Mr Lonely

26 03 2009

In this job I get to do all sorts. Because I don’t work for any one publication I can find myself interviewing everyone from the Pussycat Dolls to Cliff Richard to Blaze Bayley to more general lifestyle features. I have to say I prefer it that way. Man cannot live by punk rock alone afterall. Where am I going with this? Well, last month I found myself covering Akon and Coolio for Hot Press. It was….interesting.

Akon and Coolio at the Odyssey, Belfast

Picture the scene, if you will. The Odyssey is two thirds full, this writer is sitting in an area which reeks of Clearasil, B.O. and Tayto crisps and Celebrity Big Brother reject Coolio is shouting about “bitches” and “ho’s” for no apparent reason. It’s all well and good telling the crowd “this is how the gangsters do it,” but in Belfast it takes on another meaning entirely.

            For the next half an hour Coolio proves to us all without a shadow of a doubt that ‘Gangsters Paradise’ (which tonight sounds about as dangerous as an episode of Heartbeat ) will forever mark him down in history as a one hit wonder. His vocals on ‘I’ll See You When You Get There’ is about as tuneful as karaoke night at Helen Keller’s house and at one point when we see a member of Coolio’s “homies” literally struggle for five minutes trying to take his vest off, we realise that this could possibly be the worst gig in the world.

            Still, there’s always Akon to look forward to, but before the diminutive Senegalese-born song-writer comes onstage we get a short set from his transvestite DJ pal Benny D (OK, so he was wearing a kilt…). Quite frankly, Benny’s beats are wasted on the crowd, but when the headline act finally does meet his public it’s to a thunderous reception. It’s clear that Belfast loves Akon and during ‘Locked Up’ one formerly hard as nails bloke is reduced to screaming “I love you” every five minutes. It’s a sight to behold alright, but it’s quite sweet in a way. Unfortunately the same can’t be said when the rapper urged “All my Catholics in the crowd, get your x’s up” as you could hear a pin drop from the back of the venue.

            Sadly, while this writer considers himself a fan of Akon (particularly his work with Gwen Stefani and more recently Lady GaGa) tonight’s set is criminally bad. For some reason he decides to perform shortened versions of songs such as ‘I Wanna Love You’ and ‘Right Now (Na Na Na)’ and the production is, shall we say, somewhat lacking. For such a large arena, it’s a shame to see the star performing in total darkness, but that was probably a conscious decision to spare the star’s blushes at a criminally under-populated venue

            Even the ace ‘Put The Blame On Me’ sounds flat tonight and if Akon wants to become a true modern day legend he really needs to work on his live show. Still, what do I know? The knackers beside me loved every minute, but considering they also look like they love their own sisters too, we’ll take that verdict with a pinch of salt.

 

Edwin McFee

The new issue of Hot Press is out now by the way homies. It has an interview with Morrissey. http://www.hotpress.com/news/5319968.html





Sucky Sucky

26 03 2009

Well today has sucked harder than Anabel Chong. Every now and again you get set-backs in this business and today most certainly has been “one of those days.” Still, it ain’t all bad. Today I got a badass Marvel Legends Crossbones action figure! If you don’t know him, he’s a member of  Captain America’s rogues gallery and a proper bad fucker he is too (and so he should be!). Have a look at him below. How cool is he? (I haven’t busted him outted the box though).

The other thing that made today go a bit better was the new Girls Aloud video for ‘Untouchable.’ Who doesn’t wanna be a beautiful robot dancing alone?





Therapy? Interview

25 03 2009

As promised, here’s the Therapy? interview that ran in last Friday’s Telegraph. A longer, very different 2500words version will be in April’s issue of AU (it’s much more magazine-y and a lot less newspaper-y!) but for now content yourselves with this one.

Therapy?

It’s half one on a sunny Tuesday afternoon and Therapy?, one of my favourite bands of all time, are sitting in my house drinking tea and nursing hangovers from the night before. The boys (singer/guitarist Andy Cairns, bassist Michael McKeegan and tub thumper Neil Cooper) are in town to promote their new record Crooked Timber and also managed to fit in a headline slot at the local band extravaganza Do You Remember the First Time at the Ulster Hall the night before (which explains the hangovers). Although there were many highlights during the gig, the main stand-out moment was watching the trio play a version of Teenage Kicks backed by Ash, Duke Special, Snow Patrol and the other ten acts on the bill. It was a performance that said- finally, after 20 years of making music, Therapy? are getting their dues for being one of the most ground breaking and inspirational acts this country has ever produced. In true T? fashion however, the band are keen to play down their role in Ulster’s musical development.

“You know what? We’ve never thought of ourselves in terms of having a legacy or being icons,” offers Andy. “We don’t like to get stuff like that into our heads as there are so many bands who seem to unravel once they get even a modicum of success. I don’t know if it’s a whole naivety thing being from Ballyclare and Larne, but we never developed that at any point. Even when we were on a major label and having records in the charts, we were never like that. It wasn’t an affected pose with us, we just didn’t understand where that attitude came from. Strangely we have had various people around the band (techs and so on) who had that attitude from being associated with Therapy? though and they were acting more like rock stars more than the band were.”

In many ways it’s surprising to hear the singer speak so modestly about his band’s remarkable achievements. To put it into context, this is a band who have ten albums under their belts (as well as two mini albums) have influenced two generations of fans to pick up a guitar and make a noise of their own and who can pack more drama, emotion and ambition into one song than most bands manage in a lifetime (don’t believe me? Download A Moment of Clarity from their ’95 album Infernal Love for proof). In this writer’s opinion they’ve every right to be big headed, but in many ways their humility is one of the main reasons why they’re still packing out venues around the world 20years on from when they first started in Belfast.

“It is nice to hear that our music means something to people though,” admits Andy. “It’s good to hear people say ‘seeing Therapy? changed my life’ because it makes you realize that it hasn’t all been in vain.”

If Andy sounds more than a little wistful, it’s because the 43year old has recently started to think about his own mortality and jokingly refers to Crooked Timber as his “mid-life crisis record.”

“I must admit, this new one is probably a mid life crisis record,” he laughs. “Every single day I think about dying and I never used to. I think a lot of it had to do with a health scare I had two years ago. There was a problem with my lungs and I had to wait for my test results to come back and it wasn’t looking too good, but thank god everything was alright. I had that classic ‘waiting for the results’ dread and it got me thinking about my mortality.”

Boasting references to philosophers, writers and composers, Crooked Timber is a sprawling album that seethes with invention and creativity the moment you press play. It also sees the band take their musicianship to new levels and is a sonic two fingered salute to critics who mistakenly wrote them off as a bunch of heavy punk/metallers during their ShortSharpShock ep/Troublegum commercial peak. 

“A lot of people who know the band from Troublegum think all we do is three minute pop rock songs, but there’s more to this band than just that,” says Andy of their ’94 breakthrough album. “Older material like Loser Cop is a free form jazz song and there are bits of new beat and techno in our stuff too, so we’re bringing those influences back and enjoying them while doing it. It’s still cathartic noise, but there’s an intelligence to it. One thing that winds me up is that people who are ignorant of the band pigeon hole us and write us off. We love heads down, no nonsense mindless rock music but there are so many levels going on in this band that some people don’t see. A lot of the rhythms, chord structures and bass lines are quite diverse. I think the great telling point is whenever people try to cover any of our songs. They always get it wrong.

“My favourite records are ones that are creatively interesting rather than catchy,” he continues. “I’m not being facetious here but I think Troublegum was in the right place at the right time-they were pop songs played heavily and very much in vogue, but the stuff I go back to of ours are Babyteeth, Suicide Pact-You First, Never Apologise Never Explain and this record. That’s what I perceive in my head to be what the band is. Troublegum was a detour in many ways.”

Somewhat refreshingly, despite selling a few million records, headlining festivals alongside monsters of rock such as Guns ‘N’ Roses, Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne and generally being something akin to royalty in Northern Ireland, Therapy? are still music fans at heart and haven’t forgotten the reason why they are in a band in the first place and that’s to write songs.

“I’ve worked in so many sh*t jobs in my life and being given the gift to make music for a living is a wonderful thing,” reflects the frontman. “Whenever I was 14 or 15 and listening to music I used to fantasize about being in a band and doing interviews. I just don’t get how people can get fed up with that. I think whenever you stop listening to new music it’s time to give it up and fair play to bands like Snow Patrol for having new NI bands open for them on tour. I’ve a lot of time for those boys.”

Andy and the band also have nothing but good things to say about the local scene here too and even though the singer now lives in England, he keeps up to speed with what’s happening as much as he can and is full of praise for the new And So I Watch You From Afar album, which I play to the band before our interview.

“That And So I Watch You From Afar album is amazing,” he concludes. “I’ve heard their stuff before and they’ve really upped their game. It’s a superb record. Generally though, there’s a lot to be proud of in Northern Ireland right now and there is a real sense of solidarity going on. The last time I saw something like this was during the late 70s punk scene when I was 12. It seemed like the scene here was fractured for years but now people have rediscovered their pride which is absolutely fantastic and if we’ve contributed to a small part of that them I’m genuinely thrilled.”

 

Therapy? release Crooked Timber on March 23 via DR2 Records. The band play the Nerve Centre in Derry on May 14 (ticket prices TBC and will be available from 02871260562) and will play an acoustic set and sign copies of their new album in HMV in Donegal Arcade, Belfast at 5.30pm this Monday. www.therapyquestionmark.co.uk

 

Edwin McFee





Radio Radio Radio

20 03 2009

Folks, I’m on the radio tonight at half 6pm. Arts Extra on Radio Ulster have me in to give some opinions so tune in!

 

Shazam!





At Home With Therapy?

17 03 2009

Last week I had the pleasure of having one of my favourite bands of all time Therapy? round my house for an interview/photo shoot. Despite getting up at stupid o’clock in the morning in order to review Do You Remember the First Time for NME, I was excited having the band that made me start a band over for some tea and tunes, so the tiredness quickly disappeared.

As ususal the lads were on top form and although it was quite surreal having an act I’ve looked up to (and who introduced me to punk rock) picking through my stuff, I had a blast talking to them. It was also reassuring to know that I’m not the only one who loves Wolfbane’s ‘Massive Noise Injection.’ In due course I’ll post up the finished interview/s where they talk about paper bag moments, Axl Rose, mid-life crises, health scares, irrational fears of ‘Infernal Love’ (and why Andy’s da thinks it’s shite) and civic pride among other things, but in the meantime here’s a wee photo of me looking suitably knackered beside one of the greatest bands of all time.

After the interview we  went down to watch them perform an acoustic set for NVTV and a lot of fun it was too. ‘Crooked Timber’ is out on March 23 so pick it up!

PS-If anyone’s in Belfast on March 23, make sure you head to HMV where they’re doing  signing and an acoustic set at 5.30pm. They’re also playing in Derry on May 13 and Dublin on May 14. See you down the front.

www.therapyquestionmark.co.uk





Ulster Hall

7 03 2009

As promised, here’s the full blown Do You Remember the First Time feature that ran in 24/7 on March 6.

Do You Remember the First Time?

This Monday night BBC Radio Ulster’s ATL help celebrate the re-opening of the Ulster Hall with a gig featuring a gaggle of great acts from the NI music scene. Each band plays two songs (one of their own and a cover of an act they saw in the near mythic venue) and it looks set to be one of the most talked about shows of the decade. To commemorate this once in a lifetime bash, 24/7 catches up with some of the bands involved to hear them pay tribute to a venue that is steeped in history.

 

 

Therapy?

How important do you think the Ulster Hall is in NI?

Michael McKeegan (bassist): “It’s a one-off, timeless venue with a lot of history under its belt. There’s not that many of those around in the world anymore, let alone Northern Ireland.”

What was your first gig there (either as a punter or performer or both)?

“The first gig I ever saw there was another N.I. three-piece, the mighty Mama’s Boys, I got crushed down the front and nearly passed out but still managed to get my programme signed by the band afterwards. The first Therapy? performance was totally surreal for all of us, especially having stood on the other side of the crash barrier so many times before. It had always been a dream of ours to play there.”

Any special memories of the place?

“My first ever Metallica gig with my hero Cliff Burton ripping it up is one to cherish (he tragically passed away 11 days later). Another great moment was in 1994 watching our support band CopShootCop from the wings as they proceeded to confuse, terrify and bulldoze the audience.”

How do you feel about playing Do You Remember the First Time?

“It’s our first live appearance in almost a year and we’re all delighted to be part of what is a pretty cool concept. It’s a short set but we intend to maximise the rock!”  

 

 

Jetplane Landing

Nearly every gig go-er has a defining Ulster Hall moment, what’s yours?

Andrew Ferris (vocals/guitar): “I’ve never played there before-but I remember seeing Rage Against the Machine perform there about ten years ago; it was completely intense and that night really changed my life.”

 

Do you have any special Ulster Hall memories you’d like to share with us?

“My teenage bus journeys from Derry to the Ulster Hall were very memorable, but perhaps for unprintable reasons. I do remember always feeling very ‘grown up’ when I went to shows there; there is something evocative about the building’s grandness, you’re reminded of all the greats that have graced the stage.”

 

How do you feel about this gig?

“It’s going to be special-we’ve got a few surprises planned for our set and also for the Smalltown America After Show Party in the bar afterwards, featuring Clone Quartet, Not Squares and Halves.”

 

Ash

 

Ash are no strangers to the Ulster Hall’s stage, but what was your first gig there as a paying punter?

Tim Wheeler (vocals/guitar):  “I saw a load of late 80’s rock bands with a lot of hairspray, so my memory is a bit misty, but I have a feeling it was a band called Little Angels. I’ve a lot of good memories in that place. It was brilliant seeing Therapy? there on the Nurse tour. Mark and I went and gave a load of our demo tapes out to anyone who’d take them outside the venue. When they played there again on the next album we were supporting them. That was the first time we got to play there and it was a great gig.”

 

Do you feel proud to be playing Do You Remember the First Time?

“Yeah, I’m excited. It’s about time we got the Ulster Hall back and I’m expecting a very chaotic fun-filled night. We’re only doing two songs, so it’ll be short and sweet. We haven’t decided what to play yet. We’ve seen some hideous bands there so there are a lot of terrible songs we could do ironic cover versions of, but I think we’d better go for a crowd pleaser instead.”

 

Panama Kings

How important do you think the Ulster Hall is for Ulster music fans?

Stuart Bell (guitar): “It’s a beautiful old building with a great atmosphere and is easily the best of the larger venues in Belfast. It’s also steeped in history, for example everyone knows Stairway to Heaven was first played there, and there’ll undoubtedly be plenty more things to add in the years to come.”

It must be pretty mind blowing to be on the bill.

 “Well the first gig I ever went to, when I was 16, was Coldplay in the Ulster Hall. I only really went on a whim but it’s no exaggeration to say that it changed my life. Not so much Coldplay (although it was a great gig) but more the fact that it was my first time experiencing the buzz and excitement of live music. I decided that night that I wanted to be a musician so it goes without saying that playing at DYRTFT is pretty significant, especially sharing the stage with so many other great NI acts.”

 

ATL

Where did the idea for the show come from?

Rigsy (ATL presenter): “The gig started life as a ludicrously ambitious concept suggested to us by Adam Turkington at the Waterfront Hall, who we’d worked with before on the Trans Festival. As we have such a good relationship with bands here (having done our best to promote local music for 22 years) Adam knew it would be a great collaboration. We never expected it to end up quite so good, though.”

 

You’ve pretty much got every NI heavy hitter from the last two decades on the bill? How hard was it to put together?

“Logistically it was a lot of hard work, but getting the bands to play was a simple case of asking. Some of the bigger acts said yes early on and I guess it became obvious it was set to be a very special night, so it kind of snowballed because everyone wanted to be involved all of a sudden. We were completely blown away with how it all came together. It felt like we’d been given a magic wand that would make our favourite bands do anything we wanted and we just kept waving it. Anyone into music in this country has an interesting story or wonderful memory based around a gig at the Ulster Hall and it’s great to see it back in action.”

 

The Lowly Knights

Do you think the Ulster Hall deserves its status as one of the best venues in the world?
Neil Mullan (vocals): “Yes, I think the Ulster Hall is an iconic venue for NI. So much has happened there over the years. So many seminal performances, so many people’s most cherished memories of gigs are from shows in the Ulster Hall. It’s a big part of our history, so to have it open again is a mouth watering prospect. I remember cueing for seven hours to see Coldplay. Taking the day off school, we decided to make sure we were at the front so were waiting outside the doors on the steps from
midday until the place opened. As it turned out, midday was a bit premature as the next people to arrive to queue turned up at 5.45pm. In retrospect, it was cold but worth it. We also did the same thing for the Counting Crows. It seems every teenager worldwide had a Counting Crows spell.”

How do you feel about playing Do You Remember the First Time?
“We are delighted to be included on the bill. With so many big name artists in the line up it’s a pleasure to be playing along with them. It’s going to be a brilliant night. We’re doing our best to hit people with two energetic, harmonious, life affirming tracks to get the punters going.”

 

Do You Remember the First Time takes place on March 9 at the Ulster Hall and features Therapy? Ash, the Divine Comedy, Duke Special, Fighting with Wire, Jetplane Landing, Panama Kings, Kowalski, Iain Archer, Foy Vance, LaFaro, Cashier No. 9 and the Lowly Knights. This gig is sold out.

 

Edwin McFee





Transformers!

6 03 2009

A few weeks ago I put the finishing touches to my monthly movie spread in Fate magazine and felt compelled to write this about the new Transformers film in my news section….

Do you like robots? Do you like cars? Do you like watching robots that can change into cars beating seven shades of shite out of each other for entertainment? So do we, so we thought you’d be as thrilled as we are to learn that the trailer for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has hit the web. Featuring a gaggle of new Decepticons such as Soundwave (oh!) Ravage (ooh!) and the Constructicons (treble ooooh!) the movie looks every bit as good as the original and if you find yourself doing a little sex wee in your pants when you see the Constructicons join together to make Devastator, a being so huge it makes Optimus Prime look like that weird boy/girl from the Krankees, then don’t worry. Coz we did too. Revenge of the Fallen is out in July and the trailer is available here www.transformersmovie.com. Autobots roll-out!

 

Here is said trailer and I am super excited

 

I’ll probably get a Decepticon tattoo now as well to match my Autobot one.





Set Guitars to Kill

5 03 2009

Currently listening to the new And So I Watch You From Afar album for the first time. Sweet baby Moses, it’s a bit good alright.

www.myspace.com/andsoiwatchyoufromafar





Russell Brand

5 03 2009

At the start of the year I was asked to write an opinion piece on Russell Brand in the Telegraph. Here’s a reprint…

In Defence of Russell Brand

My first meeting with Russell Brand happened nearly a decade ago. One night I turned on my telly and glaring back at me was the rake thin, then lank-haired cockney talking to clubbers who were far from sober on MTV. I’ve always hated pill heads with a passion and to this day am mystified why anyone wants to go to a sweat-drenched disco and imbibe drugs that make you want to chew your own face off, so watching Russell take the mickey out of these characters won me over instantly.

            A few years afterwards, Brand was booted off MTV for baring little Russell to the masses and then coming to work dressed as Bin Laden the day after September 11. His sacking turned out to be one of the highlights of his career as he landed the gig of presenting Big Brother’s Eforum (which was later renamed Big Brother’s Big Mouth) and, coupled with a new wardrobe which made him look like a Dickensian dandy and an O-Zone layer be-damned hair-do that defies gravity, he finally infiltrated the masses.

            As I’ve mentioned before in 24/7, punk rock was my first love, so seeing the comedian slowly put the establishment’s noses out of joint just made me love him all the more. Russell’s brand of comedy is dirty, edgy, salacious and smart-arsed, but most of all it is laugh out loud funny. Hell, he even made the turgid, long past its sell by date Big Brother seem entertaining. I also love the fact that his carefully constructed image and mannerisms have made him one of the few iconic figures of the naughties. When people look back to this frankly p*ss-poor decade they’ll immediately be drawn to Russell and his ludicrous barnet first and foremost.

These days Brand is so on the money even the yanks have caught onto his style of comedy. Yeah, he basically portrayed a caricature of himself in his Hollywood hit Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but why fix what isn’t broke? Possibly my favourite Russell moment happened last year during the infamous Manuel-Gate saga though. As we all know Brand and Wossy made a few naughty phone-calls to former Faulty Towers star Andrew Sachs saying our Russ has had his way with the actor’s grand-daughter and though slightly tasteless, it wasn’t the end of the world in this writer’s opinion. What was most interesting was the aftermath of Manuel-Gate with the whole nation publicly dissecting his character. For a comedian with a new series of Ponderland airing that week on Channel Four, it was a stroke of genius and as his hero Oscar Wilde once wrote “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Incidentally, when this writer was at the Download Festival last summer I found myself being chatted up by the one and only Georgina Bailie backstage too. Anyone got Manuel’s number?

Anyway, I digress. Russell Brand has helped define a decade. Men want to be him and women want to be with him and it’s about time that we have a comedian on TV who is genuinely dangerous and provocative instead of the countless stream of sanitised panellists clogging up our airwaves. As far as I’m concerned he can keep on offending the moral majority for as long as he likes. His hair does look daft though.

 

Edwin McFee





(D)VD’s

4 03 2009

These days I write for a lot of different people (seven on a weekly basis) and about five months ago I jumped aboard the good ship Big List (www.thebiglist.co.uk). I’m very happy with how everything’s panning out so far and this month’s issue features (among other things) DVD reviews by yours truly. In previous months I handled CD reviews, but to be honest I decided to step back from them for fear of burning myself out. Anyway, here’s said reviews. If they raise the odd smirk, then I’ve done my job right.

DVD Reviews

James Bond: Quantum of Solace

Continuing on from the stern-faced, high octane adventures of Casino Royale, Daniel Craig’s Bond is an odd beast. More action hero than ladies man, his portrayal have split fans into two camps-those who miss the days of Roger Moore’s wonky eyebrow and daft double entendres and those who just want to leer at Craig swanning around in his cacks all day. When you watch it purely as an action movie, Quantum of Solace is a great flick with some jaw dropping set pieces, but as a Bond movie it’s quite weak and isn’t a patch on Octopussy.

 

Zach and Miri Make a Porno

They say that the secret to making a great comedy is to cram as many jokes in there as possible. Someone really should have told this to director/writer Kevin Smith as his latest vehicle Zack and Miri Make a Porno is about as funny as a funeral and the two hours it takes to tell its outlandish story (two broke friends decide to make a blue movie for cash) is lifeless and dull. Even the man of the moment Seth Rogan (you may remember him as the fat bloke from Knocked Up, the fat bloke in Pineapple Express and, er, the fat bloke from Superbad) can’t save this utter turkey of a film. Avoid.

 

Quarantine

Quarantine is a nasty little horror movie that focuses on television reporter Angela Vidal and her cameraman Steve Harris (sadly not the same Steve Harris from Iron Maiden). One night they are assigned to spend the night shift as a Los Angeles fire station and after following a routine 911 call they arrive at an apartment only to hear blood curdling screams coming from one of the buildings. Pretty soon they release that these people have been infected with an unknown virus and they are unwittingly quarantined with their only lifeline being their TV cameras. Quarantine borrows heavily off of the Cloverfield, Blair Witch, Diary of the Dead style of gonzo film-making. If shaky cameras and blood and guts aren’t your thing, then avoid this like the plague. On the other hand, if you enjoy watching fat dudes meet sticky ends then book your seat on the sofa now.

 

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People stars the super smug Simon Pegg as Sidney Young, a disillusioned intellectual who both adores and despises the world of celebrity, fame and glamour. His alternative magazine, Post Modern Review, pokes fun at the media obsessed stars and bucks trends, and so when Young is offered a job at the diametrically opposed conservative New York based Sharps magazine its something of a shock. It seems Sharps editor Clayton Harding is amused by Young’s disruption of a post-BAFTA party with a pig posing as Babe. Thus begins Sidney‘s descent into success and hilarity ensues. At least, that’s what we’ve been told anyway. Sadly this writer barely raised a smirk at most of the jokes in the film and I really couldn’t relate to Young (a smart-arsed journalist) at all…

 

Survivor Series 2008

If, like this writer, you enjoy spending an evening watching over-grown men cavorting around a square ring, dripping in baby oil and wearing an odd concoction of feathers and lycra (I swear it isn’t as camp as it sounds) then you’ll know that WWE’s annual Survivor Series is one of the best events of the year. ‘08’s card was as strong as it’s ever been with Shawn Michaels’ Team HBK going up again Team JBL well worth the admission price alone.