The Von Pip Musical Express Christmas Special Podcast

The VPME Christmas  Podcast 2011

Ahead of our album of the year special it’s time to . . . .

Jingle your bells, polish your baubles and roast you chestnuts on an open fire along to this special festive edition of the VPME podcast.  Including festive tracks from The Ramones, the Cocteau Twins, Low, The Raveonettes, Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler, The Pogues and much more

Listen below or via mixcloud

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Songs To Learn And Sing – Exlovers, Emmy The Great And Tim Wheeler. Plus Scouse Gits and Action Aid.

“Starlight, Starlight” By Exlovers.

Almost time for us bloggers to start tipping who we hope will do well in 2012,  well here’s a spoiler, exlovers are definitely on our  list. They may not be new kids on the block but their debut album  ‘Moth’ is due in Spring next year and promises to be one of our (and hopefully your) major musical highlights in 2012. “Starlight, Starlight” is available as a free download (above) and hints at, rather like an elegantly flaunted stocking top,  the promise yet to come. We are excited !   With another single due early next year Exlovers will be rounding off 2011 with  a headline show at London’s XOYO on 16th December.

Here’s an interview we did earlier in the year


Emmy The Great And Tim Wheeler Xmas Album.

Lets face it after pasty faced, unctuous, slug-man George Osborne’s latest gloomy economic  announcements we could do with something to cheer us up. So we have two suggestions, close your eyes and  picture George being dragged, cold, naked and sobbing along the south bank to be unceremoniously deposited in the Thames by an angry public, who have said “no more. ” Chortle as his shrill falsetto screams for clemency provoke nothing more than bitter but totally justified laughter and scorn from the angry mob. Ahem… or alternatively check out Emmy The Great  and Ash’s Tim Wheeler’s Christmas album ( more on this later in the week). They were apparently going to be called Sleigher at one stage , which of course would have left my love of woeful puns fully sated, anyway here’s a freebie to get you feeling a little bit festive.

Christmas Day (I Wish I Was Surfing)By Emmy The Great & Tim Wheeler.

Ohhh and a video packed with festive cheesiness  in which, somewhat disturbingly, Tim manages to look 12 years old. I do hope the landlord of the hostelry in the video insisted on some form of appropriate ID, or it’s fizzy pop all the way for you young man.


In Other news , watch out, it’s the Scouse GITS

Locally  we hear news of The GIT Awards, created by Liverpool music blog,  aimed at celebrating and promoting Merseyside’s upcoming new musical talent. From the thriving hip hop scene to its electronica artists, from its long-established country and roots community to punk, folk and metal, the GIT Award is open to all. Peter Guy, Liverpool ECHO journalist and editor of Getintothis, says, ‘Think of it as the Scouse Mercury Prize – but, the only criteria being that it has a clear connection with Liverpool; ie: the record was made, produced or recorded by Liverpudlians. Prizes include   a day’s free recording time with a top producer, while the winners will play next year’s Liverpool Sound City and Liverpool Music Week. Vice Magazine, meanwhile, has asked Getintothis to promote an exclusive gig at their London-based bar, The Old Blue Last, featuring the winners.

On top of this, Skelmersdale film-maker Ian Gamester, who has been shortlisted for the prestigious Virgin Media Shorts film, will make the band’s video promo which will be screened at FACT’s boutique Box cinema

Liverpool Sound City, Liverpool Music Week, Cream, Creamfields, Vice Magazine, The Quietus, Liverpool Vision, ACME, It’s Liverpool, Liverpool City Council, Culture Liverpool, FACT Cinema and Art Gallery, Liverpool Museum, Probe Records, The Music Consortium, Bido Lito! Magazine, WAXXX Magazine, Sandhills Recording Studios, Elevator Studios, The Motor Museum Recording Studios, Dawsons, Resurrection, Lost Art, LIPA, Weavers Door, Bold Street Coffee, The Green Cauldron, Cains Brewery, The Bluecoat, Static Gallery, The Masque, Leaf, Sentric, CMU Daily, EVOL, Mellotone, Harvest Sun, Samizdat, Another Media, Obscenic, Mercy, Hive Collective, Jon Hillcock’s New Noise, UR BEATZ, Seven Streets and Liverpool Live. To apply send your four tracks to Or alternatively post to Peter Guy, The GIT Award, Liverpool Daily Post & ECHO, PO Box 48, Old Hall Street, Liverpool, L693EB. Closing date: Spring 2012. Exact date TBC

We applaud anything that promotes new music as undoubtedly times have never been tougher for musicians , hindered by an assemblage of philistine  fuckwits (ie the government) that places zero value on the arts. This, despite the fast that the arts  is a huge export earner for the UK economy,  worth around £16 billion.

Add in the fact that Liverpool 08 was the most successful European Capital of Culture ever, with 15 million cultural tourists and £800 million worth of local economic benefit and you can see why the Tories policies are loathed and despised here in scouseland ( and beyond.)


Action Aid

We are not ones to generally cut and paste PR’s but this is a worthwhile cause. In fact to set the ball rolling I’ll donate to keep Everything Everything away from a recording studio for the next five years. But jesting aside….

The charity ActionAid today launches the world’s first ever emergency music network, backed by music stars including The Wombats, Everything Everything, Chapel Club, Cancer Bats and Radio 1’s Huw Stephens. ActionAid Live is a nationwide network of bands, musicians, promoters and venues primed to spring into action and raise funds the next time a humanitarian emergency strikes in one of the world’s most vulnerable areas.

Radio 1 DJ and ActionAid ambassador Huw Stephens said: “When an emergency strikes – whether it’s an earthquake, flood or tsunami – we all want to do what we can to help. ActionAid Live brings together music fans, bands and promoters in a united effort to save lives both in those vital first few days following a disaster and in the long term.

“I’ve seen for myself the amazing work ActionAid does, and they’re one of the most inspiring charities out there – by raising money for them in an emergency, the money you raise will make the biggest difference possible.”

Bands, musicians and promoters can now sign up to ActionAid Live at to support the humanitarian response during the next big emergency by putting on a fundraising gig – or donating money from an existing show they’re already involved with – creating a UK-wide network of events united to raise money and save lives.

ActionAid Live launches on 22 November as part of the charity’s wider emergency fundraising network, called the Global Emergencies Team. This is a way for every individual – whether they’re in a band or not – to get involved in an emergency response: hundreds of people around the country all set to fundraise, whether in their workplace or local community. To find out more about the wider emergency network, visit


From A-Z-The Ash Interview

ASH -"Space Shot "

Ash  -Space Shot (Loverush UK! Club Mix)

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The Noughties, whilst producing some great music also seemed to be a decade in which the hype machine went into overdrive.  Obscure bands you’d never heard of suddenly started to appear on the front pages of the music press with taglines such as “saviours of pop” or “the future of music”. Problem was, in their desperation to generate “buzz” and discover the “next big thing”, the press had overlooked the simple fact that a lot of these bands weren’t actually very good.  Alas “the next big thing” often found, within the space of a few short months, that their careers were effectively over, killed by the unfair burden of expectation placed upon them.  Hype based on nothing more than a nice haircut and well chiselled cheek bones  meant that “this weeks T-Shirt” became “next week’s dish cloth” with heart sinking regularity. To achieve longevity during the decade in which the music industries collective arse started to twitch like a rabbit’s nose over file sharing and illegal downloads, it seemed you had to either  be very bland and reproduce variations on the same theme or alternatively be Tom Jones.  But there are always exceptions to the rule for there still exists a clutch of bands and artists who continue to demonstrate that consistently great song-writing and innovation can transcend the blandness of a music industry unwilling to take risks and forever looking for the “safe bet”.

Downpatrick rockers Ash are one such band which has sustained the sort of longevity that many acts can only dream of in this brave new world of convenience, disposability and instant gratification. They’ve been together since the early 90’s embarking on their first tour (supporting Elastica) whilst still at school. Since then they have gone on to become one of Northern Irelands most successful acts, topping the charts around the world and selling over 8 million records in the process.  Given the quality of their recent output, the good news is it looks like they’ll be with us for some time yet!!

During their career the nature of how music is “consumed” by fans has radically changed, due in no small part to the internet, the mp3 and the I-pod. Where as the industry itself adopted a belligerent King Canute style stance, aimlessly threatening anybody found in possession of ears with legal action, Ash sought to develop innovative ways of working within the digital framework.  The trio quickly recognised the fact that “the way people listen to music has changed, with the advent of the download the emphasis has reverted to single tracks” and in 2007 they revealed that ‘Twilight of the Innocents’ would be their last album. Instead Ash channelled their creativity into setting up their own label “Atomic Hearts” and  a new project,  ‘The  A-Z Series a subscription service consisting  of  26 limited edition 7″ vinyl  and digital download singles with a new  track  released every two weeks over the course of a year. This week sees Ash reach the letter “H” in their release schedule with the full on pop splendour that is ‘Space Shot’. It’s an unfeasibly catchy , swirling ,electro, sci-fi pop behemoth which boasts the sort of sky scraper levelling chorus that really should see the band back in the charts and  also demonstrates once more, that Ash have a great ear for  killer pop hooks.

In between recording, managing a record label, recording songs, arranging tours, shooting videos and changing nappies, one third of Ash Mark Hamilton, found time to talk with us about survival in the digital age, their unreleased “teen-slasher” movie and the Charlotte Hatherley rumour mill!

VP:  How did the idea for the A-Z series come about? Didn’t The Wedding Present try something similar a number of years ago on a smaller scale? Was that what inspired the idea ?

MARK: Basically we became a bit disillusioned and uninspired with the traditional album cycle. Our last album, ‘Twilight Of The Innocents’, came out through Warners and they dropped the ball on it after the 2nd single didn’t get play-listed at a particular radio station. After more than a year of writing and recording it, it was a tough pill to swallow… all that work was essentially hinged and dumped on one decision. Tim then came up with the idea of regular download releases rather than a one-off album (that are usually 3 years apart), each track taken on it’s own merit, and then the A-Z Series became a lightbulb moment, ie. 26 fortnights in a year. We were aware of the Wedding Present doing the 12 singles in a year so we wanted to expand on that and do something even more ambitious. 52 weekly songs seemed too much and 12 too little. 26 songs is basically 2 album’s worth of material in 12 months. More than we’ve ever released previously. The A-Z concept is a cool way of tying it all together into a collective body of work.

VP:  Given the value for money of a subscription service like The A-Z singles do you think it could be a template for bands to adopt in the digital age?    Have you recorded all 26 songs in the series now?

MARK:  We’re just about to go back into the studio to finish a bunch of new tracks that will complete the A-Z Series. We do already have enough songs recorded to cover all 26, 44 in total, but we like to record more so we can choose the best and keep the quality up. I think our new model is definitely a great way to work and is great value for the subscribers, £13 for 26 songs as well as a bunch of bonus tracks that we’re sporadically throwing into the mix for free (2 so far and we’re only on G). I wouldn’t be surprised if more people follow our lead and do something similar. Fans hate the wait for albums, they want regular content and we’ve had very positive feedback from our fans about the new approach.

VP:  Obviously since starting out as a band the whole way people consume music has radically changed. What do you make of it and do you think the “industry” has failed to keep up with technology and attitudes, how do you see it evolving

MARK : The industry really kept it’s head in the sand for so long (regarding downloading) and they’ve been paying of price for the last few years now. The industry has contracted so much, with massive layoffs and there just isn’t the money there used to be. There’s little or no artist development going on and the majors are mostly only signing safe bets, like the reality crap that’s sure fire chart material. Basically it’s tough out there and it’s become all about survival and financial sustainability rather than the glitz and excess that was rampant in the 90’s. It’s still kinda like a new frontier and people are watching to see how the dust settles. We’re taken a very bold and pro-active move with the A-Z Series and I think people are waiting to see how it plays out. The fact you can download an artists entire back-catalogue in seconds from a torrent site has completely devalued music. The reality is that large numbers of people, especially in the net savvy younger generation, will not pay for music. Why would they when it’s so readily available?

VP:   How have you been finding running your own label, Atomic Heart Records?

MARK : It’s been a lot of work, especially with all the logistics of releasing 26 vinyls in a year. There have been a few teething problems but we’re working them out as we go along. We also don’t have the finances that a major label has at hand so we have to be a lot more thoughtful on where our own money’s going. It’s also kinda cool because it has put us back into the D.I.Y. mode that we were in when we were releasing our own demos, before we got signed.

VP:  When Ash started out as teenagers, did you have any idea of how long you’d be involved in music?  Do you think the “teenage you” would believe that you’d still be producing great music some 18 years later?

MARK : We had no idea but we did have a blind self belief and unshakable determination to succeed. In our teenage years we played in some tragic bands that were known as the worst in our town. That sort of ridicule certainly gave us a lot of purpose, to prove people wrong and ultimately flourish. I don’t think the teenage me would think I’d still be alive 18 years later never mind that we’d still be making music! Having witnessed the excess of the 90’s and the ensuing crash of the music industry in the past decade, we’re just happy to have survived so long. We still have a lot of gas in our tank and a lot of goals we still want to achieve.

VP:  One of my favourite singer/songwriters  Emmy The Great has been involved in Ash a fair bit lately. How did that come about and will she be getting more involved with the band in 2010?

MARK : She’s great and has an awesome voice. She first caught our attention when we heard her cover of ‘Burn Baby Burn’ and when she sang ‘lick my shit’ during the solo that got a quite a laugh. Tim got in contact with her and they’ve played together acoustically for some online videos. She recently joined Tim on stage during our encore in Tunbridge Wells to play our ‘D’ single ‘Tracers’. I believe a recorded version of this is in the works and will be available later this year.

VP: Will the horror movie “Slasher”you produced featuring the likes of Chris Martin and Dave Grohl  ever see the light of day?  Is it true some of the footage is being used in your next promo video?

MARK : Yes, watch or follow ashofficial on twitter for developments. I doubt very much that the full movie will ever materialize but the footage will see the light of day in some form.

VP: Any truth in the rumour that when making “Slashed” there was a ouija board scene that went a bit wrong ?

MARK : Yes there is truth in that. That happened in a dressing room in LA and it went very wrong. Precise details won’t be expanded upon, real or purely psychosomatic it wasn’t pleasant. The actual footage was wiped from the camera and it’s best forgotten.

VP:  What have been your highlights as a band during 2009 ?

MARK : The A-Z tour was a definite highlight and a lot of fun. We got to go to so many strange places and Zennor, the final show in Cornwall, was one of the most fun nights we’ve ever had. Having Belfast’s Panama Kings with us for the whole tour was also a real trip. The day we got the vinyl copies of ‘Return Of White Rabbit’, Atomic Heart’s first release was also a real thrill.

VP:  What plans for 2010?  Will there be more tours and festival appearances?  Any truth in speculation that Charlotte Hatherley may join up with Ash again at some point in the future ?

MARK : After finishing recording in Feb, we’ll be on the road in April / May in the UK to continue promoting the A-Z Series. We’re also currently working out our schedule for the festivals and trips to Japan, Australia, SE Asia and across Europe are on the cards. As for Chaz, I think she’s pretty busy at the moment with her own career. I know that you should never say never, so you never know… : )

VP: What were your favourite albums of 2009?

MARK : I had a baby daughter in 2009 so the only music I really heard was a screaming baby and the insanity of Yo Gabba Gabba! on Nick Jr. I really like the new Muse and Biffy albums, also Humbug was a brave move by the Arctic Monkeys. I changed my mind on The Horrors, they’re quite good really.

VP:   Five words to sum up 2009 ?

MARK : Reality-check, Fatherhood, Alphabet, Sustainability, Vision.


Official Site & A-Z Subscirption





“Space Shot” By Ash

“Joy Kicks Darkness” By Ash

“Tracers” By Ash (Acoustic with Emmy The Great)

“Jesus Says” By Ash

“Burn Baby Burn” By Ash


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