Thanks a lot to Sharon Bain for the interview. A bit more than a month ago I wrote a little piece about this great Scottish band on the blog and discovered that not only they had another record released, but that there were unreleased songs. I was lucky to stumble with Sharon on Youtube and now well, hope you all enjoy the interview. Great band! I really hope that retrospective CD project works out! I’d love to listen to it!

++ Thanks a lot for being up for the interview. So first question, whereabouts in the UK were The Wise Acres based? Are you still living there?

We were all brought up in a town just outside Glasgow…Renfrew. John, Sharon and Margo still live there…Rab stays on the other side of the River Clyde…Clydebank now. We all moved to different places when we were younger but have returned to our home town…to die.

++ So was The Wise Acres your first band? When did you form it?

Yes, it was our first band…we were originally called November but decided that was too boring a name so we all got drunk one night and read the bible for names…and came up with The Wiseacres…a name that seemed to sum us up well at the time…as people who thought they were wiser than they really were.
We started in 1985. We all used to go to a local night club that played indie tunes and had bands on. John and Rab were great friends as were Sharon and Margo so when we started talking about bands, we were all into the same music ( Velvet Underground, Iggy and the Stooges, Bowie, Spirit, Faust, Magazine, Dead Kennedys, Jesus and Mary Chain, etc) so we thought ‘hey lets see if we can do this ourselves too’…

++ How did you all knew each other? How was the recruiting process? And which instrument did each of you play?

Sharon Vocals
John Guitar
Rab Bass
Margo Drums
No real recruiting process as none of us could really play (apart from Rab) but were so into music, we wanted to get up on stage and be a ‘band’…total show offs. We were all friends so it seemed to work well.

++ And what does the name of the band mean?

A person with an affectation of wisdom or knowledge, regarded with scorn or irritation by others; a know-it-all. Seemed to sum us up.

++ What about gigs? Did you gig a lot? Any particular shows that you remember?

We all remember different gigs. Sharon remembers lying in puddles of beer at one gig. Playing to a load of drunken bikers in Edinburgh where the manager told us the crowd had bottled off the last indie band, however they seemed to like us. We were the house band in a couple of pubs in Paisley where we played every week…in varying states of sobriety.

++ Your first single “So Finally Sweet” was released in 1986, the same year as the C86 tape. That year an explosion of indie guitar bands happened in the UK. Did you feel there was some sort of a scene? Were you fans of any other bands of that period?

I think so, there seemed to be a load of bands that were into the same sort of music i.e. The Velvets and we definitely felt a kinship with those other bands…we hated them all tho and thought we were better than them…and we were right (ha ha….)
JAMC, The Pastels, Wedding Present, The Close Lobsters (in the early days we played a few gigs with the Lobsters…before fame beckoned and would always have a fight over who got the rider…a crate of Newcastle Brown Ale), Shop Assistants (a load of comparisons were made between us and them), The Primevals, BMX Bandits, Soup Dragons, Felt.

++ I really love the “So Finally Sweet” 7″, I think it’s great! I love the guitars all over the record. How did the creative process work for you all?

John would write the song and would play it to Sharon who would come up with a vocal melody. Rab was/ is a grade 8 pianist so he would always polish up the rough edges.

++ And what about the artwork? Is that a butterfly?

The band asked a local artist to come up with a few ideas. We originally went with the idea of having a ‘Warhol’ type print of Maggie Thatcher, however the record label hated the idea so we went for something more ‘conservative’, pardon the pun…and yeah it’s a butterfly.

++ My favourite song on that record is “One Day”, so I was wondering if you can tell me what’s the story behind it?

One Day is basically about the old Scottish phrase about ‘never knowing the minute’ by that we mean, life can change drastically at any given moment…esp. when you’re young and having to deal with knife crime, gangs, drugs etc.

++ I never knew about the existence of the David 12″. Care to tell me a bit about this record? When and where was it recorded? Any anecdotes? The tracklist? Favourite song?

Recorded in London with Richard Preston producing/ engineering…a thoroughly decent bloke. We’d played a gig in Manchester and drove down to London afterwards. We recorded the whole thing in 2 days, while dossing in a squat in a derelict area of London with some people we knew. We then drove back to Renfrew through one of the worst snowstorms in UK history. John and Rab up front in the van and Sharon sleeping blissfully in the back. The van spun round after hitting black ice on the motorway, luckily no one else was stupid enough to be driving that night so we lived to tell the tale.
Sharon’s favourite is ‘Affectionate Friend’ and John’s favourite is ‘Cuts Deep’

++ And you released both records on quite a “big” label for indie standards, Cherry Red. How was your relationship and how did you end up signing with them?

A fairly good relationship with the label but looking back, I don’t think they promoted the band enough…We were just rolling along thinking the band would just continue to develop and grow. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. We had signed with them after sending a demo that they liked…some other labels were interested but we thought that CR was the biggest and would therefore, be best for the band.

++ On a comment on my blog post about you, Bart says there was an NME interview. Do you remember anything about it? Did you get a lot of support from the press?

The NME interview: Sharon and John caught the train from Glasgow to London esp. for the interview. However, they ate a bit of hash on the way and ended up tripping. So the interview was a bit of a blur and I think we came across as a bit aloof…not intentionally. Sharon said later on that she wanted to run away during the interview. She had previously told the journalists that she was hating every minute of the interview. We should have been slaughtered but they still seemed to like us and the published interview came across well. Generally, we got really good press and should have done more as a band given the support we had. C’est la vie!

++ What about radio? Tv? Did you ever thought about making a video for one of your songs?

We got some radio play from Radio one and Radio Scotland. Our type of music was seen as more underground than it is today and we had good feedback from some European indie radio stations also some US college stations.
We did make a video once but it was terrible so we didn’t let anyone see it…we still laugh to this day about it.

++ And what about putting together all your songs on a CD, do some sort of retrospective CD? Cherry Red has been doing a lot of those, maybe it’s your time?

Yeah, good idea…we may well do that. This interview has got us thinking about the band again. We might re-record some stuff and put it on youtube.

++ Tell me about the song that is on Youtube. What’s the name? It’s fantastic! Are there more unreleased tracks?

The song is called ‘Drip Drip Drip’. We wrote loads of songs that never saw the light of day. Some were recorded, so if we can find them we may well put them on the compilation.

++ When and why did you split? Were you involved with music after?

We split because we started to drift apart as people and have other things that interested us. John stayed involved with music after The Wiseacres…to varying degrees of failure.

++ And what are you up to these days? What do you like doing in your spare time? Any hobbies?

Sharon is a Lecturer in a local college and is still into her music. She has 2 kids, her youngest has great potential to follow her mother’s footsteps…. and more…
John works with drug addicts and still plays in a band (Mouse Eat Mouse). He has 2 kids, one of whom is shaping up to be a good wee drummer.
Rab works in a local casino. He also still likes his music and has 2 kids.
Margo is an accountant. Also has 2 kids. Sharon and Margo remain good friends to this day.

++ Looking back, what would you say were the highlights of The Wise Acres?

It was a lot of fun…loads of happy memories. We had our moment and it was good to be a part of something. We loved our music and enjoyed playing where ever we could.

++ As you are almost unknown in the internet, were it’s impossible to find any information about The Wise Acres, I was wondering if you could tell me if you have special skills? any guilty pleasures? 🙂

Eh…Sharon has many talents however, that’s for her and her husband only. Her guilty pleasure is a liking for the 80’s hit song by Flash& the Pan ‘waiting for a train’.
John has a penchant for flower arranging and takes a local zumba class.

++ Let’s wrap the interview here, anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for the interest and it’s been a lot of fun.


The Wise Acres – One Day


Marble: is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite. The word “marble” derives from the Greek “μάρμαρον” (mármaron),[2] from “μάρμαρος” (mármaros), “crystalline rock”, “shining stone”, perhaps from the verb “μαρμαίρω” (marmaírō), “to flash, sparkle, gleam”. This stem is also the basis for the English word marmoreal, meaning “marble-like.”Whilst the English term resembles the French marbre, most other European languages (e.g. Spanish mármol, Italian marmo, Portuguese mármore, German, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish marmor, Dutch marmer, Polish marmur, Turkish mermer, Czech mramor and Russian мрáмор ) follow the original Greek.

Orchard: An orchard is an intentional planting of trees or shrubs that is maintained for food production.

News abound at Cloudberry HQ. First of all beginning next year the label will be based in New York City. Not sure where exactly, but in the next couple of weeks I should be traveling there to find a place (any suggestions?) I’m really excited about it as I’m starting a better job there, with a view to the Hudson, and also because I think is a step forward for Cloudberry. There’s not only NYC Popfest in town, but also plenty of gigs unlike Miami. Hopefully I’ll be able to take part on this, I’d love to start booking some bands, you know? A mini-Cloudberry fest would be fantastic. More news on this soon. Just giving you the heads up as your orders won’t come from sunny Miami no more, but from massive New York instead.

By now most of your favourite mailorders should be carrying the Youngfuck 7″s. If not, their copies should be arriving this week as the latest. The record has been selling quite well, even though the band’s last gig was in February. That proves that when music is good, you don’t need a band gigging all the time to promote it. And talking about promoting, we are working on a video for “Black Tulips”. Keep your eyes peeled.

Those who have visited the Cloudberry Rcords site you must have noticed that the Feverfew CD is already listed, tracklist and all. You can even preview one of the tracks: “Crimson Gloom”. As stated there, the CD includes 17 remastered tracks (which comprises all their recorded output), a booklet with liner notes by Phil Ball (bassist of Feverfew), and for the first 100 orders, a pin that has the original design of the pins Feverfew used to have back in the 80s. The digipack is custom made for our new series, the Cloudberry Cake Kitchen, were I plan to bring the best albums, retrospective mostly but new too. No fillers. So start making space in your book shelves, you’ll like to line these up. Future releases include…

… I won’t say yet.

But the start couldn’t be more promising. Feverfew’s “Something of Nothing” must be by far the best retrospective album of this year. It is really that good. Keith Girdler’s genius is all over it. And this was pre-Blueboy. Great lyrics, great vocals, great musicianship, a youthful edge, catchy melodies, it just has it all. You don’t want to miss it.

Alright, let’s move onto something else. The CDs on rotation this week:
1. Dot Dash – Spark>Flame>Ember (The Beautiful Music)
2. Various Artists – Amen (Richmond)
3. My Darling YOU! – AK Art (Luxury)
4. Almedal – Till Kyrkogården (Luxury)
5. Makthaverskan – Makthaverskan (Luxury)

And our obscure band of the week: Marble Orchard.

Looking at their Discogs page, I would have never thought they were obscure as they have 7 releases. But googling about the band members you barely find any information. My knowledge about the band is zero if I’m honest. I came into one of their songs, “Our Love is Up To You”, on my friend Heinz’s Youtube account. I thought it was a very nice tune. I looked around. I found the 7″ on ebay, I bought it. All of this, just today in the morning while working on some PDFs for a Sexual Health campaign in London. The cover of the 7″ is quite peculiar. It has a woman, it has a lamb, and it has cacti. Seem as if it was painted with watercolours. The woman looks like a Greek amphora painting. On the cover of this 7″, the title track is written in red, “Paradise”. This record was released by the German label September Gurls in 1994 and is catalog number SGs12.

On the label site there’s a little review of the title track: “Once you have listened to “Paradise” you will be hooked by melody, harmony and memories. Flip is outtake from session for 1st CD. Great twelve string 60’s style.” It seems you can also order the record from there for around 4 euros plus postage. Not bad, though I found it for 4 dollars. And talking about September Gurls, I do have some records by them, now that I think about it. I believe some Throw That Beat in the Garbagecan. So yeah, seems like a fine label I should explore more.

Anyhow, it’s the flipside the one I know and been enjoying all morning long. To my surprise this song doesn’t belong to one of those hundreds of bands that during the 80s contributed songs on different tape compilations in the UK. This band, even though it sounds like those other bands from Britain, is from Portland, Oregon. Go figure! Well, if you do look at the picture on Discogs of the band, well, two of the guys have long hair, that’s very American, isn’t it? So, there you go.

The track is really inspired, they remind me a lot to the most recent band The Librarians who had a release here in Cloudberry. Also they sound a bit like The Dupont Circles from Washington DC. Lots of sixties influences, but with that 80s production, perhaps could be a good description? A lot like the Perfect Pop releases in the early nineties too! Scroll down and have a shot I say.

The Marble Orchard were Jayson Breeton, Ron Kleim and Steve Frothingham. Prior to this 7″ they had an album called “Savage Sleep” released in 1991, and two 7″ singles: “Something Happens” (1990) and “It’s my Time” (1992). All of these releases were put out by Estrus Records, off from Bellingham, Washington. And after the September Gurl 7″ it seems they continued with the German imprint and released the albums “Agent Invisible” and “Adventures in Mutation” as well as a split 7″ in 2003 shared with Surf Trio. Surf Trio being the latest band of Ron Kleim.

The description for these albums don’t really catch my attention to be honest: “”Adventures in Mutation” shows the band’s versatility: heavy melodic Wiper-esque rock thunder, surf metal…”  Not sure I want to listen to surf metal! But well, I wonder if anyone has listened to these records and can tell me I should give them a chance. For now I enjoy this one track, waiting for my 7″ to arrive from the ebay seller from Port Lucie, FL, and hoping Paradise is another great jangly track!

And as always, please do share if you have any more information about the Marble Orchard!


Marble Orchard – Our Love is Up To You


Thanks a lot to Andy Gray for the interview! My first encounter with Newsflash was through the fantastic “An Englishman” on the Leamington Spa series, but never had the chance to know or listen anything else by them. After a bit of research, and through Mark Whitton, I got in touch with Andy and now Newsflash is no mystery no more! Sit back and enjoy.

++ Hi Andy, thanks so much for being up for the interview. The first thing that catches my imagination is that you were from the Isle of Sheppey. I don’t know much about it to be honest, but from the photos I’ve seen, there’s lots and lots of fields and sheep. How come Newsflash pop out from there? Where in the isle where you based? Was there any sort of scene?

There are lots of contented-looking sheep, tis true. Sheppey is an island off the north Kent coast, population 30,000 and rising. We’re only seven miles across the water from Southend, so we’re a hybrid of estruary culture. Few are islanders born and bred and lots originate from the mainland – mainly London – as in my parents case. There was a sort of scene when we started out in 1987. It was made up of ageing punk/thrash bands, which we had nowt to do with. There was no one our age doing anything, but others were inspired to have a go once we were underway.

++ I would assume that you took the train a lot to London to see bands and hang out? Am I right?

Not really. We were too busy ourselves to get to many gigs and we definitely weren’t interested in hanging out with other bands. It wasn’t out of snobbery or anything, we just didn’t have a lot in common with our peers – still don’t. We were pretty self-contained. When we were gigging in London, the island thing really kicked in. We had a bit of a yokel-sized chip on our shoulder. I think deep down we might have felt a little out of our depth. Stupid really. The few shows we paid to see at the time were bands like The Style Council, The Redskins, Billy Bragg, Everything But The Girl. Anything that was sort of soulful sort and left of centre.

++ So how did the band start? How did you all knew each other? I read the line-up changed quite a bit during the five years you were around… What instruments did you all play?

The last line-up was: Nev Broad (drums) Andy Moss (lead/rhythm guitar) Mark Whitton (bass) Andy Gray, little old me (vocals).

++ Was this your first band?

Yeah. I would’ve made music a lot earlier than I eventually did – I was 19 when Newsflash started – but I never thought I’d ever have the testes to get up and sing in front of an audience.

++ Why the name Newsflash?

Shit name, terrible name. God knows. I think it was our original guitarist’s idea and we never bothered to change it. I was so embarrassed by it and still am. How could we have expected people to take us seriously? I can only apologise.

++ Has there ever been a real newsflash that shocked you, impressed you or just made you laugh?

Only the poxy band name. Hearing John Lennon had been shot was a bit of a headfuck, even though I was too young to have any real comprehension of who he was. It kicked off my Beatles/Lennon obsession. .

++ What music were you listening at the time? Do you feel you were part of the so-called C86 scene, of that guitar explosion that happened in UK during the late 80s?

No. We were listening to stuff that had been around a decade or so earlier, but were too young to appreciate at the time. Things like The Clash were a big influence as was some of the late sixties soul stuff from singers like Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, etc. Later on, The Stone Roses were on our radar and that was pretty much it for the rest of the eighties.

++ So, I’ve only listened to that one song on the Leamington Spa compilation, “An Englishman”. The song is fantastic. I have a big request for you. Would you mind telling me the story behind it? How did you come up with those guitars? And the drums, they are fab! So if you wouldn’t mind, also, would you care sharing the lyrics for me?

As I remember, the song developed from the galloping-style guitar solo at the beginning. The lyrics were meant to be a wry dig at English totems. Hence lines like, “where the bulldog spirit barks all day about weather, sunshine, snow or rain and the only lion I know of, closes early Sunday lunch.” It was my way of saying, “we’re not as great as we think we are, but we’re okay.” This was about four years before England and Englishness became fashionable. Britpop I think they called it.

++ You were really good with arrangements I could tell from the guitar riffs. How was the creative process for you guys?

Andy would come up with a riff and if inspired, I’d find a melody, then words. It was pretty straightforward, we never rowed.

++ That makes me wonder, did you have any releases? Are there many songs recorded? Which were your favourite?

We did limited edition 7″ and 12″ singles. We also put out a promotional flexidisc -try explaining one of those to today’s kids. A favourite with fans was a song called Sam the Bland. It was groovy with a scattering of brass and written about the rise of the bureaucratic drones with the “VDUs strapped to their backs,” which shows you how old the song is. Does anyone still call it a VDU?

++ Were there any interest from labels?

There was plenty of interest from the majors and some big publishers, too. The now dearly departed Vaghan Tolouse, ex Department S and Style Council, wanted us to sign to his publishers, Gut Reaction, and Ben Wardle at RCA was a fan. But without a manager who knew the musical ropes we never got a proper handle on the contract side of things. We were offered a deal with UFO, an independent label with the Stones’ Charlie Watts as part of its rosta It would’ve been ideal, but they wanted worldwide rights to everything we ever released in our lifetime for about £5,000. We never put pen to paper, which worked out for the best eventually, as I would never have gone on to form Jel, my musical apogee.

++ What about gigs? Did you play a lot? Any anecdotes you could share? I’ve read your best were at the Powerhaus in London…

We started out and pubs and clubs on Sheppey before branching out across Kent and eventually moving on London. We’d take coachloads with us to Tuesday night gigs at places like the Powerhaus and George Robey. As I’ve said, we were the first Island band to take our stuff to the capital, so for everyone, fans included, those were pioneering days. Little memories crop up now and again, but nothing of any great consequence because it was all a bit of a whirlwind. I remember us waiting to soundcheck before a Covent Garden gig and the promoter popping his head round the door and asking: “Excuse me, are you Newsflash or Taken From Behind?” It was probably one of the only times I was happy to ‘fess up to being called Newsflash.

++ And radio play? Did fanzines pick you up? Or the music press? You seem so obscure, but it might as well be that searching for Newsflash on google is kind of impossible!

The local radio station BBC Kent had a Sunday night show which promoted local music. We got played a lot and I’ll never forget hearing our stuff broadcast for the first time – one of the most exciting things that can happen to any band. A national magazine for unsigned bands – I forget what it’s called – also picked up on us. They rated Nobodies Home, a latter-day Newsflash classic , as one of the magazine’s top ten songs of the year.

++ So when and why did you split? Were you involved with music after?

It would’ve been about 1992. I think the UFO contract business played a part. The offer momentarily opened up a world of possibilities, and although the decision not to sign in hindsight was the right one, it was nonetheless deflating. Very amicably, we went our separate ways. That was until Nev the drummer and myself formed Jel and the whole bandwagon rolled once more.

++ Are you all still in touch? If so, what are you up these days?

The island’s a very small place, we’re always bumping into each other. Although the last I heard, Andy, our old guitarist, was living in Berlin. I write for a newspaper, music, features and all sorts, during which time I’ve enjoyed an audience with many of my heroes, Paul Weller being one. And I’m still writing, recording – and just occasionally – playing with Jel. We toured Britain and Europe and made an album that will outlive us all – All the Blinding Menace. It picked up brilliant reviews in the national media and continues to sell well across the world via Amazon and iTunes, etc. I’m dead proud of what we’ve achieved and the story continues. On Saturday, December 17 this year we’re supporting an idol from our youth, Bruce Foxton, at Chelsea FC’s Under the Bridge. Bruce is performing as From The Jam and we’ve been asked to support. I can’t wait and it might turn out to be one of the most memorable gigs we’ve ever done – and there have been plenty.

++ Looking back to the past, what would you say were the best moments of being in Newsflash?

The gigs at the Powerhaus were special, even though I didn’t really appreciate it at the time. Everyone from Sheppey sort of bought into the dream and fans that followed us often remind me/us of their brilliant memories of that brief period during the early 90s when the island took London by storm.

++ And is there anything that you would do different if you had the chance?

I would’ve changed the name and got a decent manager. Other than that? Nothing.

++ Let’s wrap the interview here, but before let me go back to the Isle of Sheppey. If I was to go there as a tourist, what would you recommend me seeing and eating? And drinking?

There’s a little hamlet called Harty, which resides in almost total wilderness. It’s only about three miles from where I live but civilisation feels a million miles away when you’re there. It’s got a little pub called the Ferry Inn, where legend has it smugglers happily plied their trade because of its remote location. It does superb booze and food. It’s a favourite with Michael Palin and (wait for it) Bill Oddie who have both wined and dined there. Oddie because of neighbouring Elmley Nature Reserve, one of the poisonous, bearded little tit’s bird-watching haunts.

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

Check out All the Blinding Menace, one of the greatest albums of the nineties, or any decade come to that.

I thank you.


Newsflash – An Englishman


Thanks so much to Barry McLeod for the great interview! The Incredible Blondes released just one 7″ back in 1985, but it became such a classic that the band in 2005 and recorded some new tracks to put out a CD album. An album that I highly recommend. You can visit their site here. Please enjoy one of Glasgow’s finest bands!

++ Before The Incredible Blondes you were in two bands, The Lemons and Protection. Care to tell me a bit about each? And were there any recordings or releases?

What can I say about The Lemons. Basically we were a New Wave punk band that sounds much more impressive than the actual reality. In truth, we were a classic garage band made up of friends from school. The line-up was John Wilkie on rhythm guitar, myself on lead guitar (eventually replaced Andrew Little on vocals) and Robert Campbell (the Incredible Blondes drummer) on drums. The songs we played were largely covers of bands like The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, The Vibrators, etc. It had to be simple due to our limited musical ability! We played 2 or 3 gigs locally and then morphed into Protection after listening (unwisely) to Genesis and YES albums.  Good God.

This, in retrospect, was a huge mistake for 2 reasons. Firstly, we couldn’t manage the complexity of the music and secondly, NO ONE was interested in hearing this type of music again! However, we did a couple of demos, that are only wheeled out when we get together for a laugh.

++ So when did The Incredible Blondes start as a band? How did the recruiting process work?

The band started (after Protection split) around 1984. The band was simply Robert Campbell and myself. We quickly did a couple of demos in Glasgow studios and after sending these to record companies etc, managed to get a session on the Janice Long Show on Radio One in 1985. This was pure luck really, and the producer told me he thought we sounded a bit like the Velvet Underground. We probably sounded more like Glasgow underground, but were ecstatic at this piece of luck. After the session we advertised for some more musicians, and ended up (after a few trials and errors) with Eddie Campbell on Keyboards ( who later joined Texas) and Stephen Boyle on bass.

++And where did the name of the band come from?

As far as I can remember I think it was something to do with the blonde stimulant (Rutger Hauer) in Bladerunner. God knows what the actual link was.

++ What were you listening at the time when you formed the band? And as you are from Glasgow I have to ask this, how influential was Postcard Records for you?

We were listening to a lot of stuff at the time, from King Crimson to Prefab Sprout and The Smiths. I was introduced by my girlfriend to Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and Joseph K (all in the Postcard stable). To be honest, it was more the album You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever that I really found brilliant more than the Postcard stuff. Also Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, Hipsway and The Smiths were also a big favourite (and still are). We were mightily pleased that our single released on NoStrings (who discovered Lloyd Cole), was distributed by Rough Trade record company for The Smiths.

++ Which were your favourite places in town to go see bands and hang out?

The trouble was we looked so young that it was (embarrassingly) quite difficult for us to get into pubs and clubs around town. But names that spring to mind were The Venue in Sauchiehall Street, the Pavillion and Glasgow University Student Union (the QM).

++ And were there any favourite bands in Glasgow that you would follow?

In those days we thought we were head and shoulders above most other local bands and usually adopted and aloof and scoffing nature to other bands. The more successful they were the louder our scoffing. I suspect this was simply mean-spirited pettiness. Secretly though, we did have our favourities, as listed above, who we would have killed to have been part of. The fact is we were too late for the Postcard stuff, but too soon for the newer ‘indie’ bands like The Pastels and Belle and Sebastian. I’m a big fan of Belle and Sebastian, but strangely have not come across any of them in Glasgow, as I said, from different times. Did meet the singer (Stuart Murdoch) at a local West End fete strangely enough, and he was kind enough to autograph a bit of paper for my 2 sons who are also big fans. Did not introduce myself as from The Incredible Blondes in case he looked blankly at me and hadn’t heard of us!

++ Your one and only 7″ came out on No Strings Records. How did you end up knowing them and signing for them? Were there any other labels interested in putting it out? I wouldn’t be surprised as it’s a corker!

We were rehearsing in Centre City studios at the time in 1986 and the guy who was in charge at the time (Nick Low) heard us on the radio as we were actually rehearsing at the time! The enterprising fellow decided to ask us, there and then, if we wanted to do a single with his label (NoStrings). Poor Nick’s been paying for it ever since, as we really did not make any money from the single and I’m sure Nick was out of pocket. We were very impressed with his encyclopaedic knowledge of indie bands (and any bands come to that) and am still friends with Nick.

++ And why weren’t there more releases?

As we didn’t make any money from the first single and got no interest from record companies, we came to the dismal conclusion that perhaps we weren’t the 1% who think they are brilliant and actually are, but were more likely to be the 99% who think they are brilliant but actually are not.

++ So tell me about “Where Do I Stand?”. What’s the story behind this classic tune?

Wrote this in a couple of hours and simply just made up the hypothetical situation of boy looking for clarity vis a vis their relationship. Thought it was quite funny and reflected the daft posturing things we do to get the attention of the opposite sex (and probably still would do if I was on the market tragically). Was about to say patronisingly that it is what  young people so, but, on reflection, I think such behaviour is not related to age. Also, liked the idea of the song just being about just a small moment of realism for someone, as I really hated pop lyrics that sing about love and really don’t seem to be about anything at all.

++ And how come you decided to re-record it in Japanese? And how did you meet the girl that sings on it?

Ah, that was Nick’s idea. We went our separate ways after the single in 1987 and met, by chance in a Blockbuster in the West End (the fates!) about 20 years later. Nick, who fortuitously had now had a music production company with a cool studio, suggested we record some new songs and release some old material. He felt that there was some interest (somewhat late in the day!) for the single from the indie community, particularly from Japan. This is still strange to us, as only a 1,000 single were ever pressed. We have the sneaking suspicion that the single was released in Japan without a penny of it reaching us.

Anyway, Nick suggested we record the single in Japanese for this potential audience. Given our Japanese is limited, Nick recruited Aya to be translater for the new track. In the studio we decided to ask Aya if she would like to sing along and she did so with great aplomb.

++ So yeah, that Japanese version appears on the 2005 album “Where Do I Stand?”. What made you resurrect The Incredible Blondes after all those years? And how different was recording new songs at that time compared to the your 80s tunes?

The resurrection was really just me, with musical help from Nick’s friends Aya and Jim McDermott on drums. Unfortunately, Bob is now living in Shetland, so he couldn’t practically be involved in the process. The process was completely different, as I had loads of time in the studio due to Nick’s patience compared to the cash limited time limit in the 1908s studio environment.

++ And what about that photo on the cover of the CD? Is there any story behind it?

The cover of the clown and the boy is a photo of myself when I was about 8 or 9. I thought it was funny as this was a party where kids were asked if they wanted to get up and sing for the prize of a selection box of sweets. I was up like a shot and as you can see from the photo the clown had to prise the mike out of my hands.

++ What did you do in between those yeas? Were you still involved in music?

If only. The band split soon after the single as I and Bob both went to University. Well, in fact I went to University at Strathclyde and Bob went to college (Caledonia College). I then graduated and went on to do a Phd (which I did not complete!) and then worked as a Research Fellow at the Uni until 2002, when I started a public sector consultancy company. Bob left college and became a driving instructer for a while, then left to go to Shetland and is now a lecturer in Shetland College.

++ Another song I enjoy a lot from the album is Unreal, with that Orange Juice-y start. You say there that you have never been to New York or Paris. Did you ever get to go? What would you say is your favourite city you’ve visited?

Oh, good Smash Hits question! Never got to New York, but did get to California in 2003 which was really cool. Have been to Paris a few times, but I think my favourite city is Rome. I’m really into Roman stuff and liked dragging my kids about the city and boring them senseless about old piles of stone.

++ And what about your favourite song? do you have one?

Probably, oh, tough one, a tie between When Love Breaks Down by Prefab Sprout, Thank You by the Pale Fountains, Atmosphere by Joy Division, The Boy With the Thorn in His Side by The Smiths, Sunkissed by Friends Again or Felicity by Orange Juice. Don’t tie me down to one song!

++ Did you gig a lot as The Incredible Blondes?  Any favourite gigs? Are there any anecdotes you could share?

We didn’t do many gigs to be honest. We did support Deacon Blue at the Glasgow Tech which stands out for me. Please refer to above about scoffing and aloofness. The chat from them inbetween songs made me cringe. Bob, however, sold out and bought their album and they went onto wild(ish) success.

++ What about the Janice Long session? How was that experience?

That was really cool. Came back from holiday to find a note from my Mum saying Radio One had called and wanted us to do a radio session. I’ve never loved my Mother more than at that perfect moment. Going down to London in a van driven by my Dad sticks in my mind, as does the cool massive studio where we recorded. Bob and I went down with my then girlfriend Sarah on keyboards, as an extra  band member meant an extra £70 from Radio One.

Was also funny when the producer introduced himself as the drummer from the old band Mott the Hoople, to which there was an embarrassing silence as we had no real idea who the hell they were. I can still see the disappointment in his eyes.

++ I read that the Incredible Blondes split because you had to go to university? Is that how it happened? What did you study?

Refer to above, University of Strathclyde and studied Business Administration and Industrial Relations. Really wanted to do History, but was convinced that this would give me a better chance of a job. If there is one lesson for any young ‘uns reading this, DON’T study Business Administration and Industrial Relations , DO study what you like the best (relatively speaking, given films, music and sport are not really on the curriculum).

++ Looking back in time what would you say were your highlights of being in the Incredible Blondes?

The Radio One session and seeing our single in the window of a record store on Byres Road in Glasgow. Heaven and the planets were in perfect alignment at this point.

++ How was the reunion gig of March 26 of 2005? Did it feel natural after all those years? And have your played live after or are there any plans to do so?

The gig was good fun, and it gave us the chance to play with co-opted bass player from our Lemons and Protection days, John Wilkie again. Did it feel natural? I don’t know if gigs ever felt natural to us, but good fun certainly.

++ I’ve been to Glasgow twice already. And I’m sure there will be a third time around. So would love to ask you for some tips on what to see and some restaurants to have some proper Scottish food.

First thing is Glasgow isn’t Rome, so don’t get your hopes up. But you know this as you’ve been already. Go to Byres Road and walk up to the Botanic Gardens. Lunch in Cafe Anduluz in Ashton Lane. Wander up to Glasgow Uni and if you feel nostalgic, go to West Princess Street to see where Postcard Records were. It’s a bit rough there so keep you hand on your wallet!

++ And yeah, why does Glasgow produce so much great music? Do you have any theory for that?

Good question. I honestly think it’s because the weather is so awful here that we have nothing better to do than make music. Have you ever heard a great indie band from Italy or Spain? Good weather and too much fun to be had outside. Also think that there is something about Glasgow people that makes them less keen on manufactured pop and mainstream music and more keen on more serious music. Also helps that there is a big student community, many of whom are banging away on guitars so to speak.

++ One last question, do you like Irn Bru? I’m in love with it.

Irn Bru? God, you have been to Scotland. I love the Diet Irn Bru, as the real stuff is just to sweet for me. This, is my experience of fizzies ( and this is a lot of experience) is the only diet form of a fizzy that actually tastes better than the non-diet version. Diet Coke, Urghhh.

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

Only thanks for the chance to reminisce and I’m so glad that you like some of the songs we did. What other bands are you into??


The Incredible Blondes – Where Do I Stand?


Blue: The word itself was loaned into Middle English from the Old French word bleu, blo ” “pale, pallid, discoloured; blue, blue-gray”, itself from an Old Frankish blao.

Siege: is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for “to sit”. Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static defensive position. Consequently, an opportunity for negotiation between combatants is not uncommon, as proximity and fluctuating advantage can encourage diplomacy.

It kind of feels as if I’m under siege here. So much work to do. I have managed to get into three freelance deals this past week and I have worked non-stop at home after the daily 8 hours at the office. One of them is the usual freelance I do for an art dealer: add, delete, change, some art pieces in his web catalog. Then I’m doing a sexual health poster for a London organization and last, I’m working on a site for some physician here that works with penile implants for erectile dysfunction. I know, very very odd. But it pays the bills. Anyhow, I still haven’t finished all of it, I’m almost there though. I should be done in a couple of hours, but I needed a break. Introspect a bit, write, blog. I have finished sending orders of the newly released Youngfuck 7″ though. That’s quite an achievement as there were plenty of pre-orders and orders. There are some things still due at Cloudberry HQ like finishing the Feverfew artwork (which is at a 99% stage), and then setting up the website with information for this new release. I will work hastily today to try to get that done. If not, there will be news during the week definitely.

You’ll forgive my short post today, I hope. I also have my mum visiting so you can imagine time is really something luxurious at the moment. I do have some interviews coming up for this week, so worry not, the blog won’t be left on a side.

The CDs that have been on rotation this week were:
1. The Jordans – Hallelujah Mine! (Constant)
2. The Jordans – Early & Not So (self-released CDR)
3. The Sundays – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (Geffen)
4. The Rileys – The World And His Wife (A Turntable Friend)
5. Skansros – Vårsol (Luxury)

The obscure band for this week is Blue Siege. Blue being my favorite color.

Ed at Shelflife had already recommended them some time ago, but I didn’t pay them any attention then. The track he posted, “Into the Swing”, which according to him is better than the A side of their first 7″ (which I have never heard, so I trust him). The title track is called “Waiting River” and this 7″ was released by Pride Communications. Catalog number was 001. The cool part about this record is that it was produced by Chris Layhe from The Icicle Works at The Park in Liverpool. The photography of the sleeve was taken by Nick Kemp. Also four last names are credited on this record: Cumming, Gibbons, Rylance, Hall. Because of a comment on Youtube, we know the bass player was a girl. Which of the last names belonged to her? Not sure. And do you think it would be a safe guess to think they were all from Liverpool?

It was 1986 when that first 7″ was released. It was the same year when their second release came to life, a 12″ record. And this is the one I enjoy, especially because of the first track: “Ruins No Longer Remain”. I don’t have the record yet, but I have managed to secure a copy earlier today, hopefully arriving in a week or two from the UK. It doesn’t look difficult to track down as I found many offers in different pages. The cheapest, the one I got, was from a seller on Musicstack. So if interested, have a look there. You can find copies of this great record for 5 dollars or so plus postage.

Anyways, a nice tint of purple for the sleeve. Shouldn’t it be blue? That’s what I wonder. It was released again by Pride Communications, with catalog number LP001. Sounds as if the label was their own, right? Why Pride though? anything to do with gay pride? Who knows. Perhaps in 1986 it wasn’t like that, but these days, when I think of the word pride, I think of gay pride. Moving on. This is not an album, but a mini-album. It includes 6 songs, being the first 2 the best of the bunch. The tracklist is:
A1 Ruins No Longer Remain
A2 Stolen Daylight
A3 Like Red Rags To The Bull (Soweto)
B1 Hollow Man
B2 River Has Gone
B3 Drifting Apart

The sound of the 12″ is in between post-punk and indiepop. A bit like This Final Frame I’d say. Keyboards, great melodic jangle, but a bit darker and less luminous than your standard Bodines-like C86 indiepop. In any case it’s great, it’s not dreary and depressive post-punk, but catchy. Just give a try to the song. I’ve been enjoying it a lot today, a rainy autumn Sunday.

And after putting Google under a siege, that’s all the information I’ve been able to gather online. If you know anything else about this band, please share. Would be great to know a bit more about them!


Blue Siege – Ruins No Longer Remain

The word itself was loaned into Middle English from the Old French word bleu, blo ” “pale, pallid, discoloured; blue, blue-gray”, itself from an Old Frankish *blao.

Thanks so much to Guy Cresswell for the interview! Playing for Time just released a retrospective CD on Firestation Records and you can order it from the label page. Back in the 80s they only released one 7″ that is sought after by indiepop fans, especially our Japanese brothers. It goes for crazy prices on eBay! Now sit back and enjoy the interview with this obscure, but great, London band.

++ Hi Guy! Thanks so much for being up for the interview. I’ve been enjoying the new CD “The Unreleased Sessions 1984-1989” on Firestation Records. How come this record came about, 20 years later? How was the process?

Thank you so much for asking us – deep breath here goes

We started to receive emails from Japan asking about the single ‘With my Heart’ which we had released on our own record label “Thumbs Up” in the 80’s.
Obviously we were really pleased to hear there was still interest in the band and suitably shocked to hear how much the singles were being sold for, bearing in mind we only pressed 1000 copies and never distributed them outside of the UK!
The break through came when we connected with Takashi Yonezawa, a great fan of the band and a huge figure in the world of vinyl collecting, and he put us
in touch with Uwe and Olaf at Firestation Records, both passionate music lovers with a great record company and we went from there to discuss the ossibility of a retrospective album.

++ And what can people, that listen to you for the first time. expect from this record?

A slice of pure 80’s pop music from a young, quality band on the London scene having a great time playing music, we view it as time capsule of the period, we now play the CD and it takes us back to a London that was vibrant, colourful and fun.

++ Though, the name is not completely right, is it? I mean, “With My Heart” did get released, and now is highly collectable. How do you feel when it goes for very high sums of money on eBay? It seems it’s the Japanese your biggest fans, and you can’t compete with them on eBay!

No one was more surprised than us, as I said we only pressed 1000 singles, we got the money to do this by playing some bigger gigs and then we sold the
singles at the time for £3 each to friends and fans, the singles were never heavily distributed but we did get quite a lot of airplay when we promoted the single to the London Radio stations.

++ And I don’t blame them for paying that, this song is great! So I’m wondering what inspired you to write it? And what’s it about?

Thanks, we were pleased with the song but also recognize it’s the single’s rarity that makes it so prized for our Japanese friends, we do know there is a box of 25 brand new, unplayed, singles stored somewhere and you can bet we are trying to find it, but like lost gold it keeps alluding us

‘With my heart’ was an unusual song for us as Steve had written the verses and I had independently written a chorus and both of us were trying to finish different songs without realising what the other had written, Robin heard both parts and realised we were could put them together, what’s the song about?

Rule 3 of song writing, never explain your lyrics, let the listener decide what it means to them…..

++ So, 15 songs on the new CD. Are these all your recordings? Or were there some stuff left behind?I ask because I was looking at a playlist of yours on your page and I read some song names like Loveblind, Merry Go Round, Sloan Sq to Menorca, and more…

We had quite a few other songs but we decided that we would stick to this selection of 15 tunes as a good representation of the band, however just the
mention of Loveblind, Merry Go Round, Sloane Sq to Menorca, takes me right back to playing those songs live; we never recorded them in the studio though,
and the live recordings we do have, whilst being a great memento for us, are not good enough quality to release.

++ What would you say was your favourite Playing for Time song?

For me personally it was ‘Six weeks in July’ which was the b side of ‘With my Heart’, why, well because I wrote it and because it always reminded me of growing up on the South Coast of England but Steve Noyce, my writing partner in the band, wrote some absolutely amazing songs and like me is still writing, and so if I had to choose one of Steve’s songs it would be ‘Blues’ it has a brilliant chord sequence and was always a great crowd pleaser, it was also the song that most interested the bigger record companies.

The other stand out song was ‘Don’t Criticise’ as this featured Jack Cryer on lead vocals, Jack sings even better now than she did then, and her voice has matured to velvet, an incredible performer and talent.

++ Let’s go back in time, to the 80s. What were you doing just before starting the band? Have you been involved in other bands prior to Playing For Time?

Personally I was playing in bands and working as a freelance guitar demonstrator for Roland UK and writing songs, playing in such great unknown 80’s bands such as ‘The Missing Links’ and ‘Innocent Party’ and ‘In at the Deep End’

++ And how did the band come about? How did you all knew each other?

Robin did a brilliant band history on the CD cover notes and so if you would like to know the full story then grab a copy of the CD from Fire Station records before they sell out!

++ What about the name of the band? What does the phrase mean?

We liked the name as it had various meanings, depending on the context you use it, but like most band names as soon as it is associated with music then it
just becomes the words to describe the sound, say ‘Playing for Time’ to me and I hear a melody.

++ You gigged quite a bit, are there any particular gigs that you are fond of? Any anecdotes you could share?

Scott’s famous club in Denmark Street and sold it out twice. That was an incredible experience to play and we felt very privileged to have played in the
place where so many great legends and our musical heroes had played, it was exhilarating and humbling at the same time.

How about a gig at the Savoy for The Vegetarian Society, we started to play and instead of dancing, they formed couples and ballroom danced to our music, at that point ‘Captain Sensible’ from the Damned arrived, rushed the stage and sang Blue Suede shoes with us before ripping the stage apart.

‘Right Said Fred’ used to open for us before they had their string of hits, they were an acoustic duo then and sounded a bit like The Everly Brothers, they were brilliant and we were surprised and pleased when they broke through with a new sound!

Driving down to Portsmouth in a convoy of terrible cars and having a food fight on the way, I remember lots of sandwiches on the windscreen and when we
used the windscreen wipers bits of sandwich and cake were smeared across the screen.

My future wife Kate collecting me from a gig in VW golf convertible and giving the 3 piece brass section a lift home, they would not all fit in the car and so we
took the roof down and the three of them sat on the back of the car as we drove across Tower Bridge playing their instruments.

Lots of memories, most of all I remember the laughter, even to this day if you put the old band members in a room together within 5 minutes there is laughter.

++ And on the liner notes you mention the coach convoys organised by the McArthur clan. Care to expand on that? 🙂

PD (surname McArthur), our bass player, had a great idea that when we played Ronnie Scotts we should bring up lots of people from the South of England and so he hired two coaches, filled it with people and beer, charged them a couple of pounds for the trip and we sold out the venues……I always remember turning the corner to Ronnie Scott’s and seeing a massive line of people and wondering who they were going to see………..It was us!

++ You only released one 7″ record, on your own label. Why the decision to release it yourselves? How did you enjoy doing “label” stuff?

We had got frustrated waiting on the major labels and so just decided to do it ourselves and we were very pleased with the result.

++ And how come you didn’t get to release more records back then? You had plenty of songs clearly!

It was a classic case of getting tied up in record company land, we had plenty of offers for singles deal but with so many songs we really wanted an album deal or nothing, in those days if you signed a singles deal the record company could issue the single, not promote it and then keep you on contract for years and we wanted real commitment, we also found that when we did get a champion in a record company by the time we got to the signing stage they had moved on or music had moved on, we were very disappointed and frustrated at the time but interestingly when we look back on it we are very glad we were never signed to a major. It meant that we kept our friendship intact and that, over the years, we have valued far more than the success we craved back then.

++ Let’s go back to that 7″, I don’t have it, but I’ve seen the sleeve cover online. The photo on the cover conveys a lot of mystery to me. Where did you take it? And what did you want it to say?

Robin organised the photo shoot in his then girlfriend’s bedroom if I recall and did a really good job, if it conveys mystery to you then that is perfect as that was the intention, I am still trying to figure it out myself and I love that J

++ And how do you remember the recording of the songs for this record? I read on the liner notes that you were really proud of the producers you worked with.

We recorded ‘With my Heart’ with an up and coming producer, Ray Hedges’ who was also a part time fireman (Firestation records would approve!), I remember
recording one day and a huge fire engine pulled up outside of the studio and all his friends came into see how we were doing in full fireman’s outfits, that’s the sort of thing that happened to this band on a regular basis.

We recorded the track on an old 8 track tape machine that used 2” tape and so the analogue quality mixed with the digital synch track really beefed up the sound, it was done quite quickly and the mixed down, Rob and I were the last to leave and in the car we talked about what we were going to put on the b side, we called a friend of ours who ran Midge Ure’s studio, Midge had been very kind and done some production for us and helped promote us, the studio was free and so Robin and I popped in there on the way home and recorded ‘6 weeks in July’ in about 2 hours from start to final mix and we were done.

++ I live far away from the UK, so I don’t know much about the GLR chart where you reached the number one. Care to tell me a bit about the GLR? And how did you end up so high there!?

GLR was the old ‘Greater London Radio’ station and a new DJ called Chris Evans, who Robin had met whilst working at the BBC loved our single and
played it a lot, that’s how we got to the top of the chart, Chris went on to become a broadcasting legend in the UK and he is still a fan of the band, he currently has the breakfast show on BBC’s radio 2.

++ So what happened, when and why did you split?

We realised that the band was not going to get signed and that music was changing, so it was time to do something else. We played our last show at
Ronnie Scott’s, payed off all our debts, and then we walked away with our friendships and memories intact. Undeniably we were sad at the time but had
given our hearts and souls over, and after 20 years we look back with great fondness at those times.

++ And what did you all did after? Were you still involved with music?

Hell yes, we view ‘Playing for Time’ as our apprenticeship, Robin moved to Switzerland to continue his work in TV and film, PD moved to Ireland, still plays
and has a studio and loves his music, Jack and Steve recorded a demo CD at my studio and then got a deal with Longman records and released a stunning
album called ‘The way I feel’ If you have not come across this album and you like PFT then you have to check this out.

Here is the website for the album

and here is a link to Jack’s site

Steve went back to study music and is now a guitar teacher, he is still writing and performing and his songwriting just keeps getting better. He and I are back in the studio at the end of this month to record one of his new tunes, it’s definitely one of his best yet!

For me, my fascination with music has never ceased, I am still writing and have just finished a 3 year degree course at Berklee College of Music in Boston which I really enjoyed doing. I even become composer in residence for the LSO (Late Starter’s Orchestra) for a while whilst playing Double Bass in the orchestra!

Steve and I are looking to release some new songs in the New Year with Jack’s help on vocals and we’re, really looking forward to that.

++ Nowadays, after putting out this great compilation CD, looking back to those 80s, what would you say were the best moments, the highlights, of Playing for Time?

Easy, it was the friendship and laughter we shared in the band, there were really hard times when we had no money, we had problems and frustrations but I don’t remember us ever having a row, or even a raised voice. The success would have been short lived but our friendship and mutual respect for each others talents and opinions lives on

I can’t say better than that……….

++ Alright, let’s wrap it here, thanks so much for the interview. Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you for still being interested in the band and what we do, we do appreciate it


Playing With Time – With My Heart


A short but sweet interview with Kenji who many of you may know from the great The Fairways. Before being in The Fairways he used to be in a band called Skypark that released an EP on Shelflife, which I still haven’t managed to find a copy! These days Kenji is in a band called Clay Hips and it is sounding great! I look forward to any releases they put out, hopefull the near future!

++ Hi Kenji! How are you doing? You just played Berlin’s Indie Pop Days! That must have been exciting! How was the first ever Clay Hips gig?

Hello! The Berlin Popfest was an amazing experience for us. Andrew and I hadn’t been on stage together for almost 10 years. It was exciting to play with a full band again and to have the opportunity to rehearse in Germany. Our friend Suresh flew all the way out from San Francisco to play bass. Yoshi from Eux Autres and Aislers Set recently moved to Berlin and was so generous to lend us his amazing drumming talent. Although we only had 3 days to arrange and rehearse 12 songs, we made it through the set!
We handmade a 4-song EP for the gig and we’re hoping to get together again soon to record another EP or maybe even a full-length record.

++ Most of us know you from The Fairways and Skypark and those bands were based in California, how come you are in Germany these days? Was it difficult to adjust? I can imagine the language wasn’t easy!

Like many expats I know in Germany, I also moved here for love. I’ve been here for almost seven years now. I was living in Berlin for the first two years, so it was relatively easy to adjust. Everyone speaks English there. I was putting together a record with a friend in Sweden at the time, so that kept me fairly busy for the first few months. German is undoubtedly a difficult language but it was really fun to learn.

++ Alright, let’s go back in time, to Skypark days. I know the EP was released after the band had already split, in 1998. So, during what years was the band active, and why didn’t you get to release anything during that time?

I started Skypark with a couple friends from high school but we didn’t really get it going until we were in college. Ariadni had already been active in the SoCal indie scene with the band Poastal and I was just learning to play guitar. We were all really big fans of Sarah Records and Slumberland and we’d sit around in Jen’s dorm room at Berkeley listening to Ropers records and figuring out Field Mice songs on guitar. So, I guess that was around 1995-ish. Originally, we had a 7″ planned for release on the Belmondo label run by Naomi from Mod Lang record shop. We had a test pressing made and the artwork was done but it somehow fell through.
Shelflife got in touch with us after we released a song on a cassette compilation that they put out and they were keen on releasing more stuff. We eventually went back into the studio a year later to record more songs. Not all the recordings made it on the release though.

++ Was Skypark your first band? How did the recruiting process work?

Actually, no. Skypark was not my first band. I had a very brief punk project with my friend Toni who went on to form the CeBe Barnes Band. I only knew how to play a couple chords at the time, so she played guitar and we both sang. We were supposed to release a 3-song 7″ on Chou-Chou but the label folded before we could release it. I think I have the only test pressing of that single, which is good because it’s unlistenable.

++ And why did you name the band Skypark?

Skypark Drive is the name of a really ugly street near an airport close to our hometown. The name sounded Sarah-esque. That was all that mattered to us, so it stuck.

++ I came a bit too late, and the EP has been sold out for so long. You should re-release it some day! Anyhow, looking back to it, how do you like it? I’ve read around on the web that many consider it Shelflife Records best release ever!

Thanks! I didn’t even know that it’s sold out. I haven’t listened to the CD in ages but I remember it as fun times with my best friends.

++ So yeah, how did you end up releasing on Shelflife? I think back then Ed was living in NYC, right? But did you get to meet personally?

We played a mini Popfest-type thing in southern California hosted by Shelflife. I think that was the first “real” show we ever played at a proper venue. That was probably right before Shelflife relocated to New York.

++ The EP was recorded at your uncle’s studio. Care to explain that?

Half of the Skypark EP was recorded at my uncle’s studio in LA and the other half was recorded at Black Eyed Pig in SF.
My uncle has recorded a lot of different bands over the years and is a musician himself. When I was a teenager, he recorded my favorite band at the time, Red Temple Spirits. It was pretty crazy being fourteen years old and going into his studio to watch them record Black Sabbath covers. I was at the height of my “goth” phase at fourteen, so there wasn’t anything cooler.

++ My favourite song may be Morse Code, it’s just so catchy and dreamy at the same time. And the guitars on the song are just wonderful… anyways, will you tell me the story behind it? 😀

I haven’t used a distortion pedal since.

++ What is your favourite song on it? Were there any more recordings or this is it?

I guess I would have to say that Bicycle Boy is my favorite. We wrote it after seeing this beautiful guy riding his bike home after a gig we played with Holiday.

++ I always wondered about the strong connection between Skypark and Aerospace (“Hey Boy! (Song for Kenji)” and “Summer Days Are Forever” on their album, you know?). How did that nice friendship came about? Was there ever a nod from any of your bands towards Aeorospace?

Mark from Paris Caramel was friends with Toby from Aerospace. Toby came to visit SF one summer and was super enthusiastic about Skypark which made our hearts melt. It was so exciting to meet someone from Sweden that had even heard our CD. A couple years later, we toured the Pacific Coast with them. Fun times and friends for life.

++ How do you remember the scene in San Fran back then? It seems that it was a happening place then; what other bands did you like?

The SF indiepop scene was really happening when we started out and it’s still going strong. It was awesome because every band had their own sound. Bands like Poundsign,Track Star, Henry’s Dress, Aislers Set… all very different styles of music. They’ve also all made names for themselves. I still love all those bands and we’re still in touch after all these years!

++ What about gigs? Did you play lots? What gigs do you remember the most?

Skypark didn’t play very many shows. We had a few memorable ones though. Opening for the Softies at a thirft store/record store… Another show with the Softies and Elliot Smith with Alicia from Poundsign playing drums for us… And of course our very first show with Track Star and Henry’s Dress at SF Art Institute.

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

We never really disbanded. Ariadni was really busy doing other stuff, so we found more members and became The Fairways.

++ Are you still in touch with your fellow band members? What are you all doing these days? Still involved in music I hope!

Yes! I’m still in touch with everyone. Skype is a wonderful thing but I try to get out to California once a year.
Jen is a doctor specializing in acupuncture and oriental medicine. After leaving the Aislers Set, she put out a few records with her husband as Mystic Chords of Memory. Really amazing stuff.
Ariadni is a visual artist living in Los Angeles. We talk about making music again all the time.

Andrew lives in Ireland with his husband and is involved in writing grants. I’m in Munich with my husband and I recently left my job at a publishing company to start my own business. Hopefully, you’ll soon be hearing more from us as Clay Hips!


Skypark – Bicycle Boy


A very busy week at Cloudberry HQ. To start, today, October 10th, we have a new 7″ out. A lush two-track vinyl record by Sweden’s Youngfuck. All pre-orders will be sent first thing in the morning. Also in a week or two, you should be able to find the record in your favourite online mailorder. Also this week we have unveiled the fanstastic artwork that Ray Kimura has done for the next 7″ in our catalog. This one is by Sarasota, Florida, darlings’ Cassolette. This slab of plastic has “Stay Heavy” on the A side and “Two Candles” on the B side. You can preview the first track in the Cloudberry page of course. And last but not least, the four songs that will be included in the Nixon 7″ have been also unveiled. See? Plenty of things happening here.

Also, on the new Cloudberry Cake series, the Feverfew artwork is almost done and I know the master CD is already crossing the Atlantic. What does this mean? This means that the album will be pressed very soon! I’m very excited to start this series after the really disappointing times I had releasing albums with my ex-partner Jalito in Plastilina. I do much better alone I’ve learned. Please stay tuned for more news on this series of retrospecive albums, you won’t be disappointed.

Life has got in the way too as my mum is visiting here for two weeks. She is funny, she thinks indie music means music from India. I can’t really explain to her what Cloudberry is. She just says every record sleeve is so pretty. She is the kind that needs attention and wants to go to the supermarket every single day. As you can imagine, she keeps me quite busy. There has been some great news on some legal matters for me, and also there might be even better news job-wise. I might relocate and leave this tropical city, but well, that’s yet to be seen.

It feels a bit like crunch time these days. A bit stressed as things are moving fast and not so much time to sit down, brainstorm, think, ponder. But at the same time, very hopeful as these are all opportunity windows that might open to me. It may take a bit to adapt and set up Cloudberry in another place indeed, but I won’t stop. This is what I enjoy the most.

This week I’ve listened not that many CDs:
1. Sambassadeur – Between the Lines (Labrador)
2. Various Artists – Dream Topping (Richmond)
3. The Jordans – Katydid (Sonorama)
4. Various Artists – A Young Person’s Guide to Felicité Singles Club (Vollwert)
5. Sad Day for Puppets – Shift to Another Color (Fastcut)

It must have been a year ago that two of my best friends stopped having a fish tank at home. They lived together, they were roomates, and in each room, they had their own fish tank, with their own fish, and their own shellfish. Also they had different decorations, from a scuba diver to a sunken castle. The pebbles in the tank were very colorful and matched the palette of the fish that swam in circles around the coral. Even though I don’t like taking care of fish (they all died very fast in my childhood experience and my grandma says they bring bad luck) I understood the passion they had in collecting different and rarer fish. It is the same for me with records.

Eventually to their two freshwater tanks they added a sea water tank where they started collecting much more exciting fish, but also more expensive. My knowledge of fish encompasses mostly the one that becomes seafood of course. Seafood is a staple of my city’s, Lima, cuisine. From flounder to sea bass, or the skipjack tuna or the grouper, all familiar faces in the traditional ceviche. But the fish they had, I had never seen.

Most of the fish that aquariums have, here in Miami, are caught in freshwater areas in South and Central America. You can find zebras, clowns, tiger barbs, cherry barbs, tetras, gouramis and swordtails, among others. The ones that come from saltwater come from down south, from the keys, were you can see these fish roam free while snorkeling or scuba diving, two very popular attractions in the area. Just drive a couple of hours south from here, to Key Largo or Islamorada. Or to Marathon, were I was last time with Tom from The Happy Couple as he wanted to see the Gulf of Mexico.

I’ve read that because of global warming and also when El Niño occurs, a tropical fish invasion happens in many cold water areas. Makes sense. No so long ago, in March, this happened in Northland in New Zealand.  “Eyestripe surgeon fish, yellow boxfish, black-spot goatfish, two-tone wrasse and an unknown species of damselfish have been found by divers off the east coast of Northland this month. Marine expert Wade Doak says they’re an indicator of climate change. “They come down in larval form from places like Lord Howe Island and the Kermadecs and spend the long voyage in a suspended state.” Doak said the fish travelled as far as islands in the Bay of Plenty but didn’t survive long enough to breed. As waters became warmer though, “sooner or later they’ll find it acceptable”.”

My friends eventually gave up their fish tank. One found a girlfriend and moved with her. The other gave Halo Reach on Xbox, all of his time.

So who were the Tropical Fish Invasion? Who knows. But maybe the mystery can be solved knowing that they were from Derby.

There was a healthy scene back in the early 90s there and they seem to have been part of it. You had the wonderful Peru, The Millers, The Almanacs, White Town and I believe Evergreen and The Fantastics were from there too. Perhaps there was some sort of connection with these other bands. The strange part is that Derbyshire doesn’t really have any coast, and even with global warming, there won’t be a tropical fish invasion. Which makes me wonder, perhaps some of the band members had fish tanks and that crazy passion my old friends had? Or was it just a random name?

There was at least one release and it was a flexi. The flexi included just ONE song. And well, it’s a great song that I didn’t mind paying 3.99 pounds plus postage for it.  The song is called “La Di Da” and it’s no tribute to the label of the same name that Grant Lyons used to run from Brighton. It’s such a catchy tune and has that great keyboard sound that I have only heard in bands like The Apple Moths or Windy Miller. This flexi was probably self-released. The catalog number is OCTY 6-5000, and there’s a big octupus printed on the flexi. Maybe the label was Octopus Records? Don’t know. The flexi is sleeve-less, it just came on a generic white paper jacket.

The other song I know by them is “Ring a Ding” that appeared on the “Seahorses” tape that was released by the Red Roses for Me fanzine. On this tape the likes of Whirlpool Heart, Girl of the World, and The Jordans, three bands that I’ve covered on the blog already, appear. Again, this is a super catchy song and I can only keep asking for more. Looking at some old eBay auctions, it seems in August a tape by Tropical Fish Invasion was put up for auction and no one bid for it. It was just 0.99 pounds. Shame on all of us. Wonder what tracks did this demo included. But I think this confirms that there were more than just two tracks recorded by the band.

The only other information I could gather comes from Youtube were someone has uploaded the “La Di Da” track. A comment there says two interesting facts. First, that the drummer was called Andy. And second that he was roomate with Andy at Ilkeston 8 Wilmot St. That’s just half a block away from Long Eaton Pet Sitters.

Ilkeston is a town within the Borough of Erewash, in Derbyshire, England. It lies on the River Erewash, from which the local borough takes its name. Its population at the 2001 census was 37,550. Its major industries were traditionally coal mining, iron working and lace making / textiles, but these have all but disappeared in the last few decades. The town is close to both Derby and Nottingham and is near to the M1 motorway. Although Ilkeston lies within Derbyshire, it is closer to Nottingham. The eastern boundary of Ilkeston is only two miles from Nottingham’s western edge. Ilkeston is considered by the Office for National Statistics to be part of Nottingham metropolitan area. Ilkeston was probably founded in the 6th century AD, and gets its name from its supposed founder, Elch or Elcha, who was an Anglian chieftain (“Elka’s Tun” = Elka’s Town). The town appears as Tilchestune in the Domesday Book when it was owned principally by Gilbert de Ghent. Gilbert also controlled nearby Shipley, West Hallam and Stanton by Dale. Ilkeston was created a borough by Queen Victoria in 1887. Ilkeston is one of the few places where the distinctive dialect of East Midlands English is extensively spoken. Ilkeston is referred to as ‘Ilson’ in this dialect. One might greet a friend with “Eh up, me duck!” or “Ah do?”. Did the guys in the band speak like that?

And that’s all I could find.  Maybe you all can help me fill in the blanks? Who were the Tropical Fish Invasion? Which years were they active? Did they collect fish? Did they love seafood? Did they have more songs?


Tropical Fish Invasion – La Di Da


Thanks so much to Akiko for this interview. Sugarfrost Records is one of those labels that truly inspired me to start Cloudberry. The aesthetics, the great taste for picking their releases, and their just phenomenal packaging, was something I have wanted to emulate. Sugarfrost released records by many great bands, from Graeme Elston’s Pure and Eva Luna to Japan’s Nelories and b-flower among others. These days Akiko is a bit disconnected from indiepop but she still has stock of Sugarfrost Records and I totally recommend you ordering some of this stuff from her, it’s just fantastic indiepop!
Now Sugarfrost have a facebook page!

++ Hi Akiko! First of all I want to tell you that your label is a big inspiration to me and my own label. Thanks for what you’ve done. You also started small with The Boshi label releasing zines and flexis before moving to CDs and 7″s. What made possible this change?

My first UK trip was in, inevitably, 1986. After a month of absorbing all indie stuff, back home to Japan and I started writing fanzines, organising indie clubs and gigs. It was primarily just myself at Boshi Label. But with Sugarfrost, it is me and John. You can do more when there’s two of you. The move to 7″s was natural course of evolution. 7″s was the indie medium and it was also “real”, I suppose. That is when compared with cassettes and flexis. Such was the days then.

++ I’d love to do an interview about what you did with The Boshi Label later, as there’s so much to cover about Sugarfrost, hope that’s ok! So it was 1991 when you started Sugarfrost. How was the infrastructure then for the label?

What do you mean by ‘infrastructure’? Such a long word feels too much for us! We were just one of those ‘bedroom’ indie labels. No office, daytime job and stuff, not very much money, just the two of us.

++ Why did you name the label Sugarfrost?

Certain cereal company sold nice sugary stuff (those days in Japan they were marketed as kids snack, not breakfast) called Sugar Frost in Japan. After we nicked the name, somehow they changed the name to… Frosties.

++ I always wondered how you ended up in UK being from Japan, and how did you get into indiepop?

I did first few very home-made ones, design and photos. Stay Still cover boy is my brother so really should’ve given my mum a credit! Then, apart from Razorblade Smile and Evelyn Tremble, all others by Paradiso – our friend Jon Parker, who was co-writing Paradiso fanzine with Eddie (of our own Evelyn Tremble). Somehow Mike from They Go Boom! was doing the typeset for our booklet releases (and messed up a bit!). As most of our bunch were fanzine writers, there was no shortage of volunteers for stories. I think it was because we loved what we did and it was the whole package not just the record that mattered to us. There was no pushing schedule or anything, we only produced what we loved and cared.

++ What about the aesthetics and artwork of the label, who took care of that? Something that always strike me is the “extra” that you put on each record, like those booklets included in many of the 7″s for example. How did that came about?

My keen interest in UK indie music has really started when I made good friends at Aztec Camera fan club in Japan when I was at high school. I was already deeply into ‘neo-aco’ by that time, which was an on-going movement. I quickly dug into the indie scene and within a few years I was writing to all sorts of fanzine writers and indiepop bands. After a couple of UK trips while at uni, I was determined to move and to study at Glasgow School of Art.

++ Also something that impresses me is that you released many Japanese bands for the English market like Nelories, B-Flower or White Kam Kam. How were these received by the brits? Must have been something totally new!

Some people had already heard about Shonen Knife by then. Can’t remember who else, but we weren’t the first anyway. Still unusual it was, though. We got some good reviews and Nelories even had a John Peel session. Music papers praised B-Flower most because of singing straight in Japanese.

++ First release was the fantastic Pure 7″. You already had worked with Graeme on a flexi and would later keep releasing his music. It feels you were his biggest fan! I just met him some weeks ago in London, great guy. How was your relationship with him? Did you ever meet? Any anecdotes you could share?

Did we ever meet? He almost lived with us! ^_^  We met that often, almost like a family. Graeme moved to Liverpool for uni, where we were. Then we just got on so well. But we didn’t release so many of his stuff just because we were mates. From beginning to the end, we liked his music, we had respect for his musical talent. Ah, we had some good laugh – us, Graeme and the Paradiso boys!

++ The second release of Sugarfrost is monumental I think. The compilation “The Birth of the True” should be considered a classic and also an introduction to indiepop. What’s the story behind this compilation? How did you choose the bands and what does the name “The Birth of the True” means?

Again, I can’t recall who came up with the title. There is an Aztec Camera song of the same title actually (as referred in Hachino B-Flower’s interview), but can’t remember if we had that in mind or not. The compilation idea came from Japan side, the label which had all the Japanese bands. It was to be something half the scale but ended up a full LP. We chose UK half of the tracks. One of the things that was special about the compilation was, it was a Japan-UK compilation without any bands from Tokyo and London. You don’t have to be from the big city to be a great artist.

++ You then released White Come Come (or White Kam Kam? it seems they wrote their name in different ways), Nelories, and B-Flower. These Japanese bands are fantastic. How did you discover them? Did you go to Japan often during those years? Did you ever catch them playing live?

I knew Jun from Nelories while she was still at high school, I at uni. Eventually they signed to a label in Tokyo, who had other bands. After the release of the LP, we took Eva Luna to Japan for the Birth of the True showcase tour organised by the label. It was a grand tour of 7 cities from north to south. A great experience, including one-day recording! Tired-looking photo of Eva Luna on the stairs outside the studio can be seen on the back of their Kick Out single on Turntable Friend. Who played where are all blurred now, but it was great to be able to play with the Japanese bands.

As for the spelling of WCC, for the LP we insisted WCC to use Ks instead of Cs for obvious reason. However they then insisted to spell it with Cs for the 12″. I think if they had a better name, would have sold more – we had to throw boxes of them away when we moved, which was painful – but who knows?

++ Even though you mostly released pure pop you also released the very noisy Razorblade Smile. I guess your taste was quite varied! I wonder then which other bands from the period would you have wanted to release? And also, if maybe there were any releases on the pipeline that for one or another reason didn’t get released?

To answer this question, I must explain that we are JAMC (Jesus And Mary Chain, early Creation band from Glasgow) generation. Pop doesn’t have to take just one form. I don’t see Razorblade Smile as a different kind of music, we still hear pure pop in them, in essence. And they were cool!

Other bands that we would have liked to release – is a difficult question. Is even more difficult now that I don’t listen to those music from the era any more. Oh, just remembered there was a talk about releasing the unreleased (then) second album by Fantastic Something! We knew someone in Greece who knew them. But they needed some money for some studio work and we couldn’t afford it. Not much money now but was for us then.

As for our unreleased, there were actually a couple that didn’t happen: one more single by Eva Luna, also an LP by B-Flower.

++ I still haven’t been able to find or listen the Evelyn Tremble 7″. So I’m very curious about this one. Care to tell me a bit about it? Like who were they and how did they sound like?

They are from Hull, England. As I mentioned before, we knew Eddie as a fanzine writer before this band came up. They are like a bunch of boys grew up together, and very funny bunch as well! Musically, kind of like Pale Fountains with a dark side? The booklet sleeve was designed and printed in LA, and just at the time of the big earthquake, too! So it was delayed by some 8 months or so, I seem to remember.

++ You also released Fugu, whose records have become quite difficult to track down. How did you find him? Did you usually get lots of demos from bands by the way? Or what was the usual way for you to find bands for the label?

Fugu has sent us a demo. Ours was his first release, he came over to Liverpool for the recording. And yes, we used to receive lots of demo tapes. Fugu is the only one that we did purely because of the demo, he was virtually unknown to us (ie wasn’t a fanzine writer, and was French).

++ And last but not least, Eva Luna. They released many records with you. I’m wondering, if you were to pick a song penned by Graeme Elston, which one would be your favourite? And what about your favourite song from the whole Sugarfrost discography?

Hmmm, a difficult question! Again, it’s not all about the song, the whole situation adds to the feel of each releases. The first Pure single was the first recording I had ever attended. I also did the photograph of Graeme (in the cathedral yard in Liverpool) and the Pure handwriting on sleeve. Still remember the wow it was when we finally got distribution for the single, thanks to Martin Whitehead (of Subway Organisation and The Flatmates) at Revolver whom I knew then. So all that makes the first single sound special to me.

++ So when and why did you decide to stop releasing records? And what did you do after? Where you still involved with music?

We just drifted off. No definite end. There had never been any money in it. John got busier at work, Graeme moved to London. Times have changed. Also the whole ‘indie’ situation changed about the time of our last releases.

So I was a secondhand vinyl buyer for Japanese shops for a while, then dealing them myself running a regular catalogue for Japanese customers. Which was a lot more profitable than doing Sugarfrost! But after a while, the Japanese ‘guitar pop’ scene also died out and no one was buying those records. So that also drifted off.

++ Nowadays you live in New Zealand, how much different is live over there? How do you like it and what do you do in your spare time? I see you have a page where you sell posters?

Life in New Zealand is 100 times better than the UK. We actually have LIFE here!  I can go on and on about life here. It’s that good. For us, anyway. We are not materialistic. We live close to nature. Back to basics, kind of thing. Which is good when you are not so young but not so old.

After the vinyl sale died out, I moved on to selling Japanese “chirashi” movie promo posters. It is so small, hardly takes any space unlike 1000 vinyl records!  That was the  initial thought, but I got quite into collecting them myself now. It really is a joy. I have an eBay shop (http://stores.ebay.co.uk/puppetonachain-chirashi-shop) and also own website (puppetonachain.com), dealing mainly arthouse, world cinema, cult, independent and anime film posters.

++ Do you miss anything from the UK?

Only miss those lovely hand-pulled pints of real ale from north of England.

++ One last question, my Japanese friends keep telling me I have to try Okonomiyaki. Would you recommend me the same? Or which dishes from Japan are your favourites?

You are talking to a girl from Hiroshima! (Well, I lived mostly in Nara but Hiroshima is my birthtown.) There are 2 sorts of Okonomiyaki: Hiroshima or not Hiroshima. Non-Hiroshima sorts are still yummy but you can make it at home. What you get in Japanese restaurants abroad are non-Hiroshima variation. (You have to be careful not to go to somewhere that serves one from freezer! ) For Hiroshima ‘Okonomi’, you need to go there. There is a real Okonomi culture in Hiroshima. It’s casual, not gourmet. And it’s everywhere.

So Okonomi is one thing I won’t miss if I visit Hiroshima. Food in Japan is so good, I always put on weight when I go back! As I eat almost anything, list of favourite would be so long – too long probably for an interview on music 😛

++ Thanks again a lot Akiko! Hopefully talk soon! Anything else you’d like to add?

It is amazing how we can’t remember some details of what we did. Since junior high school, music had been my whole life and Sugarfrost was, kind of, the baby of my obsession. However, or rather because of it, I now seem to have cut myself from it all mentally. It takes something to bring myself to listen or think about those things. It mattered so much to me… when I see any records I so loved from the era, what I see isn’t just a recorded medium. I see myself there, as I was 15, 18, 21, you know, ‘when I was young’? Somehow it’s hard. Strange it is, isn’t it?

Limited number of back catalogue still available – please refer to:


Pure – Aspidistra (FROSTY 01)


Thanks again to Richard Farnell for another interview. After being part of The Suncharms in Sheffield, Richard moved to Manchester and eventually joined a band that will become the great Screen Prints. If you’ve never head about them, try to grab the “Perfect City” compilation as it will be a great introduction! While they were around they released on great labels like Earworm or Motorway and left behind a legacy of 20+ songs that I still listen often at home. You can listen to more stuff on their myspace too! Great stuff!

++ I’ve just put on the “Perfect City” compilation. 20 songs on it. But I know from your Myspace that there were more songs. Why weren’t they included here?

The fact was that those tracks were recorded afterwards…the Perfect City compilation was more of a summing up of where we were up to at the time and compiled various singles into one convenient package. The intention was then to keep recording songs for further releases.

++ So you were only around for only 3 years according to this CD? From 98 to 2000?

The use of ‘1998-2000’ in the title of the compilation was in some ways misleading because it implies that the band only existed for that time but in truth we never really broke up – in fact Justin and Declan were recording some basic tracks last weekend!. Sadly fewer songs after 2000 were actually released so 98-2000 was the most prolific period for actual physical releases.

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

Declan and Justin were school friends in Derby who then moved up to Manchester to study psychiatric nursing.  I recall them saying they played  together in bands in Derby for a while but I can’t recall any names – I think they just played a handful of gigs and then moved on.

At work I noticed an advert asking for band members to join an as yet un-named group influenced by The Pastels, Orange Juice, The Go-Betweens , Teenage Fanclub etc. Given that my last band had split up I decided to give music another go and called the phone number.  We then met up at the trainee nurses accommodation which was part of Trafford General Hospital and it was quite surreal walking around hospital grounds with a bass guitar!. They had recorded quite a lot of tracks over a couple of years that formed the bulk of a demo tape, which was given to me at our first rehearsal together.  I was really impressed with the quality of the songs and the production was great considering it was all done on a four-track.

Declan and Justin are natural songwriters and they both have the knack of coming up with an idea for a song from a simple idea or hummed melody and then working out guitar parts, vocal harmonies or even orchestral parts.

Screen Prints has never been a ‘band’ in the normal sense – rehearsals, gigs etc but was always more of a D.I.Y studio project focusing on writing and recording songs and using a wide variety of instruments with an ever changing line up of guest musicians or enthusiastic friends.

++ By now you were not in Sheffield anymore but in Manchester. How do you like it there? Better than Sheffield? Were there any other exciting bands in Manchester at the time?

Manchester has been good to me but Sheffield will always feel like home – Manchester has a ‘harder’ feel than Sheffield which is a much more friendly city.  Manchester sometimes has that cocky arrogance you might associate with London or New York…however that’s obviously not true of everyone – there’s good and bad in every town. There weren’t many exciting bands in Manchester back then – the big news at the time I suppose was the enormous success of Oasis but that didn’t really excite me much.

++ Oh! And are you a United or a City fan?

I completely and utterly hate football but if I was forced at gunpoint to support a team it would be Sheffield UTD.

++ Let me get back on track! Why the name Screen Prints? Do any of you do screen printing actually?

I did some screen-printing back in art college but that’s just coincidence. We decided upon the name after going through long lists of suggestions and it was one we all liked the sound of.

++ And what about influences? I know you loved C86 kind of stuff, but what about the rest of the band? Was it easy to agree with them?

We generally liked the same sort of stuff – indie mostly – but Declan was also keen on Northern Soul, Psych-folk and 60’s harmony pop and some electronica.  Justin liked this stuff too but was equally enthusiastic about food as you can hear in many of his lyrics!

++ How did the creative process work for you all? I see on the liner notes that there was a core band, but there also a lot of other musicians collaborating.

After a while we felt we needed another guitarist so brought in Al who was already a good friend and had been coming to rehearsals and going to the pub with us. In fact pretty much all the later band meetings/rehearsals would end up in the pub and it’s noticeable that the amount of actual finished product began to decline around this time!  We would use friends and girlfriends to contribute in doing handclaps, percussion, backing vocals etc and when the CD was pressed they all got a credit.

++ I find very funny that comment on your Myspace were they say that you butchered Donovan’s “Celeste”. How do you feel about that? And how come did you end up on that tribute album?

Well we though it was funny which is why we posted it on the Myspace page.

He does have a point though! – it’s not our best effort but as big Donovan fans we wanted to contribute to the compilation.  I just loved his phrase – ‘’my shit list of bands to avoid’’- genius! Darla records had simply emailed and asked if we wanted to be involved so we went for it.

++ Prior to the compilation CD all of your releases were on vinyl. Of course I have to ask, which format do you prefer? And why?

I prefer vinyl on the whole but to be honest I probably play more on CD

++ Most of your releases were on Earworm Records, a label that was eclectic and all but deserves more recognition I’d say, how did you end up signing with them?

Someone Al knew called Dave Skinner was a friend of Dominic at Earworm and he played him an early demo. It seems he was suitably impressed so he got in touch to arrange releasing some singles.

++ One of your 7″s, “Her Name I Don’t Remember”, is one of my favourite songs of yours. Care to tell me the story behind it?

This is a Justin scenario! – Him and Declan many years before had been out in Derby and met a red headed Irish girl whom Justin took a shine to.  In the taxi back home Justin swapped details with the girl and some time later sent her a mix tape – the classic courtship ritual of the lovesick indie kid!.

Unfortunately Justin then heard she had a fiance who had promptly glassed some poor bloke-also called Justin-in a local nightclub!

At the time I’m sure he was upset but as the song suggests – he couldn’t even remember her name!.  Lucky escape if you ask me.

++  Another 7″ came out but this time on Track & Field Records: “Same Time Next Year”. I really love the B side on this one, “Missed”. How did you end up releasing with them? How was your relationship with them? They become quite big after, right?

Once again Track and Field had heard a demo and got in touch and we were always happy to say yes if it meant releasing another 7” single.  I too am a fan of ‘’Missed’’ and it possibly has the most painfully loud cymbal crash of any record I can think of! – listen with caution if on headphones!

++ Then there was the 7″ on one of my favourite labels, Motorway Records from Japan. How did you end up releasing a record so far away?

The Motorway Records connection came through Dominic Earworm so I guess it was mostly arranged by him.

++ Also who is Tony Race from the song “Ballad of Tony Race”? Is it based on a real person?

Tony Race was Felt’s first drummer and was sacked by Lawrence for ‘having curly hair’.  Many years later I had the good fortune to meet my musical hero Lawrence and I told him about our track and asked him if this story was true – he said he only hired him in the first place because he looked like Billy Ficca of Television but on second thoughts decided he looked more like Kevin Keegan!..his days were numbered.

We felt that the song had a similar feel to some of the Felt instrumentals so we called the song after this obscure tale as a nod to one of our favourite bands.

++ Then a 10″! How cool is that. You were only missing a 12″ release, huh? But maybe you didn’t consider yourselves an album band? Do you think there are any advantages in releasing in “smaller” formats?

It would have been great to release a 12” or an album but we slowed down in productivity so much over the last few years that it might be a long time coming! I wouldn’t say there’s an advantage to releasing in smaller formats but when in a band you tend to want to release as many things as possible whenever the opportunity arises.

++ And then back to the compilation CD. Why do it that soon? Most bands wait like 10, 20 years to put all their stuff together? Nothing wrong with it, just curious 🙂

We thought it would be good to look back at the stuff we’d recorded and put it all together before moving on to other things. Maybe we had in mind that it was easier for fans to get hold of older stuff on a CD compilation instead of tracking down individual singles. Something like The Smiths ‘Hatful Of Hollow’ or The Wedding Present’s ‘Tommy’ compilations.

++ So, 2 London labels, and 1 Chiba (Japan) label, no Manchester labels interested in releasing your stuff?

I don’t recall any Manchester labels sniffing around but there was not really a healthy indie scene here at the time.

++ What about gigs? Did you play a lot live? How were your gigs by the way, you don’t seem to be too loud…

Our big regret is that we never played one gig…not even a one-off.

We were once offered a chance to play in Denmark at an indie festival but just didn’t get organised in time and the opportunity passed us by. It’s a shame but the fact is that in many ways we were never a proper ‘band’ in that we were more of a recording project – using various additional musicians to record parts as needed. To play live we’d have had a logistical nightmare to recreate the sound.  However what we should have done is a short stripped down set of the songs that we could have played as a four-piece.

++ So what happened? When did you split and why?

We’ve all been busy with other things –having babies, buying and running a record shop and working in psychiatric hospitals..which as I’m sure you can imagine is all either quite stressful or time consuming!

However we’ve never actually split up just been semi-active…well if it’s good enough for Kevin Shields!

++ Having a glance to the past, what would you say were the best moments of being in Screen Prints?

There were many good times – some things that spring to mind are being played by John Peel – twice! , renting a cottage in North Yorkshire to record tracks –( though actually more time was spent watching Declan set up microphones and plug in cables!), Justin getting up at 4am to drive across fields in search of a Viking burial site – only Justin would do this.

We were all at a gig at The Roadhouse and the DJ played ‘’Missed’’ which was nice to hear over the club sound system.

A lot of time spent drinking in ‘The Bar’ or ‘The Trevor’ pub in Chorlton Manchester…actually much more time doing this than making music if truth be told!

++ I was in Manchester just a couple of months ago, had a really nice good time there but didn’t get to see much aside from the Northern Quarter and some good record shops. What would you recommend me to see there next time?

I would recommend that you come and buy lots of records from Vinyl Exchange!

++ And is there any sort of Manchester dish? I was wondering about that and a friend told me about some deep fried egg?

Deep fried egg? ?– that’s news to me. Maybe they meant fried egg as found in a good old English breakfast?. Either way I’m not sure about a Manchester dish – probably best to stick with the Yorkshire puddings and stay loyal to the right side of the Pennines!

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

If I think of something I’ll let you know and if you do come to Manchester again do get in touch.


Screen Prints – Missed