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…

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

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.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Listen
Tricycle Popstar – Passion & Kind

05
Aug

Thanks so much to Mark Radcliffe for answering a bunch of my questions and telling the story of The County Fathers! Just a week or so ago I wrote a post on my blog about the band looking for more information and Mark was kind enough to get in touch. The County Fathers were based in Manchester and released just one record, a 3 song 12″ with “Lightheaded” as the opening track on the Ugly Man label. It is a fantastic record but for some reason it didn’t make the splash it deserved. Today Mark continues at BBC 6music and making music.

++ Hi Mark! Thanks so much for being up for this interview! There’s little written on the internet about the County Fathers so this is a great chance for me, and many, to learn a bit more about it. But let’s start with the present, what are you up to these days? Still involved with the BBC, right? But are you still making music? Perhaps writing a new book?

I currently co-present the afternoon show (1-4pm) on BBC 6music with Stuart Maconie and also the Radio 2 Folk Show on Wednesday evenings at 7. I play drums and sing for a seven piece folk-rock band called Galleon Blast (pirate themed!) and I also do a one man show of songs and stories where I play guitar.
I’ve always loved playing guitar and drums equally.

++ You were born in Bolton, right? So how did you end up in Manchester? And what sort of music did you listen while growing up?

I grew up in Bolton playing drums in local rock covers bands and listening to a lot of glam rock like Bowie, Roxy Music and T.Rex. I also loved Floyd and Genesis.
In 1976 I went to Manchester University just as punk rock exploded and so my life and my listening totally changed. I started writing songs of my own around this time and met my lifelong friend Phil Walsmley (guitarist) in my first week at uni.

++ How was Manchester then? From what I see from a distance is that there was such a fantastic scene, with so many great bands and venues. Now even there’s a new box set celebrating the 80s in Manchester. Who did you feel were like-minded bands? And what about your usual hangouts or favourite venues?

Manchester was a really exciting place for gigs at that time and we went to lots of punk and new wave shows at places like Rafters, The Squat, The Factory and The Electric Circus.
Phil and I were in a new wave art rock band called She Cracked who are included on the latest Manchester box set.
Really Joy Division set the standard we all tried, and failed, to live up to. Their records still sound like important historical documents to me.

++ Before The County Fathers you were involved in Skewdriver. How was that experience?

As regards Skrewdriver – this is quite a difficult subject which I have written about before. Before any racist and white supremacist nonsense started Skrewdriver were Phil’s band from his schooldays in Poulton-le-Fylde.
They were just a guitar punk band and later on their singer Ian Donaldson kept the name and recruited a whole new line-up for his racist rantings.
I just helped them out before any of the unpleasantness surfaced as they needed a drummer for a couple of tours.

++ How did The County Fathers start as a band? How did you three know each other? And are you still in touch?

The County Fathers started really as a vehicle for the songs I was writing. John Clayton was a producer at Piccadilly Radio and a good guitarist and I wanted the song ‘Lightheaded’ to have two dueeling lead guitarists and so I pitched Phil and John against each other. It worked really well and Phil would usually chip in with some nifty bass too. We’re still in touch. John works for the BBC and Phil and I had a later band called The Big Figures a few years ago.

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

The name the County Fathers – I had been reading about some American elders setting the rules for their locality and they were referred to as county fathers. I liked the name and also we had all three of us just become fathers so it seemed to fit. Many times it was mis-printed as The Country Fathers. I don’t remember us rehearsing much really. It was always intended initially as a recording project rather than a live band although we did later play live a couple of times with Richard Jones and Craig Wolf of The Desert Wolves, who I’d produced for Guy Lovelady/Uglyman – which was how that association came about.

++ Something that I was curious about were the photos on the sleeve. It is like you did the ice bucket challenge before anyone else. What’s going on on those photos? And who is the baby on the front sleeve photo?

About the photos on the sleeve – I found the front cover of the baby on a postcard in a shop and loved it. Again, it seemed to fit with the fathers theme.
then I asked the famous rock photographer Kevin Cummins, who was a friend, to shoot the three of us on waste ground outside his studio near the train station. It was very cold that day!

++ There were three songs on the record, “Lightheaded”, “You Think It’s So Funny” and “Deep South (long version”. If you can, in a couple of sentences, tell me what inspired these songs?

Of those initial songs ‘You Think It’s So Funny’ was the poppiest and was inspired by The Smiths a bit I think. It was about my ex-wife in a very oblique way.
‘Lightheaded’ was really just an exercise is seeing how many guitars we could get on one track. There are dozens on there. A wall of sound. Love it. The words are just nonsense really.
‘Deep South’ was inspired by a film about the KKK. There were a couple of other songs we worked on – the only one I can find is ‘Plain Sailing’ which is about being lost at sea.

++ On this record you worked with Nick Garside. In which studio were the songs recorded? And how was the experience of working with Nick?

So when we got to the studio I would lay down most of the basic tracks on my own with Nick Garside engineering and then we would build up Phil and John’s parts on my basic track.
Nick had a little, dark, quite scruffy studio called Out of the Blue in the backstreets of downtown Manchester, quite a dodgy area, but he was an absolutely brilliant engineer and producer.
Lots of bands used him because he did an amazing job on minimal budgets. He was a real enabler for a lot of musicians in those days.

++ Guy Lovelady mentions in his blog that you were afterwards in a pop band called St Cloud. Was this a similar sounding band? Who were in the band?

So John, Phil and I sort of drifted apart but I stayed in touch with Richard the bass player and we spent a lot of time backing the Manchester pop comedian Frank Sidebottom.
in that band was a really lovely guy called Michael Taylor who is not only a wonderfully atmospheric guitarist but also a great artist and designer.
The three of us then started to write more songs which I considered to be the next stage of The County Fathers although we were thinking of the names St.Cloud and Deep Blue Day too.
I think the only gigs we did might have been under the name St.Cloud but with my voice and words to the fore it was very much County Fathers part two for me.

++ There were many songs recorded by the band that didn’t get to be released as Guy mentions on his blog. He says there is a CD with a bunch of recordings. How many unreleased songs are there?

We recorded at the famous Strawberry Studios in Stockport where 10cc did all their stuff and also where Joy Division did ‘Unknown Pleasures’.
The engineer was another brilliant guy called Steve Robertshaw who I knew from the BBC. Sadly he died in a glider accident a few years later. A tragedy.
We also recorded at a studio in central Manchester called Startrack with another gifted, if bonkers, engineer called Royston Hollyer.
I always had the sound in my head but needed great technicians to help me to get there – however it all got a lot easy with Mike on guitar as he just created this shimmering cloud of noise.
I still totally love his sound and it began to shape everything we did. Initially I played the drums but when we moved towards gigging we recruited a really good drummer called David Dunne.
So, of the thirteen songs you can hear on the cd four will be County Fathers Mk1 (me, Phil, John) eight are Mk.2 (me, Mike, Richard, David) and one song called ‘New Secrets Sealed’ was written by me and Mike but recorded by me on my own.

++ Looking back in time, what would you say was the biggest highlight for The County Fathers?

I look back on it all with pride and sadness really. I thought we did some wonderful stuff which I still think sounds great and so that’s what matters I suppose. But of course I feel sad that no-one ever really got to hear it. I still hope that could change. Maybe you will make all the difference by getting it out there.

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

A couple of years ago I recorded again with Mike Taylor and the old magic was still there but again, nothing came of it.
If there was interest and demand I know that Mike and I would come back together and start writing again.
I think the two of us compliment each other perfectly and so there’s lots we could do – especially with another collaborator called Gareth Blazey who helped us out with programming, sampling and all things technical.
There are lots of possibilities there so who knows.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Listen
The County Fathers – You Think It’s So Funny

21
Jul

Thanks so much to Russ Hunt and Nick Raybould for this brilliant interview! The Libertines were a Birmingham band in the mid/late 80s and released just one record, the “Smith is a Liar 12” and actually you can still get copies of it through Russ’ record store White Rabbit Records. I wrote a blog post about them some months ago trying to find out any information about this obscure band and I was lucky that both Russ and Nick got in touch! Even better they are also still in touch with each other and answered my questions together. Aside from the record they recorded more songs, some which I’ve heard, and I must tell you, it was really a shame they didn’t get to put out another record! Hope you enjoy the interview!

++ Hi Russ and Nick! Thanks a lot for being up for this interview. I hear Russ now runs a record store in Shrewsbury, care telling me a bit more about that? How long have you had the store? What’s the name? And what sort of music do you carry?

Nick: I’ll leave Russ to answer this one – but will add that I am an occasional patron, having bagged a few goodies on CD and vinyl. He’s also carrying the last release I did with my band Glowpeople.

Russ: The shop is called White Rabbit Records (http://whiterabbitrecords.co.uk) and is in the Market Hall in Shrewsbury. We stock mainly 2nd hand/used records and some CD’s with a very few new items, mainly by people I know and who want an outlet for their stuff. To be honest I stock anything that sells…you learn very quickly you’re running a business not building a record collection.

I’ve had the shop just over 18 months now. I was made redundant from a job I’d been in for 17 years and honestly couldn’t see myself going back into the regular world of work, the very thought of being interviewed by some hot shot graduate straight offof the HR course made me feel ill. I’ve spent years of my life in record shops all over the world and when the opportunity came up to buy this one (the owner was retiring) my wonderful wife Deb said “well if you don’t do it now, you never will”.

++ And what about you Nick? What are you up to these days?

Nick: I’m a graphic designer, in real life. In fact, that’s what I was doing back in my Libertines days. Sometimes I’d get in at 3am, from a long distance gig in say Newcastle – only to have to be in work for 9am, at the design studio!! Boy, I really don’t think i could do that kinda thing these days!!

++ When was the last time you picked up your instruments? Do you have any music projects at the moment?

Russ: I still play, very infrequently, in fact I’ve just put my guitar down as I’m trying to figure out some new songs for a gig myself and Sally, a good friend who sings with me, have coming up. We’re an acoustic duo doing other people’s songs for fun, all sorts of stuff from Chuck Berry thru Depeche Mode to The Decemberists.

Nick: Well, as mentioned in my previous answer, I am drumming once again. But, shortly after The Libertines disbanded I moved down to London and gave the drumming a bit of a rest. This haitus in fact lasted FOURTEEN years! It was on moving out to the more rural area of Shropshire that I began drumming once again. Various local bands came and went, until I formed Glowpeople. we were together for something like six years. We soon found ourselves playing the small festival scene in the UK, in which time we also released three albums on CD and, following our final appearance at Kozfest, last Summer released the live recording as a final sign off.

Since then I have been gigging and recording with a variety of UK psychedelic bands. Nothing like the larger capacity venues The Libertines played whilst touring with The Wonder Stuff, but hope springs eternal, eh? Glowpeople were usually somewhere down the bill, but we played with Gong, Jesus Jones, Hawkwind, Big Country, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Here & Now and a bunch of newer bands like Mugstar and Vibravoid.

I’m now playing with bands on the same kinda circuit again. Some of it is recording only – I’ve played with up and coming space rockers vert:x, with whom we appeared on lovely bright splattery orange vinyl for Dronerock Records. I’m also recording improvised music with the old keys player of Glowpeople and a variety of guest collaborators. I even had a jam in NYC with a fellow head, back in the Autumn! There’s talk of a session I recently did with Peyote Guru being released. I’m just not sure who’s actually putting that out, as I type!

My main current band are called Black Light Secret and this Summer we’re playing festivals like Surplus Fest and Green Gathering – and will be doing indoor gigs in Nottingham and Glastonbury among others.

++ Let’s go back in time then, what would you say are your earliest music memories? Like what sort of music did you listen at home while growing up? When and what was your first instrument?

Russ: Earliest musical memories would have been hearing The Move on the radio and then watching stuff on Top Of the Pops (a weekly UK TV pop show) and being captivated by the likes of Slade, T.Rex and eventually Wizzard among whose members was my Uncle Bill (he was the piano player and had been in the The Move during its final days and the early days of ELO).

My parents were big fans of Jazz and Swing music so in the house we heard everything from Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and John Coltrane to the big bands of Duke Ellington and Count Basie plus the great singers like Sinatra and Streisand. They, of course, were fans of The Beatles and Dylan and Dad would venture into things such as Steve Wonder and Bob Marley.

I was obsessed with Slade until hearing “God Save The Queen” by the Sex Pistols at which point, much the same as for many others at that time, everything changed. After that it was Punk Rock…the whole Punk Rock and nothing but Punk Rock. My Dad being a musician (he played drums in bands that toured US Army bases in Europe during the 50’s and 60’s) and seeing my brother and I inspired/obsessed by Punk our parents bought me a guitar and a small amplifier at the same Xmas as they bought my brother Miles a snare drum. We would then happily wait until our parents went out before bashing thru raucous versions of TRB’s “Up Against The Wall” and Angelic Upstarts “Police Oppression”…I’m sure the neighbours loved us !

Nick: Well, I was the eldest member of The Libertines, so I’d seen bands like T.REX and Led Zeppelin! My tastes were continually moving, though. And still are! I think when I auditioned for Russ & Co. I was into Magazine, REM, The Damned, PIL, Motorhead, The Cure and such like.

++ Were you involved in any bands before The Libertines? I know Russ was in Pop Da Freak. How were these bands? Any similarities to The Libertines’ sound?

Russ: Following those TRB/Upstarts beginnings we worked our way through loose groupings with mates who had other instruments, memberships constantly changing until we fell into my first band which was called A Moment. Me and Miles found a guy who played bass and saxophone and made our first attempts at writing songs.

The first “real” band I was in was Pop Da Freak. We formed around 1983 and we dressed in leather and frills, wore make up and had vertical haircuts (well most of us did). We made a racket inspired by Joy Division, Magazine, Iggy Pop and the Velvet Underground (or so we thought) and you can hear an example of it here https://soundcloud.com/russh29/pop-da-freak-play-life-for …that’s a song I’m still very proud of having written

Nick: Most of my earliest bands were sort of hard rock things. I then had a flirtation with a Birmingham sub Duran Duran outfit called Camille (1982). There was some decent press in Midlands press and initially some minor record company interest. However, we were a bunch of narcissistic pretty boys who fell out! I wanted to get something together that didn’t slavishly follow trends though – and before long found myself in a kinda alternative postpunk outfit called Anonymous Bosch in 1985.

++ And when and how did The Libertines start as a band? How was the recruiting process? How did you all know each other?

Russ: The initial idea for The Libertines would have been born following the demise of Pop Da Freak around 1986. Details are a little hazy but as I recall I advertised for a guitarist to put something together inspired by Punk and The Clash/Pistols/Jam holy trinity. I hooked up with Mark Bellamy and we started working on some songs. Mark was a HUUUUUUGE Clash fan and also introduced me to the Screaming Blue Messiahs. I in turn would have introduced Mark to early Pop Will Eat Itself and things like The Mighty Lemon Drops and the Wild Flowers so that’s where our heads were at. I’m pretty sure the first song we wrote together was “Train Train”.

I’m guessing we advertised for a drummer and bass player when we had a few songs together and Nick and Paul Clifford were who we found ? (Help me out here Nick)

Nick: I lived in Redditch, a market town in Worcestershire, some twenty miles south of Birmingham, at the time. I was in Birmingham shopping one Saturday afternoon in 1987, where I saw an advert on a noticeboard in Oasis, the big Birmingham alternative fashion market. I was then invited along to audition at the High Society rehearsal studios. And… got the gig!

++ You were based in Birmingham, right? How was it back then? What were the bands in town that you liked? What were your usual hangouts? What were the best venues to check out bands?

Russ: Birmingham and The Midland’s live music scene was thriving in the early 80’s. Venues all over town, The Barrel Organ, The Railway Inn, Peacock’s, The C.O.D Club, The Click Club at Burberries, JB’s in Dudley…lots of places for bands to play.

The bands that I liked back then would be The Great Outdoors, From Eden (members of who went on to The Wonder Stuff and Pop Will Eat Itself), the Mighty Lemon Drops, The Wild Flowers, Korova Milk Bar, April In The Garden…lots of diverse stuff going on.

Nick: There used to be a good alternative club night at The Powerhouse. It was a midweek thing, so I didn’t go very often – but it was full of groovy muzos, all trying to out-pose each other! That venue put on some great bands, too.  Smaller venues about town like The Barrel Organ pub, and Peacocks bar – which was in a city centre hotel (!) and Snobs nightclub were all popular for bands like Russ’s Pop Da Freak and my own Anonymous Bosch.

++ Who would you say influenced your sound?

Nick: We all came to the band with our own set of favourite bands and musicians, but I think, as a band The Wonder Stuff were right up there. As were The Mission, That Petrol Emotion, Balaam & The Angel, Pop Will Eat Itself, The Screaming Blue Messiahs and The Replacements.

Russ: from my point of view undoubtedly The Jam and The Clash would be the main points of influence. But I’d also absorbed all that Glam Rock stuff from the 70’s and I hope there was a Punk Rock edge to it. I’d also been very into the 1979/80 Mod Revival in the UK so wanted to capture some of the energy of bands like Secret Affair and The Chords, great and very underrated bands.

Comtemporary stuff we were listening to and absorbing would have been the Screaming Blue Messiahs, The Rainmakers, Mighty Lemon Drops, That Petrol Emotion, the Icicle Works, REM, early Waterboys (first 3 albums), The Smithereens, Balaam & The Angel…it was a very fertile time for new music.

++ What’s the story behind the name of the band? And what do you feel about the other The Libertines, the ones that became mainstream and all more than a decade ago?

Russ: I recall it was Paul the bass player who came up with the name, that’s about as much as I remember.

As for the other lot…when they first broke I had a lot of people saying you should sue them but obviously we didn’t. I wish I had now as it may have gone toward shutting the annoying twat and his terrible band up ! (never been one to sit on the fence me)

Nick: I think Paul Clifford put the name forward. We all thought it was perfect!

The Carl Barat & Pete Doherty outfit are… hmmm… a bit of an Emperor’s new clothes thing, IMO. I dearly wanted to like them – and loose, lofi music is cool, but these guys are too affected and a bit fake.

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

Nick: Russ and Mark were the main song writers, though I do remember Paul coming along with a few grooves, too. ’Smith Is  A Liar’, as I remember it ,was mostly his.

Russ: Most of the time it was myself and Mark coming up with ideas. We would work on them together at home and usually present the band with pretty much an arranged song which we’d then hone in a rehearsal room.

Paul would contribute too, “Smith Is A Liar” being his big one (BTW Smith was Martyn “Mr” Smith, erstwhile Libertines roadie cos he had a van, which we’ll get to later, and friend of Paul’s. Mr Smith went on to perform the same kind of van driving services for Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and ended up working on the crew with me for The Wonder Stuff and later on Sparklehorse. It’s Mr Smith’s beaming smile on the cover of the record).

We were never really “jammers”.

++ Who were Loose Fish Records? Was it your own label?

Russ: It was us and was, I think, Nick’s idea for a label name.

Nick: One of the many interpretations of the word Libertine is “a loose fish”. We collectively stumped up the cash to get the record made. So sort of named the label after ourselves.

++ You released one record, the “Smith is a Liar” 12″ in 1987. You included 3 songs on it, “Smith is a Liar”, “Christina” and “The Big 1-2”. If you don’t mind, care telling me the story behind these songs?

Russ: “Smith Is A Liar” was inspired by our “roadie” Mr Smith who refused to admit he was in love with a girl but rather was “in like”; “Christina” was one of Mark’s songs and is effectively about his 1st wife who we all knew as Tina; “The Big 1-2” was possibly influenced by The Wonder Stuff’s “No For the 13th Time” I think we liked that drum pattern and wrote a song around it, no idea what the lyric is about; there was a 4th song on the 12” “Boring” which if you listen to the lyric is pretty self explanatory.

Nick: ’Smith Is A Liar’ came out in 1989, didn’t it? Our roadie, a good mate of Paul the bass player denied being in love with some girl he clearly had the hots for by saying he wasn’t in love with her, but “in like” – hence Paul turned up with the title and lyrics for that one – and took Smithy by surprise when he first heard it sung to a capacity audience at London Astoria!

++ You shared with me many more songs, many worth of a single. I wonder then why didn’t you get to release more records? I read that the song “Wolf!” was supposed to be the 2nd single.

Russ: We recorded ‘Wolf’ during the session where we did ’The Big 1 – 2’. It was debated whether we should perhaps include ‘Wolf’ on the Smith EP, but we agreed it would be best to hold something back, for a follow up.

++ You shared with me many more songs, many worth of a single. I wonder then why didn’t you get to release more records? I read that the song “Wolf!” was supposed to be the 2nd single.

Russ: “Wolf!” was due to be on the 12” but we held it back to use as a 2nd release…and then the bloody singer up and left the band to go off on tour with some band signed to a major label, bloody inconsiderate prima donna !!!

++ Where do those other 9 songs come from? Are they from the same recording session for the 12″?

Russ: We did 2 or 3 other sessions and the other songs come from those sessions. I probably have the dates somewhere but they would all have been through 1987/88.

Nick: We did… I think, three recording sessions. The first was just a few weeks after I’d joined. We recorded four songs; ’Train Train’, ‘Catherine Wheel’, ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Tea’ and ‘How Are You?’ That would’ve been late Summer 1987. And, if memory serves the week after the first gig. The next session saw us record ‘Safe As Houses’, ‘Lightening Tree’, ‘Boring’ and Some Kinda Happy. These were all songs from our live set. Nothing was written as we recorded, as we could barely afford to be there, let alone be able to relax and try totally new stuff out. That said, when Miles was with us he got us experimenting with additional guitar parts, backing vocals and overdubbing bits of percussion.

i recently found the reel to reel masters of a couple of sessions in a box in our roofspace!!

++ And what do you remember about the recording session at The Workshop studio for the record? Any anecdotes you could share?

Nick: I seem to remember a replica revolver loaded with a single blank being passed around for a game of Redditch roulette! It didn’t really go down well.

Russ: I have a terrible memory for details like that. The Workshop was quite small, underground (?) or at least it felt like it. Dave Morris the owner (who sadly passed away recently) had a blue Rickenbacker 330 12-string under the sofa in the control room which I was very covetous of, it may have made an appearance on “Smith…”

++ Who made the art for the 12″ by the way?

Russ: Over to Nick…

Nick: That was me. The face is a shot I took of Smithy, our driver and hapless roadie. The title song is based on his phrase.

++ On my previous post about you I was wondering about the runoff etchings, “The Triman Cometh” on the A side, while on the B side it says “If You Can’d Do it Just Triman”. What does Triman means?

Russ: I was struggling to remember this when a friend posted something on Facebook over the weekend that triggered the memory…Mr Smith was our “roadie” because he had access to a van. The van was owned by his employers, Triman Services Ltd, who were in the business of “Design and installation of Mechanical Service systems (Gas, Oil, Water etc.) and F.O.C and F.M approved fire protection systems”. I think Mr Smith’s dad owned the company and the run out messages were our little tribute to Triman Services for use of the van….or something like that…

Nick: Smithy used to borrow a Transit van from a firm his father worked for. the company who specialised in fire assessments of buildings were called Triman and had their logo on the van! That’s it! Just a silly private joke, I’m afraid. Folks soon knew who the Wonder Stuff’s support band would be that night, when they clocked his van parked at the back of the venue!

++ You gigged all over supporting The Wonder Stuff. How was that relationship with them? And what were your favourite moments on those tours and why?

Russ: Whisper it quietly but Wonder Stuff main man Miles Hunt is my younger brother, so the relationship with them was pretty good. They looked after us, as they did all their support acts, and we got to play some big shows thanx to them.

I don’t have many favourite moments as I was so busy on those shows. I was working on the Wonder Stuff’s backline crew so spending all day getting their show ready, then, when I would usually have a few hours of downtime I was into a Libertines set up and soundcheck, doing the gig and then going straight back into Wonder Stuff mode for their show.

Nick: They were all a lovely, generous bunch of guys. Straight up. Their manager Les was a good laugh, too. We travelled separately, turning up after they’d already sound checked, most of the time. Russ, of course was part of their crew for the later gigs, so we often didn’t even see hime tie it was time for us to get our gear onstage.

++ You also played gigs with Jesus Jones in London. What other bands do you remember playing with? And which were your favourite cities to play?

Russ: The Jones’ and us shared the bill a few times on Wonder Stuff shows. I’m still in touch with them all these days and they have just finished a UK tour. I hope I’ll bump into them at the Shiiiine On Festival in November this year. Good bunch of chaps they are.

Other bands we played with included The Parachute Men from Leeds and I remember being utterly blown away when we opened for Mega City 4, they were phenomenal and I’m still friends with their bass player Gerry Bryant.

Favourite cities to play were always up North, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Glasgow. There’s no pretention up there, people just want a good night out and boy do they know how to do that. They also give a lot back to the band and if you’ve ever been up there in front of a “cool” London audience you appreciate that.

Nick: Jesus Jones were a very exciting indie band who, like Pop Will Eat Itself, brought in emerging technology in the form of live samplers. Sampling wasn’t new at that time but had chiefly been used in the studio only, owing to the value of equipment. We only encountered them when we were both on the support bill for The Wonder Stuff’s Newcastle gig on the ‘Disco King’ tour. I have since shared a bill with them and Russ, in his capacity of guitar tech for the Stuffies, has worked on many a show with them.

++ I read that you preferred going by the name Russ Williams instead of Russ Hunt. Why did you make that decision? And why Williams?

Nick: That’s a question for Russ, really. I think it was to try and deflect Miles Hunt associations, if we got any press. Which we didn’t.

Russ: I was quite a prominent member of The Wonder Stuff’s crew at the time and knew many of the journalists that were active at the time. I chose to use WIlliams on the record so as not to be accused of riding on Miles’ coattails….looking back on it, probably a really stupid idea ! We really should have milked that one for all it was worth (see question below).

And why Williams ? It’s my middle name, Russell WIlliam Hunt…

++ Did you get much attention from the press? Or radio?

Russ: Mainly local Birmingham radio and press. I had no idea John Peel had played our record until Nick mentioned it recently !

Nick: I understand BBC Radio legend John Peel played us twice! There were also indie rock programmes on local BBC stations and Birmingham’s own BRMB commercial station. Very little press for us, sadly. I think our name was mentioned occasionally, when NME or Sounds were reviewing a gig we’d supported at.

++ At that time in the 80s there was an explosion of guitar pop bands. Did you feel part of a scene? Do you mind being defined as a C86 band?

Russ: I think we felt more a part of the Midlands scene, that group of bands like TWS, PWEI, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and that spread and encompassed others from around the country like Jesus Jones and Mega City 4.

I think the C86 thing was more of a music press created label that made it easy to hang bands on a certain hook. I certainly never though of us as a C86 band.

Nick: I don’t think we felt a part of anything, really. We all had day jobs or in Paul’s case a university course to head home for. The post-gig parties passed me by, at any rate. A lot of opportunities were being squandered.

++ When and why did the band split?

Nick: Again, this is a Russ question. But we’d paid our money and had submitted master tapes and artwork for that 12 inch, when he phoned Mark Bellamy from a call box on some tour with Wolfsbane. He just become a father and was struggling to knit all the elements of his life together. So, the three remaining Libertines, Paul Clifford, mark Bellamy and myself tried to salvage something, just to try and promote this pile of records we found ourselves stuck with. But it wasn’t to be. Paul had to commit to his degree course, so he disappeared soon after. He never did finish that degree of course – as The Wonder Stuff recruited him shortly after.

Russ: I ran off to join the circus…I mean work full time for the Wonder Stuff…although the circus wouldn’t be a bad analogy ! Deb and I had had our son James and I needed regular money to support a family. The Stuffies were offering me a lot of that and I had to commit or miss out.

++ Looking back in time, what would you say was the biggest highlight for The Libertines?

Russ: releasing the record. It’s the one thing I’d always wanted to do, release a record that I was a part of and I did it.

Nick: I was playing in front of big appreciative audiences. that was a very good feeling. I’ve largely blocked out the humping of drums up three flights of stairs to my flat at 3am. My favourite gig was possibly Keele University, in Staffordshire in 1988. Brunel University on the same tour was also a blast – But going onstage at legendary Marquee Club… well, that takes some beating.

++ And if you were to pick a song of yours as your favourite, which one will it be and why?

Nick: There was a lovely downtempo song called ’Some Kinda Happy’. For me, it showed Russ’s voice up for the wonderful range he had. We played it at the Marquee, on Charring Cross Road and the stage was bathed in an eerie blue light… and everything was just perfect.

Russ: Nick will likely slap his forehead and shout “D’OH!” in frustration…but “Wolf!”…it rocks, it rolls, it swings and to this day I’m immensely proud of it.

++ Are you still part of the backline of The Wonder Stuff? How do you enjoy that?

Nick: Russ?

For years after I used to get guest passes to see them at Reading festival or the big London venues, so would catch up with the old times. But that was a previous life.

Russ: I am, in fact we just did 3 shows this past weekend. I do enjoy it but as I get older it gets tougher.

They are a bloody great live band so it’s a pleasure to be around them seeing them do their thing. As an addendum to why the Libertines split I’ve seen at first hand, being around the Wonder Stuff, what it takes to achieve the levels of success they have. It takes a focus and a drive and a sheer bloody minded force of will that I just don’t have, Miles must have inherited that trait in full. I’m not sure I could have done it.

++ And aside from music, do you have any other hobbies?

Russ: most people would say owning a record shop is a glorified hobby and doesn’t count as a job 😉 I also have 2 dogs (Whippets) who keep me pretty busy the rest of the time. And I do like a pint or several of real ale, fortunately the dogs like visiting the pub too 😉

Nick: I paint. Abstract canvases, mainly – but also more representational life drawing. It’s all online, if you know where to look. Oh blow it, here’s a link: Abstracts: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kidcalamity/albums/72157625756609731

Life Drawing: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kidcalamity/albums/72157625734263647

++ Nick, are you still in Birmingham or did you also move? Do you go back often Russ? Has Birmingham changed much since those days?

Nick: I never actually lived in Birmingham. I was in Redditch, a town some twenty miles south. I’ve since lived in Wolverhampton and London, before moving back up to the Midlands.

The Birmingham of the late 80s has all but disappeared. I was standing on the canal bridge we posed for photos on, a few months ago. In those days is was surrounded by deserted and dilapidated warehouses. These days it’s in the heart of Brindley Place, a thriving area of bistro bars, restaurants, the huge Barclaycard Arena, the Symphony Hall and Ikon Gallery. A revived and buzzing area!

My wife and I moved out to Shropshire, near the Welsh border in about 1995, after a long spell in north London. We were both employed by a design agency out here and have since set up our own

Russ: Nick’s out here in Shropshire. My wife and I moved to Telford in Shropshire 12 years ago expressly to get out of Birmingham. It’s 12 miles from Shrewsbury, a “new town” from the 1960’s but 5 minutes drive and you’re in the beautiful Shropshire countryside. I go back to Birmingham as little as possible, very occasionally to see my mother-in-law who still lives there. I was in the city in December with the Wonder Stuff and it’s changed so much it doesn’t feel like my hometown any more. I think I’m done with the big city, my ambitions are focussed on the Shropshire Hills and maybe, eventually the coast.

++ Tell me a bit about Shrewsbury then, never been there, what are the traditional things to see, eat or do?

Nick: Shrewsbury is very nice. It’s relatively unspoilt my modern development and even has cobbled pavements in the more quaint town centre! A couple of really on the ball promoters are currently trying to establish a little alternative scene, attracting psych bands to play a new theatre venue. But, as ever rubbish tribute bands seem to attract the larger audiences so get the gigs over the more creative bands.

Russ is out in Telford a more modern ‘new town’. I rarely venture over that way, except to rehearse and record with my own projects.

Strangely, we’ve not actually been tempted to arrange a reunion. Hmmm…

Russ: Shrewsbury is a beautiful old Medieval market town contained in a loop in the River Severn in Shropshire for which it is the county town. It has a castle, remains of Medieval town walls, fabulous independent retailers, a lively live music scene and a great theatre.

Shropshire is a large county in the west of England that butts up against the Welsh border, a mainly rural county with some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll encounter. But SHHHHHHHH, you can come visit but we don’t want the whole place overrun with tourists :-0

There’s an old saying back in Birmingham that “relocating to Shropshire is the end of all ambition” and I would guess Nick would agree with me when I say I have no real want to leave the ‘shire just yet 😉

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Listen
The Libertines – Wolf!

11
Jul

Some months ago I wrote about Black and White Lovers on the blog looking for more information about them. Luckily Kevin Brady, their bassist, got in touch with me and later put me in touch with Martin Tivnan, their guitarist and vocalist. Martin was kind enough to shed some light about Black and White Lovers and that way answer many of the questions I had. He put together a thorough overview of the band, and I’m happy to share it with you all.

NAME

The name should read ‘ Black and White Lovers.’ An early incarnation of the band had a song with this title. The song was a thinly veiled account of how some of the band members and close friends related to each other and projected themselves. The characters in the story the song relates were given names like Harry and Stanley – a la Lou Reed – but it was obvious who they were based on. Someone suggested it as a name for the band and it stuck.

ORIGINS

The first band we got together was The Enigma in summer 1979. This was myself on vocals and guitar, Martin O’Brien on drums and Kev Brady on bass. We were later joined by Lee Wilkinson on guitar. Regarding recruitment it was quite straightforward. I was at school with Martin and Kev and Lee had been at school together and as was the way at the time (see ‘Sniffin Glue’ ‘Here’s 3 chords go and form a band’) we just got on with it. Our biggest influences were The Fall and , particularly, Joy Division. Me and Martin had got to know Joy Division a little before they really broke as we would go to watch them rehearse on Sundays in Manchester and we went to all their gigs in N West England. Indeed, Peter Hook gave me my first guitar strap.

Although I wasn’t a fan of a lot of Punk music, the DIY ethic gave us a gateway into becoming a band. Early on, we joined The Manchester Musician’s Collective and this was vital in getting things going. The MMC existed to support local bands. It was democratic, even socialistic in outlook and had members from a range of musical and cultural areas – hippies / punks / pub rock / blues /funk. The MMC had a regular gig at The Band On The Wall in Manchester and organised occasional other gigs throughout the North West. In it’s early days the MMC had included bands like Joy Division , The Fall and A Certain Ratio. Whilst in the collective we got to know and shared gigs with God’s Gift – who I played bass with for a short while – If Only (Brendan Chesterton’s band) and The Hoax – when as you say Martin once borrowed Mike Joyce’s kit. Via the collective, we played our first gig (at the Band On The Wall alongside Crispy Ambulance and The Liggers) got a support slot with The Fall at Manchester Polytechnic in January 1980 and had a track on a compilation album of MMC bands ‘Unzipping the Abstract.’

The Enigma ran out of steam around 1981. A little while later, myself, Kev and Brendan started rehearsing and exploring different styles of music, until we settled into BAWL around 1983.

BLACK AND WHITE LOVERS

BAWL was myself, Kev , Brendan and Lee, joined by Chris Hyland on drums (later Craig) and Martin Briars on keyboards. We were pretty clear on the sound we were aiming for – something that would be suitable as the soundtrack of a 1960s French Film – in Black and White ie a light romantic vibe with a cinematic feel influenced particularly by John Barry and the European pop / cabaret feel of Charles Aznavour. There was less of a feeling in BAWL of being part of a scene as what we were doing was, we felt, very specific. Although BAWL played most of the available gigs in Manchester at the time (eg The International, The Gallery, Corbieres, Manhattan Sound) we struggled to get any real traction. Although there was, to a small degree, an amatuerish/ shambolic dimension to the C86 bands, things had moved on from the punk values of the late 1970s, and bands were expected to have a more professional approach. We struggled a little with this. As working class lads we were sceptical of careerism and not certain of whether being in a band should be recreational – something you did with your friends for fun – or something you should take seriously and commit yourself to, hence the unfinished videos and lost demos. A journalist named Bob Dickinson interviewed us for City Life, a Manchester magazine and reviewed one of our gigs in NME which did generate some interest and meetings with record companies (A & M I think ?) but we didn’t really pursue this and it never went any further. We released ‘Best Years Of Our Lives’ as a single ourselves and although it got some reasonable feedback, the reaction / sales weren’t positive enough to encourage further releases.

SINGLE

Why Charles Aznavour ? The answer’s simple : I was and remain a fan. In fact myself and Kev went to see the 90 year old Aznavour at The Royal Albert Hall in London in November last year. If you listen to his song ‘Yesterday when I was young’ you will hear the romantic, yearning vibe that Best Years of Our Lives tries to capture and emulate. Boulevard of Broken Dreams aims for a similarly romantic, philosophical reflection on life.

ANECDOTES

I have listed below a few of the things that stick in my mind from my time in these bands and hopefully give you an idea of what it was like and what we were like.

Jan 1980 : The Enigma supporting The Fall. I watched The Fall sound check ‘Rowche Rumble’ with my brother. I was very proud at aged 16 to be part of this and the sound check itself remains one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.

Spring 1984 : We were playing a gig at Cloud 9, a club in Manchester.  Ian Brown and Reni from The Stone Roses (relative unknowns at the time) barged into the dressing room and accused us of  using their gear at Spirit Studios (where we both rehearsed) – we hadn’t done this. Somehow a full scale fight was averted – probably because we’d heard that Reni was a karate black belt. Later at the gig itself, Ian McCulloch of Echo and The Bunnymen turned up, sat at the back, watched the show and left without introducing himself.

1985 : Bob Dickinson’s review of one of our gig’s in NME  suggested that I was ‘reminiscent of the young Orson Welles.’ I got plenty of abuse from the other band members about this.

1985 : Following the interview in City Life Magazine which described us as Manchester’s best cabaret band or something similar, we were offered a Friday night gig at a restaurant in Manchester. We were to play 3 x 20 minute sets for 35 pounds. After this first gig, the Restaurant Owner/Manager was delighted with us and offered us a regular gig every Friday, which we accepted, figuring the money would help us with equipment and the regular gig might be good for our profile.

The following Friday, we showed up and told the Restaurant Manager that we would be playing 2 x 30 minute sets which he grudgingly accepted. in the hour or so between sets, we went to a bar across the road and proceeded to get hammered. We returned on unsteady legs and turned the amps up to full blast for the 2nd set – we even let Kev sing Boulevard of Broken Dreams while I played bass – still one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. That was our last gig at the restaurant.

AND FINALLY

I enjoyed my time in these bands and it is really flattering and suprising that people are still interested in what we did all those years ago. A Manchester label ‘Vinyl revival’ has recently released 2 compilation albums (Greater Manchester Punk 1977 – 81 and Greater Manchester Punk 2 1978-82 : Now We are Heroes) and there are Enigma tracks on both albums. On the back of these releases I met up with Martin O’Brien again and we are currently working on some new songs I’ve written with a singer and guitarist he has  worked with before and we should have a demo recorded in the next couple of months. I will send you the demo when it’s completed.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Listen
Black & White Lovers – Best Years of Our Lives

14
Jun

Thanks so much to Richard Hall for answering a bunch of my questions! I got in touch with Jo Bisseker, the vocalist of The Love Buttons, a month ago. She kindly got me in touch with Richard who was able to answer me many of my questions about this Ambition Records band that released one classic (and in my book legendary) 12″ record. A fabulous record indeed that leaves you wondering why they didn’t release any more records.

++ Hi! Thanks so much for being up for this interview. I’m really thrilled to interview you as I really like the songs you released back in the day. Your 12″ is one of my favourites from the period. I guess we could start by who were The Love Buttons? What instruments each of you played? And how did you got together? What year was it?

Basically….the band was invented in my HEAD. I was living with Pete Briggs. I’d played bass a bit in covers bands and Pete was/is a tip top drummer. We pretended to be a band called The Buttons (in reality just an IDEA) and put up an ad at the University in Southampton. After a while Jo replied. She came round with her guitar and her fantastic songs. After about 10 seconds I realised that she wrote great songs. Really great!!! We laugh about it now but I was shy in those days and I was jumping around saying ‘you’re IN!!”. We were a 3 piece to begin with. We used to do a cover of ‘So Sad About Us’ by The Who.  Breeders copied our idea!!

++ Who came up with the name of the band? I think originally you were called The Buttons. What’s the story behind it?

We changed our name from The Buttons to The Love Buttons because we thought it was a bit edgy!!!

++ You were based in Southampton. How was it growing up and having a band there? Were there many venues to play?  Were there any other like-minded bands?

We played lots of gigs…a lot of times at the Joiners…we supported some cool bands…The Family Cat. Jane Pow.  After a time Paul (known as Rita) joined on guitar. He was obsessed with Manchester scene….bands like Happy Mondays and Inspiral  Carpets….and attempted to make us ‘jangly”.

++ And what would you say were influences for the sound of The Love Buttons?

Probably the sound we were going for was The Popguns/The Primitives. We loved 10,000 Maniacs and Throwing Muses, as well as R.E.M. Lots of 60’s stuff.

++ Mark Pearson from Ambition Records told he feels he disappointed you, that he let you down, on an interview. At the same time he said you were really keen to be on the label. How was your relationship with him? 

We never ever felt let down by Mark from Ambition….quite the opposite. We practically stalked him to get on his cool little label!!!

++ And what do you remember of the recording sessions for the EP? Why did you record at S.A.M. Bristol? Any anecdotes you could share?

The great 12 string you hear on our 12 inch is Mark, the singer of The  Steamkings. Around this time Jo treated herself to her own 12 string Rickenbacker.

++ Speaking of gigs, did you play live a lot? what were your favourite gigs and why? Were there any bad gigs that you remember?

The best gig we ever did was put on by my cousin at a college in Chichester. They hired an ENORMOUS PA and we sounded like we were playing Wembley Arena….the 300 students went MENTAL!!!

++ Why didn’t you get to release more records? Was there any interest from other labels?

Apart from letters of rejection we never came very close to signing a record deal. We’d have loved to have been on Sarah.

++ When and why did you call it a day? 

I think we split up because I moved away to Swindon after uni for a 3 month job. I ended up staying there for 6 years! But I did form a band there called Eva Luna. We went on tour and did a demo tape and some great punky indie songs. Then I returned to Southampton and set up the band Snaffler with other local pals. We produced a CD called Bingo Knickers which was great!

Sadly, after my second child, I could’nt face the hassle of dragging my equipment, amps etc off to smeggy recording garages with no toilet facilities, rehearsing, then packing it all away again – it was just too much!

++ I saw on Youtube a clip of you rehearsing again last summer. The video titled, “The Love Buttons are Back”. How did this happen? Did you make any new music? Did you play any reunion gigs?

The video you’ve seen on Youtube is when I held a garden party….I was turning 50!!!!….all 4 members of The Buttons were there. There was a friends covers band playing and after a tense standoff we all got into position. Call me immodest but I think the magic was still there!! It sounds TERRIFIC!!!

Jo was totally responsible for The Buttons being any good but she’s too busy/she can’t be arsed for us to ever do it again. Unless someone is willing to pay big bucks!! I think we’re just biding our time so that the public are in a FRENZY!!

++ What about today, what do you do? what other hobbies aside from music do you have?

Lately I’ve taken up playing drums (not very well) and play in a covers band with Paul (Rita), Nick (who was in Jo’s  NEXT band, Snaffler)…and Justin….lead guitarist in The Steamkings…and Dave who also played guitar for rage Buttons when Paul went to Uni in Manchester were called Daddy Witch and we do countryish songs by Caitlin Rose, Gillian Welch etc.

++ And has Southampton changed much since The Love Buttons day?

Southampton is a better city now than it was then. There is a thriving Craft beer scene with lots of cool little bars springing up.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Listen
The Love Buttons – Jon, You Bastard

13
Jun

This week a short post, but a true mystery to solve!

I heard the Candy Ranch for the first time on on the CD Rupert Cook gave me two Indietracks ago. From that CD, full of obscure goodies, I was able to track a few bands and get to hear their stories. The Candy Ranch, whose “Screaming Nutter” was on the compilation, was one of the few I was struggling to find until I found that Kev was then playing in the Style Selektors. I contacted them on Facebook and Kev was kind enough to be up for an interview. Sadly he only replied the first half of it. And that’s what I’m sharing with you today. These answers are from April 2014.

And after reading them, I totally suggest checking a bunch of their songs on Youtube, they are really catchy and fun!

EDIT 13/06/2017 – Kev McGuire from Candy Ranch has sent the answers for the remaining questions. Here is the complete interview now! 

———————————————

++ Hi Kev! Thanks so much for being up for the interview! I see you are still making music with The Style Selektors. Tell me a bit about this new project of yours? How different is it to the Candy Ranch?

Yeah The Style Selektors is a totally new project for me. It’s a very loose collective of great musicians and one of the best things is that there are no deadlines or pressures.
With The Candy Ranch because we were signed up to a management deal we had to write songs, rehearse every day then gig 3 times per week and then recording on top of that, then touring all over the UK
It took us away from home for weeks at a time sometimes and although it was a great laugh and we played with some great bands in some legendary venues I ended up totally burned out

It’s different because with TCR we wrote all our own stuff and there were 5 of us and we all had huge egos and we were so fullof enthusiasm (which is good) so there was all kinds of ideas richocheting round the room and after a while (for me anyway) our stuff became a mishmash of too many influences as far as im concerned and it just didn’t do it for me anymore i guess..

++ So let’s get back in time. When did Candy Ranch start as a band? Was it your first band ever?

TCR started in 89′ (i think) We actually got together from the embers of 2 Hartlepool bands (Taste of Freshness and Eat The Beat) and we joined forces to enter The Cleveland Music Festival and we won it…

All the bands at that time were trying to be Joy Division (which isn’t a bad thing) but it got monotonous. We were all brought up on The Specials, The Beat (who i played for last year) The Jam, Madness, Selecter, Secret Affair etc…so i guess influences were apparent in our songs and no bands were playing that stuff anymore as it was classed as passe, but we liked to go against the grain and it pissed a lot of other bands off coz we weren’t into The Smiths (yawn) although Jonny Marr is a brilliant guitarist I just couldn’t gel with Morrisey’s words y’know? Didn’t do anything for me.
It has to hit you somewhere doesn’t it? Like when i first heard The Jam i thought “fucking hell man, how the fuck do 3 people make that huge sound”

++ How did the recruiting process work for the Candy Ranch? How did you all knew each other? Who were the members of the band and what instrument did each of you play?

Like I  said we formed from 2 different bands
Kev McGuire – guitar, vocals
Neil Forcer – guitar, vocals
Gav Bell-  bass, vocals
Terry Ashley –  drums
Dave Willingham – keyboard

We also had Ste Ryan on vocals for a few months in the early days and after Neil Forcer left Ian Holdforth came in on guitar and vocals.

++ Where does the name Candy Ranch comes from?

The name is actually from a porno film ha ha

++ And who were the main influences of the band would you say? Did you like any other Hartlepool bands at that time?

Main influences were The Small Faces, The Who, The Jam, Kinks, Beatles, The Specials, The Beatles, Madness, Secret Affair, Lambrettas (who im playing guitar with in June) The Chords (who i played guitar with last year), Robin Hitchcock, Prefab Sprout, Aztec Camera, Haircut 100 (Les Nemes their bass player is a friend of mine) Lloyd Cole, Dr Feelgood, Squeeze, Sex Pistols
I can’t remember liking any other Hartlepool bands at that time, although the best Hartlepool band I ever heard was Victims of Circumstance with Ste Shadforth, great guitarist and front man. I was too driven and too focused on TCR to take notice to be honest and they all wanted to either be New Order or The Smiths
and I was so fucking bored by it all to be honest. New Order and The SMiths were still going back then so I couldn’t see the point in emulating a band that was still active !!! i much prefered trying to bring something back to life from years previous
i wanted to get a whole new bunch of people to like the Mod, Ska, 60s scene you know?

++ Tell me about Hartlepool. Where would you usually hang out? Was it a fun town then? What are the sights of town?

Hartlepool was a very busy port in the 19th and 20th centuries, it had to sides Old Hartlepool and West Hartlepool, it was the people from Old Hartlepool who legend has it hing a monkey they thought was a french spy and so Hartlepudlians have since been known as Monkeyhangers
Quite how you could get a fucking 2 foot hairy monkey mixed up with a person i’ll never know but thereagain there are some very hairy women in Hartlepool so i suppose it’s easy to get confused ha ha (imjoking but i bet i get some stick for that)
I went to english martyrs school and we used to hang out at the youth clubs all over town, justy getting up to mischief really ha ha.. you know, trying to get off with girls, showing off my new 2 Tone suits and Loafer shoes with red socks,
When I left school and got my Vespa that was it, totally infatuated with everything Mod, 60s, scotters, girls, drugs, lost weekends, trips to London sleeping near these big heaters in Mayfair coz we couldnt afford digs haha
Hartlepool has a great Marina, lots of new projects springing up, new college, new estates, new schools, lots of businesses are attracted to Hartlepool now and for me its thriving..
It has a high crime rate but hey what town doesnt huh?
I don’t live their anymore but my children do so I still go there a few times a week.

++ I read you gigged a lot, even with big names like Blur or Radiohead. Which were your favourite gigs and why? Did you prefer these kind of big gigs or smaller ones? Any fun anecdotes you can share?

We gigged all over the UK , yeah we gigged with some great bands and had a laugh. The best band we ever played with was Dr Feelgood at Hartlepool Town Hall we took Lee Brilleux for a drink before the gig.
We all got smashed and just before he went onstage we locked him in a broom cupboard ha ha. Hae kicked the door down, tripped me up, took my shoes off me and took them onstage with him, totally pissed and sang every note and performed like a true pro. It’s very sad he is no longer with us and also its very sad that Wilko Johnson has got terminal cancer, such a great talented huiman being something needs to be done about cancer you know? and soon as well they can send a man to fucking Mars or somewhere or they can blow up a village in Iraq from a mile underground in the USA and you are fucking telling me they can’t find the funds to research the biggest killer of mankind than any weapons? Bullshit, total bullshit, they are all pirates the lot of them.
With Blur we were in a big posh hotel in glasgow and we were pissed (again) so The Candy Ranch offered Blur to a game of tiggy off ground (this is a game we play where you had to tag someone, but they were only out if they were on the ground but they had to keep moving as well or they were out) we used the tables and reception desk in this hotel and the chairs. We won coz Blur were all unfit but we all got told off by the hotel manager so we took all the lightbulbs out of all the lights we could find and hid them. Very grown up.

++ You had two managers and they turned out to be quite successful. What do you remember about them?

One manager was Mick Donnelly, he was sax player for Spear of Destiny in the 80s, they were huge, he is an amazing sax player, he played with Madness, 5 Star, Sammy Davis Junior, Whitney Houston… he is currently on tour with Lisa Stansfield all over Europe. In the 90s he played for Swing Out Sister and he went to the Philippines with them (I think) We put a load of dirty movies in his suitcase before he left and the customs people at the airport in Manila made him open his case and all these films fell out haha…

————————————–

There were 13 more questions I asked. Sadly I never heard back from Kev. I just checked back at the messages we exchanged on Facebook, through the account of his band The Style Selektors but it seems that facebook page of the band is no more. It’s a shame really. Last time I heard from him was in June when he mentioned that he didn’t had time yet to answer the rest of questions. I didn’t insist.

These were the rest of my questions that remain unanswered. If anyone could help fill in the blanks that’d be great:

++ Tell me about your releases. You had three singles, right? Who put them out?

3 Singles
Screaming Nutter on Tumak & Sons
Flowergirl via Codhead Productions
Up & Away via ourselves

++ My favourite song of yours might be “Screaming Nutter” and that was your first single too. What’s the story behind this song?

Screaming Nutter is basically saying that although we all may be from different creeds and cultures we are all essentially the same ..we can all be jealous, all be nice, all be nasty and all be corrupt … the chords are distinctly similar to Happy Hour 😱

++ And is it true that this record is sought after mostly because of the photo on the cover?

The front cover photo was taken by our bass player Gav, it is of the legendary Steetley Shunter (Steetley was a factory in Hartlepool) and the Shunter was one of a kind that train enthusiasts would kill to have photos off (train doggers I call them)

++ And what would be your favourite song? And why?

My fave is Flowergirl, the melody is great and for me captures that early 90’s summer vibe and the Middle 8 is a cracker …of course Ians guitar solo takes it to a different orbit altogether.

++ How did the creative process work for you?

In all honesty we all used to meet at Gav’s or at The Touchdown where we were based and just bounce ideas off each other, all contributing music and vocals …sometimes it worked, other times it became a total mish mash.

++ Was there any big label interest for you guys?

We had a few labels like Polydor interested ..Feargal Sharkey of The Undertones was working for Polydor at that time a day came to see us at the Borderline in London ..he was very nice and loved our stuff, but with us sounding like The Jam, Blur, Housemartins, Madness etc he said they wouldn’t take the risk of investing in us for the public to say “heard it all before” which is fair enough really … I wouldn’t care really,,but we were really trying to sound like Inspiral Carpets and not Blur ha ha ..I’ve since told Tom (Hingley) that I blatantly magpied a lot of the Inspirals songs and he laughed his head off ..he rang me up a while ago to chat about my daughter, very nice guy.

Other record companies were interested but we had missed the boat by about a year.

++ And are there many more unreleased songs? Have you ever thought putting out some sort of retrospective release?

We recorded quite a lot of songs, I’ve got them somewhere .. would be nice to have them on a CD at some point I guess.

++ I read on a Youtube description that you were the only unsigned band to ever perform at BBC TV’s Grandstand in 1993. How did that happen? And for us that are not familiar with Grandstand, what is it? 🙂

Grandstand was a very popular sports programme on BBC1 at the time and they only used to lay songs like FA Cup final songs etc so it was a big moment for us when they played Up & Away on there and my Dad was very proud …how ironic that Brian Honour  (one of Pools all time greats) is now a mate and he came to see us at The Cavern in Liverpool a few weeks ago and is coming to see my new band The Extra Specials on July 21st at THE Studio in Hartlepool (shameless plug) 😉

++ On Youtube there’s this performance of yours on TV performing “Section 58”. Care to tell me what was this about?

Section 58 in the noise abatement clause .. we were based at The Touchdown pub in Hartlepool that Mick Donnelly from Spear Of Destiny owned and a few locals (minority as all the locals round there are the best people on the earth) claimed about the noise coming from the pub on a Friday night from the bands so we invited the noise pollution ppl down…they arrived on a Friday afternoon when we rehearsed and they basically stayed for the day and came to the gig on the night, got pissed and had people of the best nights they’d ever had ha ha .. I think the decibels were reported as being slightly lower than they really were and they became fans ..one of those officers still comes to our gigs now

++ And there’s a comment there on another video of yours asking about a footy tape circa 1991 that celebrates promotion to Division 3 of Hartlepool United I guess? Will that tape ever come out on the internet?

Yeah we released a song called Up & Away that charted (low) and it was for Hartlepool United FC back in 93′ .. Pools had beaten Crystal Palace in the FA Cup that ks to a penalty from Andy Savage so they moved on to play Sheffield Utd and we were invited down to the Blades ground and the Pools players came on the pitch wearing Candy Ranch t-shirts to the sound of the single via the ground PA and the crowd all singing along, was a great moment although me and Gav felt a bit embarrassed in the crowd as they were looking at us whilst signing …

++ I saw also on a Youtube video that there are many more contemporary photos of you guys performing. Do you still play the odd gig with the Candy Ranch or what?

We don’t see each other these days, I was with Dave and Gav for our friend Gary’s funeral about 2 years ago ..very sad, Gary loved the band, he really loved a song we had done in 87′ called Heavens Open Up and a few months before the passed away he had mentioned it when I seen him…last message he sent me was that he had voted for The Style Selektors in a best Mod band in the UK competition and we won it …I like to think Gary’s vote swung it for us ..I was singing Heavens Open Up for him in my head at his funeral..I owed him that.

I’d gig again with them as a one off, it would be good to do those great songs again, they were our songs, simple observations of life and created by all of us, not everyone can do that, not everyone wants to, but when you do create something whether it’s a massive world wide hit or one of ours then you get a sense of pride that you contributed.

++ So what happened, when and why did you split? What did you all do after?

We split as it had just ran it’s course basically, I’d fallen out of love with music totally and buggered off and joined the Royal Marines as a reservist, I was having a bad time mentally, lots of anxiety attacks and stuff from my childhood getting in the way of me enjoying myself and I was horrible to be around at that time, I hated the world, do a deal everyone it so the best thing for everyone was for me to bugger off and sort myself out and the Royal Marines certainly helped. I now work as a Resuscitation Officer for the NHS in a hospital in Northern England, I think Gav is a designer and he also played bass at my wedding in 2012 with a band called The Passion Killers (great name for a wedding band) and Ian runs a studio in York (I think) ..Dave went on to run a training company and I’d heard Terry worked with adults with learning disabilities

++ And aside from music, what other interests or hobbies do you have? And I might ask, who has been the best player ever at Hartlepool United?

Hobbies … up until Millie was born i used to like going up mountains in the Lakes and Scotland with my wife Marcia a day I now front a Specials tribute band called The Extra Specials …we are employing at a few festivals and large scooter rallies this year.

The best ever r player for Pools was Brian Honour (Jacky) ..I have to say that or he will throw tomatoes at our next gig …

++ One last question then, what would you say was the biggest highlight of the Candy Ranch?++ Thanks again for everything, anything else you’d like to add?

One highlight for me was playing with Blur at The Barrowlands in Glasgow

Can i tell a joke?

2 budgies sat on a perch and one turned to the other and said ….”can you smell fish”?

I’ll get me coat, … Keep The Faith x

 

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Listen
Candy Ranch – Up and Away

 

09
Jun

Thanks so much to Mark McCole for the fantastic interview! I wrote about The Sandalwoods time ago and Mark got in touch with me.  Luckily the band was making music again and they were up for answering my many questions! I discovered the band thanks to The Leamington Spa series and I’ve always been eager to listen to more songs from them!

++  So you were telling me that The Sandalwoods are back together, what are the plans for the band now? Maybe there are upcoming gigs already?

Hi Roque, we’ve recorded some new songs and they are in the Mixing Stage at present. They were recorded at John Ellis’s Limefield Studios in North Manchester and we’ll hopefully have them released in the next month or so and we’ll be out gigging them also. John was a vital member of the Sandalwoods back in the day as you’ll see (read on below)…
The new stuff is based on the same Indie Pop influence that we always had but we are now introducing some analogue synths and sequencers. We’ve kept the pop melodies but the lyrics are a a little darker and more direct. New songs (working titles): Pascal’s Wager, Yum Yum, The Story of The Gullible. Attached is a snippet of Stepping Stones.

++ So far I’ve only heard two songs by The Sandalwoods, “The Day is Mine” and “Vanessa” and they are brilliant! If you don’t mind, care telling me the story behind these two songs?

Will wrote the lyrics for these tunes and Vanessa is the only one we could probably attribute a living person to. We knew this beautiful girl called Vanessa who was the girlfriend of ones of our friends and Will decided to use her as his muse, so to speak!!

++ Both of the songs were recorded in the same session in Amazon Studios in Liverpool. How was that experience? Were there any other songs recorded then?

It was a great experience for us. We had done a few demos in various studios prior to this but this was a step up. We were lucky enough to catch the attention of a guy called Simon Duffy (worked with lots of people including the Boo Radleys) who came to a lot of our gigs and he happened to be an Engineer at Amazon Studios. Therefore, he also made the step up and Produced these tracks. As Widehead we did a few other sessions with Simon at Amazon. Will was also involved with the later Widehead stuff.

++ You also mentioned to me that you have other tracks from ‘way back’ but their sound quality is not the best. Even so, I would love to listen to them! But my question is, how many songs did you record and if you remember the names of them?

That’s correct Roque, we recorded many tracks either in small studio’s or on Will’s Four Track Recorder in his apartment. Attached is the track Calendar Girl from Manchester Vol. 1 CD which although not great quality hopefully shows the rougher sound we were into around 1994. Also, attached is a track called Appetite which was a track from one of the Amazon sessions in 1991 (not great quality as it’s an MP3 derived from a recording of a tape).
We have around 25 songs recorded from back in the day so I can’t list every song title but a few stick in the mind: Snake in The Grass, Normal Henry, She Loves You, I’m Just A Gift..……

++ Let’s go back to the early days of The Sandalwoods, to 1986. How did you, Paul and Will met and what made you start a band?

I’d heard of Will, who in the North Manchester area was known as a quality guitarist and he had a 1963 Telecaster which was unheard of for kids in our area! Paul met Will in 1985 and Paul played him a song he wrote which was inspired by The Monochrome Set. Will liked it and that was the start of it really. Together with our close friend Martin we formed the band.

++ And before The Sandalwoods, had any of you had been involved in bands before?

As a teenager Will had already played in a few bands including The Butchers with ex-school friends including Tony Kirkham (now keyboards for the Stereophonics). Paul and I played in a Rockabilly outfit called the Toy Town Trio.

++ What would you say are your first music memories? What sort of music was played at home while growing up? What was your first instrument?

The usual Parent influence for Paul and me which triggered our Country/Rock n Roll/Rockabilly interest which we still enjoy today. A big influence for Paul and I was an older cousin Mozz, who was an original punk who saw all of those bands (Stranglers, Clash, Buzzcocks, Joy Division etc.). He really introduced us to New Wave and very early Indie Music (Orange Juice, early Prefab Sprout etc.). Mozz Doogan has released 5 Albums under the pseudonym Transmission 13:
http://louderthanwar.com/transmission-13-stars-shine-darkness-album-review/
On top of that Paul and I used to obsessively listen to John Peel (every night 10pm) which opened us up to more eclectic music like The Monochrome Set. Will was obsessed by music from a very young age and was a Bowie, early Roxy Music, Talking Heads and Velvet Underground fan before he hits his teens. Will has a really wide range of musical and guitar influences which has been a very important element of our sound over the years
We all started our music life playing the Guitar.

++ Who came up with the band’s name and why the name?

Martin Fisher came up with the name. We’ve known Martin since we were 5 years old and Martin and Paul were in the same class throughout their junior and high school days. Martin has a vivid and creative mind and was coming up with several names including the ludicrous ‘Uncle Fester’s Shark Infested Underwater Botanical Popcorn Garden’!!!! “That’s a tough one to remember Martin. Do you have any shorter ideas?” “What about The Sandalwoods” Martin replied, and it stuck. Martin left the band after about six months. He has always been obsessed with Vinyl records and it was clear his passion was going to be DJ’ing which he still does very successfully today under the guise of MARTIN BREW. Also, check out his Music Mixes under the guise of J-Walk, well worth a listen:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ctun-HFsA6s

++ I read that the band played many different styles, from country to reggae and that you also included all sorts of instruments, from sax to accordion. How did that work out for you? And how come you are more known as an indie guitar pop band?

There were a number of bands in the early and mid 80s who were really mixes genres (Prefab Sprout and the Daintees) We saw how it was possible to play a varied style from Country to Jazz, Indie to Pop and that felt natural to us. We all wrote songs and all had our own favourite genres so we decided if the song is good enough then it shouldn’t matter what style it is in. So it wasn’t necessarily our music that was ‘Indie’ it was our approach and abandonment that fitted into the indie ethos. However, we pretty much settled on the Indie Guitar sound by 88’ and hence the tracks you’ve heard.
We all started off as guitarists but we knew we all couldn’t play the guitar and also employ a keyboard, sax player, bass player and drummer. Therefore, we all learnt the basics: Drums, Bass and Keyboards and swapped around but we still needed a multi-instrumentalist which is where John Ellis (Session Player – Corinne Bailey rae, Lilly Allen, John Squire) comes into it as he could play any instrument and was a vital jigsaw piece.

++ You contributed in the 80s songs to two compilations, “This is Manchester Vol. 1” and “Manchester”. How did you end up in those compilations?

This is Manchester Vol. 1 (VANESSA) – We had a good following in the Manchester area and through our gigs and demo’s we got some decent reviews. Tony Davidson who curated the album liked us and asked us if we would contribute. We knew Tony had Key 103 Piccadilly Radio Station in Manchester on board which was great as DJ Pete Mitchell played ‘Vanessa’ many times to promote the album. As a band, you always remember your first radio play! We also had great support from Craig Cash (UK TV Show: Royle Family) who played Vanessa many times on KFM Station.
Sounds Leamington Spa (DAY IS MINE) and Manchester Vol.1 (CALENDAR GIRL) – this was simply a case of the compiler somehow knowing who we were and asked us to contribute.

++ Speaking of Manchester, how was it back then? What were your favourite places to hang out? Your favourite venues to go check out bands? Whereabouts in Manchester were you from?

Will was born and bred in Manchester and has lived here all his life. Paul and I were born in Donegal, Ireland and as small kids moved over to Manchester. We all settled in the ’rough and ready’ streets of Cheetham Hill, North Manchester. If we weren’t gigging ourselves we pretty much had a weekly routine of hanging out at the famous Hacienda, watching bands at The Boardwalk and spending hours at Piccadilly Records challenging ourselves to finding the best, weird and wonderful indie records.
From Joy Division onwards Manchester became a central place for music all the way through the 80’s with A Certain Ratio, New Order, The Fall, The Smiths but in early 1989 everything changed with the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets. The music changed and the city changed in terms of venues popping up everywhere.

++ Why were you listed as The Sandle Woods on the “This is Manchester” compilation? Was that a mistake or you went by that name sometimes? And what was White Metal Music, seems your song was copyrighted under that name.

It was a case of rushing the album out in quick time that meant things weren’t checked before it went to print, hence the misspelling. White Metal Music was the company Tony Davidson set up to issue the release. If we knew then what we know now then we would have controlled our own copyright. Tony Davidson knew what he was doing as he ran off the Spain with the Mastertapes!!!!!

++ How did the creative process work for you? How often did you practice? How many recording sessions did The Sandalwoods do?

We very rarely wrote a song together from scratch in a rehearsal, we didn’t want to be forced into writing like this as the end product is usually garbage. We rehearsed about three times a week however, we would be lucky to get through more than two tunes a night as we always loved the music debates, the joking, the drinking etc…We wrote separately and we would play the song to each other, usually acoustically at Will’s apartment. If we all liked it we would help arrange it. Whoever wrote the song nearly always sang the lead vocal on it. It’s pretty much the same today on our latest batch of songs, the only difference is that we can use Garageband and Logic to demo it. No-one in the band has ever been that precious about their song, we all trust each other when it comes to the critical and appreciation side of evaluating a song. We have all become better musicians and play more instruments and there is more emphasis on melody and instrumentation rather than songs derived from block chord structures (if this makes sense).
In total we did approximately six studio sessions and lots of tunes on Will’s Four Track.

++ Were there any favourite bands in town that you liked or inspired your sound? Did you feel part of a scene?

As teenagers we all jumped on the usual bandwagon at the time The Smiths, Echo & The Bunnymen, Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, Pale Fountains etc. There was no internet back then so it was obviously a lot harder to seek out those quality indie bands. However, we quickly picked up on Will’s influence regarding The Velvet Underground and we often incorporated ‘Run, Run, Run’ or ‘I Love You Suzanne’ or ‘There She Goes Again’ into the set. We weren’t really part of the Manchester scene. Partly timing (too late for the New Order phase and too early for Madchester Scene) but also we were not tied to being part of any scene.

++ What about gigs? I could find flyers for a gig at The Gallery and The Boardwalk. Did you play many? Any anecdotes you remember?

We played a lot, from our first gig in North Manchester in 1986 at an outdoor Neighbourhood Festival we played all over Manchester including Manchester University, The Boardwalk many times, The Gallery, The Venue to name a few. We also played across the North West from Leeds University to Liverpool.

++ Did you have a good following you’d say? What was the farthest you played from Manchester?

Yeah, we had a good following in Manchester. Paul and I were lucky enough to have a big circle of family and friends and word spread via them. Will likewise, seemed to know everyone in Manchester! Will knew loads of local bands and through them we also got a decent turn out at gigs.

++ Did you get much attention by the press then? What about radio or fanzines?

We had quite a few good reviews in the NME, Melody Maker, Fanzines etc. We had a very good review by Terry Christian, Manchester Evening News but I would say Mick Middles writing for Sounds Magazine was our best supporter giving us a few good reviews. Will kept a few of these and I have attached them.

++ You split in 1990 and you went to play in many different bands. Care telling me a bit about these bands? Did you release anything?

As Will previously mentioned, Paul and I started Widehead and Will played in this band later on and we just did a few demos in Amazon Studios: Tracks – WIDEHEAD, WALK ON WATER, PERSPIRATION and APPETITE. By the time we hd hit the late 80’s the Pixies were a huge influence and we took a British Indie Pop sound and introduced very Pixie-esque guitar playing
Will was heavily into his Guitars at this stage and built up an armoury of vintage guitars and over 200 vintage and exclusive guitar pedals.
He was the subject of a feature article in the renowned Guitarist Magazine around 2002. Will went on to play with Pete Wylie, Andy Rourke, Brian Glancy (AKA The Seldom Seen Kid) and may more.

++ You reformed in 1994 with a heavier sound and then almost immediately became a covers band, right? Why the decision to reform and then change to a covers band? Are there any recordings from that heavier sound period?

The track Calendar Girl came from this 1994 session. In reality we never really ‘split up’. We have always had phases were we get together play and record and then leave it for a year or two. As we got into our thirties and early forties we had more commitments but thankfully we are now ready to go again hence the new stuff. The covers stuff was just about having a bit of fun and keeping up our playing, however, we were adamant that we would only cover New Wave stuff: Jam, Undertones, Tom Robinson, Squeeze etc

++ Then when did you split again? What did you all do afterwards?

As stated we just lay fallow for a year or two at a time and just got on with our jobs, family etc.

++ Aside from music, what other hobbies do you have?

Will has no other interests apart from Music especially Guitars, he sleeps with a different one every night!! Paul and I love our sport especially Rugby and the famous soccer team Manchester United.

++ Are you still based in Manchester? Has it changed much? What are your favourite places now, any good bands around now? what are the sights no tourist should miss?

Will and I are based in the Prestwich area (home of the Fall and Elbow) of North Manchester and Paul is based in Liverpool. Manchester is even more vibrant and exiting now than ever before. It definitely is the ‘second’ city behind London and the music scene is massive. The only issue is that the music doesn’t feel as exclusive as it once was in the late 80’s/90’s because there is so much of it now.

++ What would you say was the biggest highlight for The Sandalwoods during their time?

Paul was in the bathroom of The Crown and Anchor Pub in Manchester City Centre around 1990 and saw a piece of graffiti on the bathroom wall. It read: “All Manchester Bands are shit including New Order, Happy Mondays and The Sandalwoods”. Not bad company to be in!!

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Listen
The Sandalwoods – The Day is Mine

19
May

Thanks a thousand to Seán McDermott for this thorough interview! Mickey Rourke’s Fride was the Irish label that released the beloved Hey Paulette back in the 80s. But those weren’t their only releases. There were a few compilations where one could discover the great sounds of The Skips or Dale Arden and the Claymen. The label was to reappear, under the name Disques Fridge, in the noughties releasing some fine releases like Crumb or Aeromodeller’s albums worth checking out if you haven’t yet. On this interview Seán was kind enough to tell me a bit about almost every band involved in the label, the label itself and Dublin of course. Now sit back and enjoy.

++ Hi Seán! Thanks so much for being up for this interview! We got in touch thanks to my post about Feargal is the Applejack here on the blog. So far I haven’t been able to find any other information about this band, but maybe you can help? Like do you remember what years they were active? Who were the band members? And what did they do afterwards?

I was out on the town with Colm from Hey Paulette. The Underground in Dame Street was the centre of the Dublin scene back then, and we fancied a beer there, but we didn’t want to pay in or anything, so we introduced ourselves at the door as the guys from Mickey Rourkes Fridge + blagged our way in for free, not really caring who was playing, which was Feargal is the Applejack.

They turned out to be a great band! We got talking afterwards, they were nice guys as well as talented, so they ended up on our 1st compilation ‘DOSTOEVESKY..?’ + then on the follow-up, ‘MY FAVOURITE THINGS’.

They broke up about 1994 or 5. I think. We kept in touch for a while, then we didn’t. I don’t think any more music followed from any of the guys.

++ I think most people will know your label thanks to Hey Paulette who are a beloved band for the indiepop crowd. You released two records by them. The first release on the label was their 7″. How did you know them? And how did you convince them to be your first release ever on the label?

I knew Éamonn from Secondary School (High School to you!)+ Derrick had been in a band with me: uptight!, Dublin’s only No Wave band, as far as we know.

I had also been the stand-up drummer in the 1st HP line-up, with Éamonn on bass, then I became their ‘manager’, kinda, or ‘5th Beatle’, as it were.

We wanted to make a record, + we figured no one else was going to give us money, so we did it ourselves. That was the ‘Commonplace’ 7”.

++ Before that release, had you had any experience working in a label? Or perhaps putting out any releases?

No, the only experience any of us had of records before then was listening to them.

++ What inspired you to start a label? Would you say there were any other labels influence in Mickey Rourke’s Fridge?

Like I said up above, we wanted to make a record + DIY was the only way we could see that happening. Everything else spiralled out from there.

Label influences were Motown, Sun + Rough Trade, of course, Fast Product/Pop:Aural + Factory a bit…

the BIG one was always Postcard; I’m sure you can tell!

++ And yeah, why the name of the label? It is definitely original!

NOT from ‘9½ Weeks’, which you might think, but from two earlier movies.

In two consecutive flicks, Mickey beats up the fridge when he gets bad news: In ‘The Pope of Greenwich Village’, when his girlfriend leaves him; in ‘The Year of the Dragon’, when his girlfriend gets killed.

An NME review of ‘Dragon’ pointed this out + said it must be in his contract. He’s my favourite actor, then + now, + that line stuck with me + sounded like a good name for a label when the time came a few years later.

++ If you were to pick a Mickey Rourke movie, which would that be?

‘Rumble Fish’ fer shure, but ’Angel Heart’ not far behind.

++ You were based in Dublin then, and I wonder if you are originally from there? And how was the scene in the late 80s there? What were the venues where you would go check out bands, or the neighborhoods you would hang out?

We’re all from Dublin, south of the river, near the canal, originally: Bluebell, Ballyfermot, Inchicore. The Underground on Dame Street was the centre of the scene, also The Baggot Inn, + bars like The Clarendon, Bartley Dunne’s, The (old) Pygmalion, all near the city centre.

++ What about the artwork for the label? Did you take care of that part as well?

I did most of it, with a little help from my friends in Saatchi & Saatchi, an ad agency where I worked at the time, but we all pitched in ideas.

++ And was it easy to distribute your records? Did you manage to create interest abroad?

We found distribution OK in Ireland. In the UK, we were lucky enough to catch the attention of Keith Cullen from Setanta Records, who helped with the logistics, + John Peel + the music press, who created some level of interest.

++ Did you ever work with artists that weren’t Irish?

Well, some of our wider circle, including me, have English blood to go along with our Irish hearts, + there was a stray Scotsman, Harry McNamara, on DOSTOEVESKY, as well as a Detroit band called Icehead, featuring ex-pat Cormac Wright, who was part of a very early version of Something Happens!

++ Your second release was a 7″ compilation where you actually are part of it as a musician with the Wayfaring Strangers. Tell me a bit about your music. What are your releases? What instruments do you play? Have you been in other bands? What about your musical influences?

On that record, the band was me + Hey Paulette, with Hugh on fiddle, harmonies from Peigí + Nicola, + Helen on tambourine. Another line up of the Wayfs recorded an album in the early 90’s but the tapes went missing + only re-surfaced a short while ago. I’d like to release that in the next while.

Grievous Angels was a band name I made up for the ‘jesus + jack daniels’ Country House remix on DOSTOEVESKY. When Dave Fanning’s producer, Ian Wilson rang up + asked if we had more like this, I immediately said yes – tho’ of course we didn’t – then recorded some home demos which turned into a Dave Fanning Session. The other Angels were Peigí + Nicola from the Wayfs + Pat + Martin from Fréres Jackman.

Years later, I put together a band called $1,000 wedding, with an album ‘exile on dame street’ that marked the emergence of Disques Fridge.

I mostly sing + play guitar, a little mandolin with the Wayfs. I’ve also been known to play bass + keyboards, + I can get sounds out of the ukulele + harmonica, tho’ not at the same time!

++ On this same compilation there’s a band I really like and that I know about nothing, that I was actually planning to write about them, Dale Arden and The Claymen. Who were they? And how come they never released a record with you?

The Claymen were HP again, under assumed names, again. Dale is a mysterious shantooze who goes by the name of John Healy during the hours of daylight. John was also in High School with Éamonn + me, then later my right hand man in MRF, from DOSTOEVESKY till the end of Phase II, mid-90’s.

Dale guested in concert with 16 again, an acoustical sideline of mine, + with Fréres Jackman, + emerges from time to time, when the occasion arises. No further recordings exist!

++ There’s also The Twigs in this compilation, another band I had never heard before. How did you pick the bands for this compilation?

Guess who? Derrick sang this one, while Éamonn rested his voice. As you’ll have noticed by now, the ‘bands’ were all Hey Paulette, with a different singer on each track, so the only ‘picking’ was on the guitars.

++ Then you were to release some more compilations, now on cassettes. Why the change of format? And what would you say is your all-time favourite format for music?

That was all about the Benjamins, as they say in Baltimore. Cassettes were cheap, + CD’s hadn’t taken over the words back then (sic transit…).

Vinyl was my first love, + it will be my last.

++ I have to ask about the name of the compilation where Feargal is the Applejack appear. Why was it titled “Dostoevesky lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight?”?

That name came about during another drunken night, when a bar game that involved making up literary songs titles was invented.

I kicked things off with ‘Your cheatin Sartre’ + “ My Beckett’s got a hole in it’. Poet Patrick Chapman was the clear winner with ‘Dostoevsky lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight?’

1st prize was to name our tape years later, tho’ we didn’t know at the time. Patrick got proper credit of the tape cover, of course, + appeared on it too. 2nd prize? A set of steak knives,

++ On that same compilation I discovered the marvelous The Skips. I read about the sad departure of Derrick Dalton. I’m sure that must have been hard for you and all the Dublin scene as he was part of so many bands. How important do you think was his figure for Irish guitar pop do you think?

Derrick was a major figure in Irish guitar pop, from his days as a ’teenage art terrorist’ with me in uptight! right though to stepping up to the mic with Crumb, then back again with Aeromodeller.

That was never reflected in fame or fortune, alas.

++ After that tape compilation you went to work with The Dadas, The Quack Squad and Fréres Jackman & The International Elevators. Care telling me a bit about these bands as I know nothing really about them?

The Dadas were a great pop group, led by Andy Fitzpatrick who now operates out of NYC, solo + helping out The Hatvest Ministers.

Fréres Jackman also played great pop, up to & including ska & reggae. The brothers still play live every now & then.

The Quack Squad were a comedy double act who wanted to make a Christmas record with us. ‘Why not? ’ I said.

++ And if you were to chose any Irish band that you like, which one would you have loved to have had in your catalogue? And why?

Micodisney + The Stars of Heaven. Why? Just listen…

Three of the Stars have appeared under our imprint, + Cathal from Microdisney (+ The Fatima Mansions) recorded his 1st solo track for us. We haven’t been able to release that one… yet.

++ There was an unreleased CD EP by a band called The Castanedas on your catalogue. What happened with this release?

The EP was at the pressing plant when the band broke up.

We cancelled everything just in time. Very discouraging, contributed to our lost decade.

++ Then there’s a gap of about 10 years with no releases. The label resurfaces with the $1,000 Wedding album “Exile on Dame Street” in 2002. What happened during that time? Why was the label so quiet?

Stuff happened, we grew up a bit, we felt like we were going nowhere…and not in a good way.

++ There would be a bunch of releases during the new century. I’m only familiar with the Crumb and Aeromodeller releases, which are ace. But again there are bands that only arouse my curiosity, as I have never heard before, like the aforementioned $1,000 Wedding, Villa R, Grievous Angels, Acton Bell or Éamonn Dowd. If you don’t mind, care to tell me a bit about each one on a line or two? Like what sort of music they played and what is your favourite song of theirs?

$1,000 wedding is a country-ish band I pit together with some of the usual suspects. The original concept was ‘Gram + Emmylou singing in front of Dinosaur Jr’ tho’ our songs led us off in a different direction, one that we liked better.

Villa R was Eoin from The Deportees with various Hey Paulettes. Grievous Angels we discussed earlier. Acton Bell is a solo project from Dez Foley of The Sewing Room/The Drays.

Éamonn Dowd is an old friend. We talked about doing an album together years ago, but nothing came of it. Late last year he approached me again with a new album he was preparing.

It sounded great, so I was happy to see it as a fridge disque, in partnership with Éamonn + his own label, Spellbound Records.

++ The last two releases of the label date of 2017, this year, so the label is totally going strong. I wonder then if there are more releases scheduled for this year? And how does the future looks for Mickey Rourke’s Fridge?

Well, we’re mostly making Our Back Pages readily available. When we come across something new + great – like the Éamonn Dowd album – we’ll put that out too.

++ Also I noticed that two of your releases were only released digitally. I would love to know your take about the digital vs. physical argument.

Money talks… + no argument! Going digital is practically free, which is important when you’re mostly giving stuff away. But it’s great to have a disque + a cover, 5” 7” or 12”, to hold in your hand…

++ Probably the question most people are asking by now is where can they get your available releases?

Right now, there’s stuff all over the place on iTunes, soundcloud, bandcamp, youtube… occasionally in stores too.

I’ve just set up a disques fridge Facebook page + where, over time, I’ll be curating + collating the catalogue…

+ you can get Éamonn Dowd’s CD on www.eamonndowd.com

++ Also just to make sure, is the label now called Disques Fridge?

Oh yes. Mickey Rourke’s Fridge was a 20th century thing, When we started up again in 2002, Disques name was a good way to say this is something new, following on from what went before. +we still use MRF catalogue numbers.

++ Did the label get much support from the Irish press or radio?

‘Can’t complain’ as we say over here. We got a fair amount of support from the media… more than we ever did from the public.

++ And during all these years, what would you say was the biggest highlight for Mickey Rourke’s Fridge?

Hearing the one + only live performance of the Stars of Heaven classic ‘Before Holyhead’ by Stephen Ryan at the DOSTOEVESKY launch…

+ the fact that ‘exile on dame street’ exists.

++ I think this has been a long interview already Seán! I could probably keep asking questions but let’s wrap it here. Just one more question, as I’ve never been to Dublin, or Ireland for that matter, what shouldn’t I miss to see, eat or drink when I visit?

Call me when you get here!

++ Aside from music, what other hobbies do you have?

Books, movies, TV, art… + current events, as a spectator… + people.

++ Anything else you’d like to add?

THIS SUMMER…
watch out for a free release of a project we’ve been working on for over 20 years…

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Listen
Hey Paulette – Commonplace

17
May

Thanks so much to Graham McDonald for the interview! Some months ago I wrote about Baby Lemonade, the beloved Scottish band that released a Sha La La flexi and a superb album back in the day. I didn’t know much about them but loved their songs. I actually would love to see all their recordings including any unreleased songs put together in a complete retrospective. Wouldn’t that be nice! Anyhow, Graham was kind enough to get in touch and answer a bunch of my questions. Hope you enjoy it!

++ Hi Graham! Thanks so much for getting in touch! How are you? Wherabouts in Scotland are you now? Still in touch with the rest of the band?

I’m no bad. I stay in Glasgow and am not in touch with the band now but saw Joan around 5 years ago – rest of ‘em- no.

++ I read that the band was based in Kirkintilloch, Cumbernauld and Glasgow. Who lived where? And was it easy to get together?

I stayed in Kirkintilloch as did Mark Abbott and Colin Campbell at the time . Joan Williams stayed in Cumbernauld and Paul Lally stayed in Glasgow. It was not easy to get together and arrangements could be difficult.

++ The band started in 1985, right? But before that, had any of you being involved in other bands?

The band started around 1985 and no one had been in  another band before this one.

++ And going back even more, what was your first instrument? What are your first musical memories?

My first instrument was an acoustic guitar or recorder . My first musical memories include listening to top 40 music , the Beatles, U2 , Clash, etc. with a mate Rab Barr circa 1975- 1981.

++ How did Baby Lemonade start as a band? How did you all knew each other?

Baby Lemonade started with Mark and I playing in his bedroom before I left home and went to college- finally finding Colin after numerous try outs . We got Joan and Paul through a college course I attended in Falkirk., Central Scotland. I knew Mark through school and knew Paul and Joan through college.

++ Was there any lineup changes during Baby Lemonade’s lifetime?

There was – Paul left- replaced by Kenny B + Gary ……..?, Colin later replaced by Martin Gregor.

++ Where does the name Baby Lemonade come from?

B.L.’s name comes from a Syd Barrett solo cut.

++ Who would you say were your influences then?

Influences- The Jam, The  J.A.M.C., Led. Zep., Beach Boys, Undertones, Ramones. Nikki Sudden, Swell Maps, Blondie, etc.

++ In 1986 you recorded your first songs at a studios in Charing Cross Glasgow. How was that experience? Do you remember which songs you recorded then?

1986 Demo?- Recorded  Secret Goldfish, Real World- pretty good experience  I think

.++ Then you would catch the attention of Matt Haynes who would release the “Jiffy NeckWear Creation” flexi on his Sha La La label. How did this contact happen? Did you ever meet him?

Contact happened through possibly Jim Kavanagh , fellow ‘zine mentor of ‘Simply Trilled ‘ and friend of Paul’s . Never met Matt but would have liked to.

++ This flexi was shared with another Scottish band, The Bachelor Pad. Were they friends with you or was it just a coincidence? Which other Scottish bands of that period did you like?

B.L. did a few gigs with the Bachelor Pad , a band from Strathbungo in Glasgow. They were friends with Jim Kavanagh  and us after a while. We liked the Primals, Pastels and the J.A.M.C.  at the time.

++ Perhaps “Jiffy NeckWear Creation” is the song most people know by Baby Lemonade, if you don’t mind, what’s the story behind this song?

Jiffy was essentially  a tie called the Jiffy Neckwear Creation – a psychedelic paisley pattern  number.

++ It also got to be single of the week. Did you get much attention from the press? How helpful was getting good reviews?

It got Single of the week in Sounds Magazine. Reviews were always helpful  and we got a few good reviews but never really got many reviews at all.

++ And what about radio play? or TV play?

John Peel liked us, played us on Radio1 / Radio Scotland – Beat Patrol- no TV. play.

++ Then you would release a 7″ on Narodnik Records. How did you end up signing with the Edinburgh label?

We signed to them after they heard our demo on the radio- just one play.

++ This 7″ was produced by Douglas Hart from The Jesus and Mary Chain. How was that? What did he add to the sound of Baby Lemonade?

It was a great experience working with one of the Mary Chain-fans of them-he left a bit of chat on the 7’’Real World- to sound good.

++ I noticed that both the 7″ and later the album have the same sort of style in the artwork. Who did it? And how important for you was the looks of the band?

Paul did some of the 7’’ design and flexi  , DDT  did the l.p.- purely incidental that they look alike. It was important that we looked good/ cool on any release.

++ Your last release was the fantastic album “One Thousand Secrets” released on DDT Records also from Edinburgh. I know little about this label, who were they?

DDT were a subsidiary of Fast Records, based in Edinburgh, managed by the legendary Bob Last  who put out original records by the Human League , Gang of Four, Mekons, Scars ,etc.

++ Why did you title the album “One Thousand Secrets”? And what would you say is your favourite song on the album and why?

It appeared like a good title at this time. I liked the tune ‘Summerhouse’ as it was quite ambitious for us at the time with a slow start before it speeds up and I Liked the bass line, a bit of  Tamla Motown about it.

++ Also, why just 8 songs?! Wish there had been more, it is so good!

8 songs long-leave ‘em wanting more.

++ Many years later Egg Records would release a CDR with the songs from the flexi and the 7″ plus some demos. Why did they release only these songs and not more?

You would need to ask Egg Records about that one.

++ Are there any other Baby Lemonade recordings that remain unreleased?

1 demo lying around somewhere with an unreleased tune but don’t know where it is.

++ What about gigs? Did you play many back then? What would you say were your favourites and why?

We played Glasgow, Edinburgh, Bellshill, Newcastle and London- probably about 12-15 gigs all in. Enjoyed ‘Rooftops ‘ in Glasgow, ‘Fury Murray’s, Glasgow- went down well that night.

++ Where was the farthest from home that you played?

We played the ‘Camden Falcon’ in London  which was furthest away from home.

++ And then what happened to Baby Lemonade? When and why did you split?

Our last gig was at the ‘Camden Falcon’, London- we split about 1988- don’t really know why we split- people did other things , moved on…….

++ What happened afterwards? Did you continue making music?

I went to become a Social Worker , joined 2 bands in the meantime and my present crew, ‘ The Diablo’s ‘ – check us out on Face Book.

++ What about these days? What do you do? What other hobbies do you enjoy doing?

I work with the Council in a Social Work capacity. I love football, movies, cycling and most of all music and my family.

++ Looking back in time, what would you say was the biggest highlight of Baby Lemonade?

Highlights for me were supporting the T.V. Personalities at the Glasgow Barrowlands- still one of my favourite groups.

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

Once our V.W. car broke down in Glasgow on the night of a gig in Edinburgh. Instead of making an effort  to get there we went for Italian food instead. Apparently  Geoff Travis  from Rough Trade was there looking to see us play and he’d come from London for the opportunity…. big mistake for the B.L’s…….

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Listen
Baby Lemonade – World Of Mine