Dan Sartain-Legacy Of Hospitality

20 04 2011

Eagle-eyed readers of my Twitter may recall that yesterday I was sent a free keg of beer. Well, today my postie has once again pulled out all the stops as he has delivered me the new Dan Sartain album ‘Legacy Of Hospitality’ and accompanying film (courtesy of the good people at One Little Indian).

I have to say I’m really looking forward to watching the movie and the free 3D glasses are a nice touch too! At the moment the so-called Skinny Man is on tour and Irish readers can catch him at the Crane Lane Theatre, Cork on April 27, McHugh’s in Belfast on April 28 and the Button Factory in Dublin on April 29. He’s also playing a bunch of dates around Europe too. ‘Legacy Of Hospitality’ is out on April 25.

If you’ve never seen him before you should make sure to check him out. Here’s a reprint of my review of his last album that ran in AU to get you in the mood.

——————————————————————————————-

Dan Sartain

Dan Sartain Lives (One Little Indian)

After enduring an apparent lifetime to hear some new material from Dan Sartain (ok, it was four years) the Alabama-based riff-slamma finally unleashes his knowingly-titled third record ‘Dan Sartain Lives’ this month and while he doesn’t change the formula too much, it’s an opus of effortlessly cool proportions. Perhaps the best thing about the album though, is the fact that it’s so devoted to the retro sound it could have been recorded in any decade from the 50s onwards. Hell, you can almost hear the valve amps wheeze with exhaustion during the rockabilly stomp of ‘Atheist Funeral’ and ‘Those Thoughts.’ However, Sartain is far from being a one trick pony. The brooding waltz of ‘Bad Things Will Happen’ is both sexual and sinister and the canny lyrics of ‘Yes Man’ assert that the musician has little time for being “cool” or in fashion and both are definite highlights on an album that is a more than welcome addition to his rapidly growing legend. While some folk might say his sound is cliché, we like to think of it as classic.

 8/10

Download: ‘Atheist Funeral, ‘Bohemian Grove,’ ‘Bad Things Will Happen’

For Fans Of: The Night Marchers, Link Wray, El Vez





Spidey Reboot/My First Comic

7 12 2010

This week I’ve been following the latest happenings on the Spiderman film reboot and you know what? I think it looks like it might actually be pretty decent. I was never a huge Spidey fan growing up. My brother used to pick up the Complete Spiderman that Marvel UK used to print every month that collected all four of Webhead’s Yank titles in the early 90s and other than being rather taken with the Black Cat (pictured below) I can’t remember a story that really got me hooked.

Incidentally, I’ve always wanted a suitably saucy Black Cat tattoo, though with my arms basically covered and my chest saved for something else, I dunno where I’d put it to do Felicia justice. But back to the Spidey film. The addition of Emma Stone has certainly swayed me in a positive direction and while I was surprised she wasn’t cast as Mary Jane (they’re both ginger after all) judging by the photo below-she really looks the part as Gwen Stacy (I’ve posted a few piccys so you can compare and contrast coz I’m nice like that).

Pretty good-huh? I’ve always preferred Gwen over MJ anyway, though how that miserable bollocks Parker manages to snag these three ladies is beyond me. I’m convinced he’s the Lembit Opik of comics.

Keeping things in a comic vein-here’s a reprint of the My First Comic piece I wrote for AU a few months ago for my final comics pages. During the summer I had to scale back a little bit on the workload I was taking on, and I decided that after 3 years, the double page spread in the aforementioned mag had to go as there are only so many hours in the day. Don’t worry too much though True Believers, as I’ve pruned the piece down to a more manageable 400words a month.  Anyway, here’s the column.

My Favorite Comic

Edwin McFee

“Ok, as it’s our last ever comics section; the overlords of AU have allowed this writer a little self-indulgence, so here goes. My first real memory of comics and what feelings and thoughts they could provoke in a person was when I was about 7 and I was sitting in a dentist’s waiting room, bored out of my skull while my brother got his gob looked at. A mouthy sort as a child, my mother bought me a copy of Marvel UK’s Transformers to shut me up and it did the trick nicely. The story arc was called ‘Time Wars’ and I was utterly shocked as Galvatron got half of his face blown off and Shockwave descended into a madness that made Eastenders crackhead Phil Mitchell look like the most together dude in the world. After that, I started to collect every issue but as the quality of the comic went on a steady decline I soon binned off the title a few years later.

 “It was only when I was 11 that I really became a complete and utter fanboy. Myself and some friends at school decided to start picking up certain titles from the local newsagents and then we’d swap them around the class after each month. Some of the books I bought were the Punisher and Thor, but it was the Incredible Hulk in particular that struck a chord. At that time (back in 1991, when everyone wore check shirts and didn’t wash their hair, for those keeping score) writer Peter David was just starting to get into the real meat of his epic saga and his take on Bruce Banner’s condition is still as potent now as it was two decades ago. Nowadays I have hundreds of Hulk comics and paraphernalia (hell, I’ve even got a huge tattoo of ol’ Jade Jaws) as well as thousands of comics in general, and while I’m running out of room to house them all, I’d never part with a single issue as whenever life gets me down, I can always open one up and catch up with my friends Bruce, Betty, Rick and Marlo.”





AU Review-Dan Sartain Lives

4 09 2010

Haven’t stuck any album reviews up on Blogging a Dead Horse in a while-so here’s one of the ace new Dan Sartain record. Gotta love the Skinny Man.

Dan Sartain

Dan Sartain Lives (One Little Indian)

After enduring an apparent lifetime to hear some new material from Dan Sartain (ok, it was four years) the Alabama-based riff-slamma finally unleashes his knowingly-titled third record ‘Dan Sartain Lives’ this month and while he doesn’t change the formula too much, it’s an opus of effortlessly cool proportions. Perhaps the best thing about the album though, is the fact that it’s so devoted to the retro sound it could have been recorded in any decade from the 50s onwards. Hell, you can almost hear the valve amps wheeze with exhaustion during the rockabilly stomp of ‘Atheist Funeral’ and ‘Those Thoughts.’ However, Sartain is far from being a one trick pony. The brooding waltz of ‘Bad Things Will Happen’ is both sexual and sinister and the canny lyrics of ‘Yes Man’ assert that the musician has little time for being “cool” or in fashion and both are definite highlights on an album that is a more than welcome addition to his rapidly growing legend. While some folk might say his sound is cliché, we like to think of it as classic.

8/10

Download: ‘Atheist Funeral, ‘Bohemian Grove,’ ‘Bad Things Will Happen’

For Fans Of: The Night Marchers, Link Wray, El Vez





Pledge: A Tribute To Kerbdog Liner Notes

7 04 2010

Last month saw the release of Pledge: A Tribute To Kerbdog via Stressed Sumo Records. Now regular readers of my blog will know that I wrote some liner notes for the disk and I thought it’d be cool to reprint them up on the blog. The record itself is ace. Some of the renditions of the likes of ‘Dry Riser’ and  ‘Mexican Wave’ are great and I urge anyone who was into the band to pick it up.

Anyway, enough of the hard sell. Here’s my liner notes plus a video for ‘Mexican Wave’ from the lads themselves. R.I.P.

In Memory of Kerbdog

I’ll always remember the first time I met Kerbdog. It was via a long forgotten late night rock show on ITV called Noisy Mothers and despite the god awful moniker, it was actually a great way to keep up with new acts (don’t judge me). Anyway, on this particular night my brother and I caught the clip for ‘End of Green’ by Kilkenny’s finest and while the video itself won’t win any awards, the song was a revelation. It was the vocals that struck me first-all impassioned and seemingly out of sync with the rest of the band. Then that sledge hammer riff really kicked in and I knew from then on in that my diet of Maiden, Lizzy and Ozzy just wouldn’t be enough to nourish my bones.

 I remember playing the song to my band at the time and demanding (yes, I was one of those teenagers) that we cover/rip off the track. Our version sucked harder than Annabel Chong of course, but it didn’t really matter, we were having fun. A few weeks later I sold some unwanted tapes and comics to the nearest mug I could find and bought the band’s debut. It was one of my first introductions to so-called “Alternative” music and I couldn’t get enough. Hell, I even took my love for the band as far as hunting down some dodgy specs and cardigans to ape the unlikely style icon that was fellow short-sighted leftie Cormac Battle, but that’s a story for another time…

It’s no secret that Kerbdog never really got their day in the sun (despite their punchy follow up ‘On The Turn’ seeming to have “success” stamped all over it) but to the lucky ones who actually make the effort of hunting down the true hidden treasures, they leave behind a legacy of potent and perverted pop rock songs that will live on long after their untimely demise in the late 90s. In a perfect world we’d all love to hear another record, but for now I’ll settle for those all too rare reunion gigs where I can dance just like those cheesy dudes from the ‘Mexican Wave’ video. Ok, now you can judge me…

Edwin McFee is a music journalist and writes for NME, Hot Press and AU





Russell Brand at the Odyssey

8 01 2010

Sorry for the lack of updates this week, folks. It’s been crazy busy since Monday and it’s only winding down now (even though I’m working tomorrow too). Anyway, I thought I’d finish up the week by reprinting a review of Russell Brand at the Odyssey that ran in AU (which incidentally becomes a free sheet next month).

Russell Brand at the Odyssey, Belfast

Minutes before Russell Brand makes his way onstage, you can hear a multitude of obnoxious big haired ladies talking way too loudly, clearly hoping for a tickle on the funnyman’s love truncheon. Needless to say their efforts are in vain but they give it a good hard try until a VT comes on featuring all of the comedians most “outrageous” moments (the tour’s called Scandalous y’see….). As he strides onstage in bollock torturing trousers backed by AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’ it’s obvious right from the get go that Brand hasn’t a clue how to fill the hour he’s been allotted onstage. In fact for the first fifteen minutes he spends his time strutting around like a peacock gone goth and saying hello to AU’s photographer instead of giving us laughs, but hey, his female followers seem to think it’s inspired…

Tonight’s show is a stark reminder that comedians need to keep writing material no matter what the circumstances. Case in point-our Russell relies far too much on Manuel-Gate (which was a year ago) and slagging off Twilight (which is such an easy target we reckon even Gordon Brown could come up with something remotely funny on the subject). Don’t get us wrong, Russell Brand can be a funny bloke. When he drops the façade and indulges in some self deprecatory humour (such as telling us Noel Gallagher thought he looked like Rev Al Sharpton when he presented the MTV Awards) it’s genuinely hilarious, but those moments are few and far between.

Tonight’s performance has taught us two things about the comedian. Firstly-he’s hopeless when he’s caught on the hop (when one pissed up mentalist beside us starts screaming about Bob Geldof he looks far too frightened to think of a comeback) and secondly his material is older than Bruce Forsyth’s hair-piece. While his show may have pleased the faithful, we think that there’s only so long he can continue with the same old schtick. File under D for disappointing. Edwin McFee





Pocket Billiards Interview

4 12 2009

I interviewed the mighty Pocket Billiards for AU magazine a few issues ago, so here’s reprint.

Pocket Billiards

 

Members: Savage (guitar, vocals), Chuck (guitar, vocals), Steve (keys), Anto (bass), Jim (drums), Joe Monk (trumpet), Elaine (alto sax), Slow (tenor sax).

Formation: Belfast 2002

For Fans Of: The Slackers, Voodoo Glow Skulls, the Clash

Check Out: Debut album Pocket Billiards is out now.

Website: www.pocketbilliards.co.uk

Ever since their inception at the start of the decade, it was clear that Belfast based ska punks Pocket Billiards were something special. Even during those early days when their line-up had more changes that the Sugababes you could always guarantee that a Billiards show would be a fun night out and over the last seven years they’ve matured into one of the country’s best acts. This month they capitalize on all that talent by releasing their self-titled debut album and it was a labour of love for the nine-piece. Recorded by Oppenheimer’s Rocky O’Reilly at Start Together Studios, the slab of wax took three weeks to record and for frontman Chris Savage it was a huge relief to finally get a record out there on the shelves.

“It was brilliant finally getting a recording that really gets across the energy and sound of the band,” he says. “We previously had only recorded a demo way back at the start and then produced an EP in a bedroom (that sadly didn’t sound so good) and I think we proved to ourselves that we could make a good record. Rocky was great to work with and was as willing to experiment with different effects as I was and it allowed us to capture the sound that we had always wanted.”

With morale at an all time high, Savage and Co. decided to finally take the plunge after meeting Rocky at this year’s And So I Watch You From Afar Mandela Hall show and after listening to the high octane release, we’re glad they did.

“I just thought the time was right to make this album. We took a bit of a break over the last few years as a number of band members, including myself, became parents and after the Billiard’s baby boom, we felt that we wanted to get back to playing shows and having fun.  We picked up some good support slots, had written a load of songs and finally had a stable line-up, so we felt it was time to get the music recorded.

“The actual recording all seems a bit of a blur to me now,” he continues.  “As we were pressed for time we worked pretty hard for most of it. I remember the rest of the guys laughing at me because at times I was really losing my temper and getting a bit of a huff on.  I’m surprised they could put up with me! While listening to a playback after one of the recording sessions Anto [bass] declared that we needed ‘eagle ears.’ Now I don’t know much about birds, but I’m pretty sure that the eagle is not particularly well known for its immense auditory sensory system (I can only imagine Bill Odie would shake his head in disbelief at that statement).”

One of the best aspects of the record is the fact that they write about where we live. Tracks like ‘SPIDE’ and Belfast Town’ are not only kickass ska songs, we can relate to them too.

“I can’t stand it when artists sing in the generic ‘American’ accents or write lyrics about things they are totally detached from, just because it may be deemed cool,” he offers. “I try to write about things I have experienced or witnessed and feel strongly about, such as my daughter being born two months premature, the nonsense of musical cliques, or watching your mate become a drunken fool on a night out. At the same time I feel it’s important for me not to take myself too seriously and a bit of humour is certainly something that goes hand in hand with Pocket Billiards. I suppose that’s where songs like ‘SPIDE’ come from and the instrumental track ‘Don’t Scratch My Soca’ is a tribute to one of my all time favourite comedy shows Desmond’s. For me lyrics don’t have to be sublime pieces of poetry, if they are honest and sang with feeling then it’s more natural.

“To be totally honest I have no idea what people’s reactions to the album will be,” he concludes.  “The record is loud, energetic and catchy as hell and one thing I know is that this isn’t just for ska lovers. The album is packed full of heavy riffs, powerful brass lines and sing-a-long choruses. I just hope that people give it a shot and enjoy it.” Edwin McFee  





Sunnyside Comics

17 09 2009

This morning I put the finishing touches to my comics pages for AU and took the opportunity to plug the very nice people who produce the Sunnyside Comics podcast. Here’s what I wrote for the October issue and you can find out more by clicking here www.sunnysidecomics.com

———————————————————————————————————-

Finally this month, we’d like to take this opportunity to plug the Belfast-based podcast Sunnyside Comics. Initially cooked up by Ron Abernethy (of Black Bear Saloon fame) Scott Ferguson and PJ Holden, the three amigos upload all of their output (basically them righting the wrongs of comic-dom from their comfy sofas) via www.sunnysidecomics.com. So if (heaven’s forbid) you don’t get enough comics info from your ol’ pals AU, then check it out.

———————————————————————————————————–





Gallows interview

3 07 2009

Here’s a reprint of my Gallows cover story for AU.

Gallows

Misery Loves Company

Words by Edwin McFee

As Gallows return to the fray bigger, better and ballsier than ever before, we sit down with frontman Frank Carter to dissect their new album ‘Grey Britain’ and talk bloodshed, bad tempers and being spokesmen for the next generation.

“Great Britain is fucking dead…”  ‘Crucifucks,’ Gallows, ’09.

 “For the past three years we’ve been such a cartoon band in the press,” spits Hertfordshire-based hardcore punk Frank Carter. “Everything they thought we were-we weren’t. Everything they made us out to be was wrong. This time around it’s all about the music. The press have had three years of us getting in fights, spitting and having tattoos and I think the general public is bored with it all now. They know we’ve got tattoos, they know sometimes our shows can get a bit raucous and there is plenty of blood, sweat and tears, but now people want to genuinely hear the music and see if there’s substance behind the style and the fact of the matter is that there is. We’ve always been about playing live and living and dying by our music and now we’ve got a really solid record behind us that we’re all extremely proud of.”

If Frank sounds more than a little fucked off, then he has every right to. You see, ever since his band arrived on the scene a handful of years ago with their debut ‘Orchestra of Wolves’ it seems that the five-pieces’ collection of tattoos and craving for chaos has fired more people’s imaginations than their ballsy brand of sonic smackdowns that former WWE superstar Stone Cold Steven Austin himself would be proud of. But that’s all about to change once their sophomore effort ‘Grey Britain’ hits the shelves.

“This record attacks everyone. It’s anti-authority, anti-religion, anti-government-it’s anti-life really. It’s mainly anti-apathy though. I want to try and break the idea that you can’t make a difference. I’m speaking to the kids of the world and trying to tell them that they can change things if they want to. A lot of the younger generation feel worthless and feel like they can’t make a difference but in actual fact they are the future for all of us.”

It’s quite surreal talking about educating children with a man who’s become notorious for busting himself open (albeit unwittingly) at gigs and who can often find himself strangled by his own hatred, but even the most pig headed right wing bigot would admit that he’s talking sense on tracks like ‘London is the Reason’ and anti binge drinking anthem ‘I Dread the Night.’

“It’s time for a change,” offers Frank, warming to the subject. “Whenever anything falls to its lowest point, that’s when the power is really up for grabs and that’s when it can go back to the people. When you’re put in a situation that is just horrendous, they can take the power back and I think that’s what needs to happen and I’m not talking about a revolution of riots-I’m taking about a revolution of fresh education and to help people dream again and start having aspirations. I want listeners to know they can do something with their lives-whatever you want to do-you can do it. Everyone goes through that bad spell of being a fuckin’ raucous teenager, getting fucked up, going down to the park. When you first find girls or boys it’s fuckin’ exciting, but really, the problem is that parents aren’t teaching their children that it’s ok to go through that but to find yourself while you’re doing it.”

“Take that 13 year old kid who became a dad recently,” he continues. “He needs to realise he’s got nothing to offer that child. He may think he can look after it but he can’t because he can’t even look after himself. At that age you can’t even legally get a job, so how can you expect to look after a family when you can’t even work. Parents now are teaching kids that it’s better to claim the dole and benefits than it is to go out and earn a living and that’s really got to change. We have to try and impress on these kids the value of a hard day’s work. It’s difficult for me because I’m in a position where I’m doing what I love to do. When I’m not in the band I try to tattoo as much as possible but that’s still a very easy job compared to most. I worked hard to get there though. These days, the only time now where I feel like I’ve done a hard day’s work is when I’m out in my garden with my brothers. We built a fence last summer because the old one was haggard and we rebuilt it by hand and we really felt like we did something good and I think we need to instill that sense of pride in one’s work to the next generation. We need to make children contribute to society or else there’s not going to be a society anymore. I just want them to have pride in themselves.”

 

And this renewed sense of pride is a theme that runs through ‘Grey Britain’ like the River Thames. The lyrics may be grim and cover a range of topics like the hypocrisy of religion (‘The Great Forgiver’) and politics (‘Black Eyes’) but there’s an over-whelming feeling of catharsis too. A feeling that if we all turn off Jeremy Kyle for half an hour and do something with our lives, then we can achieve something positive. In short, ‘Grey Britain’ is possibly the greatest punk rock record of our generation.

“This album is pretty much exactly what we wanted,” states the singer. “We’ve always been fighting against ourselves but now we want to offer something to people and prove that there’s more to punk rock other than venom. Like look at children now-they are the next wave of prime ministers and police and priests and teachers and you kinda think-what good do they have to look at in the world. There’s nothing there. That’s going to make for a very bleak outlook. If they don’t have something to live for, what can they then offer their children? Hopefully we can provide the alternative.”

The theme of ‘Grey Britain’ is a pretty simple one. It’s Frank Carter saying “the world is fucked and so am I.” However, with lyrics which bathe in images of Union Jacks, does he worry his songs might be misinterpreted? As a way of explaining the point, AU tells the singer that Iron Maiden’s cover for their single ‘the Trooper’ (a tune based on the Crimea War during the 19 century that features a red coated Eddie on the sleeve holding a Union Jack) was adopted by loyalist paramilitaries in this country. They even went as far a painting Derek Riggs’ image on a wall in the Maze prison, thereby totally missing the point of the song and high-jacking the image for their own purposes. Does he worry that the BNP or, on the flipside, anti-British factions may do something similar?

“You’re completely right-I am worried about that. I was very careful when I came to writing the album because I didn’t want it to be adopted by the wrong crowd of people,” admits the singer. “For example-the lyric ‘Great Britain is fucking dead’ is just a line about how I feel and about how a lot of other people feel. It’s not hard to see that the world is fucked but I don’t want anyone twisting my words. I’m not singing for anyone other than myself and the generation of children that are coming now because everything is in their hands.”

As well as a marked musical change (more on that later) Frank has also made a conscious decision to alter his lyrics too. Gone (well, for the most part) are the crude curse words of ‘Orchestra of Wolves’ and obvious as a high-waisted trouser joke round Simon Cowell’s gaff imagery and in its place is a more restrained, yet still utterly pissed off prose.

“I’ve still got the anger in me, but it’s more refined and focused this time around. Beforehand we were quite a messy band and on the last album I was always behind everyone else. The music was always written and I was usually late with my lyrics, but this time I got to sit down and consider the whole concept and idea behind the record. I got to be offensive and completely attack it. I think the lyrics are slightly more intelligent and ten times angrier than the first one. I’ve toned down a lot of the swearing (even though that’s just how I speak) because when I was writing the songs I just didn’t need it. The hatred and the bile was there without using any fucking swear words. Every word I needed was equally disgusting without cursing and in a way they had more venom to it.”

 

To say that ‘Grey Britain’ is an ambitious record is like saying Vannesa Feltz enjoys the odd snack every now and again. The slab of wax is complex (it features a 33 piece string section) catchy (‘I Dread the Night’ is the best Murder City Devils song the band never wrote) and controversial (Gallows perform acoustically on ‘the Vulture Act I’). But perhaps most surprisingly though, it’s a (gasp) concept record. So will the band be breaking out the capes and keyboards for their up-coming tour?

“Fuck off,” he laughs. “God I hate that word ‘concept album’ but you know what? That’s exactly what we were trying to do with the story and ideas behind it. More importantly we just wanted to make the record we’ve always wanted to make. As kids we grew up reading rock magazines and went to Reading and other festivals and followed groups on tour and we were in our own little band that never got anywhere and then this dream of ours happened and it’s happened so fast. We’ve toured the world so many times off the back of a record that was really a compete mistake. To be given this opportunity and be given the last great record deal of probably the rest of time [author’s note-the band signed to Warners for a reported £1 000 000] we all felt like if we didn’t use it wisely and live up to our full potential by doing every single thing we wanted to do, we would’ve felt like we’d robbed ourselves. We got to work with Garth Richardson and Andy Wallace-just complete rock legends and we even got to work at Abbey Road studios-one of the most important recording studios in the world. We did everything live and everything about this record is real. We wanted to hark back to an era when everything was simpler and just go-let’s fucking do it.”

For all of his bravado, Frank is admittedly shitting himself over ‘the Vulture Act I’ however. When we tell him that we think the song (which sees him actually sing for the first time) works really well, he seems visibly relieved.

“I’m really glad you said you love it because I’m a bit nervous about it. It was a risky decision on my part.  I really wanted to do it but didn’t know if I could pull it off and the boys were like ‘definitely give it a try. If it doesn’t work we’ll let you know.’ They seemed happy with it and I feel like it works. Any other time you could say ‘oh Gallows have recorded an acoustic song’ and people would look at you and think what the fuck are you talking about-you are lying through your teeth, but in the context of this record it really works. I’m so proud of it. I don’t listen to that song and cringe and that’s all I was worried about. I didn’t want that one song to ruin the whole album and it doesn’t. It flows so perfectly and effortlessly and it doesn’t disturb the ebb at all. In my opinion we’ve always been about making brave choices though.”

At the time of our interview, Frank is just back from tearing Texas a new bum-hole at South by South West. With yet more images of the singer’s face covered in a crimson mask circulating on the web, we ask him if he’s the clumsiest man in the world, or just a clever PR guy.

“Yeah…” he laughs, slightly sheepishly. “The thing is with those shows, there’s a lot of press there and it’s really industry only and maybe a few fans, so in that respect, because it’s industry only, we go there and destroy absolutely everything-including ourselves-in an attempt to get those industry people to understand what we’re about. At the same time though, if you go on You Tube and watch us perform I can guarantee you’ll see that same fury no matter where we’re playing. It’s tops off, sweating to fuck and completely trashing everything. We’ve never dulled down what we’ve done.”

And does he worry about his band’s success? Gallows are playing somewhat roomier venues this time around…

“We don’t know how it’ll pan out. The stages will be bigger but we don’t plan on changing any time soon. I won’t let anyone put a barrier between me and the crowd. We’re all as one and you can guarantee I’ll be in the middle of them, leading the charge.”

 

Of course, with a band like Gallows, it has to be a concern that their success will inevitably cause a split in the punk community. In the past bands with similar ideals have strayed away from their roots, but we get the feeling from talking to Frank that his boys will always be ones to believe in.

“People message me on MySpace asking if it’s really me and I’m like-of course it fucking is. Who else would it be? I don’t ever want to get to a stage where we’re kept apart from the fans because the way I see it is there is no real difference between anyone. It doesn’t matter anyway, it’s not like we’re going to be around in 20years time, is it?”

A lot has been made of the band’s longevity in the past. A year or two ago, this writer interviews Lags [Gallows guitarist/songwriter] and even then he confessed he couldn’t see the band surviving the decade, so I was intrigued to hear Frank’s take on the subject.

“I’ll put it like this,” he says. “Will the Ting Tings be around in five years? I don’t fucking think so. Most modern bands don’t last that long and most modern bands don’t play at the same level we do. Other groups usually have some sort of drug to keep them going but my brother [Steph, guitar] and me are sober-so we’ve nothing to rely on which means we’ll probably be fucked in two years time, but I still wouldn’t change a thing.”

After spending time in Frank’s company, I’m rather taken aback by the similarities we both share. Apart from the cosmetic traits [we’re both heavily tattooed and we both love the Murder City Devils more than life itself] we view the world in the same way-work hard, keep your principles intact and don’t give a fuck about the people too stupid to understand.

“There’s a song on ‘Grey Britain’ called ‘the Queensbury Rules’ and on it I’m almost harking back to an era that’s completely lost,” reflects Frank, expanding on the point. “Like back to a time where if men had a problem they would sort it out by a fist fight that was governed by the local towns-people instead of talking shit behind their backs. I think things back then were a lot easier. You didn’t need to worry about biological warfare because it wasn’t fucking invented. They were too busy about worrying about the Plague and putting food on the table and working to support their families.”

As we finish up our talk, we go back to his initial outburst about the media in general misrepresenting him and writing him off as some steak headed tattooed thug. Obviously it annoys him somewhat, but if the recent April Fool’s story about him guest starring in an episode of Eastenders is anything to go by (there’s more chance of a zombie Pete Beale turning up and eating Big Mo’s brains than Frank being Barbara Windsor’s bit on the side I’m afraid) he’s willing to see the funny side.

“Yeah, that was hilarious,” he laughs. “I got so much abuse over that and I think what was worse was that people actually believed it!”

By the time you read this, ‘Grey Britain’ will be on the shelves of record shops around the world. It’s an album that sees the band finally live up to their potential and is up there with the greats. Before e bid the singer goodbye, we ask, does the impending ascension to punk rock royalty concern him?

“Not really. I’m happy with everything we’ve achieved in this band and there’s not a day goes by where I’m not thankful and humble about it,” he says finally. “I feel so proud of this band right now, man. I feel proud and blessed. Well, I don’t believe in a god, but whoever’s blessing me I’m thankful for it.”





The Band That Tried To Strangle Itself

8 05 2009

As I’ve mentioned before, Therapy? are one of my favouritre bands. They introduced me to punk rock, I formed my first group because of them and I’m now happy to say that after half a decade of interviewing them at different points in their career I’m on friendly terms with the boys. This week they play two Irish shows and I’m hoping to be at at least one, so it seems as good a time as any to re-publish my interview that ran in AU #55. (www.iheartau.com).

It was one of the my favourite ever T? interviews and helping out for the photo shoot (which took place in my house) was surreal, but really fucking cool. Any, enough slabbering-here it is.

The Band That Tried To Strangle Itself

On the eve of the release of their 12th record ‘Crooked Timber,’ Edwin McFee meets NI legends Therapy? to talk about health scares, solidarity, Axl Rose moments, why Andy Cairns’ Da thinks ‘Infernal Love’ is “shite” and much, much more.

 

“I had a health scare about two years ago,” begins Therapy? singer/guitarist Andy Cairns, as he and his band-mates [bassist Michael McKeegan and tub thumper Neil Cooper] settle into AU’s couch to sip on their mugs of tea. “There was a problem with my lungs and I waiting for test results to come back and it wasn’t looking too good. Thank fuck everything was alright, but I had that classic waiting for the results dread and it got me thinking about mortality again. In many ways I think of ‘Crooked Timber’ as my mid-life crises record as the lyrics are all about dying. Not a single day goes by now where I don’t think about death”

While it wasn’t the answer I was expecting to my simple enough question (that was “how the hell do a band in their twentieth year come out with such a sprawling, inventive and at times downright insane slab of wax such as ‘Crooked Timber’,” for those keeping score) it explains a lot. Tracks like ‘the Head that Tried to Strangle Itself, ‘I Told You I Was Ill’ and ‘Enjoy the Struggle’ bleed with bravado, passion and lunacy and it’s heartening to see the former AU cover stars releasing some of their best work when by all accounts they should be making dodgy acoustic albums/doing reunion shows like the rest of their peers. But then Therapy? were never ones to follow convention, were they?

“The new record was actually really quick to make and I think the time off did us a lot of good” says Andy. “ To be honest, what had happened with us was that whenever we were doing ‘High Anxiety’/’Never Apologise Never Explain’/’One Cure Fits All’ we got into that circuit again of doing a record, going on tour then doing another record straight after. That’s what it was like when we started the band too and we felt like we needed a break. I think if you tour too much people can take you for granted. We’ve got a fan-base worldwide, but we were worried that if you go on tour people would be like ‘oh it’s Therapy? They’ll be round next year.’ So we thought it would be good to take time out from the public eye and also have a little think about what we wanted to do instead of just getting into a formula.”

And if the formula-bucking sonic “fuck you” that is ten minute instrumental ‘Magic Mountain’ is anything to go by, we’d safely say that Therapy? are far from going through the motions on their new one…

“I think the best thing about writing this record was that we had no agenda or preconceived ideas,” offers founding member Michael. “With some of those songs we could’ve went in with ‘producer’s ears’ and said ‘cut that bit and cut that bit’ but we gave everything a chance, whereas ten years ago we would’ve discarded it. Everyone felt really confident with what we were doing and we didn’t have the whole ‘that’ll be a hit’ mindset.”

“Also, because we had a bit of time we could go home and let an idea mature and that definitely helped,” adds token Englishman Neil, who still gets referred to by fans as the new boy despite being in the band since 2002.  “If something didn’t work we could take some time and try and figure out ways to make it suit. We started to really enjoy our jam sessions and songs like ‘Magic Mountain’ all originated from that. We played off each other a lot more instead of the usual verse/chorus/verse/chorus punk songs.”

 

In many ways, their cavalier “damned if you do/who cares if you don’t” attitude  reminds this writer of the ‘Infernal Love’ and ‘Suicide Pact-You First’ eras of the band. Both times (’95 and ’99 respectively) the boys had their backs against the wall and were making music for the sheer thrill of it. While musically ‘Crooked Timber’ is very different, there is a distinct air of abandon on the record that’s in tune with those releases. Sadly though, over the last few years the words ‘Infernal Love’ are something akin to ‘I paid your mother for sex’ in the Therapy? camp, so AU takes the opportunity to good naturedly chastise them for being ashamed of one of the most important records in Irish history. Don’t believe me? Download ‘A Moment of Clarity,’ ‘Jude the Obscene’ and ‘Me Vs You’ for proof, punker.

“We’re fond of it now, but at the time it was hard to love,” says Andy, noticeably squirming in his seat a little. “Looking back, it’s like those Looney Tunes cartoons where you have a devil and an angel on your shoulder and because it came out during Britpop (and we’re an Irish and British band) we didn’t do ourselves any favours with the stick-on moustaches and red frilly shirts. In those days it was like a year of being told you’re shite, you’re shite, you’re shite. My Da even went-‘I don’t like that new album son’ [laughs]. It went from ‘Troublegum,’ Top of the Pops and having critical acclaim to stick-on moustaches, red shirts and cellos and that’s it-you’re shite. You go home at Christmas to escape it and you get it there too [laughs]. It got to be a psychosomatic thing for me. When anyone mentioned ‘Infernal Love’ I broke out in a rash and acne and my glasses went like this [moves glasses off his face like Eric Morcambe]. It must’ve been traumatic post album stress or something like that. With hindsight, now I’m proud of it. In the middle of everyone trying to sound ‘Cockerney,’ we came out and did this album.”

Over the last two decades, Therapy? has every right to be proud of their impressive arsenal of anthems though. Whether it was the industrial madness of that first seven inch single ‘Meat Abstract,’ (’90) the utterly life affirming ‘Shortsharpshock’ EP (’93) the fist in the air, sabre-rattling ‘If It Kills Me’ (’03) or the Charles Mingus aping ‘Enjoy the Struggle’ (’09) the boys from Ballyclare and Larne have been nothing short of inspirational to two generations of punk and rock fans. In fact, not only did this writer form his first ever band as a direct result of hearing ‘Teethgrinder’ (’92) and the aforementioned ‘Shortsharpshock’ EP, but I’ve got the band’s question mark heart indelibly inked on my fore-arm for life. Yes, dear readers, the music of Therapy? can be life changing, but when talk turns to their legacy, they look quite sheepish.

“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? and they were acting more like rock stars more than the band were.

“It is nice to hear that our music meant something to people though. We do meet bands who big us up when we see them and it’s not something I expect to hear but it is good to have people say seeing your band changed my life because it makes you realize that it hasn’t all been in vain.”

As all three members of Therapy? pick through my records and odd collection of action figures (not only are we doing our interview in AU’s home, but the photo shoot as well) it seems that there is a determination for the band to let not anything go to their heads. In many ways it’s a throw-back to their early days, when they were three penniless noise merchants with short hair who saw bands like Guns ‘N’ Roses as the enemy. Somewhat spookily, in a bizarre turn of events, the trio ended up supporting the anti-christ that is Axl and Co. in Dublin in ’05 and it’s an event that lives on in infamy in Therapy?-lore as the ginger frontman got his revenge on our heroes by doing the unthinkable…

“People forget now, but when we started the band Guns N Roses were the enemy,” remarks Andy. “GNR were everything that was wrong with music at that time and Axl Rose’s demands in those days didn’t sit well with us. In the early days if I put a guitar solo in a song Fyfe [Ewing, former Therapy? drummer ‘89-‘96] would throw his sticks down and refuse to play it. There was a phrase we used to use for something we hated and that was ‘that is so GNR.’ God forbid someone used a wah wah pedal! [Laughs].

“So yeah, we were offered a headline slot on the second stage and I remember three songs from the end GNR (who are notorious for going onstage late) decided that for once they would go on early when we were playing [laughs]. Three songs from the end there was a massive exodus out of the tent and I just thought-this is typical. Of all the nights they go on early, they do it when we’re playing. We were riffing away and loving it and all you can hear it ‘It’s So Easy’ kicking off and that was the first time I wanted to shout ‘come the fuck back, you fickle cunts’ during a gig.”

 

Speaking of gigs, this year sees the much anticipated live return of Therapy? with dates in the Nerve Centre in Derry (May 14) the Academy in Dublin (May 15)  and an as yet unannounced (ssshhh! It’s a secret!) slot at this year’s Oxegen already on the cards. There’s also a Belfast date in the winter in the works too, so that’ll appease anyone who missed out on the band’s recent headlining slot at Do You Remember the First Time in the Ulster Hall last month. Speaking of which, at the time of our interview, it’s the morning after the show and there are smiles all round whenever it’s mentioned.

“I thought Do You Remember the First Time was a brilliant night,” grins Andy. “The atmosphere was amazing both at the front and backstage. For once it was almost as if NI turned round and said ‘look we have a scene here and we’re proud of it’ and the last time I saw that was during the punk scene of the 70s when I was 12 or 13. It seemed like for years it was such a fractured thing and then with the rise of various magazines and lots of new bands people rediscovered their pride. It was a fantastic night.”

“It doesn’t take much to support the scene,” he continues. “We’ve recorded in Seattle with Jack Endino [‘Shameless’ ‘01] and when you get there you realize that for a city, it’s not that big, but the music scene had a sense of solidarity that made people take notice. The fact that all these bands like the Melvins and Mudhoney and Nirvana all hung out with each other isn’t that strange but by mentioning each other in the press it helped promote the scene. A lot of the stuff that was going on was pretty disparate musically and worlds apart, but they put on a united front and I think that’s what’s happening now in NI. Last night there were totally different bands on the bill but everyone was egging each other on to do well.”

With Therapy? finally being recognized as God-Fathers of our current scene (incidentally the band were full of praise for And So I Watch You From Afar’s debut) and a new found confidence giving the band a certain swagger, it’s a good time to be a fan of the trio. About ten years ago the group’s life expectancy looked a little grim but thankfully nowadays Andy, Michael and Neil can confirm that they’ve no intentions of ever splitting up. ‘So Much For the Ten Year Plan’ indeed.

“I think that the pace has changed at the moment. People take their time with things,” concludes Andy. “I think with the advent of the internet, people see music as more precious. People who bitch about downloading and all the rest are annoying though. If we were 14 we’d have fucking loved it. My son is nine and he loves the computer and knows how to work it and I was thinking if I had a computer in my home when I was 12 or 13 and I had access to all this stuff I’d be on it all the time and that’s not even before I got into the pornography, that’s just for music [Laughs]. But yeah, we’re enjoying ourselves and see no reason to call it a day. We never had a ten year plan and you can mark my words, we never will.”

‘Crooked Timber’ by Therapy? is out now on DR2 Records. The band play the Nerve Centre in Derry on May 14 and the Academy in Dublin on May 15. www.therapyquestionmark.co.uk





AU Issue 56

7 05 2009

The new issue of AU is currently out of the shelves and features Gallows on the front cover, written by yours truly. It’s my first cover in over a year and my seventh in total (not including contributions to ‘top 50’ type issues). As some who read Dead Horse know, I’ve been with Alternative Ulster since (more or less) day one in the winter of ’02. In those days the intention was to launch a website that focused on reviewing/interviewing local unsigned acts who were ignored by the mainstream press, but that ultimately mutated into the magazine we know and love today.

Over the last six and a half years I’ve been a part of some features I’ve been really proud of (my Gossip cover still ranks as one of the best things I’ve written) and some things I really haven’t (my pro-riot grrrl piece didn’t pan out like I wanted it to thanks to a cover photo that totally missed the point of the article and unfortunately ended up looking like some paedo’s wet dream. *Shudder*).  I’ve left a few times but I always seem to come back eventually and I’ll probably be involved with the magazine until it ultimately runs its course.

Anyway, I digress. I’m very happy with how the Gallows interview turned out and despite a few niggling things design/editing wise, I think I can be proud of it so check it out if you get a chance and let me know what you think.