News From The North Week 106

23 07 2012

Here’s a reprint of my NI music news column that runs every fortnight in Hot Press.

News

Words: Edwin McFee

This issue I thought I’d kick off proceedings with news about this year’s Tennent’s Vital festival which takes place in Belfast on August 21-22 at Boucher Playing Fields. Some of the more elephant-minded readers among you may recall that the festival organisers recently ran a competition (UnTapped) to find two up and coming NI-based bands to play at the shin-dig and this fortnight it has been revealed that no frills rock ‘n’ rollers Trucker Diablo and hip hop hero Gerard i2 have been selected to appear on the day. Beating off 16 other performers (apologies if that sounds like something from a mucky movie by the way) both turns truly deserve the opportunity and I’d like to wish them the best of luck for the event. For more info on the festival visit tennentsvital.com.

 

Next up, it gives me great pleasure to announce that drummer with the mighty Gacys Threads and all-round prince among men Stephen Currie has lined up another immense, neck-bothering release for his label Savour Your Scene Records. Specialising in Irish hardcore and metal, the enterprising tub thumper has been in touch to let us know about the impending cassette release of Dublin band Milestones’ new mini album Entropy. The date for your diaries is July 9 and on the same night, Milestones perform at Auntie Annie’s, Belfast and support comes from Death Of A Salesman and Katabolis, so make sure you check it out. For further details on the label and their roster of acts visit savouryourscene.co.uk.

 

It’s been a while since I last gave you news on the Stendhal Festival in Limavady and in those couple of months the organsiers have fleshed out the line-up for their festival in spectacular fashion. Taking place on Aug 17-18 at Ballymully Cottage Farm, the event now boasts (deep breath) Henry McCullough, Silhouette, Trucker Diablo, Triggerman, Mundy, Pat McManus Band, Mojo GoGo, Best Boy Grip, Intermission, Lantern For A Gale, Wyldling, Peter McVeigh and many more and you can view the full list at stendhalfestival.com. The organisers are also letting the general public choose which act receives the final slot on the line-up via their Facebook page (facebook.com/pages/Stendhal-festival-of-art) so head over there after you’re done reading this.

 

Finally this fortnight, I’ve just enough room to tell you that the always incendiary Fighting With Wire have been added to the bill for the Tanglewood Festival at Narrow Water Castle (round Newry-way) on August 4. For more details have a wee click here tanglewoodmusic.co.uk.

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Unedited Therapy? Transcript (June 2012)

20 07 2012

Tomorrow I’m off to straddle the Sperrin Mountains in Co. Derry to cover Glasgowbury for Hot Press/watch head-liners Therapy? tear the festival a new one. In the meantime I figured it might be a good idea to post up an unedited transcript of an interview I did with Andy and Michael from the band last month (that ran, in part, as the lead feature in this month’s Big List).

There’s lots of interesting bits and pieces in there, so enjoy.Oh, and if you spot me at the festival tomorrow…mine’s a pint!

Therapy?

First off, the current record’s been out for around five months now. How are the new songs going down live now that people have lived with the LP for a while?

Andy Cairns: “The new tunes are going down great. We were expecting ‘Living in the Shadow of the Terrible Thing’ and ‘Why Turbulence?’ to be popular riff storms, but we’ve been blown away by how great a reception ‘Get Your Dead Hand off My Shoulder’ and ‘Ghost Trio’ have been getting.”

Some of the new material caused more than a few (favorably) raised eye-brows. When you were writing the likes of ‘Marlow’ and ‘Ecclesiastes,’ were there ever concerns the songs might alienate some of the T? faithful?

Andy Cairns: “We didn’t worry about how they would be received…I think if we started doing that it would make it difficult for us to ever write music. ‘Ecclesiastes’ actually started out as a Will Oldham/Bill Callahan style tune, just an acoustic and a voice but Neil and Adam [Sinclair, engineer] suggested adding the huge, gated drum sounds which in turn suggested to me-Kraftwerk-esque vocoder. So in the end we went from lonesome balladry to lonesome robot.”

With that in mind-did you consider making a record of ten tracks of instrumental and chilled out sci-fi ballads and leave the crunchier material like ‘Why Turbulance?’ for another record?

Andy Cairns: “Funny enough, I’ve been getting back into riffs again. I’d gotten frustrated with them for ages and just wanted to do something a lot more atmospheric with the guitar and vox. Since finishing ‘A Brief Crack Of Light’ I’ve been listening to Nu-Kle-Er Blast Suntan, Unsane and some heavy bass and I can hear the call of the riff again. Of course if we did that we’d have to make a second, ambient album too…..”

Who sings during the chorus of ‘Marlow?’ Is it just Andy or are there backing singers? I’m hearing what sounds to be a female voice in there..

Andy Cairns: “It’s all me. The high pitched vocal are my voice through an Electro Harmonix F/X unit and pitched high.”

What’s your favourite track on the album and why?

Andy Cairns: “I like ‘Get You Dead Hand off my Shoulder.’ I love the lurching rhythm of it and when it all locks in it feels great to play.”

‘A Brief Crack Of Light,’ to my ears, sounds like a game changing record and there’s a nice balance between classic alt rock songs and new, exciting sounds. Did you deliberately sit down and decide to push the T? sound into new and different territories?

Andy Cairns: “Because we are always listening to lots of different kind of music we’ve developed a work method where we don’t question trying anything new. We’ll always give it a go and if it fails then we move on. I’m sometimes envious of ‘formula’ bands like the Ramones, Motorhead and AC/DC, where you just make the same record again and again. It must make it a lot easier for both band and fans. However, I don’t think we’d swap our open-mindedness for anything.”

I understand there’s some material left over-will that surface at some point?

Andy Cairns: “There is. I think there’’s four or five songs at least. ‘Dark Naughty Steps’ is Jamaican dancehall meets Fugazi, ‘All Low no High’ is very poppy (in a Buzzcocks, QOTSA way)….for various reasons they didn’t sit well with the other tracks.”

‘The Buzzing’ is a pretty complex track. Was it difficult piecing the warring melodies, dynamics and time signatures together?

Andy Cairns: “With ‘The Buzzing’ the lyrics came first and then the rhythm of the words themselves came next. The song itself is about not being able to escape your own thoughts and the ‘phantom chatterbox’ of consciousness. To emphasize this we deliberately changed the music underneath the vocals as it went along. We wanted to try and suggest the world slipping under your feet.”

Lyrically, I get the impression that the Andy Cairns of 2012 is a lot happier than the person who wrote ‘Nurse’ et al (“I have everything I need/food, shelter, family/People that love me” from ‘Why Turbulance?’ stands out in particular). Would you agree?

Andy Cairns: “I think so. Well, I get by but these days… I’m a lot more Zen in my
approach. We’re quite spoiled here in the West and don’t realise how lucky we are at times, but yet look where greed has got us. I still get angry, pissed off and at times inconsolable, but who doesn’t? Life goes on and it’s cruelly short. Make the most of it.”

On the live front-some the set staples were left out on a few dates of your recent tour of Europe (Germany etc). How did that go down and how important do you think it is to rest some tracks? (Personally I would’ve loved to have seen a full “Neil-era” set).

Michael McKeegan: “To be honest, writing a set list gets harder and harder every year. It’s a bit of a balancing act…we’re always excited to play the new songs as they’re the freshest ones for us and then obviously there’s a big back catalogue of work that people love to hear. We always try and get a good mix of the older songs which we feel compliment the newer stuff. The tour earlier in the year was quite short and we have a much more extensive tour planned for Oct/Nov/Dec, so we’ve been chatting about getting deeper into the old stuff and
dusting off a few obscurities as well as playing as much as the new album as well. Plus a slew of hits no doubt…could be a long set!”

So next month you’re head-lining Glasgowbury. I remember talking to you guys about it three years ago at Oxegen-are you pleased that the stars have aligned and you can play it?

Michael McKeegan: “Absolutely. It’s got a deserved ‘legendary’ status now and we’re delighted to finally be playing there. Fair play to Paddy for persevering with the booking, we’re all fired up for it.”

How long are you guys playing for/what can we expect?

Michael McKeegan: “Aim to maim…that’s the plan. I think our set length is probably 70 or so minutes which is good for a festival headline. I suppose the biggest bit of news is that Alan from LaFaro will be drumming with us! Neil’s had to sit out a few shows due to a longstanding family commitment so (with Neil’s help and LaFaro’s blessing) we head-hunted the best young drummer around to fill in. We’ve been rehearsing and it sounds fantastic, he definitely will be doing the songs justice.”

Are you planning to catch any of the other acts? If so-who? (Empty Lungs, Boxcutter, Swanee River and Triggerman are all worth a watch).

Michael McKeegan: “That’s one of the greatest pleasures about playing a festival where the line-up is really strong…wandering about and hopefully catching a bit of all the above plus LaFaro, Axis of and Pocket Billiards. I’m also looking forward to stumbling across someone I’ve never heard of before, that’s another cool thing about festival shows.”

How important do you think events like Glasgowbury are for Irish music?

Michael McKeegan: “The fact that all the bands are pretty much local is amazing…it shows the diversity and talent out there on our doorsteps and I hope the wider media at large will be taking an interest and covering the bands beyond the festival.”

On a related note, I was bummed out to see T? weren’t included in the BBC’s recent “The Great Northern Songbook” gig at the Ulster Hall (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-18167909). Personally a track like ‘Die Laughing’ would’ve sounded perfect backed by the Ulster Orchestra. What are your feelings on the (glaring) omission?

Michael McKeegan: “I wasn’t really aware of it until lots of people began to flag it up…it possibly was a big omission on the part of whoever shortlisted the songs. With regard to being included or not, I do think from day one we’ve always been ‘outsiders’ and that suits us fine. The people that know the band absolutely appreciate and recognize the band’s legacy and influence-not just in NI but on an international scale-so we’re very happy and comfortable with the band’s standing in that respect. We were delighted to see Ash win with ‘Shining Light’ that’s a cracking song.”

 

In general, how do you feel about Therapy?’s legacy? I remember once seeing an interview (possibly on Noisy Mothers on ITV) with you backstage at Donington ’94 and saying how U2 made it almost impossible for other Irish bands to get noticed by a label, unless you sounded exactly like them. It almost goes without saying that T? were the main act to break that cycle-does that make you proud that you helped open up the door for lots of different music in NI and the rest of Ireland?

Michael McKeegan: “It’s pretty amazing, we’re all very proud of it…we get a lot of love from bands from all over the place, old and new, so I suppose we’ve been doing something right over the years. I’m also pleased we’ve kept on trying to progress with the music and not fall into the ‘nostalgia’ type thing which a lot of bands who’ve been around 22 years might do. With regard to the U2 comment, it goes back to that ‘outsider’ thing…when we first moved to Belfast all the bands either sounded and looked like U2 or Guns ‘N’ Roses…we didn’t fit in at all so we had to do our own thing. When we did our own single, started to put on our own shows and toured outside NI I feel that showed people that a ‘local’ band could make their mark regardless of what the industry at large felt. It’s been a brilliant old trip so far I have to say.”





Metal Hammer Review: Witchsorrow ‘God Curse Us All’

19 07 2012

Here’s a reprint of a review of the ace Witchsorrow record that ran in Metal Hammer.

WITCHSORROW

GOD CURSE US ALL

RISE ABOVE RECORDS

Operating under the Spartan mindset of why have 100 riffs when a single colossal one will do, Hampshire doom trio Witchsorrow’s latest offering is a record that is pretty much tailor-made to soundtrack the impending apocalypse. Recorded in Wales last Hallowe’en, the opus possesses as many moments of primal pummeling as a slugfest between former UFC caveman Brock Lesnar and a velociraptor and there’s little respite from the pure unadulterated heavy metal thunder for the best part of an hour. Highlights include the heads down, no nonsense mindless demonic boogie of Breaking The Lore and the titanic, Goatsnake-esque Aurora Atra, but star of the show is the hulking title track God Curse Us All. Beginning with a suitably tension-filled sample from 80s flick War Games, the band then hit us with an (electric) funeral march that features waves of wah wah riffs which eventually make way for a super-charged, heavy as hell Sabbathy freak-out at the end. In short, if it doesn’t make you want to bang your head then you shouldn’t be reading this magazine. [7]

EDWIN McFEE 





Ben Glover Q And Q

18 07 2012

Here’s a reprint of a Q and A I did with Ben Glover that ran in the Big List a few months ago.

Ben Glover

Continuing our catch-up with some of the music scene’s latest and greatest acts, this month we meet Glenarm-born talented tunesmith Ben Glover ahead of the release of his fourth album ‘Do We Burn The Boats?’ Enjoy.

Hi Ben and welcome to the Big List. This summer your new record ‘Do We Burn The Boats?’ comes out. Can you tell us a little bit about it?

“Howdy Big List! The new record was recorded in Mr Lemon’s Studio in Nashville. I went into the studio with the intention of recording four or five songs for an EP, but after a few days in I felt that there was a momentum happening that I couldn’t ignore. So we ditched the EP idea and went full steam ahead for an album. I had written about thirty new songs in the past year so the material was there, it was just a matter of feeling out what songs sat well together. It was recorded and mixed in two weeks, so it all happened very quickly and organically. It’s a bit of a blur actually!”

 

The new LP sees you re-team once again with producer Neilson Hubbard. What is it about working with Neilson that you enjoy so much?

“This is the third album I’ve worked with Neilson on and I feel very lucky to have made this connection with him. We’ve recorded an album a year for the past three years, so we know how each other works in the studio and we have a great level of trust, which I believe is vital in a relationship with a producer. The emphasis with Neilson in the studio is on the feel and emotional impact of the performance, rather than say, trying to get the technically perfect drum sound. Working with him is always very organic and honest. We are close friends so asides from musical reasons it’s great to be able to work with your mate.”

 

Personally, I’m hearing a strong Tom Petty influence on the record this time around, particularly on ‘Memo.’ Would you agree?

“You can make Tom Petty comparisons all day long and I won’t dare complain! Petty is certainly an influence. If you’re a singer-songwriter it’s near impossible not to be affected by him. With ‘Memo’ we didn’t have any pre-conceived musical direction; that definitely was a song that came to life in the studio. The production brought an awful lot to that track and interestingly it’s one that seems to be connecting with listeners. If we somehow channeled Tom then we must have been doing something right.”

 

Album closer ‘Rampart Street’ in particular is a really beautiful song. Can you tell us a little about how it was made?

“I wrote it with the great Mary Gauthier, who is one of my favourite artists/writers. It was inspired by a story both of us had read about teenage gun crime in New Orleans and “Rampart Street” is in that city. We worked hard to make sure that we made a very specific theme somewhat universal, so I think the sentiment is relatable without having to know the background of the song. We must’ve re-written that song four times before we felt we got it right. This track is one my favourite pieces of music that I’ve recorded. It’s pretty dark, but I think by end of the song we have captured some hope. The beautiful violin played by Tania Elizabeth adds so much to it too.”

 

‘Do We Burn The Boats?’ is your fourth record. In what ways do you feel it differs from your earlier albums?

“I feel in many ways it is lighter, there’s more tempo and the production is edgier. I didn’t want to be so precious about the recording process this time round, meaning I didn’t want over think things too much in the studio. This gave us more freedom to try new things in the studio and I think that can be heard on the record.”

 

I understand the opening track [‘Whatever Happens Will’] is set to feature in the new film Finding Joy. Is soundtrack work something you’d like to get more involved with? Your songs have a very cinematic feel-in the sense that they also tell stories.

“Finding Joy is being released in cinemas in the US in June so I’m excited about it being my first placement. Film and TV soundtracks is definitely a focus of mine and something I want to get much more involved in. I was in Los Angeles in May for a showcase with twenty film/TV music supervisors and it was great to have the opportunity to perform and pitch my songs to them. The sound of my records seems to be favourable with the supervisors, so we’re getting lots of interest from the TV/film world on the back of the LA showcase.”

 

You split your time between Nashville and Belfast. Do you ever see a time when you’ll make the move to Nashville permanently?

“At the moment I spend about eight months of the year in Nashville, so it feels very much like a home to me. It’s a great place to be based in for the US as it’s accessible and relatively central.  It feels as if naturally Nashville is becoming more of my permanent base, but I’m still lucky in that I get to spend time and work both sides of the Atlantic, so in many ways it is the best both worlds.”

 

Finally Ben, you’ve a pretty extensive tour of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland coming up. Are there any shows you’re especially looking forward to and do you feel it’s important to keep gigging at home as well as further afield?

“June is certainly busy on the touring front here. I’m looking forward to all the shows, particularly two nights in No Alibis in Belfast on June 8 and 9. I’ve also got some ‘in-the-round’ gigs coming up with Bap Kennedy and Anthony Toner and it will be great to share the stage with two of NI’s finest. Gigging at home is vital for me and although it’s great to tour and travel, it has to be said that playing at home is hard to beat.”

 

For more info on Ben Glover, including tour dates etc, check out www.benglover.co.uk





LadyHawke ‘Anxiety’ Album Review

17 07 2012

Following on from yesterday,here’s a reprint of my review of Ladyhawke’s new record ‘Anxiety’ that ran in Hot Press.

LADYHAWKE

Anxiety (Modular)

Three stars

Key Track: ‘Cellophane’

PIP BROWN’S SECOND ALBUM IS A FUN BUT FLAWED AFFAIR

As Blacks Kids, Klaxons, Little Boots and many, many others will no doubt agree-four years is an absolute life-time in music these days. With many forms of art unfortunately becoming more and more disposable, this “chip shop paper” mentality has nobbled many a promising act and this issue, 80s-inspired one woman band Ladyhawke attempts to buck that trend with the release of the tellingly-titled Anxiety. And, while she doesn’t quite reach the heady heights of past hits such as ‘My Delirium,’ she does make a pretty decent stab at conquering the dreaded “difficult second album syndrome.”

 

Following on in a similar style from ‘08’s much loved self-titled debut, the 10 track opus peppers the pot by adding in more of a rock feel this time around and at times the guitars are turned all the way up to 11 (‘Girl Like Me’). Lyrically, Pip Brown opens up a little more too and when she croons “I take a pill to help me through the day/I stay inside until I feel ok” on the title track, it feels like a proper, career-defining moment. With the slinky robot rock highs (‘The Quick & The Dead’) there are also a few lows though and the Chas and Dave “Joanna” on ‘Sunday Drive’ ruins what could have been a great indie pop song. Still, for all its flaws, Anxiety is a solid second album and should see Ladyhawke re-establish herself as a strong musical force.

EDWIN McFEE 





Deadpool Video Game Trailer

16 07 2012

Spoiler alert: This looks fucking awesome!

The copy of the Marvel Swimsuit Special in the background is particularly inspired.





Hot Press Interview: Ladyhawke

16 07 2012

Here’s a reprint of my interview with Ladyhawke that ran recently in Hot Press

Electric Ladyland

Indie pop princess Ladyhawke returns to the fray this fortnight armed with her new album Anxiety and Edwin McFee catches up with her to hear about her change of direction, how her lyrics are her most personal yet and why her new material is worth the wait.

They say that a change is as good as a rest and in some respects that dusty old proverb certainly rings true for New Zealand-born torch-bearer of all things future pop Ladyhawke. You see the multi-instrumentalist, who was born Phillipa “Pip” Brown, unveils her second album Anxiety this month and while it may have taken her a little longer to release it than originally planned, the record is a fine return to form for  the singer and that’s largely down to her embracing her inner queen of the stone edge and turning her amps up to 11.

 

“I’m so happy you noticed the Queens of the Stone Age influence,” begins the affable Antipodean. “That’s awesome, no-one’s picked up on it yet, but they’re one of my favourite bands. The thing with me is that I listen to all sorts of music all the time. I never really listen to just one style and when I was doing this album I was listening to a lot of QOTSA, Pixies, Bowie, Joan Jett and Garbage and it rubbed off on the music.”

 

Like all good things though, Ladyhawke’s fans have had to wait four years for the new album and these days that’s a lifetime in the pop world. Was she worried that some music lovers may have moved on and forgotten about her previous indie anthems such as ‘My Delirium?’

 

“The gap didn’t concern me at first but then when everything started getting pushed back it did,” she confesses. “The plan was to release the record last October but the mixes and stuff weren’t right and we had to go back to square one and I remember thinking ‘Shit it’s been so long now…’ The whole industry has changed so much in that time. All the stuff on the radio’s different, it feels like a different place to the time when my debut came out. It’ll definitely be a weight off my shoulders once the record is released.”

 

As infuriating as the delay may have been, Pip tells us that ultimately she had to take some much needed time off after she finished touring her self-titled debut and opted not to rush release another record, preferring to wait until her hunger to write more music returned.

 

“I can’t really write on the road because I can’t focus on it,” she offers. “I go into auto pilot and I only have brains for touring. I’m like some sort of mutant [adopts comedy voice] ‘Errrr touring…’ So I waited until it was all finished and then I was really tired, so I took six months off. I definitely needed time to recharge. I was exhausted physically and mentally and I just couldn’t handle music anymore and that was strange for me. So I decided to extract myself from everything and not play any music or listen to anything and I just waited until I was hungry for it and missed it.”

 

And the time off certainly did her the world of good as Anxiety marks several career nadirs for the 32 year old-most notably her decision to take more of a confessional approach to some of her lyrics and write about her battles with Asperger Syndrome.

 

“I did have second thoughts about putting some of those lyrics out there,” she admits. “I was halfway through writing the songs and was reading through them and the line ‘I take a pill to help me through the day/I stay inside until I feel ok’ from ‘Anxiety’ definitely had me questioning things. I thought ‘Aw no..it’s too personal, people are probably going to ask me about it.’ But then I thought I have to put it out there as it was a process I was going through and I needed to get it out of my system. I figured there’d be so many people who can relate to that and for that reason alone it was a good enough reason to keep it and I’m really proud of this new record. I hope people love it as much as I do.”

 

Ladyhawke’s new album Anxiety is out now via Modular Records.