I’ve joined Pinterest. I’m really not sure what I’m expecting to achieve by this, but I’ve been and gone and done it all the same. I’ve created five “boards” so far and I’m pretty pleased with the way they look, although I’m not sure that being pleased with the way your boards look is the point of it all. You can see my boards by clicking here. I’ve put up some old Melody Maker and Muzik clippings from my archive site and a few bits from this blog, but my favourite board is called Harold Pinterest, which consists of photos of Harold Pinter. LOL, eh?
Anyway, I’ve been “pinning” for a couple of weeks now, but I haven’t got very many followers yet. In fact, I have precisely zero followers. Then again, I’m following precisely zero people myself. I have had something “repinned”, though, which means somebody has pinned one of my things on one of their boards. Well, I think that’s what’s happened.
Michele Ari has itchy feet. She’s originally from Detroit, but she’s spent a chunk of time living in the Florida city of Tampa and another chunk of time living in Nashville, the country music capital. She moved to Manhattan a few months ago, but she’s heading for Portland in Oregon now. And I really do mean now. She’s sitting on the train as I write, her battered guitar across her knees and the rest of her belongings stacked up around her.
Going back to 2007, Michele also planned to spend a bit of time in the UK. She came over on what was basically a fact-finding mission. She wanted to meet a few of the promoters and journalists and radio folk she had been connecting with online. But she only made it as far as Gatwick Airport, where border control officers questioned her for several hours and, without much explanation, put her on the next flight home. She’s never returned to these shores and I can’t say I blame her, which is a pity both for her – she’s a big fan of British music, especially punk and new wave stuff – and for us.
I first came across Michele Ari during her Tampa days. She had just finished her debut recording, a six-track EP called “85th And Nowhere”. I loved her vaguely Debbie Harry-ish voice and the way she weaved stories of major disappointments and minor victories. The opening cut, the jangly and twangy “My Sleeping Beauty”, got its hooks into me so fast I was certain it was a cover. Was it heck. Since then, Michele has put out a second EP, “Mal A’ Propos”, played stacks of gigs, hung out with Mitch Easter (producer of the first two R.E.M. albums, plus Suzanne Vega and Pavement), had her photo taken with Elvis Costello, and got together another batch of songs ready for release later this year. She’s done a lot of packing and unpacking too, of course.
To celebrate her move to Portland, Michele has revamped her website – click here if you didn’t see the link at the top of this post – where you can find her two EPs available as downloads for the first time. She’s also released one of her new tracks,”Uncharted Territory”, as a download. It’s riffy and raucous and more overtly a rock song than anything she’s recorded before (she must be in the mood to experiment because another of her new tunes is a bit trip hoppy) and you can hear a clip of it on the audio player on her site. You can also listen to snippets of “My Sleeping Beauty” and “6am”, which is one of her poppier songs.
Seattle webzine The Wig Fits All Heads reckons Michele Ari is “going places”. Yeah, I’d say that was the truth in more ways than one.
Michele Ari photo by Linda Covello
Whoever’s responsible for the Muzik Magazine website deserves a hefty slap round the head and a hefty slap on the back. Scanning every page of every issue of Muzik (99 issues between 1995 and 2003) and turning each magazine into a downloadable PDF is an infringement of copyright on a grand scale. The publishers, IPC Media, are almost certain to try to close the site down if they ever got wind of it. Then again, Muzik has been out of print for nearly 10 years and the downloads are free, so nobody’s making any money out of the project. And it must have taken weeks and weeks to do all that bloody scanning and PDF-ing. It’s obviously been done by someone who has a large amount of love for the magazine.
As the editor of Muzik for the first 40-odd issues, I probably shouldn’t be telling you about this site. I also probably shouldn’t be telling you to grab what you can while you can. Tsch.
Junior Vasquez, Carl Cox, Josh Wink and LTJ Bukem photos by Vincent McDonald
I’m a happy chappy today. I’ve just got “Dirt Cheap Melody”, the new single from The Trudy.
I last wrote about The Trudy in 1989. Which is slightly strange because that was 23 years ago and I’m only 27 now. It’s the truth, I tell you. The group went missing for more than a decade, but resurfaced in 2006. They’re busy people – singer Melissa Jo Heathcote has recorded with the Easy Access Orchestra and Just Jack and is also a member of The Pukes, the all-female ukulele punk outfit, while guitarist Paul Crook has a parallel career as a dancer and is the reigning UK Lindy Hop Champion (I kid you not) – but I’m pleased they still have time for a little bit of Trudyosity. Last month, for instance, they played at a benefit gig in London for Cardiacs main man Tim Smith, who suffered a paralysing stroke in 2008. Peter Tagg, The Trudy’s founder and drummer, was in the original line-up of Cardiacs.
You can buy “Dirt Cheap Melody” from the Genepool download website, where it has been topping the best sellers list for the last two weeks. Click here for The Trudy’s Genepool page.
This is a tad embarrassing. I mean, you all know what a hip and happening guy I am, right? Come on, come on, speak up at the back. Hmmm. Well, anyway, having included “hysterical injury” in my mighty hilarious post about some of the unusual search engine terms people have used to find my blog, I’ve just found out that there’s a band called The Hysterical Injury. They’re based in Bath (so they’re local to me), they’re pretty bloody good, and my one-time Melody Maker colleague (and former flatmate) Ngaire Ruth wrote about them on her blog six months ago. So much for me being plugged into the contemporary music mainframe, then.
The Hysterical Injury are siblings Annie and Tom Gardiner. Annie sings and plays the bass. At least I think there’s a bass somewhere deep within that grumbling whorl of distortion. Tom plays the drums and particularly enjoys smashing the hell out of his cowbell. It’s often unruly stuff, but they also have some very delicate and fragrant melodies twisting through their songs. They vaguely remind me of Throwing Muses. Having performed over 200 live shows during the last two or three years and won support from the likes of Steve Lamacq and Tom Robinson, The Hysterical Injury have recently released their debut album, “Dead Wolf Situation”, which has been partly funded by Strummerville, the Joe Strummer Foundation. Click here to listen to “Dead Wolf Situation” at Bandcamp and use the player below to hear “Maths”, which I’d say is one of the best tracks.
Don’t ask me if these guys are the future of rock ‘n’ roll, though. To be honest, you’d be better off asking a tree.
The Hysterical Injury photo by Jamie Worsfold
The longer this blog goes on (and I’m surprised it has gone on this long), the more hits I’m getting through search engines. Which is great. Every hit is a good hit.
I’m very intrigued by the search engine terms that have brought some visitors here, though. They include “sweaty Marquee” (just about everything about The Marquee was sweaty, especially the sticky floor), “Marco & Tony Leeds bouncers 1980s”, “lego ladies”, “quick police sex” (two different searches, presumably pulled in by the Sex Pistols and Police tags), “poor Mrs Bonky”, “hysterical injury”, “sticks fingers up his nose” (I’m glad I don’t know why someone was looking for that) and “Scabies anak kucing” (answers on a postcard). But my favourites so far have to be “PJ Harvey pushes nose up” (what is it with noses, people?), “Georgian bukkake” (if we’re talking about some recently discovered 18th century pastime, I do hope Tony Robinson will soon be making a telly programme about it), and “Gaye Advert pants down”.
Fugazi were one of the best live bands I ever saw. Raw, intense, direct, explosive, painfully sincere. They only knew how to play one way – and they played it all the way. What I remember most about their gigs was the close connection between the group and the audience. Everybody had an equal role in the buzzing, churning, constantly shifting mass of energy. The above clip of them performing “Waiting Room” at the Wilson Center in their home city of Washington DC in late 1988 shows exactly what I’m talking about here. The footage was shot by Jim Spellman, who was the drummer of Sub Pop band Velocity Girl and is now a CNN journalist.
Fugazi clocked up something like 1,000 live shows during their 16 years on active service (they’ve been having what they call an “indefinite hiatus” since 2002) and a staggering 800 of their gigs were recorded by their sound engineers. A few of these were issued on CD in 2004 and now, after many years in development, the band have launched the Fugazi Live Series, a project which aims to make every one of their live audio recordings available online. It’s an ambitious plan, that’s for sure, but 180 shows have been posted in the last three months, all professionally mastered and ready to download at a suggested price of $5 each (less if you can’t afford that). The project is curated by Dischord Records, the US hardcore label owned by Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye. As well as Fugazi’s records, Dischord has also put out material by the likes of Minor Threat (MacKaye’s band before Fugazi), Scream (Dave Grohl’s first group), Government Issue, Lungfish, Nation Of Ulysses and Soulside.
Congratulations to the guys at Podrophenia, who have just aired the 50th edition of their tasty radio show/podcast. Recorded in a bunker hidden beneath the golden streets of sunny Southend in Essex, Podrophenia is hosted by two dons of the UK music blogging world – Mondo from Planet Mondo and Piley from Start The Revolution Without Me. Each programme has a different theme (Charity Shop Classics and Ghosts, Ghoulies, Gremlins are among the memorable recent offerings) and Podrophenia 50 is a film special handily called, err, The Film Special. Tune in for Jackie Mittoo’s reggae version of “From Russia With Love”, Sigue Sigue Sputnik frontman Martin Degville covering “The Streets Of London”, and a pre-Small Faces Steve Marriott kicking up “Consider Yourself” from the original stage production of “Oliver!”, plus tales of the six-fingered man in “Get Carter” and how The Beatles talked about buying the film rights to “The Lord Of The Rings” back in the Sixties.
While Mondo and Piley are old hands at this podding thing, Steve Worrall from the Retro Man blog isn’t too familiar with the world of microphones and jingles, although you’d never guess that from his debut Retro Sonic pod. It’s a confident start and no mistake. The Retro Sonic 1 playlist takes in American psychedelic soulsters The Chambers Brothers, Aussie punk pioneers The Saints and Mancunian powerpopsters Fast Cars, and Steve’s got some quality guests with him in the studio as well – rock photographer Paul Slattery, who is maybe best known for his shots of The Smiths and Oasis, and the walking punk encyclopedia that is Adam Donovan from The Jetsonics. Well, when I say ‘studio’, I’m not sure they are actually in a studio, because there’s a big log fire crackling away in the background. “Think of it like the crackles on a nice bit of worn vinyl,” says Steve.
Way back when, I was the editor of a magazine called Mondo. It wasn’t around too long (2000 and 2001), which was a pity because I think we had some corking editorial ideas. But then I guess I would say that. Anyway, one of our regular features was Huey’s Wine Column – a wine column by Huey Morgan of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, who’s now maybe best known in the UK for his shows on BBC Radio 2 and Radio 6 Music. Huey didn’t pen his column himself, mind. It was ghost written by Mondo deputy editor Mark Wernham, who would fill a big box with bottles of wine, grab the office tape recorder, and meet with Huey at some secret location every month. That was generally the last we’d hear from Mark for a couple of days.
Huey Morgan photos by Neil Cooper
Amanita Design is an independent games company based in the Czech Republic. I didn’t think I’d ever heard of these chaps before I pitched up on their website a few days ago, but it turns out I had. Going back to around 2004, I was a big fan of what I now realise was Amanita’s earliest work – an online point-and-click puzzler called “Samorost” originally created as a thesis project by the company’s founder, Jakub Dvorský, while he was studying at the Academy of Arts in Prague.
The aim of “Samorost” (no idea what it means) is to guide a small humanoid character through a surreal world full of odd creatures. Our hero starts his journey in a spaceship made from a rusty old tin can and, once he’s landed his craft, he encounters a stoner in a coolie hat puffing at a bong, a critter with a voracious appetite for fish, a fella with a lightbulb for a head, lizards that race up the face of a cliff, hairy little goats that sing and fall off mountains when you click them… Come on now people, what’s not to like here? It’s got a trippy ambient jazz soundtrack too. When I first discovered it, I used to play “Samorost” for hours and hours. Days and days. Weeks and weeks. I swear there’s a version of me still playing it somewhere in another dimension.
Jakub, Tomáš and the rest of the Amanita crew are supremely talented folk. I’ll even forgive them for causing me to waste a large chunk of my life. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a guy in a tin can spaceship who needs my help…
I’m both disturbed and intrigued by the news that Simon Cowell is preparing an “X Factor”-style TV talent show for DJs. I suppose I shouldn’t really be surprised that Cowell wants to extent his already excessive influence over another area of the music industry – and funnel more money into his bank account along the way – but he’s a wee bit late in his assertion that “DJs are the new rock stars”. Err, Simon, people have been saying that for well over 20 years.
I don’t feel any better about Cowell’s new show – I hope he calls it “Double Deckers” – knowing he’s joining forces with Overbrook Entertainment, a US production firm founded by Will Smith. By rights, Smith ought to have a solid understanding of the noble art of turntablism. When he first adopted the name The Fresh Prince, he was a rapper not a fictional TV character, and his partner was Jazzy Jeff, one of the finest hip hop scratch DJs of his day. As it goes, I interviewed Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince once. Lovely blokes they were too. The trouble is, Will Smith won’t be involved in the development of Cowell’s DJ show. Overbrook’s input will instead be directed by Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. And she’s a singer in a heavy metal band.
However dismayed I might be at the notion of “Double Deckers” (please call it that, Simon), it’ll be fascinating to see how this pans out. Who will the judges be and what will they be judging? Beat matching and scratching skills, that’s for sure, but what about the use of effects and samples? Will contestants be judged on their choice of tunes? How will they be able to demonstrate building a set and steering a crowd? Will any spinner who’s got any sense want to join what will inevitably be a circus freak show? If it’s not a circus freak show, it won’t be watchable telly. If they’re actually any good, wouldn’t they rather take a stab at the highly respected DMC DJ Championships, which have been running in the UK and the US since 1985?
Thinking about it, there are still lots of mobile disco jocks out there, so perhaps these are the guys who will be queueing round the block when the auditions roll into town. In which case, you can forget mixing and scratching. The winner of Simon Cowell’s DJ show will be based on the ability to suddenly fade a track out and breathe unnaturally heavily into a microphone while saying, “Will the owner of the green Nissan Almera please move it because you’re blocking in the hall caretaker and she wants to get off home because she’s got the doctors first thing tomorrow. I’ll play some slow ones in a minute, but first off here’s an old favourite by The Dooleys…”
I’ve been playing this video a lot since I stumbled across it last week. It’s a song called “Who Cares Anyway” by London electropop duo High Heels And Low Lifes, and this is indie music in the true sense of the phrase. They don’t have a label or a producer or a manager or any of that. They are doing everything themselves. For now, at least. The girl is Bekki Finnigan, the guy is Mista Mee, and “Who Cares Anyway” is about every girl/boy relationship there’s ever been. It has some neat lines – “It’s the crazy things you do / Creating new issues / When all I want is some new shoes / And may I add, handbags” – and it makes me think of The Specials’ “I Can’t Stand It”, on which Terry Hall and Rhoda Dakar declared their undying irritation with each other. Not that it sounds even remotely like The Specials, you understand.
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I can’t remember when I first discovered Ishkur’s Guide To Electronic Music but it was a good few years ago, so I am very pleased to have just come across it at the Digitally Imported online radio website. If you’ve not seen it before, Ishkur’s Guide is an interactive thingamabob illustrating the way that electronic music morphed into a million and one different genres and sub-genres in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s organised roughly chronologically and is highly entertaining as well as informative. If you have any interest in electronic music or dance music, there is absolutely no way you will find a better use for your mouse than clicking around this place. As interactive thingamabobs go, it really is one of the best.
Ishkur is a Canadian fella called Kenneth John Taylor, who apparently created the original Ishkur’s Guide in two weeks after telling a friend he could pigeonhole every electronic record in existence. That was in 2000. The most recent version (2.5) dates from 2005 and includes around five hours of sound files, including cuts by Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder and Throbbing Gristle, Chicago house and Detroit techno bigwigs such as Marshall Jefferson, Larry Heard and Juan Atkins, and examples of everything from speedbass and terrorcore to microhouse, illbient and liquid funk. You’ve never heard of any of those? Ah, that’s why you need Ishkur’s Guide, you see.
I love this shot of John Lydon, the sometime Sex Pistol and PiL ringmaster. It was taken outside The Limelight in London in 1987 by Mark Baker.
I worked with Mark at a cracking magazine called The Buzz during the late 1980s (after which he became the in-house photographer for Sony Records in the UK) and I was with him the night that he took this picture. John Lydon was going into The Limelight just as Mark was coming out. Or, to be slightly more accurate, Lydon was going in just as Mark was getting chucked out – quite literally, as it goes – having had a bit of a tussle with a couple of the club’s bouncers.
Mark Baker has now produced a digital print of his John Lydon photograph in a limited edition of 45 copies at £45 each. The prints are 28 x 24 cm (paper size 33 x 48 cm), numbered and signed by Mark. They also come with a certificate of authenticity. Get in touch with Mark through his website – click here if you missed the link in the first paragraph – if you’d like to have one on your wall or you need more information.
I’m a big fan of retro-futurism – something I think we’ll be hearing a lot more about as we tumble further and further into the 21st century – and a big fan of Badger Books, a pulp fiction imprint set up in 1960 by the London-based pulp magazine publishers John Spencer & Co. Badger put out all different kinds of books, but they were best known for their science fiction and supernatural tales. Actually, when I say I’m a fan of Badger Books, I’m not talking about the stories. Like most pulp fiction, they were absolutely bloody dreadful. What I really mean is I’m a fan of their cover artwork, despite them being accused of pinching some of their ideas from the covers of previously published books.
My internal iTunes always has Pilot’s “January” on a continuous loop at this time of year, but I’ve no problem with that because it’s an almost perfect pop song. The track was produced by Alan Parsons, and two of the guys from Pilot – frontman David Paton and guitarist Ian Bairnson – went on to become key members of The Alan Parsons Project. They also played on Kate Bush’s “The Kick Inside” debut album.
“January” was Number One in the UK for three weeks in 1975. In February.
Did I mention I’d written a book called Rat Scabies And The Holy Grail? I believe I did. It’s very good, you know. It’s about what the title says it’s about – punk rock legend Rat Scabies and me on a mind-bending (and probably soul-bending) hunt to find ye olde mystic and elusive Holy Grail – and you can read a couple of extracts here. Go on. You know you want to.
On this seasonal note, that’s about it from me for a couple of weeks. Have a great Christmas. I’ll start posting again when I’m able to extricate myself from the armchair.
Everyone’s doing their end-of-year lists at the moment. PJ Harvey’s “Let England Shake” seems to be a lot of people’s choice for Best Album of 2011 – which makes sense even if it is a little predictable. If I were to write out an Albums of 2011 list (which I’m not going to do because I’m too old for that sort of carry on), PJ Harvey would most likely appear quite high up. I’ve also really enjoyed this year’s efforts from Roots Manuva, James Blake, Alphabet Saints, The Fall (natch) and the utterly daft Master Musicians Of Bukkake, but the album I’ve played most and liked best in 2011 is “Bye Bye… We’re Melting” by The Millipede Engine.
“By Bye… We’re Melting” picked up some great reviews here in blogland but was largely ignored by the mainstream media, which is a shame. Maybe it’s because The Millipede Engine – Brill Nudie and Honey Lane – don’t fit easily into any musical category. I guess they’re kind of art rocky, kind of edging on proggy pop (or poppy prog). They like guitars and synths in equal measure, they’re not averse to brass and strings, and Brill Nudie’s vocals have been compared to David Bowie, Pete Shelley and Hurricane Smith. Brill and Honey are clever lyricists too. “The Cup Of Unconditional Love” is about a Jonestown-style mass suicide, while “Magic Robot” and “The Planet Tasters” delve into Ray Bradbury-esque sci-fi territory (and I’m a huge Bradbury fan). My old Melody Maker pal Mick Mercer described the Millipedes as “a bit weird, but in all the right ways” and you’ve only got to take a cursory glance at the sleeve of “Bye Bye” to see what he means.
You can hear every track on “Bye Bye… We’re Melting” at The Millipede Engine’s website (typically oddball of them, it scrolls across the page rather than up and down). Just click here and fire up their steampunk jukebox. If you don’t have time to listen to more than a couple of songs, choose from numbers 1, 3, 4, 9 and 11, and get ready for some multi-coloured dreams.
Perry Harris has sent me this drawing of the Amazing Metal Vomiting Serving Girl I wrote about a couple of days ago. Click the picture to view a bigger version and scroll down to read the tale of the said Amazing Metal Vomiting Serving Girl. And when you’ve done that, get yourself across to Perry’s website, where you’ll find a phantasmagoria of cartoons, drawings and other visual delights, all rich in detail and brimming with lopsided humour. There’s tons of stuff to explore, so grab a beer or a cuppa before you dive in.
Perry was one of the founders of Vague, which started in 1979 as a post-punk fanzine and continues today as a series of pop psychogeography publications, and the Vague Rants site is worth a look too. Again, expect to be gone for some time.