast arena. It’s refreshing to be a part of a community that has the ability to reach beyond that and dig deeper into the cultural strata without such a concern over money.
Plus we have a lot of friends in Sweden and they just wouldn’t have all fitted in the space we had alloted on the album credits.
I want to believe that, were our record able to be given the same spotlight in other countries, there might be a similar reaction. I suppose what Sweden did for the Essex Green is install a bit of confidence in the fact that our music is enjoyable to larger groups outside the indie realm. That’s an exciting prospect.

What Swedish bands do you listen to? I heard that you have toured with Shout Out Louds…
– Yes… we honestly hadn’t heard much from the Shout Out Louds before we went on tour. We are now good friends and fans. Let’s see… I am a big fan of Bjorn Olson’s music. Love Is All has some members that we are friends with. It’s great to see that band is starting to take off. Swedish music is really getting some notice… that makes me feel all good inside.

essexgreen_cannibalsea.jpgYour new album is a lot less country-orientated than ‘The Last Goodbye’, apart from songs like ‘Rue de Lis’. Was this your plan, or was it just an unplanned direction of songwriting? Tell me a little about the recording of the album…
– No specific plan. There were two songs that were a bit more country that didn’t make it on the the record. We just ran out of time. They will most likely appear on the next record or an EP or something. This record was recorded in a somewhat similar fashion to ‘The Long Goodbye’. Over the course of 12 months, we recorded in many different environments with different musicians on drums and bass… as well as strings and guitars. But a larger portion of the record was completed at one studio in Manhattan called Great City Productions. This is the home studio of Britt Myers who mixed our last record. He was a bit more involved in the recording process for this record and has some amazing gear… really nice vintage amps and guitars. Jeff, who handles most of the guitar work, was loving it. The result is a record that has a similar sound to the last record but I think the production has been bumped up a notch or two because of the quality of Britt’s gear. As always, Britt did a great job mixing the record.

Would you like the Essex Green to be the biggest band in the world, or are you happy the way things are?
– I would love our music to be be played on national radio in the states like it was in Sweden. I don’t want to be a 4 tour-bus pyro-technic stadium 360-out-of-365-days-on-tour-a-year type band at all. I just would love to have our songs appear in a number of movies or play tours that might bring in enough money so that we could spend a lot more time with music than struggling to keep the Brooklyn roofs over our heads.

Finally, I must ask about the song ‘Chester’ from your first EP. Is it about a cat? And if so, is it that cat that can be heard in the song ?
– Yes and Yes.

 

Interview with David Bean of The Judy’s oktober 3, 2006

Filed under: Intervjuer — lacewings @ 9:19 f m

The Judy's promo shotThere are bands who choose to release their records on their own and try to sell them to anyone they might meet. There are bands who are attracted to one of the evil major labels and gets their records released worldwide (if that’s what Mr Major Label wants). And then there are bands who build an entire career on appearing on mixtapes all over the world. Well, maybe that’s overdoing it a bit, but when it comes to the American trio The judy’s, it is almost always that latter way, at least here in Sweden. ‘All The Pretty Girls’ and ‘She’s Got The Beat’ are just two of the tracks that with their minimalist sound have charmed many of the DJs over here in the last year or so, but who are, or were, really The Judy’s? I think we should let David Bean, singer, guitarist and main songwriter, who formed the band with bassist Jeff Walton and drummmer Dane Cessac, tell us about how the Judy’s came to be.

– We all knew each other growing up and from school. Dane and I were in the same class, and Jeff lived around the corner from me. Jeff and Dane knew each other from high school band class. We played together in different arrangements in different high school bands. The three of us made up a band called Breather – that was the name of our only song!—and we played at a county fair talent show. Later we formed a band called the Mondo Babies, which was a little more straight-ahead rock/pop than the Judy’s.
In 1979, I spent the summer in Austin for a high school science program, and there was an amazing punk scene getting started at the infamous Raul’s club. I was under age, but I still got in, and was just blown away by the creativity and excitement of bands like the Skunks, the Reversible Cords (or Re*Cords), the Huns, the Next, and the Big Boys.
So I went home excited with the idea that we could actually do something like that. Jeff and Dane had started another band with a guitarist named Sam Roush called the Cleavers. Jeff was writing the material, and I thought they were great and wanted to be their manager. Jeff didn’t want to do that for some reason, so I joined them to create a punk band called the Jets. We recorded a single, which became ‘Teenage HangUps’, but while it was being pressed, we found out someone else was using the name the Jets, so we changed our name to the Judy’s. Sam died in a car accident before the record was released, so we tributed the record to him.

The Judy’s hometown is Pearland, just outside Houston, Texas. According to David it’s a typical American suburb, like the ones we are used to seeing in all the High School movies. Almost everyone knows everyone else, at least by name or reputation, and football is the main attraction when it comes to activities outside of school.
– Actually, there were about 3 or 4 different groups in our school: you were either a jock (athlete), a kicker (cowboy), head (druggie), band fag (high school band player) , nerd, or … I dunno, a nothing? At the time I didn’t much like being in Pearland, although I knew it had its good points. Now it’s becoming a surburban sprawl. It’s growing and growing. It’s getting ugly, really. It’s losing its identity.

Instead of playing football, David, Jeff and Dane used to get together in the Beans family playroom to rehearse their songs, not to get famous or to release records. No, simply to pass the time. The boys’ influences were many, but David tells me he was a big fan of anything theatrical, like Alice Cooper, Kiss and David Bowie. When they began playing as The Judy’s , their intention was to be a punk band, but that was soon to change.
– When Sam died, we lost our main guitarist, and decided to do something a little more experimental, like have alternative instrumentation.

Well, what about that alternative instrumentation? On songs like ‘Her Wave’ and the already mentioned ‘All The Pretty Girls’, David is accompanied by a bass guitar and drums only, something, according to David, that was influenced by the B52’s and the Re*Chords. David also says that he’s a lousy guitarist, and therefore didn’t want to play that much.
– Well, we did try and audition some other guitarists, but that didn’t work out, so instead of just playing loud songs we decided to use what we had and do something original.

The first release was, as previously mentioned, ‘Teenage HangUps’, which was released on David’s own label Wasted Talent Records, a label that was created just to release the records that the Judy’s put out. He also released his own solo album (more about that one later) and the debut album by the Big Boys in 1981, a record that is now a collector’s item.
– We sold the EP at school in the school cafeteria for a few days! The school let us set up a table and we only sold a handful to our friends. People thought the whole punk thing was a joke, but they also knew we were having fun. I had a maths/computer teacher who let us bring records in on Fridays, so I brought the B52’s and Wayne County, and taught the class how to pogo! We made our performing debut at the school for the first half hour of a school dance.

At that time, the Judy’s were already beginning to come up with a different more pop-orientated sound, so they didn’t think the single was a good representation of them anymore. So when they released ‘The Wonderful World of Appliances’ in 1980, they included the first single as a freebie giveaway in a bag to get rid of them. The new EP, by many regarded as the band’s first “regular” record, was recorded in a couple of hours and the six songs were once again released on the Wasted Talent label. As they didn’t have any proper distribution, the Judy’s sold most of their records at their gigs, at some of the cooler record stores in their hometown and, later on, by mailorder. The band really liked those household appliances…
– We used a lot of gear mostly in the sense of decoration and stage show. We didn’t play all the time, so we tried to make our shows special. We also had a lot of odd instruments around…t.v.’s, tom-tom drums, noisemakers, vaccuum cleaners… we just had a lot of stuff to carry around. And then if we were doing a themed show, like a Beach Party or Guyana Tragedy Anniversary, we’d have props for that, too. We didn’t have much gear like extra guitars and stuff, and my amplifier was really small, so compared to other bands, we didn’t have much to haul around.

When coming from Texas, a state that is mostly known for their boogie-rock (ZZ Top etc), the Judy’s perhaps surprisingly did not find things particulary hard…
– Well, we were certainly not what’s referred to as “Texas music”. I really dislike that phrase anyway. The state is big, and there’s a wide variety of music here, so I hate that people talk like that blues-country-rock is what we’re known for. At the time, there was a healthy punk and new wave scene. “Pop” was a word reserved for Top 40 radio stations. Most of the punk and new wave bands had a great pop sensibility, though.
Houston has always had a lousy music scene, despite the occasional great band. There’s a small pop/emo scene here now (very small, really), and most of it’s pretty bad. Junior Varsity is (was) the greatest band in the city (if they haven’t broken up yet)! Have you heard their album ‘Bam Bam Bam’? It’s a classic! (After this interview took place, I have bought that album, and yes, it’s great!, writer’s note).

‘The Wonderful World Of Appliances’ was a breakthrough for The Judy’s, at least locally. All the clubs and venues wanted to book them, all the brat kids wanted them to play at their parties and the newspapers wrote about the band’s energetic live shows.

At this time, 1981, they recorded ‘Washarama’, the album that they would be remembered by even to this day and age. The album contained 12 songs that the fans recognised as they had played them as part of their shows for a long time. Among these songs were a re-recording of that marvellous song from the first EP, ‘All The Pretty Girls’, ‘TV’, ‘Man On A Window Ledge’ and ‘Her Wave’, David’s favourite song by The Judy’s.
– That song was recorded too fast on ‘Washarama’, but we got to where we would play it a little slower live, and I just loved to sing it. My favorite to listen to is either ‘Land of Plenty’ or ‘Jesus Be My Airplane’ both off of the unreleased (or officially released, I should say) ‘Land of Plenty’ CD. It was a fuller sound than the earlier albums, and because it was not released to the public at large, I get to appreciate the recording in a different way.

On the ‘Washarama’ album is also ‘She’s Got The Beat’, a song that may be familiar to those of you who happen to like Tullycraft, as they recorded a cover version of that very song for a split-7” they made with Avocado Baby five years ago. Tullycraft is not the only band who has covered The Judy’s though. Junior Varsity recorded their version of ‘Radiation Squirm’ on a Japanese only single, a recording that David really likes…
– It’s very different from our version, and I love it! Very poppy.

David also tells me that the future has in store a CD-release of ‘Washarama’ (for the first time, oddly enough), which will also contain a tribute-CD as a bonus, where other artists and bands have recorded the songs from ‘Washarama’.
– It’s got Lisa Loeb, the Muffs, the 5.6.7.8’s, Rodney Alan Greenblat… it’s really incredible. I wish I could give you a release date, but we’ve been working on the project almost 2 years and it’s still not done… it’s a lot of work!

One of the persons working on this project is Michael Wilson, who also runs a great website at http://www.thejudys.com.
– We don’t have anything to do with that. Michael did all of it. He’s a fan who did an incredible job of creating a site based around the band. He’s some kind of computer whiz.

A year or so later, the band began recording the follow-up to ‘Washarama’, which had been a massive hit, but at the same time they were old enough to go to college, which they did. So, the Judy’s then went on hiatus until 1985, but the fans wanted to hear more, and with an album halfway recorded. David then asked some friends to help him record the rest of the album, and released it as a solo album in 1983, entitled ‘Modomusic’. Some of the musicians helping out David on ‘Modomusic’ were on loan from another Texas band, the Dishes, and to repay that favour, David joined them on stage from time to time for the next couple of years.
But David Bean wasn’t the only one to release solo records. Jeff Walton also released an EP, ‘Danger Boy’, while he was in college. According to David, Jeff’s record is heavy on dance beats and harmony vocals, and he adds that Jeff was very influenced by Queen at the time of recording it. So, will there be any reissues of those solo recordings ?
– Yeah. All of the songs on ‘Modomusic’ will be released on CD with the ‘Moo’ album. Whenever that happens… I don’t think Jeff will re-release his. I don’t know.

Then in 1985, the band decided to get back together to play some shows and to record a new album, ‘Moo’. During the years off, David had bought a Korg Poly-800 keyboard and, when he brought it to the studio, it helped to make the Judy’s sound a bit thicker than before. On this recording, they even hired a guest horn section for the track ‘Don’t Be a Hippie’. The songwriting had also changed quite a bit too…
– I wrote most of the material. Usually the words and music would come together. I’d sing a melody around a certain phrase, and then develop that into a chorus, decide what the song was going to be about, and write verses. Writing came pretty automatically, lots of times, because I used to play the piano and write songs as an emotional release. So after a bad day at school, ‘All the Pretty Girls’ seemed to write itself. ‘Moo’ was a little different. I think I had ideas for several songs before sitting down to write them. I’m visually oriented, so a lot of the lyrics were being written around images I was seeing in my mind.

After the release of ‘Moo’, Dane left the band, but Jeff and David kept on going, and in 1987 they played a show that the fans still talks about, as that very night, they also put a brand new single on sale, ‘Girl Of 1000 Smells’, recorded in two languages (English and Russian), and which also featured a small pocket guide David had written called ‘A Guide To Good Odours’.
– It was supposed to enhance the theme of the record, I guess. It will probably resurface again someday!

The single was packaged in the kind of boxes that usually carries reel-to-reel tape, and each single came with it’s own smell! On this single, two new members joined the duo, Scott Krchnak (saxophone) and Matthew McCarthy (drums), but that was the only recording they participated on. Shortly after the release of the single, they left the band, and David and Jeff were once again on their own.

It would be a long time until we would see the name the Judy’s on a record sleeve again. As a matter of a fact, I’m not really sure if we did at all.
In the early 90’s, Jeff left the band too, and David was the only original member of the Judy’s. Yet, he brought in some musicians to help him record what would the Judy’s “mysterious” final album, ‘Land Of Plenty’. Not mysterious musically, no, but nobody is really sure whether, as David mentioned earlier, it was ever released anywhere.
So, looking back at the years with The Judy’s, how did the band develop?
– We became less edgy as we got more popular. I think part of it was that we were being accepted, and part of the feelings of anger and alienation dissipated a bit and we became more of a standard pop band. A lot of punk bands had to act angry. So it seemed a bit phoney. I was trying to write from where we were at the time. Someone said once that we had become a parody of ourselves with ‘Moo’, and I think that’s true. We would have discussions about what we wanted to do musically, and try to figure if it was “Judy” or not. We wanted to grow and develop musically, but we weren’t sure if we were being true to ourselves or our audience. So we started to second-guess ourselves a lot. We were still subversive, but in a different way, like releasing ‘Girl of 1000 Smells’ with the flipside in Russian. I don’t know what type of sound you’d call that single (other than bad), but it was supposed to be a hip-sexy love-lounge song. Maybe it did work, and the idea is so subversive that it gets me!

Did you get any national attention for your records?
– I hear stories all the time about people hearing our music for the first time all over the US (and even foreign countries), but we had very limited distribution here in Texas. So I guess it’s just people passing around tapes and stuff. I think we’re all happy with the success we had, and everyone feels we could have had more, which is true, but I’m not sure how much I really would have wanted it. We all changed a bit as we got popular, and I was honestly scared at times about how we were being affected by all of it. I didn’t want to succeed at the expense of ourselves, and I didn’t trust that that was not going to happen.

Today, David is still making music from time to time, writing songs for motion pictures, corporate work etc. But he doesn’t think it was easier being a band in the 70’s and 80’s than it is now.
– There’s too many avenues for promotion today, and there’s not a big enough live music scene across the country. Maybe it’s just me, but it doesn’t feel like there’s the same interest and electricity around music these days. And there’s too many artists!
Right now my CD player’s got Andrew W.K., Lucinda Williams, Wim Mertens, the Pixies, Yma Sumac, Kathy McCarty, and the soundtrack to ‘Mary Poppins’ in it. Hey, do you know this singing group from Sweden called the Herrey’s, from about 15 years ago? I got their record in Russia. They sang ‘Diggi Loo, Diggi Ley’ or something like that? They did a cover of ‘Footloose’ in Swedish, too. They’re great!! I love them!!

Well, I think everyone in Sweden knows of the Herrey’s and if you happen to live in Europe, you probably remember them too. The song David mentions won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1984 and the three brothers became famous overnight.

Anyway, a reunion for The Judy’s seems unlikely though…
– We did a show together in 1995. I don’t see a reunion as very likely. We’re older now, and singing about teenage hang-ups and high school girls seems a little sick!

Well, I can agree with that.

 

Interview with Innes Phillips of The Relict

Filed under: Intervjuer — lacewings @ 9:10 f m

When I first heard the Relict a few years ago, I was quite sure that I was listening to the Clientele. I had to look at the cover once again, and it did say ”the relict”.

therelict_along.jpgThe single was ‘Along the Avenue’, the band’s second single, and after a while I understood that the band was more or less the same as the Clientele, with the big difference being that the singer in this case was Innes Phillips, even though he sounded quite a lot like Alasdair MacLean. Innes had in fact at one point been a member of the Clientele, but had left the group amicably in 1999.

Anyway, the song was great, and I wanted more, but as I didn’t hear anything about them for a while, I was sure they had called it quits. But no no! Late last year, they released their long-awaited debut album, ‘Tomorrow is again’ (a great album, by the way!)

I thought that it was about time that this London-band got some attention. So, said and done, I hooked up with a busy Innes, as he was preparing to move to Australia, and asked him a little about his band…

When did you first become interested in music? What kind of music did you grow up with?
– My folks would no doubt say it was the time I gathered all their vinyl albums, took them out of their sleeves, placed them on top of each other and rubbed them all together, in what you might describe as a rather immature form of musical terrorism. Also an ill informed one, as I acquired a whole load of ‘slightly flawed’ Beatles album from the same source, years later!
I actually bought my first album when I was about 7 years old, which was ‘Absolutely Madness’, which I like to think has stood the test of time, though at that time it was only bought for ‘Baggy Trousers’, of course! I started seriously getting into music when I was round about 13 or 14 when Alasdair Maclean bought me ‘Closer’ by Joy Division. It was kind of a heavy intro into indie music on the whole.

therelict_southern.jpgWere you in any bands before the Relict was formed?
– Yeah, one or two, and they usually contained Alasdair, James Hornsey and Dan Evans (the three members of the Clientele), who was our drummer. I say drummer, but we didn’t actually own anything as grandiose as a drum kit… more of an… upturned drawer. Tapes do exist of these early forays into music, and I dare say that if the ‘Tel do get any more famous, there are one or two people who might be looking to make a quick profit. Not that that would be me of course…

How did the Relict come about?
– About a year after I left the Clientele, there was a bit of interest in releasing some of the songs that had been written whilst I was still with them, but most people whom I wanted to work with were already heavily involved in their own projects and bands, so I guess I made a virtue out of necessity and developed the idea that the Relict would consist of borrowed members of other bands, and allow them room to put there own idea into the songs. So I really tried to take a step back and not tell people what to do and let them do their own thing. Another way of looking at that of course is that I am either incapable of writing other peoples parts, or I am bone idle… make your own minds up.

What were your major influences when you first started out, and how have they changed during the years?
– It probably won’t be a major surprise to anyone to say that a lot of 60’s singer songwriters featured quite heavily as influences. Nick Drake is an easy one, and though I may at times like to be revisionist, I have to admit that when I went through all my old records recently, there were a good number of Pink Floyd albums. I also liked some of the harder stuff, but had to settle for a quieter sound, for no better reason than I just couldn’t sing all that well.

Why did you name the band the Relict?
– If it doesn’t sound too wanky (but it will…) it is supposed to refer to the music not being modern, arrgh it just sounds wanky!

therelict_offchurch.jpgTell me a little about your band relations with the Clientele…
– Truth be told, the Clientele form pretty much the nucleus of the Relict, and I have grown up with the guys, so yeah we are pretty close and hang out a lot.. By which I mean, one day we will kill one another.

How do you write your songs? Music first, or lyrics first?
– Always music first, though that can take an age to come. Usually I start writing a song just before I have to go out, or when I have a hangover…don’t really know why that is, something to do with making freer associations of ideas when you are done in…

What is the music climate like in the UK at the moment for a band like the Relict?
– Looking at the sales figures of the album, I would have to say ‘poor’, though I would be the first to admit that I don’t actively push the band a great deal. Actually of all the countries that the album has gone to, the UK sales are probably the lowest.

Can you make a living out of your music? If not, do you have a ”regular” day-time job?
– For my sins I develop code for a living, for a product that maybe .0001% of the population might know about, and even less care about! After I get married in November, Sarah and I will be taking some time out, and I really hope that I can use the time to find some sort of other way to make a living, because it does seem a waste of a life to be in an office. But chances are that I will go back to the same old, same old!

The Relict albumIf a major label would contact you for a deal, would you be interested?
– Probably not, because in that world, I will also have won the lottery (which I don’t subscribe to) and would be living a life of the idle rich!

If you could choose one pop song that describes your life, which one would it be?
– Some days ‘Nothin’ by Townes van Zandt, other days ‘And Suddenly’ by the Left Banke. It just depends which side of the bed I get out of, really.

 

Interview with Tim Gane of McCarthy/Stereolab

Filed under: Intervjuer — lacewings @ 8:17 f m

band.jpgBack in 2001, I interviewed lead singer and lyricist Malcolm Eden for Pennyblackmusic, the first interview he had given since the demise of the band. Although Malcolm straightened out a lot of my questions marks, I also wanted to know the view of the other three members of the band.

After a short and frankly quite pointless correspondence via e-mail with bass player John Williamson, I aimed at getting hold of drummer Gary Baker. But, with such a common name, and since neither John nor Malcolm knew what he was doing nowadays, I soon gave up.

The only one left was guitarist Tim Gane, now a successful musician in his own band Stereolab, so I guessed that he wouldn’t be very keen on talking about this old band. Despite this, I sent an e-mail to the band’s website, and soon got a reply from their webmaster/manager, Martin, who gave me Tim’s private e-mail address. Another e-mail was sent, this time to Tim, and he replied quick as a greased lightning that he would love to do an interview about McCarthy.

Suddenly, I was sitting there with Tim’s phone number and a whole lot of questions that were just written in my mind. I hadn’t prepared for it to happen so quickly!

At the same time, I thought that if I didn’t do it straight away, I never would. So, I pressed the correct combination of numbers, and Tim answered on the other side of the line. After a short introduction, I began questioning him:

How did you get involved with McCarthy?
– As I’m sure Malcolm told you, we met at school. It was at the end of punk rock and the beginning of post punk, and we were the only ones into that kind of thing at our school, so it was natural for us to get together. We used to meet at Malcolm’s place and listen to music and read music magazines. Malcolm actually taught me to play the guitar. Then at age of 13 we formed a band that played punk covers. We knew all the Buzzcocks songs.

What was the earliest song that you wrote?
The first side on our first single, “In purgatory”. I wrote that very early, and recorded it in an electronic version with another band I had at the time. Then we re-did it with McCarthy and Malcolm wrote the lyrics to it. He also wrote two songs on the B-side to that single.

Did you agree with Malcolm’s lyrics?
– That didn’t really matter to me. I agreed with his general philosophies and thoughts, but we never interfered with his lyrics. He just wrote them and came and sang them, really. All these people tell me that you must be so left-wing, because you played in a left-wing band then, and you play in a left-wing band now… but I could just as well be right-wing, because I have never written any lyrics. I remember one time when there was a kind of a clash. I was a vegetarian at the time, not a militant one but anyway, and Malcolm had this kind of anti-vegetarian thing going on…

You mean the “Kill kill kill kill” song?
– Yeah. But I thought his lyrics were very funny though…

So, what’s your favourite McCarthy song? If you have one…
– Yeah, I do have one… But I can’t remember the name of it… It was on a flexidisc…

“You’re Alive”?
Yeah, that’s the one! I think we recorded it at the same time as the first album, but for some reason it didn’t go on it. I think it was bit different to the rest of the songs. So it came out with a Swedish fanzine. People often think that I should say ‘Red Sleeping Beauty’ or something like that…. But I like this song.

enraged.jpgMalcolm thinks that ‘The Enraged Will Inherit the Earth’ is the worst of your albums. Do you agree with him?
– Oh yeah. That’s the worst one. Not when it comes to the songs, because there are some really good songs on it. But the recording was horrible. The first album was recorded almost live in the studio with no add-ons whatsoever. And then we signed to Midnight Music and they had their own studio where we could stay for as long as we wanted… We didn’t knew what we were doing, really. And Gary, the drummer, arranged all the drums himself and he wanted to do all the drums on a drum machine. So, all the drums on that album are done by a drum machine, and it sounds awful! He could sit for days just programming that thing. I actually think that it was at this point that the band began to split up.

You often read that the band split up because you thought you were ignored. Do you agree with that now?
– No, not at all. When we split up, we had known for six, maybe nine months that we were going to split up. I think it began when we recorded ‘The Enraged Will Inherit the Earth’. Another reason was that we signed with Midnight, which was the worst mistake we ever made. That contract was a trap, but we didn’t see it then. But I don’t think we were ignored… no. We were very popular in some countries in Europe…

France I have heard…
– Yeah, France and Germany. We never got to the USA.

Were your records released in the US?
– No, not really. They were imported and stuff like that. But when I tour in the US now I meet people from time to time who are big McCarthy fans. But there aren’t too many of them, I suppose.

Do you have any contact with the other members of the band?
– Yeah, I hang out with John from time to time. He lives a couple of miles away from me, so we meet sometimes. But I am away so much. And I met Malcolm… I think it was last year. He came to my house and had dinner. We are quite the same people as were back then. And John is the exact same person as he was then. We haven’t changed that much.

banking.jpgDoes it happen when you tour now that people shout for McCarthy songs?
– Well, it happens a couple of times every time we tour. There is a man in Germany or France or wherever who always comes to our shows and shouts for McCarthy songs. But I don’t think anybody else in the audience knows what he’s talking about. And if they have heard of McCarthy, they probably don’t know the names of any songs.

Do you think that the people who listened to McCarthy listens to Stereolab now?
– Mmm, not a lot really. It’s hard for me to say, but I think there may be some people who do. I think there may be some people who have started listening to McCarthy because they have heard that was a band I was used to be in. Sometimes there is someone who comes up to me with the ‘Red Sleeping Beauty’ 7” and wants me to sign it…

How come did ended up releasing Herzfeld, Malcolm’s next band, on your Duophonic label?
– I started up this label with two other guys and it was quite natural that I would release Malcolm’s stuff. I think Herzfeld’s single ‘Two Mothers’ is fantastic. Actually it’s two of the best songs Malcolm has ever written. The tracks which appeard on ‘The Sack’, the 10” which followed that,are very good too. But I don’t feel that those are songs that McCarthy would have recorded if we would have kept on going.

Do you listen to McCarthy’s stuff now?
– No, very rarely. The last time I listened to them for real, and, not just someone putting on a song on a club or something, was when we re-mastered the tracks for the compilation, ‘That’s All Very Well But’. in 1996. John and I did that. But I think some of the stuff is really good. Half of the songs on each album are very good, and the rest are not so good. I still think Malcolm’s lyrics are very good, but musically we were a bit shallow sometimes.

mccarthy.jpgThe albums have all been reissued. How involved were you with in those?
– We picked the tracks for the compilation. And John was kind of a go-between with us and Cherry Red who put those out. They wanted to put everything out, but we didn’t want any songs so overlap, to be on two records at the same time. Because we thought that the ones who will buy those CDs are already McCarthy-fans, so we didn’t have to make it more commercial by putting all the A-sides on one CD and so on, which was what Cherry Red wanted to do. But we stopped that. In the end, we just put everything on CDs, B-sides and all.

 

Interview with Jeremy Paige of Rumblefish

Filed under: Intervjuer — lacewings @ 8:01 f m

For the past years, Egg Records have been releasing a lot of retrospective indiepop compilations in CD, with bands that most people have forgotten about now. One example is the smashing CD with This Poison!, “Magazine”.

Now Summerhouse have browsed their archives too, and earlier this summer they released a CD containing all the singles that Rumblefish recorded back in the late 80’s on the Pink and Summerhouse labels. It was a great record, and we wanted to find out more about this band!

The story of Rumblefish begins when a young Jeremy Paige played his first gig, as part of the local punk band The Probes on Valentines Day in 1979.

I lived on a diet of pure T.Rex until I discovered the holy trinity of Bowie (when asked which song he wish he would have written, Jeremy says Bowie’s “The man who sold the world”: “Any song which can be covered by Lulu and Nirvana, and for both versions to sound great must be a special song. It’s simple, with an intriguing lyric and room for different interpretations.” Writer’s note.), Iggy and Lou Reed. Punk came next which converted me from a consumer to a musician.

Later, Jeremy joined a skiffle band called Terry & Gerry as their guitarist. The band recorded for the Intape label, and even managed to reach the indie charts, but in early 1986, Jeremy got kicked out.

They wanted to become more musically versatile and I was not considered to be up to the task. I formed Rumblefish as a response to their misguided dismissal. I kept it very simple, myself on guitar and Stuart McClure on stand-up drums. Other instruments joined as and when the songs needed them. The trumpeter Mister Phillips came next.

When forming Rumblefish, Jeremy wanted an uncluttered sound, where each instrument should be allowed to breathe, a sound that was quite popular at that time, with bands such as The June Brides.

This is clearly not the sound of today and I think the recordings sound wonderfully of their own time. Julian Cope was a big influence. I asked him to produce us sometime in 1986, he said “hmmm, maybe…”. I’m still waiting but I think it’s a “no”.

Jeremy and his band mates recorded a demo cassette that they decorated by melting the band name into the plastic, so they couldn’t be re-used. They got responses from four of the labels they sent the cassette to, but they decided to go with Pink, as they were the only label who were interested enough to go see them play, when supporting The Go-Betweens in their hometown of Birmingham. On Pink, they joined forces with bands like McCarthy and The Wolfhounds.

We played quite often with McCarthy, The Wolfhounds and Jamie Wednesday. I found them all to be interesting and committed.

When looking back at these times, Jeremy thinks it was a special time. He says that one of the differences between now and then is that it was easy to get gigs, because there was a demand, which doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.

Everyone I knew was in a band, releasing singles and playing gigs. The only sour note was that the N.M.E. was involved in an internal conflict as to what direction the paper should go (hip hop vs Indie) and in the end everyone suffered. You’d have thought they could have covered both!

Then suddenly Rumblefish found themselves signing a major label deal with Atlantic Records, and for us, the listeners, this sounds quite weird. How did they end up there?

We were recommended to a management company in London and they had good relations with Atlantic Records in New York, so we signed to them. It really was that easy. Then we were dropped by Atlantic the day before our album was released. They cancelled our tour of the U.S.A. and it hit us really hard. You can’t easily storm into your record company offices and complain when they’re 2,000 miles away. It appears that Time Warner (the parent company) had lost money and so immediate cuts were made. We tried to keep it alive but if you are perceived to have failed it’s difficult to get anyone to back you. We played the game by re-naming ourselves “Low Art Thrill” and got a deal with Island Records who released what was essentially the second Rumblefish album.

When Low Art Thrill split up, Jeremy felt that he was fed up with the music business, which he thought had changed for the worse during the ten years he had been around. But now he’s back with a new band.

I have recently started a group who sound like the Velvet Underground would have done if they’d listened to dub reggae instead of the blues! I have also had drunken discussions with Justin Hawkins (of The Darkness fame) about writing together.

He still listens to the music that first influenced him, but he tends to pick songs rather than groups or albums.

I feel no desire to align myself to any trend. I have recently enjoyed songs by The Flaming Lips, The Killers, Badly Drawn Boy and Muse.

And finally, is there any chance of a Rumblefish reunion?

I’m not aware of any demand, but should that be the case I’d love to. I might need help finding some of the others though, I can’t believe twenty years have passed so quickly.

Well, I think that this new compilation at least should spark a demand among us that still want our indiepop to be melodic and energetic. So you better start rehearsing, Jeremy…