Public Service Broadcasting Interview, Yuca, Cologne, Nov 26th

After two albums and an EP (“Inform-Educate-Entertain”, “The Race For Space” and “The War Room”), all of which were setting audio footage (and visuals on stage) from public information films to driven synth music plus guitars, banjo and drums, resulting in a feast for the ears with an optimistic, sometimes of course ironic undertone, Public Service Broadcasting released “Every Valley” (PIAS). Now, I for my part, liked the other albums but their third oeuvre I love to bits. “Every Valley” is a change of direction in so many ways: It is not about a big global subject, not something from the past, not only celebratory, not with media commentary only – the album is about the demise of the coal mining industry in Wales, that and the still ongoing repercussions for the local communities, mostly told by members of the community of Ebbw Vale in South Wales themselves.

Now, some (albeit very few) regarded the work not as a step forward but claimed it was nostalgic and irrelevant (sic!) and even patronising. If you have listened to the album carefully (and I do recommend this so very much), you know these allegations could not be further from the truth. We are talking present here and relevance for many communities all over world and the fact that Public Service Broadcasting downsized on the footage and interviewed local people for quite a long time while staying in the village/town of Ebbw Vale, should do away with any of those comments for good. But as I said, those are very few and far between.

Public Service Broadcasting Interview, Yuca, Cologne, Nov 26th

Read about “Every Valley” and more in J. Willgoose Esq.’s own words below. The Esquire, Wrigglesworth and J.F. Abraham descended on Cologne’s Yuca venue on November 26th to dish up a very fine show. I had not had the fortune to see them live so far, but my word, this was excellent as so many fans had already pointed out to me earlier this year.

There was dancing, there was big emotion, there was laughing, there was gentle swaying, there was shouting and clapping and whistling in the sold-out venue. And that was only the audience responding to a band, that despite it’s non-traditional band outfit delivered truly perfect entertainment. They rocked,  they communicated, they overwhelmed with an audio-visual onslaught and magnificent drums, bass, flugelhorn and many beautiful roaring guitars and a banjo on top of a minutely timed synthesiser arrangement.

One not to be missed!

Public Service Broadcasting Interview, Yuca, Cologne, Nov 26th

And here comes the interview with Public Service Broadcasting’s very own J. Willgoose Esq.!

Offbeat Music Blog: Thank you, J. Willgoose Esq., for taking the time before your gig here in Cologne with Public Service Broadcasting!

J. Willgoose Esq.: Of course!

OMB: Let’s start at the beginning. When you first started out to make music, did you plan it to be this very specific way, not in the traditional sense, or did that just fall into place along the way?

JWE: It very much fell into place. It was a very happy accident really. I was just making electronic music and didn’t really know what I was doing or why. Heard about some archive material on the internet and thought maybe I can use some of that just to kind of spruce up my music, I suppose. From there it just grew as a concept and an idea. I suddenly thought maybe I could do an album where each song was based on a different public information film. Despite thinking that sounded really, really pretentious, I carried on doing it and we’ve made three albums now, so there you go (laughs).

OMB: You tour a lot. For instance you also did SXSW festival. How is Public Service Broadcasting received among more traditional bands or among more traditional audiences in a rock environment?

JWE: I think it’s because there are a lot of different aspects to it – there is a lot of stuff going on even just with the music, let alone when you add the visuals to it, if we can – it seems to go down well across a very wide range of people which has been the case from the very start and it’s been very surprising from the very start but it has been consistent. I don’t know why. Maybe it is unusual, because it is conceptually strong or maybe because there are so many different genres and styles wrapped up in it, it is easy to find something that you like maybe. It is difficult to say. But we have never really had an absolute clanger of a show where it was just obvious that everybody hated us. I am sure people hate us in amongst every crowd but it never seemed to have lost an entire crowd if that makes sense. But I don’t know why that is. I think it is just luck.

OMB: I wouldn’t put it down to luck only. How do you manage to transport your albums onto stage?You love touring (mostly anyway, not the downsides of it) and when you have to transport your albums to a stage, it is not a matter of taking the drums, the bass and the guitar and off we go.

JWE: Hm, yeah, there is a lot of preproduction and planning and considering how to best play the songs and whose going to play which part and how you could it layer it and how could loop and what you are going to need to rely on coming off track, I suppose, just to make it as musically engaging as possible. So we all do a variety of things on stage. Even Wrigglesworth – he is not just drumming, he is playing a lot of electronics. He is playing a lot of tuned percussion parts. J.F. Abraham has got a whole lot of instruments and I have got a few myself, so, yeah: It is a lot of planning and work before we get on stage to try and make it as engaging as possible rather than just turning up either with instruments or just a laptop and pressing buttons because I find that quite boring. I guess, yeah, the boring answer is: Hard work ahead of time.

OMB: Do you stay very true to the albums on stage?

JWE: I think it sounds different. It is deliberately different. It often has a slightly harder edge. It is more kind of visceral first and foremost because it is louder and it is hitting you harder unless people listen to the music at 100 dB at home but I doubt it (laughs). So it packs more of a punch in that respect and you can show the visuals at the same time so you have a more emotional impact as well. Sometimes music makes more sense if you put it into live mode. I think we are on of those bands if you don’t understand it on the record, it is more likely to make sense live. It definitely changes live and we allow it to evolve and have some improvisational elements as well and not be same every night because that’s boring.

OMB: You probably have a stage setup particularly for one album and the records do definitely fall into the category concept albums. Can gig goers als expect older songs?

JWE: Yes, unless it is a specific event, we never play through an album in its entirety, partly because it is impractical a lot of the time. Partly because I don’t want to be sucked into being a mostly visuals band. I want it to be clear, it is a band playing songs from across our three albums and a bit. Just like any band really. You play two or three of this album, two or three of that album. There is obviously an emphasis on the new one because that’s what we are touring. So we are trying to play more of it. Yeah, I think the emphasis with the live show is that we are the common element, so we bind it all together. Even if there are jumps between narratives and eras and subjects and sometimes it doesn’t make sense but we are still the glue that’s holding it all together. That’s the idea behind it.

OMB: With the first two albums you were very close to the field your archive material, the often enthusiastic and glorifying material on big worldwide events (even though you probably used it in an ironical way). But with “Every Valley” you toned down to one region and one industry and to interviews with the people themselves. And yet “Every Valley”, I think, can be transferred to something globally as well. The subject seemed to downsize and yet it applies to a lot of places all over the world.

JWE: Yeah, that was the intention. I wanted to make an album about coal mining partly because of the availability of the material with the British Film Institute and partly because it seemed like an interesting change not to carry on in this optimistic, grand, large-scale sort of trajectory we had been on, to change things and try something new and a bit braver. And the more I researched, the more I started to think about setting it in one particularly area. For that reason, I think, in making it specific, centred in one region, it helps to let it travel. If you are able to use your imagination or use empathy and draw parallels between what’s happening in your country and what’s happening in Wales where we focussed on. It is a more political album in a quietish way. We are not making any grand, hectoring statements but we are allowing people to find their way through it a bit by telling the story of what happened in the words of the people who went through it for the absolute lion share of the album. That’s what we’ve done. Yeah, it’s weird, if you zoom in on something and make it so specific, actually, that helping to make it more universal. It seems paradoxical but I don’t think it is. But maybe I am wrong…

OMB: No, it certainly came across to me like that. It came at a time where there were elections all over the world (well the US one had already been and done). I found personally in the region where I live where there used to be mining in Germany, in the Netherlands and in Belgium, that there is no more working-class anymore nor is there the working-class spirit. Maybe because people do not feel represented by a political party anymore, maybe because they are not working class anymore but also because they have been caught by the most likely fake promises of the right-wing parties and this happened all over place. Did you encounter that phenomenon in Wales?

JWE: We spoke to a lot of people and we spent a lot of time there making the record. A lot of what you said rings true there certainly in terms of a neglected area, ignored by politicians in London for the most part. Once they (the politicians) had broken the union and wound the industry down…they did it in a very unsympathetic way without a real long-term vision for the area. The aim first and foremost was to break the power of unions, to break that kind of power of collectivism and then let the free market run riot basically. So it is not surprising that you find a slight breakdown in community and a slight breakdown in that sort of collective feeling or collective consciousness because you don’t have that collectivism that arises mostly from working in one industry together. One of the miners we spoke to said that one of the saddest and most profound changes was that young and old people in those villages and towns there don’t really speak to each other anymore because they don’t interact. Why would they? They used to finish a shift and you’d have young lads working their way up and the older hands and they’d all go to the pub together. You talk to people and it is such an easy way of bridging divides and understanding where different generations are coming from. If you lose the industry, you lose what’s at the heart of that community, the “mother of the village” as it were on the album, you lose that too. It is easy to see then how, especially with the political backdrop, these communities can become disenfranchised and disillusioned and more ready to be taken advantage of by sort of more populist ideologies like right wing or…I don’t even know if you’d call UKIP in the UK right wing, you might call them proto-fascist or something. It is very unsavoury and it is just further hurts those communities as well which is like the further ironic twist really.

OMB: Certainly having a working-class background myself and having grown up in such a region, I sometimes get told off by people for commenting, because they assume I am too far away from it now and not going through the same thing. How was that for you as a Londoner, an artist, coming to Ebbw Vale? Did you feel apprehensive?

JWE: Oh yeah, very. I am not only a Londoner. I grew up in relative middle-class comfort. I’ve never known that kind of physical toil and strife, neither that nor the feeling of growing up in those communities after the main industry has left. Very apprehensive and nervous that people might put up a wall and just refuse to talk or question the validity of the whole thing or say, what idea have you to be talking about this at all? I genuinely did not encounter that in Wales once. There wasn’t one person who took a slightly sniffy view. The choir we worked with, the miners we interviewed, the people from the National Union of Mineworkers, people in the community, people who were in Ebbw Vale who we worked with recording. The whole feeling was very much of encouragement and support and being pleased that a lens was being kind of trained on them. I think it helps that we weren’t coming in…obviously we structured the album and we made it flow in a certain way and decided which subjects we want to talk about but I don’t think we imposed our own narrative on it. We just filtered it through our creative filter of sorts. It is still their words and their story, just kind of interpreted through our music. I don’t know. I was worried about it and I expected us to get more flak than we’ve had. We have had some because it is inevitable but it didn’t deter me from wanting to do it. I’ve been reading recently about LCD Soundsystem coming back. James Murphy remembered from a conversation with Bowie that Bowie said: If it makes you uncomfortable, you should do it. That’s when you produce good stuff. I think it is definitely an element of making myself uncomfortable with this album to try and push on and do something different, do something more ambitious and challenge yourself really. Whether I succeed is only half the battle really, it is actually doing it in the first place. Being brave enough to take that risk is a big part of it.

OMB: Yeah, and not sitting at home or in a studio and sifting through the material but going out there and living there.

JWE: Yes, engaging in a more direct way. I think it is an interesting part of the evolution of the band from where it started which is much more sitting in a room at home in a much more clinical way. I think there is more emotion on this album. It is just a more interesting story told in a more interesting way. And it is interesting to see how the band has changed from its early days till now.

Public Service Broadcasting Interview, Yuca, Cologne, Nov 26th

OMB: Besides Wrigglesworth, you have in J.F. Abraham a third member now as well?

JWE: Yeah, we just want to grow musically as well, represent the records as well as we can on stage while not going bankrupt in the process (laughs) which we haven’t always been that successful with. Hopefully going to a level where, you know…if you are lucky enough to have an audience and if you are lucky enough to have people who have been sticking with you for a while and trust you creatively, I think your obligation to them is to take creative risks and not to just see them as money in the bank kind of thing. “We need to put an album out every two years because we have got mortgages”. That’s not the point of it. If you are lucky enough to have established yourself and found an audience, you need to try and take them to new and interesting places. Maybe you lose some on the way but that’s part of the risk really.

OMB: Are you still in contact with the people in Ebbw Vale – I am probably pronouncing it so wrong…

JWE: If you say it more quickly, you are less likely to get it wrong (laughs). Yeah, when we played in Cardiff, we had the choir along. So they performed the last song and closed the night, so that was a very emotional moment. Hannah (Benkwitz) who did the artwork came along to that show so it was lovely to meet her. Ben Curtis who is a doctor at Cardiff University who was very helpful in the making came along with the people of the South Wales Miners Library. Trying to kind of make it so we didn’t just swoop in, take their story and then run off with it. Stay engaged and try and do some things to actually help the community, whether it is something as simple as going there to record it or going back there to launch the album which we did. Trying to bring some money to the area, some sort of artistic and economic activity that maybe they don’t see that often. That was really a rewarding side of it and a really satisfying part of it, regardless of the artistic or creative success/failure of the record: From a social point of view or a responsibility kind of view, it has been a good thing to do, unquestionably. That’s a good feeling to have.

OMB: You put Ebbw Vale back on the map?

JWE: I wouldn’t be as arrogant as to say that! We have given something back. We have done it with a sense of social responsibility. We did not use their story and ran off to the charts with it. We’ve tried to stay engaged and given some equipment to the local area and get young bands involved, had the local bands supporting us at the shows. Those kind of things that are just good things to do if you are of that kind of nature rather than being more individualistic.

OMB: More like an exchange then really?

JWE: They were so supportive and have allowed us to use their lives and their story and their community for our own purposes. That’s undeniable. But at the same time, it is a mutually beneficial arrangement hopefully and not an exploitative one.

OMB: Listening to the album, are the songs arranged in a particular order?

JWE: Definitely, and it is written that way too. So it is written start to finish in that order. I seem to find it works that way, I don’t know why.

OMB: Starting with Richard Burton’s quote about the proud miners?

JWE: Yeah, although that sample dropped in relatively late, getting the permission for that was late. Yeah, but starting with a more golden age. With a dissonance to it. There is this grandiosity but also this dissonance. As in something is not quite right. Almost lurking beneath the surface, I suppose. So it is not only about doom and gloom but casting back to when mining was a dangerous but valuable part of the community. And then the slow dive off the cliff really. But even then moment like “They gave me a lamp” shining some kind of positive light on telling a sad story.

OMB: If you think of the unbelievable working conditions those people worked in, the danger, the heat, the noise, the confined space, the air they breathed and what they contributed to their nation.

JWE: And then being thanked by just being left on the scrapheap. It’s disgusting really. It was one of the reasons for doing this album, was trying to get that message across how these people have been used up in that way. Again that idea of collective social responsibility which is not at the forefront of the album but it is lurking behind everything on it, hopefully. That we have to look after people in troubled times and less fortunate than those who are doing better. It is about society as whole rather than “there is no such thing as society” which is one of Thatcher’s most famous political announcements.

OMB: Wow, did she say that?

JWE: I think it was kind of taken slightly out of context but still…

OMB: I wouldn’t put it past her.

JWE: If you ask people to name things she said, it is that and “If you are over 30 years old and you are on a bus, you are a failure”. It is all about this individualistic view of life. What’s in it for me rather than for the greater good. It has been quite a poisonous mindset to have developed over the last thirty odd years back home.

OMB: It is really saddening. (Sensing, time is up). Right, so what can we expect tonight?

JWE: (Laughs). Well, you know, after all this heavy talk: It is a pop show. Lights and smoke and larking around. We will play about six or seven songs off the new album and intersperse it with older stuff. We change the setlist every night, so we don’t play the exact same set every night which is good, hopefully, for the fans and for us. We are gamely plugging away to play the music as best as possible. There’s live visuals as well running in the background in sync with the music.
It is hopefully an engaging and moving and occasionally mildly humorous show. It is different to a lot of stuff out there. It can be in the right setting quite overwhelming but in a good way. That’s the idea but whether or not we are able to get that across…

OMB: Well, I’ve been known to cry under my headphones listening to “Mother of The Village”…

JWE: Oh, blimey!

OMB: But I am just like that way.

JWE: If music gets you like that, music gets you like that! For two of us in the band it’s the same.

OMB: I think, it’s a good thing.

JWE: I think so too.

OMB: And on this note, thank you very much!

JWE: Thank you!

Public Service Broadcasting Interview, Yuca, Cologne, Nov 26th

 

The Wedding Present @ Nieuwe Nor Oct 21st & interview

If you are standing outside a venue in a picturesque pedestrian road of a small town and cars with registrations from far away trundle searchingly by and a guy wondering why his friends took him for his birthday, realises exactly, is on the verge of tears, then you know, something big is going to happen. The man overcome with emotion shouts “George Best” pointing at a gig poster in the window and “You are taking me to a Wedding Present concert!!!” That is exactly where his friends have taken him. The Wedding Present play the Nieuwe Nor venue in Heerlen, the Netherlands on occasion of the 30th birthday (oh my!) of their very first album “George Best”. Read now all about that: The Wedding Present @ Nieuwe Nor Oct 21st & interview!

Everyone still had to bade some time at he Nieuwe Nor in Heerlen: First up were support act Strugglers who delivered pretty gloomy hard rocky stuff but musically crafted well and then at 9.30 pm CET the mighty Wedding Present entered the stage with David Gedge on vocals and guitar, Danielle Wadey on bass and vocals, Marcus Kain on guitar and Charles Layton on drums.

The Wedding Present @ Nieuwe Nor Oct 21st & interview

Sure enough, the promise of “George Best”, The Wedding Present’s first, meanwhile cult album, being performed in full attracted a big and enthusiastic crowd especially since it was announced that this would be the very last time that this event would take place on mainland Europe. Don’t fret, you can still catch up with them (in Germany for instance, with the wonderful Precious Few as support act). Tour dates are here.

But this was far from a retro gig. Sure enough, all of us did a bit of time-travelling during the “George Best” set, each in their own way, some dancing and laughing, some almost crying, some with closed eyes. But there was a brilliant selection of songs from other albums too, also from the masterpiece that their new album “Going, going…” is (no “Brassneck”, no encores – look, this is tradition!) Even “George Best” tracks were delivered in a fresh style that made me want to run out to the kids outside the venue listening to techno, shake them and drag them in to tell them: This stuff is thirty years old – just listen to it, will you listen? No, I did not…wouldn’t want to miss a second of this gig. And whereas I sometimes during concerts get a bit tired or woozy or there are kind of lows in the gig…nothing of this here. One and a half hours flew by like nothing at all. This time-travelling mallarkey seems to be a great thing when undertaken properly!

The Wedding Present @ Nieuwe Nor Oct 21st & interview

Part of the freshness in delivery were of course first of all Danielle, Marcus and Charles giving a new spin on the classics in a tight performance and then David clearly enjoying the album – see interview below.

Indeed, David Gedge kindly took some time out on busy day and spoke to the blog about a lot of things. Enjoy and off to the gigs you go!

The Wedding Present @ Nieuwe Nor Oct 21st & interview

Offbeat Music Blog: Thank you very much, David, for taking the time on yet another long, strenuous tour!

David Lewis Gedge of The Wedding Present: No worries!

OMB: Let us start at the very beginning if you would. Did you come from a musical family or was it really the punk movement – everybody can do it – that got you into music?

David: Not a musical family in the sense that anybody played anything. But there was always music going on. My parents met in the fifties, in the rock n roll era, so they had a lot of old 78s and 45s from that era going on through to the sixties. So there was always plenty of music being played. But none of them had any idea of wanting to become a musician. Punk certainly had an influence on me because it did open the world to normal people who weren’t classically trained (laughs). You just want to start a band really. Also, I went to school with a band, friends of mine, a band from Manchester called The Chameleons. I don’t know if you know them. I went to university at the same time they formed The Chameleons. The next thing I knew, they had a session for John Peel on Radio One and they signed to Epic Records, releasing singles. And I was thinking, mmmh, wait a minute (laughs), I could do this as well. So when I finished my university course, I decided to take it seriously and start The Wedding Present basically.

OMB: Funnily enough, one of my first interviews when I was still at school was with The Chameleons.

David: Full circle!

OMB: Their drummer John recently died…

David: He did, sadly, yeah.

OMB: Thinking about school days: I always wanted to go to the UK, not to London or the landscapes but to the northern big cities in all their post-industrialist gloom because that produced two good things: Football players and musicians. To a certain degree, it is still a bit like that, but not so much. How do you think, the music scene up north has changed? Do you still see as many young people going for it?

David: I don’t really know to be honest. Certainly, in that post-punk era in the 80s against the 90s, it was a hotbed. There were so many bands coming out of Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow and places like that. Nowadays, I don’t really see it as that focussed on those areas anymore. The bands seem to be everywhere really. I don’t know whether that is because of the internet. It is not quite in centres as it used to be, I think.

OMB: Would you think the youth culture is maybe a bit different now? More consuming rather than creative?

David: The youth culture is different in that we had only music and football basically (laughs). But nowadays there is so much more for kids to do. They can watch movies on their phones and computer games. The world is wide open. There is more choice. Also, there is less money in the music industry these days. I speak to some managers who work with new bands. They always say, it’s rich kids because no one else can afford to pack their job in and go off on tour unless they have got some kind of financial support or kind of family money. It is harder for kids to be in groups these days because nobody buys records anymore. That’s changed it as well, I think.

OMB: You live in Brighton now. You are a Southerner now!

David: Yeah (laughs).

OMB: You also do a festival in Brighton. Would you like to say something about that?

David: I think we did the ninth one this year. We do it (At The Edge Of The Sea) every year. It came because we were on tour once and we were in a cafe and talking about being a musician you meet a lot of people and have a quite intense relationship with them on tour, support bands or people you work with. And then you don’t see them again. You might see them again in ten years, going: “Hello, remember us?”
We just thought it would be nice if we had this event where could see the bands that we like as people or their music again. So we hit on the idea of this little festival. It is not a big thing. It is just in a venue in Brighton and we invite people who…to be honest, it is like being a kid in a sweet shop – I just go crazy. It is bands that I like or bands we toured with and got on with. Sometimes it is ex-Wedding Present members who have a new projects, so they come and play. It is kind of one of my favourites things to do. It is like Christmas almost. A lot of hard work because there is a lot to organise but it is such a good thing to be involved with.

OMB: You have always done things on the side, that is if there is time for things on the side really.

David: I think, we make time. Well, I make time. I never wanted us to be one of those bands who write songs, make an LP, go on tour, write more songs, make another LP, do another tour…I always wanted to do separate projects, Cinerama and the festival and there is loads of things that go off a tangent…have strange ideas and if you can make it work it is worth doing. It is more for me than just the music. It’s all the other things as well.

OMB: During your longish hiatus (1997-2004) you worked as Cinerama which eventually merged back into The Wedding Present. But do you have Cinerama still going on the side as well?

David: Very much so! Actually, it is one of the benefits of the festival that we do every year that Cinerama always plays. So we do at least one thing every year and get together and rehearse. Also, in the last few years we have been doing more. We did a concert in London a couple of years ago where we played with a string section, a flute player and a trumpet player. We filmed that and released it as a DVD. Just recently The Wedding Present played in London, in fact last week, and Cinerama supported them. Again we had strings and a choir. It is kind of there as a side project, like a hobby, but it comes to life when there is an opportunity. It is quite expensive! The problem with Cinerama is that it is really expensive to do in its real form because it involves a lot of musicians (laughs) who don’t play together very often. So we have to rehearse quite a lot which costs time and money. And it has never been as successful as The Wedding Present, so the economic argument for doing Cinerama is not really great (laughs). But we like to do it when we can.

OMB: To further creativity and to be inspired by it?

David: Yeah, it is a different kind of music. I always enjoyed that kind of filmic pop music and strings. The Wedding Present really is a guitar band. It is just nice to deviate now and again and do something different.

The Wedding Present @ Nieuwe Nor Oct 21st & interview

OMB: During your time with The Wedding Present you have been on many labels, your own, independent ones and major labels where you – which was unheard of – kept a high degree of control over your output as well. Now you are back to releasing via your own label Scopitones again. Was that always important to you to maintain the control over your output? Also, with so many changing band members, how was it there, did you let them do something?

David: Yeah, it depends on the project really. I’ve always said that The Wedding Present is made up by everyone who is in the band at the time. So I am not this kind of dictator who says: “This is what we are going to sound like!” I’d be stupid to do that to be honest, because one of the advantages to have all these different people through the years is, they come up with different ideas and different musical tastes and inspirations. Often pushes it in a different direction. But yes, I have always been bloody-minded in having that control and the reason why I started the label Scopitones a few years ago was: We used to have our own label and then we signed to RCA Records and that was fine. Then we signed to Island and that was fine. They were both major labels. Then we signed to Cooking Vinyl which is an independent label and we had less control which was weird to me. Because you think it would be the other way round. After releasing a few things on Cooking Vinyl, I decided that it is not that it is a big label so I am not making lots of money from it. I might just do it myself again and then have total control again. And we hired the same people Cooking Vinyl used, but this time I own the rights and it is totally my baby. We have gone back to doing it ourselves really.

OMB: The control issue with the smaller label is probably a financial question as well.

David: That’s the problem. With RCA we were very lucky because we signed in the 80s when there was a lot of money flying around, so anything we wanted there was no question of a problem. Whereas when we got to Cooking Vinyl, the music industry was in decline a little bit and they were a small label. It was more a budgetary thing rather than a creative thing but even so. I don’t want to write songs, make records and then have a business person sat in a room telling me what to do, do you know what I mean? That hampers the artistic freedom and it is important. I can understand why it is not important for some people who are quite happy to be told what to do. Maybe they want that. In The Wedding Present it has never happened and I can’t imagine that it ever would really.

 

OMB: You seem to be able to day when making records: “Okay, I leave it like that.” And it sounds still a bit raw and not producing the bejaysus out of something even though with a major label you would have certainly had the opportunity to do that.

David: (laughs) We probably even got more extreme as we went along on those major labels. I think we were lucky because again, the people who signed us, especially RCA had a position of power. But because they’d signed us, we got what we wanted really in terms of engineers and producers. Yeah, but it is the traditional kind of major method to get this kind of band and then bring in a producer and a stylist and take that sort of refuge. But it never really happened to us. Maybe it should have, I don’t know! (Laughs).

OMB: I think, most people like The Wedding Present they way they are really. You are celebrating the 30th anniversary of “George Best” on this tour (which is a bit painful, reminding me of my age). I think when you did the 25th birthday tour, you were first not so sure about doing this.

David: No, right. It was the twentieth actually. There was an idea of a re-release which never happened in the end. But it was supposed to come out in a special format and the label wanted to do that and they suggested we play it live. And I said no, that’s like nostalgia and I am an artist and I am looking forward to the next album rather than looking back. But then I went away and spoke to a few people, my friends and people in the band and fans and everybody said: “Oh yeah, you should definitely do that. That would be brilliant. I’d love to see you play “George Best”. Because when an album first comes up, you don’t play the entire thing because it is new. You intersperse it with other songs people know. So we said we should try it. And I was: “Yeeeeah, okaaaaay.” I suppose, I was a bit unenthusiastic. Then, when we started doing it, I realised I was actually enjoying it. It is very interesting and a bit surreal to actually go back and look at stuff you’ve done twenty, thirty years ago and then reimagine it with a new band really. And it is interesting how they interpret everything differently and for me also, it is like looking at an old diary. Because I changed quite a lot in those thirty years, as people do. It’s almost like I am covering myself. I am covering these songs by a songwriter from thirty years ago which happens to be me. And now I think it is fascinating – I love doing it. Especially “George Best”, it is a really frantic set, very powerful and fast and energetic. It’s really good fun to play live actually.

OMB: Buffalo Tom have done this recently and I think, were a bit apprehensive first and then really enjoyed it and seeing how the songs had evolved.

David: Yeah, exactly! I also came to this philosophical conclusion: The past is as important for a band as the present and the future. I did an interview actually where the person said, by doing older records, aren’t you hampering the stuff you are doing now and in the future. I don’t see that really. In the last few years we have done “Bizarro” and “Seamonsters” just like “George Best” – we did them live. But we still released three albums and still have written new songs. Again, it is like Cinerama, a side project that we occasionally do. I didn’t even plan to do “George Best” to be honest…it only happened because someone last year called me and said, oh, we have this festival in Manchester. Would you be prepared to play “George Best” as part of its 30th anniversary? And I said: “What??? Thirty years already?” It seems not so long ago that it was the 20th anniversary. I was actually quite surprised but again, I asked the rest of the group and they said: “Yeah, we should do that.” So we said yes. We got more invitations as people realised and then we thought we do this little tour. So, this one came as a little more of a surprise to me actually. So maybe we are going to do thirty years of “Bizarro” and “Seamonsters” next, who knows?

OMB: For me it is kind of an out of body experience listening to “George Best” now. It seems far away and at the same time it catapults you back right there and you can sense the atmosphere like it was with the sounds and feelings and smells even.

David: That’s exactly why I like it. You hit the nail on the head there. It is something distant, you never think about it. But then, as soon as you start doing it, you are right back there which is very odd.

OMB: You spent some time in the US. Do you see a certain influence on your music?

David: Totally, yeah. Throughout the history of The Wedding Present we have always been interested in North American bands as well as European bands. A lot of “George Best” is this kind of Velvet Underground chord but just really fast (laughs). Then Sonic Youth and Television and all these bands from the American underground have always been influential…Pavement.

OMB: Pixies?

David: Pixies, yeah. Pixies influenced us because Steve Albini as recording engineer. I remember when their “Surfer Rosa” album came out, I was: “This sounds amazing.” Great songs, but also just sounded brilliant as well. And it was Steve Albini recorded that and so we asked him to record “Seamonsters”, our third album. We always had one foot in America and one foot in the UK, even physically these days.

OMB: If you could sort of say very shortly about each of your albums what you had in mind or wanted to achieve when you made it. (We are a bit late and It is dinner time and plates are being banged and people start flooding in and chatting, but this won’t be obvious in the written format here, so on we go…)

 

David: (chortling and thankfully going on despite maybe at this stage dying with hunger) With “George Best” we really had no plans. We were just happy to make a record. All the songs we had at the time, we just played them. (David’s very lovely wife comes in and brings the equally lovely Doris, their wee dog, to David for some quality time between driving and soundchecking and interviewing and performing. Doris is being interviewed on the life as a touring dog as well).

Then, “Bizarro” was almost the album that “George Best” would have been if we had thought about it a bit more. It is more of a structured record really with more variety and dynamics.

“Seamonsters”: We wanted to get a bit away from that jangly guitar pop and indiepop stuff. So we used Steve Albini. It is more of a dark rock record I suppose.

“Hitparade” (1 and 2), I don’t really see as an album. It was twelve singles.

OMB: And the covers.

David: And the covers, yeah. What’s the next one?

OMB: “Watusi”.

David: “Watusi” is very interesting because we were really interested in these layers of guitar sounds and distortion and noise. But then we had this kind of idea, what would people do without that – if they didn’t have these guitar pedals and these big rock sounds. “Watusi” was more of a look back to the sixties and seventies. What did people do then to achieve this kind of dynamics?

“Saturnalia” is the most experimental record actually. There are some very odd arrangement ideas in there. We wanted to make a record that was a little more challenging.

Then came the Cinerama time. What next? Oh, “Take Fountain”. “Take Fountain” was going to be a Cinerama LP actually because it was still Cinerama at the time. But then as we were making the record we decided it sounded more like a Wedding Present album. So we released it as a Wedding Present album. That is almost like an album where the two bands join.

“Valentina” was interesting because our drummer at the time became the guitar player. We switched instruments. A lot of the songs are rhythmically interesting. It wasn’t straightforward kind of beats which I thought was cool. Oh, I missed one: “El Rey”.

“El Rey”: We went back to work with Steve Albini again in Chicago. And then “Valentina”. And “Going, going…”.

“Going, going…” is my favourite one but that might be because it is the most recent. It is a concept album basically. It is a story that goes through the twenty tracks and the lyrics are linked and the music is kind of linked. The music, I wanted to go somewhere different but at the same time make references to The Wedding Present’s and Cinerama’s past. It was quite a complicated record to make.

OBM: I call it The Wedding Present’s Ulysses.

David: I remember you saying that on the phone. Yes, it is.It is not a straighforward record. I did not plan for it to be a double LP (laughs). It just became that because of the size of the project.

OBM: Lyrically, you have the seal of John Peel of having written some of the best love songs ever. What more can you ask for? They are usually of the platonic or unrequited or broken up kind…

David: I try and cover a whole range really. It is such a big subject.

OBM: Is there autobiographical stuff coming in?

David: Some autobiographical, some less so. Some from my point of view, some from somebody else’s point of view. I am just very fascinated with the thing people say to each other, especially inside relationships, starting or ending. It works really well in pop songs. If I think back to my favourite songs in the fifties and sixties, it was love songs, then punk. They are the most meaningful lyrics to me.

OBM: So you wouldn’t see yourself as doing political songs?

David: I’d like to and I have tried occasionally but I have just never been as happy. I’ve always thought, it is a bit clumsy. I should probably leave it to people who know how to do that (laughs). I am quite happy to be stuck to my field.

OBM: One last thing for you. You said somewhere, your voice has changed a lot. Even though I think the range both musically and atmospherically has increased considerably, you are still instantly recognisable?

David: It is purely down to experience like anything that you do. It is like a skill. Yeah, the range has increased and there is more texture to it and more dimensions which I can control whereas thirty years ago I didn’t know what I was doing. It is like driving a car.

OBM: Thank you very much for your time, David!

David: Thank you!

Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

Hamburg – you need loads of time for a visit to Germany’s second largest city that was built on the labour the river Elbe port had to offer and the ensuing trade opportunities it generated. Of course, Hamburg has been severely damaged in World War II and today you will find soulless high rise estates around Hamburg that are not exactly welcoming places. But then again, as a tourist, you would not go there anyway. Plus, you will have your agenda full with just visiting the old town, the merchant city with storage houses, the harbour, the beautiful old mansions and the sinful and happening Reeperbahn as well as other trendy quarters like the Karoviertel or the Schanzenviertel. Which is where you see Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017.

Indeed the multitude of banks, insurance companies, the IT sector, the media companies and of course a lot of the breathtaking architecture speaks of riches in no small part due to the success of Hamburg’s port. But visiting sailors also needed to be entertained and thus Hamburg boasts probably the world’s best-known red-light district. In recent years the Reeperbahn in St. Pauli has still been offering the sex trade and everything related to it but has cut down on crime and become a tourist attraction plus the place has seen an abundance of non-sex industry related theatres, clubs, cafes and venues popping up.

Add to that Hamburg’s native lively music scene (yes, The Beatles were born in Liverpool and grew up in Hamburg as John Lennon put it) and lovely friendly locals and you have the perfect location for a club festival: The Reeperbahnfestival. It is been around for twelve years now and boy, has it grown. I’d easily call it Europe’s SXSW. Actually it has become Europe’s biggest club festival.

Naturally there are drawbacks when a festival reaches such a size. It was very well organised and of course you give your all to see as much as you can – but there is always the pang you missed something. (Yep, I missed Timber Timbre and Nadine Shah!) You just have to accept the fact you cannot attend everything and let yourself drift and then discover wonderful things.

A huge thanks to my dear friend and colleague at Byte FM, Sandra Zettpunkt, musical detective for her show Golden Glades and musician herself and ever so handy: A Hamburg native she is and knows St. Pauli like the back of her hand. So I had not to worry about a thing. I did not get lost, not hit by a car, received a lot of information and discovered great bands. Oh boys, and how did we laugh:-)

So, do please join us next year for the next edition of Reeperbahn Festival. You won’t regret it.

Reeperbahn Festival runs for four days choc-a-bloc full of music-industry related workshops, conferences, networking affairs and of course live performances around many many venues. This year’s festival was dedicated to Canada as featured country, the “other” America:-) Canada’s huge music scene was represented very well, I thought, with the big names included as well as absolute freshmen. Then there was the surprise performance: Liam Gallagher. We gave that a miss as we both had seen Oasis before and queues were huge – and so much to do and so little time.

I only arrived Friday afternoon and while Sandra had already checked out a couple of bands (see her blog post here), poor me was only starting. Well, trying to: Strict security at the first venue, Grünspan. As laudable as that kind of security level is in today’s times: I had to get rid of my bag and try again. Yep, off we went and saw the very first live performance of Superorganism.

Superorganism have just been signed to Domino, before their first live gig…fancy that. There was no need to worry, as eight-piece Superorganism deliver technicolour pop with bravado and witticism, with accompanying art and an interesting set-up of conservative instruments, three backing singers and fronted by a seventeen-year old Japanese girl from Maine in New England. Their current location/mainstay is East London and it is there where they come up with their truly intriguing live shows and performances.

So we were off to a good start then on this Friday, 22nd of September then. What next? We walked all the way up to the bunker where Terrace Hill is located. Fazerdaze was playing. Alas, it was so packed that you could not see a thing and thanks to the bar in your backs not hear much either. So up for a breath of fresh air on the roof terrace and a view over Hamburg. Pity about Fazerdaze but then an amble down to the gorgeous Imperial Theater where on entrance (yes, we were late), the dulcet tones of King Creosote could already be heard. I was missing one of my favourites “Melin Wynt”, aargh…No bagpipes by the way. Indeed, Kenny Anderson alias King Creosote was on his own, just with an acoustic guitar but still the songs conveyed all the deepness and layers that the full band could have offered, or so I hope. Astonishingly, the King’s guitar playing was quite basic despite up to 40 albums under his belt. I suppose though, that this minimalism is intentional. After all, the songs thrive on King Creosote’s tenor voice with trademark little yelps and prominent Scottish accent as well as those bittersweet, poetic lyrics. Had I not heard him, I would not have recognised him, without hair…Or maybe it was one of his two stuntmen anyway, as he claims – Badly Drawn Boy and Baldrick from Blackadder…

Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

There was onstage banter galore and a wordsmith like King Creosote of course had the audience in the palm of his hands. At times I was howling with laughter. Yes, the tears of a clown comes to mind, as used up as that saying might be. Lovely, lovely gig in the intimate and wondrous setting (with plush seating) of the Imperial Theatre.

All warmed up we went on our way and took a short break at the centre of it all, the Spielbudenplatz, amazedly staring at the queues for Liam Gallagher and wondering where to go next. We gave a young Canadian band a chance and I forgot the name and remembered they were nervous but there was no need to be, neither was there to crank up every channel on the sound system.

By then Jane Weaver beckoned. She graced Häkken, right at the Spielbudenplatz, a lounge bar that fitted her music perfectly well, I thought. For no apparent reason other than the ominous Liam playing next door, the gig was not as enthusiastically attended as I wished it would be. The fans who were there enjoyed it immensely though. And what was not to enjoy? Jane Weaver voice and lyrics shimmering ethereally over the music of a very close by – locally and musically – band. Man, were they tight, were they on point. It must be very difficult to perform someone else’s music, especially Jane Weaver’s – so hats off to that band again! A beautiful satisfying danceable swaying spirit-lifting mind-drifting krautrocky, psychy set in truly individual style by Jane Weaver mostly featuring songs from her very latest “The Architect”. “Modern Kosmology” and “The Silver Globe”.

Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

Of course the sets at festivals are shortish compared to individual concerts and then you have reach the venue and then there are the overlaps but in most cases the artists managed to convey the complete esprit of their music. We called it an early night (well, for the Reeperbahn anyway) as we were facing a long day the next day.

Saturday saw us missing This Is The Kit due to other commitments. Trying not to be too hard hit, our opener for the evening was Marika Hackman in the Nochtspeicher – an incredibly warm venue. But never mind, rock away, Marika. And she did, seriously and ironically with a fresh almost grungy twist to her folky songs. Enjoying that very much, especially her kind in-between banter. Surprised at how young she looks (she is, she is) and yet is an old hand on that stage. Marika Hackman had the audience entranced and deservedly so. Special praise to her excellent and non-showy band. Luis from All We Are was watching too and after talking shortly, we decided, suffocating heat in the place or not, we would return for All We Are, who are such lovely lovely people.

Meanwhile though we wandered around the Reeperbahn a little more. By the time we could finally enter the venue Molotow Karatekeller (was absolutely packed), the gig by Canadian Taylor Knox had ended. Boohoo…Next year we will plan our schedule with absolute military precision and run as fast as we can.

We squeezed into the backyard of the Molotow, where, you guessed it, a gig was about to end: Philadelphia’s The Districts. From what we still gathered they sounded amazingly raw and fresh.

Rightio, back to the Nochtspeicher for All We Are. Their new album “Sunny Hills” seems a little coherent to some critics but then again, as much work as has gone into Guro, Luis and Rich’ albums, I always have regarded them as a live band. This is where All We Are truly shine and engulf you in their contagious enthusiasm. Word. I did not spot anyone in the audience who was not hopping along (did I mention this was an incredibly hot venue?) and the front was a veritable mosh pit. Also Marika Hackman and band were happily grooving along. Thank you, All We Are, that was awesome.

Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017 Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

The night is young and so are we…kind of. What next? Time for drifting. So we stumble down the cellar stairs of the Nochtspeicher to witness French Aquaserge drowning us in a concoction of jazz, funk and later a lot of psych. Magnetising and good fun in both measures and the right poison for head hitting the pillow and falling into a coma.

Hamburg at its best: Reeperbahnfestival 2017

Thank you so much, Reeperbahnfestival for doing such a lot of work to entertain so many people to their heart’s content. It was ace. See you and you, dear readers, next year!

 

 

Autumn is upon us…with music

Autumn is upon us…with music. Thankfully. Yes, us poor souls in the northern hemisphere have autumn descending upon us again and for most parts it has not been an Indian summer variety of autumn. Autumn, however, does coincide with an abundance of releases of musical artists, so that makes it more bearable to stay inside, hear the storm howl and the rain bashing against the windows.

The War on Drugs versus Kurt Vile

Oh my, was I anticipating that new The War On Drugs album. Yes, it is here and I am mildly unimpressed. That notion I would share with only a few fans and only a few critics. I cannot quite put my finger on it. There is so much on that album and then maybe of something too little. I am not given up on it, maybe it will still grow on me. That one song “Over Everything” by Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile has it all though in comparison. There is a freshness and lyricism about it as well as a really hooky melody that is so far missing for me in The War on Drugs latest offering. Courtney and Kurt by the way, a match made in heaven. I am really looking forward to the forthcoming album of this collaboration: “Lotta Sea Lice” (Matador).

The Wedding Present

David Gedge is on tour with The Wedding Present! Besides introducing the brilliant “Going, going…” to both the UK and continental Europe and more dates following worldwide, there will also be tour dates wedged in-between taking cult album “George Best” to the stage – for the very last time! So don’t miss neither opportunity, see here for tour dates. Also looking forward very much to meet David Gedge and bring you back an interview!

The Blog That Celebrates Itself

A special mention in this blog post of Brazilian super blog The Blog That Celebrates Itself. Not only blogging away but releasing an abundance of samplers devoted to new music and new bands covering the finest of bands’ oeuvres. Should you not be acquainted with their brilliant output yet, have a look here.

Lord Youth

Micah Blaichman alias Lord Youth from Queens, NY follows up his self-titled vinyl 10″ EP and a 2 track single with his debut album “Gray Gardens” on BB*Island. A master of his craft, Lord Youth, presents all the colours of modern music on his album and yet, the blue hour is the one that would this album best. Dark and dreamy despite some forays into the uptempo, this is a perfect companion for the coming season and beyond. Much to discover, go ahead.

By the way, Lord Youth will also perform at the Reeperbahnfestival in Hamburg, Germany, a massive musical feast with conferences, art, films and lots of music, very much Germany’s SXSW, if I may so, from the 20th of September till the 23rd of September 2017. Featured country this year: Canada. Bliss!

The Jazz Butcher

Having had the fortune to see Pat Fish (with various members as The Jazz Butcher) repeatedly live, indulging in buying his albums and singles on vinyl and  coveting two interviews in cassette tape (yep!) from that time and heeding the maestro’s recommendations on literature and music (thank you so much for recommending The Blue Aeroplanes and Flann O’Brien – could not do without them), I am very happy to announce that Fire Records will re-release the first four albums  ‘Bath Of Bacon’, ‘A Scandal In Bohemia’, ‘Sex And Travel’ and ‘Distressed Gentlefolk’ in a four CD box labelled “Wasted Years”. No, they were not and will not ever be. Hoping that The Jazz Butcher will grace us with a tour and also perform his latest music.

Martin Carr

Martin Carr is probably know to most as heading The Boo Radleys until 1999 has been doing solo work since then. Three albums he had made so far and the third one (“New Shapes Of Life”) is going to be released by the end of September 2017. Very much looking forward to Martin’s release – the first single “Future Reflections” is already a wonderful indication of what is going to come.

Autumn is upon us...with music

The last album “The Breaks”, also out on Tapete Records, was a fine album but Martin Carr sees it still as part of a life where he was battling depression and far from this world. “New Shapes Of Life” is to reflect the end of that phase and he regards it as the album that truly sounds like himself.

“Future Reflections” is both musically and lyrically upsetting and touching and consoling – all at the same time.

Darto

Gordon De Los Santos, Gregory Flores, Candace Harter and Nicholas Merz are Darto from Seattle and they have been really busy: They released a 7″ with Wand called “Follow Up / Hush” which miraculously manages to incorporate both bands’ sounds convincingly.

Autumn is upon us...with music

Darto are also proud to present their full length album “Human Giving” and the pride of this album is totally justified. Floating would be a suitable word to describe Darto’s music which is hard to label (a good thing!). There is ambient, there is psych, there are glimpse of Americana.

Let members of Darto speak about their album “Human Giving” themselves:

“We didn’t play shows or hardly go to shows for a year and a half so we could write and record the album,” says Darto’s Gordon De Los Santos. “The album comes from the places within us where hope and love exist. Where the focus is not on the self, and where everything is possible. Humans giving themselves to other humans. The power of listening on all fronts. The desired effect is and was to bring hope in some capacity.”

“We are extremely proud of this record. Writing, recording, mixing and mastering was the most intentional musical experience we have had to date. We took a lot of chances on it, and grew exponentially in the process,” says Gregory Flores. “It felt, and feels like we walked through many doors while working on it, and the place we ended up is very similar to the place where we were as young people first deciding to create. A vulnerable first step towards something larger.”

“Human Giving” is out on Aagoo Records.