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tasty 18 - interviews

- Diskant
- Elf Power
- Farming Incident

- Lovejoy

 

Diskant - Care in the Community

Like some compendium of all that is good in the world, diskant remains one of the UK’s, nay the world’s!, best websites for information, news, views and all round general goodness on this thing we call ‘music’. Host to a myriad of different underground concerns, diskant remains in the cool grip of its founder, Marceline Smith, part overlord, part mother to the rest of the diskant cast. To found out just how sexy diskant is, turn to page www.diskant.net and read aloud to the rest of the class. But for now, here’s Marceline’s version of things.. 

What made you get into fanzines...and eventually start up diskant?
It would be Riot Girl. Being stuck in a tiny Scottish fishing village, the only way I was able to participate in Riot Girl was by writing letters and buying records and zines by mail order. The first fanzines I made myself were on a completely different subject though. I started off doing a fanzine about smartie top collecting of all things, then an infamous Gene fanzine with my sister and then various other zines with different people.

diskant came about when I was offered some free webspace and thought it might be fun to put up some of the interviews from my fanzines since they were mostly out of print. And then I helped Gringo Records and a couple of friends' fanzines and bands get themselves online and it just grew and grew and took on a life of its own.

Do you think there was a golden era for fanzines? Can you name some of your favourites?
Up until a few months ago I probably would have said there was a golden era of fanzines or even just an era of fanzines that pretty much ended but things seem to be picking up again. I've been sent a bunch of really good new UK fanzines lately and it's becoming a lot easier to buy fanzines from all over the world. So I have a favourite era of fanzines which is inevitably the era in which I was buying a lot of fanzines and making a lot of fanzines. The first fanzine I bought was Ablaze! which pretty much set the standard for me. Since then other greats have been SunZoomSpark, Damn You!, No Pictures, Fast Connection and Robots and Electronic Brains. I like fanzines with a lot of personality, a dose of stupidity and, obviously, intelligent, interesting writing.

Can you explain the main ethos behind diskant?
Well, my aims when I started diskant were that it would be a  friendly community spirited place where people could find out information about independent music online and find their way to other independent music websites. We try and do everything we can to help independent bands, fanzines and labels get their stuff online as cheaply and easily as possible. We've also made great efforts to avoid any kind of corporate advertising or sponsorship and to highlight the new and unsigned bands that need the attention.

How do you fit diskant around your 'proper' job?
It's more like the other way round really. At the moment it's easy as I don't have a job and my last couple of jobs have been part time. Basically diskant has made it impossible for me to work a full time job. The last time I worked full time I ended up spending my entire evenings and weekends working on diskant stuff and consequently not being the happiest or healthiest of people. In my last job I spent a fair amount of work time working on diskant stuff, using it as my 'project' for learning aspects of ASP and database integration and ended up with my line manager joining diskant as a consultant! I'm not imagining things will be so easy in future jobs.

Do you pick and choose who'll become part of the diskant community?
The community aspect has always been the most important part of diskant so we take it very seriously. But we're happy to host websites by any bands, fanzines or labels that have an independent DIY ethic and a community sprit. Our affiliate sites, which are websites we don't host but feel are some of the best sites around, the diskant staff visit each submitted site and vote on how much we like them and how much they've got to offer diskant and vice versa. We're happy to include almost any website in our links database though providing it's of some relevance and doesn't offend our eyes or sanity.

What's the best thing about being involved in diskant?
Without a doubt it's all the lovely people I've met over the years [including both my current housemates...] and all the fantastic bands I probably wouldn't have heard otherwise.

How much do you rely on other people involved in diskant?
I've got ten volunteer staff and I couldn't manage without them really. We wouldn't be able to run a monthly magazine section or the Weblog or get even half the records we get sent reviewed. When any of them go on holiday it's immediately obvious to me when I'm struggling to deal with their work on top of mine. And that they do it all for free is almost enough to bring me to tears.

Would you like to run diskant as a full-time concern one day?
Part of me would like to but I know that's it's impossible. The amount of money it would have to earn to keep running and pay my wages would make it into something that wasn't diskant. Same as if it involved selling  diskant to someone else and then working for them. It would become a business and if I work for a business [which I generally do when employed], I want to be able to complain about the boss and switch off at the end of the day and abuse my photocopier privileges, not be there all weekend worrying about advertising revenue and, god forbid, making people redundant. The only way it would work would be if someone was to give me a million pounds and then I'd happily spend that sitting in my nice purpose-built office running diskant all day and buying laptops for my staff.

What would make you give up diskant?
If it took up even more of my time and finances than it does now. If it stopped being fun.

There seems to be an underlying political current to diskant - are you a member of the SSP?
I am indeed. I was a very active member of the Socialist Workers Party in Aberdeen for about five years and there's always been political bits and pieces in my fanzines. The SWP are now merged with the Scottish Socialist Party and I'm ashamed to say I'm not nearly so active these days although I keep up my membership and my reading. The electoral side of things isn't half as interesting to me as occupying council chambers over student fees and suchlike. I'm finding things like Indy Media are beginning to bring back my enthusiasm though.

Could diskant exist anywhere else apart from
Glasgow - could you move to another part of Britain and carry on?

I started diskant in Aberdeen and ran it pretty successfully from there for a couple of years before I moved to Glasgow. I imagine I could run it from anywhere in the UK although I don't think I personally could exist outside of a major city again. diskant does have a strong Glasgow/Scotland edge to it at the moment so it would certainly evolve towards something else if I was to move to England, Europe or further.

Where do you hope to end up with diskant?
Well, I hope not to end up on the streets. Other than that, I'm surprisingly short of ambition. My head's constantly bursting with ideas of how to make diskant bigger and better and more exciting but I'm not sure what the final aim is. Having a vivid imagination, it's probably best I don't think too far into the future.

 

Elf Power

Elf Power ...ermm...power on. 18 months after tasty last interviewed these psych-pop maestros, they have a stunning new album out. ‘Creatures’ signposts a further change in the band’s sound, as they turn tail of pyschedelia for a while and hit the highway called POP! We had a quick chat with mainstay Andrew Reiger.  

Can you give me a bit of background about the album. Does it have a central concept, or is it more a collection of separate recordings?
There is a central thread running through the songs . There are many references to "creatures" hence the album title. Not to get too hokey, but it is vaguely about humanity's relationship to natural and spiritual things being diluted by modernization.
 
Do you think the recent change in personnel has changed the band's sound at all?
No, not really. we've had between 10-20 people in and out of the band over the last 8 years. There's always been a core of people who are more permanent members and others who come and go. We like it that way, because it's always nice to collaborate with different people.

To me, the album seems more pure pop than your others. is this the reason it only lasts half an hour? Did you want to make something completely instantaneous?
Yeah , we were kind of interested in making a really direct rock/pop album, and not going off on quite as many tangents as we have in the past!
 
Looking back over the band's history, do you
 think you've matured 'organically' or have there been definite attempts to change direction at certain points?
No, it's kind of been a natural thing. I think because I sing and write most of the songs, we've maintained a fairly consistent sound, though styles and arrangements have varied.
 
How would you describe your music when you started the band - and how would you describe it now?
The first album was recorded on a 4 track cassette machine mostly by myself, so it was very trashy sounding. Now of course we have a full band and record in a regular studio, so of course it sounds more like a rock band.

Which do the band prefer - recording or playing live? Why?
We see them as two separate things. When recording we can add many layers which we don't try to play live necessarily. Playing live is more of loud, sloppy celebration.
 
What of Elefant 6? Is it dead?
None of the people involved are dead, so I suppose it's alive!...the only time we ever think of elephant 6 is when journalists ask us about it, so maybe it is dead!

In your opinion, who are Elf Power's peers at present? And who would you like to be compared to eventually, past or present?
Current bands we have toured with and like their music include Neutral Milk Hotel, Wilco, Guided by Voices, Olivia Tremor Control....as far as who we're compared to, I think bands that we admire sonically include Brian Eno, Neil Young, Velvet Underground, Robert Wyatt,  Sonic Youth , REM...
 
Could Elf Power ever become dull to you? Or has it in the past?
No, if it did I'd stop doing it. 

And what happens next?
We are touring the US/Canada in September. Europe in October/November, and releasing an album of cover songs in oct including songs by Chris Knox, Buzzcocks, Bad Brains, Gary Numan, T-rex, Sonic  Youth, Robyn Hitchcock, Roky Erickson, and the Jesus and Mary Chain, amongst others. 

‘Creatures’ is out now on Shifty Disco Records

 

Animal Lovers - Farming Incident

No, don’t worry, you haven’t picked up a copy of Goat Worrier Weekly by mistake readers. You are merely here to listen to how good Leeds noiseniks, Farming Incident. Looking for Spacemen 3 having a fight with the Fall? Then you’ve come to the right place, as tasty talked to the band about its  love of furry things.... 

The name of the band, tell all?
Ieuan Jones (guitar bass keyboards) - Wasn't my idea. It looks scarier than it sounds, if you know what I  mean.

Dave Mays (drums, bass, keyboards)  My Dad's cousin (Frank) was a pig farmer in North Essex, and so farming and a love of pork products is in my blood. I seem to remember we (the band) were chatting about these issues around the time when that farmer chap who sliced his arm clean off in a threshing machine and carried it over the fields to the nearest A&E department to be stitched back on hit the headlines, and we all chorused, "What a great name for our band!".

Dave Proctor (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, vocals) - Pretty much as DM explains above - Farming Accident sounded too dull  and not as scary

Jon Watson (guitar, bass, keyboards) - Agricultural death, wasn't it? I mean physical, actual death rather  than
the "death of the countryside" which is regularly touted by the pro-bloodsports lobby. Have they been to the countryside lately? It's lush and verdant, and far from dead.

What do you make of the Leeds scene?
IJ - Lots of great bands (and a few bad ones) with nowhere decent to play.  And why do all the bigger bands play Sheffield instead? (Rhetorical question - I refer you to my previous answer)

DM - Errr... which one?! I preferred Leeds when the students were scruffier and poorer than the locals, who had 'taches and tucked-in sweatshirts, and when all the best clubs were rock and goth ones... and a pint of Tetley in the University Union cost only 79p. Those were the days. You should *see* some of the rabble we get at our gigs (when anyone turns up).

DP - some excellent bands, sadly with few really good places to play. Fortunately the DIY scene has good experimental ideas for events and gigs  for those of us who like to avoid shit holes like Majestyx

JW - I've got to agree with Dave M, I have to say. There's some good bands out there, and there's also a lot who seem to be playing the same song. I tend to keep away from town cos it scares me. It's a lot easier to get punched these days than it used to be.

Would you say that you were a political band? If so, where do your  sympathies lie?
IJ - I don't write the lyrics, but regarding my political beliefs, I'd say  that although I used to be a Marxist firebrand, now I'm older I'm aware that the world's a lot more complex than I once thought, so as a result my politics change every day. If there's one thing I'm consistently angry about, tho', it's how the Welsh are still (after 1500 years, mind) being made to feel like second-class citizens in their own country. And another thing... Hey, come back!

DM - Yes. And my sympathies lie firmly with our parents and our audience.

DP - I  think we are, but it never is that obvious in the songs, and that's  the way I want it and like it. Giving too much away renders things pointless and also means your audience is likely to be fickle as fuck. I  like mystery and not knowing what things are about in music, otherwise  what's the point? I still feel that i'm a Marxist in principle, the practical side these days is the tricky part

JW - I think that because we don't - as a rule - do songs about girls ,people  assume that our rehearsals are like Maoist "speak bitterness" meetings. They aren't. Some of our songs observe the world's strangeness, and therefore may seem political. To me, for example, paying BNFL and the UKAEA to poison people is stupid. Saying so isn't necessarily a political act. I'm essentially a humanist who's constantly amazed by the stupidity of those in charge.

What's the point of the Farming Incident?
IJ - What, indeed, is the point of the Farming Incident? Does that answer your question?

DM - For me it's a hobby which will distract me from death and hopefully get me laid, one day. 

DP - It helps me to give my brain lots to work on. I don't sleep very well generally, so working on music, which inevitably takes time, helps the time to pass. And we can make a bloody row, without having to justify ourselves to journos...erm....

JW - To make a quasi-musical racket, for a start. I'll not go on, as I'll start ranting. Again.

 

Love Joy

If we’re talking veterans of the indie-pop scene then we’re talking Richard Preece. As his latest band Lovejoy prepare to release their new album ‘Who Wants to be a Millionnaire’, tasty talks to Dick about lots of really heavy stuff that makes both our heads hurt... 

What happened in the beginning? How did Lovejoy appear?
Well, prior to doing Lovejoy, I'd been playing in bands for a while, and prior to that I'd done another 'solo' type band thing 'The Spinning Wheels', who released the last single on Bristol's Tea Time records. I'd kind of lost the plot after that for a while, due to personal things and also getting completely strung along and messed about by a couple of indie labels. So I kind of gave up for a while and then gradually got into playing in bands again, not  writing much, just sort of helping out...About four  years ago I had a little fit of songwriting, and begun  to record some demos at home, just for fun really.
About that time I'd met and become good friends with Keith (Girdler - Blueboy, Beaumont etc...) who was really encouraging. He made me go to a 'proper' studio (where Blueboy had been recording for some time) and record a few songs to send to some labels to see what happened. I got quite a lot of interest, and Matinee  seemed to be the best bet of the lot, being new,  releasing some good records, and having quite a good  sense of coherence, which for an indie fan like me,  was really important.

You seem to be steeped in indie-pop/twee/C86 history. Is this the kind of music that you hold dearest?
If anyone's ever read any of our Snowbound fanzines, they'll know how important it is to me. I mean, the first gig I ever went to was a Razorcuts / Chesterfields show in Bristol. It still excites me, thinking about how brilliant both of those bands were. I have to be honest and say 'yes' to your question, but  like everyone else, I'm rather ashamed to admit it...and you know, there's loads of great music that I love that isn't even close to being indiepop.

The diatribe on the inner sleeve of your new album displays a contempt for the way in which modern society is controlled and run. Why do you think this state of affairs has come about, and how can we begin to change?
Firstly I have to say that the reason I wrote that was that I was trying to explain why the album has its title. I'd like to see it as a bit of a concept album, in that the songs are very similar in theme, although they look at that theme from different angles and perspectives. In short I think the sleevenotes are describing disappointment in people's (myself included) motivations. I think that perhaps there's a lack of something in the lives of modern (western) people. We're like kids in a sweetshop, devouring all, consuming as much as we can, wanting more and still not being satisfied. There's not many people asking questions about the consequences of this.

 

How can we change? I don't know, try doing something 'good' or ‘positive'? You know, Keith and I were talking about Malcolm MaClaren and how a few years ago an interviewer asked him what kids of today could do to be rebellious, and kick against the system. He just said 'Don't buy anything', which seems like a good idea to me.

Are you involved in any kind of left wing politics, or otherwise? Or do you feel the same apathy as most people under a certain age?
I was always more involved in left wing politics in my youth, I was quite active...but things always stemmed much more black and white then. I wouldn't say i feel apathetic, it's just the politics of 'new' labour are rather disturbing, so you do begin to wonder what it was all for...all those years of tory hating and baiting... I do take pride in the fact that the work I do is important and socially beneficial, but apart from writing down certain ideas...I don't know. Its definitely not apathy, it’s more like...isolation or detachment.

Do you think its human nature to be greedy?
Oh God! We're doing all the big themes here aren't we?! Well, I do think that a basic flaw in our make up is that we need a sense of purpose and direction to begin to feel satisfied, and maybe as a society we sometimes lack a common sense of purpose and direction. Greed is more of a symptom than anything else... a response to emptiness? Oh, I don't know...this is really serious stuff and I can't begin to answer it in a few words...But if you really push me I'd say 'Yes...maybe'.

What is the significance of the cover of your album? Is it a mods vs rockers scene from
Brighton?

It's just a great image...its 1975 or 1976, so its punks and mods and all sorts...Brighton is a really important place to me, but the image looks like confusion and you just don't really know what's happening, which is why it makes sense for this album.

Why did you decide to cover songs by Biff Bang Pow? (Lovejoy recently released an up of BBP songs) Where they your favourite Creation band? And, indeed, was Creation your favourite label?
The Biff Bang Pow single came about because I wanted to do a cover version (The Beat Hotel) just for fun, then Keith said he'd love to sing 'Hug Me Honey' so we recorded that as well. I gave the tape to Jimmy (Tassos, Matinee Records) with the master for the 'Christmas Wish' single, and then we talked about releasing it. Yeah I think for a while they were my favourite creation band, but there were so many great Creation bands - and some real suckers as well- but for a while, Creation was the most important label in the world to me, and Biff Bang Pow! were the archetypal Creation band. But as Jimmy from Matinee said to you in his interview, that early run of Creation singles could never really be topped, for a while there were many amazing bands releasing records and being about as cool as you can get.

Could Lovejoy, with your music, see to be celebrating the past, rather than look forward? Do you feel any sense of responsibility towards the type of music you play?
Hmm...I think celebrating the past is one way of looking at it, but this really comes again from that BBP! single...the point was to highlight how few great indie records there are these days...it's celebrating the past and making a point about the current climate. I try to approach each record by wanting to make it the best record I can make, so although many influences are from the past, I want to look forward and make a record that also sounds contemporary. But if you go too far down that road, you just end up making records that you think other people want to hear and that are somehow 'fashionable', and I can't seem to do that, I just don't get it. The responsibility I feel most is to Jimmy, who has made Matinee a real labour of love. It's partly because he's been so supportive over the last few years, but also because, as Greg from Sportique describes it, it's one of the last bastions of indie music: It's a label that is as well known as the bands on it, like Creation, El, Subway, Factory, Sarah and all the greats. So you have to try and keep raising the standards of the music coming out of the label.

Who do you think is making equally excellent music as Lovejoy?
Well, I'm not sure that many people would agree that Lovejoy music is excellent, though I hope people like the new album, but every time I say that there's no great music being released, someone crops up to prove you wrong. I like a couple of local bands : Fujiya and  Miyaki, Polak are a great live band... I really like the new aberdeen cd, Bent are brilliant, The  Montgolfier Brothers make lovely sounds, the list goes  on...

What part can Lovejoy play in ensuring that the alienation of people by advertising/tv/huge corporations/ western governments etc is overcome?
If you think how absolutely tiny the worldwide interest is in indiepop, then reduce that by about a million, you're probably left with a few thousand people worldwide who follow matinee, and in particular who like Lovejoy records...so whatever part we play, it will only ever be a bit-part. But, that said, I'd like to think that lyrics, sleevenotes, fanzines etc..aren't JUST preaching to the converted, but do make one or to people stop and think...maybe that's just naive and idealistic. No, I know that's just naive and idealistic. Really, we need to be showing people alternatives, giving them opportunities to overcome that alienation and quite frankly I don't know how lovejoy music could ever do anything of the sort. I mean, who could? Maybe that's what Lovejoy songs are about, knowing, deep down, that really there's not that much that you can do, in the big scheme of things. God that’s depressing. Sorry.