The Jesus And Mary Chain- Nick Sanderson Tribute Night 27/10/2008

“Life’s Too Long” By Earl Brutus

“It should be great night for a great person” said former Lush and current Mary Chain bassist Phil King. And it was. It was a night to remember and a night for remembering.  When Jim and William Reid heard the sad news that their friend and former Mary Chain drummer, ex-member of Clock DVA, Gun Club, Freeheat, World Of Twist and Earl Brutus, Nick Sanderson had lost his brave battle against cancer, they wanted to do something,  Jim takes up the story “I think that William came up with the idea; y’know, when someone dies you always sit around saying, ‘Well, what can we do?’ and we immediately thought of Nick’s wife Romi Mori and their son Sid and stuff like that, so we thought it’d be a nice thing to do. It’s gonna raise money for them, not much, but whatever we can do, y’know?”.

Born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire 22nd April 1961, Nick was a talented innovative and much respected musician whose passions included Manchester United,(YES!)  British Rail, British history and ornithology. He started out as drummer with Sheffield post-punks Clock DVA in the early eighties before joining The Gun Club. He then went on to form World of Twist, who despite being tipped for greatness by the music press never quite made the commercial breakthrough their work merited.  Nick went on to regularly drum for The Jesus & Mary Chain, and later formed Freeheat with future wife and former Gun Club member Romi Mori and the Mary Chain’s Jim Reid and Ben Lurie. Nick also “found his voice” so to speak and stepped out from behind his drum kit to take the mic with cult band Earl Brutus, a band who inspired fierce loyalty and whose name according to Nick was meant to invoke images of “a pub that’s quite a rough sort of place, but with a nice carvery on Sunday lunchtimes” he also added Our dream, is to record the perfect song to be played at chucking-out time. That’s when music makes most sense.” Earl Brutus gigs were said to be eventful, highly unpredictable occasions, described by one critic as “a bit like a fight in a pub on a council estate, but with a very tight soundtrack.” Eventually, following Earl Brutus’s commercial failure, (who Sanderson once colourfully described as like Kraftwerk caught having a wank by their dads”) Nick was forced to get a job, which again involved another of his great passions; he became a train driver on the Brighton to London line…alas aged only 47 Nick Sanderson died in West London on  June 8, 2008.

London’s Forum was the venue for the Nick Sanderson tribute gig which bore the tag line Train Driver In Eyeliner” (the title of an unreleased Earl Brutus song) and it provided an opportunity for Nick’s family, friends and fans to remember his life and to celebrate it in a fashion befitting the great man.  The stage backdrop which featured a glam, glittering version of the British Rail logo  was a simple yet poignant reminder as to why we were all here.  The gig kicked off with Sarah Nixey stating “We’re Black Box Recorder and this is for Nick.” Yes, John Moore, Luke Haines and Sarah Nixey collectively known as Black Box Recorder were back together for the first time in years and they produced a set that was so effortlessly sublime that you wouldn’t have thought they’d ever been away.  Prior to the gig I’d asked John Moore, how rehearsals had gone, to which he‘d responded, “Great, we haven’t had one!”England Made Me” “Child Psychology”  and “The Facts Of Life” reminded everybody in attendance what a fine band Black Box Recorder are and  by the time they’d wrapped up a spine tinglingly good set with a storming version of “Lord Lucan Is Missing” people were in no doubt they’d witnessed something very special. Amazing- the coolest older people I know” said Black Arts collaborator Keith TOTP’s after Black Box Recorder had departed the stage-he’s right of course, they are rather stylish and cool and one imagines  Paul Whitehouse’s Ron Manager would probably have described their performance  thus mantle with aplomb. So the big question remained- would Black Box Recorder get together again or  was this a one off ??  John Moore:We really enjoyed it, we exorcised a few ghosts of our own and I think we’ll have to up our work rate a bit now. Definitely more to follow…these uncertain times deserve a new BBR record – probably recorded on a potato powered wax cylinder.”

Black Box Recorders John Moore & Sarah Nixey

Luke Haines -Black Box Recorder

British Sea Power were next on the bill and they certainly got into the spirit of the “Train Driver in Eye Liner” vibe, with band members wearing, well…. lots of eyeliner as well as what appeared to be British Rail “hi-vis” tabards. They gave a blistering energetic “rockular” performance, and did indeed make me ponder the question “Do You Like Rock Music?” I decided, in all honesty, I probably  rather did, even after finding myself  boxed into a small area which  I can only describe as a random “mosh-pocket”-Ah well, it’s been a while, why not I thought!

British Sea Power-Kings Of Hi-Vis


The night concluded with the legendary Jesus and Mary Chain, who proved that despite the fact that they may be a few years older than when I last saw them  (which was three times  during the Automatic tour if you’re asking)  They still have that incendiary power that could blow most other bands not just off the stage, but off the planet. They played all the classics; the crowd greeted each number with huge roars of approval as if embracing an old friend. “Some Candy Talking,” Just Like Honey,” “Sidewalking,”Blues From A Gun,”A Taste Of Cindy “forming part of a set list of songs that most songwriters with any credibility would kill to have written.  These songs still sound as fresh, relevant, vital and let’s be frank, as f**king amazing,  as they did when the JAMC first turned my head “Upside Down back in a time when I was thinner and prettier.   You have to feel sorry for people these days who think Razorlight are “alternative” and The Killers “cutting edge” for god sakes, listen to the Mary Chain people, this is music that still matters, from a band that have always mattered.  I hadn’t enjoyed a gig this much for years, the atmosphere, the performances, the occasion…Perfect! … The JAMC finished the night, appropriately with an Earl Brutus medley and the bloke next to me who’d been flaying around like a demented marionette for most of the set, turned to me and said  “This is what it’s all about mate innit-“ to which I responded rather enthusiastically  ” It’s the  F**KIN’ MARY CHAIN mate ! It gets no better!” although on reflection I fear I may have sounded a little  like Jim Bowen“its gets no better”? Where the hell did that come from?? Whatever next? “Super? Smashing? Great“- perhaps? “Bus Fare Home” maybe?  )  However I think I may have got away with this bizarre Bowenisim as we grinned at each other like smug Cheshire cats who’d just pulled off a “cream heist,” both  nodding our approval  with such vigour I feared our heads were in danger of dropping off.  My new nodding, grinning Mary Chain chum was of course 100% correct, this really was “what it was all about!” What a night! How do you top that! ……well that’s another story, but this was without doubt a  night to remember ………I’ll leave the last word to Black Box Recorders (and ex Mary Chain) John Moore:  Before he died, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle told spiritualist friends that he would present himself at the Spiritualist convention to be held later that year. Apparently he didn’t show up though. On the other hand, the presence of the great Nick Sanderson was definitely felt at the Forum – along with several gallons of other spirits. It was a great night”


Jim Reid- Wheres William?

Jim Reid- "Where's William?"

“Up Too High” By The Jesus And Mary Chain-Live The Forum 27/10/2008

“Head On” by The Jesus And Mary Chain-Live The Forum 27/10/2008

“England Made Me” By Black Box Recorder Live The Forum 27/10/2008

“Some Candy Talking” By The JAMC Live -Forum 27/10/08

“Just Like Honey” By The JAMC -Forum 27/10/2008

And way back when…
“April Skies” By the Jesus & Mary Chain

“The SAS And The Glam That Goes With It” By Earl Brutus

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One Man Bond-James Bond- Quantum Of Solace Special

Welcome to our VPME James Bond extravaganza, Mark Standbrook (wearing his Omega “Planet Ocean” James Bond watch, whilst sipping Zero Zero 7 coke) investigates the fascination with Bond and its links to pop music by way of the world famous “Bond Themes”…………….

“He’s back. Still bruised and a bit knackered from all that gritty exertion in 2006’s Casino Royale, James Bond, 007, licensed to kill, will re-emerge in cinemas up and down the country at the end of the month. The 22nd in the official Bond film series, “Quantum of Solace” will pick up where Daniel Craig’s debut film left off two years ago. This kind of continuity of story may be something of a rarity in the Bond canon – these films usually work best as self-contained episodes rather than chapters in a saga –  but one thing remains constant in the formula after the best part of a half-century on the silver screen.

That’s right: it has a theme song.

“Another Way To Die” By Alicia Keys & Jack White

James Bond and music have gone hand-in-hand ever since he first made that monumental leap, Walther PPK firmly in-hand, from books, comics and radio, to the glittering silver screen. John Barry’s arrangement of Monty Norman’s original James Bond Theme, which coupled an edgy electric guitar with more traditional string and wind instruments, won universal acclaim in Dr No, the very first film in the series, in 1962. A single release made it to number thirteen in the UK chart, and that was back when such an accolade actually meant something. As a piece of music it’s shown impressive longevity; repeatedly reused, rearranged and rerecorded over the years, it remains largely true to the original when employed in even the latest films. It hasn’t really dated, doesn’t sound particularly “sixties”, and yet it slid imperceptibly into the musical landscape of the era in which it was created.

The following year’s “From Russia With Love” had its own theme song, pleasingly crooned by Matt Monro, but the theme song tradition really got underway yet another year later, in 1963, when “Goldfinger” came out. It always strikes me as interesting that perhaps the most memorable of all the songs to be associated with the 007 franchise, is, also memorably, performed by a woman. A woman whose lungs, it should be noted, could probably float an airship if the need ever arose. There’s a hardwired, ingrained, institutional sexism in these epic  tales of a man doing his bit for Queen and country; bad enough we’re cheering for a hero who is quite happy to kill people for a living, we’re also somehow comfortable as an audience with his manipulative, detached and at times abusive behaviour towards the women he comes into contact with. He’s more than willing to prey on their vulnerability and to take advantage of their sexuality to achieve his own ends, and it goes without saying that the woman in his arms as the credits roll will be out of the picture by the time the next film begins. Objectified shapes of idealised femininity fill the opening credits of all but the most recent additions to the series, demonstrating the willingness of the filmmakers, as well as their protagonist, to dehumanise women in the name of a quick thrill. Yet these abstract, nameless bodies are accompanied by the forthright, empowered sound of Shirley Bassey’s uninhibited female vocal. True enough, they’re not her own words – Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley came up with those – but the delivery very much is. I might well be clutching at straws here, after all the song itself does little but to announce the oncoming, male, villain, but it’s also worth pointing out that the lyrics act as a warning to potential victims of this character’s ire: “Beckons you to enter his web of sin / But don’t go in… Pretty girl, beware of his heart of gold / This heart is cold.”

“Goldfinger” By Shirley Bassey

Whether or not the possible assertion of a female perspective through the music can in any way justify the overwhelming misogyny that permeates almost everything else about James Bond films in general is probably the subject for a much longer discussion to be had elsewhere, but like it or not, in a time of free love and sexual revolution, 007 became a hero to the masses. By extension, the music became something that people cared about. And of course, something else that could be sold. “Goldfinger” set the benchmark high, and there are still those who say it has never been bettered, but plenty have done their best to give it a go: Tom Jones, Nancy Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Paul McCartney & Wings, Lulu, Carly Simon, Sheena Easton, Rita Coolidge, Duran Duran, A-Ha, Gladys Knight (sans her Pips), Tina Turner (performing a tune written by U2’s Bono and the Edge), Sheryl Crow, Garbage, Madonna, Chris Cornell and now the slightly unconventional coupling of Alicia Keys and Jack White. Dame Shirley herself was even brought back on two occasions in the seventies.

If I had to pick a favourite, I’d say the track to leap out from the extensive back catalogue is Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better”. With a slightly more sophisticated touch than its predecessors (and most of those which followed), the name of the song does not match the name of the film, “The Spy Who Loved Me,” but the words are surreptitiously dropped into the chorus to keep the association alive and excite the public. It’s not an overblown, orchestral number that tries to bellow harder than Shirley Bassey; it’s understated, unassuming, and of its time. It also alludes to Bond’s vanity, to his flaws, and to the fact that he doesn’t deserve his success. At its core, it still has to admit that its in love with our hero and as a theme song, it really couldn’t do anything else. But there’s just enough denial in there to keep it interesting.

“Nobody Does It Better” By Carly Simon

In the forty five years since “Goldfinger”, the announcement of who would record the song for the next Bond film has been the subject of furious interest with the arrival of each new film. The media speculate wildly, bets are taken, favourites are mooted and most of the time, everybody gets it wrong until the official, usually anticlimactic press release finally emerges. In some cases, prospective tunes actually are recorded and rejected, most notably for Tomorrow Never Dies.  Pulp, the Cardigans and St Etienne all had a go at creating a tune to played over the opening titles, but interestingly even David Arnold, who was writing the film’s orchestral score for the first time, was bumped into second place. Having drafted in David McAlmont to write the tune with him, legendary Bond lyricist Don Black came out of retirement to put words to the music. The result was performed by kd Lang, backed by a full orchestra, but in the end it was renamed “Surrender” and banished to the closing credits, in favour of the winning song, the rather unassuming affair by Sheryl Crow.

“All Time High” By Pulp

“Tomorrow Never Dies” is far from being a classic in the catalogue, but it’s notable lyrically for its perspective. It’s apparently sung from the point of view of Teri Hatcher’s character, Paris Carver, after her death: “Darling I’m killed/ I’m in a puddle on the floor/ Waiting for you to return”. The rest of the song contains allusions to Bond’s relationship with Carver, paraphrasing dialogue from their conversations and references to their situation. To say that it puts a valid female viewpoint into the film is stretching it, but to anybody actually paying attention it can be read as a relevant comment on the consequences of a lifestyle like the one led by the film’s hero. Of course, the song’s verses and their vaguely necrophilic connotations become completely irrelevant by the chorus; using the film’s title in the song makes no literal or figurative sense because it’s a terrible contrivance to sound a bit like the name of a Bond film.

Another decade on from “Tomorrow Never Dies”, and the entire franchise has been reinvented, relaunched and reinvigorated. Having finally jettisoned the use of silhouetted or atistically-lit naked women in the open credits, “Casino Royale” managed to shed a lot of the negative baggage of the past while retaining the core of the main character. Interestingly, removing the dressing which encourages the audience to adopt the same attitude as the protagonist exposes all the more the flawed, repellent nature of his personality. He may be good in a fight, but I don’t want to sit and have a drink with him. The music has been a bit of a stumbling block since this revamp. Chris Cornell, the voice of American rock band Soundgarden, recorded the sadly unmemorable theme to “Casino Royale”. Call me old-fashioned, but I was waiting for a large-lunged crooner to belt out that title in the chorus of an overblown orchestral piece. I don’t hate what we got instead, “You Know My Name”, I just can’t love it. It doesn’t feel like an old-school Bond theme, which I assume is deliberate, but it also breaks absolutely no new ground and has nothing to add to either the film or the micro-genre of Bond themes. In the end, it’s just another song for another action film soundtrack. As the release of “Quantum of Solace” looms on the horizon, the radio is busy with Jack and Alicia as they stomp their way through the loud, grimy “Another Way To Die”. I like it better than “You Know My Name” even if it has a frighteningly similar guitar riff. My preference may be down to the return of strings and horns, which make it sound much more Bond-like. It may just be down to the fact that I really like Jack White and find it difficult to find fault with anything he does. Anyway, it would seem that there’s a new rule with Bond themes: the title doesn’t get in the song. Maybe it’s sophisticated, like Carly Simon, or maybe it’s an over-cautious effort by a mammoth media corporation to avoid falling back into old clichés, but somehow it leaves me disappointed.

“Diamonds Are Forever” By Arctic Monkeys

When I started writing this piece, I listened to all twenty two themes, back to back, one after the other. It’s worthwhile if you get the chance, although you might want to skip the Madonna one. It’s difficult to see any kind of pattern in either the tunes themselves or the artists who were selected to perform them. They are without doubt all well-known, established musicians, all people who had made their name in music well before being considered for the prestigious post of Bond-theme singer, but they often weren’t in their heyday when their number came up. Lulu was way past her “Shout” days, even her moment at the Eurovision Song Contest was but a memory by the release of “The Man With The Golden Gun”. Tina Turner hadn’t been “Simply the Best” for the better part of a decade when she sat down to smokily intone the words of  “Goldeneye”. It’s not a job I’d ever want, trying to pick exactly the right artist to do the next  one, but if I was asked for my recommendations, I’d say the men for the job are obvious. Neil Hannon has been crooning his way through cinematic masterpieces for years, while the only problem with the Bond music Barry Adamson makes is that nobody’s yet made a film to go with it. As is so often the case, commerce dictates that a name should be associated with such enterprise, for some reason, so I doubt my own little dream would ever come true. In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy what we have, while pondering the implications of EU sexual harassment laws on a man who is frequently required to seduce beautiful women for the betterment of his country… and of course we’ll all just have to wait and see if that attempt at a tune for “Quantum of Solace” by Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson ever sees the light of day.But until that gets resolved, then I’d say Joe Cornish had it sewn up months ago:

And don’t forget… James Bond will return.”

Mark Standbrook

Thanks Jaws , ahem I mean Mark, so what do our friends in the pop world and beyond think ? Is Bond still relevant? Is he a misunderstood maverick, a misogynist monster or is he as smooth as a freshly buttered banister? And of course which is their favourite Bond theme ?

Laura Trouble (Screaming Ballerinas): ummmm, all I have to say on the matter is that yes,I am a Bond fan. One day I would like to play a Bond girl/villain of some sort. I have my heart set on it. I can chop peoples heads off with 7″ records and be painted with glitter or something. I could be ‘ballerina-tron’ although that sounds more like a transformer. “Goldfinger” is the best Bond tune in my opinion; it is a gargantuan feast of splendour. I think the new Bond track is confused, messy and forgettable. But I tend to change my mind on these things so it may grow on me, I doubt it though. It doesn’t sound like a Bond track at all, it sounds like two musicians with massive egos splitting the song up into tiny sections so they both have exactly the same amount of lyrics and vocals each but forgetting to  write a good song with a good tune in the process.

Nicole Atkins :
My favourite Bond theme would have to be Carly  Simon’s  from “The Spy Who Loved Me”  I like the Alicia/Jack song but I do think that only one of them should have sang the chorus. I would have probably liked it best if it was just Jack White singing it. As for Bond ?He’s kinda the shit!

Ollie Pound (Screaming Ballerinas): At the risk of being controversial,(No Ollie no! Don’t do it !!-VP) I really liked Brosnan as Bond. Why? Because to me, he was everything Bond should be. He looked like Bond, he spoke like Bond, he walked like Bond. The thing with it is, Bond is an icon – its all a fantasy, an illusion – its not real. The fact that its so far from reality at times is what makes it such a good fantasy. Bond saves the world single handed, and there’s barely a scratch on him – perfect. Why change that? its perfect escapism. On to Daniel Craig – in Casino Royal he did indeed get many things right, the mannerisms, the style – all great. I just cant ignore the fact that he walks like Vin Diesel. In a suit he looks like a rugby player at the society ball. The films more gritty, more real – it looks like Bond struggles, they want us to see that he’s just a man (albeit a very capable intelligent one). Surely though that’s not what Bond is about? Personally I cant see the point in ‘updating the Bond franchise’, it was just perfect how it was – for me anyway. These problems aside, in  Casino Royale  there was a far bigger problem- the plot. There wasn’t the huge finale you normally get, half way through it feels like it should end, then it limps on for another half hour or so. I seriously don’t understand why everyone absolutely raved about it. I’m not saying it was terrible, it just wasn’t that great.  So, the new bond film, and  new Bond theme! Surely it cant be worse than the last one? I’ve heard Jack and Alicia’s effort a few times – and in different contexts. Firstly on the radio – now as a song, it’s dreadful. You can hear all the elements shoe horned in, and clever they are – but it’s not a song. However, as a backdrop to the new Coke advert it works, so, maybe they’ve concocted a “theme”, rather than an actual song. Hey if it works I’m all for it. Just means I won’t ever be playing it, or listening to it again unless I watch the film, not like Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” which is utterly fabulous.

Dogwood :

Also hear Dogwoods views in crystal clear mono below

What my take on the great Bond debate ?  Well, there’s “Bond the bruiser” – which I like, it has a certain northern-ness about it – and then there’s “Bond the gadabout” – which I don’t like on the general basis that gadding about is a southern trait.  Craig and Connery are in the former school, as is Dalton.  Lazenby straddles both and Moore and the other oily plank of wood were firmly in the gadabout camp. Let’s dismiss the claims of Moore and smarmy feller, Brosnan , first. ‘Live and Let Die’ had its moment (the one with Jane Seymour) and the follow-up with Christopher Dracula and side-kick Diego Maradona sort of made sense but matters after that went downhill rapidly.  Moore ’s propensity for slapstick and knowing eyebrow action defied credibility in the face KGB agents and SPECTRE henchmen.  Whereas Connery could handle the sour faced Russian peasant come vengeful harridan Rosa Klebb by deftly dodging the knife in the toe of her sensible brogues, Moore would have gadded and gurned and made a right show of himself.  By the time he was attempting to bed that Jamaican he-she, Jones up the Eiffel Tower ,with Duran Duran, things had gone beyond reason.

“A View To A Kill” By Duran Duran

The plank of wood aka Brosnan, is a non-descript identikit smarm bucket whose Bond efforts leave a palpable slime trail that are tacky to the touch and sickly to behold.  Dressing an MDF cut-out in tuxedo and bow tie is a bit too obvious and the least said about the Brosnan era, the better.  So I won’t.  It was crap.So what about Dalton ?  I felt sorry for Dalton , he gets a bad press but his tenure coincided with two of the weaker plot-lines,  I liked his latent brutality.  Poor feller deserved more of a chance but the stupid sods turned to a lump of wood instead.  But I have spoken enough of Brosnan already. Lazenby-based on the slim evidence – On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – Lazenby showed his gadabout quality by playing Heraldry expert Sir Hilary and dressed up as a gormless twit in a kilt who nonetheless still managed to bed a bevy of global beauties on the top of a Swiss mountain.  His brutality was evident in the ski shots and his bedding of what Dogwood considers top Bond crumpet, Diana Rigg.  So I would have liked to have seen more of Lazenby.

On to Connery, my favourite Bond film is ‘You Only Live Twice’ where you have to admire Connery’s pluck as he allowed himself to be ‘transformed’ into a Japanese fisherman but ended up looking like Spock’s long lost cousin.  I like ‘Twice’ because Miki Berenyi’s mum is in it and that is reason enough. It also has Donald Pleasance who although not as thuggish as Telly Savalas has that creepy factor that puts other Bond Grand Dame villains in the shade.

I also like ‘Twice’ because it’s the last Bond film (up to Casino Royale) where the gadgets are kept in reasonable check.  ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ was the bridge between the hardened torso of “Connery Bond” and Arched nancy boy eyebrows of “Moore Bond.”  Chuck in a load of submersible balloons and a watch that can shoot 88mm hi-explosive shells, throw in an aerosol that can ignite Paris, a biro that qualifies as an WMD, a pack of mints that contain bubonic plague and a Kerry Katona Iceland spy kit that includes pizza slices, spring rolls and you have “Moore- Bond”.  Ridiculous.

I save the best till last.  Craig.  Any Bond that sits with his knackers hanging loose from a bottomless wicker chair only to have them thoroughly thrashed by a bit of flex and can laugh has to be the sort of chap that we need to see more of in MI5.  Craig spits on the slimy grease ball that was “Brosnan- Bond” and makes a grudging nod towards “Connery Bond”.  He is his own Bond with not a hint of gadding about.  Just unabashed, barely suppressed violence that will have any clinically insane multi-Billionaire cat stroking Industrialist who is constructing a massive laser on a space station in Earth’s orbit ready to take out Milton Keynes, think twice.

Bond will always win.  Why?  Because the villains are invariably too inefficient in their methods of dispatching Bond! Having gotten Bond in a tight spot, instead of disposing of  him with a quick shot to the head they concoct a ludicrously convoluted method of death involving Piranhas or snakes or a non-deadly bird eating spider. If Bond is continually thwarting you Blofeld, why insist on the most theatrical method of murder? Just kill him and be done with it. And so I conclude my views on Bond. As for the new song, I wasn’t convinced until I saw the video which features a healthy glimpse of Alicia Keys’ thighs. Now I can listen to it happily, so long as the video’s playing.

Marcella Puppini ( the Puppini Sisters ): I am not a massive Bond fan. It’s a bit like the Beatles and Bjork: I can see what they’re doing, but it doesn’t rock my boat. Having said that, I really do love some of the Bond tunes. I, rather embarrassingly, have a bit of a soft spot for Wings (it must have been Linda’s keyboard skills), so I love Live and Let Die. Of course I also love “Goldfinger”, but that’s less of a dark secret.

“Live And Let Die” By Paul McCartney and Wings

Ragz: I’m afraid I too am rather neutral on the Bond theme issue…”Goldfinger” is the one tune that left me  shaken and stirred and I love it, but not much else has affected me much 007 wise. Mind you, Ursula Andress still has me spinning after emerging from the sea in that white bikini of hers ;-)The tune that was  Tina Turners turn  turned my stomach slightly, tho I suppose I have to admit  she did a smashing job singing it.

Emmy The Great : I did hear the new Bond theme and even I know it totally sucks. Did Sheryl Crow do one? If she did, even her one was better. My best friend the obsessive played it to me and all I could think was SHIRLEY BASSEY. Like if you knew that your song would be held up against Shirley Bassey singing Goldfinger, would you really allow it to suck that hard from beginning to end? I thought Alicia Keys was cooler than that. And how come they didn’t let Amy Winehouse do it? It clearly would have been amazing. Is it because they thought her image would be dangerous to the James Bond brand? I thought James Bond was supposed to be dangerous. They played “Live And Let Die” at the cinema today and I thought that was pretty good. Wow i just looked up Bond music and found out that Chris Cornell did one. Bet that was a good one.

Matt Geary (The Lieutenant’s Mistress); For me, Bond is a wonderful, classical, institution borne of paradoxes and contradiction. He is deemed the pinnacle of gentlemanly conduct despite bedding a different woman in every film – many of which end up dead. His choice of beverage is refined, with a recipe known throughout the world, but one which draws scorn from cocktail connoisseurs. He is thought of as the classic Englishman but has been played by a Scotsman, an Australian, a Welshmen, an Irishman and a piece of wood (before Daniel Craig’s spell). He is a negative, alcohol sodden, sexist, existential manifestation of the author that created him who later wrote the saccharin-tinged children’s story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The greatest paradox however is the concept of the “Bond theme”. The actual “John Barry” theme is one of the most recognisable pieces of music in the world. Whilst it has been incarnated many times and in different ways it’s presence, like the Aston Martin, gadgetry and a sexually liberal temptress, is crucial and raises a smile upon its incidence. Likewise, the single that precedes the release of the latest film, and the montage as the movie starts are all crucial to the mystique of Bond.

It seems that the key to a good Bond theme is to regurgitate the title or a line from the film in the song, pick a powerful female vocal, have a big name involvement with heavy orchestration and add as much drama as possible into a song which is otherwise a cash-in and an extension of “the franchise”. This brings us to “Another Way To Die”. In potentially the greatest mismatch since Peter Crouch and Abby Clancy, David Arnold granted the honour of writing the Bond theme to a man known for raw and raucous guitar led pop songs upon the suggestion of his collaborating with a vocal gymnast. The hope for this, I imagine being that, in lieu of the predicted Winehouse/Ronson partnership, the combination of another musician cum producer and a big name screecher would work as well as it had for previous Bond themes.

I have to be honest; I was expecting to hate the song. I couldn’t imagine the artists working together, I was disappointed that the song had a different title to the film (although in fairness, this one was never going to scan that well and they did manage to shoehorn the word “Solace” into the lyrics), White’s production has traditionally proved far from grand and the last minute appointment boded badly. However, the things that I had feared were not in fact to prove the problem with the track. The song is hideously forgettable (at the moment I actually can’t even remember anything but the riff that’s on the Coke advert), Alicia Keys’ anxious, histrionic caterwauling duel is unnecessary, adds nothing to the track and the first duet in Bond history proves to be an experiment that should probably be buried to confines of history. Saying that, the track isn’t entirely bad. The production is more in keeping with Bond themes than I had first given it credit for and the track has at the very least shown a smeered foothold on the slippery slope that Bond themes had been cruising down. In fact, when placed against its recent peers (Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” and Madonna’s “Die Another Day”) it appears to be the closest thing to a sympathetic Bond theme that we’ve had in years. Unfortunately the niggle still appears to be that, although fundamentally not an offensive track and in spite of any Bond affiliations, as a song it still isn’t very good.

Ross ( Screaming Ballerinas) ; Thought Pierce Brosnan was a good Bond but not a massive fan of the films. The best bond for me was Roger Moore, with  these also being the best Bond films. My favourite has to be either ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ or “For Your Eyes Only’, although pretty much all of them were better than the all the others . I think he did  7 in all. As for the Bond theme, don’t really have an opinion on the new one, don’t think its all that though, best theme is probably ‘Live And Let Die’ its a good song, although I also like ‘Nobody Does It Better’ New film looks pretty good though so might have to check it out.

Vote Show Pony: The reason I love Bond films so much is because they are so ridiculously over the top, fun and camp in fact it’s no wonder I love them so much as I think Bond films are Vote Show Pony in film form! What with the double entendres & the way Bond can jump off a cliff straight into the helm of a plane, what is not to love? Unfortunately since hunky Daniel Craig morphed into Bond, the sense of fun has faded & this makes me feel slightly annoyed quite frankly! I don’t want my Bond moody & macho. I bet Daniel Craig as Bond would never reply to Pussy Galore’s announcement of her outrageous name with the famous line “I must be dreaming.” Who decided messing with the formula was a good idea I ask you? OK, so Daniel Craig coming out of the sea in those tiny blue shorts was a fabulous moment of posing. Which admittedly made me think perhaps there was potential for fun, but that was about it for me. So I say bring back names like Pussy Galore & ladies painted in gold, but most of all bring back that good old fashioned fun that made Bond films so brilliant. Rant over!

Von Pip: I haven’t been a big Bond fan since Moore minced and preened his way on to the screen, with his annoying mole and his eye-brows acting as dual circonflexe’s over both eyes. “Live and Let Die” was ok but  the whole franchise quickly descended into an uber-camp pantomime. And Moore popularised the ludicrous “safari suit”, which are all well and good when on safari, but it was extremely disconcerting to be walking into Birkenhead town centre only to come across the lads from the local  Kwik-fit on a day off, dressed as Stuart Grainger in big game hunter mode ala “King Solomon’s Mines”. After “The Man With the Golden Gun” things got worse and  Kenneth Williams shouting “Oooh , Oooooh Seven,  Matron” would have made a less ludicrous Bond. Moore’s performances spiraled ever downward and contained more ham then a butcher’s window in Parma.   I prefer Connery, he had a cheeky sense of tongue in cheek (oo-er) fun, without resorting to OTT camp panto mode ala Moore.  As for the new “gritty Bond” well why not leave that “realisim” to Bourne and the like?  Bond was always larger than life and not rooted in reality, I mean I never really took his incessant “nobbing” seriously, t’was all a bit OTT male fantasy really.  As for the new “theme” it really is dire, a horrible, contrived mess, you almost hear them thinking, “hmmm not Bond enough”as they crowbar in some “classic Bond elements” . I feel like one of the few people on gods green earth who just doesn’t “get” Jack White at all, what on earth is all the fuss about? He plays guitar from the  Black Sabbeth school of “raaawk” and howls at the moon like a castarted cat.  Best bond theme ? Well it has to be between Shirley, Carly and Louis. Mind you I am quite interested in how Daniel Craig fares as he went to the local school in my area in t’Wirral.  I also recall him as a rent boy come porn baron in “Our Friends In the North” (that’s a TV show not real life for southern readers 😉  ) and rather good he was too, despite the dodgy wig.  Maybe the last word should go to a family friend who went to school with  Mr.Craig. “Daniel was a small, sickly child, with weak, watery eyes and a constant  runny nose, if somebody had of told me he’d  grow up to become James Bond I would have laughed in their face”.

“We Have All the Time In The World” By Louis Armstrong

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Shoot You Down-The Bookhouse Boys Interview

The Bookhouse Boys Interview By Andy Von Pip

“Dead” By The Bookhouse Boys

“Shoot You Down” By The Bookhouse Boys

Two’s company, threes a crowd, the devil is six and god is seven, and nine is number of members in The Bookhouse Boys, a band based in London whose catchphrase could well be, to paraphrase Police Chief Brody in Jaws, “We’re gonna need a bigger bus”. The band take their name from the secret society with vigilante tendencies, who appeared in David Lynch’s strange and surreal cult classic “Twin Peaks” they have often spoken of their love of movies and soundtracks and this influence is certainly manifest within their eponymous debut album with stunning results. It’s a sound that conjures up images of Tombstone, The Doolin Gang, Nick Cave fronting Dick Dale and The Deltones, and Johnny Cash discovering surf punk, in fact if Tarantino or Lynch ever took it upon themselves to direct a spaghetti western, The Bookhouse Boys should definitely be included on the soundtrack. Between them (deep breath) Paul Van Oestren (vocals/guitar), Catherine Turner (vocals), Chris Pollard (guitar), Pete Emms (drums), William Emms (bass), JP Fellows (keyboards), Heddy Korachi-Alaoui (drums), Natty Defriend (trumpet), and Charlie Beringer (trumpet) have produced an album of such style, depth and quality that it’s sometimes difficult to comprehend that this is the DEBUT album. It demonstrates the richness, style and confidence of seasoned campaigners, but retains the hungry freshness of a band on the threshold of a great musical journey, they are a group who appear to posses an intuitive ability to surprise, delight and intrigue the listener whilst enticing them into their absorbing, richly drawn world of light and shade and all that falls in between!

The album has something to suit every mood, there’s the rollicking Gothic surf-rock of “Dead” the dark celebratory vindication of “Tonight” whilst “Shoot you Down” crackles with sexual tension as Paul Van Oestren growls “I give up the world for you/Now I open my doors to you/I’ll take off your skirt for you/And bury my dirt in you.” To which (and lets be honest, the extremly beautiful) Catherine Turner responds “You’re quite the boy for me/ every good girls fantasy/This is my excuse to Shoot You Down”.  In fact if this band aren’t massive next year then I’ll eat my hat, I’ll eat  Jack “The Hat” McVitie’s hat, indeed I’ll eat anybody who “leaves their hat and calls it their home’s hat!”  (“Excuse me sir, is this your hat?” -“That? No mate, don’t be daft,  that’s my home …” Cuckoo!!) Yup, I’ll  bet my life savings that the Bookhouse Boys are going to be MASSIVE ! I simply must see them live soon ! Living in the North is such a burden! Maybe Tim Leunig’s Policy Exchange report was right! We should all move down south ! At least we’d get to see more of the  bands for whom we profess deep adoration   😉

I spoke to Will and Catherine about the debut album, their influences, this and that and yes, even the other.

VP:  How did the idea for the band come about, were you all friends before hand?

Catherine: Everyone was friends with somebody else but the band was never really intended to be a band, it kind of happened by itself. Paul had written a handful of songs and played them to a couple of us and we loved them. I think it was James who told Paul he should definitely play the songs live and the rest of us signed up or were drafted in for this impromptu gig. We just didn’t stop.

Will – Indeed. Friends and friends of friends and family were recruited until the Bookhouse Boys took shape.

VP: You’ve been described variously as Nick Cave fronting the B-52s, Tarantino meets Twin Peaks, Johnny Cash goes surf-punk and there’s certainly a cinematic quality to your debut album, was this intentional or did your influences just naturally manifest themselves when recording the album.?

Catherine: I think Paul did have this overriding idea of a cinematic sound which got naturally bigger with the band. I wouldn’t say there were any conscious or deliberate influences beyond that, although inevitably there are artists and sounds that are the common ground between us.

VP: There are nine band members, do you all share a love of similar music or would you say you all have widely varying tastes?

Catherine: Both. There are staples of albums that go on in the tour van that we’re unlikely to disagree on but then there is everything else!! I think individually everybody has a broad music taste and so together it’s pretty wide, yeah.

Will – Yeah with as many of us as there are, inevitably our collective tastes are going to be pretty broad. We’ve got most bases covered.

VP: You’re named after the secret society on Twin Peaks , so it’s safe to say you’re big fan of David Lynch? What is it that seems to appeal to musicians about Lynch’s work and what would you say is his finest moment?

Catherine: I think maybe I’m a bit of a fraudulent Lynch fan because there are still some of his classics I haven’t seen. I’m sure people are drawn to him for different reasons. Musically his long-term collaboration with Angelo Badalamenti is part of the character of his films, it isn’t a case of a soundtrack being rush laid over at the end. Singers and musicians appear in the films and the characters interact with the soundtrack. Maybe that’s appealing to musicians, I don’t know… As far as his finest hour, it really is  Twin Peaks for me.

Will: Paul is a pretty huge Twin Peaks fan but I think we decided that the other day that Catherine came up with name. Ah, who cares. I agree with Catherine. The music is always pretty integral to the storylines in David Lynch movies, whether that be just some really atmospheric drones, someone miming to a 50s classic or a full on sax blowout. I’m working my way through his films but Blue Velvet is pretty good and the first half of Lost Highway too.

VP: Apparently you do a dark cover of Kylies “Confide in Me” live, how did that come about, are you fans?

Catherine: We were asked to play an acoustic set last year and some of our songs wouldn’t translate properly. We wrote a couple of new songs for it including The Valley, which made the album, and had an idea of adding a cover as well. I suggested “Confide In Me” because I love it – I think it’s my favourite ever pop song. Playing it on the mandolin made it sound sinister but actually, Kylie’s version is pretty dark!

VP: What’s been the highlight of 2008 for the band?

Catherine: It’s got to be playing the Uncut tent at Latitude. We’ve never seen so many people or heard ourselves so loud. Every second was brilliant.

Will: Yeah. That was pretty amazing. Our album launch back in August was pretty fantastic too. Great to play some of the numbers on the album that don’t normally get an airing. And what a crowd!

VP: What are your views on Digital music, file sharing and the use of the internet as a means of promoting your music, without needing a huge budget to get your songs heard?

It’s not something I’ve ever really thought that much about. I don’t buy music digitally myself, partly because I’m a technophobe, and because I like having something tactile in my hands to take apart and paw over. Saying that though, I think the use of the internet for new artists is invaluable. I definitely go hunting on myspace for new finds. As a friend said the other day it’s great ’cause you start on the page of a band you know and love and then follow the white rabbit down the hole, you can be in there for hours! And everyone can use the internet now right?

Will: We have tried to make our releases so far as beautiful as possible and things to treasure. Cover art and inner sleeves etc are what makes a record more than just a collection of songs. It’s been a while, but I have bought records in the past just on the strengths of the sleeve and made some great discoveries. Someone will inevitably upload a record onto a file sharing site but I suppose the rationale is that if you make something beautiful people will want to have it.

Also if you take making money from music out of the equation any way that a band’s music reaches people should be encouraged and then with a bit of luck they might come to a show to see you which is where the enjoyment is to be had as a band.

VP:  What’s in the pipeline for the remainder of 2008 and 2009?

Will: The next single “I Can’t Help Myself” is out in a couple of weeks. We’ve got a big show at the ICA on the 11th of November that we are all really looking forward to and then who knows. There is talk of getting out of the country and possibly even the hemisphere to play some shows in the New Year but everything is pretty embryonic at the moment.

VP: Any upcoming bands you reckon may make it big in 09?

Catherine: Us hopefully! No, erm… I’d like good things to happen to Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit because that album is remarkable.

Will: Yep. The more people that hear Johnny’s record the better. He’s got something pretty special.

VP: I normally finish with the question “Sum up the band in five words”; however you may need nine perhaps?

Catherine: Paul, Chris, Pete, James, Catherine, Heddy, Natty, Charlie, Will!
(VP: Hahaha! nice one!)

Will: Nine people trying to make a beautiful noise together


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“I Can’t Help Myself” By The Bookhouse Boys

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Rage Against the Tantrum-Thomas Tantrum Interview

“Swan Lake” By Thomas Tantrum

“Blase” By Thomas Tantrum

Thomas Tantrum is not a character in a Horrid Henry novel, which will no doubt come as a relief, I’m sure you don’t fancy sitting through a review of Henry’s gormless adventures alongside his charm free pals, Perfect Peter, Moody Margaret, Brainy Brian and Rude Ralph. In any case Horrid Henry is an unmitigated little shit of the highest order and if there’s any justice the day will surely arrive when there are consequences to his disgraceful behaviour. “Horrid Henry Goes To A Young Offenders Institution” would be a fitting finale to this rather irresponsible series, I feel!  Happily Thomas Tantrum is a fabulous four piece band from Southampton , home of Benny Hill, King Canute and erm Craaaaig Daaaaavid, whose mercurial type of idiosyncratic adrenaline fueled punky fizz-bomb pop has been getting rave reviews this year, resulting in sagacious nods of approval being cast in their direction from the likes of Glasvegas, The Futureheads and Lily Allen. Fronted by Indie poster-girl-in-waiting, the winsome and charismatic Megan Thomas, the band ooze, style, nonchalance, and charm, they have produced a glittering debut album and have illuminated the pop firmament this year with the sheer incandescent life affirming power of their tunes.

The fragile beauty of Megan’s extraordinary vocals which seem to come from the very vault of heaven, combined with the bands unusually structured songs and playful oblique lyrics really do make Thomas Tantrum stand head and shoulders above their Indie peers. To call Thomas Tantrum “random” would in this case, not be a misuse of the Queen’s English as they do produce the unexpected. Some have lazily compared Megan to Kate Nash in terms of her delivery, which can at times be half-conversational and also to Kate Bush in terms of her pitch which can climb to a tremulous falsetto, but whatever the merits or otherwise of such comparisons the fact is  Megan’s voice and inflection contain a unique allure, it’s a voice which readily adds a poignant beauty to some of the bands finest moments, when she sings “Dancing with you/When I’m falling apart/ Dancing with you, when you don’t have a he-aaart” (Swan Lake), the numbed heartbreak is palpable-you feel it !

Megan, is of course not alone and is part of a tight musical outfit made up of Dave Miatt (guitar), Ken Robshaw (drums), and Jim Shivers (bass) whom expertly perform all manner of stop- start machine-gun heroics with their instruments, often wrong footing you with a change of pace in an incredibly exciting and spontaneous fashion. Heck! This is the reason I love music so much, which in turn is the reason I love Thomas Tantrum so much (and so on and so forth.) Listening to their album is a dizzyingly, giddy affair, rather like rolling down a hill head first at breakneck speed with a mouthful of sherbet, whilst lemonade bubbles explode up your nostrils! It’s disorientating and full of energetic, spiky effervescence, it’s knowing, yet naïve, tough, yet vulnerable, it’s as catchy as hell and it is of course, hugely enjoyable. The album bounds forth from your speakers like an endearing puppy, full of enthusiasm, eager to please and with an innate sense of fun, it’s chock full of bounce, vigour and sass and it just won’t rest until you join in the fun too.  Thomas Tantrum produce the sort of sound that you’d imagine Eddie Argos’ sister would make whilst discovering Elastica/The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s/Lush/ Lena Lovitch and Fight Like Apes, yes it’s that good! So don’t “Rage Against The Tantrum”, embrace it, hang on for dear life and enjoy the rollercoaster ride that is Thomas Tantrum! I grabbed a word with Megan on the phone just before the band flew out to Florence to commence another round of relentless gigging!

VP:  How did the band actually come about and where did the name come from?

MEGAN: Well I’d been friends with Dave for a while and we used to play like, acoustic jams together, we always wanted to be in a band and felt we could expand the sound, then we met Ken and Jim and it started from there really. The name wasn’t  about my surname as such; it was just mentioned by a friend at a party, “why not call your band “Thomas Tantrum”. I thought actually, yeah that sounds a bit different and stands out. I mentioned it to the guys and they agreed.

VP: Your debut album is ace, was it fun to record and did the finished version meet your expectations?

MEGAN: Ahh thanks  to be honest it was quite a shock, we’d only ever recorded some demos before so when we went to Halifax to record the album, we had like twenty different guitars to chose from . Ken had this amazing drum kit , we were definitely  pleased with the result, I think early Thomas Tantrum was quite jagged and edgy , and the album took some of the rough edges off and took it to the next level .

VP: What have been your personal highlights of 2008?

MEGAN: Playing the Reading festival was definitely a highlight, we were put on the bill quite late, and we’re a bit worried we mightn’t get a good crowd, some of the bands on earlier, hadn’t pulled a huge crowd at the smaller stages. Luckily when we came on we had an amazing crowd, there were a lot of photographers there, and we got televised on BBC Three so we were delighted!  Supporting Glasvegas has been great too, they are amazing and we just felt we clicked with them.

VP: Do you ever get nervous playing to big crowds like Reading and the Glasvegas shows

MEGAN: Not anymore, as we’ve played so many gigs now, I suppose it depends on the crowd, if they are really up for it it’s great. Occasionally an audience just stand there and you think, why bother coming to a gig if you don’t try and get involved ! Mind you when we supported the Dirty Pretty Things at The Roundhouse I looked out and it was so HUGE, I felt a bit wobbly!

VP: What’s the scene like in Southampton is it difficult for new bands to get heard?

MEGAN: Well it’s quite a small town, and sometimes you might think there’s nothing going on, but actually there are a lot of decent promoters who want to put on new bands so it’s a pretty good scene really. We did an NME –In The City feature and wondered initially what we’d say about Southampton, but it went pretty well.

VP: Had an weird experiences in your time in the band?

MEGAN: Hmmm Weird experiences? Well there was one guy on myspace, who had no profile picture or anything, who used to send me photos of spanners!! Every week he’d send me a different photo of a spanner , I’d be like “Ah here we go,  here’s this weeks “spanner of the week” Then it stopped  ! -That was pretty weird!

VP : Ok so on to your songs and writing style, now I  haven’t stop playing the album, but I must confess I’m a bit unsure what some of the songs are actually about ?

I suppose people mightn’t get them in one sense as they are very personal, but I also think music and lyrics  work best when people take their own meanings. Sometimes you can say something by putting an emphasis on certain words it’s not just what you say,  how you say something  can add a certain weight to it , mind you I suppose a lot of people don’t know what I’m on about sometimes !  Hopefully people can take what they want from them..

VP: What have been your records of the year so far?

MEGAN: Well I don’t want to sound like I’m sucking their arse, but I really do love the Glasvegas album , it’s such a great record.  Have you  heard Bon Ivor? His albums incredible, when his band split up he just went off to a hut on his own in the middle of nowhere and recorded this amazing album about an old girlfriend.

VP: Who would you say your musical influences are?

MEGAN: We all come from different musical backgrounds, but influences are stuff like Television, Elastica , Sonic Youth ,The Yeah,Yeah,Yeahs (who we are often compared to) and a band called the Delta 5.

VP: Blimey I remember  the Delta 5, I didn’t think many people had heard of them!! I had a song on 7” by them from years ago called “Mind Your Own Business.

MEGAN: Oh yeah that’s a wicked song!  We all like different things, for example our drummer Ken is into dance music and has his own side project 22 10 In The Pen. I do my own solo stuff and Jim and Dave have their own side projects too.

VP: What was the first single you can remember buying?

MEGAN: Haha, well it’s a bit embarrassing …my taste was very different back then …It was “Gangsta’s Paradise ” By Coolio. I even performed it in a music lesson; complete with a little dance and a backwards cap, but ermmm…I think we’ll leave that one there.

VP: Hahaha! If only they had  Youtube in those days eh ? So you could have been a Hip-Hop R &B gal?

MEGAN: Yeah, ha-ha I could of gone either way, actually my sister is a big R&B fan, I don’t really see the point in it.

VP: And finally what have you got planned for the remainder of 2008 and for 2009 ?

MEGAN: Well we have some more dates with Glasvegas, then we are off to Japan with Cajun Dance Party which should be wicked. I think next year we’d like to spend a bit more time writing, as we haven’t had much time this year apart from a few acoustic sessions in hotel rooms!  2009 I think we’ll tour the album a bit more, and then maybe record a single?  I don’t think we’ll be looking at recording another album until the end of 2009

VP:  Ok Thanks Megan I’ll let you go as you’re off to Florence in a few days?

MEGAN : Yeah should be good but it  looks like we’ll  not be getting much sleep -nice to talk to you Andy, cheers.


On Myspace

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NME: 8 / 10 “A rare example of genuine danceable twee indie disco-pop”

The Times: 4/5 “An art rock party band. All wit and fizz here.”

The Guardian: 3/5 “A hot and sweaty hissy-fit, both guileless and knowing, frustrating and charming”

The VPME: 10/10 “The best album this year”

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“Work it” By Thomas Tantrum

“Pshandy” By Thomas Tantrum

I love this band!

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Fisherman’s Blues-Port O’Brien Interview

“Close The Lid” By Port O’Brien

“Have you heard that new album by Pat O’Brien?” a friend said. “Pat O’Brien???” I retorted with no small amount of incredulity? As it happens, I love old gangster films, and Pat O’Brien starred in many classic movies of this genre, he cornered the market in earnest, clean living,honest Irish cops/priests/FBI agents and was forever trying to show Jimmy Cagney and his wayward chums the path of righteousness. But the man whom Chief O’Hara from the camp 60’s TV version of Batman was surely based, make an album? Not only did I find this an amazing proposition, but also considered the fact Mr. O’Brien died in 1982 a major obstacle in the making of said “new album”. Of course my ears had deceived me, I had foolishly misheard my chum, he’d actually asked if I’d heard the new album by Port O’Brien” and so I listened,ever one to try new experiences and was swept up in their thrall, I was truly impressed by the reflective, joyous music this band produced,  and I therefore resolved to find out more…

Port O’Brien began early in 2005, comprising of Van Pierszalowski and Cambria Goodwin.  The two penned songs while Cambria lived in the tiny Californian coastal town she shares her name with and Van lived in an apartment in Oakland…which was about the size of his name.  Shortly thereafter, Cambria moved to up to the Bay Area and within the next year, the project added a rhythm section, comprised of Caleb Nichols and Joshua Barnhart.  Every summer, Van worked on his father’s commercial salmon fishing boat, the Shawnee, on Kodiak Island in Alaska.  The work was exhausting and the weather could be much better, but the contrast between the serenity of the wilderness and the rigorousness of the labor seemed to cause quite a bit of musical inspiration.  Meanwhile, on land and around the corner, Cambria worked as the Head Baker at Larsen Bay.  For the first time this summer, Caleb also joined the ranks at the cannery, and their cumulative efforts while up in a latitude and longitude few of us may ever see resulted in the creation of the songs that comprise the band’s first studio-recorded album “ALL WE COULD DO WAS SING.” Because when you’re working all day in the freezing cold, what the hell else are you going to do?

“Fisherman’s Son” speaks of the frustrating, yet contented thought of destiny.  “Don’t Take My Advice” captures the endless quest for settling, while remaining in awe of the entire world to explore.  “In Vino Veritas” expresses the flurry of emotion caused by isolation, while emerged in substance.

They became a touring machine after  the critically lauded M. Ward first named Port O’Brien his Favorite New Band on Pitchfork Media.  They have performed with several of their favorite artists; touring the United States with Rogue Wave, the West Coast with both Bright Eyes and the Cave Singers, and England with Modest Mouse. Now, Port O’Brien is readying itself to take on the rest of the world, but before they do so, a grilling from the Von Pip Express will test their endurance and see exactly what they are made of ! And so it came to pass VP met VP, (the unspeakable meets the unpronounceable perhaps?) for a brief chat ahead of Port O’Brien’s UK and European dates

Von Pip: Was Port O’Brien initially a solo project that grew into a fully fledged band?And where did the name come from?

Van Pierszalowski: Port O’Brien started as a folk-ish duo of Cambria and I and developed into a full band after we started playing in traditional venues.  The name comes from a now-abandoned salmon cannery on Kodiak Island in Alaska where my parents met in the late 60s.

Von Pip: Song writing? Do you write together or separately and then get together to share your ideas?

Van Pierszalowski: We used to write separately in Alaska and put the songs together when we met up.  Now that we have been spending more time on the road and in California, we have been writing together.  Usually, one of us starts a song, and we go from there.

Von Pip: Much has been made of the fact that you worked on your Dads fishing boat in Alaska, did you enjoy the experience, did you find it a source of inspiration for song writing or were you too busy to think about music?

Van Pierszalowski: It is one of the principal inspirations for a lot of the songs on All We Could Do Was Sing.  It is incredibly difficult work.. up to 20 hour work days in the freezing cold with no toilet, shower, TV, internet, etc.  It’s an isolated experience.. In the few minutes of down time, playing guitar is basically all I do.

Von Pip: Your debut studio album “All we can Do is Sing” has been described as, “the sound of a bunch of friends with a great ear for melody singing their hearts out”. Would you say that’s an apt description? Was it fun to make?

Van Pierszalowski: It was incredibly fun to make.  We are in all a really good head space when we recorded the album.  Things were just starting to get exciting for us, and we had this amazing excitement floating around all of us.

Von Pip: Who are your musical heroes?

Van Pierszalowski: Neil Young, Kurt Cobain, and Lily Allen.

Von Pip: What have been the “stand out” moments of your time together as a band?

Van Pierszalowski: There have been so many!  Here are a few:  getting chased by an obese broom-wielding woman in Oklahoma after shooting off fireworks, urinating on the side of the road only to discover it was a historical Civil War battleground site, shooting a roman candle at another band on a desert highway on the way to SXSW.. The list goes on….

Von Pip: When you’re not performing or writing how do you relax?

Van Pierszalowski: I like to watch the news.

Von Pip:  What are your plans for the remainder of the year and 2009?

Van Pierszalowski: Finishing up our Euro tour, then touring the States with Crooked Fingers, then coming back to Germany for two weeks with Get Well Soon and Herman Dune.. Then we want to record our next album in January.. And then we tour Australia in early Feb!!!

Von Pip: How does playing venues in Europe compare to the U.S. Do you get a different crowd reaction in different countries?

Van Pierszalowski: Generally speaking, Europe is way friendlier and more fun to play for.  The venues treat us better, the people are more into it and it’s just so much more exciting in general.

Von Pip:  Five words to sum up the last 12 months?

Van Pierszalowski: Food..  No sleep.  Amplified music.


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“I Woke Up Today” By Port O’Brien

“In Vino Veritas” By Port O’Brien

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BT Digital Music Awards 2008 -Thank you

In with a bullet! The VPME climbs this years digital music award chart! Click here for the results.

Not wanting to get all luvvy and Paltrow-esque, darlings, but I’d like to thank all the amazing bands who joined in plus big thanks to Mister Lion, Dogwood, Elz, Robb Dobbs, Laura and Ollie, Matt, Nick, Jason, Bethan E, Nicole, Rose, Alastair, Holly & Karen, Miki, Phil and Emma, Julia & Simon, JK, Neale, Marcella, Becki and not forgetting Dave (pronounced Ernst) and every one who joined in the reviews, and last but not least everyone who voted. Cheers, VP x

PS / Congratulations to the winner, not only have they provided a site worthy of winning, they have also dispelled the popular myth that Oasis fans can’t write 😉

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Desktop Confessional-Camera Obscura Interview

“Let’s Get Out Of This Country” By Camera Obscura

“Anti-Western” By Camera Obscura

Every time I go to Scotland it rains, it even seems to rain in between showers up there. So when Travis posed the question “Why Does It Always Rain on Me?” The answer was patently obvious, “it’s ‘cos you’re from Scotland mate!” It truly has been for me, at least, the land of “ High Land Hard Rain.” Yet for a country that has such a chilly climate, and famed thistles that look almost circumcisional in aspect, you would reflect that it would possibly be the last place on earth a kilt would be deemed an appropriate form of attire. However, despite the weather, I’m quite fond of Scotland ; it is the home not only of my forefathers and whiskey but also of some of my favourite music and Glasgow ’s Camera Obscura certainly meet the “fave band” criteria.

Their wonderfully dreamy, swirling 60’s tinged, tear-stained tunes, relating tales of heartbreak and disappointment never fail to lift my mood, despite the subject matter (savouring the schadenfreude no doubt! 😉 ) Camera Obscura’s lyrics often deal with failed relationships and the emotional wreckage thereafter, a world where heartbreak is an inevitable consequence of love, and longing, regret plus the occasional dash of bitterness take centre stage. Yet often the melodies sound so carefree, so jaunty, that one imagines they could even elicit a few dance moves from The Duke of Dour himself, Gordon Brown, as their sound truly does provide, honey to the lemon, so to speak. The slower less upbeat numbers are haunting, reflective and strangely comforting, like a big cup of musical hot chocolate served by a buxom lass called Morag beside a roaring log fire on a cold winter’s night. Then of course there is the voice, very much like an actual Camera Obscura, which involves drawing light into a dark place, Tracyanne Campbell’s gorgeous mellifluous vocals could illuminate the most tenebrous of atmospheres, at times so melancholic it can move you to tears, yet at the same time, provide a warm comforting glow (I think the word I’m looking for here is bitter-sweet!) The band’s philosophy is possibly best encapsulated by Tracyanne, who, when asked what makes her happy, responded thus; “Listening to music . . . but usually when it makes me feel sad.”…Of course extremes of emotion so often provide the fuel for great music and indeed art. I can’t think of many songwriters who have based a successful career on writing songs with reference to having a “fair to middling day”, being on “an even keel” or DJ’s naming their remix the “Pretty Average, Slightly Bland Mix”

Since the bands formation in 1996 they have gained many loyal fans, including their late, great, mate, John Peel (appearing regularly in his “Festive 50” and performing at his 65th Birthday party, just months before his death.) Rather fittingly there is a Doctor Who novel called “Camera Obscura” which involves one of the Doctors hearts being captured, this is something I can definitely relate to, as when it comes to this band they captured mine some time ago. I spoke to Camera Obscura’s Carey Lander to find out if the band have a special vault type thing used to store this huge collection of captured hearts gathered on their travels…..erm…or something…

VP: So the band originally formed around 1996, how did you all meet up?

CAREY: Gavin and Tracyanne are the two original members, the rest of us have been ensnared along the way. Glasgow ’s a pretty small place so I guess we just bumped into each other at some point.

VP: Was there a collective idea of what sort of sound you wanted to produce and who would you say your musical influences are?

CAREY: I think it’s important that individual band members have some kind of shared love of music and an idea about how they’d like to sound but it maybe isn’t as considered as some people think. I think we’re all very respectful of music from the 50s and 60s and the love of that sound is a big part of the music we make but we’ve also got our own particular weaknesses. Gav loves Joy Division and New Order with an unquenchable enthusiasm, Lee has a more punk past, Tracyanne is deeply sympathetic to 80s music. It hopefully stops us becoming a predictable pastiche.

VP: It’s been a while since your last album “Let’s Get Out Of This Country” but apparently you have a new one recorded, any news on a release date and tour?

CAREY: The new album is finished, mixed and mastered but it won’t be out till next year. There lots of stuff that needs to be done first but we’re really pleased with it can’t wait for people to hear it and to play the songs live.

VP: “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken” it could be said is one of your most popular songs and is in response to Lloyd Coles “Are You ready To Be Heartbroken” how did the song come about?

CAREY: I guess the question from Lloyd Cole’s song has just been reverberating around in Tracyanne’s head for a couple of decades and popped up when she was writing. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t something she set out to purposefully address. I’m still quite amazed by that song and how well it turned out because I remember thinking it was really odd and that no one would like it when we were just starting work on it.

VP: You are among the great bands that have emerged from Scotland over the last few decades, who are your favourite artists from Scotland, past and present?

CAREY: Ah well…thanks. We love Cocteau Twins, Orange Juice, The Pastels, Teenage Fanclub, Arab Strap, The Vaselines and tons of others.

VP: How has 2008 been? A year to remember?

CAREY: I hope so. It’s intentionally been a fairly quiet year for the band in terms of touring but that’s because we’ve been working on the new record. We’re also about to do our first trip to Asia which ought to be fairly special. It’s been quite nice for us to have a bit of time off and a stab at a normal life this year. I’ve enjoyed the break and I’m looking forward to next year which is bound to be pretty mental with a new album to promote.

VP: In your time together as a band what have been the highlights so far, and what have been your weirdest experiences ?

CAREY: Actually recording the albums is always a brilliant experience. It’s intense and scary and challenging but when you’re proud of something it’s a good feeling. A lot of the touring has been great too. I would never have seen much of the world without getting to tour with the band. Playing in Mexico City was a highlight for all of us. As was playing at John Peel’s birthday party for his 65th.
I think maybe the weirdest thing is just the lifestyle in general. It’s strange spending so much time away from home with the same small bunch of people. It’s also weird how you can spend days travelling to get to somewhere to play a show for 45 minutes and then spending days travelling back again. It’s also odd trying to fit back into normal life when you get home. Touring sort of spoils you. I think I’ll feel restless forever.

VP: What’s been the biggest single change you’ve noticed in the music biz since you started? The internet? I-tunes? MySpace?

CAREY: A lot’s happened in the last ten years. I think Myspace has been an interesting thing for us because it’s a nice easy way to have contact with fans and for people to hear your music, but its probably digital music that’s been the most important development. That’s been a positive and a negative. Music piracy seems to be a bigger problem than ever because illegal downloading has become the norm, but the internet has also been the making of us in many ways.

VP: What’s are the worst and best aspects of touring?

CAREY: Probably all the obvious ones you can imagine. Actually travelling to different places and meeting lovely or interesting people who also happen to like your music is pretty great. Playing live at its best is amazing. Packing is a bit of a bummer. As is running out of clean underwear and forgetting your best shoes. Loading and unloading the van, setting up and soundchecks are a tedious part of the job. Missing home, people, birthdays, pets, cooking are tough. And when you’re away for ages you can’t wait to be home and when you get home you can’t wait to go away again.

VP: Personally I think radio play lists are the work of Satan and his foul legions, do you have any ideas of how the music biz could be improved?

CAREY: I think there is some argument for radio play lists in that it does at least encourage an emphasis on new music, though it is inherently limited. I haven’t got much idea how to sort out the music business. I get depressed if I think about it too much.


On Myspace

Official Site



“Lloyd, I’m ready To Be Heartbroken” By Camera Obscura

“If Looks Could Kill” By Camera Obscura

“I Love My Jean” By Camera Obscura

“Let’s Get Out Of This Country”By Camera Obscura

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