13
Oct

Thanks so much to Bernd for the interview! I’m very happy to learn more about this seminal German indiepop label, that released many classic records in the early 90s when they were based in Seeheim. Among their releases they put out 7″s by The Haywains, They Go Boom! and Merricks and more! On this interview Bernd talks a bit about each of his releases, clears some doubts about the catalog and shares with us his memories of those fantastic years of German indiepop. I hope next time we get to hear from him on an interview about his band, the great Die Blinzelbeeren!

++ Hi Bernd! Whereabouts in Germany are you nowadays? Will you celebrate Oktoberfest? 🙂

Hi Roque, I’m living in Darmstadt, a city located in the southern part of the Rhine-Main-Area, a centre of the Art Nouveau movement and also home to the football club SV Darmstadt 98. It’s a really good place to live!
Haha, Oktoberfest… oh no, not my cup of tea, I spend each October in Brittany, France.

++ How and when did Blam-A-Bit Records start? What was the main reason to start the label?

I think in 1988 I get the first time the idea to do something for myself, writing a fanzine, playing in a band or doing a record label. Releasing a compilation tape was the easiest part so I started with the label, had no idea what will happened later.

++ Would you say any other label influenced your label?

As a Wimp-POP-Kid in the late 80s I was really in love with Sarah Records, 53rd&3rd or Subway, many interesting labels like Creation, Woosh or Bi-Joopiter and of course Frischluft in Germany. I think all of them were important for my musical socialization and have some influences.
Ah, and of course some of the compilation tapes of that time like „Are you ready?” or “Something’s burning in Paradise“

++ And was it just yourself running it? Did you get any help from anyone else?

No I didn´t get any help, it was only me. The label was only a hobby and not my profession, I was still at school during that time.

++ What does the name Blam-A-Bit means? Why did you choose this name?

To be honest, there is no meaning of the name. I went to a wedding present gig and I got the “Invasion of The Wedding Present fanzine. I can’t remember exactly, but there was something written like „…a-bit“ and some beers later the label “Blam-a-bit” was born. I think the word „Blam“ was a bow to one of my favourite band „Biff Bang Pow“

++ And who took care of the art direction of the label? Did you print and fold your sleeves yourself like many labels back in the day?

Well, I did all the work for the label, artwork, distribution, but at some releases the bands did the artwork. Paul from the Haywains made the sleeve for the freshen up EP and this was the only cover with more than one printed color ,-) I had two co-releases with Frischluft where Krischan did the artwork.

But it was great to spend hours in printing shops, fold the sleeves or cutting some flyers. Later I decided to press only white-label records and colored them for myself with watercolors or potato-stamps. I really loved to „produce“ each release, sitting at my parents dining table coloring the labels or cutting-out the sheep for my second compilation tape.

++ How many releases were there? Twee.net lists from 001 to 014, but doesn’t show 012. Was there a 012 on the label? Or is this all that was released?

Twee.net is right, there were only 13 releases, blam 012 should be „Ein warmer Sommermorgen“ 7“, but it was never released.

++ Your first release was a tape called “Instant of Pleasures” which included all-time favourites like The Field Mice and St. Christopher and obscure gems like that Aurbisons track. What inspired you to make a tape? Did you know this was going to be the seed to starting a label? Was it easy getting so many bands from UK in a German label? Seems like a tough job with no internet!

As mentioned, after such great tapes like „Are you ready?“ or „Something’s burning in Paradise“ I think a compilation tape is a good way to start a label. I have no idea what will happen next. Some of the bands I asked at gigs if they like to be contributed on the tape, I remember a Field Mice gig and I just asked Robert and gave him my address. Some weeks later I found their song in my letter box. I was still at school during the time of the label, and it was always a pleasure to come home and finding some new tapes. I think it was not even more difficult than it is today getting in touch with bands, even the answer takes some more time ,-)

++ Any cool anecdotes about this tape? Like… why the name? or how many copies of it were made? which kind of tape was used? Who send songs too late that didn’t get in the tape?

I made about 200 copies at a pressing plant in Berlin.

I did not want to just make a tape, it should also be something special with the 7 “cover or with all the inserts. The best compliment about the tape came from Olaf Zocher (Firestation Rec), who described the tape as an important step in his Indie-Pop socialation. And I always had instants of pleasure listening to jingle jangle pop.

++ Then you release your first 7″, the “Freshen Up EP” by the Haywains! How was the move from tape to vinyl? What was the feeling of receiving a box full of records fresh out from the pressing plant for the first time?

It was so amazing!! 7“ singles are still the perfect medium for music! If I could had afford it I would have produced 7“singles much earlier. „the freshen up EP“ was a cooperation with the band, we pressed about 500 copies and both of us get 250 copies to sell. I was absolutely happy with the songs and I still like them!

++ Okay! now I’m very curious about this tape: “Hat das Schaf die Blume gefressen oder nicht?”. Why that title?

This is a phrase from The Little Prince („Did the sheep eat the flower or not?“) and I thought it’s a good name for my second compilation. This is probably the release with the most passion on it.
I made about 200 copies, copying tapes each night for a couple of weeks, cutting-out 200 paper-sheeps, making a small fanzine and put a lollipop in each tape set. The tapes were fixed at the cardboard sheeps and I colored each of them by hand. I remember I got an order from a mail-order in Germany of 50 copies and I had not produced enough. So I had to get up all 30min to turn over the tape to deliver the order.

++ I notice you released a bunch of tapes and also 7″s. I wonder what would your favorite format would be and why?

7“s are still my favorite format and I still collecting them. I think it’s an inexpensive, personal format, I like the idea of hand-assembled packages.

++ Also, what is BLAM 006, Das Kuchenrezept?

It is an ordinary recipe of a marble cake and was only a joke. Unfortunately I get some orders from UK and they send me 3 or 4 GBP for a cooking recipe written in german and I felt uncomfortable with it to keep the money. But marble cake is so delicious!

++ You released Die Blinzelbeeren which was your own band. I just wrote a piece about the band and I hope to interview you about the band. But I want to ask, how come there is no music like this coming out from Germany anymore?

Because the current bands know playing their instruments,-) the sound wasn’t nearly so important as the spirit of it; we didn’t know how to play our instruments well, nor having a great singing voice. But I think there are still some bands keeping the D.I.Y. idea alive, like Woog Riots or Zimt from Augsburg. And I’m not sure if there ever was a big Indiepop scene in Germany. I think it was a small but well-connected scene, without internet.

++ Also you released a Merricks 7″! That was the sound of young Munich, right? How do you remember those early nineties with that explosion of German pop bands? Was there any other German band that you wish you could have released?

The Merricks are still one of my favorite Bands from Germany and it was a honor releasing a record with them (together with Frischluft and Roman Cabbage). At that time I haven’t got any ideas about the Sound of Munich, and still have none about their significance. I phoned quit often with Bernd from Merricks, but we basiclly talked about football.

Hmm, I think it would have been brilliant to release a propper 7“ with The Fluffy Pillows (now known as Space Kelly) .

++ And of course there’s the 7″s by the FANTASTIC They Go Boom! that you put out. How did these releases happened? They didn’t have to send you a demo, did they?

I first heard the song „I Think I’m Falling“ and immediately I felt in love with it! So I wrote a letter to Mike and so it takes it course and we released a 7“ and the Split-flexi with the Cudgels. Mike is really friendly person and once I visited him at his flat in Margate spent some days there. I think he introduced „The Cudgels“ to me

++ That Brighter flexi you put out… it was distributed on fanzines as well right? Tell me a bit about it. I still have to find it. I have the other ‘German’ flexi by them, the Sturm und Drang one, but yet to find yours! Was it cool and easy to work with a Sarah band back then?

I think it was distributed with the Smuf fanzine (Olaf from Firestation rec) and he got about 200 copies. And a fanzine in UK, which I can’t remember anymore. I have no idea how, but I got 1100 copies and I nearly sold them all. It was brilliant to release a flexi with a Sarah Band and much easier than expected. Both, Alison and Keris were so lovely people, and it was cool to meet them once in Brighton. I still remember our first meeting at their flat, a crate of german beer as souvenir, met “The spinning wheels” later and listen to a lot of great music.

++ There’s two other bands still to talk about, The Cudgels and Besotted. Why did The Cudgels joyful pop is so underrated? Do you understand this? I think they wrote some wonderful tunes that could have been pop hymns! And the Besotted? They are quite mysterious, who were they? It’s one of The Golden Dawn guys right and his girlfriend, right?

Good question, i can’t understand it too. In my opinion The Cudgels are one of the underrated bands that area and in a perfect world, this would be on the radio I saw them once playing live in their practice room and it was a blast! Unfortunately their wasn’t a proper 7“ of them on Blam-a-bit, I think Sunday Records could pay them more 😉

It’s a bit similar with The Besottted. It was absolute stunning to release a 7“ with them, as I’ve been a big fan of The golden Dawn. But for whatever reason it was the worst selling release on the label.

++ Did you get to see any of your Blam-A-Bit bands live?

Regarding of band releasing a song/record on Blam-a-Bit I saw a couple of times The Merricks, Die Fünf Freunde or Painting by Numbers. Die Blinzelbeeren played their first song live as a support for St. Christopher.
Unfortunately I haven’t seen The Haywains playing live, but this could still happened.

++ And did the label get much attention from the music press or radio? What about fanzines?

Their first attention from the press I got for the „Hat das Schaf die Blume Gefressen, oder Nicht? Tape at the german Musicmagasine Spex. That was amazing for me. There were some attentions in fanzines too, I remember a label story in a French fanzine from Rennes. There was a really good Indiepop Radioshow in Belgium where some of the releases has been played.

++ When did you call it a day? Why did you stop releasing records with Blam-A-Bit?

In 1992 I get more and more interested in 60s music and for a short spell I was bored in the current Indiepop Music that time. So I decide to call it a day.

++ Where you involved with music after? What do you do nowadays?

Well, music is still a big part of my life. I used to play in several Bands releasing records on different labels.
I’m still a record collector, and used to DJ a lot.
Nowadays I live with my wife and daughter in Darmstadt and I work as a pharmacist. But I still have a regular Single-Day in a Winebar in Darmstadt once a month, were I only spinning soul 7“s on one record player. And that’s a lot of fun.
I started a new label, calling „Laughing Seven records“ some years ago with 2 7“s so far. and I hope to to revitalize it soon.

++ What would you say was the biggest highlight of the label? And what was the biggest challenge?

I think the biggest highlight was the chance to meet so many great people in the vein of Indie Pop and with some of them I’m still keeping contact.
The biggest challenge was to satisfy the unexpected request of the second tape, it was the fasten selling out release.

++ One last question, what would you say indiepop means to you?

I get my musical age in the mid-80s, growing up for example with The Smiths, so Indiepop was my very own punk! It was exciting, vibrant, welcoming, and it was me. I loved my anorak with a strawberry at the hood and it was more than just music for me. We were exchanging letters, fanzines, tapes or records and meeting each other at gigs.
Nowadays i have an open-minded taste of music, but indiepop is still a big part of life and there are still exciting new bands to discover.

++ Thanks so much for the interview. Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks a lot for the interest in Blam-a-Bit and many apologies for the delay in answering.

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Listen
Merricks – Der Schönste Tag Im Jahr ‎

06
Oct

Thanks so much to Michel and Marjolijn for the interview! I wrote about Formica some weeks ago when I thought it was a good time to feature a Dutch band on the blog and was lucky to get in touch with both of them and even better, they were up to answer my questions! They also clear some doubts I had, made some corrections of my previous post and tell the whole picture of Formica! The band released just 2 singles and they were truly great, if you haven’t heard them yet, this is a good time to discover them! Oh! And they shared with me this exclusive cool photo of the band which was taken by Kathalijne van Zutphen.

++ Hi Michel and Marjolijn! Thanks so much for being up for this interview. How are you doing? Are you still making music?

Michel: I’m well, thanks. Not doing much music anymore, although I have an ‘internet band’ called Transatlantic Bunnies. So far I’ve put out one 7” on the Australian Insipid Vinyl label. The A-side (“Formula One Generation”, a song written by Steve Gregory for the Pooh Sticks) was sung by Lauren Rocket from L.A. band Rocket and the B-side (“Girl’s Going Crazy For The La La La”, written by Steve and me for International Language) has Sara Johnston from Canadian band Bran Van 3000 singing. I still haven’t met Lauren, but I did meet Sara in 2015, not long after the single was released. She was on tour with Evan Dando and they played a gig in Utrecht, so we finally met and did that song as part of her set, which was a like a dream come true for me.

Marjolijn: I’m not making any music anymore, just listening to music.

++ And are you still based in Utrecht? How was Utrecht back in the mid 90s? What were your usual hangouts? The venues you used to go to?

Michel: I’m still living in Utrecht, Marjolijn is living close to Utrecht and Noortje moved to Amsterdam.

Marjolijn: We used to go to places like Tivoli (Utrecht) and the Melkweg (Amsterdam), to see bands…

Michel: …like Blur, Pulp, Oasis and even Kula Shaker.

++ As I was saying on my blog post there is very little information about your band on the web so this is for sure a great opportunity to learn more about you. Also I must say when it comes to indiepop, not much is known about The Netherlands either. So maybe you can recommend some bands?

Michel: As far as we know, there weren’t many indiepop bands in the Netherlands. If there were any, we didn’t know them.

++ Going back, when you were kids, what sort of music did you grow up listening to? What was your first instrument? and how did you get it?

Michel: 70’s rock: the Stones, Alice Cooper, the Sweet, Slade, Status Quo… And then punk happened. I could never choose between guitar and drums, but my parents gave me an acoustic guitar when I was 11, or so. Years later, when I joined a band as a drummer, I bought a drumkit.

Marjolijn: Noortje and I were listening most of the time to Britpop, Elastica, Blur and also bands like the Ramones and the Kinks. I started playing clarinet and after that I started playing guitar.

++ Let’s talk about Formica, or was it Formica 2000 (!?)? What’s the story of the name of the band?

Michel: A friend of ours came up with the name Formica, because it sounded a bit like Elastica! We thought that was funny.

Marjolijn: We have no idea why we added 2000.

++ Had you been involved in any other bands? I know Michel was in a few, what about the girls?

Marjolijn: Just Formica. Noortje too.

++ How did Formica start as a band? How did you all know each other? How did you meet?

Marjolijn: Noortje, Edske and I knew each other from school. We started playing music together. We met Michel at DaCapo. And he became the drummer.

++ What would you say influenced the sound of Formica?

Michel: Britpop, punk rock and Phil Spector.

++ Marjolijn, you took the photos for the sleeve art. Nowadays you are a photographer. Were you a photographer already then?

Marjolijn: It was just a hobby at the time. I studied architecture. But two years ago I started taking photography more seriously, and I just finished my study photography.

++ How did the relationship with Steve Gregory from Fierce Recordings and The Pooh Sticks start? And how come he was not part of the band, only credited for the lyrics?

Michel: This is a long story. The Pooh Sticks “Alan McGee” CD boxset came with a little booklet in which it read: “Are you in a band? Everybody should be in a band. Let us know about it.” Or something like that. Just for fun I sent a cassette with recordings of some of my bands. One of them was Beatle Hans. I then got a letter from Steve/Fierce asking if anyone was releasing the Beatle Hans stuff. If not, Fierce Recordings was up for it. And by the way, would the band (minus singer Hans) be interested in recording the next Pooh Sticks album, which became “Great White Wonder”. Me and bass player Hard Cor (Cor van Ingen) played on two more Pooh Sticks albums: “Millionseller” and “Optimistic Fool”. After that Steve and I released a 7” and a CD on Sympathy For The Record Industry as International Language. (By the way: “Rodney’s English Disco” by Helen Love is not the International Language tune.) We enjoyed writing songs together, so we also wrote a couple for Formica. But Formica was always just the girls and me. Oh, and the 3 Formica girls’ first recording experience was doing some backing vocals on the International Language tune “Christmas Will Be Magic Again”, which first appeared on a christmas CD on Sympathy For The Record Industry.

++ And who was the bassist for Formica? I see on the first record Edske is credited, while on the second it has Hard Cor, Ron and Hanneke. Why was there never a proper bassist in the band?

Michel: Edske left the band after the first 7”. On the “Gameboy” EP we had Cor on two songs, my brother Ron on one, and Marjolijn’s younger sister Hanneke on the fourth song. For the gigs we had Ron on bass.

++ How did the creative process work for the band?

Marjolijn: Michel and Steve wrote the songs. We rehearsed at home. Instead of rehearsing we sometimes played our Gameboys. That’s why we wrote the Gameboy song.

Michel: I asked the girls to write lyrics for a song called “Look At Your Game, Boy”, which has nothing to do with “Look At Your Game, Girl” by Charles Manson. Marjolijn’s sister Hanneke added some lines too, so that’s why two Hoelens are credited on the label.

++ Your first 7″  was released on Spirit of ’86 who were also connected to The Pooh Sticks. On this single the brilliant “Johnny & Anita” was included. I must ask, who were Johnny and Anita? What’s the story behind this song?

Michel: Johnny’s and Anita’s were annoying (Dutch) youths on scooters who liked house music and had crappy haircuts.

++ Your second 7″ came out on the fab Damaged Good label How did you end up releasing with them? And I must ask, how come two English labels for your releases, and no Dutch ones? Why was that?

Michel: In 1995 Hue Pooh Stick had his Spirit Of ’86 label. I told him I wanted to join the girls’ band and he said that if I did he would release whatever we’d record. I’d already offered my services as a drummer, but the girls told me I was too old. Fair enough. I was twice their age. But when I told them they could make a record if they had me on drums they agreed to give it a try. Spirit Of ’86 was distributed through Damaged Goods/Shellshock, so after that first single Ian from Damaged Goods asked if we could do one for his label too.

++ You worked on the recordings with Hans Blieb twice, what did he add to the band in the recording studio?

Michel: Nothing really. He owned an affordable studio and was the engineer. I did production and mixing.

++ Then there were no more releases by the band, why? No compilation appearances? Are there any unreleased songs by the band?

Michel: There is one song we wrote but never recorded properly. For the gigs we chose a couple of covers by bands we liked, like “Time Bomb” by the Ramones and Josie Cotton’s “Johnny Are You Queer”.

++ And from all of the Formica songs, which one is your favourite and why?

Michel: I like “Wire” and “Cross My Mind”, ‘cause they’re slightly Spector-esque.

Marjolijn: “Johnny and Anita”.

++ Did you play many gigs? Maybe any in the UK? Are there any in particular that you remember? What were your best ones?

Michel: We only did two gigs, both of them in Utrecht in 1998. But we almost played our debut gig in London as part of some MTV thing. Unfortunately the Fierce Panda label, like Damaged Goods also related to Shellshock distribution, had one of their acts play there instead. I think our first gig was the best one, opening for the Donnas. A great night.

++ And were there any bad ones?

Marjolijn: The second one was not as good as the first one. Haha!

++ Did you get much attention by the music press? What about radio?

Michel: I don’t think I ever saw a review and I definitely never heard us on the radio.

++ When and why did you split? What did you all do afterwards? Did you continue making music?

Michel: Like Abba, we never really split up.

Marjolijn: Noortje moved to England to study. It became too much hassle at the time. We just kept in touch but didn’t make any music anymore. Nowadays Michel and I meet up in town to take pictures sometimes. Our new hobby.

++ I must ask, where do you think you had more support, in the UK or in The Netherlands?

Michel: We did an interview with a local music magazine. I don’t think anybody outside Utrecht knew about us, except some friends and a couple of girls from Rotterdam who had a Britpop fanzine.

++ Michel, I must ask even though it is not strictly Formica related, but the single “Go Eliza” by The Nightblooms is truly brilliant, and you produced it! How was that experience?

Michel: I didn’t really produce “Go Eliza”, but I was there during the recordings (and played a twangy guitar part in the choruses). Studio engineer Ward, who would also work on the first two Pooh Sticks albums that we recorded in Utrecht, asked me to come to the studio for the first Nightblooms session there, ‘cause he thought I would understand their kind of music better than he did at the time. That was about a year before “Go Eliza”. That first session remains unreleased, although I have a cassette of it somewhere. The Nightblooms are nice people and we got along really well, so I was there again for the “Go Eliza” session. I don’t think I was present for any Nightblooms sessions after that, although I went to England with them in 1990, as a guitar roadie and to play some guitar on their John Peel session. I also played guitar on one song on their first album and I was their manager for a while.

++ And today, what do you do? Any hobbies that you have aside from music?

Michel: I like analogue photography, shooting portraits mainly.

Marjolijn: Photography

++ There was a comment on my blog post saying that one of you guys worked at Da Capo Records. Is that right? How is Da Capo Records? I’ve been told many times that it is a fantastic record shop!

Michel: I worked at Da Capo for 22 years. That’s where I met the Formica girls. I stopped working there in 2008. Three years later the owner died and on December 31st 2011 the shop closed. A sad day. It was a vinyl collector’s shop and probably the best one in Holland.

++ One last question, I’ve never been to Utrecht so I’m quite curious, what would you recommend not missing out? Sights? Traditional food? Bands?

Marjolijn: We recommend going up the Dom tower. Beautiful view.

Michel: Food! Broodje Mario and Vocking worst.

++ Thanks again! Anything else you’d like to add?

Marjolijn: In your article you mentioned a Noortje in Switzerland. That’s another Noortje. Noortje from Formica is a fashion accessories designer and she lives in Amsterdam.

Michel: We appreciate your research and love for the music.

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Listen
Formica – Johnny & Anita

04
Oct

Thanks so much to Paschalis Plissis for the interview!! I wrote a few weeks back about The Jaywalkers on the blog and thanks to Ian Skiadas I was able to get in touch with Paschalis, founding members of one of the most legendary bands from Greece!! There has always been little information about the band, and their one and only record is very rare (I’m still looking for a copy!), so there was no better chance to learn the story behind this classic band! Hope you enjoy it!

++ Thanks so much Paschalis for getting in touch! Very happy to know the story of The Jaywalkers. But how are you today? Are you still involved in music?
The Jaywalkers today are George Mouchtaridis who is the manager of radio ”Pepper”96.6 a.k.a.”sergeant Pepper” having a morning show Greek time 10-12 you can listen on line, has already curated 4 ”The bright side of the road” compilations and is preparing another one. So he is very much immersed in music.

Yiannis Divolis works and works some more but still has occasional gigs as a folk-”laikos dimotikos” musician playing and also singing and used to manage night clubs with Greek folk music.
His younger brother Vassilis has a permanent job as a percussionist in the Athens municipal band the ”Filarmoniki” and has collaborated over the years with various artists i.e.Kristi Stasinopoulou, Avaton et al.
As for myself I’ve been a professional oboe player for nearly 30 years playing in various orchestras and I now hold the first chair in the Greek national radiotelevision’s Contemporary orchestra.

Unfortunately the youngest member of The Jaywalkers Giorgos Manos is sadly gone many years ago and is always fondly remembered through his bass playing. A great talent.

++ Whereabouts in Greece did you grow up? Did you have any bands prior to The Jaywalkers? I know you were in Migraine, right?

We all grew up in the greater Athens area. Gio Mou and I were friends from school and the same neighborhood and I went to Athens conservatory with Yiannis Divolis who introduced us to his brother and Giorgos Manos so The Jaywalkers were formed from the ashes of our first group Migraine.

++ What sort of music were you into while growing up?  What was your first guitar do you remember? How did you get it?

As we grew up we listened to various types of music. Gio’s older brother Paschalis (same name!) was our musical mentor making us tapes of artists like Van Morrison, Bowie, Springsteen, Peter Hammil, and of course we listened to all the sixties big names.In 1977 I went to England and returned with a bi-polar musical taste for classical and punk-new wave which I sort of inflicted to the gang through parties and communal vinyl auditions.Great days indeed!

First guitar I still have was a Yamaha G55 classical which my late father bought me cause my grades were good I guess. I used to throw a mic in her belly and feedback for hours till I got my first electric a secondhand hardtail 74 Fender Strat for which I worked for 2 months to be able to afford. It was and still is The Jaywalkers guitar.

++ And how did your music evolve from a punk band like Migraine to a jingle jangly guitar pop band like The Jaywalkers?

The evolution of our style from Migraine to Jaywalkers wasn’t all that big, considering we always aimed to be eclectic in both our use of influences and choice of musical directions.Those years in the first half of the eighties were one of the most exciting in music and we felt a part of it all with overflowing creativity and joy of life in all aspects.Of course one can argue that this is often the case with what one does in the younger years but in retrospect it was objectively a great era. Migraine was named after a Gang of Four lyric(this heaven gives me migraine off Natural’sNot In It from Entertainment LP.So Migraine was not a punk band per se more of New Wave and when we introduced a sax in the rock format we got to sounding like James Chance and the Contortions, while we even covered songs by the Zounds or The Sound.We sort of carried all the spectrum to The Jaywalkers with the addition of our new found kinship with the paisley underground and of course with the gigantic R.E.M.We got to play live with a host of bands that we liked and they liked us right back! What glorious moments!Dream Syndicate,Green on Red, Fleshtones, The Chills from NZ,The Triffids from Australia and Watermelon Men from Sweden.So a whole tapestry of great groups popped(sic) up in our sound which of course was firmly based on the Beatles legacy.Hence the name Jaywalkers as we felt we were Jaywalking in music’s avenues jumping from lane to lane of sonic variety.

++ How were those early days of the band? Where did you practice? Where in Athens did you usually hang out? Were there any good bands at the time that you followed?

Early to last days of both Migraine and The Jaywalkers were happening rehearsal like in a derelict two-room pre world war  2 house in Byron municipal district of Athens. We shared this dumb with two great bands of the times Yell-o-Yell and the Headleaders. Our greatest fear was not to have our equipment stolen an unfortunate event that thankfully didn’t happen.Creativity and rock n’roll spirit was dripping all over the walls as the place’s sole window never opened not once in the near six years we spent there.To be young and sweaty…and breathless!
Well the Greek scene of the early eighties was full of interesting groups with most of them we have played together and were friends. Cpt. Nefos and their follow up Low noise ,Villa21,Yell-o-Yell South of no North, the punk veterans MagicDeSpell, the garage kings Last Drive the passionate Anti Troppau Council the northern psychedelics The Mushrooms, the greek singing top group  from Thessaloniki Treepes (holes),Blue Light, and more.We used to move around the live night spots of Athens either performing or jamming or supporting one another.Quite wonderful times!

++ And how did the creative process work for the band? Who wrote the songs?

The songs were written by George Mou and myself in the very loud solitude of our rooms as far as the music was concerned and just about anywhere as far as lyrics would go.We would introduce the new babies to the rest of the band and either be ridiculed on the spot or proceed to birth and grooming to be introduced to the live set or potential material for recording in the future as not every song was deemed ”live”material.Everyone had a lot of input and ideas flew all over the room as it was obvious that we were all very opinionated music-wise due to conservatorial backgrounds and strong personalities.The end result was to everybody’s satisfaction though.

++ Did you ever consider writing songs in Greek?

Writing songs in Greek always seemed awkward as it seemed anytime a greek lyric would turn up something very un rock ‘n roll melodically would surface basically diametrically opposite from our core repertoire! So we carried on with international intentions! Ha ha ha!

++ How did you end up signing to a big label, to Virgin?

We knew the guys from Virgin Hellas which by that time was run by the guru Yiannis Petridis and we had them listen to our demo tape.They found it quite good and the rest is history.

++ The songs were recorded at Recording Studios by Manolis Vlachos. How was that experience? Was it your first time at a proper studio?

Working with Manolis Vlachos was for us a once in a lifetime experience.He was extremely kind with us greenies was enthusiastic with our songs, softspoken good-humored and he used to work in the U.S. which guaranteed another level of production.We seldom had a chance to record in a proper professional studio so it was not a surprise when some of us declared they wanted to move there!

++ Who is the boy on the cover photo of the record?

Our sadly deceased friend Sotiris Terzidis was working as a teacher in the esteemed Panagiotopoulos school.He used to take photos of the kids during the intervals while they were playing and mocking about .We happened to look at some of these photos at his place and were immediately smitten with the particular one that became the cover of our mini-l.p.Turns out it was the son of the Mikis Theodorakis’ famous singer Petros Pandis called, as I found years later, Dimitris.

++ I’ve played and danced many times to “(You Can’t Be) Happy all the Time”. I have to ask, how did this song come to be? What’s the story behind such a hit?

“You can’t be…” What a song. Always makes me feel goosebumps yet i’m quite conscious of having written it and proud of the result of the band’s collaboration and all out enthusiastic disposition which carried this song so well through all these years.The story goes like this;Our friends started a promotion company and we all participated one way or other and the first group to be invited for a concert was the Watermelon Men from Sweden.We hang out with them, became good friends appreciated their songs and bittersweet approach to life showed them around even played beach soccer with them.There was definite feedback and the result I suppose was this also bittersweet song that talks about lost friends lost innocence and has a quirkiness about it that belies the world weariness of the lyrics. And to conclude I confess I was trying to sing in the style of Eric Illes their singer a Swedish brother to me. To the day I remember singing the song with my acoustic guitar on my then country house-now permanent residence-balcony to a group of friends and I’d like to believe that their enthusiastic first listen to ”You can’t be (Happy all the time) led to their helping us in financing the recording of our demo tape that led to the making of our mini L.P.

++ On the 12″ there’s a cover of The Beatles. Who made that choice? Were they a big influence on you? Is “Tomorrow Never Knows” your favourite song by theirs?

All of us absolutely adore the Beatles.We’ve played some of their songs in various concert situations but for  an official recording it had to be something special.In my opinion A Day In The Life and Tomorrow Never Knows are the most ambitious songs they ever recorded and present a real challenge for anyone to try and cover them.So we figured lets take our chance since we aimed for a result representing our possibilities as a group away from the typical rock format employing as it were the Divolis’ bros  experience with Greek folk music.Hopefully we managed to re-invent a masterpiece while staying true to its spirit.Really proud of the result actually!

++ Which other bands would you say were big influences to The Jaywalkers? Any Greek bands?

Influences?Too many actually.As stated before that era was boiling with great music freshly made to top an already huge heritage of the past three decades. Gio Mou and I were at the time working as journalists and record critics in prestigious magazines therefore being exposed to the best new music that was released at the time, discovering kindred artists from the U.S. and U.K. that were off the radar for the general public.Boy we were lucky!But I won’t shy away from naming some; Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who, always obvious suspects,also Beach Boys Byrds and of course Dylan.Forward to The Jam,The Clash, The CureThe Ramones Talking Heads also The Smiths ,R.E.M.,Dream Syndicate Long Ryders Green on Red and less obvious choices like Gun Club,Robyn Hitchcock, Elvis Costello  Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.The Greek bands of the time were friends and colleagues more than influences but of course there was feedback and healthy antagonism with the likes of The Last Drive, Anti Troppau Council The Mushrooms,Blue Light or Low Noise.

++ And if you were to record another cover, what would be your top choices?

To record another cover it would have to be something special again as we aim to add some of our own views on the matter.I maintain that a cover should be a tip of the hat to the original and also to shed a new light on a song we obviously love and got inspiration from.Having said that there just so many choices to pick from and pointless to name some but in the course of our live shows we covered songs by Elvis,R.E.M.,The Sound,The Beatles The Box Tops or Bobby Darin so the diversity shows  what we might choose.

++ I read that The Jaywalkers 12″ was a commercial failure. Is that story true? What happened?

Commercial failure could take  its toll on the very existence of groups ,but it is a reality one must face at some point as an unfortunate but unavoidable possibility.Well the”market” for groups and english singing at that-in Greece is very limited and that’s understating it.Virgin Greece went out on a limp releasing the record so the  commercial failure didn’t sit comfortably with any future plans to make a follow up so no follow up was produced.

++ The only compilation appearance I know that The Jaywalkers had was on the tape “Straight to Hellas” where you contributed the song “Pale Blue Eyes”. It sounds much different to the 12″. Was this an earlier song perhaps? How did you end up in this compilation?

The inclusion of Pale blue eyes in that compilation was our last-and not that good I must admit-hurrah.We sort of faded after that amidst obligations with the army, families formatting, and job obligations.We remained close but not so much in the music playing way.Life happens and in George’s Manos case an untimely death happened most unfortunately.

++ Are there any other compilation appearances from back in the day?

To my knowledge we had no other compilation appearances apart from possible live bootlegs but I think it’s most unlikely.

++ Are there any other recordings, unreleased songs, by the band?

Songs over the live years and after have accumulated waiting for their hopeful outing and some of them are recorded not in a fully professional manner mind but as a future plan they could turn up.

++ And from the whole Jaywalkers repertoire, what would you say was your favourite song and why?

Favourite songs vary depending on mood  snd season but the ones included in the mini-l.p. are always topping.Having said that there are also other favourites like the obvious live stalwarts River and The sun’s not gonna wake me tomorrow.

++ What about gigs? Did you play many? What were the good venues back then? And are there any particular gigs you remember fondly?

There were some clubs that every group gigged in as the were part of the scene.In the Migraine days there was the legendary ”Pegasus” home of the new wave, Kyttaro club, Hima (were even Nick Cave &the Bad Seeds performed, the former Mad club renamed Cat’s Meow and the largest of all the Club 22 where acts like Green on Red,Nick Cave, The Wipers or Nico appeared alongside supports from local groups like The Jaywalkers.The most legendary and successful club of course was ”Rodon live ”where every artist of note performed and I’m proud to say that The Jaywalkers were the first group to perform there as a support to the Triffids, a fact unfortunately not stated in the book about ”Rodon” that was published after the club’s termination and eventual change into a-alas-super market.
We remember fondly the gigs we played support to great artists like Green on Red in club 22 ,the aforementioned Rodon gig with the Triffids and a summer festival in Veakeion theater in Peiraius where the headliners were The Dream Syndicate. Having said that gigs were scarce therefore every time we got the chance to play live we relished the moment as you can understand!

++ Aside from Athens, did you play any other cities?

We played in a club in Patras and that final gig in a summer festival in Preveza where ”Pale Blue Eyes” was recorded for that compilation, and that was about it.It was just unfortunate that we didn’t play in Thessaloniki-a rock city with a big music scene.

++ Did you get much attention from the music press or radio?
The radio at the time was not that friendly for english speaking Greek groups although we got played by certain indie shows  that aired in those early days of non-state radio.
As for the press there existed an awkward situation as I mention earlier G. Mouctarides and I were journalist for the esteemed ”Sound and hi-fi” magazine therefore we were considered to be ”parts of the system”.That led to negative reviews or lack of reviews altogether ignoring good moments of the band, maybe it was jealousy or some kind of complex ,but it sure held the progress of the group media-wise.Years after it was confessed that the true value of The Jaywalkers was unjustly overlooked but of course as the saying goes the damage was done. Oh well water under the bridge…

++ And was there an important fanzine culture in Greece at the time? Did you get featured in them?

The fanzine culture of the times consisted mainly of one-off editions which sometimes were the vehicle for releasing some tapes of live shows.The notable exception was the ”Rollin Under” fanzine.To be honest I am not aware of any feature of The Jaywalkers but that could have eluded us as the circulation of these fanzines was very limited.

++ Then what happened to the band? When and why did you split? Did you continue making music afterwards?

he festival in Preveza in the summer 1988 was as I mentioned earlier the last live moment of the group. After that there were a few rehearsals but no more gigs due to army obligations and new families changing the whole picture. After that we certainly never gave up on music both as a job or a hobby. You might want to check out a group myself and some local friends set up called The Mercy Run.Had some gigs but no proper releases  exist only some studio recordings of songs I wrote with our singer Bob Crossley.

++ I think a lot of people, me included, were introduced to your music thanks to the compilation “Try a Little Sunshine”. This compilation became very important as it gave a new light to Greek guitar pop. What would you say are your favourite Greek indiepop bands?

There was a lot of potential in the early 80’s greek indie rock scene and talents sprung out all over.Some of our favourite bands were Cpt Nefos, Blue Light, The Mushrooms, Yell-oYell, Femmes Fatales, Anti-Troppau Council and Last Drive.

++ Also in the last decade or so you have played some reunion gigs. Is there any more gigs planned for the near future? And is there a chance for new Jaywalkers songs some day?

These last years in Greece haven’t being particularly good for indie groups due to the financial crisis.Although clubs like s.i.x. d.o.g.g.s. and fuzz are making a name for the ”underground” scene in Athens it is quite difficult for groups to be consistent in their live performances.As for reunion gigs we really enjoyed the ones we had and we certainly keep our hopes up for new material to be recorded and released but the difficulties seem at times unbeatable.Songs do exist though and they will eventually surface!

++ This year I see you will also participate in a new compilation named “A Sparkle From the Past” that will be released by Make Me Happy. Care telling me a bit about this new record?

This latest compilation will apparently include various Greek groups of the 80’s and early 90’s which didn’t quite fall in the general public’s radar and The Jaywalkers will participate with the -in my opinion-superb demo version of ”Good Day Sunshine”. From what I know this compilation is being released by a group of that era’s fans very keen on making a party of it all as it involves a live event for this release.

++ And today, what are you up to? Do you still make songs? Any other hobbies that you have?

As for songwriting it happens sparingly but with the aid of the current technology it is easier to record and keep in the archives for future use. As you’ve already seen I try to find some creative comfort in sketching and drawing and even-ambitiously enough-plan to participate in the Inktober challenge! Wish me luck.My true hobbies though is driving my two adolescent daughters around to various lessons and activities.Interestingly enough Gio Mou invited me to play guitar for his younger daughter’s recording of her song “Thieving Star” which will appear in the next ”Bright Side Of The Road” compilation, so you could say there is a continuation of the group through our children!

++ One last question, if one was to visit Athens, where should one go check out bands? And aside from the Acropolis what should one visit?

Well it’s been a marathon nine days Interview but a lot of fun nonetheless as it was a big trip down memory lane and a huge privilege to be able to share all these moments and thoughts with people across the globe! I’ll be very happy to show you around Athens sights and spots and invite you to taste some of the wonderful dishes my wife Dinah cooks. So till we meet in person it’s been an honour answering your questions  and thank you Roque for everything!

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Listen
The Jaywalkers – (You Can’t Be) Happy all the Time

17
Sep

Thanks a thousand to Patrick O’Sullivan for the interview! I wrote about the Irish band So She Said knowing very little a few weeks ago. Somehow Patrick got in touch with me through Twitter and the rest is history. Now at last I learn a bit of the story of the Dublin band that even though didn’t release a proper record released a few songs on compilations. And how good those songs are! If you haven’t heard them before, it is now a good time to discover them!

++ Thanks so much Patrick for the interview! How are you doing? How was the summer? When was the last time you picked up your guitar?

Hello Roque

I’m fine, thank you. The summer was a bit weird – personal stuff – but life is good and I’m enjoying it!

I last picked up my guitar yesterday. I’m writing a song at the moment and I love to pick up the guitar and see how the song has progressed since I last played it. It’s coming along grand.

++ Let’s start from the beginning, what are your first musical memories? What sort of music was heard at home while growing up? What was your first instrument?

First memories…my mother had been a professional singer before she got married so there was always music in the house. I was listening to Andy Williams and Johnny Cash as a young child (and I thought it was great that they enjoyed a surge of popularity years later when I was an adult). When I was 8 we lived in Zambia for a while and I had two cassettes with me – Jim Reeves and Johnny Cash. I got to know every moment of those records. Sometimes we would go to a cabaret in the Intercontinental Hotel in Lusaka and my sisters and I would sing (separately, not together). I remember singing ‘A Boy Named Sue’, ‘Bimbo’ and others. I thought I was very clever for interchanging words from the songs with the local parlance, so “dollars” became “kwacha”, etc.
But my first ‘wow’ moment was probably when I was about 13 and heard The Beatles and it blew my world apart. I knew then I had to be in a band. Shortly afterwards I was playing out on the road and my next-door neighbour was playing The Kinks in his house and I was mesmerised – the guitar sound and beat and voice – it was like stepping into a totally new world where the rules were all different.
My first and only instrument was the guitar. After that Beatles introduction I bought a guitar off some chap from school for something like £4. It was an awful thing. But I started to teach myself and practice with a friend on the road. I got some lessons but I was mainly self-taught.

++ Before So She Said there was The Delegates. Care telling me a bit about this band? Any recordings? What was the lineup? How did you sound?

The Delegates was more an idea than a real band. I had written a couple of songs and was playing guitar with my friend. Then at 17 my father got me a summer job in Vienna and I was away from my friends and my girlfriend. So I wrote lots of letters and set up a fan club for the band that didn’t really exist. We even got written about in some music fanzine! We did have a couple of public performances – at my sister’s wedding and another time in our old school. I got back to Dublin and started writing more and more songs and then I formed So She Said with Anto Healy and Brian King. And now I was in a real band!

++ Aside from So She Said and The Delegates, had you been involved with any other bands?

No. Although I’ve been recording some of my songs in recent times with a variety of musicians and for the moment I am calling that loose collective The Stuts.

++ How was Dublin back then? What were your usual hangouts? Your favourite venues to go see bands? Were there any like-minded bands that you were friends with?

Dublin was home and it was great. But when I look back on it the city was extremely quiet compared to nowadays. I grew up on Cedarwood Road, the same road as Bono, Gavin Friday, and Gugi. Bono obviously was in U2, while Gavin Friday and Guggi were in The Virgin Prunes. Around the corner, Alan Downey was in Aslan. It was amazing really ‘cause this was just one road on Dublin’s northside. There were bands everywhere. There were three or four bands among my friends. I don’t recall too much about Bono but I clearly remember seeing Fionan Hanvey (Gavin Friday) walk up the road in a dress and I was … amazed! And to me Derek Rowan (Guggi) and his brothers were the long-haired lads near the shops with the motorbikes. But they always seemed friendly!
The place I remember most about going to see bands was The Baggot Inn. That was quite a legendary venue on the Dublin circuit. And the band of the moment was The Blades. Watching them live in The Baggot was an experience. But you were brought back to earth by the rush for the last bus from O’Connell Street, which was more than a mile away and left at 11.30pm sharp (the idea of a taxi didn’t even enter our heads).

++ How did the band start? How did you all know each other?

I can’t remember exactly how it started but I know that I was completely intent on starting a band. I met Anto through my girlfriend and we got on well.
About the same time, some mod bloke from the club we used to frequent (Bubbles) decided to try starting a band; the result was a room full of people, mostly standing around looking at us, in a rehearsal studio called Furlongs on Capel Street in Dublin. I can’t remember how I came to be there (‘cause I didn’t know these people) but I was there and so was Anto. He played guitar, but at some point in the session he was messing on the drum kit, playing ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’ by The Jam. I was impressed and asked him to join my non-existent band as drummer, despite the fact that he had no kit and could just about play.
I think I then persuaded one of my school friends, Brian King, to play bass. Anto got us cheap rehearsal space above Walton’s, the famous music shop in Dublin, and we were off.

++ Why the name So She Said? What’s the story behind it?

It was the title of one of our songs. I suggested it to the lads one Saturday afternoon after band practice, in a pub on Parnell Street called The Ivy Rooms.

++ And what would you say were the influences in the band?

Initially Anto and I had similar influences I would say – The Jam, The Beatles, Style Council, The Blades, a lot of 60s RnB. Brian’s taste was probably funkier but he also liked heavy rock and metal. I got more into bands like Prefab Sprout, The Smiths and Elvis Costello as I began to write more.

++ How was the creative process for the band?

I wrote the songs. I brought them into the rehearsal room and played them for the other two. I was probably a bit of a control freak about the arrangements as well.

++ Two songs of yours, “So Happy” and “Let Me Out” appeared on the compilation “Swimming Out of the Pool” on the Danceline label. How did you end up there? Were you familiar the rest of the bands on the compilation?

I think that was organised by two music aficionados who were well known on the Dublin music scene – Pete The Roz and Steady Eddie! They just asked me if we’d like to go on the record. We were gigging around town at the time and had probably been in a newspaper or two.
I think I knew a couple of the bands. I think I knew The Outpatients, just from playing the same venues.

++ And what do you remember from the recording session for those songs?

I remember the excitement of going to the studio on a Sunday morning in March. I remember being very impressed with the fact that the sound engineer had worked on U2’s albums. I remember him getting us to play acoustic guitar under the electric guitar and thinking that was very clever.

++ “At Home in June” was a song that won the Hot Press/Murphy’s song of the month in 1989. What did that mean? What was the prize?

I’m not quire sure of the sequencing but I remember Hot Press beginning to take an interest in what we were doing. Hot Press was the only music magazine in Ireland and was read by every musician and fan so it was great to have them on your side. I remember the general manager of Hot Press, Jackie Hayden, coming to the studio to sit in on the session when we were mixing ‘At Home In June’. I know the prize included some art work by the Hot Press graphics designer for our record/cassette. Arthur Matthews was the designer from Hot Press. He later went on to find fame and fortune as the co-writer of the comedy series Father Ted. We may have been interviewed by the magazine. I really can’t remember what else we got apart from the publicity.

++ Those are the 3 recordings of yours I know. Were there any more? Maybe some demo tapes?

Yeah there were a few more demos but I wasn’t very happy with them. In fact one of them – ‘Lost And Found’ – is one of my favourite songs from the era but I really wasn’t happy with what happened to it in the studio. I think I’ll rerecord it some day.

++ I really like those 3 songs, was wondering if perhaps in a sentence or two, you could tell me what they are about?

‘So Happy’ – being a teenager in Dublin at that time.
‘Let Me Out’ – An early foray into writing a love song.
‘At Home In June’ – this song chronicles a sort of mini break down I had. When I listen to it it’s like watching a movie of my falling into a ditch and then scraping and crawling to get back out. Something strange happened in the writing of that song, something I hadn’t felt up until then. I was losing all control and it terrified me. I was being physically sick – and these words just spewed out of me. The music too…it was different to what I had written before. I’m quite proud of that one!

++ And from your whole repertoire, which would be your favourite song and why?

I think most songwriters will give you a different answer depending on what they most recently worked on. I have a soft spot for ‘So Happy’ and I think my writing went up a notch with ‘At Home In June’. The song I’ve just recorded recently with Anto pleases me a lot – ‘Come And Go’. I wrote a song for my little girl – ‘Carry Me’. There’s another one ‘Eternity’…there are a lot of songs in the repertoire at this stage and thankfully I have a small place in my heart for most of them.

++ Was there any interest from Danceline to release you? What about other labels? I find it strange that you didn’t get to release a proper record!

I don’t know if Danceline were into releasing bands on their own. I think they were just there to give bands some exposure. No, there was no activity from other labels. I think there may have been an enquiry from a publishing company at one stage but nothing that ever went anywhere. I suppose the fact that there were so many bands in Dublin at the time meant it was hard to really stand out. I don’t know. But also, we broke up right after we had made a bit of a breakthrough with Hot Press – song of the month – finalists in the national band of the year, etc. In hindsight that wasn’t a clever move!

++ What about gigs? Did you play many? What were your favourites?

We played a lot of gigs, mostly in Dublin. We seemed to revolve between three venues in particular – The Baggot Inn, The Underground and The Earl Grattan. But we played everywhere we could. I loved the residencies we had in those venues. But there were two gigs that really stand out in my memory – both in Dublin City University (DCU).
The first was RAG week when basically lots of events are planned and all the students party for the week. We were due to play at lunchtime, open air, outside the canteen. We set up and started and all the cool students were standing around and there was a bit of toe tapping going on. And then it started to snow. And my girlfriend and manager (now my wife) and a friend of ours started to dance. And then a few others joined them…and the snow came down heavier. More and more people started dancing and the snow fell down and the buzz grew and eventually they had to stop the gig ’cause it was getting dangerous with the snow and none of the audience, which had grown considerably by now, wanted it to stop.

The second was in a lecture theatre the night DCU was granted university status. We came on and I strummed the first chord and the place erupted. That was a pretty special gig.

++ Were there any bad gigs? Or any fun anecdotes you could share?

Some student threw sandwiches at us in another college one time ‘cause we wouldn’t play Bohemian Rhapsody! Our roadie threw them straight back. It could have got interesting but instead it was very civilised (it was a teacher training college).
There was one 24 hour period that sums up the highs and lows in an interesting way: we played in Sir Henry’s in Cork as part of the Hot Press Band of the Year gig. It was really cool to play in such a well known venue outside of Dublin and we had a ball – partying afterwards, etc. I don’t remember getting to bed or even where we stayed but I do know that very early the next morning I flew back to Dublin and got a taxi directly from the airport to sit my college exams. And when I got there the exam hall was empty – I was in the wrong place! I made it to the exam eventually but don’t think I did terribly well!!

++ Did you get much attention from the music press or the radio?

As I said, Hot Press were on to us and we were interviewed in one of the national Sunday papers and had some other bits and pieces in the press. We were played on national radio a little bit.
Actually, you’ve just reminded me, ‘So Happy’ was played on the radio recently – the national station was having some vinyl slot on one of the talk programmes and my wife was a guest with that Danceline record under her arm! And a local radio station on Dublin’s northside interviewed me a while back – the subject of that conversation was my playwrighting but they also played ‘So Happy’ and two other songs of mine (‘Eternity’ and ‘Kids Can Crawl’).

++ When and why did you split? What did you do afterwards? Did you continue making music?

We split in 1989 I think. I’m not quite sure of the exact date – probably at the end of the summer of 1989. Just after we were beginning to get attention!

I recall this row erupting out of nowhere and suddenly the band was no more. Basically Anto was unhappy. There was a lot going on in his life but at the time I didn’t understand it. To be honest I think I was shocked or traumatised or something. I stopped writing songs for a few years. Well, except for one children’s song I wrote for a pantomime (which starred the girls who went on to form the girl band B*Witched – they were very young at the time but really liked the song and asked me all about it a few times – it was called ‘Two Friends’).

I was having a pint with Anto recently and we got talking about the split and it turns out that there was a lot of stuff going on for him at the time that I wasn’t aware of – personal stuff – and it came to the surface and was the chief cause of the band splitting. But that’s life. Our recent chat was very therapeutic. We’re recording music together again and it’s great.

++ And today, what are you up to? Are you all still in touch? Speaking of which, I found a Soundcloud for Anto Healy’s project Cabin, is that the same Anto?

I am writing songs and am recording with Anto again. He has a recording studio and is an excellent musician. I am also writing plays and had a short play tour nationally last year. I’ve been mentored by Fishamble Theatre Company which is Ireland’s new playwrighting company. Through my playwrighting I have been approached by one or two film directors and am currently writing a feature film with a really talented director/actor TJ O’Grady Peyton. I am also working on a short film adaptation of my play Fairview’s Finest Dancer with director Keith Farrell. Another short screenplay of mine is due to be produced this coming winter in Dublin. So creatively I’m busy and happy.
Yes that Soundcloud Cabin link is indeed by the same Anto Healy!
And yes I still see Brian as well – in fact I was just out with him tonight for a pint. We were trying to get tickets fro the All-Ireland Football Final this Sunday (go on the Dubs!!). Brian got one, I didn’t!

++ Aside from music, any other hobbies you have?

Aside from all the creative stuff I love traveling with my family (back to Vietnam for the sixth or seventh time next summer), I’ve walked across Ireland with my dad and other members of the wider family, and I follow the Dubs (Gaelic football and hurling)!

++ Looking back in time, what would you say was the highlight of being in So She Said?

Filling dancefloors.
Sitting back the first time we recorded in a studio (which happened to be ‘So Happy’) and thinking “Wow”.
Sitting back listening to ‘At Home in June’ and thinking “Wow”.

++ Are you still based in Dublin? Has it changed much since then? What would you recommend doing, seeing, eating, drinking, if one was to visit your city?

Yes I’m still in Dublin. I live in Fairview which is only 2km from the city centre. I love living here. It is unrecognisably more cosmopolitan than when I was growing up on Cedarwood Road. One example that comes to mind when speaking about the band is this: we used to rehearse in Temple Bar Studios and one night I remember going to a quiet little pub around the corner with Anto and Brian after rehearsal to watch a football match. Nowadays Temple Bar Studios is like some sort of music Mecca and the little pub around the corner is the Temple Bar and packed every opening hour with tourists.
But despite that anecdote it is a great place to visit. Things to do: walk the hill of Howth, drink Guinness in a real drinker’s pub (not a tourist trap), sit in the back room of The Palace Bar on Fleet Street, go for a hike in the Dublin Mountains, go for drinks, food, music in the Camden Street area, go to a play in the Gate Theatre. And give me a shout and I’ll guide you though any or all of the above!

++ Thanks again, anything else you’d like to add?

Pleasure talking to you Roque. I will send you a link to ‘Come And Go’ very shortly – we’re just mixing it at the moment. More info can be found at www.mentalmagpie.com and on Twitter @OSuilleabhainP

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Listen
So She Said – So Happy

16
Sep

Thanks so much to Lyndon Morgans for the interview and Jon Clay for getting me in touch with him! I wrote about Sad Among Strangers a long time ago on the blog after buying their “Taking Off the Breaks” 7″ which I thought was fantastic. Of course, as it is the case with many bands from the period, there was little information on the web about them and I wanted to know more. So I thank this opportunity to learn their story and their music. Hope you like it too!

++ Hi Lyndon! Thanks so much for being up for this interview! How are you? What are you up to these days? Still making music?

Sad Among Strangers spilt up in the fall of 1987 and then I concentrated on the theatre for about eight years, winning the Verity Bargate playwriting award in the early 90s. I formed the Jellymoulds around 1996 (featuring two ex-members of Sad Among Strangers, Karl Woodward and Malcolm Phillips), we made one album “Zen Jukebox”, then we launched Songdog in 2000 (Karl Woodward stayed on, another ex-Sad Among Strangers member, Robert Lesniewski, joined for just the first album. We’ve now made seven albums and Malcolm Phillips came back to play on the latest one but is now gone again. I regard Sad Among Strangers and Jellymoulds as the aperitifs, with Songdog very much the main course. The music we play now is very much how I’d like to have done it then but when Sad Among Strangers formed in the fall of 1978 it was very much ‘play punk or else’ as someone once scrawled across an early gig poster of ours …….

++ I wrote about Sad Among Strangers after I found the “Taking Off the Breaks” 7″ and looked for information on the web. I couldn’t find much. So why don’t we start from there, with that brilliant song. What’s the story behind it? What is it about?

The Sad Among Strangers thing seemed to fall into two distinct periods, firstly the fall of ’78 until spring of 82 and then from the spring of ’82 to the fall of 87. “Taking Off The Brakes” I suppose was the musical highlight of part two. Arista paid for some demos in 1985 and it was recorded as part of those sessions with Steve James producing. After Arista passed on us Freddie Cannon replaced the original drum part with the one that ended up on the record that came out on Broken Hill and claimed the producer’s credit. I guess the song’s about a guy trying to overcome his reserve and telling a girl how he feels about her. I remember still trying to finish the lyrics as we were in the studio and just about to record the vocal.

++ On the B side there was the song “I, Salamander”, which  is a bit darker, less poppy. I wonder what sort of style of music you liked best? And what were your influences at the time?

Freddie booked us into the old Pye Studios at Marble Arch to overdub the drums on “Taking Off The Brakes” but gave us carte blanche to put whatever we liked on the B-side, so we chose “I,
Salamander” and produced it ourselves. I haven’t heard either track in decades so I can’t comment on which I prefer!

++ Let’s go back in time for a bit, was Sad Among Strangers your first band? Had you been involved with other bands too? I know you were on Songdog after being in Sad Among Strangers, how different were these two bands?

When I was a teenager in Wales I’d played in a couple of local bands but we did only covers — wonderful years, though! When we came up to London in the early summer of 1976 I started writing the songs that would become Sad Among Strangers’s early repertoire and I’ve played only my own material ever since, via Jellymoulds and Songdog. There’s a big difference in approach between the Sads and Songdog, the former’s first period was super-fast tempos, angular guitar riffs and lyrics gleaned from my reading bawled out like newspaper headlines. Songdog is acoustic-based with often glacial-paced tempos, a lot rootsier and the lyrics much, much more considered! But to me, I can quite clearly identify a ‘through line’, a thread running right through the songwriter’s persona in both bands. In fact the very first line of the very first track on the very first Songdog album I’d lifted from an old Sads track, I meant it as a kind of statement-of intent and I’ve often re-used bits and pieces from Sads’ stuff over the years — – snatches of lyric, a chord sequence or whatever.

++ What are your first musical memories by the way? What sort of music did you grow up listening to? And what was your first instrument? You were based in Wales, right? Whereabouts? And how was it growing up there? Were there any good bands in town?

I grew up in a place in the South Wales valleys called Blackwood: the Manic Street Preachers came from there too but nothing great or genuinely important so far (but for Songdog!). I was a music fanatic from the age of about ten — – the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Dylan. The stuff that had the most bearing on what I was to do later was mid-60s folk-rock and the baroque-pop stuff of ‘66-’69 combined with the early 70s singer-songwriter boom, and that’s what I would’ve loved to play from the time I first started writing songs, but in London in 1977 and the years immediately following anything that wasn’t ‘punk’ or new wave was anathema. You just wouldn’t have got any gigs whispering away behind an acoustic guitar! My father bought me a guitar for Christmas when I was twelve and right from the very start I wanted to use it as something to sing to and write my own songs on. After I’d learned the basics I had limited interest in working out other people’s stuff. I wish I’d learned piano too.

++ I couldn’t find the band lineup for Sad Among Strangers on the web. So who were Sad Among Strangers and how did you all meet? What’s the story of the band’s name? Your first release was in 1980 on the Brave Tales label. Who were behind this label? This record has three songs, “Sparks Fly Upwards”, “A Better View of Baxter” and “The Gongs”. I really like the opening track the best, and I was wondering how was your experience working with Ian Dinwoodie as the producer, what did he add to the sound of the band? And how was the creative process for Sad Among Strangers? Where did you usually rehearse?

The first line-up was myself on guitar and vocals, Karl Woodward on guitar, Robert Lesniewski on keyboards, Malcolm Phillips on bass and Steve Prescott on drums. Me, Karl and Sig (Robert Lesniewski) came up from Wales together with the express intention of forming a band and met Mal and Steve after they answered an ad we’d placed in Melody Maker for a rhythm section. Later on Mal left and was replaced by Ruari Macfarlane and we headed in a pretty different direction musically. The name came from James Joyce’s novel “Ulysses” which I was reading at the time — — “Who loved you, Stephen, when you were sad among the strangers?”. We used to rehearse at Woodwharf Studios in Greenwich, Dire Straits would be in one room and Kate Bush and her band in another. Another time we were in a place near London Bridge when Queen’s and Public Image’s roadies ganged up together to see off a bunch of skinheads causing trouble outside! We met Ian Dinwoodie when he caught us at a gig in west London in 1979, he worked in EMI’s post-room at the time and he steered us through to the spring of ’82, producing our first three singles and managing us too. We did that first three-track single in a posh 24-track studio in Wimbledon, south London: Cliff Richard had booked it for daytime use and once he’d left mid- evening we’d creep in and do our stuff through the night — – the house engineer was a friend of Mal’s, had an amazing porn collection. Brave Tales was our own label. Ian gave a sense of purpose and direction to all the chaos, I’d say he was vital to us throughout those early years, he booked all the gigs, designed the sleeves, the lot, we did four shows a week, every week for years and years, in the process conquering all the venues you needed to play in those times, from the Marquee down, we did many shows there.

++ Your next release was the “Here Come the Caesars” 7″. The B side, “I Know Nothing of the Jungle” was covered by the band Jellymoulds in 1997. What do you think of it? “My Kind of Loser” was your next release. I notice here that the record was being published by Cherry Red Music. What was the deal you had with them? Why didn’t they just release the record on their label? Was there any interest from other labels? So there were 4 releases, four singles, but no album. How come? Are there any unreleased Sad Among Strangers songs? And from all those songs from your repertoire which one would you say was your favourite and why?

With Jellymoulds we re-did “I Know Nothing of the Jungle” out of nostalgia for the old days, I suppose. I prefer the later version just because it’s better played — – the Sads had all the passion and energy in the world but we didn’t pay too much attention to the nuts and bolts, the musicality of the thing — – we could do a six-minute track in about 2:45. By the time Jellymoulds happened we were better musicians, that’s all. As regards “Here Come The Caesars” and “My Kind of Loser” I remember Iain McNay of Cherry Red coming backstage at a gig at the Rock Garden and offering us a deal but I honestly don’t remember what happened, I think they ended up with the publishing, that would’ve been Ian’s department. We were so cocky that another time we turned down the chance to do an album on the Virgin barge because we didn’t like the trousers the guy offering us the deal was wearing: we also said no to a tour opening for XTC, I remember. We were doing so well as a live band I think we figured we could just pick and choose when we felt good and ready. Years later a guy from Virgin told us that we eventually had the reputation as the band that didn’t want a deal! Not true! There’s a whole pile of unreleased material. And many of the gigs were taped too, though that’s all very lo-fi stuff, purely of historical interest only. I liked quite a few of the songs but didn’t always like the way we did them: as I say, we didn’t really do musical finesse and as a songwriter it sometimes felt like watching your babies get mangled in a car-wreck. A lot of the ideas from that era I only got to re-do properly with Songdog.

++ Someone commented on my blog saying that by the mid 80s you decided to go commercial. Is that true?

By the time Mal left and Ruari joined in mid-1982 the New Wave thing was over and the fucking synthesiser was mainstream music’s favoured instrument of torture, and in the course of those following years although we had some fantastic times we lost our way musically. Trousers got baggier, hair bigger, it felt like we were just following whatever the latest trend was, a kind of pop-funk thing that certainly wasn’t what we were about in our hearts. Karl wanted to leave years before we called it a day and I was enormously relieved when we finally did. So I can understand why some people preferred the earlier years: so did I. ‘Going commercial’ is a quaint way to put it but I know what the guy means. It was partly just the times, even my greatest heroes did their weakest work in that era. I left music alone until songwriting came back in in the 90s and the rediscovery of the likes of Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake made acoustic music viable again for the first time in twenty years. I was just a victim of bad timing, I think!

++ Something that I could find on the web was that you were support of A-Ha on a European tour of theirs in 1981. How was that experience? How was your relationship with them? Which cities did you play? Which were your favourites? Any fun anecdotes you could share?

We did the A-Ha European tour of late 1986, they were huge then and the tour was quite an experience, they were doing massive venues and the audiences loved us — — though I’m betting they’d have loved whoever was up there! We did Lyon, four nights in Paris, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Dusseldorf, Munich, Mannheim, Nuremberg, Hamburg, Brussels, Rotterdam and Copenhagen — – I don’t know if I’ve missed any, it lasted about a month? We got on well with them and in fact a few years ago Songdog went back out opening for Morten Harket on one of his tours, our manager rang his people, he remembered the ’86 tour and invited us on. We had many, many memorable times on that tour but I suppose the incident I remember the clearest was after we’d come offstage in Nuremburg (?) I swallowed a few pills some guy’d offered me and then downed a bottle of wine and collapsed, got locked in a toilet somewhere and had to be ambulanced to hospital to have my stomach pumped. Happy days, eh? I remember being chuffed to have done a venue in Munich that the Beatles had played and that Paul Simon was to be the next attraction at our Paris venue. The trouble was that when the tour was over we found it just so demoralising to have to return to the London pub circuit and we limped on through most of 1987 becoming less and less committed to what we were doing. We should’ve packed in about three years before we did, but then, of course, we’d have missed that A-Ha tour! My favourite shows were the Paris ones, once we’d left the venue we’d be up in Montmartre drinking half the night away because we didn’t have to set out for the next city, we had four nights to do at the same place.

++ And in general, which are the gigs you remember most fondly and why? Did you get much attention from the music press and radio?

Gigs-wise I loved the early years best, when we were chalking up venues we’d read of back in Wales and knew you had to do if you were to be counted as any good. In the very earliest days we also had a residency at a place on Clapham High Street — – the Two Brewers — – that lasted over two years and we had some fantastic times there, we built up a hell of a following due to that place. John Peel used to play us but that was really it, radio-wise. The music press mostly slagged the shit out of us! When we began to get good press for Songdog I thought someone had made a mistake somewhere, I was so used to getting hatchet-jobs done on us.

++ When and why did you call it a day? What did you do afterwards? And whereabouts in the UK are you these days? Aside from music, what other hobbies do you have? One last question, what would you say was the biggest highlight of the band? Anything else you’d like to add?

As I said, the end was overdue and merciful. The drummer announced his imminent departure and we used that as an opportunity to not to have to carry on: there was no announcement of our splitting up, we just didn’t bother looking for a replacement, didn’t book any more rehearsals, etc. I then got involved in playwriting for years until the musical tide turned back to songwriting in the mid-90s. Thank God for it, I finally had a chance to make the musical statement I was born to make, but Sad Among Strangers was a hell of an apprenticeship, I have to admit that. I’m still based in London — – though I have a place in Wales too — – and I focus completely on my work with Songdog, I have to keep writing and recording until I can’t any longer, I couldn’t live at all if I had to just give all this up and I’ve had so many great things happen with Songdog, so many experiences I couldn’t have got with the old band, but Christ, still, with Sad Among Strangers, we had some adventures, didn’t we!

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Listen
Sad Among Strangers – Taking Off the Breaks

15
Sep

Thanks so much to Kevin Lagan for the interview. I wrote about The Chairs not so long ago on the blog and Kevin was kind enough to get in touch and answer all my questions! I discovered The Chairs with the Leamington Spa series and after I’ve been collecting their 4 records on their own Pink Halo Records, which I recommend them all. If you are not familiar with them, or if you are a fan, I’m sure you will enjoy this great interview!

++ Thanks Kevin for being up for this interview! How are you? Whereabouts in the UK are you? Essex?

Yep, I live in a small town near a river. Its called Maldon and its very old and a very nice place to live.

++ And do you continue making music to this day? Are you all still in touch?

Only make music now for my own pleasure. My son Tom completed a degree in Music and is a Bach of Jazz and can play so wonderfully – I get more enjoyment from seeing home and other amazingly talented young people play. I still listen to a whole lot of music and it’s an important part of my life.

++ Let’s go back in time then, but even way before The Chairs. Like, what are your first music memories? When did you know you wanted to play in bands? Were your parents supportive perhaps?

My late mum and my dad (who is still here ) were fantastically supportive of me playing music. So much so, I had a toy drum set at about 5 and then around 13, I purchased a small Pearls 4 piece and played that to death! It fitted in my room at home and mum and dad still live in the same house. You can see the cracks in the ceiling still I caused form all the vibrations! They were / are great parents.

I didn’t know I wanted to be in a band until I started following the Accidents (which I later played in). I really wanted to be in this band, and one day that actually happened!

++ What was your first instrument? how did you get it?

Drum kit forma small shop in Colchester called ‘Keddies’. It was a kids set but at 5, didn’t need more! I also play the guitar and have had these since around 13.

++ Was your first band The Accidents? Or had you been involved in any other bands previously?

No, the Accidents was the first band and I loved the music. When they split and Paul went off to join the Americans, Terry and Mark recruited 2 new members – Max on drums and Simon on Bass. They were ok , but never had the feel that the original line p had. When Paul and Terry came together and formed the Accidents again, I sat in and as I learned all the songs years back, it was easy. I was never the best drummer but we sounded like the accidents. Paul was back playing guitar not drums, and Mark Robins (one of the planets best guitarists) and Terry, well , it had to happen. Trevor Richardson came in after Nick Fisher and we had that sound back. It was great to be involved.

++ After The Accidents you were in The Gene Tryp and only after in The Chairs. Had you been involved in any other bands?

I did record an album I Austal with a 17 year old singer called ‘Charlotte Emily’ and did some gigs which was great. I was able to play in a band with my son Tom who played bass and then drums ion the songs that needed refinement rather than me banging out a rhythm! I enjoyed it, but it was not a long term thing.

++ What about the sound of each band? How different were they? And how did you end up evolving into The Chairs?

Now there’s a great question. The Accidents were very melodic and I felt told naive songs about love and disappointment. Very well crafted songs, wonderful sound and harmonies. ‘Trigger happy’ has one of the best guitar solos in my option! The Tryp was more a wall of sound – cleaver songs, great guitar solos, but feedback and speed and power. Lots of leather and image was important. The chairs were , well, the Chairs”! Early on, lots of jangly 12 string but we got rockier as we evolved. Paul really came into his element with his song writing and penned great songs ofr us. Each band was unique I feel. Love them all.

After the Accidents morphed in to the Tryp, Paul wanted to do more on his own as the front man, and I went along with him as did Trevor. It didn’t mean we didn’t want Mark or Terry but that sound had been and gone. It was time for something fresh.

++ I believe throughout these bands you shared the same members mostly. How did you all know each other? How did you meet?

Terry, Mark and Paul had been in bands together for years. I lived on the same road as Mark and very closer to Terry. I went drinking in the same pubs (The Queens Head and The Carpenters Arms) and we became friends. Im 5 years younger so a bit of underage consumption was undertaken!

++ What sort of music were you listening at the time you started The Chairs? Who would you say were your influences?

Elvis Costello, XTC, Elvis Presley, Blondie , Pistols, Madness, the Jam and the Accidents! All played a big part in my musical evolution. I listen still to all these guys and more!

++ And who came up with the name of the band? Firstly you were called The Domesday Chairs, right? What’s the story behind it?

No idea! That’s a Paul thing. I can only remember us being the Chairs. Its the quote from Lennon, and Paul is the Beatles fan and we liked it!

++ How was Essex then? Or where you in London by then? Where did you usually hang out? Were there any good venues to catch bands you liked? And were there any like-minded bands around?

I lived in Essex in the early 80’s and spend time at the students union at Essex Uni SU. Saw heaps of bands, REM, The Icicle Works, Cherry Bois, Aztec Camera, XTC, U2 (at the Lyceum in 1982/3) and on and on – heaps of great bands. In those days , pubs had bands playing and all my mates were in bands. It was a great time to play toilet venues!

++ Your first record was “The Likes of You” who you recorded with G. Chambers. I was wondering how was that experience? I noticed he has worked with mainstream names like Robbie Williams. What did he add to your music?

George was friend of Paul’s and he was just a pleasure to be around. He smoked a lot too so the sessions were sometimes ‘relaxed’! I was young then and just happy to be in the band and in the studio. He made sure that the recordings captured the essence of the band and he did a great job with what technology we had back then. He added his experience but without stifling how we really sounded. Good bloke.

++ By the way, how did the creative process work for The Chairs? Where did you usually practice?

Paul would write and demo his songs on a 4 track. In the early days we rehearsed in Holloway Road London, and then as we needed more professional sets up, we went to Hackney Road. We always rehearsed all together for 4 hours on a Saturday and then when n we had big gigs, we would often do a Wednesday evening too. We would go to each other’s house and work stuff. We all had an input, but it was really Paul’s band so he led us – and led us well.

++ This first record had a cool drawing as the artwork and it is credited to the band. I wonder who was the illustrator, the designer, within the band?

Paul and Dave for sure. I can’t draw a pair of curtains! Trevor was creative too and his then girlfriend (Claire) was arty.

++ You ran your own label, Pink Halo, to release your records. How was that? Was it easy to get distribution? Dealing with the pressing plants? Did you like that part of it?

Not really. I enjoyed the live work but didn’t enjoy recording and all the stuff that goes with it” Jim Wallace did most of the other stuff. I just t wasn’t really interested. Jim is owed a lot of credit.

++ And why did you name your label Pink Halo? And what about that design that became your trademark for the labels?

Pink Halo was names after a certain part of a woman’s anatomy” nuff said. We wanted a simple but stand out label – always a different colour for each record. We knocked around the art work and all liked the one we used. We all played a part.

++ “Size 10 Girlfriend” was your second release and I love this song! Was wondering if in a few lines you could tell me the story behind it?

Its about a train journey from Liverpool street to Southend where Paul saw a really hot girl and tells a story of that and many journeys. I liked playing that but it was always one that knackered me as I hit my drums very, very hard!

++ This time you worked with Howard Turner, who worked with more indie bands at the time. Was it much different than the first time around at the recording studio?

Yep, he has a very nice place and it was very civilised. It was in Norfolk were we recorded Honey, and we stayed in the cottage surrounded by fields. He had very good facilities only I wasn’t allowed to play my Gretch Kit as it was too lively. I played a silver sparkly thing from memory! Every engineer we worked with were great – all different but great.

++ Your third release, “Honey I Need a Girl of a Different Stripe”, was perhaps the one you had higher hopes with? I ask this because I notice you released it in both 7″ and 12″ formats.

Hell yes. We had started to get attention after the likes of you, and then Size Ten. Honey was a bigger sound and people were interested. We decided to fund the12’ and 7’ with picture sleeve. The shirt was one Paul wore a lot and sort of became our image focus. When we were on Radio 1 and Elvis loved it – we thought – we have done it.

++ Your last release, “Crestfallen”, didn’t get proper art, how come?

No money unfortunately. I think interest had gone at that point.

++ On the web I could find a couple of mentions saying you were really looking to sign with a bigger label. Was that true? Did you get close to it?

It was our dream to be signed to a major. Paul may say different but that’s the truth of it. We wanted to bring what we had to the millions. I still do – I think the later stuff is greater than the earlier and stands up today. Pink Halo was ours but it was only supposed to be a stepping stone.

++ Why do you think you didn’t get the chance to release an album? Uwe from Firestation Records told me that you had an unreleased one titled “Al Green is My Valet”, what’s that about?

We just never had the money to be honest. We paid for the singles ourselves and funded from within. Jim was great and did get some outside cash for demos etc., but we never had enough. I really wish we did have as we would have made one hell of a record.

++ And are there any other unreleased songs by The Chairs?

Shit yes! One on the best is Half way up a hill – absolutely Top song. Sycamore ridge was another. I have recording of rehearsals and gigs and a couple of live sets are great. Paul’s song writing pedigree is still top notch. There are loads.

++ From all that repertoire of songs, which would be your favourite and why?

Halfway Up Hill; – because its rocky, powerful, has great licks and interesting drumming. Size Ten, Honey and Daze are close to it though, as is the likes of you.

++ I read that there’s a tape of your first ever gig at the Blue Boar in Southend. Who recorded it? Were copies sold? And what songs did you play? Did you have a big repertoire then or you played songs from your previous bands too?

Paul didn’t like playing back catalogue stuff but we dd a few. He was writing for the Chairs so we did new stuff and old. I have a recording of that gig somewhere – its pretty awful I remember!

++ What about other gigs? Are there any that you remember in particular? Any fun anecdotes to share?

What goes on tour , stays on tour. We did get beaten up in Leicester which was horrible but also quite funny looking back!

++ And what bands did you like that you played with?

The Icicle Works were really great. I liked all the bands really but I preferred the small unsigned ones. Neil Robert Herd was also a great guy.

++ On Facebook, a The Chairs page was created, it seems, mostly to promote a reunion gig, but it never happened. How come? Has there been any other reunion gigs by the band?

We realised that we would all be in the UK in August 2015. Paul put up the page but hadn’t asked us if we wanted to play together again. Part of me wanted to , but I and Trev decided that its not going to happen. For me, the memories of the Chairs are precious and were a moment in time. Im never going to play with the guys again – not because I don’t love them, but because time moves on and we are not those people now. Paul lives in Worthing, Tex in NZ, Dave in the Stares, and I lives in Australia until a few years ago.

++ You did a radio session for Simon Mayo. How did that invitation happen? How was that experience? Which songs did you play?

There is a tape of it – ill find it and send it to you. We recorded in the Holy Grail at Maida Vale studios west London. We stood where the Beatles, Stones and all the greats have been – it was awesome. The engineer completely flattened our sound and I’ve never been keen on the end result. We were so close to breaking onto the mainstream and Radio was interested. I loved being there , but as I said never really enjoyed recording. I think we played, Boys form Slumberland, Shakespeare’s Motorbike, Neck of The Woods – I can’t remember the other (I’m getting old!)

++ Did you get much attention from the music press? What about radio?

We had a plugger and also were featured in loads of music process and radio plays. To this day, ill never understand why we were not signed. We were bloody awesome when we were on fire.

++ You did get some good promotion by Elvis Costello, he praised your music. Do you know how did he end up hearing your tunes? Did you ever meet him?

Honey was on a Radio Show playlist called ‘Round Table’ where new releases were provide and talked about . We were played on it and he loved it. We thought that was it – here we come, but…………………………………….

Never met him but still love what he does.

++ What’s the story about Tim Burgess from The Charlatans stealing Dave Reade’s suede jacket? When and how did that happen?!

I think he just picked it up and walked off with it when we were on stage in Islington,. They were not the most welcoming of bands at the time.

++ In the end what happened? When and why did you call it a day?

Dave Hubbard our friend ad roadie, stepped away, and I didn’t want to be in the band anymore. I needed to move on. The others did play a bit together after with the great Mick Frangu on drums. Just sort of had enough of it an knew we had missed the boat.

++ What did you do after? You were involved in The Liberty Takers I think?

No, I stopped playing for a short while and then joined a local band called ‘The Falling’. We played one gig in a pub, and I thought, nope, don’t want this anymore. I sold my drums, brought a pram for my new borne and started life a s a dad – it’s a fantastic life. My wife , son and Daughter are my life.

++ And what about today? What are you up to? Any other hobbies aside of music that you have?

I like listening to music and walking, cycling and jogging. I’m a big lad but enjoy a peaceful life. I love the sky and the country side. I went back to uni in Australia at the age of 44 and obtained a Post Grad Dip in OHS , which was the area of specialism that I moved into years ago. Being in the Chairs and reflecting on how we could have been better managed (from a business perspective) actually helped m, as I studied Business and Commercial management and qualified in that field and then OHS. I travel all over the work and have been to so many countries, its opened my eyes up to how some people are forced to live. We have it good over here.

++ Looking back in time, what would say was the biggest highlight of being in The Chairs?

Just being one of 4 who made a difference in the world of music. I know what we were and how good it could be. Playing at the Old and New Marquee Club and the Town and Country Club stand out, but in closing, I’m so grateful and proud to have been the Drummer in the Chairs., so many great memories that will also be with me.

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Listen
The Chairs – Size 10 Girlfriend

31
Aug

Thanks so much again to Andrea Croft for this interview! I wrote about Catherine Wheel many many years ago on the blog, I think it was one of the first bands I featured. Then I got in touch with Andrea and we did an interview about her previous band, The Honeys, which no one should miss. Now it is time to talk about Catherine Wheel, a brilliant Sydney band that released 2 7″s and one CD EP in the 90s. Try to track these releases down, they are fantastic!

++ Thanks again Andrea for being up to answer a bunch of my questions, this time about Catherine Wheel! I must say I know much less about Catherine Wheel than The Honeys even though I do have the three releases. I do know that the band started after The Honeys split. But how did the band start as such? You already knew Grant from The Honeys of course, but what about Brett and Biff? Had they been in other bands?

Grant and Brett were both members of the Honeys and Biff came on board as lead guitarist. Biff had played before yes, not sure which bands though..

++ Was there a different sort of music direction in Catherine Wheel compared to The Honeys? Or would you say it was more of a continuation of the sound of The Honeys?

It was more pop based than the country rock sound of the Honeys. Bruce’s songwriting style gave the Honeys its country flavour.

++ And you were still in Sydney, right? Still living at the house in Chippendale? Where did you rehearse?

We were still in Sydney, yes. We’d moved on to different homes by then and mainly rehearsed in a rehearsal studio. Too loud for lounge rooms!

++ Was the creative process similar to the one in The Honeys or not?

A bit different in as much as Grant and I would present songs that were pretty complete, lyrically and melodically. Of course suggestions and tweaks were made during rehearsals and we’d all flesh out the song until it became something we all liked.

++ What’s the story behind the name of the band? And were you aware of the UK band with the same name?

We just came up with it among other suggestions and only learned of the UK band after our first release from memory. Didn’t really affect us in Australia but would of course have limited UK releases of our songs.

++ Your first release was the “Blue Avenue” 7″ and it was released by Big Wheel Records. Who were Big Wheel Records? Was it your own label perhaps?

Wow, testing my memory now…I think they may have been affiliated with the publishing company Grant was signed to at the time. Don’t quote me on that though and interestingly, there’s a label of the same name these days that seem to specialise in Hip Hop so there you go! Thanks google.

++ Something that surprised me was that “Blue Avenue” had a saxophone in it. How was the recording process for this single? Any anecdotes you could share?

Yep, I dabbled in a bit of saxophone for awhile there. Not the most complex sax line but something different. The only anecdote I can share which is more of a suggestion…Don’t ever try to play the saxophone or harmonica for that matter after it’s been sitting in full sun at a lunch time Uni gig. Unless of course, the sound you’re going for is a strangled goose. In mating season…not a comforting sound.

++ I love the song “Last Explanation” and was wondering if you could tell me the story behind it?

Glad you like it. I wrote that one on a road trip, bumping along on a gravel road in the back of the panel van. I had been listening to Falling Joys on my Sony Walkman (remember those? Back in the Stone Age!) and felt inspired to write it. It may or may not have been about someone I knew, ok it was!

++ And where was the back cover photo of the band taken?

Tony Mott took that pic, again testing my memory but I’m pretty sure that one was taken outside a Church as the door was cool.

++ Speaking of photos, I always wondered who is the kid on the front cover of your second single “Almost Blind”?

Well I had a bit of a thing for op shops, charity stores and I still do. I found a bunch of old photos at one of these shops one day and a few featured on the inside sleeve of the Honeys Goddess album. I thought it a bit sad and unkind that these images of people were discarded like that and I was drawn to buy them as they were so old and black and white. Very stark images therefore.  I wondered who these people were. The cover of Almost Blind may have been one of those photos.

++ On this single you there are thank yous on the back, to Look at Her, Falling Joys, Wedding Parties Anything, Joe Breen at Sound Level Drums and the men from Waterfront. I know you had a good relationship with The Falling Joys, another fantastic band, and I suppose you got some help from the Waterfront label for this release? But who were the other people? bands?

Weddings Parties Anything were a band we played with heaps. Lovely lads and a great live band.
Joe Breen assisted in production I think.

++ Something that struck me as well is that the songs are credited to you and also to Warner Chappell. How did that happen?

Well Grant was signed to that publishing company for a while there so they are credited as such. 

++ “Self-Portraits” was your last release, a 5 song CD EP. From what I gather it was released in 1992. I thought you split in 1991. Am I right with the dates? And it was released by Shock, quite an important label in Australia. How did that happen?

Don’t ask me, time lines aren’t my forte! Sorry, been a long time since. Some of our mates in other bands were affiliated with Shock so we went with them too.

++ On this CD EP there were some changes in the band, Matt Handley replaced Biff Smith. How did you recruit Matt? Had he been in other bands?

Let me begin by saying that both Biff and Matt were and are extraordinary guitarists. Terrific vocalists too. Matt was already very gifted on the guitar so he had had some experience, yes.

++ This EP has a fab song, “Reach”. I wonder what inspired you to write this song?

Well thank you, as a non prolific song writer, this one came to me in a rush. Chords, lyrics, the lot. I never really worked hard at songwriting and good songwriters will tell you it is work. And discipline. Something I lack, but with this song, I got lucky and had that inspiration from nowhere and there it was. To be honest, it was mostly about me and challenging myself to ‘Reach’. I loved singing it live, it’s different when you sing songs you’ve penned yourself. Like you’re sharing something personal. It’s nice.

++ There were only two songs as far as I know where Grant sings, “Blackest World” and “Blue Avenue”. Why did he sing so little?

think Grant would agree when I say he was happy playing and singing harmonies and the odd song…personally though, I loved it when I could take a breather and watch him sing. He’s so energetic onstage and Blackest World was always a big hit live. People would yell it out after our set as a desired encore. It’s such a great song and he writes amazingly well constructed melodies. Gone Away is one such song, it’s just perfect!

++ How come there were no more releases, no album?

We just broke up, it was a great thing for a while, then it wasn’t. That’s bands for you..

++ Are there any unreleased songs? Any other recordings? Perhaps demo tapes?

Not that I’m aware of. Perhaps Grant has some bootlegs hidden away?

++ And how were gigs for Catherine Wheel? Did you play many? Someone commented on my blog about a gig at Lansdowne Hotel. Do you remember it?

The gigs were so much fun. We played quite a lot actually. We were lucky enough to score a few tours including a Hoodoo Gurus one and a Crowded House tour in Queensland. The Hoodoos guys were lovely and the boys from Crowded House? Well, we didn’t get to meet them but still, a great opportunity to play in front of a big crowd. The Landsdowne, ahhh I loved that venue. Both Catherine Wheel and Honeys played there several times. It’s probably a car park now, bring back the smelly, beer soaked carpet pubs!

++ Did Catherine Wheel get more or less attention from the music press and radio compared to The Honeys?

I think a bit more music press and about the same support from radio. Radio supported and played new bands back then, harder now to be selected on a playlist.

++ How come there were no promo videos of Catherine Wheel songs?

It wasn’t something that was a focus for us at the time. Playing was and that’s what we did.

++ When and why did the band split?

When? A lonnnng time ago. Why? Oh y’know, that old line…artistic differences. Sorry, a fuzzy time understandably.

++ Have there ever been a reunion gig? Or have you ever considered it?

Never has been, and I never say never! Would be cool.

++ When it comes to Catherine Wheel, what were your highlights being part of the band?

Playing guitar was fun, I could’ve done it in the Honeys more but we had it covered so playing an instrument was fun. Also, the Almost Blind single. I was really proud of that. I thought then and still do that it’s a great pop song. Touring in big vans with boys I loved, that was a highlight. Laughing and listening to dodgy mixed tapes, yes tapes were still a thing wayyyy back then in the Pliocene. Driving to the next gig and singing along to very dodgy music, that stuff is what I think of when I’m asked about highlights. Happy faces in a crowd singing along, that’s a highlight for sure.

++ And if you were to choose your favourite Catherine Wheel song, which one would it be and why?

I’d choose Reach simply because I wrote it and I was going through some growing up stuff at the time. Close second, and I mean super close is Almost Blind because it’s chorus is killer. Try not to sing along! I dare ya!

++ One last question, you told me that Perth has a very limited music scene these days, and that’s a shame. But I would love to visit one day still, wonder what would you suggest one should check out in your city? What are the sights not to be missed? Or any traditional food from town?

There are some good venues still Roque, the Rosemount Hotel hosts many live bands and is really supportive of local music. Little Creatures pub in Fremantle have a few bands on as does several other venues in Fremantle. Northbridge is an inner city suburb in Perth and some live music pops up there too. Food wise? I have several suggestions that I shall PM you when you’re in town. 😊

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Listen
Catherine Wheel – Last Explanation

22
Aug

Thanks so much to Masahiro, Darelle and Wendy for this brilliant interview! I interviewed Masahiro a week ago about his solo-project Tricycle Popstar and by doing so I learned that he was also involved in the mysterious The Love Mushrooms who released just one CD-single with the label A Trumpet Trumpet Records in 1992. That single has 3 poptastic songs, that sound timeless today, with jingle jangly guitars and catchy female vocals. A perfect pop record to my ears! The band didn’t last long. They played live once. And their story was quite forgotten. But it is now time for all of us to rediscover this gem of a record!

++ Hi again! How are you? Thanks a lot for being up for a second interview. How is the Australian winter treating you? Do you have any plans for going back to Japan soon?

Masa: Melbourne winter is not that cold compared to my hometown. No plans to go back to Japan at the moment. But I’d love to go anytime:)

Darelle: I live in Hobart, Tasmania – it is a little cold, but I like that!

Wendy: I live in Melbourne – it is wet and cold but I like the contrast to our dry hot summers. I hope to go back to Japan in two years with my family for my 50th birthday – it has been 20 years!!

++ We talked last time about Tricycle Popstar, your solo project. But just before you had started Tricycle Popstar and the label Behaviour Savior you were for a short time in the band The Love Mushrooms, is that right? How long did The Love Mushrooms really last as a band?

Masa: About half a year ~ one year??

++ And why the name The Love Mushrooms?

Masa: I like those 60’s girl groups like The Supremes, The Ronettes, The Shangri Las etc.  The image of the name came from there.
Also The Love Mushrooms sounds erotic.

++ This is a silly question perhaps, but as you wrote songs about food, I wonder are there any particular mushrooms you really like?

Masa: I like any mushrooms. My favourite are Matsutake, Maitake.

Darelle: I am the same as you, Masa. I could eat mushrooms everyday – especially morels

++ So you had been living in Akita and then moved to Tokyo, but before moving to Tokyo you used to visit the city quite a bit. How often did you go? And how did you meet Akiko Masuda who would prove important to get your music out there?

Masa: In my Akita days, I haven’t been there, even once. After graduate high school went to Tokyo. That was my first time.

When I was a high school student, I had a message on a music magazine classified section: “Looking for friends who likes The Housemartins, The Flipper’s Guitar”. And one girl sends me a letter. Her name is Akiko Masuda. She was living near Tokyo and she teach me a lots of news of Tokyo indie scene, UK & US indie scene, and sends me a lots of music video recordings from TV program (*Tokyo area has lot more TV station and they had lots of interesting music programs too. Akita had just 2 local broadcasting stations back then). When I came to Tokyo I often meet her. She was doing a club event called ”Smiths Night” back then. (The event was playing only The Smiths records all night long!)

And through her, I was into those UK & US & Tokyo indie scene more. I was young, and I thought “I want to release my music out there!”

++ How were those Smiths nights by the way? What was the crowd favourite Smiths song when everyone went crazy on the dancefloor? And what about yours?

Masa: My favourite is “This charming man”

There are many hard core The Smiths fans there.
Any songs could those people went crazy on the dancefloor.

Darelle: I love “Cemetery Gates”.

Wendy: I met my husband by quoting from the song ASK and him replying with the next line..so that is certainly one of my favourites but I have also always liked Girlfriend in a Coma

++ That first demo you handed to Keisuke Hatsuda from Motorway Records, what did it contain? And how come he didn’t sign you?

Masa: He hadn’t started Motorway Records yet then, He was the guitarist of a band called “Budgie Jacket”. He is a great man and had great knowledge of those UK & US indie scene, it amazed me. And I can’t remember what songs were in the demo tape.

++ The demo was to end in Masashi Naka who ran A Trumpet Trumpet Records and he was going to offer you a release. But he wanted sort of a girl band sound, why was that? What reasons did he give you and did you feel comfortable about it?

Masa: I always do it on my own. And I know my vocals  aren’t that good. So I thought that was good idea. He’s got a sense. He knows what kind of music appeal to people.

++ And this is the point when The Love Mushrooms really form, when you get Wendy and Darelle in the band. How did you meet them and you convince them to join?

Masa: Wendy & Darelle, whom I also met through Mark. (also from Tasmania too). And I just ask them Like “Let’s do it! It’s gonna be fun!!”

Darelle: I had met Mark when I was 15 years old, so we already knew each other when I moved to work in Tokyo in 1992, and he introduced me to Masa. Wendy and I were both from Hobart, but had not met until we worked together in Japan. Wendy, Mark, Masa and I spent a lot of time hanging out together and when Masa asked us to sing we just thought it was something fun to do!

Wendy:  I knew Mark vaguely from Hobart as we worked at the same hotel on the front desk. The rest is history as Darelle tells it. We were all very close and spent a lot of fun times together.

++ The first incarnation of The Love Mushrooms was you and your friend Hiroshi Kudo back in Akita, is that right? Are the recordings from the split tapes with Tricycle Popstar, Dynamic Pops for the 90’s Vol 1 and 2, and The Best Of, from this period? Where do you usually record with him?

Masa: Me & Hiroshi were playing together my original songs in Akita back then, and some of songs were used as Love Mushrooms songs. I just changed the lyrics. And we recorded at my apartment usually.

Darelle: We would all squash in at your apartment – it was so tiny! Fun times!

++ Were Hiroshi, Wendy and Darelle into indiepop? Which of bands would you say inspired the music of The Love Mushrooms?

Masa: Hiroshi wasn’t much interested in indie music, But he likes music in general. Wendy & Darelle were big music fans. Wendy was into indie music and I know she collected some 7”s & records. Darelle loved 4AD type of music. What inspired the music of The Love Mushrooms?, mmm… maybe Talulah Gosh, Hevenly, Nelories.

Darelle: I loved anything on 4AD at that time, especially Cocteau Twins, Lush – still do! I was really into The Smiths and The Cure, New Order. I have loved all types of music for my whole life. I find it a great escape from the real world.

Wendy: I enjoyed alternative music from a young age. The Cure, Blur, Ride, The Smiths, The Go-Betweens….a lot of their music is still so relevant today. When I was in Tokyo, discovered the Sarah Label and collected quite a few singles – The Sea Urchins, Another Sunny Day… I can hear that kind of music in a lot of Melbourne bands nowadays.

++ So in 1992 A Trumpet Trumpet was to release your one and only release, the 3″ CD single “Wait and See What Happens”. It included 3 songs, all sounding gloriously, I can’t believe I’ve only discovered the songs as of late. I was wondering if you could tell me just in a few lines what each song is about, “Funny Sunny Day”, “You Make Me Feel” and “Satisfy Me”.

Masa: “Funny Sunny Day” – I think this song is “The Love mushrooms”. “You Make Me Feel” – My favourite track on this EP. “Satisfy Me” – I wanted to add more sounds on this track actually.

Darelle: I remember “Funny Sunny Day” was about a day Wendy and I spent in Tokyo with a friend from Canada. “You make me feel” and “Satisfy Me” – I love both of those songs. Masa always writes great melodies. He was the brains behind the whole band. I just happened to sing as I was there. Wendy and I would contribute to the lyrics. It was a lot of fun.

Wendy:  Yep I agree with Darelle, thanks D!

++ And how did the creative process work for The Love Mushrooms? Was it the same as for Tricycle Popstar?

Masa: Yes, It was quite same. Sometimes, I need to have harmony vocal tracks, I requested them. Darelle was great on those harmony vocals, She created those harmony parts by herself.

Darelle: Oh Masa! I really enjoyed doing the harmonies. I have always loved to sing, even though I am not that great. It was the most exciting, fun time. For me, it was about friendship. And an awakening to the big world.

Wendy: Yes, Darelle was amazing…I never really had the confidence and am not a great singer, so was more comfortable being in the background….but it was such a great experience recording and practising. We really had fun and that was the main thing, and we had such strong ties then.

Masa: I think Wendy’s vocal is very cute!! I remember we were very very nervous at the recording studio.

++ This single has a girl photograph in the cover? Who is she? Is she Wendy or Darelle? I hear this covert art also was featured on a magazine at the time?

Masa: A girl photograph in the cover isn’t Wendy or Darelle. The designer took the photo from somewhere. Our CD jacket was on i-D Japan magazine, that was thrilled me.

Darelle: I loved the cover!

Wendy:  Me too!

++ What do you remember about recording these songs? Any anecdotes you could share?

Masa: Mr. Naka paid for recordings. We recorded in a small recording studio. We recorded 3 songs in one day.

I didn’t bring keyboard with me on the recording day (I thought they have some keys in the studio), but there was none, only a small toy keyboard was there. So I played all key parts with the toy keyboard.

Soon after that recordings (maybe not soon, I can’t remember), the songs were mixed by Tatsuhiko Mori at his studio, he is a professional mix engineer / programmer, he collaborated with many major & indie artists.
[He also owned record label called “Hammer Label” that label reissued albums of Danish band called ”Gangway”, I love Gangway very much and Mr. Mori let me hear a song of them before releasing.]

I was there when Mr.Mori did the final mix on the songs. That was amazing!! Especially “You Make Me Feel”. After his magical treatment, that song turn into a great pop song!!
Also he changed drum tracks into better drum sounds (programmed by him) on “Funny Sunny Day” & “You Make Me Feel”.

Listening music in a studio environment & see the professionals work in real time was really a great experience for me.

Darelle: I remember being very nervous, as I am really not the best singer! I love singing but in the shower only! So it was so nerve wracking. It was a really fun day. Mori did a great job with the mixing and especially my vocals on “You make me feel”. I remember loving the result.

Masa: Yeah, That was a “WOW” experience.

Darelle: You wrote a really great song, Masa!

Wendy:  As I wrote before, it was a great day and an experience I will never have again….and I love Masa’s music…I often play his music to my friends because I am very proud of how much he has achieved as a solo artist.

++ You did mention that The Love Mushrooms appeared on the Auto Guide’s First Triangle compilation. That was the only compilation appearance of the band?

Masa: I remember!
The Love Mushrooms appeared on The Birth Of The Untruth ‎(Cassette tape – Compilation) tt003 1992 from A Trumpet Trumpet Records, before releasing CD ep. Those recordings are from my 8 track recorder. There are 2 songs on it. Love Is Just A Game & Satisfy Me.

Love Is Just A Game is a cute song. There were 3 of us on vocals. (Masa, Wendy & Darelle) & Mark too (for a second).

Satisfy Me is more raw/lo-fi ish recording (can’t remember).

https://www.discogs.com/Various-The-Birth-Of-The-Untruth/release/8254949

++ And did the band get any reaction by the press or radio?

Masa: The Love Mushrooms were played on College Radio Chart show (FM). Few fanzines were interested in The Love Mushrooms/Tricycle Popstar. Some record stores made beautiful pop up displays for us.

However, The Love Mushrooms is kind of a secret / recording project, we didn’t appear in public / we didn’t play live on stage (only once). So actually people didn’t recognize us as musicians.

Darelle: I remember we were mentioned on TV once – that was a big thrill for me.

Masa: Oh, yeah.

++ You played just one gig with The Love Mushrooms, supporting Nelories and Venus Peter at Meiji University Campus. How was that experience? How did you get the support slot? And how did you like Venus Peter and Nelories?

Masa: I remember KAMATA TETSUJI (Dr) from Budgie Jacket asked me to do the support slot at Meiji University Campus Music Festival… I like Venus Peter and Nelories, I have their CDs. However, we didn’t talk much at the backstage. We are not familiar with those scene.

KAMATA TETSUJI (Dr), HIROSHI KUDO (Bass), and I think another Guitar player Mr.KATO from my hometown were helping to play at the gig.

However, that gig was terrible. We didn’t have much time to rehearse.

Darelle: I think the gig was terrible because I really was so nervous and had never sung in front of an audience before (except in a choir at school). Wendy and I were nervous as hell! It was awful! But I remember it with fondness.

Wendy:  Oh yes, SO nervous and I was sick so my voice sounded worse than normal – I am not a singer at all, so I think that it was really hard for me to stand up and perform.

++ After that gig did you decide not to play more gigs? It wasn’t for you?

Masa: No. It wasn’t for me. I prefered just making music, not play music on stage.

Darelle: My daughter Isobel plays and sings in a two piece. I actually went to see a gig last night, She doesn’t show any sign of nerves! Wish I could have had her confidence when we played all those years ago.

Masa: What’s your daughter’s band called? DO they have Soundcloud or anything??

Darelle: They are called “Bert Shirt”. I don’t think the have anything up on Soundcloud at the moment, but they are working on it. They are a two piece – Isobel sings and plays keys. They have written some great originals and the also did a cover the other night – Alvvays, “Archie, Marry Me”. It is such a sweet song.

Wendy: I am certainly not a performer and don’t feel at all comfortable up onstage, so was thankful we didn’t do any more.

++ I do wonder why did you stop The Love Mushrooms?

Masa: On the later days of my Tokyo era, Darelle went back to Tasmania, and I was planning to go to Australia. It was busy time. I think that’s why we released cassettes only around that time. Because we could make copies by ourselves. If we made CD or 7”, we have to sell them and keep the stock with us.

Darelle: That year in Tokyo was one of my best! It was great to have such wonderful friends.

++ Wendy and Darelle were from Tasmania. I wonder, have you ever been there? How did you like it? Do you know any good indiepop music from there?

Masa: YES. Few times. Tasmania is beautiful place. We spend time at Wendy’s parents house on New years eve long time ago. And had Wendy’s dad’s homemade rhubarb wine there, was very very nice!!

Darelle: Yes! His rhubarb wine is the best! I live in Tasmania now. It has become a really vibrant, artsy place, especially since the advent of MONA [https://mona.net.au] – an amazing museum/gallery that many travel to come and see.

++ And did Hiroshi, Wendy and Darelle continue making music afterwards or not? Do you know what they are up to?

Masa: I’m not sure what Hiroshi is doing now….

Darelle: I went back to Japan for 2 years in the early 2000’s with my (then) husband and 2 little girls. It really is the most beautiful place. We lived in Melbourne for some time, but I have returned to Hobart. I sing everyday – to myself! I am so passionate about music and how it makes you feel. I can put on one of my favorite songs and instantly my mood lifts.
I am thrilled my daughter finds such pleasure in her band.
I am now a nurse and work with the elderly. We are about to implement a program which involves providing our residents with ipods filled with music that they love. I am so passionate about this because I know how much music can evoke emotions and memories.

Masa: Oh, that’s great job, Darelle!! You should get a big speaker for them to dance!!

Darelle: That’s a great idea! I love dancing myself – it really lifts my mood!

Wendy:  No, no more music for me but I love seeing live bands and Melbourne is the best city to do that. There are gigs all over the town every night. I have lived here for almost 20 years (since I left Tokyo) and love it. I’m looking forward to visiting Japan when I turn 50 in a couple of years.

++ Looking back, what would you say was your favourite Love Mushroom song you made and why?

Masa: My favourite Love Mushroom song is “You make me feel”, because that song had a great professional treatment and turned out really great!!

Darelle: I love that song too! Masa wrote a great melody.

Wendy:  I liked Satisfy Me as it was a bit ‘grungy’ but also You Make Me Feel. Masa is very clever!!

++ Thanks again, I’m going to do my best to track this single, it is amazing how much it sounds to many popular Swedish girl-fronted indiepop bands from the early 2000s, I’d say you were ahead of your time! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Masa: It was fun time for us too. Great memories.

Darelle: When I think back to that time I remember fun and being young! It really was great!

Wendy: I miss those days, but have great memories and even though we don’t see each other so much now, I believe we will always be friends and I am thankful for our time together there.

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Listen
The Love Mushrooms – Satisfy Me

16
Aug

Thanks so much to Andrea Croft for this interview! I wrote last week about The Honeys, the brilliant Perth/Sydney band from the late 80s, on the blog. Almost immediately my friend Paul from the band Rabbit’s Wedding got me in touch with Andrea and she was very kind to answer to all my questions!  The Honeys released 2 albums and two singles in two different periods, back in the 90s and then reuniting for a short time in 2007. If you haven’t heard them yet, please make yourself a favour and discover them with this great interview!

++ Hi Andrea! Thanks so much for taking your time to answer this interview. How are you doing? Where are you? In Sydney or Perth?

Thanks Roque, where are you situated? I’m good, living back in Perth where I was born. Been back around 23 years now.

++ Were you originally from Fremantle? How was it back then? Were there any other like-minded bands in town? Where did you usually hang out? Was there any good venues to check out bands?

I was originally from Trigg, a suburb north of Freo. The scene was pretty healthy back then but going to Sydney was necessary to progress as a band. There were very few bands I knew in Perth as I joined up with Bruce and Grant for a couple of rehearsals and then followed them to Sydney very shortly after. Sydney was where I met most band pals. The Fitzgerald was a great pub back then in Perth and supported original bands. The live scene here now is limited as not many venues host live music anymore which is a shame.

++ And how was growing up in Australia? What sort of music did you listen to? What was your first instrument and do you remember how did you get it?

Growing up in Australia I consider a blessing. Especially the weather in Perth and the beaches, it’s pretty easygoing here. Like a big country town compared to Sydney and Melbourne. I listened to Blondie, Pretenders, Kate Bush, Divinyls mostly. Bit of an obsession with strong female vocalists! I now love Lucinda Williams and have done for years.

My first instrument was a guitar, an Ovation acoustic, then I had a saxophone for which I took lessons. I was envious of my brother’s drum kit though and would have a good bash on that now and then. As both my Mum and Dad were singers, we had many instruments available as my Dad was a bit of a collector. My folks bought me both the above instruments, lucky kid.

++ Were you involved in any bands before being in The Honeys?

Before the Honeys I was in a cover band for a couple of years with a hideous name that shall remain a mystery! Despite the ridiculous name, I had a blast with those guys. Not surprisingly, we played lots of Pretenders, Blondie, Divinyls…also Hoodoo Gurus and other stuff. We even did a gig at a bikies do in the Perth hills one night. Can’t remember which gang but it was a pretty full on night thinking back on it now. Actually, we had a residency at a pub in Freo on Saturday nights and for some reason, we’d get heaps of bikies rocking up to that every week. They had a great time but eventually the pub cancelled us as the bikie lads were starting fights after the gigs and generally being naughty bikie boys.

++ How did The Honeys start as a band? How did you all know each other?

I answered an ad in the paper, called Bruce and went for an audition. We had a couple of jams, he went to Sydney and offered me the vocalist position and I bought a bus ticket and headed East a month shy of my 21st birthday. So basically I joined a band with two guys I barely knew but luckily Bruce and Grant were gentlemen as were all the fellows I lived with over there. I made some brilliant lasting friendships in Sydney so I’m thrilled I took the leap and left Perth.

++ What’s the story behind the name of the band?

I’m fairly certain Bruce came up with that. I didn’t particularly love it at first, thought it sounded like a girl band name but it fit after a while with the style of music we were playing.

++ Did you move to Sydney before or after signing to Waterfront Records? Had you been there before? How did you get there? Was it a road-trip altogether?

Bruce went first, not sure if Grant went at the same time, I caught a Greyhound bus. Took a few days to get there. Trying to sleep sitting up is not something I’d recommend but it felt like a huge adventure to me at the time. I’d never been to Sydney before and it was very exciting as I’d been living at home with my folks so this was a kind of coming of age thing for me. I was sooooo ready to leave Perth and home. So, perfect timing really.

There were subsequent road trips together when the band went on tour. We drove our Holden HQ Panel Van twice from Sydney to Perth and back again. Continuous driving by swapping drivers every few hours. Picture it, me with 5 blokes who are all eating burgers with unpleasant consequences that I shan’t reveal at this point all the way across at the height of summer, filthy hot and next to no sleep for anyone. But guess what, it was such a great experience. We were searched by the police twice too, they went through the trailer, the roof rack, the whole vehicle looking for drugs I suppose. They found nothing, we weren’t very rock and roll I’m afraid, not a single drug habit amongst us! We loved our beer though. Good times.

++ It must have been quite an experience, moving with the whole band to a new town. Did you all live together? How did you adapt to Sydney? Did you find many differences compared to Perth?

We did live together in a two storey terrace house in Chippendale. It had a shared yard and other band members lived next door so there were some fun times had there. Honestly the place was a wreck, leaking ceilings in winter, rising damp, dodgy balconies. But to me it was fantastic and it was Sydney! Most people I knew were living in places like that and they had so much charm. The pubs we played in were in similar disrepair which was what made them awesome.

I adapted pretty well I think but I did have all these great people around me keeping me safe so I’m grateful for that. I had a few wild times but that’s part of growing up and learning. Sydney was so alive compared to Perth. Plus I’d never really seen the seedy side of life so of course I thought that was pretty exciting too. If I was to compare the two cities at that time I’d say Perth was a kitten and Sydney was a Lion. It was a great time to be in a band in Sydney with the live scene being so vibrant.

++ How did you end up signing to Waterfront Records? Did they approach you? How was your relationship with them?

I can’t recall if we asked them or our management did or if they approached us..I forgot to answer this above. We signed with them after we got to Sydney. They were really supportive of us and very nice guys. We had a great team helping us.

++ Something that strikes me is that your first release wasn’t a single or EP but the “Goddess” album. Not many bands get an album as a first release. What did you think of that at the time?

We just had the material and recorded it very cheaply, it just seemed to come together nicely. I was over the moon, it was the first recording I’d done so yes I was very happy.

++ By the way, who is the girl on the photograph of the front cover?

That’s Lillian Gish, a silent movie actress. I love that cover.

++ The album was recorded at Poons Head in Perth. How was that experience, any anecdotes you could share? Were you already familiar with recording studios by then or you had already made demo tapes before?

I think we’d done some demos but nothing like that. It was interesting for me to see how it’s all done. Recording can be arduous I’ve since learnt, especially when you have limited time and do an overnight block. But Poons Head was set up in a house so it was nice and relaxed so we got the tracks down pretty swiftly. Once it’s all mixed, it’s a great feeling knowing you’ve collaborated on something you’re proud of.

++ And how did The Honeys creative process work?

Sometimes Bruce would have a full song, sometimes he’d have a melody and a few words. In those cases I’d write some extra lyrics though I’m not that prolific. Grant almost always has the whole song mapped out so all I had to do is sing.

++ Which bands would you say were influences?

Well Bruce loved a range of music as did Grant. At the time I was still listening to the above bands I mentioned and loved Cocteau Twins, who doesn’t?! Lucinda Williams, good Country music. I went to see Falling Joys, Ups and Downs and then Big Heavy Stuff later, also the Clouds. They were all mates, still are and so good to see live. I think Suzie Higgie from Falling Joys and Jodi and Trish from the Clouds are extraordinary songwriters and great performers.

++ To promote the album you made a video for “Against The Elements”. Was it your first promo video? How was that experience?

Yes it was and I was ahem, how shall I say this, still very green. I’m not particularly comfortable on camera, it’s not something I relish but it turned out alright for a first attempt.

++ The next release also had a video, and perhaps is my favourite song of yours “The Man Who Was Through With the World”. Would you care telling me in a few sentences what is this song about?

Now that song and video I like! I’m sorry, Bruce wrote that so I can only surmise. I never really asked him what it was about, I just liked the lyrics and my take on it is that it’s about a particular person he may have known. I didn’t really feel the need to know what a song meant to be able to sing it. If I get the gist, that’s enough for me to create meaning around it. Hope that makes sense.

++ James from The Widdershins contributed piano and organ on the record. Was there a tight-knit scene with other guitar pop bands? What other bands in Australia did you call friends then?

Yep, we were friends with the Widdershins, Falling Joys, Clouds, Ups and Downs, Dutiful Daughters, Big Heavy Stuff, Hummingbirds, Skolars, Chads Tree, Swordfish, if I had a good think, I’d remember more. There were some really lovely people in bands back then and it was a fantastic opportunity for me to make lasting friendships.

++ This record also has some beautiful artwork. How much control did you have on it? Or was it Waterfront making those decisions?

We made decisions about artwork and thanks!

++ And what about that video? I noticed on Youtube that it used to be played on the music program “Rage”. Did it get much attention?

I’m not sure which one you mean but we did enjoy quite good exposure thanks to Rage when we were together.

++ After that there was another 7″ single with “Gone Away” and “Monster”. There was no video for this one, right? And how come it only came on the Waterfront standard sleeve?

Hmmm, testing my memory now..No video and I have no clue as to why no artwork. Perhaps we were low on funds, bit cheeky really that we didn’t do artwork!

++ Then there’s a long break for The Honeys. What happened? I read Andrea moved to Perth and each of you continued making music with your own projects. What other bands were you involved with?

I ended the Honeys, things felt stale and it felt right at the time. Grant and I formed Catherine Wheel and that was lots of fun. I was also in Pollyanna for short while after that. Then I came home to roost! 

++ In 2007 you reunited and released a new album, “Star Baby”. How did this reunion come through? And were these brand new songs or songs from back in the day?

Again dear Bruce had written some new songs as had Grant so I was of course keen to add my bit. I flew to Grant’s house and we recorded the songs over a few days. We did a couple of short tours after it’s release too. I think only Run Run was an oldie, all the rest were newly penned.

++ This record came out on the label Origin. Who were they?

I’m sorry, I didn’t handle that side of things so I don’t actually know.

++ There were a few reunion gigs, right? How was that experience? Much different to playing live back in the day?

They were great, we had some fantastic musicians playing live with us so the sound was full and rich. A bit nerve wracking of course, it’d had been a while but the gigs were wonderful to be a part of.

++ And what about the gigs in the 80s and 90s? Are there any in particular that you remember? What would you say was the best gig you did? And was there any bad gigs?

I loved the Hopetoun hotel, every gig there was fun. The Annandale was great too, the Petersham and the Landsdowne. Back in the day when pubs were smoky and the carpet was beer soaked. Ahhh, great times! Not really any bad gigs, but Uni lunchtime shows were never a highlight. I don’t think I’m alone in that opinion!

++ What about radio and TV? Did you get much attention? And the music press? Fanzines?

Radio yes, high rotation there for a while on JJJ which was great. TV no, just Rage, which was also great. Music press, yes, we were very lucky to be reviewed quite often and even had front covers a few times on On The Street, Drum Media and Juke.

++ While you were on a break, in 1995, a double CD titled “Ultimo” was released including the whole “Goddess” album and other rare songs on the label Phantom. Who were they? I also wonder about where these rare songs come from? And also what about those songs “Live at the Wireless”? What was The Wireless?

Phantom were another indie Sydney label that did great things for bands they signed. Very supportive people. The songs were some that we hadn’t released before and thought they needed inclusion. Live at the wireless was a program on JJJ featuring bands playing live in the studio.

++ And as that covered most of your discography I’m curious to know what would your favourite Honeys’ song be?

Wood for the Trees by a mile! Love everything about that beautiful, dreamy song.

++ You appeared on a couple of compilations but the one I’m mostly curious about is the “Shiver Me Timbers” tape on Rutland Records as it was an English label. Do you remember how did you end up there?

What the? Send me that tape! Haha!

++ After those reunion gigs, when did The Honeys stopped playing again?

Bruce and I did a couple of gigs here in Perth but the last one would’ve been about 18 months ago.

++ Then there was the passing of Bruce in 2016, very sad news, but I read The Honeys played a sort of tribute gig alongside Flicker and The Snow Leopards. How was that evening? Must have been very difficult?

We did and it was a truly humbling experience. It was also joyful to see all those people attending and all the people who performed to honour Bruce. My friend Matt worked hard to bring it all together even though he’d say it was easy. He’s a generous fellow. Bruce would’ve been so touched by that day, it was something I’ll treasure.

++ Now, looking back through all these adventures of yours in The Honeys, what would you say was the biggest highlight of The Honeys?

By far hearing our song played on the radio for the first time. And seeing our video on TV. It’s surreal and I still pinch myself to think about it. Some terrific gigs too and seeing people having a blast. Nothing beats it.

++ And today, are you still making music? Or what do you dedicate your time to these days? Any other hobbies?

I’m not at the moment, I have a small business now but I’d never say no to future recordings. Perhaps I’ll have a chat to Grant!

++ Thanks again Andrea and Grant. I would love to interview you some other time about your other bands, I already asked way too many questions now! But I have one last one, are there still any unreleased songs by The Honeys?

Nothing that I know of at this stage, I’m sure Bruce would have books full of lyrics somewhere…

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Listen
The Honeys – The Man Who Was Through With the World

10
Aug

Just a week ago I wrote about the Tokyo one-man project Tricycle Popstar who released a bunch of records and even more songs in the 90s. Thanks to the help of Mike Innes from They Go Boom!! I could find Masahiro Kodama, the man behind this brilliant band, on Facebook. Luckily Masahiro was very kind and when I asked to do an interview he said yes. I’m very happy how this interview turned out thanks to Masahiro’s thoughtful answers where he paints clearly how was the Japanese scene in the 90s. Sounds like it was a fun and interesting time!

++ Hi Masahiro, thanks a lot for trying to answer my questions, hope your memory is good! I would like to do this interview chronologically, start from the beginning. So yeah, where are you from in Japan? Tokyo? And what sort of music did you listen when growing up?

I grew up in Akita, a rural area in the northern part of mainland Japan. Its a famous place for rice production, there are rice fields everywhere; and It’s very cold in winter.

When I was young, I really like “Kayou kyoku” (which is Japanese mainstream pop music. I always check TV music programs out; it’s like Japanese “Top of the Pops” kind of TV show. Those TV music programs in Showa (昭和)- era were so good. The stage sets changing every different songs / every different artists.

When I was in Jr. high, the Japanese economy was booming, and the Japanese music scene really changed.
New Romantic kind of music, techno pop, Heavy metal (which I never liked) etc. I like Dead or Alive(!), The Housemartins, Nik Kershaw, Hubert Kah, A-HA, Pet Shop Boys etc. And my music tastes also changed around the same time. I found different types of music like – The Flipper’s Guitar!! For the country boy like me they are so bright, vivid & colourful, with a great sense of humour…they were my idols at the time.  And infact I still love them they made a huge influence on me.

++ Something that impressed me from the sleeve of the flexi is that it says you played all instruments. So I’m wondering what instruments do you know how to play? And what was your first instrument and how did you get it?

All instruments skills are self-taught, so I’m not really that good. I can play a little bit of Guitar & Keys, and some programming of Drum machine, that’s all. My first instrument was the Electone, which is modern type of electronic organs.  I never had a music tutor or anything, But we always had an electronic organ at home which I would dabble with. It had so many buttons, you could change the sound, rhythm, and it has auto arpeggiator as well. I was started making songs with it when I was about 13 years old.

I started the Folk Guitar (Takamine) when I was in High school.  I was never interested in Guitar Solos. But I like chord cuttings.

Late years of my high school days, I got a Drum machine (I think YAMAHA RX 5). And after graduate from high school in Akita, I moved to Tokyo where I bought a KORG 01W/FD. It’s a workstation synthesizer, it has synthesizer, sequencer, drum sounds and you can save those song tracks on floppy disks! It was so high-tech at the time!

AND This isn’t music instrument, but very important thing, Multi Track Recorders (We called MTR). When I was in high school I used a 4-tack recorder (I think TASCAM PORTA 05). And later in Tokyo (18 years old ~) I got myself an 8-tack recorder (TASCUM PORTASTUDIO 488).

++ Was Tricycle Popstar your first band or had you been involved in any other bands?

Tricycle Popstar is not my first project. In my high school days, I have a band to play my original songs with my hometown friends. Also doing my solo project as well. And one time did Synth pop duo with my friend to cover 10cc’s “I’m not in love” for music contest. In my Akita days, I really liked to play at music contest. Because I could often do quite well.

++ Was Tricycle Popstar really a solo project? Or did you get help from friends?

Tricycle Popstar is my solo project. Hiroshi Kudo (my band mate from my hometown) helped with bass guitar when we recorded The Love mushrooms’ songs.

++ Why the name Tricycle Popstar?

I forgot how I decided this project name…Maybe I discuss about naming the project with Mark, but I really can’t remember. It’s silly meaningless name isn’t it?!

++ How was Tokyo then? What were your usual hangouts? The venues you used to frequent to check out bands? And were there any like-minded bands that you liked then?

I was in Tokyo 1991~1993. (When was 19~21 years old) For a shy country kid from the north, Tokyo is a big, big city. I didn’t have many connections, just few friends in Tokyo.  What I do? Just go & check somewhere new area in Tokyo is always kind a fun for me at that time. Every local area has unique taste. I often went to, SHIMOKITAZAWA, SHINJYUKU, SHIBUYA back then.

Candy Eyes (another band from A Trumpet Trumpet Records), All Twin’s Birthday were friends of mine, so we would often go & see them playing. [https://www.discogs.com/label/178272-A-Trumpet-Trumpet-Records]

++ And in general, what would you say were the bands that inspired you and influenced Tricycle Popstar?

The Housemartins, The Flipper’s Guitar, Sex Clark Five, Egg Stone, Candy eyes, Nelories, Mama Cass, Many late 60’s psyche pops band like The Beatles, The Cyrkle, The Millennium, The Left Banke, The Hollies, French pops like France Gall, Francoise Hardy.

++ Most of your releases were on the label Behavior Saviour. Was it your own label? Or who were they?

Behavior Saviour is our own label managed by Mark & I. Mainly released my recordings and released some compilation CDs. And also released 7” single for friend band call “All Twin’s Birthday”.

I would like to mention Shintaro Taketani, he is musician, I met him through Mark, where they both worked at a posh arty cafe EAST GALLERY in Ebisu. One day, He give me a demo of his creation, I was amazed by he’s music. His music unit called “Paris Collection” was on one of our compilation CD. He is living in London now. I think he is great artist.

++ At first your releases came out in the cassette format. Do you remember more or less how many copies were made? And if you were to pick, as you released almost in every sort of format, from vinyl to tape to CD, which will be your favourite and why?

My favourite format is CD. CD doesn’t have any interference. Sometimes, I can’t concentrate to listen to music if too much noise in the background.  However I also like Vinyls too. I like the big art space & warmer sound.

Regarding our cassette release from earlier of our catalogue, those cassette selling at Rough Trade Tokyo, I don’t remember how many we sold. But not much, I don’t think. Probably about 30 each release.

++ Also was wondering why you choose to write your songs in English instead of Japanese? What was the reason?

I thought singing in English is cool. If I write serious song in Japanese, that sounds really serious and straight. If I write silly song in Japanese, that sounds really silly and foolish.

++ Did you ever make songs in Japanese?
Yes. Before coming to Tokyo, I write songs in Japanese.

++ I noticed that 1993 was a very prolific year for Tricycle Popstar, releasing a bunch of records and recording so many songs. Why was that? And how come no other year was like it?

Around that year I send lots of demo tape to other labels too and also we made a lots of connections.
Some labels’ project takes very long time and Some are quick (but usually takes long time), I think the releasing those other labels works just over lapped all at the same time around 1993.

++ I also noticed that there were a few shared releases with the band The Love Mushrooms. Who were them?

The Love Mushrooms was my project before Tricycle Popstar. Me & two Tasmanian girls, Wendy & Darelle, whom I also met through Mark. (also from Tasmanian too). And my hometown friend, Hiroshi Kudo was helping to play bass guitar.

++ You wrote the song “I Like Curry Rice” and I suppose you do. What other dishes are favourite of Masahiro Kodama that you would have loved to write them a song?

Kara-age is one of my favourite Japanese dishes. However I’m into making fermented foods at the moment. I make my Koji, Miso and Nukazuke on my own. So I’d make song like “Microorganism’s orgasm”.

++ On the flexi it says that you got help with the lyrics by Mark Davis. He also helped with the art. Who was he?
He is my partner. We are together over 25 years now.

We didn’t come out to our Japanese friends when we living in Tokyo, I said to them “We are friend”. However we were living together in small apartment in Tokyo.

++ “Saviour Once More” was your mini-album and I was wondering about the two guests on it, Roberto Massaglia and Wendy Brown. How did they help you on the record?

Wendy Brown (The Love Mushrooms) & Roberto (her partner back then), They sing,  “Moaner is My Cat”. The song is about their cat.

++ Also because of the song “Moaner is My Cat” and how I see cats are popular in Japanese indiepop, I wondered if you actually really had a cat then?

Moaner was Wendy & Roberto’s cat in Tokyo.  At my hometown, we had cats, and many other animals too.  A big ‘Tosa-ken’ dog, peacocks, chickens, turkeys and even minks, all of those animals were my grand father’s hobby.

++ Then I noticed that Behavior Saviour and you it seems moved to Melbourne, Australia. Is that right? Why did you move? And how was the change? Did you like it at first?

Mark’s working visa was going to expire so I applied a working holiday visa to go to Australia. We moved to Sydney first. We live there 3 years (1994~1997) and then move to Melbourne.  I love Melbourne more.

I fell in love with that laid back Aussie way of living as soon as I moved here.

++ I assume you found a different music scene there. Did you continue making music? Did you find any bands that you really like?

I thought Japanese indie music scene was quite big, however Australian indie music scene was quite small and dotted.
From an indie music label point of view, I thought it’s quite difficult to do within Australia.
++ The last release on Behavior Saviour was your album “Apostasy” in 1995. Were the songs on it reworkings of previous ones or was it more of a compilation album?

“No skin off my ass” & “Rocking chair is still rocking” was reworked. I think other tracks were on “Apostasy” was same materials on other compilation CDs“.

++ I’m also curious about your creative process. How did that work for you? And what about recording? Where did you usually record?

I had an 8-tack multi track recorder (TASCAM PORTASTUDIO 488). I always recorded in my bedroom. Usually I make song with my Guitar first, and then I make a song titles or lyrics next. I made a song title first when I make “Peach boy’s Bed sounds”.

++ Your last release was a split 7″ with Orange Cake Mix on the American label Blackbean and Placenta Tape Club. How come you ended up on an American label? Did you ever get to visit the US?

Regarding Blackbean and Placenta Tape Club release, I can’t remember I sent a demo to them or they contact us… I haven’t been to the US before.  In US, there are/were many great indie record labels. I personally like The Bus Stop Label. I would still love to go to the US one day.

++ There were a bunch of compilation appearances by the band, but I’m curious about one of the first ones, the one on the French fanzine “Gloomy Biscuit”. How did your music got to France in pre-internet times? Do you remember?

Sorry I can’t remember…

++ I mentioned a bunch of compilation appearances, like the “Lily’s S’ghetti Factory”, “Going Against Maz’s Advice”, “Come All Ye Faithful” and “Let’s Muc Out On Sound” on my blog. Was I missing any other compilation that you appeared?

In 1993, Auto Guide Records (Japan) release Auto Guide’s First Triangle (Compilation CD   AGR-1001) The Love Mushrooms was on it.

++ And what about unreleased Tricycle Popstar songs? Are there any more?

I remember there was one song, but with changing technology I think I have lost the data now.

++ So what happened in 1996 after the split 7″ with Orange Cake Mix? Why were the no more releases by Tricycle Popstar?

I think I needed new start or I was just busy living everyday life.

++ What did you do afterwards? Did you continue making music?

I start new project called “HACCHUUM” (haku-chuu-mu 白昼夢) it means “day dream” in Japanese. More psyche pop taste music. https://soundcloud.com/hacchuum

++ What about gigs? Did you play live much as Tricycle Popstar? Any happy anecdotes you could share?

In Tokyo days, I remember I’ve done two live as Tricycle Popstar. Play electric guitar and sing with karaoke backing tracks. As The Love Mushrooms, we did one live event at Meiji University campus festival (I think play with Nerolies & Venus Peter). However, that gig was terrible.

++ And radio? And music press? did they give you much attention? What about fanzines?

The Love Mushrooms were played on College Radio Chart show.Few fanzines were interested in The Love Mushrooms/Tricycle Popstar.

++ What about today? Are you still making music? What other hobbies do you have?

I continue making music pieces. Just playing guitar & sing. Not for recording (I’m not good with Computer based music making). Playing music is more meditative process for me. I love listening music & watch movies. Mark & I are into making fermented food right now. Made Miso, Koji, Natto, Suerkraut, and Kefir etc.

++ You are now based in Melbourne, but do you go back often to Japan? Are there any indiepop bands either in Australia or Japan that you’d recommend?

Yeah we still get back there every year, here are some good ones:

Ben Mason – https://soundcloud.com/benmason

Adrian Whitehead- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlwzSmnuUhA&list=PLn3qOPaLrhTyT495cE37HZwkDU0ihIGo4

Lamp – https://soundcloud.com/lamp-japan

frenesi – https://soundcloud.com/nesi-ko

Shintaro Taketani – https://soundcloud.com/shintaro-taketani

Dai Ogasawara (ex Candy eyes – He’s doing indie music label called Ano(t)raks) – https://soundcloud.com/twangytwangy/tracks

Coffee garden (ex All Twin’s Birthday) – https://soundcloud.com/coffee-garden

Hajimepop – https://soundcloud.com/hajimepop

++ I assume as we were talking about Japanese food earlier that you might have had some interest in Australian food? Have you find anything that you like there?

Meat pies, Chicken parmigiana, Vanilla slice are my favourite Aussie meals.

++ And as a foreigner in Australia, what would you recommend a tourist checking out in Melbourne where is were you live now?

We live in Abbotsford. We really like this area. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbotsford,_Victoria

And I recommended going to “Hanging Rock”. http://www.visitmacedonranges.com/see-do/the-great-outdoors/hanging-rock/

++ Let’s start wrapping the interview, what would you say was the biggest highlight of Tricycle Popstar?

This interview 🙂 Knowing somebody listening to my songs.

++ And what would you say indiepop means to you?

For me indiepop means, 青春 (sei-shun) in Chinese character 青 means Blue 春 means Spring. Meaning bloom of youth / the passion of youth. When I was doing music & label, it was pre-internet, so everything took a lot of time.
Write mail to people, making artwork by our hand, making music etc. But I like the way it was. It was warmer, more physical connection to it.

Indiepop is DIY spirit.

You can do it, if you want to.

++ Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks Roque for asking to do the interview.

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Listen
Tricycle Popstar – Passion & Kind