Thanks so much to Jenni Taylor for the interview! The Mondo Crescendo was one of those great fuzzy pop bands that appeared in the late 90s on the west coast of the US. Before that, they used to be called Juniper and were based in DC. You can read my interviews to Douglas and Scott from Juniper on the blog as well, to give you a wider perspective of those days.

++ Hi Jenni! Thanks so much for the interview! I noticed you still make music with a band called The Vexers. Care to tell me a bit about them?

The Vexers were a project that Mike, (the second bassist for the Mondo Crescendo,) and I started with a guitar player we met in LA named Tres Warren right after the MC disbanded. It’s long defunct now. The Vexers ended sometime in 2004, if I remember correctly. We put out a full-length and an EP on Ace Fu Records out of NYC in around 2002-2003ish. We toured relentlessly and after a while, I decided not to do it anymore.

Post Vexers: The drummer, Boz took on the roll of front man and formed a band called Mountain High. Mike Hammel, (Mondo Crescendo, Vexers,) married his sweetheart and, I believe, is possibly still making music in Philly. Tres and his friend Elizabeth Hart moved to NYC and formed the Psychic Ills. I moved to Nashville in 2009 and I’m moving out of the country at the end of September. I get my musical kicks playing on the streets when I’m in the mood, or on my front porch with friends when the weather’s right. I haven’t got any plans to start an official band, tour or make records at this point in my life.

++ So like a year ago, I interviewed two of your former bandmates about the great band that was Juniper. After you split, some of you continued playing together as The Mondo Crescendo. How did this work out? How did one band develop from the other? What would you say were the main differences between the two bands?

++ As Juniper you were based in DC, and it seems there was a very cool scene of indiepop bands there around that time (mid 90s). Did you feel part of the scene? Where were the places were the indie kids would hang out? Any favourite bands then?

Hmmm. I’m digging deep here to try to get this straight for you. I’m going to tie these next few questions together so I can paint a better picture.

I’d been living in Richmond, VA with a friend of mine named Buddy Apostolis, (RIP.) This was in 1995, I think. I couldn’t make my rent so I had to move to Virginia Beach for a month or two. I’d met a band from VA Beach at a show in Richmond, (this is horrible, but I seriously cannot remember their name.) Anyway, I looked them up when I landed in Virginia Beach and went to one of their shows. They happened to be opening for a band from DC called The Ropers. The Ropers guitarist was Mike Hammel (Mondo Crescendo, Vexers,) so that’s how I met him. About a month or so later I moved to DC to kick it with Mike.

I got a job at a coffee shop and that’s where I met Douglas Armour (Juniper, Mondo Crescendo.) Doug was really good friends with a kid named Brian DeGraw, (Cranium, Gang Gang Dance,) and Brian is Scott DeGraw’s (Juniper) brother. Doug and I decided to start a band, him on drums, me on guitar — so we needed a bassist. I think we made a flyer…. one way or another Doug got Scotty into the fold. The three of us formed Juniper. This was all in 1995, I think.

I wasn’t from DC and from the second I stepped foot into that town, I didn’t find it very welcoming. People have deified that city and that time-frame like there was some kind of miraculous community or movement going on…. I don’t know where they get that from. The DC I knew wasn’t anything like that. I came from a punk & garage rock background and I was new to the idea of “indie music,” and new to that town. People seemed to take themselves way too seriously from my point of view, and there was a lot of shit-talking and big egos. I felt like I really didn’t fit in, even though, I think at least musically I probably should have. I was just coming from a different place and it felt like the whole town knew it. Juniper put out a couple of records, played some crazy shows – but none of that made me feel even a little bit more comfortable there.

Someone had been slashing the tires on the Juniper tour van while it was parked on the street in front of a house we lived in on Irving Street in the N.W. Every time I’d come out and see the fucking tires were slashed again, I’d nearly blow a fuse. I had to take a bus to the metro and then the metro to a tire store in the South East. Then I’d have to buy a tire, roll it back to the metro, roll it onto the bus and then roll it all the way fucking home. This seemed to amuse my neighbor, who was that dude from Circus Lupus and my roommates, one of which was in Slant 6, but I certainly wasn’t fucking amused. That shit happened three or four times before I started making threats. I think a lot of those passive aggressive kids started to think I was a loose cannon. But whatever — the petty vandalism stopped.

So people want to talk about the “DC Indie Scene.” It was not exactly what I would call an open-arms welcome. The last straw was when MUNCH Records called us up and asked us to make a video for the Juniper single “Making Gerard Smile.” Doug, Scotty, Mike, our good friend/roadie Nathan, (RIP) and I were setting off some fireworks in the alley behind our house as a part of the video shoot, and my own roommates threatened to call the cops on us. I thought, “What a bunch of fucking Nazis.” That was it for pretty much it for me and “the DC scene.” I started making plans to move the band and anyone cool who wanted to come along for the ride to San Francisco.

As far as good DC bands: The Ropers, Cranium, Crom-Tec. the Make Up. I’m at a loss for anything else. Mike Hammel was involved in the DC indie scene when I met him, so he can fill you in on more of those kinds of bands.

As for how Juniper became the Mondo Crescendo — Juniper never really “broke up,” we just sort of morphed into the MC once we landed in San Francisco. The music took on a bit more of a garage tone, which seemed to reflect my own personal musical past and the experiences I had with the DC scene. The epic move out west and the passing of a rough year or so had a grittier result on my style at that time. The shimmery, dream-noise sound that Juniper inhabited slipped into a place and a vibe where I’d once wanted to be, but had somehow grown out of. Scott decided he didn’t want to stay in San Fran after a few months, so he left the band.  Mike Hammel just sort of moved into the bass role because a.) he could do it, and b.) he was bandless since the Ropers broke up right before we left DC. Doug, Mike and I changed our name to the Mondo Crescendo and released some records. I think the main difference between the two bands at that point was that Juniper was this childlike expression of the desire for unity, and the Mondo Crescendo was the beginning of the realization that unity is an illusion.

++ Where does the name The Mondo Crescendo comes from?

I believe Doug came up with that. It means, “the world of increasing volume.”

++ And it’s when you move to Los Angeles that you become The Mondo Crescendo right? Which city did you like better? And why the move?

We became the Mondo Crescendo after moving to SF and with the departure of Scotty. We started touring the West Coast as much as possible and met the Furry Things, a band from Texas living in LA. Then we met Tristeza at a party in Santa Barbara and formed a pretty tight bond with them. Jimmy (Jims) Lehner, Tristeza’s drummer, is one of my nearest and dearest friends to this day. He’s credited in the “thanks” section on a handful of Mondo Crescendo releases. In fact, I named the MC EP “Get Faded,” after what Jimmy used to say about getting fucked up. He’d say “Man, let’s get faded.”

Tristeza were based in San Diego, which is closer to LA than SF and while San Fransisco was beautiful, it was so expensive that we began to feel a bit trapped by it. We had made some good friends there, but the cost of living kept us from being able to tour as much as we’d wanted to. With the help of Ken Gibson, (Furry Things, 8 Frozen Modules,) we packed up our shit and headed down to LA. Doug brought his future wife, Lisa, and the four of us blazed. We might have brought a friend named Joe Bay with us, I can’t remember. We found a couple of houses in Echo Park. Mike and I moved into a place, and Doug and Lisa moved into a place a few blocks away. We found an old beauty salon right down the street from our houses and turned it into a recording studio called “Last Time Around,” named after a Del-Vettes song. Even with paying for three separate places, it was still less expensive than SF, if you can believe that. This was before Echo Park was a hip neighborhood, so rent was dirt cheap and packs of wild dogs roamed the streets.

++ What aboug gigging? Did The Mondo Crescendo gig a lot?

Oh yes. Every band I’ve ever been in gigged like a mother fucker. I might be a lot of things, but no one could ever say I wasn’t a hard worker.

++ You released many records with Blackbean and Placenta Tape Club. How did you end up in that label and how was your relationship with them?

Roque, I honestly can’t remember how I met Mike Landucci from BBPTC. It might have been at a show, but seriously, I don’t fucking know. My LA years were chocked full of drugs and booze. It was a weird town and a weird time. It seemed like drugs were just fucking throwing themselves at me — at all of us — and I mean, free, too. Now I don’t want to sound like a cautionary tale or on the other side of that, like I’m advocating anything or any life style, because I’m not. I’m just saying that there are times in my life that I remember like it was a dream, full of gaps and blended together like they happened to someone else – and then there are other times in my life that I simply can’t remember at all. Meeting Mike Landucci falls into the latter category. It’d probably be best if you asked him.

As for our relationship with Mike – it was overall good. We may have had our moments, but Mike and his family were awesome people. He was always ready to entertain my crazy cover-art ideas and whatever else I wanted. He took us out to dinner. I think he even did my laundry once or twice. He was a family man, a gardener, a great father, a good dude.

++ The album was released in  Japan, right? Any anecdotes about that?

Ken Gibson (Furry Things, 8-Frozen Modules) did the remix of TV Screen for the Japanese release. That was too cool of him!

++ Before talking any particular release I wanted to ask you the gentle distortion but distortion nonetheless you made with The Mondo Crescendo, it was such great fuzzy pop! A year ago so many bands were doing the same and living the hype. Who influenced you and what kind of sound you were looking for at the start?

When we moved to San Francisco, I went shopping for guitar pedals at this killer vintage equipment shop and found a Super Fuzz pedal that “allegedly” belonged to Jimmy Hendrix. After plugging that thing up, I just wanted to use it on everything. So, I guess that’s part of what influenced the sound. I’d also been listening to a lot of super-heavy 1960’s R & B Psych / Northern Soul and Garage from bands like Les Fleur Des Les, The Fox, John’s Children, Shadows of the Knight and so on. There’s no way that stuff wasn’t rubbing off on me in a big way.

++ The Get Faded EP was released on CD by Blackbean and Placenta but there’s also a vinyl version released by Dial Records. Never heard about them. Care to tell me a bit about this label?

Sure. ( ) Dial Records was the brain child of our dear friend and mutual DC escapee, Mike Donovan. He started it so that he could self-release his own SF based band, The Del-Velum with Mike Wiley (who took the cover photos for Get Faded,) and Rick from Thee Imaginary Boys. I’m not sure if they released anything after Get Faded, though.

++ “A Boy and his Itch” is one of the first singles I ever bought from eBay, I have some sort of special appreciation to it. And on top it is a terrific song. I have to ask, is this song based in a real story?

I wrote that song about Rex from the Summer Hits. We had a weird, on-again, off-again friendship that culminated in him smoking crack out of a toilet paper tube while I was having my 22 or 23 birthday party dinner. It really bummed me out. “Four Hits to set aside. He’s only in it for the ride.”

++ One of my favourite songs of yours is of course the single “California Sun”, a perfect rush of perfect pop. I guess you got inspired by San Francisco? What’s the story behind the song?

Although “California Sun” was released while we were living in San Francisco, I’d begun writing that while we were still living in DC and trying to get the hell out of there. It was my day-dream that people would be nicer, freer and more relaxed in California than they were in DC. I was just longing for happier times and more of a connection with the earth. “I’ve not been down with anyone, cause there’s no one here I want to know. I’m bored and tired with everyone, so I guess it’s time that I should go.”

++ And talking about inspiration, how did the creative process work  the band?

I think it all unfolded pretty organically. We all lived together in San Francisco, so I’d pick up my guitar and start writing something. Then Doug and Mike would catch wind of it and we’d take it from there. I’d do a lot of writing in my bedroom, we practiced in Doug’s room, and had a recording studio in the garage. It was a self-contained thing – just free flowing.

++ And what would be your favourite Mondo Crescendo song?

Like most of my bands – I’d have to say many of my absolute favorites never made it to vinyl for one reason or another. I guess I’d pick “On The Beach,” which is, I believe, the b-side to “California Sun,” or maybe, “Check it on Out,” (off of the YN&VWI release,) because it’s so cheeky.

++ What about the album “Young, Naked & Very With It”. What does that title mean? 🙂 And how do you think it has aged?

That was a caption out of a 1970’s nudest magazine that Doug found and brought home. We just thought it was the funniest thing ever. I think we ended up using the actual photo that accompanied the quote as the cover art to the “Free/Italia! Italia!” CD single that BBPTC released in advance of the album. It was this hilarious looking dude with a mustache and some long-haired blonde chick, buck-naked, skipping through a field holding balloons. Like, “Yay! Being naked is greeeeeeat! We have balloons!” It was just so preposterous that we had to use it.

As for how the album aged, is it horrible to admit I haven’t listened to it in years? Haha.

++ So what happened? Why did you call it a day?

I don’t really know. There were probably a million reasons. Under a close microscope, I’m sure it was petty- fighting, drugs, whatever — but what I really think? I think that band and that time had run it’s course and it was time for all of us to move on and do something else. Life is an organic thing– it’s got to keep going, doing new things, changing, evolving, devolving, dying off and springing back up in a new way. As people, we all needed to take our own separate paths. I know I did.

++ Looking back in time, what were the best moments of being in The Mondo Crescendo?

The friendships. The fusion of like minds. Traveling with your partners without the confines of society’s rules and boundaries. That and making people dance.

++ And now you are in Philadelphia with the Vexers right? So here’s the most important question:  Jenni, do you have any tips for moving coast to coast? 😉

As I mentioned earlier, the Vexers ran their course as well and ended in 2004ish. I’m in Nashville as of now and next month I’ll be moving again — this time out of the country with no plans to return. I’ve been called a “perpetual transient,” and I’ve got to say, it looks to me like that’s a pretty decent assessment. How do I move? I pick a new place. I make up my mind to go no matter what. I save as much money as I can in whatever time-frame I’ve given myself, and I sell off everything I own that can’t be taken with me. And then I just go.

++ Thanks so much Jenny! Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks, Roque. It’s been a pleasure.


The Mondo Crescendo – On the Beach


I’m on a shoegazy mood today. I’ve been playing the first 12″ single by The Suncharms after lunch. It’s been spinning for an hour today. Mind you, it only has four songs. But I’m not bored or anything by it. I actually enjoy it, puts me on a good mood while playing some computer games on a relaxing summer Sunday. Yes, I stayed indoors this weekend, the weather is way too hot to walk a block and not be bathed in your own sweat. One of those reasons you would never want to live in this swamp called Miami.

The good news is that I’ve got a lot of things done. I got back on track and I’m up to date with almost everything. Just missing to answer some emails, but that won’t be any problem during the week. I finally sent to press the Youngfuck 7″ and I can say the release date will be within the first half of October. When the test pressings arrive I’ll set the release date. There has been many pre-orders and that is quite something as the band decided to split after that beautiful gig at London Popfest earlier this year. Still remember going backstage and convincing all of them to come for pizza. But that’s a story for another day. On other Cloudberry news, Very Truly Yours have just unveiled a video for the single “Girls Tell You Secrets” that we just put out less than a month ago. Please click here and have a look at this precious piece of Super 8 video.

Next weekend there won’t be a Cloudberry update on the blog or an obscure band of the week. I’ll be traveling to Seattle and Vancouver, possibly Victoria too, for the Labour Day weekend. Should be fun. I will try to update during the week. In any case, I’ve been conducting many interviews during the past weeks, so hopefully there will be answers and that will be posted on the blog. Talking about the blog, I know I had mentioned before about making a couple of books containing the posts and interviews. I may pick up that again starting October. It’s just that the past months have been really busy! Also the blog will have it’s on label, the Cloudberry Cake Library. First release is shaping up and hopefully it will be successful enough for more releases. More news on that soon. You’ll be really surprised!

By this time of the day the Let’s Kiss and Make Up festival, their Indie Pop Days, must be over. I feel gutted that I couldn’t attend. Last years was among my favourite weekends ever. I’m sure it was a success. I have all the intention to go next year. I have a dream of working together with them into making a Cloudberry special event for the 5 years of the label. Would anyone be interested in that?

Talking about LKAMU, that might be the reason I’m all shoegazy today. My dear friend Kat, one of the organizers, is one of those that dies for shoegaze. She knows much more about it of course, and she likes the more spacey shoegaze as well. I like the poppy one. I’m a bit jealous of her having the chance to watch Sundae play live. Cristóbal’s band doesn’t play often, even less outside their native Spain. Their sound is not that far away from The Suncharms,  with a Spanish edge if you know what I mean. Like Suncharms mixed with Dar Ful Ful. That would be something. And then the hefeweizen pouring at the Kreuzberg Wasserturm, how would I not like to be there?! And the table football! Wonder if anyone could beat Anders this year. Good times for indiepop!

This week I’ve also got to listen quite a bit of CDs:
1. Jasmine Minks – Poppy White (Oatcake)
2. Tiny Fireflies – Your Love (Little Treasure)
3. The Bicycle Thieves – 1986-1990 (CDR compiled by the band)
4. Northern Picturel Library – Alaska / Love Song for the Dead Che (LTM)
5. Various Artists – All Done with Mirrors (Le Grand Magistery)
6. The Candy Dates – Yep! (Twang)
7. Burning Hearts – Into the Wilderness (Shelflife)

A couple of weeks ago I managed to get a copy of the Suncharms EP 12″ from ebay. Today I ordered the second 12″. I don’t think that would change my mind about this band. I’ve heard the tracks already and they are as good. The information on the band is scarce on the web but there’s one page, that like an oasis, has very valuable information. That is the Birdpoo page.

The band was formed by Marcus Palmer on vocals, Matt Neale and John Malone on guitars, Richard Farnell on bass and Chris Ridley on drums. They hailed from Huddersfield and got their name from a soft drinks factory from their home town that sold Dandelion and Burdock Lemonade in glass bottles. But before settling on that name they released one track on a compilation album called “Rubberoid” under the name “Charming Seed”. The song on this album was “Where’s Your Mind Gone”. Sadly I haven’t had the chance to hear the song or the album. And no results on google.

Not long after they signed with Norwich’s (which is not a barren land at all) Wilde Club Records, home of Catherine Wheel. With them they will release their first 12″, simply named “EP” being catalog number WILDE 6 and then later the “Tranquil Day” EP, also a 12″, catalog number WILDE 8. Both of them are a burst of guitars, layers and layers, and the whispered vocals of Marcus. The sound is addictive, feels big and it swoons, and then it swirls, it’s not dreamy shoegaze, it’s quite aggressive, it has that C86 edge and nerve that I love. “Sparkle” has also that psychedelic vibe, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was played at a club and the dancefloor got on fire. Well, at least in my dreams it would happen. I should try DJing it next time.

The tracks on the first 12″ are: “Sparkle”, “Reflections”, “Time Will Tell” and “One I See”. It was recorded at Epic Head Studies in Sheffield and remixed at Purple Rain Studios in Norfolk. The contact information doesn’t say Huddersfield though, but Broomhall which is a district of Sheffield to the west of the city centre. It occupies the land that once belonged to Broom Hall, a historic mansion still in existence today, which dates from at least the 15th century. Maybe a place to visit next time? Never been to Sheffield.

On the second 12″ we find the songs: “Tranquil Day”, “Wash Away”, She Feels” and “Space Ship”. Don’t have much more information on this record, but when it gets delivered to my house I could do an update. It is worth mention that “Wash Away” also appears on a Wilde Club Records CD compilation called “I Might Walk Home Alone”. Also “Sparkle” from the first 12″ appears on this compilation album. I’ve been looking for this compilation for a while as it includes tracks by Shine! and The Bardots as well. If you have a spare copy, don’t be shy! Send it my way 🙂

In 1992, a big highlight happens in The Suncharms career. They get invited to record a Peel Session. On April 26 of that year they record four songs: “Magic Carpet”, “Into the Sun”, Space Ship” and “On Reflection”. These were produced by Mark Engles. Might be great to hear those songs at some point!

From the Birdpoo page we also learn that they played at the Radio One’s “Sound City” festival in 1993. I believe Pulp and Aphex Twin played this festival. I don’t like these bands but them playing means this festival was quite big. After that they kind of split, not officially though.

Doing some research I found two videos on Youtube. One for Sparkle and another for Space Ship. The Sparkle one seems to be not a proper video but an edition of live clips, whereas Space Ship does look like a proper video. Do check them out! The user who upload them seems to be part of the band as it’s name is “charmingseed”. As you remember that was the first incarnation of  The Suncharms. Sadly he hasn’t been online since 2008.

And that’s about it. No more traces of this great band. Whatever happened to them? Two EPs and no album? Maybe they had more recordings and we don’t know. Would be great to know more about them. If anyone has any more information about them, please let me know.


The Suncharms – Sparkle


Thanks so much to Adam Dennis for the interview! Also I would like to thanks my friend Jessel that got me in touch with him. The Jordans are a great Australian band that have released two albums so far and many songs on compilations all over the world. Adam has also been involved in “ad”, “The Sugargliders”, “Captain Cocoa” and “The Steinbecks”, so you can tell the quality of his songs. So if you haven’t listened some of his fab music, maybe this is a good time to do so!

++ Hi Adam! Thanks so much for being up for the interview. I would like to start by the first song I’ve ever listened by you, “Mystified”. I still play it often and I think there’s something ‘mystifying’ about it actually. I was wondering if you could tell me the story behind this one song?

The lyrics were trying to capture several moods in one song. “Let’s run away” reflects that persistent urge to go somewhere else, experience something new and escape from today’s responsibilities. The song notes that everyone wants to change the world – and we do. Not necessarily for the better, just to suit ourselves. The thing is that the world is huge and troublesome, and it never does what we ask. Towards the end the lyrics ask “when you’re thrown out of the nest do you learn to fly or fall?”; I’m talking here about my own ability to quickly respond to challenges and land on my feet. That’s something I seem to face all the time. Ultimately the song proclaims that I’m mystified about life in general … but I have some values that will see me through. Ultimately it’s a love song, and a promise to do the right thing by someone even though I know I’ll never understand how the world works.

++So how did The Jordans came about? Who were The Jordans? It started as a three-piece band, right?

I actually can’t remember if the three-piece lineup came at the start. There’s every chance that I conceived of The Jordans first, and then later convinced a couple of musician friends to record something with me and play some shows. One of the drivers for presenting music as a band is that the music I write is more than just a guitar and a voice, it’s band music with drums and bass and all. I’m also a team player, and I thought that I’d like to have different lineups from time to time. Also, it’s not as if I’m a handsome guy with nice hair, so I’m probably best suited to presenting myself as part of a group, and make sure the other guys are better-looking!

++ And which “Jordan” did you pay tribute with the name? Not Michael Jordan, right?

Ha, no, paying tribute to a sports star would be a highly unlikely thing for me to do; especially an American one. No, I named the band after Louis Jordan, the great innovator, entertainer, songwriter and performer of the first half of the 20th century. The appeal of his music is enduring, and he could be incredibly funny but also touching. All of that is something to emulate – I believe music has a role in connecting with people and being uplifting, and Louis Jordan epitomised that.

++ Also on your biography it says you weren’t good but played and enjoyed two or three gigs. What do you remember of these gigs?

At the time I felt a great ownership of the music, and my original bandmates – Anton and Andy – were participating to help me out rather than through a deep commitment to the band or the music. They were – and are – good guys, but it wasn’t seriously their thing. Having only a few gigs – and not a lot of rehearsal – to bring it together meant that it felt rough and uncertain. I couldn’t relax into the performance knowing the rest of the music would look after itself. The feel of the band was fun though, and we enjoyed being silly. I remember doing one song – “Soul To Sea” – where I played and sang, and I had Andy play a solo on the recorder. I’m sure that Andy had never played recorder before, so I always ended up with a totally random solo, and everyone in the audience would laugh, as would we. I’ve never been one for playing covers in my own work, but I do recall that we did a Housemartins cover. My voice isn’t as high as Paul Heaton’s, but I muddled through. People responded well but I knew that this wasn’t the time or the lineup to continue with. I let it lapse and moved on.

++ But then you kept this name for your solo stuff. Why did you make that decision? You had already did some stuff just under AD. I remember that elusive 7″ I can never get on eBay for example. Why not use AD again?

I think of The Jordans as a separate entity from me. Even though I do spend a lot of time as a solo Jordan, I see the band’s music as having a flavour that transcends me and is different from other music that I think of as my solo material. Lots of people have called me “a.d.” for years, so it’s just one of my names. One of the reasons I haven’t released more music as “AD” is that when I write my name I don’t use upper-case anymore. It’s always “a.d.” … perhaps this is a conscious effort to tame my ego.

++ You usually recorded on a 4-track. I was wondering what advantages or disadvantages you had by doing so?

Yes, I bought that TASCAM 4-track for $850 back in 1982. I was very attached to it. In the first couple of years I would write songs and record my vocals again and again until they were bearable. Some songs I would do 100 takes on. Those songs never really saw the light of day because back in those days my singing was terrible. But those repeated takes helped me learn about singing, and eventually I could sing without being overly self-critical. As time went on, I started to get better and better results out of the four-track. I would record three tracks and carefully bounce those down onto the fourth track, then record three more. Six tracks can give good results if you’re really careful … and if you’re using a drum machine. I have come to believe that working within limitations encourages good art. There’s a painter in Melbourne who did a series where she confined herself to crimson paint on a black background. Sounds trashy, but she found ways to create beauty and meaning within that constraint. Similarly, limiting songwriting to what could be created on four tracks was a powerful inspiration for me. I listen to “Katydid” now and I’m amazed that those songs were produced from such a limited system – it’s not lo-fi at all.

++ I’m always impressed with Australian bands that tend to sound a bit like the great 80s janglepop from UK. Maybe it was just pure coincidence, but what were your influences?

As a teenager I started with Pink Floyd and Aussie band Skyhooks. The ‘Hooks were a rock band that made great pop music, referencing Australian places and themes. Then, after dabbling with early punk, I moved on to Talking Heads and Midnight Oil. I loved the energy of the Heads on ’77 and More Songs About Buildings and Food. The Oils were something else, however. Their performances just blew me away, they captured something that gripped my soul with its power. Again, they talked about Australian places and culture. Next it was ska – The Specials, The Selecter, Madness. I was in a ska band for a while. Then Captain Cocoa approached me to replace their trumpet player, and I fell under the spell of indiepop. It would be fair to say that the local indiepop kids directly influenced me, so the UK influence was second-hand. I did end up with a good collection of albums from the Sarah catalogue, and I always liked Edwyn Collins, but that came after I found the elements of indiepop that worked for me. So … it wasn’t quite coincidence, but janglepop wasn’t a direct influence on my sound at the time.

++ And how did you love Melbourne? What were your favourite bands back then? Do you think there was nice scene happening in the early nineties there?

I loved Melbourne in the 80’s. I saw lots of bands for all of that decade. Early on, we’d go to the Jump Club and see The Models or Do-Re-Mi. There was such an experimental element around at the time. It was great, but a lot of the time it was a bit intellectual for me. Later I was into ska because the local ska bands were great fun. The energy, that feeling of being compelled to dance, was heady stuff for me. When I fell in with Captain Cocoa and The Sugargliders I was exposed to a bunch of great little bands that often came and went in the space of a few months, and I enjoyed this sometimes-fragile music that was often compellingly confessional. The late 80’s and early 90’s were an especially good time for new bands and new sounds. It felt like it would never end.

++ That first The Jordans release was a tape on the Red Roses For Me fanzine. How did Steve Genge heard from you guys? I heard The Sugargliders had to do with it?

This is taxing my memory a bit. I had a track on a Mind The Gap compilation, I think Steve got in touch after that. I’m sure I have a copy of that tape around here somewhere. I got some studio time with Anton and Andy, thought we would do a high-quality release for RR4Me. Recorded four or five songs, but the mixes were terrible. I swear they were sped-up. Ultimately only one track on the tape was of the band, the rest were my 4-track recordings, as they were much better than the studio-quality tracks. Ironic. Early in the 2K’s Steve Genge got back in touch and asked for a Jordans track to put on a compilation CD he was releasing. It was lovely to renew that connection a decade later.

++ Talking of which, you produced lots of their stuff and well, later you were part of The Steinbecks. I’ll try to stick to The Jordans on this interview, but I wanted to ask how did you enjoy producing The Sugargliders and how did you knew them?

The Sugargliders supported Captain Cocoa at the Punters Club one night. Josh Meadows approached me because he’d heard that I had a 4-track and knew how to use it. Josh was maybe 19, Joel was 16 at the time. They started coming around to my flat, and ultimately we recorded a lovely little tape entitled Crime & Punishment (Jumping Someone Else’s Bandwagon). There were some gorgeous songs on there, some evocative lyrics. This was before Josh played guitar. I really wanted to be a part of what they were doing because I knew these guys would evolve into something interesting. I felt like ‘other’ member of The Sugargliders as I was involved in every recording session but one, and I was their live sound mixer as well. At most gigs I’d mix their set, then get up on stage for the last couple of songs and add trumpet or another guitar and vocals. The scariest but most satisfying night was their final show at The Club (formerly the Jump Club) in 1993, I guess it was. They played material from before the Sarah releases, right up to the last singles they’d put out. All the lineups were there, but of course it was Josh and Joel who were the core, the heart and soul of the band. By the time of that show we’d already started recording the first Steinbecks album. It was far more collegiate. I still listen to that album and hear something special. I wasn’t a member of Steinbecks Mark II, but we’ve stayed in touch and I’ve played trumpet bits on a few of their albums. They’re recording a new album right now – as am I – and Josh and I meet up at the railway station in Melbourne to chat and share work-in-progress songs. We give each other very honest and constructive feedback; it’s a great relationship to have and of course it’s lasted a long, long time now.

++ Anyhow, let me get back on track. Some years later you released your first album, “Katydid”. I believe it was 1997, and the tape was released in 1991. Before asking you about the album, I wanted to ask, what happened with The Jordans during those 6 years? I’m pretty sure you were writing songs!

Through that part of the 90’s I was involved with the Sugargliders then the Steinbecks … and was in a ska/rockabilly band as well. Sometimes I’d be playing or rehearsing four or five nights a week. I was also heavily involved in my day job, too. That left only limited time for The Jordans. But yes, I was writing and recording all that time. In a sense it was a brilliant opportunity to work slowly and really refine my music.

++ So alright, Sonorama Records listens an 8 track demo and decides to release you. Did you send him that demo? And how important was this label for you? Were there any other offers?

Huh, that cassette was called “eight”. Lower-case again! And it wasn’t a demo, it was something I put together as much for my new love (now my wife) as much for Dan at Sonorama. Dan approached me with the idea of putting out a single, and when he got the cassette he couldn’t pick two songs from it. He suggested that if we added a few songs it’d be an album. When he asked how that sounded as an idea, I was so excited. It felt like a new lease of life, a recognition that The Jordans was something far bigger than my spare bedroom. At around the same time Josh and Joel had re-started The Steinbecks with a new lineup, and I welcomed an opportunity that took my focus away from feeling left out of their new work. Sonorama was a mighty little label because Dan was a true enthusiast. He wanted to do the album properly, as did I. I shelled out for serious mixing time to get the best out of my recordings, and Dan reciprocated by paying for a yellow CD case to match the artwork, and a proper booklet inside the case. I liked the whole package of that CD, it was very satisfying.

++ Did you name the album because of the insect called katydid by the way?

The lead song is “katydid”, which is mixes a pun on the Susan Coolidge book “what katy did”, and the name of the insect. When I took the cover shots, I included a cheap plastic cicada-lookalike insect because I didn’t have a clue what an actual katydid looked like.

++ After this album you got Shane Hill to work with you and start recording on a 16 track studio. How did these changes affected your traditional methods and the sound of The Jordans? Was it easy to adapt?

Shane and I go back a long, long way. Shane was the lighting guy for my first band when I was 16. He was cooler than most of the guys in the band. Later we formed our own band, and he was the singer. I remember he and I sneaking into the big music shop in Melbourne with a huge sheet of paper, taking a Stratocaster off the rack and tracing around it. Shane then made an incredible Strat copy out of marine ply – the guitar weighed almost nothing and had a really distinctive sound. After a few years Shane went and played other music and eventually got involved in other things. We stayed in touch, and I asked him to join me in creating the 16-track studio and work on some recordings. That was in 1999, which was also the year I got married. Shane was my best man. The learning curve on the new studio was steep. It shouldn’t have been, it’s not like it was that technical, but it took a lot of work to get good sounds out of it. Probably the biggest difficulty was that our ears and tastes had matured, and we now expected so much more of ourselves. My songwriting had changed too and now reflected some of my earlier influences, especially in the sense of being more in touch with my country and its landscape.

++ Under that new way of working you recorded and released your second album Hallelujah Mine. This was released in 2001. Looking back to your back catalogue that reaches 10 years then. How do you think your songwriting and recording had matured by now?

I had undergone a lot of changes in my life. A long-term relationship had ended, a new one had started. I’d been forced to take a long look at myself, got counselling to help deal with depression, got married. My songwriting became a lot more internal, more about self and feelings than it had previously been. Once we got the studio under control we found that the sounds we captured best were voice and acoustic guitar. I had always been an acoustic player, but recorded and performed with electric. The time that passed between the first and second Jordans albums marked a move to acoustic as my principal instrument, which then flavoured the songs differently. As a result the two albums sound very different at first listen … although some of that difference is also because we used a real drummer instead of a machine!

++ This is when you relocated to the country, right? Where exactly? And what do you prefer, country life or city life?

Yes, we moved to the country at the end of ’99. We’re on five acres in the Strathbogie Ranges, central Victoria. Our house is about 600 metres above sea level, so the air is thinner but the weather is great. Often in winter we’re above the cloudline, which gives us this gorgeous winter sun. I still spend a lot of time in the city, but I couldn’t live there now. Aside from anything else, being in the country means being able to play the drums any time I like!

++ From the stuff you’ve released so far, what would you say was your favourite song of yours and why?

That’s an impossible question for any songwriter to answer, I think. I have different favourites every day of the week. However, there’s a song on Hallelujah Mine called “Love Comes To Ground” that I’ve recorded again on F-35, so I must be fond of it. When I wrote that song I was convinced it was the best thing I’d ever written. I went to the building my wife worked in and waited outside with my guitar case so I could play her the song. The security guard got all aggressive, so that when she emerged she found me in the middle of an argument. We sat down a few doors away and I played her the song. It’s the most excited I’ve ever been about a newly-hatched song. After the album was released though, I found myself performing it solo in a quite different way and I loved that too, so I had to put it on the new album. Another song I’m fond of is one you might not have heard, called “When I Get a Job”. It was recorded in 1997, and when I mixed it I noted that it went for exactly two minutes. A couple of days later Bart Miaow turned up at my door asking if I had a song I wanted to contribute for a Japanese compilation single. He said it should be short because they were going to put four songs on the 7″ … “about two minutes”, he said the song should be. Weird coincidence. It’s an odd little song, very upbeat but with a slightly dark heart to the lyrics. There’s a Shakespeare reference in the lyric that I like, although no-one’s ever commented on it. The compilation was called A Melbourne Holiday, and it came out on translucent blue vinyl from Clover Records. Quite the collector’s item.

++ I see on your site that there are two CDs slated to be released in 2011: “Small Things” and “F-35”. Care to tell me a bit about each of them?

F-35 is a very unusual piece of work for me. Late last year I was frustrated that I’d been busy and unable to finish recording the next Jordans album, “Small Things @ LightSpeed”. I felt a bit stifled and blocked. It struck me that I was coming up to 35 years of owning my acoustic guitar, a Fender F-35 Dreadnought manufactured in 1976. I’ve written so many songs on that guitar, and decided that I’d do a kind of tribute album to it. Even more unusual, I decided to put it out under my own name, so it’ll have “Adam Dennis” on the cover. That feels strange to me, but good. I’ve got to remix two songs and then it’s done. It’ll be a fairly limited release I think, probably 200 physical CDs, although I hope it’ll be available for purchase on iTunes. It’s about a month from release. When I started it I decided to limit my options, so there’s only three mics on the drums, only one on the acoustic. It’s as plain as I could stand it to be, and I purposely tried to leave mistakes intact. At the same time, I know I have to live with it forever, so I want it to sound as good as I can … it’s quite a challenge to meet both those requirements, but I’m nearly there. The vocal performances are pretty good, and I’m pleased to say that I played every note myself. Shane came up and did some engineering at a critical point in the process, which was a bit of a circuit-breaker and helped me clarify what I was trying to do. I’m looking forward to finishing the album and getting it out the door.

“Small Things @ LightSpeed” is the next Jordans album, although the name on the cover will be The Jordans Play. The name change is to help me keep some visibility on the Internet. When you google The Jordans, you get a lot of references to a popular sports show, then to a Formula One team, and finally you find links to me. I figure that the new name will have fewer competitors in the search space. The album, meanwhile, sounds very different to F-35. It also sounds very different to the previous Jordans albums. Like Hallelujah Mine, it’s taken a tremendously long time to record. I put the drum tracks down in early 2009. I have this sneaking suspicion that I’ll find I can’t stand the playing on a couple of songs and have to redo them from scratch … but I still want to see the project completed this year. My solo album has a personal and family focus to it, but the Jordans album tends to look much further afield. There’s even a song about the world ending, with all of us flying to Venus. Hmm, that sounds a lot stranger than it really is.

++ Going a bit back in time, I know you from the Airpop compilations on Apricot Records. I just read and found funny that some people thought you were Swedish. How did this confusion came about? Was that the strangest thing that has happened to you as The Jordans?

The Apricot boys were lovely, asking me to be involved in two Airpop compilations. I’m not convinced we were a good match at all, but it was nice to be there. I think the Swedish thing came around because Airpop was a German thing, and no-one expected that an Australian band might be involved. Also I think I enunciate my lyrics fairly clearly, which a lot of Swedish popsters also seem to do. The strangest thing to happen to me in the Jordans context was when I did a phone interview with a street mag, and when my wife got hold of a copy she was saying “what the hell were you talking about?” I read the article, and in response to the question “how long do you think you guys will continue to work together?”, I was quoted as saying “we’ll be together until chickens fall from the sky!” It’s a great quote, but I didn’t say it. It still makes me laugh.

++ Let’s wrap it here. I was just told by Bart from The Cat’s Miaow that the best food originally from Australia are Tim-Tams. Do you agree? Or would you recommend me something else?

A: Bart is correct, however Tim-Tams have now extended their range to include lots of variations. I especially love dark chocolate ones with a caramel centre. When The Steinbecks were recording their first album, we’d be in the studio late at night drinking coffee and eating Tim-Tams. The standard challenge is to bite off the diagonally opposite corners of the biscuit, then dip one corner into the coffee and suck on the other corner, using the biscuit as a straw. You have to do this fast because the coffee dissolves the biscuit into a soggy mess in your hand, so you have to suck hard then shove the Tim-Tam into your mouth as soon as you taste coffee. When you get it right, it’s great. But when you get the timing wrong it’s a disaster. A bit like being in a band, really.

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

Just keep your eye on http://adamdennis.info and http://thejordans.com.au for news of my forthcoming releases. I really want people to hear this material … I guess that’s all a songwriter really wants, isn’t it?

Thanks to you for a well-researched interview. It’s always a pleasure to talk to someone who really thinks about their work.


The Jordans – Mystified


This interview dates March 27th, 2007. I just found it after looking through my email archive from those days and thought it might be of interest to publish it again as the first time it was published it was all translated in Spanish for my old blog Mira El Péndulo. Now that I read it, I feel my questions are quite generic and not that ingenious, but thankfully Fabien’s answers are great, so you can enjoy that. Anorak Records is still going and not so long ago they released a compilation by the great Nixon. So check it out here. Also you can read a more recent interview with Fabien about his band Caramel here.

++ How does Anorak Records comes to life? What were the main motivations to start the label?

Anorak Records was born in 1992. I can’t remember the month, even not the day, but I created the label this year of 1992 for sure. In fact, I had the project in my mind since a long time ago. But, I didn’t know how to do it at this time. As you know, at this time, there were a lot of indie pop labels : Sarah Records, Bus Stop, Summershine, Heaven, Marsh Marigold, Harriet, Blam a Bit, Sunday, Siesta, Elefant (the list is infinite…)… And since 1986, it was a kind of rebirth for the indie pop scene even if it didn’t really stop. In the beginning of the 90’s, there were a lot of people very active in France. There were those amazing fanzines (Happy, Bonjour Chez Vous n°6, Fairy Tales, Chimères – the best one, and the best fanzine I’ve ever read, it was done by a friend of mine named Frédéric Schneider -, Soda for Girls, Guiding Stars, Salade de Fruits, Heaven is Blue, and many many more). There were also a lot of indie pop labels and mail orders created by indie pop fans. So, I wanted to contribute too the best as I could to this. Since 1986, I’d been doing some fanzines or contributed to other zines and I thought that I should create my own label. Sarah Records (and just before Sha-la-la also ran by Matt and Clare) were the “activators” for me. Reading their messages in all those magnificent records made me think it was possible to start a label even if we don’t have money. This was determining. The processes was also political. A lot of bands didn’t have the chance to make records because they didn’t suit to the commercial criterion. Sarah Records proved that we can make records in an honest way, sell them at a low price and promote bands without being involved and compromised with the record industry. Because the record industry only make profits and business at the bands expense. We wanted to destroy this system, stay independent, make records only for the bands and promote them honestly. A kind of socialist system, in fact. I had no faith in the music industry, and I still don’t have. I still believe there’s something to do for all those bands. And that were my first motivations. 15 years later, I still believe in it. I’m right, am I not ???

++ Tell us a bit about all of your releases? What can we expect in the near future?
The first release of Anorak Records was a compilation tape. It was out in the middle of 1992. A lot of bands (27) contributed to it. There were french bands (Meek, Katerine, The Daffodils, Les Chaplinn’s, Monsieur de Foursaings, The Through Comers…), British bands (The Almanacs, Bouquet, The Music Seen, White Town, The Gravy Train, The Sedgwicks, Confetti, The Fat Tulips, Antiseptic Beauty, Saint Christopher, The Lovelies, The Kensingtons…), japanese bands (The Penelopes, Budgie Jacket) and an American band (Our American Cousins). It was a “big success”. All the copies (500) were sold in less than six months. Then, I released another tape. It was from the great Japanese band Budgie Jacket. After that, was out the first 7″ from the english band The Almanacs. The second 7″ was from the french band Meek. Then, in 1994, I had no more money as I loose my job. I was unemployed for a few years so I didn’t have any money to release anything. So Anorak Records was put in a “sleep” for a few years. It was very hard for me as I wanted to release many bands (especially two great french band named Autumn Sky and Doggy…). A Vicarage Garden (the great Heaven Records’ band) 7″ was also planned but I couldn’t release it. Fortunately, some friends of mine from the french label Cavalcade finally putted out. Anyway, Anorak Records was dying but, in the beginning of the 2000 years, my friend Guillaume (from Doggy) who was also playing guitar with me in Caramel, asked me if he could release a CD through Anorak Records and rebirth the label. I sad “Yes !”. And he’s now the “boss”. And I try to help him the best as I can. So, he released the Doggy CD, a CD compilation named “Handmade” with six indie pop bands from our town Limoges. Just before last Christmas, we released a CD from the wonderful Norwegian solo project from Ragnhild : Soda Fountain Rag. In the beginning of this year, there was the CD from the American band named En Français. This month, there will be the CD from Snow Coloured Kid. This is the band from a popkid from Finland named Anssi. We’re very excited about it cos’ it’s really fantastic. And there will be also out very soon a CD from an English band named The French Defence. It’s wonderful. It could be a sort of meeting between Belle and Sebastian and Trembling Blue Stars. After that, we don’t know what the future will be for Anorak Records.

++ What do you think about the indiepop scene in France? Any bands you will like to recommend us?

At the moment, there’s not a so called indie pop scene in France. Almost nothing is happening here. It seems that here no one cares for indie pop. There are only a few people still playing this kind of music and “fighting for the cause”. Anyway, I can recommend the bands from my town Limoges : Doggy, Skittle Alley, Dead TV Star, Pornboy, Start !, Colossal Youth, and a few other bands : Tender Forever, Fandor, Watoo Watoo (all from Bordeaux), Aujourd’hui Madame (from Paris), Anne Bacheley (from Poitiers), most of the bands from the fabulous french label Herzfeld (Buggy – they’re fantastic -, Original Folks, Loyola…) and Electrophönvintage. Oh, there’s also the great label Plastic Pancake. And I can also recommend older french bands frome the 90’s like Des Garçons Ordinaires, les Poissons Solubles, les Mistons, Stephen’s Library, The Non Stop Kazoo Organisation or Les Mollies.

++ We all know that you write also the Anorak City fanzine which I have had the great chance to read (I really recommend it if you understand French!) and I also know that you are writing the third number now, what can we expect on it?

The third number from Anorak City will be out next week !!! There will be interviews from Tullycraft, Trembling Blue Stars, Peace in Our Time, Colossal Youth, Jyrki from the label Music is my Girlfriend, En Français, Soda Fountain Rag and articles about They Go Boom!! and Strawberry Story. It’ll be sold with a CD from Peace in Our Time and Colossal Youth.

++  Years ago you were on one of France’s prime indiepop bands, Caramel, who released amazing stuff on Marsh-Marigold. What are your best memories of that time? Why did Caramel broke up? And what bands did you admire at that time that influenced your sound? 🙂

Caramel was great fun. We had the chance to release records through Marsh-Marigold but also through Harriet Records and Aquavynile. The best memories ? There are so many. I can remember all those great moments we spend all together. Because, we were before of all only friends playing together. The first best memories are the concerts : the Marsh Marigold Christmas parties with all those great bands (Red Letter Day, Seashells, Die Fünf Freunde, Red Sleeping Beauty, Acid House Kings…), the Marsh-Marigold tour in France and Belgium (with Red Letter Day, Acid House Kings, Bruno Ferrari Duo and us), some “chaotic and punk”, but very funny, gigs here in France. Then, I can remember all the great people I had met at this time. Finally, I can remember the recordings from our records. Especially the last ones. Mike Innes, from They Go Boom!!, produced our last CD. He played with us on this record and then played with us on stage when we did our last concert in Hamburg, Germany. Why did the band broke up ? I think if you ask to any member from Caramel, no one will answer the same thing but here’s my answer. Denis, Isabelle and Stéphane had to move from Limoges for their jobs. Denis is now living in Sheffield in England, Stéphane is now in Toulouse in France, and Isabelle is now in Paris. Only Guillaume and me are still in Limoges. So it was difficult to exist as a band. But most of us still continued to play music. Denis played in many bands (Suzy Pepper, Megarider…). Guillaume has his solo project Doggy. And just after the end of Caramel, Guillaume and me played in a band named Corner Kick.
The bands that influenced us ? Oh, I’ll speak for myself first. My favorite band ever is The Sugargliders. They’re so perfect. ALL of their songs are amazing. And also the way they managed their “career” as a band. Doing ten 7″s and then broke up the band. That’s the Sarah spirit. Then, I should say that the bands who did influenced Caramel were bands like Talulah Gosh, Fat Tulips, Strawberry Story, The Housemartins, The Undertones, The Pastels, BMX Bandits, They Go Boom!!, The Cudgels, The Brilliant Corners, Mac Carthy… and many many more…

++ Do you have any plans to start a new band nowadays?

Since two years, I play in a band named Start !. We are five people in it. There’s Bertrand (singer) who also plays with Colossal Youth, Stéphane (guitar and singer) who also plays as Skittle Alley, Emilie (singer), Olivier (drums) and me (guitar and keyboards).

++ What do you think about this generation of indiepopsters, how different are them from the one you had the chance to live, which was, in my honest opinion, much more active and fun, do you agree?

Oh, difficult question. The indieposters are really cool now. And they’re not so different. They’re only less than before. Only the times they’re a changing. We (Anorak Records and Anorak City) receive many enthusiastic messages from people all over the world. But the past is the past and today is today. Everything is going so fast nowadays. Telling this makes me feel (and your question too ;-)) I’m like a dinosaur, but I try to adapt. In the end of the 80’s or the beginning of the 90’s, there was no internet (and it has changed our lifes). So, all the communication between indie pop fans was based on postal letters. We wrote altogether letters and the time was spending a bit slower. When we wrote to someone else we had to wait that he received the letter and then wrote back. Now, it’s going faster and I think sometimes, we loose ourselves because our brains can’t receive properly all the information. Anyway, I think you’re true, people were more active and fun. We just wanted to spare times altogether and have big fun. And we didn’t forget why we do it.

++ What will be for you the perfect indiepop community? What should change and what should stay the same? I’m quite disgusted I must say, I dont see that old craving for buying records, physical stuff. I don’t understand that idea of buying MP3, it just makes me cry!

Please don’t cry !!! (as the Sea Urchins said and sing). Oh, that’s a very difficult question too. I don’t think indiepop community could be perfect as nobody’s perfect. And this community (if it still exists) couldn’t be perfect. Anyway, I could dream of more mutual aid. But the past (as it was in 1986 or during the “Sarah years”, even if it wasn’t as perfect as we can dream – I know you dream of it – of) can’t be the same again. Anyway, I will like that people write again more fanzines (they’re very important according to me), create their own label (that’s so easy), and probably the most important that there will be more people to promote and sell the records from the labels. I mean there are great labels (especially the people from Music is My Girlfriend in Sweden or you with Plastilina and Cloudberry ;-)) but there are not so many people that believe in them and want to distribute them. In the end of the 80’s there was the Cartel that managed to distribute indie pop labels and spread all the indie pop music all over the world. They managed too to stay independent from the musical industry. If we’re enough clever, we should work altogether and stop doing things all by ourselves. That’s the only way. But it’s very hard. We have to think what can we do to still make people want to buy records and don’t buy MP3. It must be a real and complete artistic processes that includes anti-capitalism and anti-fascism. But, as you know, in the 90’s we fought for the “vinyl” and “7”” cause. Now, nobody cares about the vinyl. We may also try to adapt to the new technologies. What do you think about it too ?

++ Again, I’m so grateful to know you, somebody that really keeps indiepop alive by putting time and effort on it, I hope you never grow tired of this! And also you have a perfect pop taste. But I’m quite curious, what are your other hobbies? What does Fabien Garcia does when he is not doing anything related to indiepop?!

Thanks for your kind comments. And don’t be afraid, I will ALWAYS fight for the cause. So, it takes a good part of my life. To satisfy your curiosity, I’ll say that my first hobby is to spend time with my girlfriend (which is the best person I know). I also love to spend time with my friends, drink beers and wine, play with cats, travel when I’ve got the money to, watch films, read books, doing historic researches (I love History), militate for politics or my trade union, and work as a journalist (that’s my job). And that’s my simple life.

++ Would you like to add anything to the Spanish-speaking indiepopsters that read Mira el Pendulo? 🙂

Hola, que tal ?!


Start -Words You’ve Never Heard


Thanks again to Johnny Wood for another interview, this time about his first band, the fantastic Episode Four. With this band he released one 12″ EP that included the classic “Strike Up Matches”. This record is one of those holy grails in indiepop as not many copies survived a flood in their storage facility. You can read here my previous interview with him about East Village. Enjoy!

++ Hi again Johnny! How are things going? How are the English classes? Have you actually learned some Chinese? 🙂

Hi … things are going well. yes i’m learning Chinese. It’s hard but I keep persevering. Actually enjoying it a lot. I have a great teacher who pushes me hard but thats ‘cos she knows I really want to learn it. And not just conversation. I’m learning to read and write the characters too.

++ Thanks again for being up for another interview. You know that Episode Four 12″ is like one of the holy grails for many indiepop collectors. What happened? I read the storage place Percival’s Belsize Park HQ was flooded and everything was damaged and lost?

Yeah a burst pipe I think.

++ Realistically, how many copies would you say were saved? This must have been a really tough moment for you guys. You were self-releasing it, right? Under Lenin And McCarthy Records?

That’s right, we had put a lot into it and then that went and happened. Almost a total disaster but fortunately some were rescued in time. How many? Couldn’t say really, they just got put anywhere out of harms way. Not many.

++ Why the name of the label by the way? Who made the logo? I think it’s great!

Yeah we always had good logos, ha ha. The name was a pun on Lennon/McCartney but also a kind of statement on the times. The early – mid eighties in the UK was still divided politically. Socialism as represented by the unions v’s capitalism represented by Thatcher’s government.

++ The part I never understood was, according to the Leamington Spa booklet, why Percival had you on a legal wrangling? What rights did he have?

That was just him wanting to keep a hold of us when we wanted away. Maybe he made it out to be more than it was. I don’t remember ever being worried by it. But I think he had this grand scheme of being a pop svengali, like Mickey Most or something, ha ha. He had us and another band called Thee Hypnotics. He saw us as being The Beatles and them The Rolling Stones. Trouble was we saw us as being Episode 4 and they saw them as being Thee Hypnotics. It wasn’t gonna work.

++ Let’s go to your beginnings, you were formed in 1983 as a garage band playing mostly covers. How do you remember those days? And what were your favourite covers you made?

I remember them as great times. So exciting for me, even though we were really small time. But the times we spent playing each other our first efforts at songs, listening to records, hanging out were wonderful really. We played stuff like 96 Tears, simple riffs. I think we did Since I Lost My Baby by The Action too. A truly fantastic record and still one of my all time faves. We probably murdered it, but murdered it in a good way. Ha ha …

++ What inspired you to be in a band? Did you have any big heroes in music?

Well, since I first read stuff about The Beatles I wanted to be in a band, but never thought I would be until Episode 4, although I did try. I just plugged away on my own listening to Simon & Garfunkel records. Then Aztec Camera’s first album blew me away. I listened to that every night and day for weeks and weeks, from the moment I woke up ’til the moment I fell asleep. I still love it.

++ And why did you named the band Episode Four?

I have no idea. It was already a band before I hooked up with them and the strange thing was, I never asked about the name. It was just Episode 4 and it was alright with me.

++ You gigged quite a bit from what I can tell. Which were your favourite gigs? Did you get to gig outside London?

Yes, we lived outside London so most of the gigs were around or in our hometown, High Wycombe. And yes, we did gig a lot. The Nags Head in Wycombe was always good. It was a quite a famous venue, on the circuit since way back in the 50’s. A lot of famous acts played there .. The Who, The Jam, Sex Pistols, blues artists. Not bad for a pub. Apart from there, there were quite a few. The Mean Fiddler in London. Lincoln, a small town a 100 miles or so away always welcomed us. But my fondest memory has got to be the Pink and Lily, where we used to rehearse. It was a small country pub, way out in the sticks, with an annex room that we played in. Someone in the pub had heard our efforts and used to lend me his guitar, which was a beautiful Gibson 335 (I think), cherry red color. A guy called Johnny. So kind of him. That kind of thing inspires you. You know, I didn’t even know him. Maybe he thought we had something and could see that to play a really good instrument like that would spur me on. Anyway, we did a gig, one of our first, in the garden of the pub. It was a lovely balmy English summer’s evening, and we made a makeshift stage around the base of a big cedar tree and played to all our mates who’d come from the town to see us.

++ Who were the bands at that time that you enjoyed the most to go see, or even play with, share the bill?

There was a venue called Friars in a neighbouring town that had some big names on. Echo & the Bunnymen were one. Aztec Camera of course. I went to a lot of their gigs. Thee Hypnotics were mates and we saw them a lot. Really exciting live band. We did a great gig with them once at a party at Spence’s house. Two bands set up in the living room! Us one end and them the other. Can’t remember who played first set … we must have tossed a coin …

++ So you met this Percival guy and offers you to release a record, that’s how the story goes, right? How did you meet him?

I have no recollection. It must have been after seeing us play. He must have come up to us and promised us the world, ha ha.

++ This record was recorded for £78 on a single day. That seems very little, but at the same time you got a very good sound. How did you manage?

You have to remember things were a lot cheaper then, but even so we thought it was a ridiculous amount, like something out of The Rutles. Maybe Maurice had done a deal with the studio .. you know, get a slice of the profits for a cheap day in the studio, ha ha. As for the sound, we kind of wrote the songs in a way that dictated what the sound would be like – to a certain extent. We were doing it ourselves. But we also relied on the engineers to help us. And a friend – George – had had some studio experience and played piano. I think we probably name-checked a few records or bands we were into to get their minds on the same lines as ours.

++ On it you included one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, honestly, “Strike Up Matches”. What was the story behind it?

Thank you … well by this time we’d been together a couple of years and had found Spence. With him things fell into place quickly. Our songs were getting better and better, we were writing stuff we knew each other would relate to. Being in a band, you get to know each other pretty well on some levels. It was political times in the UK … the miners, the unions, Thatcher. Strikes, marches, riots. It was my way of commenting. And when I played it to the others they got it straight away.

++ Oh! And why did Strike Up Matches appears as the B side of the record? The name is on the cover you know, it’s just a bit odd 🙂

Is It? Maybe we just thought all the songs deserved to be heard, so put it on the ‘B’ side. We were like that.

++ It also included three other fantastic songs. Which makes me wonder, were there any other more songs recorded by Episode Four, even if it was on demo format?

Oh yes .. we did a lot of demos, even if the songs never went anywhere. We were always interested in recording. Our great common ambition was to make an LP.
But we probably re-used the master tapes each time we used a studio.

++ What was your favourite song?

It’s got to be Strike Up Matches. Not long ago, Excellent Records director Kei gave me a tape of a Japanese band doing a version of it. Amazing. Someone covered my song … wowed.

++ I was just looking at the artwork on the Discogs page, wishing I had a copy myself haha, and I was thinking that the sleeve on it’s dark blue shade, and the guitar, it’s just so classy and elegant, just like your music. How important were your aesthetics for you guys? And I’m not only talking about artwork, I’m asking even about haircuts, because I’ve seen you had some cool ones!

I don’t think we ever discussed it. It was just the way were. We were into bands that had haircuts, so we did too. It was just a normal thing. And it was easy for me, with my curly mop – jusy wake up in the morning and hey presto! never had to worry about it, ha ha. As for the other stuff, yeah the guitars, the amps, the artwork … very important from day one.

++ So when exactly did you decide it was the moment to say let’s start anew, let’s change our name?

We’d become involved with Jeff and were hanging out more and more in London. We’d developed a lot, improved a lot, were realising that people were a little impressed. It just felt like we were taking a step forward … so a new name that maybe had a stronger significance that people might relate to ..

++ And these days, whenever one of the copies shows up on eBay and sells for 225 quid and the other for 400 quid. How do you feel about it? Do you still have a copy of your own by the way?

Yeah of course I do … a part of my life. I’d never sell the ones I have. when I see those prices I wish I had a few more.

++ One last question. As you are living in China, and having a close look, do you think they will dominate the world economically and culturally soon? I kind of look forward to it, meaning less McDonalds and more dim sum 😀

Well they got McD and KFC over here too … certainly they’ll be the wealthiest nation in a few years. Maybe the majority of people won’t be. I’m not so sure they want to dominate the world. At least not in the way western people are concerned about. Perhaps they will exert a lot of political clout, well almost certainly they will actually. Perhaps morally too. But it’s still a developing country .. there’s a lot for them to do and worry inside their own borders. Financially, the powers that be seem to be pretty smart. It’s an interesting time to be here.

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

Just like to say thanks for your questions … and keep up the good work with Cloudberry!


Episode Four – Strike Up Matches


Thanks again to Mark Mortimer for being up for yet another interview. You can read the interviews about his previous bands Great Express and Space Seeds as well on the blog, and also the write up I did about Bash Out the Odd some time ago. Enjoy!

++ Hi again Mark! From what I have read, there was interest for your band from the same company that managed The Primitives and Birdland, that they even went to see you play live in Tamworth. What happened? Why didn’t they sign you?

Lazy Records!

I had quite a bit of contact with them and they were really in to what we were doing, loved the recordings we were knocking out and were showing some genuine interest – I may be wrong but I think they came to see us in London and in Tamworth and they loved that we had this indie-psychedelic-Walker Brothers vibe going on with the dual lead vocals thing.

We were enamored with both the Primitives, who came from Coventry not far from Tamworth, and Birdland and so Lazy seemed a perfect home-to-be for BOTO but it never came about.

Despite this mutual two-way respect (we were into the Primitives and Birdland of course), I don’t think they ever quite fully believed that we could make the leap from where we were to where we wanted to be & in retrospect the label was probably right….but there was some proper talk between us.

++ So yeah, when I was researching about your band I noticed there were three different versions or lineups of the band. Why was that? Why was it hard to keep the same people in the band?

I don’t think the band was any different to many groups really: there are always lots of conflicting emotions & pressures which come together…..getting the right chemistry isn’t easy and often there are are great groups around who may be miss out on being recognized or successful because of a missing 20%.

What I mean is if there is a five piece group and four of the members are right and one is wrong then that bad chemistry fifth is more than enough to stop you in your tracks and tip over your apple cart.

Getting the right line up at the right time and enjoying a little bit of luck together with a lot of hard work isn’t easy as you will know.

As regards BOTO the line up changes were always the result of one person or another not quite fitting in….in one instance we had our own five minutes of “rock & roll” violence….on the way back from playing the Bull & Gate in Kentish Town (London) our guitarist at the time Pete Woodward attacked our keyboard player John Bates on the bus which wasn’t really conducive to a harmonious vibe!!!

Most of the time it wasn’t a left hook that led to line up changes, more usually it was because someone didn’t quite have the right commitment to the cause or their girlfriend didn’t like him being away etc.

++ Also I read that you recorded videos for three songs by Bash Out the Odd. Where are those?!

Not quite true.

We filmed a very amateur promo video to try and push the band to labels in Solihull near Birmingham . It was for the tune ‘Love Walks Away’ from our first demo recordings and it was filmed free of charge for us by local college students who used us as video guinea pigs I guess.

This would have been at the time where we had lost a guitar player through one of the line up changes (I am guessing it was when Julian vanished).

You can tell because singer Mark (DeHavilland) Brindley is miming the guitar parts in the video and although he did play rhythm guitar on some songs there is no other guitarist in evidence.

During the first minute of filming the video I snapped my bass string and hadn’t got a replacement with me so you can see me laughing through most of the clip.

It was shot in a theatre in some college in Solihull on a stage and my mate Paul ‘Clem’ Clements from Manchester provided some gentle psychedelic lighting and smoke and bubbles….

The video isn’t currently anywhere online but I may put it up one day on my record label’s You Tube channel, DCTone so you never know….

++ Alright, now to the most important question, where does the name comes from?

I really despised the name with a passion and it almost led to the band halting before it started!

Not just saying this but it really wasn’t my idea at all – if I remember rightly it was Julian (Amos) our first guitarist & backing singer, who had been in the Great Express with me, who came up with the name.

It was just a collection of words. I remember someone complaining to us that it had a kind of homophobic edge to it which genuinely had never crossed my mind but that only served to piss me off even more!!

I thought it was a shocking name and I was totally embarrassed about it if honest but I was out-voted. Democracy!! Bah!

++ So Bash Out the Odd was formed immediately after Space Seeds. How different were these two bands?

Not too different at first, BOTO (as I prefer to think of us!), was the Space Seeds really.

With Martin Kelly quitting the Space Seeds, we brought in Julian on lead guitar and he shared vocals with DeHavilland and otherwise the horn section was still there though sax player Pete Clark left and we replaced him with bass trombone player Bryan Hurdley.

The only other big change was that my close friend Rob Cross quit as he moved to Liverpool to go to university- he later went on to become part of the group Mr. Ray’s Wig World (who I loved) and when my current group DC Fontana were recording in Liverpool I did hang out with him.

In fact Rob has recently done a remix of some DC Fontana stuff called ‘Sighed DC’ which will get a release somewhere soon!

But with Rob and Martin gone and Julian plus Bryan coming in that was the line up difference.

I have a gig recording from one of the very first BOTO gigs at a small pub called the Greyhound in Burntwood (not far from Tamworth) in September 1989 and it’s very close to the Space Seeds, though perhaps slightly more powerful.

At first there was very little musical difference between both groups…we still had the joint lead vocals thing going on (a sort of indie Walker Brothers), horns, catchy poppy tunes etc.

The change with the brass was interesting though as it meant we had no reeds (no saxes) which is very unusual for a section.

Therefore they had a more classical sound – it was a really interesting line up as far as a brass section goes – two trumpets and a bass trombone and no saxophones- but I loved it: more “Penny Lane” than Stax soul if you know what I mean.

Alan Hodgetts, who owned a rehearsal room in Tamworth, was still the keyboards player but he didn’t fit in chemically, eventually he left and DeHavilland’s long-standing best friend John Bates joined and brought with him samplers and the like. John had played on the Space Seeds’ recordings of ‘Switchblade Love’ & ‘Saturn In Her Eyes.’

++ The second lineup of Bash Out the Odd starts when Julian Amos leaves the band to become a private detective! That’s quite a story. Care to tell me what happened?

Sure….one Monday night I drove to his house to pick him up to drive over to Birmingham to rehearse but his dad came to the door and said he had moved to live in a different part of the country to become a private detective and seemed genuinely shocked that we weren’t aware.

He said: “didn’t he tell you?” and I said “errrrr no!” and that was that.

Julian hadn’t even bothered to let us know that he was quitting or moving which was a bit bizarre…

We advertised to replace him and a guy from Solihull called Pete Woodward came on board.

++ It’s also from this same period the song “Laughing House” which I think might be my favourite among the ones I’ve listened. What’s the story behind this song?

“Laughing House” started out just as a potential song title, just two words but ushered in a new, dirtier, rawer era for us.

I came up with the simple music – most of the song is three chords – and the lyrics were written by Mark (DeHavilland) afterwards.

It was the start of us becoming harder edged and more psychotic playing wise and the pace was fairly frenetic and it mirrored the energy of Birdland, who I mentioned earlier, were with Lazy.

Birdland’s Vincent brothers hailed from Kingsbury which is a small village on the outskirts of Tamworth, famous only for being the destination of a huge oil terminal (which I remember my teachers at school telling me meant that the Russians had a nuclear missile pointed in our direction during the Cold War) and, ironically, a nature park.

There was a period in BOTO when we were without a permanent drummer sadly and Mark’s uncle played drums with us for a short period. He had been in bands during the late 60s and early 70s and was rusty as he hadn’t played for a long time so it meant that live we were not very tight for that period.

I can remember the Vincent brothers coming to see BOTO play live in Lichfield, a tiny city close to our home town of Tamworth, and I was a bit embarrassed that they saw us duing this period when musically we were a bit rough round the edges.

Birdland had that spikey New York sound of course and I also loved a lot of the same stuff they were into, especially Television, and I had been seeking to make BOTO pacier, edgier and more cataclysmic sounding.

I wanted there to be more crash! bang! wallop! to counteract the classical edge of the no-sax brass and ‘Laughing House’ was the first foray into this bleached-out, fucked up territory which we explored with a fervour.

With a lot of my influences being 60s-orientated I was injecting a lot of 60s punk and garage vibes into the BOTO group and this really kicked in here.

Also, I simply loved the raw, ballsy vibe of Birdland and there’s no doubt that their first EP ‘Hollow Heart’ had a profound influence on the ‘Laughing House’ era BOTO.

When it came to recording ‘Laughing House’ and another tune of mine, ‘September Honey,’ I preferred to use programmed drums than Mark’s uncle so I could make it more in your face, tighter, harsher and more extreme.

The main section of both tunes were recorded with Paul Speare at the Expresso Bongo Studios in Tamworth but we had to finish both songs off at a different studio in Birmingham due to the Bongo being booked.

This meant that some of the vocals and horns were recorded at a different place and at a different time and then we added some extra baritone sax from Paul during the mix session back at the Bongo later.

It’s quite high octane stuff and though it’s a shame that the drums are programmed I still enjoy the energy and zest of the recordings – it had the oomph and edge which our previous demo had lacked.

Mark’s “La-la-la-la Laughing House” melody was perfect for what I had in mind and his obscure lyrical direction also seemed perfectly off kilter for what was a pounding tune.

++ You seem to have recorded quite a bit of songs with this band Mark. Which would you say are your favourite songs and why?

Tough one to answer as I do like most of what we recorded.

“Laughing House” had the energy and edge we sought and “Love Walks Away” from our first demo session was catchy and very personal to me lyrically during my bleak times living in a damp rat-infested bedsit in Upper Gungate, Tamworth so maybe those two?

There was quite a bit of angst among the words of “Love Walks Away” and it was the natural successor to the Space Seeds’ “Switchblade Love” which was a song that BOTO continued to play live of course.

The first demo we recorded produced four tunes, three of which I wrote and one from Julian:

“Love Walks Away” was an up-tempo brass driven stomper with guitar drones and very poppy vocals and was one of the most popular songs we played live.

“Heavenly Angel” was our indie Walker Brothers moment with sampled strings (we couldn’t afford the real thing) and mariachi trumpets in the style of Love’s “Alone Again Or” and a really poppy chorus: “Heavenly Angel, I’m flying into grace again!”

It was really hard to replicate live but gained us lots of interest actually and is a pretty song which was the first of mine which displayed a big Scott Walker and Arthur Lee influence, something I have since developed with DC Fontana.

We also recorded “Mother Sea” which had more Love influences and we did a live in the studio version of Julian’s paean to the Volkswagen Beetle car, “Bug” which included us recording DeHavilland’s own Beetle revving up outside the Expresso Bongo studio!

On the second demo we recorded “Laughing House” & another of my songs called “September Honey” which started off with moody keyboards and sampled Indian instruments and then turned into this crazy million miles an hour garage stomper.

It had a lot of Julian Cope’s two-car garage band feel and a heavy-rockin’ double kick drum pattern towards the end of the song which, for silliness we then turned into a quadruple kick drum pattern as it fades with Mark screaming “Night! Night! Night! Night! Goodnight!” like a demented maniac.

I loved it when Mark turned into this screaming leather jacket clad demon.

He also added the immortal screamed line “I’m gonna wear a black, green, pink, blue, red shirt!” to the start of the final verse which always tickles me and it’s a song that I still love to bits.

As well as the above songs we had loads of material, enough for an album. Other tunes we had included “The Rain Garden”, “The Hanging Man”, “Don’t Expect Anything From Me”, “Silent Head (Part 2)”, “Climbing Pain Palm” and “Miles High” plus we also played “Switchblade Love” & “Saturn In Her Eyes” from the Space Seeds days and also “(You Could) Change My World” from the Great Express.

++ What about gigs? I read the gigs in Kentish Town and Fulham were something. Which were your favourites and why?

We were a pretty busy gigging band and played all over England really.

The gigs in London were fun and we seemed to pick up quite a bit of interest and also it was always great being down there as it meant I could see some of my best mates like Donald Skinner as they lived down there.

I always enjoyed traveling to gigs and whereas most people hated the journeys, I loved all that side of it: for me it was part of a big adventure so when we played in London or perhaps up in north England in Scarborough I found those memorable.

++ And there was even a tape sold with recordings from that Fulham gig, do you remember how did that came about?

If I remember rightly someone recorded the gig at the back of the room inside the Greyhound at Fulham, which was a popular London venue back in the day, particularly in the mid & late 70s during the punk years.

As a kid growing up I can remember seeing adverts in the NME for people like the Stranglers, The Jam and so on playing this place so it was a real venue of note for me and it was great to gig there even though we pulled in a miniscule audience!

Usually those kind of live recordings, or even those from a mixing desk are crap but this wasn’t TOO bad considering all and it’s nice to have a fairly authentic guide to how we sounded at that time.

I’ve managed to get most of that gig digitally transferred now for posterity – we sound pretty good actually although everything is played at breakneck amphetamine tempos but what is amusing is the almost non-existent response from what was a very small audience on the night.

I can remember my girlfriend and Donald were there and maybe 10 more people – there was almost more people on stage than in the audience!

But I had no idea that this recording was ever sold anywhere.

Generally speaking gig reactions were usually very good for BOTO and we enjoyed a good reputation as a group on the up.

I do remember getting slagged off badly in our hometown newspaper by the local football reporter (!) Martin Warrilow who did a guest review of our gig saying BOTO were a poor and less talented imitation of my old mod like band the Dream Factory which made me laugh as BOTO were hugely superior song-writers and musicians than the Factory and he obviously hadn’t got a clue what he was writing.

But then again local newspaper reviews were often political rather than accurate and I probably deserved a fair share of criticism as I was a fairly out-spoken critic of most local bands at the time so it was only fair I had some shit thrown back at me.

The point was that local newspaper gig reviews were not really that important other than creating a talking point or two in the local pubs, particularly Hamlet’s in Tamworth and also the Tavern In The Town.

Hamlet’s tended to be the more indie-rock hang out, though you would also see plenty of the heavy rock crowd in there too whereas the ‘Tav’ was the local home for the Hell’s Angels and there was a very active music column in the Tamworth Herald written by an old school friend of mine Sam Holliday which provoked much debate among musicians and gig-goers alike.

It was all good fun really and I totally respected Sam as both a journalist and a mate. He was keen to always place a positive slant on every local group to encourage them which was not my way of thinking though.

Often his positivity generated a mixture of incredulity and amusement among many people on the scene, particularly when Sam would “big up” a group who weren’t very good and I had a totally opposite viewpoint.

Being a journalist at the time, I felt that one was morally responsible for writing what you honestly believed rather than trying to be friendly and supportive to all these many groups who seemed to appear from nowhere in the Tamworth in the 80s and 90s.

I know that local reviews meant very little in the bigger scheme of things but I made a lot of enemies during this period as I tended to shoot from the hip and say what I felt and this usually meant saying a lot (but not all!) of our local contemporaries were shit.

Compounding the problem was the fact I wrote a music column in an evening newspaper in Nuneaton, some 15 miles east of Tamworth and I was equally out-spoken and unafraid of speaking my mind in print which really did piss people off, especially as I was also so active with BOTO.

Looking back I can quite understand why some people hated my guts.

And I do remember being confronted by members of one or two local bands outside the Arts Centre in Tamworth who were up for a fight because I’d criticised them.

++ The final lineup only recorded one song “Rainy Day Sunshine”. Why was this lineup much less prolific than the other ones?

After we parted company with guitarist Pete after his unwarranted punch up with John in the spring of 1990 we did stagnate a little and it took us time to find another guitarist, Paul Whitehead who then took time to settle.

During this period we were writing a lot of new songs and Mark (DeHavilland) in particular was really coming to the fore as a writer. A lot of the songs he was writing during this time would then show up after the band changed its name to the Strangeloves.

So in terms of us being prolific we were actually writing loads more than gigging during 1990 and 1991 and the only recording during this time was my song ‘Rainy Day Sunshine’ – on paper it may seem we were being quiet but in fact we were really busy behind the scenes.

++ Also you recorded this track in another studio, not at the Expresso Bongo were you seemed very comfortable but at The Reptile House. How was that experience for you?

Really didn’t like it one iota.

Didn’t get on with the sound in the studio and the whole recording of ‘Rainy Day Sunshine’ was fraught…firstly our new guitarist Paul Whitehead failed to show for the opening day of the session and so I asked my mate Nick Read, who was then in a band called Dance Stance (who were then to metamorphose into Rare Future) and he came only and played guitar.

Paul eventually added some guitar overdubs before we did the final mix but I hated the recording…..I had a great working relationship with Paul Speare at the Bongo but the Reptiule House was a different proposition in many ways.

I like the song ‘Rainy Day Sunshine’ a lot – it was a really catchy piece of brassy indie pop in the BOTO style but the recording was really lame and I hated it from the second it was mixed. Bummer!

++ Speaking of which, wasn’t there supposedly an album released with recordings done at that studio? What happened to that?

Yes it was due to appear on a compilation album of other bands from the Lichfield and Tamworth area. I’ve no idea if it ever got released but if it did we weren’t even given a free copy between us!

++ What was the best moment of being at Bash Out the Odd?

Not sure about the best moment if honest as there were a great many and I do have very positive, great feelings about the group to this day with loads of great memories.

However, one of the oddest and most ironic moments was playing a gig in Nuneaton at a club called Graysons which was named after Larry Grayson, a famous camp comedian who lived in the town and who was one of the first British TV stars to suggest an openly gay persona: he had an old-school music hall type of anecdotal comedy which made him a big star in his day.

Given that we had received some stick from people saying we were homophobic because of our band name, which we vehemently never were of course, this was a strange one.

Larry had heard about my group and even came to see me, intrigued by the name of the group and that we had appeared at Graysons.

But then he realised we had previously met a few years earlier in my role as a journalist when he had tried to seduce me on the back seat of his Rolls Royce!

Actually, I got on very well with Larry, who was well known in Britain for his time as the host of the hit TV shows “The Generation Game” & “Shut That Door!” and met him many times as a journalist during the 80s and 90s.

In fact I ended up living five doors away from him in Nuneaton for a short period when I was with the Strangeloves just after the BOTO name change and Larry died in the town in 1995.

++ When and why did you split up? Was it an easy decision?

Again, like the Space Seeds, BOTO didn’t split up at all.

We merely evolved, changed the line up and felt that a new name would be helpful, particularly as no record deal materialised with Lazy and we felt it was best to re-invent ourselves and have another crack.

I was VERY relieved to change the band name as I was such a vociferous critic of the BOTO monicker! For me it was a weight off my shoulder to move it on!

Actually, the Strangeloves was quite an odd choice for a new name because of the New York beat group from the mid 1960s of the same name but I was kinda past caring by that stage….to me anything was better than BOTO!

I remember when the Strangeloves supported Echo & The Bunnymen that Will Sergeant asked me why on earth we’d call ourselves the same name as the group of “I Want Candy” fame and I didn’t have the heart to tell him the story of my horror at us having the BOTO monicker….

++ After that I heard you resurfaced as The Strangeloves, but I’ve never heard any songs by this band of yours. How similar was it to Bash Out the Odd?

The Strangeloves really did take the BOTO sound and play with it more; we developed a lot in a short space of time and it was much more an interesting “indie-pop” sort of group and I am quite proud of a lot of the tunes we wrote.

We recorded quite a lot of demos as The Strangeloves (five or six times more tunes than BOTO) and then as the Lovebirds which was the name was moved to a year later.

If I am honest, from BOTO onwards my groups have continually evovled rather than splitting up and you can trace my current group DC Fontana right back to BOTO and the Strangelvoes was the next stage towards DC Fontana.

++ Having been in many bands, if you were to make a list of the importance of each band in your life, were would you place Bash Out the Odd?

I have fond memories of most of the groups I’ve been in (not all) but there can be no doubt that with BOTO we came close to getting signed and it was the first group since the Dream Factory that I’d been in which attracted wider interest and a following.

It also provided the very embryonic platform for everything I’ve done musically since and right up to the present day so it was an important group for me.

Where would it be placed in a list of importance? In the top half.

++ One last question. How much has Tamworth changed since those days? And if I were to visit that town, what is there to see or do for a tourist guy like me?

Tamworth has evolved of course and whereas the music scene is now tiny compared to its heyday (which would be 1984 – 1994) a lot of the “faces” from the music scene are still about and some of the venues are still there to this day although all of them are now something else.

In fact yesterday DC Fontana played an open air gig in Tamworth and Jeff Hately, the bass player with Tamworth’s best known heavy rock group, Wolfsbane (Def American) came to see us which was real nice of him.

There were a lot of old faces int he audience I hadn’t seen for many a year and it was quite an emotional and nostalgic trip in that respect. It also reminded me that there WAS some kind of kinship among local musicians however disparate our backgrounds.

There was talk around 1984 that Tamworth’s two most popular bands (which were the Dream Factory and Wolfsbane) were sworn enemies of each other….a sort of pathetic attempt at stirring up a mid-80s version of “mods & rockers”.

Nothing could be further from the truth – I got on famously with Wolfsbane who I admired loads and I enjoyed some of their more punky Ramones-like cartoon punk element of their early rock sound.

Jeff was telling me they have reformed now that Blaze Bayley, their singer, has his put his stint as lead singer with Iron Maiden firmly in the past and I wished him the greatest of luck with it all.

I have no idea if there are any actual Tamworth music tourists visiting the town today but I am sure with the right guide there could be lots of interesting things to see and people to meet if anyone wanted to hang out here in the Kingdom of Mercia!


Bash Out the Odd – Laughing House


To finish our Tamworth trilogy in this blog, our Mark Mortimer on bass trilogy, let’s have a look to Bash Out the Odd. As mentioned on the last post, after some changes in the lineup of Space Seeds the band changed their name to Bash Out the Odd. Their sound also changed, especially with a heavy section of brass, even with trombones and cornets! The sound was more sixties inspired, very mod-ish. Much more upbeat too. According to the Tamworth Bands page there were three phases of this band, three versions, the first from 1988-89, the second from 89-90 and the last 90-90. So let’s go one by one to understand it better. And if anyone has any more of their recordings, please share!

First version (1988-1989)

The band during this period is Mark Brindley on lead vocals/guitar, Julian Amos on lead guitar and backing vocals, Mark Mortimer on bass, Stuart Pickett on bass, Alan Hodgetts on keyboards, Martin Cooper on trumpet, Mark Allison on trumpet and cornet and Bryan Hurdly on bass trombone and euphonium. During this time the Tamworth Herald publishes the news about a video being recorded for three of Bash Out the Odd songs, in a full scale video session. Wonder if these were recorded at all, if so, will they ever pop up on Youtube? That would be ace. Anyways, a month later the band starts to stumble for the first time as Julian Amos leaves the band. It is also during this time that there is talk that Lazy Recordings were going to sign the band to their roster. Mark remembers: “The company that managed chart-hitting indie stars The Primitives and Kingsbury’s indie/punk/garage band Birdland were really into Bash Out The Odd and on several occasions came to see us live in London (and in Tamworth would you believe!?) and were interested in signing us but it never quite happened. We had several labels courting us for a while too and things seemed to be “happening” for the band but for one reason or another it never QUITE got there which is a great shame as there was great potential and as the band developed Mark Brindley started writing songs to go with the ones I wrote and we had some good tunes under our belts.”

They had one demo recorded during this time including the songs “Love Walks Away”. “Heavenly Angel”, “Mother Sea” and “Bug”. You can listen to the first one on the Tamworth Bands jukebox. Also here you can read more about the recordings of this demo as well as many memories and anecdotes about how the band started or even about the songs.

Second version (1989-1990)

Now the band has Pete Woodward on lead guitar and backing vocals, and John Bates on keyboards. Mark Mortimer remembers: “The second version of Bash Out The Odd took on a more powerful, harder sound. The classical horns remained and continued to sound brilliant but Julian Amos simply vanished one day without warning (he moved to live in Oswestry to work as a private investigator without telling ANYONE!!). He was replaced by a loud-mouthed and opinionated guitarist from Solihull called Pete Woodward whose presence in the band often led to a lot of friction which sometimes even boiled over into violent confrontation!! Nevertheless, he was a strong, powerful, rockin’ guitarist and this led the group into a much tougher-sound. Alan Hodgetts quit the group and moved to Coventry where he worked on BBC Radio and Mark (Brindley) roped in his old mucker John Bates on keyboards. We were keen for him to use his sampler and this meant, from my own point of view, we could bring in more exotic and 60s-influenced ideas like sitars and Middle Eastern string sounds etc!! Fun! During one period of time Stuart Pickett sadly quit the group and we struggled on without him with Mark Brindley’s uncle (whose name I have forgotten now!) stepping in to help out – he hadn’t played drums since his youth in the swinging 60s and this made it a challenging time really. During this period we recorded another demo – “Laughing House” and we used programmed drums to get the effect we wanted. We also had a bearded, older drummer from Birmingham for a couple of months whose name I have now forgotten who reminded me of Jet Black of The Stranglers!! Thankfully, Stuart returned to the band after a while and we continued to play quite a large number of gigs, travelling down to London on a couple of occasions to play infamous indie rock venue The Bull & Gate in Kentish Town and also the Greyhound in Fulham which – of course – was an important venue in the pub rock-dominated mid 70s and was also one of the early venues a lot of the punk bands played.

They recorded one demo tape including the songs “Laughing House” and “September Honey”. According to the version 2 page of Tamworth Bands there was also a tape including live recordings of a gig at the Fulham Greyhound. Wonder which songs were included there! I’ve included here on the blog for download the great “Laughing House”, which Mark says it “was a frantic but catchy powerhouse of a tune driven by this pounding heavy drum track and the thrashy guitars. The horns were pristine and powerful. Mark (Brindley) wrote the odd lyrics that included references to “eskimo rolls” over the music that I had written.”

Third version (1990)

The third, and final version of the band. Alan Hodgetts had came back to pick up the keyboards as in version 1 but there was a new guitarist in the band: Paul Whitehead. He is not very well remembered according to this page: “Pete Woodward was either sacked or left the band (I can’t quite remember which) due to the clash of personalities and he was replaced by a guy from Coventry called Paul (none of us can remember his surname) who played guitar and also a guitar synth (something I wasn’t very fond of!!). He was a very insular chap, kept himself to himself and the contrast with Pete Woodward could not have been more vivid!!”

There was only one song recorded during this period: “Rainy Day Sunshine”. It was recorded not at Expresso Bongo like all the other prior recordings, but at The Reptile House in Lichfield. This song was supposed to come out on an album of original material from bands that used that rehearsal space. It seems this album release never happened. Seems luck was never on the side of them. By the end of 1990 the band decided to call it a day. They would later resurface as The Strangeloves…


Bash Out the Odd – Laughing House


Thanks again to Bart for another interview. I’m very fond of this one as The Cat’s Miaow is such an inspiration and such a great band with lots of songs that you can keep close to your heart. I don’t think you need much introduction to this great Australian band, but I will remind you, if you haven’t yet, to purchase their reissues of “A Kiss and a Cuddle” and “Songs for Girls to Sing” from Library Records. Enjoy!

++ Hi Bart! How are you doing! You just put out a new CD by Bart & Friends that sounds fabulous! Care to tell me a bit more how this record came about? And what can people expect from it?

Thank you. In a lot of ways it’s just a continuation of the previous cd “Make you blush”, in that there’s the core of me, Mark and Louis but with the addition of Scott and Irene from the Summer Cats on half the songs, and Jeremy from The Zebras on drums. It’s really hard for us to find venues to play live as we need a specially re-inforced stage to support the collective weight of our egos.

Scott came in because there was a song I left off “make you blush” because my singing was so bad. I thought it was still a really good song and would suit Scott’s voice (I listened to it again recently thinking that it couldn’t have been all that bad and it was even worse than i remembered). It went really well, so I asked him to sing some more and we co-wrote a couple as well. I’ve been a fan of Scott’s singing for 20 years since his days in The Earthmen but had never really spoken to him until I supported the Summer Cats at their album launch a bit over a year ago.

I think there’s a couple of songs on the new cd that are as good as anything I’ve done before.

People should not expect to hear Pam on this one (though her husband Mike took the photo on the cover), but she will be back on the next one, as will Scott. I hate singing.

++ So again, as usual, let’s go back in time, to The Cat’s Miaow’s time. What were you doing at the time? And what sparked you to start this band?

When The Cat’s Miaow started, I was a student and playing bass in girl of the world so I had plenty of spare time and was beginning to think “I could probably do this myself”. Andrew was playing bass in The Ampersands and we began recoding songs on his 4 track. It was very low key in the beginning and was just us recording the songs we wrote for the fun of it, making cassettes and giving them to friends.

++ How did the recruiting process for this band work?

It was just the 2 of us with a drum machine initially, but once we had a few songs together, we thought it might be fun to record a couple “properly” at the studio that Girl of the World used. Neither of us are blessed with the greatest singing voice so I asked Kerrie with whom I’d been in a band briefly a couple of  years earlier. Cam was basically the only drummer I knew. It seems ridiculous now, given how well the four of us gelled musically. God knows what would’ve happened if either had have said no as I had no one else in mind. I always tend to go for people I know, friends or friends of friends. I never advertise or audition.

++ Why the name The Cat’s Miaow?

It’s a fairly common, if slightly old fashioned phrase in the US but it’s not one that has ever crept into use in Australia, so to me at least it’s always sounded cool and exotic.

The definition is“archaic 1920’s American slang that means “excellent”, “stylish”, or “impressive to the ladies”. Synonymous with the cat’s pyjamas and the bee’s knees”. which just reminded me I had a little one man band when I was teenager called The Cat’s Pyjamas.

++ Your lyrics are like small vignettes of life and I just love that, it’s easy to identify yourself with them. How did the creative process for you all work?

The process was Andrew or I would write a song and then bring it to the rest of the band. its pretty much the same way i work now, in a room by myself with a guitar and a notebook. particularly with The Cat’s Miaow i wanted to keep the lyrics straightforward and everyday, things that you could hear in a conversation rather than poetry or clever word play. and vignettes is the right word, I wanted to give just a snapshot or a brief glimpse rather than whole story.

++ And which is your favourite song that you made with The Cat’s Miaow? and why?

I really quite like “If things had been different” and the version of “Firefly” on The Long Goodbye. They both just sound like the 4 of us playing, there’s no overdubs, just us playing. my favourite songs have changed over time, I know on the liner notes of “Songs for Girls to Sing” that i thought that “Hollow Inside” and “Make a Wish” were our best songs, but i don’t feel that way now. Im also quite partial to the smaller songs like “Let me brush the hair from your face” and i think “Aurora” was a really important song for us. A little light bulb went “ding” when we finished that one and in a way that’s when The Cat’s Miaow began.

++ I can’t make my mind on which is mine, sometimes is “Hollow Inside”, sometimes “Third Floor Escape View”, some others “Sleepyhead”, and then it changes to others. But at the moment those three. Is there a story behind them?

I’m not sure I’d tell you if there was… with my songs I always tried to make them sound quite personal even when they were complete fiction. The lyrics range from 100% biographical, to being inspired by books and the aim was to make the two indistinguishable. There was one time Kerrie didn’t want to sing a song because she thought it was too personal and about a girl I liked but it was taken almost entirely from “The Catcher in the Rye”.

I guess the thing about your favorite song changing might have to do with with that we aren’t known for any one particular song. we were no hit wonders.

++ What about the video for “Third Floor Escape View”? How did that came about? Any anecdotes while recording it?

Dave Harris was putting the Munch video compiliation together and asked lots of bands to make a video to go on it. It was done on super 8 which was a pain to convert to video. Dave put it together in about 15 minutes so we could watch a Spirtualized concert he had taped. It’s all about your priorities really.

++ One thing that strikes me is that you appeared in so many compilations during the years. Did you ever say no to contribute in one? And which compilation was your favourite that you appeared on?

We probably appear on more than you realise and more than I can remember. We were on a lot of cassette compilations before we started releasing singles. We did say no to one guy and then he started bagging us on the indie pop list. Totally unrelated of course. I think “Going against Maz’s Advice” on 4 Letter Words was my favourite. Clint Barnes who released it was great and I liked that instead of one song per band you heard a few. And Pam was on it as well which was cool. But particularly in the first few years we had so many songs and no one wanted to do a single with us so we had plenty of songs to release on comps.

++ You also covered many songs with The Cat’s Miaow. Which of this covers are you the happiest with? And what other covers would you have liked to do?

I love “Nothing Can Stop Us”, I know some people hate it but it was fun pretending to be Galaxie 500. Though we probably did that quite a bit…

I dont think there’s anything that I wanted to do with The Cat’s Miaow that we didn’t end up doing. If the band had have continued we might have ended up doing the covers i did in Bart & Friends, “Lodi” by Creedence, “Hounds of Love” by Kate Bush, “Boredom” by Buzzcocks.

++ I always find a bit odd that you shared a flexi with a well-known band like Stereolab. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like you much more than them! But you know, this kind of contributions don’t happen that often. How did this happen?

There were a few months while I was staying in DC when everything seemed to fall into place, there was The Shapiros and this flexi  and that was when Bus Stop asked us to do a cd and a single. Keith from Wurlitzer jukebox was trying to get in touch with us and mentioned this to Chip Porter. Chip was a friend of Pam’s and knew I was in DC doing The Shapiros, so was able to put the 2 of us in contact. At that point I don’t think Stereolab was mentioned, but when I heard I was horrified. I thought they would never actually deliver a song and Keith would wait and wait and the flexi would be in limbo forever. I think to Keith it was just a case of it being 2 bands he liked, he was very egalitarian in that respect. Keith was another really important person to the band and the association continued with Hydroplane. If we hadn’t have fallen in with Drive-In, I think we probably would have done a lot more on Wurlitzer Jukebox. I can’t praise both labels and the people behind them enough.

++ I read that you didn’t play live. But is this 100% true? Im sure you must have played some gigs?
Nearly true. We only played once publicly at the launch for the Munch video and a couple of times at parties. our main priority was always songwriting and recording rather than performing. It wasn’t that we couldn’t play, it just didn’t seem the best use of our time. I think cam would’ve liked us to play live more though.

++ Why do you think Summershine turned you down and that American labels were the ones interested in releasing your music?

The American scene in the mid 90’s was quite vibrant and we ended up working with 7 American labels, Sunday, Drive-In, Four Letter Words, Shelflife, Bus Stop, Spit and a Half and Darla. I’m not sure the reason why or what they saw in us that appealed to them. You tend not to question things like that at the time. For the most part, we considered our peers to be American bands like Glo-Worm and Buddha on the Moon.

Regarding Summershine, it probably seems odd now, Melbourne indie label + Melbourne indie band = perfect combination. But most of the bands Summershine was releasing then like Autohaze and The Earthmen were really quite big at the time in Australia. They played live a lot, got played on  public radio, people bought their records. The Cat’s Miaow were just mucking around on a 4 track in a bedroom and didn’t even want our photo taken. I could be smug and say “well people are still buying The Cat’s Miaow and no one can even remember Autohaze” but I probably wouldn’t have signed us either if I were Jason.

And to be fair we sent him “Aurora” and pretended to be a band from Canada called Hydroplane. He said he liked it but that he didn’t think anyone would buy it because no one had heard of us. Obviously we weren’t really taking this whole “lets start a career in the music business” thing very seriously. And it’s not like Summershine were the only label to turn us down either, and at least he replied. Yes i’m talking to you Sarah records and Parasol.

I don’t think we sounded very “1994” which probably worked against us at the time, but in hindsight might be working in our favour now.

++ The artwork of the Cat’s Miaow’s releases usually includes a photograph as the cover. It was like a trademark I’d say. Who took care of the artwork and where did these photos came from?

The first few were done by me and are old photos from my family photo album. The photos are mostly me or my older sisters. The early sleeves have a certain charm, but I prefer the sleeves on  the last couple of singles that  were done by HK from Buddha on the Moon. Then we called in the big gun of Steve Crushworthy to do the re-issue cds and the long goodbye. we were a very lucky band now i think about it. Steve’s designs are beautiful.

++ How important was Mike Babb from Drive-In/Quiddity for you? It seems he was your biggest fan during the 90s releasing almost all your catalog!?

Mike was great for us. i can’t fault our experience with Drive-In in any way. He also did a LOT of behind the scenes stuff with library records as well. Drive-In didn’t just releases the Cat’s Miaow, but pretty much every band I’ve been in. They were very efficient, honest, friendly, supportive. I loved all the other bands they released as well especially Buddha on the Moon. After a couple of years of sending out tapes it was good to finally have a home.

++ And what about Albert from Sunday? I love his label but it seems he has disappeared from the face of Earth!

Yeah, we never quite clicked with Albert in the way that we did with Mike. I am grateful that he released our first single but it did take a hell of a long time to come out. And he spelled my name wrong on the sleeve as well. I ended up as Brat. Maybe it wasn’t a mistake…

++ The original “A Kiss and a Cuddle” compilation came out on Bus Stop. I read somewhere that it was badly distributed. Does that mean that there are many of them sitting on boxes on some cellar? Why did this bad distribution happen?

I’d say they were landfill. The distribution might have been fine, but I think I only ever saw it listed at Parasol. My take on it was that Brian was burnt out and exhausted, he’d been doing the label for 10 years by then and I think  the label just fell by the wayside for a while. It happens, I know it happened with me and Library towards the end. We didn’t really hear from him for a long while but he sent us a huge wad of Cat’s Miaow and Pencil Tin cds in the late 90s for which I’m eternally grateful.  I was pissed off and frustrated at the time (1996) but I’m fine with it now and if we crossed paths I’d thank him for having us on Bus Stop.  We got to be on the same label as Honeybunch, Rocketship, Bomb Pops and Veronica Lake. What’s not to love?

++ But happily you re-released it plus other Cat’s Miaow stuff on your own Library Records. Was that an easy decision? I know of many people that say they won’t release themselves because of some sort of strange ethics. Anyhow, I do think it was a great thing you did, we needed those records!

Yeah, I can understand people shying away from the whole vanity release thing. It’s a bit like your mum paying kids to play with you. in our case, I was fine with it as both cds had been released by other labels already which legitimised their existence and it gave us a chance to re-work the track listing of “A Kiss and a Cuddle”. “Songs for Girls to Sing” had already sold out two pressings on Drive-In and Mike had said he wasn’t going to repress it. Hs priority was in releasing new music rather than keeping the back catalogue available. While i can see his point, it’s not a view point I share. possibly to do with me being a librarian, but I think there are some things that should be readily available to people without them paying exorbitant prices on ebay.

They’ve been steady sellers over the past 10 years. I probably sell about 1 a week…. ka-ching!!!

++ You said that in Australia no one knew you. I’m wondering if there have been fans from say, non-traditional indiepop countries?

It seems everywhere is an indiepop country these days. in the past 5 years the bulk of the letters have come from Sweden but you probably can’t get a country that’s more indiepop than Sweden. Probably due to Fraction Discs being the only place that stocked our cds for quite a long while. If it wasnt for them i doubt I’d be making music now.

There was a band from the Phillipines called Carnival Park who did a cover of “Portland Oregon”. But I’d be more surprised by a letter from Sydney than I would from Singapore.

++ So when and why did you split? And what happened to the rest of the members after?
In some ways we never did. we never discussed it at the time, we just sort of stopped. There were a number of factors, the main one being that I wasn’t writing songs that I felt were worth recording let alone releasing. cam was living in either London or Sydney, but the moment that we ended for me was when we were rehearsing and Andrew said he had a new song, but that he wanted to release it as Hydroplane. I said “great, let’s hear it” but in my head I went “The Cat’s Miaow has just ended”.

After that, Kerrie and i did quite a bit in Andrew’s band Hydroplane. Hydroplane released 3 cds and countless singles. I know some people think of it as a continuation of The Cat’s Miaow, but it was like starting a new band. Different influences, different way of writing and recording, different direction.

I did a couple of cds as Bart & Friends which Andrew played on and recorded.

And I think The Long Goodbye was probably done after we broke up?

I think when a band starts re-recording its own songs in french, it’s a good indicator that they’ve run out of ideas and should stop, but if you want to play alternative history and hear what The Cat’s Miaow’s next single might’ve been, do a playlist on your ipod of:

Wurlitzer Jukebox (Hydroplane)
CBGB’s (Bart & Friends)
Song for the Meek (Hydroplane)
Lodi (Bart & Friends)

++ Care to tell me something about The Cat’s Miaow that no one else knows? :p

There’s not much to tell, there was no drama, arguments, drugs, divas. Brian Jonestown massacre we were not.
We’re all still in touch with each other, not as often or in person as Id like, but still in touch.

Oh, Kerrie is an opera singer. do people know that???

++ I think like always, I write too many questions when I interview you Bart! Last time I asked you about your hobbies, and you told me you love megalithic sites. Which ones are your favourite? I was in Stonehenge and it was quite impressive!

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney. It’s huge, about the size of a football ground and it syncs in with other sites like Maes Howe and surrounding lakes and mountains.

I also really like Beaghmore in Ireland. The circles and stones are small and would fit in your backyard but I still find them quite special

Of the ones I havent been to but would really like to, top of the list is Callanish in Lewis in the western isles of Scotland

++ And what about food? Is there any sort of Australian cuisine?

There is one Australian culinary delight called a tim tam which is a chocolate biscuit that we used to use to lure Kerrie to rehearsal. Andrew, Cam and I would get one each and Kerrie would eat the rest of the packet. She’ll deny it, but I saw this happen on several occasions.

++ Thanks again for the interview Bart! Anything else you’d like to add?

I think a lot of people give me too much credit for The Cat’s Miaow. Everyones contributions were an integral part and Andrew in particular wrote some of our best songs and recorded and mixed them. his role tends to get downplayed a lot unfortunately.


The Cat’s Miaow – Third Floor Escape View


Before leaving to UK last month I bought many records on eBay and sent them to my friend Jennifer’s place. You know, to save some postage. Among those records was the “Nothing in Your Heart” 12″ by Life With Patrick. I believe I paid 1.99 pounds and funny enough I would later find it, some days after arriving in UK,  in ‘Love Music’ in Glasgow for around the same price . Upon picking it up from the box, I told Krister to buy it for himself  but he didn’t trust me. “I haven’t heard this band yet” he told me. So Krister, have a listen now, and feel a bit of remorse for letting this one go 🙂

Before continuing this important investigation, let me have a little break here to see what I’ve been listening on CD this week:
1. Vitesse – You Win Again Gravity (Hidden Agenda)
2. Lovejoy – Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (Matinee)
3. Lovejoy – Songs in the Key of… (Matinee)

My favourite Patrick song is Kirsty Maccoll’s “Patrick” of course. I wonder where the name of this band comes from? Patrick Swayze? Who knows.

Today while listening to the record on the turntable I remembered how Patrik Lindgren saved the day. It was Indietracks time, Saturday, and I arrived around 1pm to catch the 1:15 acoustic set by Remi on the train. First things first, I headed to the bar where I met Cristóbal. He couldn’t handle the heat inside the carriage of the steam train and said he would pass watching Remi and would stay at the Indietracks grounds. Understandable. I grabbed a Newcastle can and head to the platform.

You could see some people already waiting but no sign of Remi. Ian and Emma seemed worried. The steam train just arrived and I saw Patrik coming down the carriage with his guitar (he was playing later with The Garlands), and his amazing green backpack-chair. It was nice to see him again because I knew he would like to see Remi play too. I asked him if he had seen him at the station, but he hadn’t. Thing was that on this same steam train the gig was going to happen. We were just waiting and I was joking with him, asking him to play a Hormones in Abundance impromptu gig. Ian finally got in touch with Remi on the mobile and he found out that Monsieur Parson was in Butterley station. So we all thought that by riding the train we would go back to Butterley, pick him up and start the gig. That was the plan. The train driver had a totally different idea. He went the other way.

So the train headed the other way. And finally stopped. I guess the driver thought someone was performing. Patrik, Gustaf and me, were chatting close to the bar on the second carriage, not because we were thirsty, but because there was a big window right there, in between carriages. The heat inside these wooden wagons was unbearable. You could see the people chit-chatting, and wondering what was going on. Suddenly Patrik grabbed his guitar and headed to the front carriage. We thought he was going to try to find a better space, maybe a place to sit down. To my surprise, he went all the way to the front, opened  the guitar case, and started tuning his guitar. “I’m going to play some of my songs” he said. And there he was, Pata Lindgren, with his short sleeve shirt, bleached jeans and basketball shoes, playing some Ring Snuten for all of us. And it was really good! Patrik catches me cold, “Roque, do you have any requests?”. I shouted “Only Fun in Town!”. And that was just way too brilliant.

Patrik played around 7 songs before arriving back to Indietracks. The people were really appreciative, he had played for us just for the sake of it. I asked him later why did he do it, if he was nervous. He said a bit at first, but he said that it seemed the right thing to do at the moment. And I agree with him, there was a crowd there waiting for some great pop tuns. And Patrik delivered that to them. And everyone left the wagon later with a big smile on their face. I feel, that what happened right there, that camaraderie, that love and respect for the community, is what indiepop ‘means’. There is A LOT in your heart Patrik. You were our hero that day.

Back to Life with Patrick. This 12″ wasn’t their first release. There was another 12″ on the Tiger Lily label. Sadly I haven’t been able to get my hands on this one. Not sure which tracks are on this one. Could it be the “Swing on Revival” listed on Last.fm? In any case there is also another release on Tiger Lily. It’s a split 7″ shared with the Asphalt Ribbons. The track by Life With Patrick is “Wrong”. Just for the curious, these Asphalt Ribbons would later become the Tindersticks. Haven’t heard this one.

Now to what I have had the chance to hear. First I suggest checking the downloadable demos available on Last.fm. There you can download the tracks “Madonna”, Wrecking Crew”, “So Far Gone” and “About Time”. I can only wonder who uploaded these. Must have been someone from the band. How I wish this same person would have added some biography of the band or even some photos. Because honestly, there’s nothing online about them!

Now onto the blueish, greenish, 12″ I know. On the cover it reads big, “Nothing in Your Heart” (which probably is about one of those girls we sensible guys like falling in love with), and there’s a painted black heart. This artwork was done by Karen Sherridan and the record was released on Manchester’s In Tape Label. The catalog number is IT 070. Some of their labelmates were The June Brides, Rote Kapelle and Yeah Yeah Noh. The record includes three songs, the aforementioned “Nothing in Your Heart” on the A side, “Favour” and the instrumental “Something From Nothing” on the B Side.

I love and enjoy lots the B-side “Favour”. It has that galloping C-86-ish guitar I always die for. Great vocals, catchy lyrics, and upbeat drumming. Just exactly what I like on a pop song! For that song this record is worth buying. Have a listen and judge yourself. Anyhow…

The only other important information on the sleeve are the band members. David Jenkins on drums, Patrick Nicholson on vocals, guitars, John Conner on bass and Paul Foreman on guitar. That led me to a small paragraph on the Benny Profane’s biography page on LTM Records:

In February 1989 we did a one-month tour of Poland and The Soviet Union, including gigs in Warsaw, Vilnius, Riga and Leningrad. We just took guitars and travelled by coach and sleeper train – snow, forests, vodka and more vodka. Totally Glasnosted. Our good friends Patrick Nicholson (Life with Patrick, ROC) and Sue Digby organised the whole thing and it was a marvellous experience. We even appeared on Soviet TV for 60 seconds on a programme called 60 Seconds. The Leningrad promoter, a former circus ringmaster, stopped us mid-gig so we could watch ourselves before continuing.

So, Patrick Nicholson was also on a band called ROC. A little bit of googling takes me to this myspace where no one has logged in since mid-2010. It must be the same Patrick Nicholson because on this same band it lists Karen Sherridan, who was the one who did the artwork for the Life of Patrick 12″!

And that’s about it what I’ve gathered about this great lost band. If you happen to have the tracks of the first 12″, or a spare copy, if you know anything else about this band, want to share memories, please do. Would love to hear more about this great band!


Life With Patrick – Favour


Thanks a thousand to Phil Ball for the interview. It’s been a while since I’ve been meaning to interview Phil and at last we got round to do it. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to do an interview about The Rileys and why not, Feverfew. And talking about Feverfew, there will be news soon about a compilation of all their recorded output! Keep an eye on this same blog!

++ Hi Phil! At last we get to do an interview! How are things going? Lots of traveling from what I hear?

Hello Roque,
Yes, we do, finally.

It is my real pleasure, I appreciate you asking me. I hope that I do not disappoint. 🙂

Here we go then.

Actually all is good with me, thanks! These days it’s pretty crazy, I am extremely busy as always…

Yes you are correct. I do travel a lot through my work. I am a Project Manager and work for a large Japanese electronics manufacturer, in the automotive industry.

Later this week I will be away for four days visiting Continental Europe, including visits to Germany, Poland and Slovakia then back to the UK for the weekend. Then I will be out to the Czech Republic for another four days during the following week.

There are too many early starts and far too many late finishes, unfortunately.

I’m not complaining, I appreciate the opportunities that my work has given me. I am lucky to have had the possibility to visit countries that perhaps I would never have had the chance to visit, amongst others China, Thailand and of course Japan plus I currently spend a lot of time in Eastern Europe.

However I really need a rest now so I am looking forward to my summer vacation and spending time with my family, just a few weeks away now.

++ So, just in between Feverfew and The Rileys, there was Are You Mr. Riley?. That was in 1989, right? How long did this formation/band last? Who were in the band?

After feverfew dissolved (I am still not sure the band ever really split up, we just stopped doing “it”..) I was approached by a very drunken Mike Cottle (Local guitarist) at an Anti Apartheid gig I was promoting at Reading Trade Union club. I think this would have been around September’89

Mike “told” me that I should form a band with him, he knew of me through feverfew and You Can’t Be Loved Forever, and insisted, in an alcohol fuelled stupor, and that we should work together. He had a number of songs and ideas which he wanted to progress and believed that I was the person that could help him develop them.

I just took this approach with a pinch of salt, a crazy drunken ramble, and did not expect to hear anymore.

Some days after this event I received a very nice letter from Mike apologising profusely for his drunken approach. .I took the plunge, phoned him, found we had lots of influences and ideas in common and we went from there.

We jammed around some of Mike’s ideas, decided it was workable and then went about forming the band. Vicky and Lloyd (feverfew vocalist and drummer respectively) were not playing at the time so I asked them come on-board.

Mike had a friend (Richard) who was also interested but had never sung in a band before and within a matter of weeks the band line up was in place and “Are you Mr. Riley?” was formed. This would have been around Oct’89

Some weeks later the line up was reinforced by Jason on guitar (also one time feverfew guitarist and my very close friend) and the band went from strength to strength. As you know the first demo songs were recorded December’89.

++ What was the main differences between this band and Feverfew and The Rileys?

Well, Are you Mr. Riley very soon became “The Rileys” as we got fed up with the “Which one is Mr. Riley then? Quips. People would walk away believing they had made the best joke ever, all we would do is grimace and want to punch them in the face (numerous times)….

Also The Rileys, as a name, seemed snappier and more appropriate (I guess the mould was made by another indie band with a surname as a band name…)

Therefore I guess the question to answer is “What was the difference between The Rileys and Feverfew?”

I remember reading a live review for feverfew that stated that feverfew was “uncompromisingly fragile” I guess this was a true reflection of the band based on the vision and genius of Keith and Paul and would be further explored and developed through their activities as Blueboy. Feverfew was generally mis-understood, shyness perceived as arrogance.

The Rileys were generally more upbeat and openly optimistic, punchier more raucous guitar pop, hearts worn on our sleeves (not sure if we were ever Indiepop..). The Rileys were essentially a live band that was where the main energy and drive came from. However our motivation, ideals and influences were not so different from those of feverfew, just the method of delivery.

++ Where does the name come from?

I would like to say it was the title of some obscure cult movie from the 1960’s or a line from a cool song / band, however the reality and truth of the matter is that the background is very un-cool.

Are you Mr. Riley is the name of a song which was sang by groups of girl guides around campfires…

I should try to explain….
The hall where we used to rehearse was also used by Girl Guides and Brownie troops, one day whilst we were tidying up (not very rock and roll behaviour I know) we found a songbook called “Songs for Elfins” and inside next to the classic “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes” was a song called “Are you Mr. Riley”.

As the band had no name at that time it just kind of stuck and was adopted as the band name.

++ Did you play many gigs under this name? Any gigs in particular that you remember?

Yes quite a few but mainly in and around the local Reading area including one with Strawberry Story which was particularly good however things really started to take off after the change of name to “The Rileys”

As The Rileys we played many, many gigs including those on the university and college circuit including supporting The Buzzcocks, Carter USM, The Rain etc as well as our own headline gigs… The Rileys at that time were growing as a band and were starting to attract a regular live audience. Very soon we were being managed by Wayne who in his daily job was the accountant for Rough Trade records, this opened many doors for us.

++ I was wondering, why didn’t Keith Girdler join the band? He did help record the “Go On – Spoil Yourself” demo, right?

Actually no, Keith (and also Paul Blueboy) did not participate in the recording of “Go on, spoil yourself”. They were not part of The Rileys line up and not really involved in writing and performing with the band, however four of the band were actually ex-feverfew members. (I say not really however they were involved for the recording of the Happiness EP, this is where the confusion starts, more on this later…)

One of the reasons that feverfew ceased to exist, apart from the general apathy and negativity towards the band at the time, was that Keith had a new partner and was generally spending less of his time in Reading and more in Brighton. Around this time Paul was going steady plus I was in the process of getting married so our priorities just changed and the band became less important.

This meant that the gap between band rehearsals became wider and wider up until the point that they just did not happen anymore. By the time of my wedding in July’89 we were all still friends but no longer a band..

So by Autumn’89 I and the other feverfew members had time on our hands and when the chance came to form “Are you Mr. Riley?” everybody jumped at the opportunity, this line up lasted until late 1990, basically the line up consisted of the four members of feverfew, Phil (Bass), Llloyd (Drums), Vicky (vocals) and Jason (Guitar), that were not Paul and Keith plus two friends Mike (Guitar) and Richard (Vocals).

I also had the idea for, and started working on You Can’t Be Loved Forever around this timing, Paul and Keith started working and writing songs together on an ad-hoc basis due to Keith spending more of his time in Brighton plus Paul was working with a new band “She’s Gone”. Clear Skies from the first Blueboy album was actually a song written with “She’s Gone” (You can find the original version on YCBLF No. 3)

Keith was always very supportive of “Are you Mr. Riley / The Rileys” and would regularly write to me and the others with words of encouragement and support plus he provided a great deal of advice for the band..

Going back to your original question(s). I can understand your comments and why you may have thought Keith was part of The Rileys. It is a little confusing as the relationship between feverfew, The Rileys and also Blueboy over the life of the bands was quite incestuous.

In April ’91 Paul played guitar and Keith sang backing vocals on the two Rileys tracks of the “Happiness EP” however they were never members of The Rileys.

Both The Rileys and feverfew joined together to play a joint/split gig at the Reading After Dark Club in Feb’91, this then extended to the idea for the recording session and finally the release of the Happiness EP on a Turntable Friend records.

Around this time the band (feverfew) was actually very close to reforming, united in grief for Jason who died in Jan ’91, it was a friendship rekindled and was a time of high creativity borne out of an extremely tragic event.

If you look at the band line ups all three bands have included many of the same band members Some examples:- Lloyd was drummer in feverfew, The Rileys and Blueboy, when Lloyd left Blueboy he was replaced by Martin Rose who was The Rileys drummer but also played with Blueboy part time.

Cath Close who replaced Vicky as female vocalist in The Rileys also later sang with Blueboy.

Also Keith included the acoustic version of “I can wait” as part of a compilation LP that was released on his Porrits Hill record.

++ Were those 4 songs on that demo the only songs you recorded?

No actually this line up of Are you Mr. Riley / The Rileys made two recording sessions, the four tracks on “Go on, spoil yourself” which was released on the YCBLF imprint plus a second session which included Ophelia’s Days and an instrumental called “Funky”.

“Ophelia’s days” was included on the “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, We have lift off” joint flexi with Home & Abroad,

You can also find many of the tracks on various compilation tapes including Grimsby Fishmarket. Both tracks from the second recording session were also included on YCBLF no.2

++ So the cassette cover, Elvis Presley. Are you a big fan?

Yes absolutely, I am a fan but I would not classify myself as a massive fan. I always remember the Elvis songs and also the movies as being part of my childhood.

The young Elvis was also extremely cool and iconic….

++ Would it be much to ask if you tell me a bit about each of the tracks on that demo?

Yes of course, but remember the songs are from ‘89:-

Barriers of mine – a lament to the Conservative government and the constant string of broken promises and lost opportunities (“How did you get there, I do not know. Some stupid people with no brains to go” / “Why did you do that you really messed it up, I’m crying for change but there’s just no luck” )

A song that is still relevant today based on the current UK political climate

I can wait – a song about unrequited love and the waiting, in vain, for a second chance (“The distance is measured by the heart and not by the yard”)

I’ll love you tomorrow – “I’ll love you tomorrow, but never today” a continuation of the theme from “I can wait”

++ “Recorded on The Refuge”. How did that go? Nice studio?

When you are a young band with little or no cash, is any studio nice? Unfortunately the lack of money does not give you a great deal of options. To coin a phrase “ You get what you pay for”

All joking aside, actually “The Refuge” was not bad, many of the Reading bands of the time “Pumpkin Fairies, Shelleys Children, Home & Abroad were recording there so the reputation of the recording engineer and studio was fairly high.

The general quality of recordings was pretty good and the cost was reasonable so overall, all things considered, the result was not too bad. The band were quite happy with this particular demo especially as the songs and also the band itself was still very new when this demo was recorded

++ I agree with you, Vicky’s voice is so underrated. I think it’s pretty special. Which song that she sings, in general, would you say it’s your favourite?

Actually many people underestimate or overlook the contribution that Vicky made to Feverfew as a band. If you listen to the feverfew recordings you will see (hear) that her backing vocals and harmonies really work well when entwined with Keith’s voice and really add “something” a bit special.

The Rileys was Vicky’s chance to shine as a singer rather than just being “the backing singer”, she constantly delivered great vocal performances both live and in the studio.

From my point of view I Can Wait is a personal favourite as is Time Will Pass, there are also two unreleased Rileys songs in particular “By Believing” and “Real Life” where the vocals are stunning.

The last vocal break on the Feverfew track “All the things I gave to you” always makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Whenever I hear this part of the song it takes me back to the first time I heard this in the studio, Vicky had been working with Keith to develop the vocals and harmonies. We had never heard this part of the song and Vicky recorded it in one take. Serendipity, just fantastic….

++ How was Reading back then? Did you have to go to London to see bands? Or would they come to your town too? What were the best places to hang out in Reading back then?

Reading was always (and still is) famous for the Annual August Bank Holiday music festival so I think that at least one time per year you had the chance to see some big names.

Other than that the chance to see a “good” band playing their own material was few and far between. Unfortunate it was quite easy to see very poor quality “Pub rock” bands though.

Around this 88 – 91 timing the number of venues was actually quite limited. The “Paradise” later “After Dark” Club was always good, I saw numerous “smaller” indie bands such as Brilliant Corners, Jim Jiminee, and Rhythm Sisters there.

The Top Rank (which historically was the main “mid-size” venue) became a bingo hall so the only chance to see “mid” size bands was at the Hexagon and also at the Majestic, I remember seeing The Stone Roses there back in the day….

There was good and bad for this, originally The Stone Roses were booked for the “After Dark” and feverfew were scheduled to support however the “Baggy / Madchester” scene was just gaining momentum subsequently this gig was then cancelled and some months later The Stone Roses played the Majestic (significantly bigger venue) with Sometimes Sartre and International Rescue in support. So we missed the opportunity of the “dream” support gig….

Reading University often put on bands, I saw The Smiths for the first time at the University.. I also saw Public Image Limited there. One of my claims to fame is being told by John Lydon “ You got what you want, now F*@K off!…

There were some smaller venues and hang outs such as The Purple Turtle, Cartoons and Ninos (the latter being an Italian restaurant that put on bands during the week) so the scene for local “Indiepop” bands at the time such as Sometimes Sartre, Pumpkin Fairies was OK but not great.

On a number of occasions there would be the need to go into London to see a band – every time I saw the Wedding Present it would involve a car journey into London….

++ And what about if I go as a tourist Phil? Is there anything worth visiting in Reading? Doesn’t seem that much of a touristy city, is it?

Historically Reading prospered based on the 3B’s, Bulbs, Biscuits and Beer however those days are long past and nothing in terms of these industries exists any longer

Reading is a town that has expanded as the property costs in London accelerated, due to the good train links to London it has become a “significant” commuter hub.

Not much to talk of in Reading in terms of a reason for visiting, you can no longer visit the old Abbey for example. However we do have a museum which is the only one in the world (I believe) to have a copy of the complete Bayeux Tapestry.

Other famous things, Oscar Wilde was imprisoned in Reading gaol and of course we have the annual Music festival. It is also the birth town of Ricky Gervais and Kate Winslett as well as the home of “Cemetery Junction” as immortalised in the recent film of the same name written by Ricky Gervais.

Unfortunately Reading now seems to be a place that people just pass through on the way to somewhere else…

++ Anyhow, so what happened, when did you all become The Rileys?

As advised previously “Are you Mr. Riley” very soon became “The Rileys”, the first incarnation of the band split in late 90.

The second line up of The Rileys was established after the recording of the Happiness EP in ‘91.

Just before Jason died in Jan’91 we were already working and writing new songs together and were joined by new guitarist / vocalist Simon Tarry with the intention of forming a new Rileys line up. “Time will pass” was written during these sessions and was the ever last song written with Jason

After Jason died, after a great deal of heart searching, Simon and I finally decided to carry on playing, recruited Cath Close, Martin Rose (later both Blueboy members) and some other friends. We wrote a brand new set with a newer “different” sound and subsequently recorded “Whirlygig” for Elefant Records.

++ Back then you were very involved with indiepop, releasing the fantastic compilation series “You Can’t Be Loved Forever”. Two questions. How did you get into this kind of music? And second, what made you do extra stuff? you were already in a band!

Mmm, interesting question and a difficult one to answer concisely.

For me it was just a natural progression. I first got into music through the discovery of punk and records back in 1977 when I was an 11 year old.

Luckily enough one of my friends brothers was one of the original “Punk Rockers” and used to have a cool and reasonably sized record collection. We would often go to his house and play all these great (and not so great..) records. This then led into a discovery of “Independent” record labels and many wondrous bands including Joy Division / Factory records, plus I started tuning into John Peel etc. The rest as they say is History….

Finally it lead me to pick up a bass guitar at the age of 17 and then start to play in bands.

YCBLF was conceived after I bought a compilation tape called “Rewind” at a gig (I think it was at one of the many Wedding Present gigs).

I liked the concept (It was the first time to see a good quality tape in terms of appearance, sound quality and the bands, and all at a reasonable price) and therefore thought it would be a good vehicle to promote the “good” bands from Reading and give them an opportunity to try and reach a broader audience.

So the idea was to mix bands / music from the Reading area with other “unknown” or lesser known but good bands and to promote the concept as an opportunity for people to discover some great new bands and for the bands themselves to reach a new and wider audience.

I think that effect of YCBLF was quite beneficial and helped to open up doors, I know that it had a positive impact for Feverfew and also for Home & Abroad and Shelleys Children..

From being in feverfew I could understand first hand the frustrations and limitations that many bands had and the obstacles they faced to promote and to try and get themselves heard. Therefore I wished to do something positive to pro-actively overcome the restrictions and create a new fan base and opportunity, it was a “win – win” situation.

At this time there was a fantastic “fanzine – do it yourself” culture so things expanded and developed very quickly with the network of bands, fanzines, record labels and compilation tapes.

There were many compilation tapes available but I used to get extremely frustrated due to the low quality recordings and the general lack of care and attention for the “product” so I made a conscious effort to ensure a good quality product at a reasonable price (The lesson learned from ”Rewind”).

Hopefully this answers your questions.

++ Oh! and yeah, how much work did it take to make those compilations? How long will it take to get all the songs together? And were there any fantastic bands that you would have loved to have on your tapes that for a reason or another they didn’t appear on them?

It would take a number of months to prepare the tapes, from the writing of letters requesting tracks, making the booklet through to the final production of the tape it would take 3 – 4 months.

I also use to master all the tracks onto DAT and then had the tapes “Professionally produced” at a duplication company to ensure “good quality” tapes. Generally I am pleased to state that the quality of the YCBLF tapes was to a higher level than many of its peers.

From what I can remember I do not believe than anybody turned down the opportunity / request, so basically I “got” everyone that I asked. I was especially pleased to have included Blue Summer, The Penny Candles, Greenhouse, Tramway and also the first recording of Chelsea Guitar (Paint me in blue) as part of the collection

++ Alright, one last question, can you cook Phil? What are your favourite dishes? It’s lunch time here in the US and I was hoping you’d inspire me…

I’m pretty hopeless in the kitchen, however I can make a stupendous spaghetti bolognaise and generally can follow a recipe with a reasonable result. Can I cook? Kind of…. You are always welcome to join!

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

Thank you for the opportunity to do this, I hope my comments and reply is not a disappointment for you….

I really love what you are doing with the record label, fanzine and blog. People may not always like what you do and also what you say but at least you are trying to do “something” and trying to make a difference. Keep up the good work and keep believing in what you do!

Please also check my Youtube channel “bouncy66” there are lots of old Rileys, Feverfew and also Shelleys Children (I moonlighted on bass for a number of months) bibs and bobs there, enjoy!


Are You Mr Riley? – I Can Wait


Thanks so much to Andy Ford for this great interview! Please don’t forget to get their newest album “Luminous Crocodile” which is the great comeback from this Liverpool classic band.  Ah! And become a fan here. Now sit back and enjoy!

++ Hellfire Sermons forms from the ashes of The Decemberists. What were the similarities and differences between these two bands?

Well Colin sang and played guitar and I was on bass in both bands so there was a lot of similarity as we had our own favourite sounds, but in Decemberists we had Andy Deevey on guitar who was more a Smiths/REM style than Neal’s Josef K/Velvet Underground style. Chris Harrison had a sort of jazz/light way of playing. In retrospect the fault of the Decemberists was that consciously or unconsciously we were looking for a record deal, and so we didn’t totally follow our inclinations. We went through an interesting phase where we
worked with a female co-vocalist called Karen Jones in the style of Alison Moyet. We picked up Del Amitri’s ex-manager who helped us to play a great support to James at the Pyramid
club in Liverpool.

The Decemberists hovered on the fringes of a major deal, but never quite got there! We had a residency at University of London, which was great exposure and we were promised a deal with WEA, which they reneged upon. This was quite a blow that let to us changing the name for the single. There are a lot of Decemberists songs which deserve a release – Simpler To Say, Just One Instant, There It Is, The Man Who Could see Through Everybody (all with Karen), then a more indie guitar sound when she left – James Is, Always Caught In The Rain, What Possessed You?, Gift Horse, Marble Room, and the original version of Rachel Clean.

++ I know about The Decemberists (which we should do an interview later!), but I really don’t have any idea at all of Chris Harrison’s previous bad, Jenny Lind. Can you tell me a
little bit about it?

Jenny Lind had Chris Harrison on drums (we stole him!), Neal Carr on guitar and vocals and Ken Nelson (later Coldplay’s producer) on guitar and vocals. They gigged with us and The Jactars, once supported the House Martins at a gig in a Liverpool strip club. They had some great songs – Suicide’s House, Spilt Milk and Christopher Columbus (which was about Ingrid Bergman in America). Ken would have to agree in order for them to be released.
Neal and I played before Decemberists and Jenny Lind in a band called ‘Swim Naked’ which was like sonic Youth before Sonic Youth, very raw and violent in places. In those days we
listened to Sister Ray by the Velvet Underground every day! That was about 1982-83

++ It was 1987 when you started as The Hellfire Sermons. How healthy was the scene in Liverpool? Years before I know there was a very interesting scene with The Lotus Eaters
and The Pale Fountains.

We were more part of a ‘scene’ from 1984 to 1987 when we practiced at Vulcan Studios down on the Dock Road with Jenny Lind. The Jactars, Half Man Half Biscuit, the DaVincis and others and we all helped each other with gigs and gear. We liked The Room, later Benny Profane but they rehearsed somewhere else. We used to go and see the Pale Fountains doing acoustic stuff in a bar on Mathew Street called the Left Bank, and they were really good. We continued playing with The Jactars over the years, then mainly with The Claim and Emily. Both were great.

++ First release was the Freakstorm 7″, one of my favourite Hellfire Sermons songs! It came out on a label called Hyme Records and received rave reviews especially from Bob Stanley. How did this single happened? How did you get the deal with this record label? What do you remember when recording your first ever single? Where you happy with the end result?

Freakstorm is really a Decemberists record released under a new name. Colin thought of the Hellfire name based on James Joyce that he was reading at the time. We had just been let down by WEA so we thought “Right, we’ll do it ourselves!”, it was really very difficult as we were all unemployed at the time, it was recorded in Rochdale with a lot of sacrifice at Barclay James Harvest’s studio starting in summer 1986, but only got finished on Christmas Eve after Colin had lost and regained his voice. We pressed 1,000 and sent them out on the indie distribution and waited…and waited…nothing happened – no reviews, nothing…Andy Deeevey and Chris got discouraged and moved to London, Neal joined us from Jenny Lind and we had just changed the name again, to the “Know Nots” when in summer 1988 Bob Stanley gave it a great review and we got offered gigs at universities and colleges – on condition we kept the name Hellfire Sermons! So we did. First gig was at Manchester Uni, no drummer, so Dave from The Claim played drums for us with no rehearsal.
Now the single sounds good, the original version was terrible as the Rochdale engineer mixed it in mono, so we got it redone at Strawberry Studios in Stockport (a lot of Joy Division was recorded there). Freakstorm always was a great song, Rachel Clean is a bit sweet for me.

++ The second single is released by the legendary Esurient Communications!! At the time of releasing HONEYMOON did you ever thought the releases on this label could become such sought for items? How did you meet Kevin Pearce? Were you fans at all of his fanzine?

Unknown to us a couple of Liverpool people had been writing to Kevin Pearce singing the praises of Decemberists, then he got in touch with one guy called Ian Rogers (later our manager) asking where are The Decemberists? The answer was “They are now the Hellfire Sermons!” Us being with Esurient meant we played more in London than Liverpool, you got press reviews and were part of a national scene. Kevin put on shows of Emily, The Claim, us and the unsigned Manic Street Preachers. In fact Richey Edwards used to write to us! Strange how things turn out. We had jobs by then and were now determined to stay ‘indie’ while the Manic Street Preachers moved to London and put the effort in to break into the major label scene. Kevin is a great guy, his purist views of music chimed with our anti-capitalist agenda, so it worked well. We had all been reading his fanzine, ‘Hungry Beat’. But we were still short of money – Honey/Moon and Quicksand and Penny-Pinching Cathy were recorded at Emily’s studio in Chester for about £250! And we had to record Not Nailed Down and Best Laugh in the middle of the night using time other bands had booked and not used. We did those up at Amazon in Kirkby which was used by China Crisis and the Bunnymen.

++ Talking about fanzines, how did fanzine writers embraced Hellfire Sermons? Your music is POP, but the guitar playing is very different from the jangle of that time. In a way it reminds more of early 80s post punk, Josef K or The Fire Engines. Did fanzine writers enjoyed that fact?

We were nearly always misunderstood by the indie crowd and music journalists as we did not like twee jangle, also we were older, and worked rather than being students, but there was a group of people around Kevin who were on our wavelength who wanted a bit more grot in their music. Then the Pixies happened and that opened up a good space for us. It is quite funny now to see the records sold as C86 artefacts!

++ Third single is the superb The Best Laugh I Ever Had and includes that amazing B-Side that is Not Nailed Down. One of the best singles of the era for sure! Esurient does make a risky move by releasing it at the same time as The Claim’s latest single. What repercussions did this bring to the band and the label?

It was a bold decision by Kevin, announcing a presence really – I don’t think it harmed sales as they were small pressings of 1,000 I think, and Kevin had terrible problems with distribution and especially getting paid for records sold in the shops. It was really a matter of the personal honesty of the shop owners! Pre-internet – no downloads, no e-distribution – it seems archaic now! So the records got good reviews and sold well but Esurient got barely enough money returned to do another! We never got any money, because there was no surplus. But we were just glad to be with Kevin’s label.

++ Next comes the Dishy label, with Guy Sirman running it. He offers to release a 500 run 7″ single. Covered in Love is the first reference on this label. The reviews were great! Was moving from label to label easy for you? What was the best moments of this period?

Well in a sense Guy reaped what Kevin had sown. He issued ‘Covered In Love’ and it got Single of the Week in Melody maker and instantly sold out. It really put Dishy on the map. But it was only a 500 pressing so not much money made again. We debated whether to re-press (which would have been the right decision) but it was down to money, so it was agreed to do another single which took about a year to record and release. That was Sarasine.

++ Why did Dishy didnt’ keep supporting you? Why did he went into support some dance acts?!

I really don’t know. After Sarasine we completed ‘Uncle Oliver’/’Cock O’Th’Street’ which were good songs but unexpectedly Guy said they weren’t what he wanted. I think if we had been in London seeing him more regularly he would have seen what we were doing, but by that time he was more supporting a band called Delta. So we accepted the blow and recorded an album. But when we had the demos again Guy was lukewarm, and it was never finally finished.

++ During this session you recorded 7 songs, what happened to the other 5 that weren’t released on the 7″?

The 7 were – Bill and Sarah, Two Faces, Callaghan, Covered With Love, Him Again, Sacred Skin, Real Life Seams. I think they all made it onto ‘Hymns Ancient and Modern’. So we recorded 7 songs in a day – back to the ways of the early Beatles! Again the whole thing cost about £300. WE picked the best two. But the mix on the last few suffered because we were so tired on the day. So Real Life Seams was much better than what you hear. We do have a good version recorded ready for release some day maybe.

++ 1994 and Dishy releases Sarasine. From that moment on the band seems to fall into obscurity. What happened? It’s quite surprising that a band with such quality songs kind of disappeared.

Yes indeed. We had issues in our lives – me, Neal and Colin had young children, my work was facing closure and I led a massive campaign in Liverpool to stop that happening. Colin was studying. But we did record the album for Dishy somehow, and between all the various versions we do have good recordings of Cock O’Th’Street, Uncle Oliver, I Won’t tell A Soul, Arthur’s Tongue, Beautiful World, Get Another Lover, Holy Joe, Nervous Girl, Pig, Headcase, Cod Fax, I’m Saved, Orderly Crocodile. Before we could finally mix it, Colin had to move away to get work and we had to change how we did the band.

++ Did you find that there was a big change in the guitar pop scene between those late eighties and early ninenties?

The whole indie scene was dying down and becoming more corporate – the music press, venues, radio, fanzines were all becoming corporate or just closing– and yet the internet – downloads, blogs – had not yet really happened. I would say it became much more difficult to find your audience without mass media access. Paradoxically, from about 2001 things improved as the internet came in – the bar to being allowed to put your music out is far lower now and we actually make more money back on the recordings now than we did in the 1990s! Not much though – it all goes back to fund releases like ‘Luminous Crocodile’

++ What about gigging? Did you gig much at all? Is there any particular gig that you remember?

We giiged loads as Decemberists, and actually built a local following. As Hellfire sermons we gigged a lot in London and got those music paper reviews, but only occasionally played
in Liverpool, so HFS had more of a national profile, less so in our hometown! Now we don’t play gigs much – not sure who they reach, but who knows – it is good for a band to play –
but we want the right audience, and let’s face it – we are obscure!! Good, but still obscure. The gig I remember is the one in London for Kevin – we were on form – and as we played it was as if we had hypnotised the audience – they responded to each note and drum roll. Magical.

++ Hymns: Ancient and Modern was released in 2002. I don’t remember seeing that much promotion of it, or anything, but nowadays it’s not that easy to come by with a copy! How did Bus Stop approach you to release this retrospective LP? Why did you decided to put it out? Do you feel it was like closing a chapter?

It got a very good set of reviews on blogs etc. Of course we had no money to really promote it, and Bus Stop had slender resources but good contacts. We will be eternally grateful to Brian from Bus Stop for getting in touch for a retrospective CD. It pushed us into the internet age of music which is a better place for music than the 1990s. Without Brian the music would be basically inaccessible. You are right – it DID close a chapter – but it was a only retrospective of the vinyl – really we should release a CD of the songs up to Sarasine, then a CD of the “lost” Dishy album that never was. That lost CD should be out this year and we’re going to call it ‘Egg Banjo’ from one of Colin’s creative lyrics “Toffee torte, egg banjo, PIG!”. Colin developed into a very fine lyricist in my opinion. If we did a CD of the earlier stuff there’s some nice songs for that – “Mouth” (another in 5/4), “Albino Boy” (scorching live version), Down All The Days and some rawer recordings of the singles.

++ You are still going on, what can we expect from The Hellfire Sermons in the near future?

We have set up our label., Hidden Heartbeat and released ‘Luminous Crocodile” which is doing OK on the downloads although another effect has been to increase interest in Hymns, and in fact in Decemberists of Liverpool. Next is ‘Egg Banjo’ then maybe the early HFS stuff, or maybe Decemberists of Liverpool. We are in touch with The Jactars and DaVincis so it would be possible to release a compilation of those hidden Liverpool bands – HFS, Decemberists of Liverpool, Jenny Lind, Jactars, Peanut, DaVincis, Swim Naked, maybe even The Lids. It will never sell many, but it could be to the taste of indie fans. I would like to hope that some of those bands could become cult collectors items – a bit like the US garage babds of the 1960s – like Mouse and The Traps or the Left Banke, Beau Brummels etc. The songs are good enough to be heard for sure.

++ To finish this interview. I’ve read that Hellfire Sermons music was “oblique agit-pop”, “raw and bloody”, “chopped-up and thrown into acid bath”, “the voice of those who have no muscles”, how would you describe your music?

At certain times we could have followed a trend – but not why we were in a band – so we would make a twist We liked using discords and off-beat time signatures to make it interesting for us. Colin’s lyrics were quite personal and maybe disturbing…so I agree oblique, not overtly political, although were involved in fighting the poll tax (Gentleman Caller is about poll tax bailiffs), and supported Liverpool City Councils fight against Margaret Thatcher so maybe that came out. None of that helps you sell records! We are affable and pleasant guys, but maybe the music is fuelled by pent-up emotion. And we were all working with all those frustrations and problems so it is more of an adult music than some of the other indie bands who were in a student crowd – more gritty. I like a description someone used of urban folk music.


Hellfire Sermons – Rachel Clean