Miki has very kindly agreed to share her own photos from her time in Lush. So,without further ado or my customary waffling, I give you… “A Pictorial History Of Lush-Much Loved, Much Missed”
Photo 3 Miki : “These first three are from 1989…1 and 2 are our first ‘proper’ promotional photos which were done by Suzy Gibbons. Emma had been working for Jeff Barratt (PR) who did Creation stuff and Suzy was going out with Guy Chadwick (singer in The House of Love, then on Creation). I don’t think we had to pay !”
Miki: “Pic 3 is from a photo session for French music mag Les Inrockuptibles by Renaud Monfourny.”
Miki : “Me and Steve Rippon (original bass player) and Chris in Amsterdam. We were on our first European tour with the Pale Saints (joint headline – we just switched who went on first each night). Their singer Ian Masters is in the background. 1990.”
Miki:On stage at the Roxy in Los Angeles, April 11 1991. Photo by John Talley. We were on our first US tour with Ride, co-headlining (same as Pale Saints, taking turns to go on first).
Miki: While we were in LA we did a feature for the NME. We went out for the day doing pics and at one point raided a wig shop … HOW WACKY!”
“Nothing Natural” By Lush
Miki And Phil Interview 1992
Miki And Phil Interview 1992 Part 2
thanks to Neil for compiling the videos and Jen
Miki: “More from US tour 1991”
Miki :“Backstage in San Francisco on the Ride tour. No, it’s not Mark Gardener on a rough night… Sky Saxon of legendary 60s psychedelic act The Seeds came backstage. I think Andy Bell actually wet his pants. ”
Miki : “Spurs go through to the FA Cup semi final, which leads
us on to…
Photo 10 Miki: “The Lillies, L-R Simon Raymonde (The CocteauTwins), Chris, me and Russell Yates (Moose). We recorded a flexi for The Spur fanzine to celebrate our imminent failure to win the FA Cup. I remember a very very hungover photo session in Kew Gardens with photographer Piers Allardyce”
“And David Seaman Will Be Very Disappointed About That…” By The Lillies
Miki: ” These are from the Lollapalooza II tour, 1992. Silverfish gave us t-shirts to wear for good luck on the first day.
Miki: “Outside the ‘Cheers’ bar in Boston. Sorry – we’re such tourists!”
Miki And Chris Interview Part 1
Miki And Chris Interview Part 2
thanks to Neil
Miki: “Chris and me after ‘drinking the bile’ with the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow. There was one of the freakshow acts where a bloke inserted a tube up his nose and into his guts and pumped a pint of beer in. Then he regurgitated it out of the tube and you had to drink it. Probably be illegal now, but 15 years ago it was like the Dark Ages and being on Lollapalooza was like touring a medieval village. Except for the air-conditioned motor homes. ”
Miki: “We got given a poster by a fan, Lush in the style of Kiss. Here’s Emma sharing the moment with Kat Bjelland (Babes in Toyland) and Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam).
Miki : “About to join Ministry on stage in Toronto (replete with Flying V) ”
Miki: ” With Al Jourgensen from Ministry.”
Photos 17 & 18
Miki : ” Emma and Chris join Soundgarden on stage to play drums on Cop Killer. It became a bit of an ‘event’ – I know it sounds horribly cosy – all that ‘bands on stage with one another’, but it was a genuinely good atmosphere (bar one or two notable exceptions!) . Also on drums is Bill Rieflin, then of Ministry, now in REM. I think by the time the tour ended there were about 10 people drumming on stage to that song. ”
Photo 19 Miki : ” Me in the crowd watching the Jesus and Mary Chain, which I did EVERY day of the tour, bar one…
VP: “Miki, which one are you ? I can’t quite make you out ..” 🙂
Miki : “…And When we joined them on stage for backing vocals on “Far Gone and Out.”
VP: “And how where those volatile scamps the Reid Brothers ?”
Miki : “I guess that they spent a lot of time locked in their dressing room having blazing rows. I remember toward the very end of the tour I was having a drink with William and he suddenly expressed regret at having avoided much of the socialising, saying that he felt sorry he hadn’t enjoyed it more. To be fair, the Mary Chain had a really difficult slot on the tour. Pearl Jam had originally been booked to go on second (right after us!) and in the intervening months their popularity had gone through the roof to the extent that they could have virtually headlined. Being extremely un-starry though, they insisted that they go on in the same slot they had been originally booked for. This was great for us – it meant that the venue was already full, even at 2pm, because everyone turned up early to see Pearl Jam! Not so great for the Mary Chain, though, who had to play right after. Don’t get me wrong, they had a ton of fans and a great response, but to follow this band who were on the up and the audience was chucking themselves around to… well, it can’t have been easy. I watched them every gig though (except one, when we had to evacuate the area because of a hurricane!)
Miki : “And then of course we had our own people join us onstage too. Mike McCready (Pearl Jam), Bill Rieflin (Ministry) and Mr Lifto (Jim Rose Circus Sideshow). The requirement was to drag up (obviously).”
Miki: “Me and Phil on the video shoot for Hypocrite. ”
Miki: “Me and Chris doing the tourist thing in Sydney, Christmas 1992. ”
Photos 24 & 25 Miki : “Lush as ‘Man About The House’ for the NME Xmas edition 1992. Poor old Chris HATED it (wonder why?!) but Phil was in his ABSOLUTE element. We virtually had to wrestle the chest wig off him”
“God, I’ve suddenly remembered that me and Emma did another NME Xmas dress up thing as The Liver Birds, which would be rather perfect for you, no? I`ll go and look for it”
VP: “hahaha ! This I have to see !”
Photo 26 retrieved By Miki ! “The Liver Birds ”
“Rupert The Bear(studio outake)” By Lush
“Sweetness And Light”-Live -By Lush
Miki: ” Phil and me at a photoshoot for Raygun magazine in New York. They styled us in all this Paul Smith gear which the boys were rather keen on running off with…”
Photo 29 Miki : “Me, Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins) and Emma – backstage in Rennes, France”
Miki: ” NME Awards”
Miki: “Phil enjoying a jacuzzi bath in the hotel room in Detroit, 1994.”
Miki: ” Phil, me and Chris off in the cab to Heathrow for the next tour… 1996″
“If you want heroes keep them safe.
They don’t stand up to life.
So lock them in your soul and lose the key.”
Certain bands or songs will forever be intertwined with particular events or certain times in people’s lives. Lush are one such band, whom, in my case, will always have a special place in my heart. There was no world shattering event in my life, no personal catharthis; I can’t even entertain you with a tragic “Our Tune” type story of heartbreak and redemption or the agony of unrequited love… It was quite simple, I heard their music and thought it was F***ing brilliant, I can remember the thrill when I first heard their thrashing swirling guitars, the thunderous drumming and the evocative wispy vocals. Some cite hearing Hendrix, The Beatles, the Stones the Sex Pistols, or Nirvana etc as their musical “JFK” moment, but it was Lush for me, I can recall it with perfect clarity ( although I certainly won’t reveal what I was up to!) It’s true to say Lush was underrated and unappreciated by certain sections of the music press in the early 90s. A press that, like today’s NME, liked to pigeonhole bands into easily identifiable categories or ludicrous genres. (Hipcore- tranceopera-emotrip- skagospel-doomgaze-jangle thrash-zzzzz) It seemed the press didn’t quite know where to put Lush, which of course just wouldn’t do, I mean how dare they transcend the arsey classification system imposed by the style gurus and genre makers! Where they shoegaze? Well not really, were they Brit-pop? Erm nope…
Still despite the confusion, indignation, snobbery and sexism in some quarters of the press they gathered a cult following in the UK, and seemed to be going from strength to strength. 1996 had seen Lush release their biggest selling album yet “Lovelife” complete with top 30 singles and numerous high profile TV slots. They also had just finished yet more successful dates in the U.S.….. Then …everything fell apart….. As Joe Strummer once said “Whatever a group is, it was the chemical mixture of those four people that makes a group work. That’s a lesson everyone should learn, “Don’t mess with it! If it works just let it… Do whatever you have to do to bring it forward but don’t mess with it”... However the tragic the death of drummer Chris Acland meant Lush really had no choice but to disband, it just wouldn’t have been the same without him.
I won’t retread old ground here, for those unaware of all things Lush they can find an earlier article HERE which goes into a little more depth about the bands history, their beginnings, triumphs and their eventual break-up. Suffice to say they are a band who remain incredibly special to me even more so than the way in which The Clash, The Smiths, Siouxsie, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Blondie etc are. I, like many others, just totally connected with their music and although I still miss Lush, their music sounds as amazing and as vital today as it did some 10 years or so ago …. I was lucky, I got to see them live twice and those shows remain the highlights of my many musical adventures …………
So what happened post-Lush? Well, Emma Anderson formed Sing-Sing with Lisa O’Neil,(who, incidentally, have recently called it a day) Phil King stayed within the industry playing with The Fallen Leaves, and Jim Reid amongst others, and is now a member of The Jesus and Mary Chain’s current line up. Miki Berenyi sang on The Rentals 1999 album Seven More Minutes (track “The Cruise”,) she sang lead vocals on Mitsuo Tate’s lovely “Lost In Blue “-Flat 7 album (track-“Smile” later remixed by Robin Guthrie) she’d had a drunken conversation with Patrick Fitzgerald of The Kitchens Of Distinction recorded and released on Fruits “Hark! At Her” (Track “Starring Relationships”) album and then….well then she just seemed to disappear! Rumours where rife, she’d started a business with Kim Wilde as musical landscape gardeners called “Songs, Shoegaze N’ Shrubs,” she’d joined that diminutive but rather scary little fellow, Tom Cruise, and his wacky scientologist chums (Hey maybe that’s what The Rentals track “The Cruise” was all about?) Others suggested she’d ran off to enroll in Mr. Whiffle’s Big Top to become a trapeze artist . Aside from the latter none of these absurd rumours were true…so where on earth was Miki? What was she doing?
Now I’m sure it’s apparent that Miki is a huge hero of mine, and I was as surprised and saddened as anybody that she had apparently left the musical community completely. She’s talented, intelligent, beautiful, she produced some wonderful songs, which covered an amazing range of subjects, as well as being one of the coolest, nicest people, in music, and she also genuinely seemed to enjoy being up on stage. She always had a laugh with the audience, and could render the tedious Neanderthals (who seem to plague female fronted bands) speechless with a cutting quip or the more basic “Oh do fack off.” Underneath that iconic red barnet there appeared to be genuinely warm, kind, caring person who loved what she did. I’d heard via the wonders of the internet that she was happy and enjoying life, away from the music biz, which was obviously great to know but a part of me also still, felt it was a shame that such a talent wasn’t still writing songs and performing. I wondered if others felt the same.
I therefore resolved to set up a “We Miss Miki” website and myspace page. Soon messages where pouring in from all around the world “What’s she up to?” “She was a rock goddess…come back” “I love Toni Basil, where the devil is she now?!”,-“You get the picture ? 😉 ” People shared tales of meeting Miki, what Lush’s music meant to them and, reminisced about favourite gigs. There were also messages from musicians such as Robin Guthrie, The Kitchens of Distinction, The Wallflowers, music mags and numerous record labels hoping to sign her up. The message was clear, she was and is, much admired, respected loved and missed.
Within the many missives received was a message from Eric Matthews, a musician and composer who’s been producing high quality albums for well over a decade, from his early days as one half of Cardinal to his solo albums on Sub Pop and Empyrean Records. Eric informed me that he had joined forces with Ohio based guitarist Christopher Seink and that Miki had agreed to provide guest vocals on a couple of tracks for their “Seinking Ships” project. Apparently Miki and her partner Moose were long time fans of Eric’s work. I was delighted to know that the “majesty of Miki” would be heard once more and obviously keen to know how things had gone, kept in touch with Eric. In due course he informed me he was delighted with the results of Miki’s work in the studio. I can only assume that at some point he must have assured her that I was no wild eyed, gothic loony toon whose calendar still read “4AD” and who sat at home stroking a red wig whilst pretending Miki and Emma were guests of honour at some sort of weird freakish Miss Haversham type dinner party involving an imaginary Andrew Eldritch as the butler and…. (Ahem!)….Erm…quite!….. and Miki agreed to an interview with The VPME. Several somersaults and no small amount of jigging for joy later (including a rather lame “Dancing Homer” impression and a moonwalk) I actually contained my excitement long enough to talk to Miki, Eric and Christopher and discovered that sometimes heroes really, really do “stand up to life”
“Kiss Chase” By Lush
VP: After the tragic circumstances that surrounded the break up of Lush did you make a deliberate decision to get out of the music business completely?
MIKI: No – not really. It’s not like I heard the news of Chris’s suicide and thought, ‘I’m never playing in a band again’. It just happened that way – my life simply changed as a result.
VP: When “Lovelife” was released some critics rather predictably started to use the old “sell out” angle. Did this reaction surprise you?
MIKI: Not at all! By the time Lovelife came out we were pretty well used to being treated with contempt and ridicule by most quarters of the music press. HA! I remember the Melody Maker reviewing Split and slagging us off because (apparently) all our songs were light, jangly things about fluffy clouds and fairies. Meanwhile, reviewing the same album, the NME complained that our lyrics were too depressing (covering child abuse and parental death) and didn’t fit the sparkly, light melodies. I guess what I’m saying is that we couldn’t do right for doing wrong. I, of course, don’t agree with the sell-out accusation. I mean, is Ladykillers more commercial than Hypocrite? Is Desire Lines more shadowy than Last Night? Is I’ve Been Here Before a throwaway exercise in jazz lite whereas Lit Up is a trawl through the underbelly of dischordancy rivalling the darkest periods of Miles Davis?
The production on Lovelife is a little zappier and more upfront. Beyond that, I just think we got a bit more attention. When Split came out, the world was grunge and you had to search hard to find a niche in English pop, so I guess we seemed rare and obscure. By the time we released Lovelife, Britpop had lightened the mood a little and radio and TV were receptive to melody-driven pop songs so our version of that felt commercially acceptable. (i.e., if you stick around for long enough, you eventually become fashionable)
VP: “Ladykillers”? Was this song biographical? There’s been much speculation in the past with regard to who the “Ladykillers” in question may have been…
MIKI: Yes, it was biographical. Three verses, three men, three experiences – and all united by a baffling attitude to women. I’m probably being deeply unfair – after all, I didn’t know any of them particularly well and – god knows – I’ve acted like an arsehole on occasion and could similarly be hung out for ridicule. Still, it was great fun writing it and I remember Ivo Watts-Russell (the then head of 4AD) laughing his head off when he first heard it in the studio. (So much for the enigmatic Svengali image.) As for who it’s about – I’ve definitely heard bachelor number 2 (pretty obvious – see the video) and bachelor number 3 correctly identified, but never bachelor number 1.
VP: Recently bands such as The Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine have reformed , given that a lot of music can now be made using a laptop and reach a huge audience via the likes of myspace, have you never been tempted to dip your toe in the murky waters of the Biz again . If financial constraints and time were not an issue could you see yourself writing and playing again?
MIKI : Hey – if financial constraints and time were not an issue I’d be on my 10th LP and recording a Greatest Hits compilation with the Royal Philharmonic by now. I would love to make music again, but it’s precisely those things that are stopping me! Also – I know people out there who are too young to have – or simply don’t want kids, HATE this answer, but when I do have some spare time (which is rarely) I really, really just want to spend it with my family and friends. I just had nine days (NINE!) off for Christmas and New Year, and – believe me – the very last thing I wanted to do with it was lock myself away in a room with a keyboard, guitar and a computer to wrestle with my tortured soul. I’m 40 and my metabolism is slowing. Meanwhile, the children are small and cute and not yet slamming doors, stealing cash from my wallet and mugging our neighbours. So I’m quite content to savour the moment by sitting around playing ‘Balloon Lagoon’ and stuffing my face with “Quality Street.”
VP: Do you still play the guitar, and do you still have your guitars from your Lush days such as the Fender Telecaster, Rickenbacker 370-12, Epiphone Riviera, Firebird II etc?
MIKI: No – I don’t play I’m afraid. I was never a proper guitarist – only in the context of Lush. I played the guitar to write songs on and to play live. That’s probably why I was so crap! To be honest, unless someone is really good, my heart always sinks a bit when you’re in a public place (campsite, party, holiday) and someone whips out a guitar. My least favourite phrase in friendly company is “Here’s a song I’ve been working on…” I still have the guitars, though. Sentimental reasons.
VP: How did you hear about my “We Miss Miki” campaign, did it freak you out or did it make you realise how much you have been missed by many fans and how much your music meant to them?
MIKI : Hmmmm. I can’t remember. Maybe Emma told me? I was very flattered. And also slightly frightened. Still, having exchanged a few emails with you, Andy, it turns out you’re not a frothing psychopath who wants to abduct my children so, yes – it’s rather lovely to know that anybody cares!
VP: Are your work colleagues aware of your iconic, guitar playing, cider guzzling rock n roll past?
MIKI: Oh god, yes. I talk about it all the time. They LOVE hearing about my rock ‘n’ roll anecdotes. I’m like Les McQueen in The League of Gentlemen – always handing out my old records and warning my workmates about the pitfalls of the music industry – “It’s a shit business” – that’s my catchphrase.
VP: Have you heard any news with regard to 4AD re-mastering and re-releasing of Lush’s back catalogue, (it’s been rumoured there will also be a DVD?)
MIKI: Yes, I’ve heard that too! I seem to remember a bunch of emails about it last year where Emma and I were trying to rack our brains over every hard-to-find release in the Lush back catalogue but I honestly don’t know what’s going on with that. Ask Emma or 4AD!
VP: You are guesting on Seinking Ships album, which will hopefully be available in 2008, did you enjoy the process, you’ve said you’re an Eric Matthews fan, and also that his songs were difficult to sing 😉 could you expand on this? (For Eric’s sake!!)
MIKI : Eric got in touch with me through Simon Raymonde (formerly of the Cocteau Twins and now running Bella Union). He just asked me if I wanted to sing on his record and after reassuring me that he had literally no expectations of the shoddy state of my vocals after a decade away from the mic and that I would be required to make virtually no effort at all, I agreed. He was very patient with my numerous delays due to various family crises and really understanding about my total ignorance of the technological revolution regarding music and computers. I guess what I meant with the ‘difficult to sing’ comment is that the vocal line and harmonies are quite unusual – not obvious. It reminded me of some of Emma’s songs like Thoughtforms, Lit Up, Olympia and Tiny Smiles (Christ, it nearly killed me trying to get the pitching right on that damned song). The vocals work brilliantly within the track, but it’s not the obvious vocal line or harmony that you would pick, given the notes that surround it (if you get what I mean!). Plus there’s a pretty big range – hitting those high notes is fine when you’re young but after 25 years of Silk Cut I’m finding it a strain to get up there!
VP: If as mentioned you didn’t feel able to make a big commitment to music again, would you consider occasional musical ventures such as this (Seinking Ships) in the future. For example if Jarvis rang you and said lets write “Ciao 2” – would that sort of thing appeal?
MIKI : It’s funny, actually, I was in Paris last summer and we went to a fairground at the Tuileries and who should I bump into while trying to cram chocolate crepes into my kids’ faces but Jarvis Cocker, also out with his kid. What a coincidence! I was actually rather touched that he remembered who I was! But no – no Ciao 2. I guess I would consider anything so long as I had the time and it seemed like a fun thing to do!
VP : Do you miss anything about the music Industry , has it changed much since Lush ?
MIKI : I miss the excitement and energy of playing live and the camaraderie of touring – being with the band and crew in a foreign country is like going on holiday with your mates but even more fun because it’s free and there’s a party every night! To be honest, I was never crazy about the studio. That was much more Emma’s environment. I enjoyed writing, and got a real satisfaction and kick out of creating a song. But, to be honest, rehearsing and demoing and recording it seemed like a bit of a drag. Once I’d written the song I just wanted to get out there and play it!
VP: What’s your fondest memory of being a member of Lush?
MIKI: Loads of memories – well, there would be! Most of the best are from playing gigs. Even supporting The Darling Buds when we were crammed three in the back of an ex-British Telecom Dodge Commer going from York to Glasgow at 3am on a damp mattress with my legs up on the bass drum and an arm keeping the guitars from falling on my head. Even that was fun. Right up to supporting Jane’s Addiction at a fucking hockey stadium in America where I thought we were going to get bottled off and murdered and was virtually in tears I was so scared but the kids crowd-surfed and cheered and were very sweet and gentle with us! Actually, as much as recording always seemed a bit of a drag for me, I really did enjoy doing “Lovelife.” This is no slag off of any of the other producers we worked with, but I think because Pete Bartlett (our live sound engineer) recorded it, there was no nervousness and I didn’t feel so self-conscious about making suggestions (and being a crap musician and singer!) so I could actually relax a bit and have fun. I loved that we got our friends involved (doing back-up vocals, Jarvis duetting, our mate Melissa doing speaky bits on Last Night, Dan from Kitchens of Distinction coming in to do a load of percussion, etc) and mucked about with silly instruments (the toy harmonica keyboard on Ciao, the dripping water on Papasan etc). It was a proper laugh!
VP: You have a new album out yourself very soon which is getting rave reviews and the Seinking Ships featuring Miki in the pipeline do you have titles as yet
ERIC: My album is called The Imagination Stage. The Seinking Ships debut LP is called Museum Quality Capture
VP:With regard to The Seinking Ships project how would you describe the music?
ERIC: It’s basically a new wave cinema score. By new wave, I mean to reference the early and mid-80’s UK stuff. I am quite a bit older than Christopher but for a kid, he was pretty hip with his love of Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Cure, Cocteau Twins, etc… So, he came out of his teens with some of the same influences as me. Together we are making a brave new kind of instrumental music. And with Miki doing the featurette vocals, on those songs it really comes off as new wave adventure pop.
VP: When you writing the songs did you have Miki in mind, or once the songs were completed did you then think “wouldn’t it be great to get Miki Berenyi to guest on these tracks?”
ERIC: More of the latter. We had the songs written and done more or less and then we decided that it would be cool to have a lady singer on a few of the songs. We made a short list of singers that would be great for the project and contacted Miki first. Thankfully, she already knew about my music and was “honored” to be asked. So, I picked the 3 songs that seemed best suited for a lead vocal and wrote the vocal parts especially for her, in her range, etc. I felt like Burt Bacharach and Miki was my D. Warwick.
VP: I reckon you’ll certainly have the eternal gratitude of fans of Miki for tempting her back into the studio. Given that Miki’s been away from the biz for quite a while, where you confident in your powers of persuasion?
ERIC: I am a pretty good pitchman but no, not exactly confident. I didn’t know the conditions of her retirement at the time. So, looking back, and now knowing her situation better I am pretty shocked that she got on board. We are honored to be the project to bring her back. But what can I say; she more or less agreed to do it without even hearing the music just based on my reputation. I think that’s how it was. But when I sent her the package of music she really came back flipped out and in love with the sound.
VP: Yourself and Christopher (Sienk) seem to be big fans of British music, who would you say are your fave Brit bands?
ERIC: Christopher will have his own list but my top faves are –
The Damned, The Cure The Smiths Depeche Mode Joy Division New Order Killing Joke Japan Cocteau Twins Dead Can Dance Kissing The Pink Duran Duran Tears For Fears ABC Tones On Tail Adam and the Ants Gary Numan …all that genius shit
VP: How did you and Eric hook up?
CHRIS: I knew Eric had done session work in the past; so I reached out and asked if he would session in on a few tracks I was working on. I figured three things could happen. He’d ignore me, he’d decline, or by some miracle he’d listen to the sessions which happened to be the case.
VP: What other musical projects have you been involved with in the past?
CHRIS: I played in and around the Cleveland/Akron area with a few bands in the 90’s. It was lot of fun back then. I kind of miss those days of recording on a TASCAM 4 track, making demo cassettes recorded on a boom box, and then doing the sleeve artwork at the 24hr Kinko’s at 2am. If I had to do that now I’d be hating life. Kids have it easy these days. Uh-oh…. I am sounding old.
VP: You’ve previously stated you where a big Lush fan how does it feel to be involved in working with Miki.
CHRIS: It has been a real exciting moment for me. It’s still a little hard to believe that Miki sang on a few tracks that I was a part of. If someone would have told me, while I was watching Lush play live in Cleveland back in the 90’s, that Miki would be singing on some tracks of mine that Eric Matthews co-wrote and produced I would have laughed and laughed.
VP: Eric’s described the music of Seinking Ships but how would you describe it?
CHRIS: Cinematic, dreamy, jazzy, dark, pop
VP: Are there any future plans for Seinking Ships, I believe this is a studio only project, is it a one -off or may there be other projects in the future? and what are your own musical plans?
CHRIS: Yeah I am sure there will be more Seinking Ships tracks in the future but we’re taking it once step at a time. I am looking forward to a 2008 release of the Seinking Ships LP.
VP: Which other British bands would you say have been a major influence on you?
CHRIS: RIDE, PULP, SWERVEDRIVER, CURE, WIRE, IRON MAIDEN, early VERVE, JOY DIVISION
“Light from A Dead Star” Lush
Don’t miss Part 2 – – EXCLUSIVE
“A Pictorial History Of Lush.” Miki has kindly shared her personal photo collection with us, complete with notes and anecdotes . PART 2 HERE
Miki: “With the middling chart success of Single Girl and Ladykillers, we found ourselves appearing on the kind of TV shows we’d never before been invited onto. There was an absolutely horrendous show called Pyjama Party which we had to endure, the premise being a girlie sleepover with gossip and beauty tips in babydoll nighties – like, basically, my worst f*cking nightmare. We had to have face packs put on us by a pair of transvestites. Originally they wanted us to try out tantric sex exercises, but we decided that whoredom was one thing – rape and buggery another. However, Katie Puckrick, the presenter of that desperate programme, was actually a very likable and friendly woman who came into the dressing room for a chat and was very charming and welcoming. Our appearance on Dear Davina was just as reluctant, but just to add to the misery we also got to experience the famous Davina charm which basically doesn’t exist until the camera gets switched on. No interaction, no hello, no nothing. And then ACTION and you get the chummy, cosy façade. Frankly, I can’t bear the woman. Her entire interview technique is geared toward making herself look good and she clearly doesn’t give the slightest shit what your answer will be. No wonder she got so famous!
Chirpy Chirpy Chirpy Tweet Tweet By Lush(from the “Alvin Lives In Leeds- Anti Poll Tax Album” )
If you were to cock a furtive ear to the horrible turgid soulless cacophony that commonly clutters up the pop charts you’d be forgiven for thinking that music was about as meaningful as Davina McCall’s contribution to high quality TV. But if you where to go online and visit many of the musical platforms available you’d be heartened to see (and hear) all manner of talented whipper snappers making the sort of music that makes the world a happier place. On my cyber travels one name kept popping up, “Lily Rae.”I then happened to hear of her mentioned in conjunction with Sad Gnome records. This should have pleased me, as I’m keen on Sad Gnome Records, with their excellent taste and stylish demeanor. But subconsciously I may have made another mental connection. You see I used to work with a chap whom I better not name, called Dave Rae, he was a horrid little shite, vertically challenged, with a nose so big it would arrive in Liverpool City Centre half an hour before he did. A real evil little gnome of a man. A bad sort, maybe unbeknownst to me, I had foolishly associated Lily’s surname and Sad Gnome with this chap (whom I best not name) Dave Rae, and I failed to investigate this young ladies talent. Or more logically (always my strong point,) I just didn’t have the time, I’d been distracted or I’d simply forgotten, like the lumpen headed oaf Iam (so much music, so little time.) Some weekslater I’d heard Julia and Simon of The Indelicates mentioning Lily in revered tones, and then not long afterwards Sad Gnome Records gave away a free Xmas download. I enjoyed Lily’s contribution immensely and scuttled off to her myspace page, sideways like a man crab, giving no more thought to evil gnomish ex work colleagues. Why had I not done so earlier? I discovered she had sang previously in a band called Bottle Rocket for about three years, until, as she describes it “after that particular musical expedition went tits up, so to speak, I decided it would be far easier (and more diplomatic) to just do it on my own.” Her songs are a joy, superbly structured, beautifully sung, with lyrics as clever as they were witty. Some of the best I’d heard in quite some time. Her debut single “Bad Film ” backed by the equally excellent “Scallywag” is to be released in January 2008- it’s rather marvellous. An impressed Mr VP had a natter with Lily and found out more about her musical world.
VP: . Ordinarily I normally ask “how did you meet?” As my opener ,but that wont work here. So instead maybe you could tell us how you came to be involved in the world of “music” 😉
Lily : Well, my Dad – who’s one of my Saturday Girls – was in a fairly dodgy rock band about twenty years ago called King Swamp, which was all ripped-jeans-and-feedback – so from a really early age I was being carted around gigs and festivals. There was always music playing in our house, as well; my Dad would be listening to Tom Waits in one room and my Mum would be listening to the B52s in another, so you literally couldn’t move for hearing something weird. It just became part of life in the end. Silence was horrible and dirty. And then I got a bit older and was very heavily into Morrissey and Kirsty MacColl, and that was the end of me.
VP: Your single Bad Film has just been released (28th January) on Sad Gnome records , what are your musical plans for 2008?
Lily : First and foremost, we need to get out and about with some more gigs. I’ve also got songs coming out of my ears at the moment, so I’ll be recording like a bitch from hell for quite a bit… I’d like to think we’ll have something resembling an album ready by December. That’d be nice.
VP : How would you describe your music?
Lily: I’ve dreaded this question for a while… I’m often compared to Kirsty MacColl, which is probably the best compliment I’ve ever received, but I think she was a lot less bitter and cross than I seem to be. My songs are all a bit on the “I’m Very Angry And Nursing A Lot Of Grudges” side. Oh sod it, we’re trying to be Sleeper for the 21st century. There, I said it.
VP: Who would you say are your musical inspirations?
Lily: I’m of the opinion that Jonathan Richman is the most perfect songwriter alive. Kirsty MacColl has always been a huge influence of course… early Morrissey goes without saying… Elvis Costello too, and I’ll finish up with Aidan Moffat (Arab Strap). If I’d written so much as one song off Philophobia I’d just lie in bed all day, chatting myself up.
VP: Have you played many gigs at this point? What have been the best experiences so far?
Lily: In Bottle Rocket we had gigs on almost every week – the best one I think we ever did was at Storm in Leicester Square, a couple of months before we split. That was amazing. In the crowd we could just make out two guys in Hawaiian shirts who were going absolutely mental over What’s She Got? which is good for the esteem whichever way you look at it. Admittedly gigs have been a bit low on the ground of late, for no other reason than we all seem to be terrible busytits at the moment, and we’re also lazy bastards who book gigs maybe once every couple of months. But we’ll be around more this year, you’ll be sick of us by the end of it. Maybe you already are, which means our careers are speeding up at least.
VP: Are there any bands/artists or musical styles that induce such intense feelings of dislike upon hearing them that you feel compelled to throw the radio out of the window. Or at least turn it off in a hurry?
Lily: Oh Christ, here we go. The Twang, the Enemy, the Pigeon Detectives, the Fratellis and The View made me actually vomit up my own kidneys once, and that’s not an exaggeration. I guess they’re easy targets but I’m ashamed to be British if all we’re about is ripping off the Libertines. I’m not a huge fan of Kate Nash either – she’s probably very sweet and lovely and all that, but her voice just makes me want to burn hair. U2 should’ve packed it in years ago. Don’t even get me started on Hard-Fi. The only band I feel any remorse for disliking are Belle and Sebastian – I can tell they’re an excellent band, but that doesn’t stop me wishing they’d just shut up and stop being so clever.
VP: New technology, i-pods , mobile phones that clean teeth, DAB toasters that are entertainment centres, do they enslave or liberate?
Lily : It depends how quickly you want your shiny new iPhone to get nicked I suppose. I’ve got a lovely little mp3 player that no-one would ever knife me for because it’s too ugly – I suppose if you’re from Hampstead it’s a lot easier to have hundreds of little life-enhancing gadgets on you than it is in Streatham, where I live. I think that, if it does its job, there’s no need to get a slightly shinier one with more buttons. If I had a James Bond mobile the size of a baked bean with bluetooth and 600 gigabytes for mp3s and an eight billion pixel camera and a nutter bastard little device that made everyone want to sleep with you, I’d probably be a bit embarrassed. Probably.
VP: Any new bands you think will make the grade this year and have a major breakthrough?
Lily : Well he’s been around a little while now, but I’m really hoping that this year Malcolm Middleton will get the attention he deserves. A close friend of mine would argue that if he had masses of success the depressive jilted bedsit miserablists that make up his fanbase (me included) would feel like they’d been dumped for sunnier mainstream audiences. I don’t think that would be the case though – there’s too much empathy involved for him to do that. I would’ve liked I Am The Arm, a bloody excellent band, to have really made it this year, but they’re splitting up after one more batch of gigs. It’s about time Of Montreal got a bit of recognition as well. And the Veils really should be household names in the UK by now.
VP: What are the first singles /albums you remember buying ?
Lily: I was a huge Proclaimers fan when I was younger so I bought everything they’d done when I was about ten. When I met them they signed my copy of This Is The Story and I was so excited I didn’t particularly mind that they’d spelt my name wrong. Free All Angels by Ash had a HUGE impact on me when it came out and I spent the next few years trying to be Charlotte Hatherley. I can remember buying Homogenic by Bjork really clearly as well – I only bought it because I liked the cover (it was quite squishy) and then I actually listened to it. It blew my mind completely. When you’re nine you shouldn’t really try and sing Joga unless your parents are already deaf.
VP: Excluding oxyegn and food and erm.. life what five things could you not live without?
Lily: My cat, Finn (geekishly named after Finn Andrews); teabags; my records; Simon Armitage; bitterness posing as sarcasm.
I don’t know about you but I can’t tolerate music reviews which prattle on about things like the “zeitgeist” and “ennui” yet singularly fail to let the reader know if they actually liked a certain album, song or single. I also hate this modern habit of foisting genius or legendary status onto people, who quite frankly don’t deserve it, Bobby Davro is not a legend, Frank Skinner is not a genius, for F**k’s sakes, there’s even a “ Post Office Ken” myspace page, he of the highly irritating TV ads featuring those dreadful warbling Irish wooden heads from Westzone or Boyslife or whatever they’re called. People are actually leaving him messages!“Ken, you legend”, “Ken u iz da Biz”“Ken you genius”etc, etc -. No, No, NO! Have these miscreants had transorbital lobotomies?Ken is an annoying tool, a vacuous corporate marketing tool- a living legend or genius? – I think not. This sort of nonsense fills me with a sense of ennui and surely cannot reflect thezeitgeist?
But back to the subject in hand, is The Indelicates debut album “American Demo” any good? Well, I can say, hand on heart it really does deserve the accolade “ F**king genius.” At this early juncture it’s already a strong contender for album of 2008. I had of course expected something special given the quality of the singles that have been released and the demos that have been floating about online for a while, but this has exceeded my already high expectations by a country mile. In short The Indelicates have produced a stunning debut album that can be enjoyed on many levels and covers a myriad of issues. It’s the sound of a band really finding their voice. They’ve rarely sounded more assured and passionate, and to quote dear old Johnny Rotten they really do seem to “mean it, man.” “American Demo” does that rare thing in music these days and actually challenges the listener’s preconceptions about pop. I can happily report it’s not always a comfortable experience, for example “Unity Mitford” is a beautiful song, musically and lyrically (“Like Romeo and Juliet/In a bunker, shot through the head”) but hang on a minute, should I really find this song moving, after all isn’t this about one ofBritain’s most notorious Nazi sympathisers. Yet here I am singing along like Doris Day baking apple pie with a tear in my eye, about the lady, who many believe may have had Hitler’s baby.
“New Art For The People” may initially seem to be a heart wrenching, darkly romantic tale of obsessive love, “And it’s so sad but they’re so glad/ that you’re so bad for me/The dark days ahead and the blood/ on the bed and the cover of the NME” But wait -there’s something else happening here too, it transpires it may actually be more about self importance, selfishness, single mindedness and self harm, an obsession with a new aesthetic and exploitation in the name of art – Yes, let us make this new art and change the world, except ….nothing really changes, the world remains indifferent.
“If Jeff Buckley Had Lived” is an evocative poetic slice of genius which deals with how Jeff Buckley may have been treated if he had not foolishly disregarded the Health and Safety Executive’s prudent advice -“No swimming in rivers wearing steel toe capped boots, whilst listening to Led Zeppelin” “If Jeff Buckley had lived/And his voice still was heard/On the weak second album /And difficult third” Indeed, would Jeff Buckley have been so revered in life as he is now in death, could he have sustained the promise and have earned the iconic status that has posthumously been bestowed upon him- or would he have suffered what is commonly known as “the back lash”“If Jeff Buckley had lived/He’d have been short on the throne/And counted his life out/In an old rockstar’s home”
The album also features the singles, “Sixteen,” “Julia, We Don’t Live in The 60’s” and fantastic reworkings of “The Last Significant Statement” and “We Hate The Kids” all of which seem to take on a new potency within the framework of an album rather than just merely being great tunes in isolation. There is also the new single “America” which could well be an alternative west end show stopper in a parallel universe, complete with dancing soldiers and marching bands. It knocks Bernstein’s and Sondheim’s song of the same name into the proverbial cocked hat.
“American Demo” is powerful, angry, funny (yes kids they do have a sense of humour) poignant, honest, thought provoking, at times incredibly moving, and utterly brilliant. At the end of the day (sporting cliché alert) what more can you ask for from pop music?The Indelicates tackle challenging subjects with a lightness of touch and a subtlety, which, at times, make the Manic Street Preachers tendency for heavy-handed overwrought bombast appear about as consequential as a 2 Unlimited single. They have certainly raised the stakes, and posed the question- can this album be bettered in 2008? –Or is “Everything that follows a footnote?” We shall see, purchase “American Demo,” you won’t be disappointed and of course you could well contribute towards making The Indelicates uncomfortably fashionable.
Phew! An Indelicates review that doesn’t mention the famous PD’s –Polka Dots or Pete Doherty, …Oh… erm…… …
Danish duo the Raveonettes (Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo) have been producing their glorious “Great Love Sound” since the early 2000’s.They are one of the few bands around who have managed to adroitly update the surf pop -boy/girl harmonies of the 50’s/60s whilst retaining the classic style of songwriting of that era. They have also succeeded in making it sound unique, contemporary, majestic and full of adrenaline fuelled excitement, there’s a kind of effortless natural grace to their sound, a sound that manages to shimmer with beauty yet glower with menace in equal parts. Scratch below the surface of The Raveonettes seemingly innocent sounding pop and you’ll discover a dark underbelly of scuzzy- vampish-trash-can-nostalgia drenched Americana, littered with shattered dreams and tear stained pillows. This is the world of“Whiplash Rock n’ Roll” where for every sweet pony tailed girl there’s a bad ass guy from the wrong side of the tracks waiting to break her heart, and just beneath the respectable veneer of poodle skirts, bobby socks and saddle shoes, you’ll find leathers, stiletto heels and motorcycle chains. It’s the post millennium “wall of sound,” complete with thundering percussion, layers of reverb, distortion and feedback all underpinned by some the best pop hooks you’re likely to hear in this world or the next, it’s the sound of Phil Spector discovering The Jesus &Mary Chain it’s the “place where lost is found, That Great Love Sound”
“We sound like a big melting pot of everything we always thought was really great,” says Sune Rose Wagner, singer/songwriter
“It’s like a homage to all the great movies and all the great literature and music that we’re inspired by,” agrees Sharin Foo.
Their latest album the self produced “Lust, Lust Lust” is vintage Raveonettes, it’s full of joyous melodies which mask the darker themes within, lyrically this could be their starkest album in terms of subject matter, but musically it’s a glorious full on trip through the “dark night of the soul,” which is perversely uplifting despite its darkproclivities. It is of course, accompanied by the trademark Raveonette guitar work that provides the aural equivalent of shooting stars illuminating the landscape with an incandescent beauty, whilst hushed, hypnotic vocals whisper,“I fell out of heaven, to be with you in hell”…Sune and Sharin always give the impression that they have looked behind the facade of the pristine white-netted windows of respectability, and all has not been sweetness and light. Along with their stylistically romantic view of vintage American pop culture there’s always been a miasma of bruised sexual energy and more than a suggestion of something a little sinister and sleazy lurking beneath the surface of your average Raveonettes album, maybe this is what makes their take on 50’s/60’s pop, edgier and more real than the jejune revivalists who seek merely to duplicate the sounds of that era…. Oh and the fact that Sune and Sharin are a couple of musical geniuses.
We spoke to Sharin Foo about the latest album “Lust Lust Lust” and the music scene in general… (V.P.)
VP: Can you tell me the story with regard to the formation of the Raveonettes, how you met, what prompted you to form a band, your initial musical vision/ethos and the where the name came from?
SHARIN: The Raveonettes was formed back in 2001 when Sune came back to Copenhagen after traveling and living in the US for a year. He brought a suitcase full of new tunes and a vision of a band that had the boy girl vocals in front. He asked me if I wanted to join him and that was how it all started. The name is a reference to Buddy Holly “Rave On” and the girl groups from the early sixties “ettes”. And it was sort of inspired by a girl’s name: Ravonelle that Sune came across on one of our relentless finding-a-band-name trips to the library.
VP: Your new album “Lust Lust Lust” has just been released in the UK and it really is as amazing as I’d anticipated!!! It’s got all melody and power of previous albums, but I did read somewhere that you considered it to be darker than your previous efforts?
SHARIN: Yes I think it’s the darkest album that we have done so far, it has bleakness to it in the themes and the sound, but it’s still very romantic like we always are. It has the minimalism and rawness of Whip It On, but it is much more introverted. Whip It On is ultimately a party album. Lust, Lust, Lust is the least celebratory album we have done, and the most personal one I think.
VP:You certainly seem to be an extremely hard working band and have again been gigging relentlessly. What have been the highlights of 2007?
SHARIN:The highlight of 2007 has been to finish the album. with regards to playing shows… I think my personal favorite was a show in Berlin back in November. It was one of those nights where everything connected and I felt like our music was the perfect soundtrack to an evening in Berlin.
VP:You’ve been compared to many great bands/artists from the Phil Spector sound to the Velvets to the Mary Chain. Who would you say where your musical heroes /inspirations?
SHARIN: Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, The girl groups from the early Sixties, Suicide, Velvet Underground, Cramps, and Angelo Badalamenti…..to mention a few.
VP: On your 3rd album “Pretty In Black” you had Ronnie Spector guest on “Ode To LA”.How did that scenario arise? Was the song written with her in mind? Did you approach her….??
SHARIN: Our producer Richard Gottehrer approached her on our behalf and luckily she loved the song. It wasn’t necessarily written with her in mind, but it emanates the era she came from musically. We were a little worried about whether she would be up for singing homage to LA since she does not have the happiest memories from that place, but she gave it all she had. Needless to say we were very star struck and extremely flattered to work with her in the studio.
VP:What where the first records you purchased?
SHARIN: First two albums I bought were Kim Wilde’s second album “Select” and Duran Duran’s “Rio”.
VP: The digital age; – downloads, streaming music/myspace/ last FM / 1000’s of on line radio stations…Is this making music more dynamic and more accessible, and if so does this spell the death knell for “corporate rock”… alternatively is it making it harder for bands to earn a living?
SHARIN: It might make it more difficult to make a living, and the industry of the old world is on a downfall, but music is not and people seek out new bands more than ever since it’s all so accessible. It might be more difficult to rise above the noise, but we embrace it and we’re still exploring the possibilities of communities/myspace/internet etc and a more direct communication with the people that enjoy our music. It’s exciting times.
VP: Is the current music scene in good health or in need of a full medical? Any bands you’d recommend?
SHARIN: There is some good stuff out there. Liars, Panda Bear, MIA, Black Angels, Autolux to mention a few.
VP:So, you are originally from Denmark and have been based in a number of different cities, London, LA, New York, Do you feel experiencing different environments has helped you develop as a band, broadened your horizons and so forth…?
SHARIN:Yes that was the whole point of moving out of Denmark for a while, to find inspiration and to add some perspective. Coming from such a small and civilized country of only 5 million people, the multi- cultured and chaotic metropolitan cities of the world are utterly fascinating.
VP: I’ve often felt that your music, at times, has an almost cinematic quality, would you like to do a big Hollywood score in the future? Are you movie fans? If so what would you say are your top three movies?
SHARIN: Yes a score is definitely on our to-do list. And yes we love movies and find a lot of inspiration therein. My favorite movies as of present are:
Bergman: Fanny & Alexander
Woody Allen: Annie Hall
VP:Sum up the new album “Lust Lust Lust” in five words
SHARIN: Dark, Melancholic, Noisy, Sleazy and Romantic.
VP: I’d like to add two more “F***ing GENIUS !” Pardon my language!
“The Last Significant Statement To Be Made In Rock n’Roll” -By The Indelicates
Sometimes to understand the present we must look back into the past…………………..
Once upon a time, old school chums Julia Clark-Lowes and Brighton based “musician”/promoter/children’s TV actor, Monster Bobby read a magical book “The Manual: How To Have A Number One The Easy Way “ by Bill Drummond. So inspired where they by Mr Drummond’s instructions they decided to form a girl group with a sound and image that harked back to the halcyon days of the Shangri-la’s, of Motown, of Phil Spector’s “wall of sound”, and back to a time when female groups ruled the pop world “before the Beatles came along and ruined everything” and so it came to pass…. The Pipettes were born. However, in time, Julia decided, this was n’t something she was comforatble with, it was a lie , fakery, smoke and mirrors and told the band of her plans. Alas, this was when things turned nasty, Monster Bobby (living up to his name “Bobby”) refused point blank to let Julia leave, even going so far as appointing renowned celebrity lawyers Alan Dershowitz and Robert L Shapiro to study the small print in her contract and to block Julia’s escape from this polka dotted gulag. Tragically two original members of the Pipettes backing band the Cassettes were killed in the blood bath that ensued, as full-on war erupted in the musical world of Brighton. Yes artistic types in the area were routinely “wacking” each other and being a guitarist, a singer, a bassist or even a drummer, proved to be one of the most hazardous forms of self expression during those dark and violent times. The victims were many, yet horribly Luke Pritchard survived unscathed and this was the real tragedy of the “Brighton Indie-Pop War.” But even such futile acts of random violence failed to soften Bobby’s attitude “Lady, you’ll not sing in this town again” he pronounced as he threw his head back and laughed manically whilst chomping on a cigar and stroking his malevolent, hideously misshapen cat, the rancorous Dr. Sample. But Julia had already made up her mind, bullying wouldn’t cut it and she kicked Monster Bobby in his nob .
She later met a dashing young fellow called Simon, a poet, oracle and Brighton’s very own haruspex, a chap who believd in truth and justice and a chap who shared Julia’s musical vision and together they started to hatch a cunning plan aimed at bringing some semblance of peace to the war torn Brighton music scene…………………and then they thought “nah , F**k it let it fester,” and moved to Lewes
Well that’s what I’ve been told , ok so maybe it’s been slightly embellished over the years, possibly added to, and interwoven with half-truths rumour and innuendo, the official version is simply that Julia left to pursue other interests. Maybe she didn’t see updating the girl group template as simply shaking your ass, smiling and doing a mans bidding ? (Listen to “Our Daughters Will Never Be Free” for an insight.) Since those dark days Julia and Simon have since emerged with a new project, “The Indelicates” and along with the addition of Alastair Clayton, Kate Newberry & Ed van Beinum, they have produced a pop band of great wit, savage intelligence and heart.
They have released a number of critically acclaimed singles via “Sad Gnome” and “Weekender Records” and, to add to the ever-growing list of exciting releases due in 2008, the year will also herald the release of their debut album. The Indelicates are a band who are original, passionate, and clearly have something of substance to articulate to the masses…..if only people would turn off Gary bloody Barlow and listen…but we’ll say no more as Simon Indelicate possesses a far more eloquent tongue than us. Mr VP had a chat with Simon, and it soon became apparent he was utterly out of his depth, in fact within minutes his brain was waving a little white flag of surrender as Simon eloquently machine gunned his questions into a thousand tattered pieces which fluttered away on the breeze like so much cheap confetti ….……
VP: Lets surreptitiously combine the traditional how you meet/form a band introductory question with the awkward question…..Here goes… How did you meet up? Was this at a time when Julia was in her polka dot Period? Where you indeed perceived as kind of male Yoko Ono the big difference being the band didn’t break up and nobody got shot. Did you both have the same ideas as to the musical direction you wanted The Indelicates to take?
S.I: I hardly think that the difference you refer to is THE big one – I can think of several bigger differences, at least one of them underlined by the fact that I have never seen anything referring to me as the male Yoko Ono before. Besides, I thought the Beatles ruined everything? Surely that makes Yoko one of the good guys. Also, don’t be so confident that no one got shot – you don’t know what happened to the first Becki. (For the avoidance of confusion, here is a winking smiley face… 😉 .) As for having the same ideas: no. That would have made communication rather pointless and the evenings dull. We had similar ideas roughly concurrently.
VP: Following your debut single in 2006 “We Hate The Kids” you’ve released two singles this year “Julia, We Don’t Live in the 60s” “Sixteen” as well as an Ep “The Last Significant Statement To Be Made In Rock n Roll ” you also have your debut album due for release in March, do you have anymore details, a track list? The title? The producer? Any surprises ??
SI: The album was produced by Brian O’Shaughnessy who did all of Denim/Felt/etc, Screamadelica and Star Trekkin’ by The Firm. The title ? I can say that we had several titles and that we chose the one that made us the most nervous (“American Demo”) As for track listing and surprises – well: there are no songs with Pete Doherty in the title for one thing, it could arguably be described as ‘neoconservative’, it has a steel drum on it, it’s 53.7 minutes long and it has vocal cameos from 17 people.
VP:Billy Bragg once sang “mixing pop and politics he asks me what the use is….”, would you describe your music as in anyway, protest music or political?
S.I. Yes. Making an attempt at truth is something I value in music. We are educated, thoughtful types who read books and argue about political issues – so it would be deeply dishonest of us to write songs about how much we enjoy fun. I don’t enjoy fun particularly. I’m violently allergic to alcohol; I’m monogamous by inclination and have never found heartache particularly interesting. I do care about truth and society and ideas – so I write about them. I can see why being political is regarded with suspicion, though. Too often, political acts are no more interesting than the satire on the News quiz – mentioning the names of politicians to get a recognition laugh. That Ann Widdecombe, she’s fat isn’t she, eh? Blair’s a poodle, Bush is bad, globalisation’s bad, and war is stupid. Musicians who make such statements should pay more attention to information theory – simply, that the information content of a statement is reflected in its surprise value. It is not unexpected that an angry young lyricist should think war stupid, nor does it impact the way that war is perceived – its information content is therefore zero and its cultural value worthless. It is perhaps a small ambition, but I would hope that our lyrics have information content greater than zero.
VP: You don’t write songs about “hot chicks”, “fast cars “booty” or “bling,” this has led to some to label you “clever” and (whisper it,) even pretentious, what would you say to such ludicrous accusations?
S.I: As I say, it is not pretentious to say what you think as clearly as you can manage. It IS, on the other hand, pretentious to do anything other than that. It is pretentious to conceal your meaning behind words and sentence structures not commonly understood (as the postmodernists do) just as it is pretentious to imitate dumbness from an assumed position of smartness. More though, I think when people rail against pretension in music, it is because they think it should be constrained within a base definition of low-culture that they themselves impose. It seems to me that if rock and roll has a function at all it is to subvert the mainstream – but this means it is defined by the mainstream, a stream which changes. In the fifties and sixties the mainstream was an American society that feigned a buttoned up, suburban, rational civility while it allowed grotesque segregation and lived in constant fear of a bureaucratic nuclear annihilation; a counterculture that retreated into drugs, dancing and slack was precisely the right one to move the world forward. The world did move, the hallmarks of that counterculture became the mainstream. Now the globalised mainstream feigns an anti-rational, opened-top-button, city based creative civility while it allows appalling poverty and lives in fear of faith-based terrorist annihilation; a counterculture that retreats into drugs, dancing and slack doesn’t deserve the name. If that’s too pretentious for ya, kids, then you can fuck off into the irrelevant stupor you belong in 😉
VP: There seems to be a lot of things going on, Julia’s photography, The Band Who Must Not Be Named, The Book Of Job- the musical, John Kerry JK47, The Bathroom Choir.. With so many ideas whizzing around do you both have trouble sleeping?
S.I. Yes. We do. And thank you for bringing all that up, it makes sleeping even harder when you have to schill it yourself…
VP: The song “Waiting For Pete Doherty To Die”, it could be said caused a bit of a stir, for all the wrong reasons. You don’t want him to die, you quite like his music, but was it more of a comment on the feeding frenzy and the build ‘em up knock em down mentality that’s whipped up by the media? And if so don’t you think that maybe that people who court the media are asking for trouble?
S.I. It isn’t a comment on the media in particular, it’s as much a comment on the kids who allow themselves to be conned. I’m fine with the media, much of it is ace. The Pete Doherty thing is just sick all over. Heroin is not romantic or interesting – its just depressive selfishness in powdered form. People who can only talk about how on drugs they are or aren’t boring. People who, as a consequence of informed choice, dribble in front of you are repulsive. People who encourage it are worse. More specifically, as I’ve already said, drug-addicts peddling romanticised nationalism are not what is required to oppose our current mainstream. It is not unexpected to be presented with a Byronic rock star with a smack habit and an apparent death wish, so such an artefact has zero information content. In self-aware moments like ‘Fuck Forever’, Pete Doherty is really excellent, it’s the sound of something I used to love dying, and that excites me. Or, more to the point excited me. It’s kind of old news now.
VP: You seem to be huge in Germany, what do think it is that you’ve touched within the German psyche to produce such adoration?
SI. It is our love of laughing at the misfortune of others while listening to high-tempo comic orchestras.
VP: The internet has had a profound effect on music and entertainment, where it’s almost a case of access all areas. One view is that this has created a lack of anticipation , albums are leaked, you hear a song on the radio and in seconds it can be downloaded, there’s no thrill of hunting down that obscure track…its all on tap now.. Do you think this culture of instant gratification is devaluing music, or is this a new and exciting age that has taken the power from the huge recording corporations and given the artists more creative freedom
S.I.: This is a much bigger thing than music. I think that the free and unrestricted movement of data (including recorded music) is a massive, brilliant, epoch-defining concept. From my computer I can already tap into almost the entire sum of human knowledge within moments, and so can nearly everyone else in any free society. Bloggers in Burma can be heard around the world. Areas of scientific research with hidden connections and unforeseen applications can find each other in ways that have never been possible before. Artists can access any influence, any idea, anything at all that will spur them on to better and more informed work. Any negatives, any little concerns about copyright or wistfulness for bygone ages, or gains and losses of power by guitarists and cd salesmen are so minute in comparison to this utterly incredible change that I can barely comprehend why anyone would bother to bring them up.
VP: What with the likes of Prince and Radiohead pretty much giving away their music, 2007 has been described by some as year zero for the music industry. Looking back on the year what have been your musical highlights?
S.I.: The Flesh Happening are amazing, as are Philip Jeays, and Lily Rae – you should Google them. Carter USM reforming was brilliant, but you should listen to their new projects too, I just got Jimbob’s new album and it’s really fantastic. Post Soothing Out on Art Brut’s album made me sob like a chucked teenager. I saw a band in Worcester called Red Zebra who were very good indeed and we went to the new staging of Cabaret which was even better.
VP: The Nostalgia factor? What your view on this deluge of criminally naff acts reforming and milking the cash cow just one more time (I’m of course referring to bands like Take That, Spices, Boyzone- and lets face it, it’s only a matter of time before Steps are reinvented as “iconic”, “cool” or “legendary”)
S.I. “I don’t have one, it has no effect on my life whatsoever. Except to say that I suspect when Gary Barlow says that he could rule the world he really, really means it. We should watch him. If he ever gets arrested outside a beer hall, don’t let them broadcast the trial.
VP: Who would you say are your heroes/ sources of inspiration (musical or none musical?)
S.I.: I don’t really approve of artistic heroes – they encourage the view that art is privileged above other crafts. You wouldn’t get very far as a joiner if you spent all your time writing blogs about how kind and normal the guy who took you on as an apprentice is. I feel this acutely as I get very star struck when I meet people I admire and find myself entirely unable to have worthwhile conversations with them – rarely getting beyond, ‘I likes your albums, Mr. Haines’ before leaving hunched in a miasma of shame. I also think that when people ask who your influences are, the answer they usually get is just a list of credible people that the artist wants to be seen to like. I would like to be seen to like Luke Haines, Carter USM, Milton, Swift, The Who and Ezra Pound. When I think about it, though, on at least one occasion we’ve recorded a solitary handclap on a single to make it sound like Supertramp – but I can’t very well say them now, can I?
VP: What would you hope for in 2008, be it on a personal level or indeed on a global scale?
S.I.: Solvency. And voluntary universal atheism.
VP: If I were to walk into William Hills and place a bet on yourself and Julia appearing within the glossy pages of “Hello” in the next five years would I be wasting my money?
S.I.: Depends, you might get a good story out of it. And now you bring it up, Julia did reorganise a shelf yesterday and our living room is looking particularly classy and welcoming.
VP: Which five words would you say are the most clichéd and least significant to be used in rock n’ roll?