interviews - aug-Oct 2005
Mason (King Biscuit Time)
My first time as
interviewer was always going to be slightly nerve-wracking, but when the
person I’m scheduled to fire questions at is the former lead singer of the
Beta Band, one of my personal favourites, it’s downright scary! Last minute
hiccups (a printer that refuses to do its job, delays on the tube) don’t
through a short tour and a couple of hours before show-time, an obviously
shattered Steve Mason has to be roused from the couch by his tour manager
for a quick ten minutes of quizzing before dinnertime…
Really good. (We’re playing) loads of really, really small places so it’s
kind of hot and sweaty and it’s been a lot of fun.
new material going down?
It’s going down really well. I’m used to doing gigs where people know all
the stuff really well so you keep forgetting that people have never heard
most of these songs before, but there’s been a great response.
playing any Beta Band stuff?
I play a couple of acoustic ones, yeah.
you got playing live with you?
This guy over here (points behind me), Colin Emmanuel (aka
C-Swing, producer of Hot Shots II) and another friend of mine, Pete
Rankin, who runs an internet radio station called “Old Jock Radio” which is
well worth checking out.
heard of your new stuff is the single (“C I Am 15”). It strikes me as being
the most stripped down you’ve ever sounded, and also the most directly
political. Is this something we can expect from the album?
Not really. There’s the odd line here and there about being watched by the
powers-that-be and having that feeling of not being trusted to be an adult
in society, where they seem to want to know everything that you’re doing,
who you’re doing it with and why you’re doing it. I really don’t like that
idea of not being trusted. Everyone, no matter who they are, breaks the law
at some point whether it’s getting a parking ticket or some other
misdemeanour. Human beings need a certain amount of freedom and if the
government keep on closing us in like this, sooner or later it’s going to go
fucking bang! So there are elements of things like that in it but “C I Am…”
is the most directly political song, yeah.
rapper on the single is called Topcat – tell us more about him.
Topcat is one of the original British dancehall DJs from way back in the
day. He’s made stuff with a lot of Jamaican artists – Cutty Ranks, people
like that – and I hooked up with him through a friend of mine who’s a grime
producer. He put me in touch with Topcat and he came down and within an hour
it was done. He’s a quick worker!
collaborations on the LP?
Beta Band you had four people bringing musical ideas to the table – now it’s
just you. How do you think that affects the music?
In some ways it’s more difficult because you have to take every song to its
finished conclusion, and what I used to do with the Beta Band was write a
song to a point and then deliberately not do much more to it because I knew
they would be bringing all these ideas in. To be honest, it’s really
refreshing to be able to do what I want, when I want, how I want, for as
long as I want. There aren’t three people who you have to constantly run
things past or who really want to contribute to a track. I couldn’t have
really done a track as stripped down as “C I Am…” in the Beta Band because
by the time everybody’s added their bit it’s become this big thing.
setting up a record label with Alan McGee, “No Style”. He’s involved with
people like Pete Doherty who leads a very different life to you! How did you
become involved with him?
I think he’s someone that respected what we did in the Beta Band for a long,
long time but our paths just never crossed. Then we sacked our manager and
we were thinking about who the hell we could get next, and I was talking to
some friends of mine who were in a band and they were saying “Go and see
McGee”. We went up there and liked what he was saying so we said yeah, let’s
give it a go. It was quite simple.
been a spate of gigs recently called “Don’t Look Back” where bands play
what’s thought of as their best album in its entirety. What band would you
like to see play a gig like that and what album would they play?
The Who – “Quadrophenia”…or Beastie Boys – “Paul’s Boutique”.
you have play you in the movie of your life?
No, no, he’s fine the way he is!
have you got stuck in your head at the moment?
It’s actually one of Ian’s songs. (I’ve got) a really, really good friend
supporting me tonight, he’s called Ian Anderson and he records under the
name Pip Dylan and I’ve just finished mixing his LP so I’ve got a lot of
those songs stuck in my head. It’s a really, really great album. I’m hoping
to put it out through No Style but I’m not quite sure if that’s going to
Any new or
underrated bands you’d like to big up?
Not that I know of. To be honest I don’t go out and see gigs. I always
really liked The Magnificents and that’s why we took them on our last tour
with us. I think they’re kind of underrated. They’re like a much more
aggressive version of Kraftwerk and I quite like that.
your heroes and villains?
obvious people like Malcolm X who went through this intense phase where he
was quite racist and really aggressive and then after he’d been off to
Africa and Mecca and places like that, came back to America with a much more
rounded perspective on human beings and on life. People like that who are
very focused on what they want to do but still open to new ideas, who are
intelligent and try to bring people together. Because education is the key.
Our government and the American government are just about keeping people in
the dark and not really telling them what’s going on, because that’s
power…power of information.
seen the documentary “Outfoxed” about the Fox Network?
No, I haven’t.
independent documentary which highlighted how completely right-wing the Fox
Network is, and how that’s being pumped out the majority of America.
Well, one of the heads of the Fox network is Bush’s cousin or brother-in-law
or something like that. The Bush tentacles extend into every part of our
villains…apart from George Bush?
I think the big one has to be Tony Blair because he really did promise so
much. When he came in it felt like this revolution and he seemed really
young, enthusiastic and full of ideas but he just turned out to be another
right-wing lunatic. With election turnouts getting less and less, it’s
people like him that are directly responsible for that; people that promise
so much and deliver war, theft, and more and more CCTV cameras, and chips
they want to put in you now, and ID cards.
are basically becoming so disillusioned they don’t even bother to vote?
Yeah. I mean, I said it in the last American election…everyone was going “Oh
no, what if Bush gets in!” but I don’t think Al Gore would have really been
any different. They’re just a representative of a system that’s already in
place. I think you’re fooling yourself if you think that things are really
going to change dramatically under any of these people. I think the whole
thing has to be dismantled. I’m not an anarchist, I believe in democracy but
I think we need to start again.
in your back-catalogue are you most proud of?
want to come back to that one?
It’s a really difficult question because they’re all so different. I’m proud
of every single one of them in different ways. I suppose ‘Assessment’ came
straight into my brain because it’s got a bit of power and I like the
lyrics, the melody and the vocal.
experiences with the Beta Band, what advice would you give to up-and-coming
bands who want to make a career out of music?
If you can, set up your own label. Get a website and put everything you’ve
got into it. Get out there and play gigs, and don’t compromise yourself.
Have a clear vision. Make sure the music that you’re making makes you happy
and don’t be trying to make other people happy because it’s the roots of
fucking mediocrity. Don’t be chasing the money or the big record contract
because it’ll bite you on the arse! You might have to go for a few more
years with less money but when it does start rolling in then it’s your money
to keep, and then you have the power.
Silver Mt Zion
Sometimes art can only be appreciated when it is twisted and convulsed until
it is completely foreign. From Merzbow’s sonic experimentation to the
frantic cut-up writings of William Burroughs and Picasso’s jagged portrayals
of the human form, it seems the further away things get from what we are
brought upto being told is “art”, the more we can admire it.
Anyways, enough philosophy. “Horses In The Sky”
is the fifth release from ASMZ, (an abbreviation of their full name; Thee
Silver Mount Zion Memorial Choir and Tra-La-La Band) and, like previous
releases it reaches into the outer regions of language and sound and creates
something as unique as it is beautiful.
The release of 2004’s ‘Pretty Lightning Paw EP’
disappointed some fans, with many seeing it as little more than a stop-gap
release and primarily a solo record. However, ‘Horses in The Sky’ returns to
the ‘full band’ sound of their second album ‘Born Into Trouble As The Sparks
When asked on whether the release has
consciously been more of a ‘sum of all parts’ Efrim writes, in the same
fractured language that’s litters the artwork of the release:
“we stand in a circle and throw our clumsy bits
and pieces and knotted strands onto the floor…and try to fit these anxious
shards and jagged fragments into each other”
Although reluctant to state direct influences,
Efrim mentions Husker Dú and Roscoe Holcomb in the course of the interview,
along with Nina Simone, who features in the artwork to the album and even in
the lyrics of the first track of the album; ‘God Bless Our Dead Marines’
This fifth release also saw a fifth line up
change, the adoption of seventh member Scott, a polyinstrumentalist involved
with the band Black Ox Orkestra, who ASMZ bassist Thierry and violinist
Sophie are also part of. On the line-up Efrim says there are no planned
changes, but with the ongoing evolution of the band this remains to be seen.
The current obsession in the british media with
the ‘new’ wave of bands coming out of
Canada seems to
have passed ASMZ. While tired “post-rock” bands wax lyrical about the
influence of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a band in which core ASMZ members
Efrim, Sophie and Thierry were/are part of, very little column space has
been given to the band in comparison while fellow Canadians The Dears, The
Arcade Fire and DFA1979. Not that this bothers the band. When asked of the
‘scene’ and the celebration of it Efrim remarks:
“We refused the invitation to that party quite a
few years ago, and don't expect to be invited again any time soon.
Which brings us to the plan regarding promoting
the album. The band don’t plan to tour the UK again until early 2006 and
Efrim is adamant the band will not release a single from the album, and
never will release one unless they create “two short songs that didn't fit
anywhere else”. Although in the current climate a track like “Horses In The
Sky” could prove a success, it becomes apparent that (in his opinion at the
very least) radio play and media attention are irrelevant as a judge of
“We are proud of our ruckus, proud of the messes
we've made together, proud to sing together, proud of the clamour our seven
hearts make when they pound all at once, excited and awkward and loud”
Skirting and thrusting around the local and national scene for a good three
years now, Plans and Apologies are Derby’s best band – fact. As they
prepared for their next step on the ladder towards international domination,
Sam Metcalf talked to the indie Blazin’ Squad its okay to like about loads
of things, includes inter-band bondage. Kinky devils…
Can you give me some background on how you all met, and how the band got
It all started when Miikhul met Danyul around the age of 2yrs.Miikhul's
sister and Danyuls brother went to nursery together. The foundations for a
firm friendship, we're sure you'll agree. Later they holidayed together on
the west coast of France. Miikhul started enjoying Beavers at the age of 7.
There he met Jamie who always had cherryade stains at the sides of his mouth
(he now doesn't suffer from slightly chapped lips). Dave was soon to be
introduced to Miikhul after moving to Derby from the Sun Centre in Rhyll.
Secondary school arrived and with it the boys started a crap band called The
Filthy Plebs who began practicing intesively in Danyuls dining room. Shortly
thereafter pubs would be graced with bad gigs.
Time went on, band fell apart a bit and fell back together again with new
members Steve, Dan and Robwyn. Somewhere along the line we got good and
released an album called Torn Out Pages From The Middle Agez with the help
of Jyoti Mishra (White Town) who done paid for it. We followed that with a
lovely vinyl picture disc on Mr & Mrs Moo Records. That brings us pretty
much up to speed. We've just released an EP (The Tree Dee Pee E.P.) and the
next album should be out in a few months.
Does having so many people in the band make it harder or easier to write
It doesn't make it harder to write songs, arranging them is more
difficult though. It'd probably help if we had 7 intelligent people in the
In the last
issue of Sandman, Jyoti Mishra railed against the jealousy apparent in
Derby regarding the success of Komakino. What do you
think about this?
I don't think that kind of thing is specific to Derby at all. People are
naturally jealous of the opportunities they've had but they've made those
opportunities for themselves. The fact is that not all bands put in that
much effort. We'd all love to snort crack off some supermodel's arse every
now and again but we can't all be famous.
Some of you have now left
- why is this?
Things got too hectic back home, with 13yr old girls lustfully chasing
us round the park. Not really. Steve ran away to London like Boy George to
seek his fortune. The rest of us moved around because of usual crap like
work or Uni.
Who would you say has helped you most during your time together as a
Obviously Jyoti for the cash, Moo from celebrity good band Twinkie for the
vinyl, all the Arses Against Success, Bullethead for the studio time. If you
check out our Tree Dee Pee EP then there is a more comprehensive thanks list
in there. And Bono, thank god for Bono!
A couple of years ago you were being touted as the next big thing...then
it all went quiet. What happened?
You went deaf?
difficult is it to put a record out in the East Midlands?
Releasing a record in the
is as easy as releasing a record anywhere. Getting people to listen to it is
still tricky though. Essentially, you just get a 4track, record some songs,
put them on cdr's, design some artwork and slap your made up record label
name on it. Then just flog it wherever you can. Indie record shops, gigs,
the internet, mail order distros, etc. Anyone who waits around for some
label to deem their music ready for the public is missing the point. Does a
cdr sound worse than a professionally pressed CD? does it fuck.
Homemade artwork usually works better than a print up for grabbing peoples
attention anyway. Just look at the last Little Explorer release, nearly
every review mentioned how ace the artwork was cos they were all hand
printed and people don't mind paying out for (as opposed to downloading)
something with a personal touch like that.
What's been the best gig you've done so far, would you say? I saw you
play with Architecture in
not long ago - what did you think to them?
Mr & Mrs Moo's wedding. Lots of good people, good drinks and one of the most
fun gigs we've played. Playing with the Killers was funny, scary and
exciting. Bunch of cocks. The Architecture In Helsinki gig was awesome too,
they were really nice guys and fucking good live.
Who are your musical heroes, international, national and local?
Frivolous Vitamin Nonsense. No wait, we'll do you a mixtape.
Do you worry about what other people think about you?
Yes, anyone who says they don't is probably lying. Except Steve, he
genuinely doesn't care. The sea is a cruel mistress.
What's been the proudest moment together as a band so far?
As we record all our own material, which is often a long process,
we tend to feel the evil grip of pride most when we finally finish a song,
and sit back and listen to the outcome of our efforts. Then we punish one
another if we enjoy it too much. Whips.
What of the future? World domination, or what?
Although each member of the Cru has their own individual plans for becoming
Master of The Universe, at present we are content to keep on truckin'. Band
wise, there's an album on the way. We have been saying this for two years,
but it now actually exists, and we just have to mix it, listen to it, mix it
again, listen to it, mix it again, listen to it, etc. World domination would
be nice - to achieve this send donations to us at the contact on our
Do it now!
of the Lucksmiths
Warmer Corners has been getting pant-wettingly good reviews at home and
abroad. How do you think the band's sound has changed since the early days,
with your self-titled album? Are you still inspired by the same things?
that first album we discovered it was possible to record onto more than two
tracks. And we also discovered the joys of loud rock music. As of the turn
of the twenty-first century, Marty’s guitar amplifier has grown, as has
Tali’s drumkit. It now boasts a snare drum AND a floor tom. We’re still
inspired by the same things: silly book titles, advertising slogans, food,
smells, getting out of the house.
Uncharacteristically, the new album namechecks
being the most obvious example. Where have you had the best time on tour?
obviously we can’t remember the best times. Just kidding. Um, San
Francisco springs to mind.
Many of the Lucksmiths lyrics feel intensely personal: are they based on
real-life people and situations? Do you feel that you can follow your
personal narrative through the band's output?
our songs are based on our own lives, only we embellish them beyond
recognition until they resemble something remotely interesting. That’s the
intention anyway. Maybe the intensely depressing songs are fairly close to
home, because we like to wallow just like anyone.
How do you feel about the comparisons with Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura,
The Housemartins, etc? Do you think they'll be trotted out more with the
spangly new horn and string arrangements on the new album?
Probably. Most people who talk or write about music seem to love making lazy
comparisons. I do. We’ve used horns since our second recording and would’ve
used them on the first too, had we known we were actually making an album.
You've collaborated with the Ladybug Transistor in the past, and old-time
conspirator Louis Richter is now a fully paid-up member of the band. Who's
next on the Lucksmiths' Collaboration Wishlist?
Speaking of which, how do you think the newest addition has influenced the
plays guitar in a way that all of us love but are kind of too embarrassed to
admit. Like a sizzling bluesy Keith Richards riff or something from the
Jackson 5. We’ve all known Louis for years, so he knows what we like, but
he’s also not afraid to challenge things a little. He’s also very polite
and thinks the rest of us know what we’re doing.
Are you worried that Edwyn Collins is going to kick your ass when he hears
the bassline to "A Hiccup in Your Happiness"?
doubt he’s in any state to kick anything right now. We wish him all the
best in his recovery.
If you could only make records OR play gigs, which would you pick and why?
like trying to choose between pickles and chutney. I couldn’t live without
either. I’m serious.
What's your opinion of Australian indie pop at the moment? Are you inspired
by other bands working along the same lines, or are you inspired to fill a
void left by the lack of an indie pop 'scene'?
you the truth I’m not really in a position to say, as I’m now living in
London, and spent most of last year chopping firewood in
where indiepop is as elusive as a decent soy flat-white. Having said that,
I’m constantly inspired by bands like The Zebras, The Bank Holidays, The
Smallgoods, The Go-Betweens, and most definitely Architecture in Helsinki.
Their shows in the UK recently made me feel like a teenager again, like when
you hear something that you shouldn’t quite like, but it just so happens you
Back in the mid-90s you were part of the live Fred Astereo line-up. Why did
Paulzen decide to go it alone?
the rest of us got sick of waiting for the world to appreciate doo-wop
I hear rumours that you're planning to move to
London: what does this mean for the future of the
Lucksmiths? Reviews of the new album have described it as the work of a
band "at the height of their powers". Is world domination the next step?
Or are you content with the board game [from Candle Records]?
lived in different countries before. It’s nice to not be in each others’
faces all the time. But as usual we have no plan for anything, let alone
world domination. It’d be nice to do some shows again in the near-future.
Will you and Tali be writing more songs now that Marty's set to become a
papa? How will you react if he tries to 'do a Kevin Smith' and come over
all schmaltzy after the bambino's born?
there’s very little chance of taming the beast that is Marty Donald.
Do you have any guilty pleasures, music-wise?
other day I was in a record store and was stopped in my tracks when they put
Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland on. I hadn’t heard it since I was a freaky
teen and it still does me right! I guess I have also been enjoying a little
F. Mac and H&O. Just like everybody, right?
Maths and Physics Club
Sam Metcalf talks to James and Charles
Hi, can you give me a little bit of history about the band?
James: Charles and I grew up together in Olympia (Washington), but we
didn’t pick up guitars until we were in college. We kept at it in fits and
starts over the years until about a year ago when we connected with Kevin,
followed by Saundrah, and finally, Ethan, who we met by chance at an open
mic. Math and Physics Club began marching forward very quickly once
everyone was assembled. It was only a couple months later that we first got
in touch with Jimmy at Matinée.
How did you manage to hook up with Matinée?
Charles: We really admired the bands on the label, and the care that Jimmy
puts into the look and feel of each release, so we had our hearts set on
Matinée for a while. We had read that Jimmy listens to all the music bands
send him, so it was the first place we mailed our demo. As it turned out,
Mark Monnone from the Lucksmiths was staying with him about the time our cd
arrived, and they listened to a bunch of demos together. The way Mark tells
it, we owe him, not Jimmy, for getting on Matinée. I think he’s just trying
to extort us.
James: We’ve always wanted to record and release records. It just seemed a
little ridiculous to think someone would actually help us do that when it
was just Charles and I sitting around in the basement with a rough bunch of
songs. But with Kevin, Ethan, and Saundrah on board, we got up the nerve to
send something to Jimmy.
Were you surprised by the reaction to Weekends Away?
Charles: I think we were all pleased with the way the EP turned out,
but we honestly had no idea whether anyone would want to buy it. Then John
Richards at KEXP started spinning it and things sort of ballooned from
there. People have just been amazingly kind!
James: I was really surprised. We didn’t record the songs expecting them
to become our first EP. It was just meant to serve as a demo. But Jimmy
sort of said, “Hey, this is great to release just the way it is.”
Do you think Movie Ending Romance is a definite step forward? Are you
happy with it?
Charles: We knew it would be a while before we could get a full-length
ready, so our main goal was to bridge the gap between Weekends Away and a
proper album. We recorded it ourselves very quickly, and I think we’re
mostly happy with the results, although there are always things you wish you
could do differently in hindsight. I do feel like there’s an overall
improvement in sonic quality and arrangements from the first EP. And I
really love the cover art Jimmy designed for this one.
You sound a lot like The Smiths in parts - you're obviously big fans?
Charles: Yeah, absolutely. It’s amazing the impact that band still has
today, especially considering most of their catalog is 20 years old! As far
as their influence on our music, I’m probably the biggest culprit there. I
think you can’t help but pick up bits and pieces from the bands you admire
most, whether it’s a chord change or vocal phrasing or even an occasional
lyric. After you’ve listened to Strangeways a thousand times it just
becomes part of your musical palette, you know? But we certainly don’t try
to sound like anyone in particular, we just try to have fun and play
whatever comes out. Still, without The Smiths we’d certainly be a different
Where did you get your name from?
James: It was derived from a scene in “The Breakfast Club” where everyone
was sitting around discussing Brian’s “demented and sad but social”
extracurricular activities. Breakfast Club is such a great film! I always
loved how they chose the school library as the detention center. At my
school it was the French classroom.
Who else is making great music right now?
Charles: The new Lucksmiths is really brilliant - my favorite of the
year so far. I’ve just been introduced to Jens Leckman, and Acid House
Kings have a great new record. Lotsa stuff… I hear Tender Trap has a new
record coming too!
James: I recently bought the new Dolorean album and think it is great.
Laura Cantrell is fantastic. Listening to her is like taking a step back in
Graduation Day has been released before - what was the reasoning behind
putting it on the new ep?
Charles: Hey, someone’s been digging around on the internet! It’s
true, we did release a version of Graduation Day last year on a cool little
internet label called Comfort Stand. That was before Kevin, Ethan, and
Saundrah had joined the band. Our friend Andrew was playing keyboards with
us at the time, and he knew Otis at Comfort Stand. We thought it would be
fun, but we never really intended it to be the definitive version of the
song. For one thing, it had an electronic drum beat that James built in
Acid. After the current lineup came together, we still liked the song and
decided to work on a new arrangement for it. Jimmy originally wanted to use
it on the first EP, but we hadn’t quite finished reworking it yet.
James: I remember we had just gotten into digital recording when we
recorded and mixed that version of Graduation Day. We learned a lot going
through the process, but we knew it could be done better. Up until then we
both had tape players we’d use to hastily record songs. I think Charles
used the same boom box he had since high school. I had a more
“sophisticated” tape player that you could plug a microphone into. Anyway,
we were complete recording novices. It just made sense to rework the song
using the talent Ethan, Saundrah, and Kevin infused into the operation.
What do you hope for the future?
James: A nice cup of Sainsbury's Red Label would be grand. My stash
has been depleted for quite some time. Beyond cups of tea, having the
opportunity to do two EPs in such short order has been great. Playing live
has been loads of fun as well. But for us the biggest prize of all is to
record and release a full length album. Math and Physics Club is just
beginning to gel as a band which is really exciting. Everyone brings a
tremendous amount to the table musically which makes for very fertile ground
to build a collection of songs for the album.
Charles: Yeah, maybe this time next year we’ll be able to chat with you
about a new full-length. Or better yet, in person! We would love to play
some shows in the UK next year, but time will tell. Thanks so much for
talking to us. We really appreciate the support. Cheers!