A short and sweet post this week. Because I’m terribly busy. A good kind of busy. I’m not complaining. Have been having guests and international friends around. There’s been gigs and parties. And to my surprise I’m not tired. Lots of energy on me. Though I admit that I’m stressing a bit as I only have one day off, Sunday, before my trip to Europe. I hope I prepare and plan accordingly for this trip in the amount of time I have left. I haven’t figured out so many things yet, so I really need to get on the top of my game asap!

The BIG thing, the THING I want to tell everyone, but most especially those in Stockholm, is that I will be celebrating my birthday there and I have all the details now. So, I hope to see some of you there. It’d be great. I haven’t really celebrated my birthday in such a way ever, so I kind of have some expectations this time. This is the Facebook event link. https://www.facebook.com/events/431360733609198/?ref=ts&fref=ts

For those of you without Facebook, this event will be happening on March 16th (actually a day after my birthday), at Southside Pub. The address is: Hornsg. 104, 117 26 Stockholm. It will cost 70 KR to get in and things will start at 8pm. It’s an over 21 event and it’s hosted by the So Unbelievable girls. That’s Emelie and Christin, two of my dearest Swedish friends. Emelie actually designed a cute flyer too that you can see here.

As you can see, there will be two fantastic bands playing that night. Two that I have been lucky to work with in some releases: The Garlands and Alpaca Sports. I believe it’s Alpaca Sports first show in Stockholm too! If you like indiepop,  you can’t miss this gig. And there will be some DJing too. And hopefully some dancing. Oh! I can’t wait!

Do say hi if you come!


The Garden of Eden (Hebrew גַּן עֵדֶן, Gan ʿEdhen) is the biblical “garden of God”, described most notably in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 2-3), but also mentioned, directly or indirectly, in Ezekiel, Isaiah and elsewhere in the Old Testament. In the past, the favoured derivation of the name “Eden” was from the Akkadian edinnu, itself derived from a Sumerian word meaning “plain” or “steppe”, but it is now believed to be more closely related to an Aramaic root meaning “fruitful, well-watered.”  The Eden of Genesis has been variously located at the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates in northern Iraq, in Africa, and in the Persian Gulf. The Eden in Ezekiel, however, is unequivocally located in Lebanon. For many medieval writers, the image of the Garden of Eden also creates a location for human love and sexuality, often associated with the classic and medieval trope of the locus amoenus.

And if my party in Stockholm, a city I love and brings great memories, might be my Garden of Eden (oh dear, that was terribly cheesy), then I want to present you a very obscure band called Eden!

I can’t seem to stop associating the name with a character of this anime I’ve been watching every weekend, Saint Seiya Omega. There’s a character called Eden of course. That’s why. Thing is, I grew up watching the original Saint Seiya back in the 90s, I can’t stop watching this new series even though many people say it’s not as good. Well, I don’t care. For nostalgia purposes it’s fantastic.

Anyhow, enough of rambling. Who were these so obscure Eden that don’t have anything written about on the internet. I even see Rupert at Turntable Revolution wondering the same thing. For me they are kind of new on my radar. I have no clue about their existence until some six or so months ago. Again it was the fabulous CD-R Rupert shared with me that would open my eyes to this gem of a band. The song “Confusion” would convert me into an Eden fan, even if I only had listening to this one song and nothing more.

After you listen to it, you’ll understand what I’m saying. This is proper indiepop. Great indiepop. Some crunchy guitars, then some fantastic jangle and is that a trumpet? Great vocals. Catchy melodies. Just all the ingredients to make us all fall for it. This song appeared as a B side on one of their “Form Follows Function” 7″ EP. On the A side the song was “Taxi Cab” and on the B side “Joni” and “Confusion” were included.

This record was released in 1987, catalog being Den 3. The label for all their releases was Den Records. Pretty obvious that it was their own label. They just dropped the E from Eden, simple arithmetic. It seems they might have been from Norfolk, but I cant be 100% sure.

There was another 7″ release. This time it was “Glisten” on the A side and “Glorious” on the reverse. The catalog is Den 4.

The other known release by them was their album “Celeste”. It was released in 1988 and it included the songs “Glorious”, “Sugar”, “Blue News”, “Die Lonely”, “Flowers”, “Glisten”, “It’s  for Good”, “The Twist” and “Ophelia”.

Some curious thing about their releases is what seems to be their logo: an Apple. It makes sense though? Eve, the snake, the apple, the Garden of Eden…

And here is the interesting and mysterious thing about them. The back cover of Eden’s “Glisten” single lists many band members: Christ Wyatt, Jeff Powell, Nick Hardy, Sara Dimmer and Jeff Arbuckle. The thing is that four of these members, Wyatt, Dimmer, Hardy and Powell, were part of Lawrence and the Comfortable Society who I wrote about some time ago!

But that’s about all I could figure out about this mysterious band. I sadly don’t have their releases, and these are not listed on Discogs I’m afraid. So I don’t have a clue about band member names, or any of the recording details. But, now I rely on you. Do you know anything about this fantastic band? Did they have any other releases? Did they play gigs often? If anyone has spare copies of their records? Or perhaps MP3s of their other songs? I’d love to listen to them!


Eden – Confusion


Thanks so much to Phil and Graham for the interview! I’ve written a bit about Life Studies before on the blog and then we’ve shared a great Practice Session as well if you want to check it up. Happily I was in touch at last with the original members from the band and the mystery of Life Studies is no mystery no more!

++ Hi! Thanks so much for being up for the interview. Whereabouts are you these days? Still based in Gloucester? Still making music?

Phil: No I moved up North to near Manchester in the 90’s.

Gray. I still live near Gloucester, we keep in touch with Martyn, he now lives in Devon.

Phil: Gray and I have made more music together in the last five years that we had ever done before. I invested in a home studio (a spare bedroom and a Mac!) and we get together and record.

Gray: Anything from crooning covers like People are Strange and Scott Walker’s After the Lights Go Out, to new Life Studies stuff harking back to the jangly 80’s. We are just setting up to record remotely so we can put stuff together without having to travel!

++ There’s so much mystery about your band, only one single and then you disappeared. What had happened? Why did you split? Why didn’t you get to release more music?

Phil: Gray and I started the band in 1979 and we went through several incarnations until we got to the band that made the single. Things were changing so fast musically then that by the time we got to recording Homeward we already had our hearts set on new horizons. I suppose Martyn moving abroad left a creative gap and that seemed to be a natural place at which to rethink.

Gray: I had already started drumming with some other fiends who formed a group called the Erratic Strides which was a whole different sound to Life Studies. We didn’t really ‘split’ and various bands grew out of Life Studies with Phil and I being the constant. At one gig we did a purely acoustic set of Cole Porter songs with female singer so I guess we were experimenting in real time.

Phil: We did go back into the studio a few times but in those days it was a big undertaking and cost money. We didn’t make much from gigging and whilst we all had day jobs we didn’t always have the funds for recording.

++ But I assume that you had many more songs than the ones included in the 7″, right? Are there any more recordings of yours lying around somewhere? Maybe on some dusty tapes forgotten in a box?

Gray: There are some surviving tapes but the quality, both musically and sound is variable. There are some tapes which we can’t find that include some decent studio recordings.

Phil: I had thought it would be fun to see if any master tapes still exist. We could put them into Pro Tools and re do some of the overproduced stuff and clean it up.

Gray: It was great that Paul still had some copies there was stuff on there we hadn’t heard for 30 years!

++ I read that the single was played and championed many times by John Peel! That must have been a highlight for the band? How was the first time you heard your songs being played on the radio? Where were you?

Gray: We didn’t hear it! A friend of the band did and a few other fans confirmed it was played at least twice. Apparently John said ‘1983 seems to be the year of the acoustic guitar’ I would like to have heard his tone of voice.

Phil: A lot of Peel fans used to record his shows, me included, so there might even be a recording of it somewhere. We did get to meet him briefly at a Fall gig in London but didn’t think to ask him if he remembered it. I doubt he would have!

++ And then I have also read that two of you joined a band called The Trout Faced Few. I’ve never heard their songs, were there any releases? And how did they sound like? Similar to Life Studies?

Gray: TFF was a sort of combination of The Erratic Strides and Life Studies with some others thrown in. We sounded pretty much like the Fall. You could get away with it in the mid 80’s in Gloucester as the Fall were not that well know or heard.

Phil: Julian the vocalist did a passable impression of Mark Smith, but there is an obvious Beefheart influence, hence the name.

Gray: We also had two drummers which the Fall had started doing around ’82. That raised a few eyebrows when we played small pubs!

Phil: There is a video of us in the studio and a studio recording of a few tracks. They’re pretty good. I had switched to playing bass and we used two guitarists and keyboards. After that three of us formed The Citizens and short lived venture that were closer to Life Studies but more electric. There is a video of one of those gigs too.

++ Let’s go back in time now, was Life Studies your first band?

Gray: Not really. I had sang with a rock band but we didn’t last long. Before that in my early teens, me and a friend had a pretend band called ‘Marble Sky”. We had a home made guitar and odd bits of furniture as a drum kit. I seem to remember playing for my sister and some of her friends.

Phil: I was in a band when I lived in Somerset in 1975 but we were all fairly basic musicians and never gigged. Our bass player was into Can and very early Kraftwerk so he influenced the sound but on reflection I don’t think we were that inspired.

++ And how did Life Studies start as a band? Who were in the band and how did you all knew each other?

Phil: Gray and I first met at a Bowie gig in 1978 and I suppose that shared interest led us to get together. When we started there were four of us. Gray and I and a chap called Tony Wilson (no not the legendary Manchester impresario) and a chap who was a excellent guitarist although he was a Clapton/Hendrix aficionado and didn’t really fit our indie sensibilities. It may be a myth but I am sure Gray asked him to leave because he insisted on wearing flared jeans!

Gray: We only did one gig with him. Our First, supporting a band called Primal Scream, no not that one! We went down to a three piece, I bought a synth-drum and we set off down the doom and gloom Joy Division route as pretty much every band in the country was doing.

Phil: That band was the one that did one of our best gigs. We played the local pub and packed it out. A good tape taken from the mixing desk exitis somewhere, that’s the one thing I would still like to hear.
Gray: Martyn who became the other key member of the band once Tony had left was in the same year as Phil at school.

Phil: I remember making my own Stranglers T-Shirt and Martyn spotted this and we started talking, again the love of the same music brought us together.

++ Where does the name Life Studies comes from?

Phil: It’s from the autobiographical book of poems by American Poet Robert Lowell. Not sure why we settled on it but it stuck.

++ You released one fantastic record that I feel was ahead of it’s time. This jangly kind of pop was more 1986 than 1983! So I wonder, what were you listening at the time? Who were your influences?

Gray: We had moved from post punk doom laden stuff to lighter stuff although I can’t recall the precise journey. For me there were two releases that influenced our listening and therefore our music. The first was the C81 NME cassette, this had tracks on by Orange Juice, Josef K and Aztec Camera which we were blown away by. There was a rough edged pop sensibility to the Postcard Label stuff which was a relief after the industrial sound of the late seventies. The second release was the Cherry Red LP Pillows and Prayers which came out a year later. This had bands on like The Monochrome Set and Felt. Felt are still one of our favourite bands.

Phil: There was definite move to wards more complex song writing and Tracy Thorn and Ben Watt were on that LP too and you can really hear the influence of them in Inside Out on the Homeward EP.
The Felt track, ‘My Face is On Fire’ had an acoustic guitar riff that we tried to emulate on Citizen of Love. We had to describe it to the studio engineer as Grand Canyon Guitar. I need to mention the Pale Fountains too who’s ‘Thank you’ single was a big template for Girl on Fire, not that you could hear it!

++ The three songs on the record are really good. I wonder if in a few words you could tell me the story behind each one of the songs?

Phil: I got the title Girl on Fire from an article about Edie Sedgwick in a Sunday Paper. I don’t think it was about anyone in particular, I suppose it is about the paradox of loving someone who is independent and passionate and allowing them to maintain those qualities whilst having a relationship. We’ve all been there. Inside Out started as a bit of a rant against my impending domesticity. The fear of moving towards a quieter, more traditional, and in my eyes boring life. I was only 22! Citizen of Love was Martyns song. I will ask him and let you know, he was probably struggling living with his girlfriend at the time and maintaining independence. You can see theme emerging here. Mart is not a good electronic communicator so it may take a while to get a contribution!

++ On this record you had some guest musicians helping you. How were the recording sessions for the single?

Gray: Not sure I can remember a lot. The studio was a converted barn where the control room was upstairs so the relationship with the engineer was a bit remote. I am not even sure how long it took. People would come and go and do their bit. It was always fascinating having a ‘real’ musicians turn up. Richard the violinist was particularly accomplished and when he played it suddenly transformed the sound.

Phil: My biggest regret was we overproduced things. It was our first time in the studio and we were a bit like kids in a sweetshop. The engineer, John, had just bought a keyboard with all sorts of samples on it hence the strings, vibraphones and other things we put in because we could. There is a demo version of Girl on Fire which, in my opinion, is much better, more stripped down and slower.

++ Tell me about the artwork of the record, were you all big fans of the “Spirit of the Beehive” movie?

Gray: I designed the cover, Phil found the photo. I also designed and drew the label and put all the artwork together.

Phil: I had seen the film in the 70’s it was my first introduction to foreign cinema. I was a horror fan and knew the film had something to do with Frankenstein. It was shown on BBC2 as part of their World Cinema series. Probably around 1975. The fact it little to do with Frankenstein it blew me away. I notice that Criterion DVD reissue contains the same image! Obviously at the time very few people knew the film. Of course it has since become one of the most iconic images of Spanish cinema!

++ I assume Occasion Records was your own label name? Is that so?

Gray: Yes. I set it up and registered it and agreed the distribution arrangements with The Cartel who were a national distribution company for small independents. There was a record shop in Bristol, Revolver, and the guy who ran that helped with advice.

++ There’s this practice session that Paul Hopkins shared with me, “Practice Session Spadger Sound Studios 1983”. Three songs, one of them a cover of New Order. Those were the last days of the band, right? What do you remember from this session, and those last days?

Phil: Having listened to the version of Leave Me Alone you’d think it was the last days of civilisation not just the band. I don’t remember doing that and it is obviously too slow. The rest of the stuff on the tape is a bit better we seemed to have reverted to just drums, bass and acoustic guitar.

Gray: It was a rehearsal for our last gig and The Flying Machine in the village where we hailed from. I recall the gig being a bit of a damp squib.

Phil: Yea, the Strides played too and they were great. They used to cover Take Me to the River but based on the Talking Heads cover rather than the Al Green one. It was a show stopper. I seemed to remember singing a song on my own at the end of the set while Paul and Gray quite rightly went to the bar!

Gray: I didn’t think of us ever splitting up. Phil wasn’t in the Erratic Strides so we just drifted into forming the Trout Faced Few

++ Tell me about gigs. Did you gig a lot? Any favourite venues or cities that you played? Which other bands did you like sharing the bill with?

Gray: We did gig quite a bit. There was a reasonably healthy live music scene in Gloucester. Because we knew a lot of people we would always draw a good crowd which the promoters liked. we didn’t travel too far. The Trouts did get to play Dingwalls in London which is a legendary venue in the UK. Our most disastrous gig was an outdoor festival in Gloucester that a local entrepreneur had organised. We were ok but we were a four piece (with Paul Hopkins and George Weeks from the Strides) but there were more people on stage than in the audience. It was an embarrassment.

Phil: I do still dine out on the story that Bananarama’s first gig was supporting us, I suspect they don’t mention it much . We were asked to support a band called Department S, in Cheltenham. they had a top 40 single called ‘Is Vic There?’ and they bought along Bananarama who mimed to their first single Aie a Mwana. I think they were session backing vocalists before then.

++ How was Gloucestershire back then? Was there much space for your kind of music? Where there any bands that you liked?

Gray: We probably didn’t realise it at the time but Gloucester was a pretty good place for bands and live music. We would often bump into other bands on the circuit and we did share ideas, there was little competition, everyone did their own thing. there was a local journalist who decide we were the best band in Gloucester if not the UK and used to write reviews that were a bit over the top, but it was fun at the time. I remember he tried to get us a manger who came round to Phil’s house to listen to us but Ceremony by New Order had just been released so we insisted he listened to that several times instead! We did tend to sabotage any attempts to be taken too seriously.

Phil: Gloucester had a reputation fro Punk music. the most successful band were called Demob who were hardcore punk and they set the tone for Gloucester bands for a few years. We got to know some of them quite well and like us they would crop up in various groups from time to time. being a parochial sort of place meant you could build up a reputation quite quickly.

++ And what are your favourite spots, places, sights, in your area? I would love to visit some day!

Gray: It is a market town and like many places in England it looks like many other towns. The countryside is still green and pleasant. It has a successful Rugby team and a famous cathedral where some scenes from Harry Potter were filmed.

Phil: I like going back. I spent my formative years in Gloucester so I have soft spot for it. I always try and get Lardy Cakes (Sticky cakes made with currants, dough and lots of butter) whenever I go back.

Gray: If you do visit I guess the Docks and the Cathedral are the high spots.

++ What would you say was the biggest highlight of Life Studies?

Gray: Producing a physical record was a great achievement. Holding the artefact in you hand was a thrill. I also recall a friend who moved to Edinburgh and had met someone who had bought the single after hearing it on John Peel. That was impressive!

Phil: If I am honest the only rock star moment I ever had was when walking home with Martyn through the back streets of Gloucester, the pubs had shut and we were in search of chips when suddenly someone shouted from a top floor flat window. ‘Aren’t you from Life Studies? We’re having a party come on up’ It was a woman we had never met , and we knew no one at the party, that was cool!

++ And these days, what else do enjoy doing? Any hobbies that you have?

Gray: I play guitar a lot now and play with a covers band now and again.

Phil: I make music all the time. I do quite a bit of sync music, music I send to agencies in the hope that someone will pick it up for a radio or TV advert. I had my first royalty cheque last year, £52 for a Portuguese TV commercial so I can’t retire yet!

++ Let’s wrap it here, thanks again so much for the interview! Anything else you’d like to add?

Gray: Just thanks for the interest, it is good to know that someone still likes the record after 30 years! And thanks to Paul for putting us in touch.

Phil: It has inspired me to put some new Life Studies tracks together which can’t be a bad thing. Three songs so far, but this time with Gray singing! watch this space.


Life Studies – Inside Out


Stickleback: The Gasterosteidae are a family of fish including the sticklebacks. FishBase currently recognises sixteen species in the family, grouped in five genera.  An unusual feature of sticklebacks is that they have no scales, although some species have bony armour plates. They are related to pipefish and seahorses.  Stickleback are most commonly found in the ocean, but can be found in some freshwater lakes. The freshwater species were trapped in freshwater lakes in Europe, Asia and North America after the ice age, and have evolved different features from the ocean variety. They feed on small crustaceans and fish larvae.

What do I know about fishing? Not much. When I was a kid my mum used to take me and my brother to a fishing town, south of Lima, in the desert next to the Pacific ocean. There we’d spend some hours at sea, on a wooden boat, with a fisherman guide, and us throwing our bait, trying to lure big fish. I don’t recalling fishing any fancy fish, no flounders or seabass. I remember fishing a lot of catfish. They were ok to have them fried, but not really for an appetizing ceviche, my favourite dish in the world.

The last weekend I was in Charlotte, North Carolina. There was no special reason, but to explore a new place. A cheap flight ticket and a cheap hotel room lured me. Upon arriving on Saturday afternoon a sudden and unannounced snowstorm hit the town, leaving me stranded at a BBQ place for hours. I thought it was going to be a bad omen. Happily it wasn’t and the rest of the long weekend (it was President’s day yesterday, Monday) was a bit cold, but sunny.

The thing that shocked em the most was how everything was so inexpensive there. I couldn’t believe I was having $2.99 pints at a restaurant and $4.75 at a bar. There was no minimum for paying with card either. While talking to the townfolk I was impressed that they would pay just $650 for a three bedroom house. Compared to New York, even to Miami, it’s really ridiculously cheap.

I feel they don’t receive many tourists, though the town is known for hosting plenty of conferences. Perhaps they are used to business kind of tourists. People immediately asked me where I was from. I didn’t fit in the city clearly. At first I thought because it was a mostly Anglo and African-american town, but in the end I ended up seeing Latin restaurants all over the place. Especially Honduran and Mexican.

I bought a bunch of records at Lunchbox Records. The clerk was Venezuelan and was really helpful. It was a bit odd that he thought I was from Spain. The best find was without doubt #Poundsign#’s “Wavelength” album which I’ve been looking for a while. I found it for dirt cheap. $7 for the LP.

There were random encounters. At a BBQ there was a German waiter who talked to me in German as he thought my accent was German. I understood what he said, he was telling me he was from Frankfurt, but I was so cold that I couldn’t even say that I sprechen knleine deutsche or that I visit quite often, or something. It was a bit too random. That same night, walking on the big expansive sidewalks along Woodlawn Road, looking for a CVS or a Walgreens, my friend asked for directions to the only other couple walking around. Turns out, this older couple were Swedish, on a road trip, starting in Florida and that had already passed by Atlanta. It was terribly funny when I started talking to them in Swedish. They were quite impressed and perhaps a bit inebriated (as good swedes?) as they recommended us a steakhouse instead that served great wine. “So everyone in New York speaks Swedish?” the lady asked. She was great, so comical saying oka-iiiiiiii, with her thick nordic accent.

On the way back to the hotel, after hanging out in downtown area (which was called Uptown here), we met a Canadian couple, from Montreal. Time to talk in my rusty French. Funny enough it came natural to me, must have been all the cheap pints of the day. They were on a conference for some telecommunications business. They were looking for their hotel. I hope they found it. They were tipsy to say the least.

Next day, after having Arby’s (because I don’t know where’s an Arby’s in NY and it’s the only thing I do miss from my time in Texas), walking around Charlotte’s downtown, looking for a museum, I stumble again with the swede couple! They tell us they had been thinking about us because they saw a Walgreens! For them I was the svenska pojke already and we talked a bit. It seems they were having the time of their life.

During the rest of the trip I visited all museums but the Nascar Hall of Fame. Who cares about cars. Ate BBQ a couple more times. The sweet North Carolina style BBQ. Went to a mall and went to some more bars. I probably will never visit Charlotte, the Queen City, again, I’ve seen everything it had to offer. But I had a great time, and enjoyed that I didn’t have to spend too much to enjoy it there.


Back to fishing then. To The Sticklebacks. That’s right, there are no Cloudberry related news this week. I’m terribly busy posting records all over the world. It’s quite busy when you have two new releases to come out around the same time and only having two hands! But bear with me, after the small “Cloudberry” tour in March, there will be many more news! Promise! And later this week I will let you know about the special event happening in Stockholm on the 16th. If you are in town, please come say hello!

So, The Sticklebacks. Very obscure band. I’ve seen them show up on eBay a couple of times in the last years. I never bought the records though. I didnt know how they sounded. Happily the fantastic blog “From a Northern Place”, that I recommend checking often, has shared the A side, “All You Get”. And what a song that is. It has that fabulous jangle from Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes and Yeah Jazz, and you end up startled, wondering, what the hell happened? Why weren’t they more famous? More known at least!

Dub is a genre of music which grew out of reggae music in the 1960s, and is commonly considered a subgenre, though it has developed to extend beyond the scope of reggae. Music in this genre consists predominantly of instrumental remixes of existing recordings and is achieved by significantly manipulating and reshaping the recordings, usually by removing the vocals from an existing music piece, emphasizing the drum and bass parts (this stripped down track is sometimes referred to as a ‘riddim’)

Dub House was the label that trusted in their music. Or perhaps it was their own label? I don’t own the record yet. But I’m on that now that I’ve heard how good this song is! And don’t you worry, the song don’t sound reggae (or dub) influences at all. It sounds like perfect and classic jangle pop!

The B-side of the record is a cover, “It’s For You”, by The Beatles. And the record was released in 1987.

On the cover we see one of the band members in a close-up. On the back cover we see all the band members having a good laugh. I guess the cover star was the vocalist and the writer of “All You Get”, Keith Gilles. He is sporting a very good haircut, very 80s! The rest of the band was comprised by Kevin Plummer on guitars, Alan Neal on bass and Owen Seymour on drums. The record was produced by Neil Scott.

I’ve googled and googled for more information about them to no avail. Many questions are up in the air. Who were Dub House records? Did they have more recordings? Even, releases? Whatever happened to them? Where were they based? Why didn’t this release become an indiepop classic? Who came up with that cool guitar intro? And so on. Questions that will be unanswered for not too long I hope!

Anyone out there remembers them? Anyone knows anything else about them?


The Sticklebacks – All You Get


Thanks so much to Trevor Jones for the interview. The Miracle Mile released one fantastic 7″ in the 80s and then came back in the 90s, with a  different lineup to release many great albums that deserve to be more known. It’s time for you all to discover them and if you like them, don’t forget to like them on facebook.

++ Thanks so much Trev for the interview. I didn’t know The Miracle Mile were still going, you were saying you are right now finishing a new album! Care to tell me a bit about this new release?

Sure. ‘In Cassidy’s Care’ is the first Miracle Mile CD since Limbo in 2007. In the interim I have recorded 2 solo albums ‘Hopeland’ and ‘Keepers’. The new album’s subtext is interesting; I wrote a short story that then became the songs on the album.

++ I know you thanks to your first release, the “Bless this Ship” 7″ released in 1986. Who were the band back then and how did you know each other?

The band back in 86 was Steve Smith (vocals) Phil Sands (drums) and me on guitar. Old mates from up north, we came down to conquer London (first) and then the world. Things didn’t quite pan out…That line up split shortly after the release of Bless This Ship and I carried the name forward; became the singer and went on to eventually record the debut MM album ‘Bicycle Thieves’ in 1997.

++ Were you involved with other bands before The Miracle Mile?

The usual youth club bands… hopeful no hopers.

++ And where does the name of the band comes from?

Speaking of ‘hopeful no hopers’; the miracle mile is an area near San Francisco. It originates from the old gold rush days when the miners would come back out of the hills with their gold dust. The towns grew up around their wants and needs: there was a bank to change the gold into dollars, there were brothels and bars for the spending of the money, there was a church where the miners could unburden their sins, then there was inevitably the grave yard. All of these along a strip of road that offered hope, sin and retribution: nominally a miracle mile…

++ Who or what would you say inspired you all to make music? And if you would list your five most influential bands, who would they be?

I like my music mournful; you can’t beat a sad song. I’m drawn to unique lyricists who offer poetry; the likes of Tom Waits, Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell. I love the voices of David Sylvian, Peter Gabriel and Paul Buchanan. I admire the sultry productions of Daniel Lanois, Joe Henry and Mitchell Froom. Favourite bands? The Blue Nile, Prefab Sprout, The Go Betweens, Elbow.

++ This 7″ came out on your own Miracle Records. Were you three doing the label thing?

It was a self financed thing that I think I’m still paying for.

++ How did the creative process work for you guys?

In those days it was a live line up so things were pretty collaborative. Since Slow Fade in 2000 I have worked exclusively with Marcus Cliffe. The MM are essentially a duo who use session musicians when needed.

++ So on this 7″ you included two songs, “Bless This Ship” and “Breaking Down the Barriers”. What’s the story behind these two songs?

‘Bless this ship, it makes me happy when there is love on board’ is a pretty self explanatory line; the ‘b’ side carries on that hoary search for the elusive.

++ And from this period, are there any more recordings?

Plenty of demos but they will remain in my dusty attic until my genius is finally recognized 50 years after my death…

++ What about gigging with this first incarnation of The Miracle Mile? Did you play live a lot? Any particular gigs that you remember? Any fun anecdotes to share?

That original line gigged quite a bit, mainly around London’s usual venues for the ‘up and coming’. We played The Borderline, The Mean Fiddler, The Marquis Café. In those days you virtually had to pay to gig, there was so much competition. I loved it but it was a young man’s folly. I don’t think I could do it anymore; I’d need a changing room, a guest list and a rider now.

++ How do you remember London back then? There were many guitar pop bands at the time. Did you like any of them? Was there a sense of a happening scene? What were your favourite venues, places, to see bands?

We seemed to do a lot of shows with Energy Orchard. It was the time of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions; there was some serious jingle jangle blues going on; all dressed up in lumberjack shirts and turned up jeans.

++ And how come you guys split? And why weren’t there other releases made at the time? Was there any interest from majors at all?

We did many showcases for the Majors but never really got a bite; a familiar tale for many. Steve and Phil split to form their own band ‘Molly and the Moonbeans’ while I kept MM going.

++ After the split you continued with Miracle Mile with Marcus Cliff. Whatever happened to Steve and Phil?

Steve is now living in LA; writes and records as ‘The Delta Boy’. He’s a great writer; reminds me of Stephen Duffy. Phil retreated to Cornwall where he’s probably skinning up with the surfers as we speak.

++ But it took around 10 years between the 7″ release and the “Bicycle Thieves” album, right? What happened in between those years?

Writing, reimagining, paying off debts…

++ I was listening to the tracks that are streaming in the Miracle Mile website and they are really good. Great pop, a bit different from the first Miracle Mile, more of orchestrated pop music, baroque pop, you could call it. I noticed you released many records. I was wondering, if I was to start with one record of yours, which one would you recommend? and why?

I’d say start with the first ‘Bicycle Thieves’ and follow the development of the band through to the forthcoming 8th album. If you’re short on time the easy reference would be ‘Coffee and Stars’ an oversight of some of the band’s better moments. I’ll send you a copy with the 7”.

++ And among all the songs you’ve written, which are many, which are your favourites? And among your releases, where does the Miracle Mile first 7″ stand?

Excuse the platitude but my songs are like children to me; some are a bit crossed eyed and smelly but it makes me love them more. I’d hate to single one out for special attention. ‘Bless this Ship’ was effectively a different band. I remember those days with affection but feel that my musical progression renders that stuff as nowt but nostalgia.

++ And are you still playing gigs? I would love to check out the Miracle Mile next time I visit London!

There may be something to promote the new album. I’ll keep you posted.

++ Do tell me about London, I visit quite often but I can always do with suggestions, what are your favourite places in town? best restaurant? best pub? best sight for a tourist like me?

Anywhere in Soho is a blast; it’s dirty, smelly, vibrant. My favourite walk is to cross Westminster Bridge going south and turn left, walking eastwards on the southbank. You’ll get the immensity of the City across the Thames and you will pass the London Eye, The Tate Modern, You can cross ‘the wobbly bridge’ to St Pauls, then back on to the South bank to Southwark Cathedral and towards Borough Market, one of the great world food markets. The original band used to rehearse in Clink Street around that area, one of the great historical parts of London, where the old bear pits were.

++ And aside from making music, what other things do you like doing? Any hobbies?

We have a house in Corsica; I like to retreat there to write, read and listen to music. Travel is good for the soul. I play squash to keep fit. Music is still my main passion. Listening, searching for that magical moment. And of course writing. I still believe my next song will be my best…

++ Let’s wrap it here, I promise I will discover the rest of the Miracle Mile music, I really like what I’m hearing. Do tell me though, as I’ve seen many musicians from the 80s move to electronic and the like, how come you always stayed making fantastic pop music? What do you love so much about it?

It’s funny, Miracle Mile are always referred to as a ‘pop band’. I’ve never thought of us as such. ‘Pop’ suggests something fleeting, transient. I’ve always hoped our music would be regarded as more substantial and enduring. Still, as Noel Coward famously said, “there’s nothing quite as potent as cheap music”.

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

Maybe just this biog; a bit long winded but it might offer you some insight…


In the mid 90’s, singer-songwriter Trevor Jones began working with producer Steve Davis on material that was to become Miracle Mile’s debut album ‘Bicycle Thieves’.

“Meticulously orchestrated, careful and complex, this is canny songwriting leavened by bona fide humanity.”
Q ****

TJ: “Steve and I developed the recording band into a live unit, adding Les Nemes (bass) and Phil Smith (sax/keyboards) plus Trevor Smith on drums. After the release of ‘Bicycle Thieves’ in 1997, Mark Hornby joined the fold for gigs and the recording of the follow up ‘Candids’.”

“A little gem, loaded with nagging guitar hooks and dynamic vocal interplay. Intellectually as well as emotionally engaging.”

TJ: “After ‘Candids’ was released in 1998 I took the decision to stop doing live shows, as I wasn’t sure that the direction of my writing was in line with the gusto and spirit of that live band.”

The songs kept coming and in 1999 Steve and Trevor started work on new material for the third album, ‘Slow Fade’. These recordings were more intimate, less orchestrated with the accent on the songs and the singer. Marcus Cliffe was brought in on Upright Bass, Trevor Smith remained on the drum stool, and the
 legend that is BJ Cole was draughted in to add some pedal steel magic.

TJ: “Steve and I parted company mid-stream. Not the usual “musical differences”, just an honest admission from Steve that, with family and a day job to attend to, he simply didn’t have the time. I was blessed with Marcus. Having already struck up a friendship we decided to complete the album together as co-producers and musical partners.”
Cliffe had played with many fine folk (Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Daniel Lanois, Mark Knopfler) a pedigree apparent in the musical backdrops with which he furnished the songs. Slow Fade received ecstatic reviews and saw the further development of a more intimate direction.
“Gorgeous! A lovely, low key collection of sensitive, enchanting songs.” THE TIMES ****

In the summer of 2001 MM started work on ‘Alaska’ at Marcus’s ‘Norbury Brook’ studio. At the time Jones was asked about the lyrical content of ‘Alaska’:
TJ: “These are hardly original ideas. The grass is always greener. The human condition is invariably in a state of disappointment. Is ‘different’ better? When habit and convention demoralizes and casts us adrift, how do we reset our course? Change? The thought of real change is intimidating; it could save us, yet we fear it, and remain content with cold compromise. Dissatisfied, we crave happiness and, when denied, we look elsewhere for a quick fix. As consumers, we’re so used to instant gratification, that we can only be disappointed. We want to be ‘of substance’’, yet we deny the process that makes the fabric hardy – life. We focus on the horizon, rather than on the small dramas in front of us. We desire to be “anywhere but here”, the possibilities of the ‘other life’ making us resent our real lives even more. Traditionally these ‘other lives’ were just vague unobtainable pipedreams, seen in fuzzy black and white. Now, digital clarity presents a focused and immediate reality that we demand, without investment or preparation. Thus, even if we make the dream reality, we’re unable to appreciate or recognise the gravity of it’s arrival; we just use it and move on to something else; easy come, easy go, there goes Mexico, or Alaska, or Sidcup, or Oz… or God. A lot of these songs focus on the tricks that we use, the games that we play, and the skills we develop, to stop ourselves from becoming unglued.”
MC: “The recording of ‘Alaska’ was a difficult time for us both. I was having problems with my family life, Trev had just lost his sister to suicide. I wouldn’t say that it made for a darker album, but there was an emotional edge that gave it a certain grain.”
‘Alaska’ was released in 2002 to overwhelming acclaim:

“Gentle enchantment. The loveliest melodies you’ve ever heard.”
In 2003 Cliffe was due to tour with Mark Knopfler for the bulk of that year. Unfortunately Knopfler was knocked from his motorcycle on the morning of the first rehearsal, badly breaking his shoulder. The tour was cancelled, and Marcus had time on his hands:
MC: “I didn’t want to twiddle my thumbs, so I spoke with Trev. After clearing the emotional decks with ‘Alaska’ he had songs coming out of his ears! We started in on the recordings that would become ‘Stories We Could Tell’.”
For this album, the duo continued with their ambient use of pedal steel, profiling the differing styles of BJ Cole and Melvin Duffy, but they also coloured the sound with woodwind, brass and other instruments not usually associated with their style of music. Lyrically the album attempted to highlight what Jones called “…the profundity of the mundane. It’s interesting how common our ‘unique’ experiences are. However we choose to present ourselves to the world, we’re all made of the same stuff. I’m intrigued by how distance converts experience into memory, and ultimately, into the stories we tell.”
“Miracle Mile’s obscurity remains unfathomable. Perfect adult pop.” THE SUNDAY TIMES ****
Again, a Miracle Mile release that inspired the critics and a small but dedicated following, but met with commercial indifference. Was this due to a stubborn indifference to what makes music ‘commercial’, or a difficulty to place them in the market?
TJ: “Ah, pigeonholes! As the songs became more and more personal, the focus shifted to me and I became more increasingly referred to as a ‘singer songwriter’. If that lends more substance to what we do then it’s OK, but labels can be a misleading, and I don’t think that label does justice to Marcus’s input. We are a musical partnership. Beyond recognizing that my words are personal, I think that defining our roles is pointless; the focus should be on the end product; the song. I guess that we are bloody minded in the pursuit of that perfect song!”
MC: “We always said that we would make the records we wanted to make, and refuse to manicure our sound for a marketplace; we please ourselves. With our music, self-control is everything. Owning my own studio has allowed us to develop our sound without interference or financial constraint. The danger is that you can over indulge, be too particular. The joy is, that while we’re both emotional and instinctive, I think we remain disciplined and focused on the crux of the music; the song stays centre stage.”
Recording for the next album ‘Glow’ started in November of 2004.

TJ: “The first day of recording is always a happy time for me. There’s
nothing more exciting than a blank piece of paper, the possibilities are endless. I get to articulate all the stuff that I’ve been storing up.”

Recordings were completed by May of 2005 and on release Trevor offered:

“Whether half remembered or best forgotten, memories are filtered, the haze of a childhood that can never be reclaimed is where we all start and end.”

This gives a fair impression of the lyrical scope and compelling, emotive power of the songwriting. Added to that were Marcus Cliffe’s excellent playing and multi-instrumental skills, plus his ear for sublime arrangements; ‘Glow’ was an album to cherish.

MC: ‘Sonically it blends traditional elements; acoustic guitar, piano, double bass, with the ambient pedal steel of BJ Cole and Melvin Duffy. These, mixed with some unlikely woodwind and brass arrangements, make for (we hope) a quietly beguiling concoction’.

It’s almost impossible to explain how such simple, natural song craft can weave such a complex web of feelings, lingering images and possibilities, but weave it does. Once you’re caught up there is no getting away either. This is a record to last the rest of your life.

Praise for ‘Glow’:

“Gorgeous melodies, hooks galore, intelligent lyrics that demand and repay careful listening, beautifully produced instrumentation, and an overall effect that combines poignancy and joy in equal measure. The result is as close to a pop masterpiece as you’re likely to hear this or indeed any other year. ‘Glow’ is one of those rare albums where music and words come together in a state as close to perfection as makes no difference, and leaves you with a delicious ache that makes you hug yourself with the sheer overwhelming joy of hearing such wonderful music. An indispensable album.”
Americana UK 9/10

“”MM are pop’s most consistently excellent cottage industry”
The Sunday Times ****

“A little oasis illuminated by musical creativity, glimpsed like a lovely mirage. Intelligent tunefulness that doesn’t kowtow to passing trends has always been as rare as fish fingernails, but it’s here.” Mojo ****

“Little miracles of pop perfection” Rockstar ****

“This British duo’s hazy, cerebral sixth release is an acoustic pop gem. Records like ‘Glow’ will never grow old, which is a good thing indeed.” Minor 7th

“How to write ‘Perfect Pop’ and still remain unknown. They are magic, charming, almost naïve in their perception of beauty”
La Repubblica (Italy) ****

“The intimate songs on this album are like a necklace hung with precious jewels. With deceptively fine melodic structures, this is music to exercise your temporal lobes and promote thought upon the minutiae of life. Discover their back catalogue for even more treasures”
69 Magazine *****

“A treat from start to finish. One day large numbers will look back and call this a lost classic.”
Back on the Tracks ****

In January of 2006 Trevor and Marcus began the recordings for what would become ‘Limbo’.

TJ: “I really believed that the ‘Glow’ sessions would be the last time we recorded at Norbury Brook, so this comes as a happy bonus; amazing what you can come to take for granted; people and places. Same cracked mugs, same mad cat, one new guitar (a battered but lovely old Gibson) and Marcus (also battered but lovely) burning incense rather than spraying that inner nose stripping air freshener! He’ll be wearing a kaftan next…look our for a sitar solo!
We always look for a working title. I’m struck by the word ‘Limbo’ for 3 reasons: firstly it kind of sums up the Miracle Mile’s position in the music world, secondly it relates to Marcus’s emotional and domestic circumstance, and thirdly because I’ve just driven past some orange boxes with ‘Limbo’ written on the side! Friday the 13th seems a fateful date to start our recordings; maybe it’ll bring us luck…so there’s a title; ‘Lucky Limbo’?

When recording was completed in the autumn of 2006 Trevor was asked to introduce the album:

“We all rest where compromise leaves us. We could try to be elsewhere, but that wouldn’t have produced this album. It’s the best we could do, for where we were. ‘Limbo’? It’s sorrow’s way; like the unravelling of a lost kite, a gentle rise or fall towards oblivion. We say, “don’t be afraid to forget.” You will not. It will become the palest thought, and one day, when your gaze has drifted, the sadness will buck and buckle and be gone.
Meanwhile, abandoned and liberated, silence stands as failure and threatens everything. So we fill it with music and search for the perfect song. How do you live the perfect life? How do you write the perfect joke? Start with the punch line and work backwards.
We’re all connected by our unravellings. We don’t always feel the tug, but as the line tightens, leaves a mark, then relaxes, you realise that things can never come to rest and you learn to trust the rhythm of chance.
And the perfect joke? A man falling from a great height whispering “so far, so good.”

Limbo was released to critical acclaim with The Sunday Times nominating it their ‘CD of the Week’
“Classic pop songwriting, gorgeously realised”

Indeed, ‘Lights of Home’ went on to be named a Sunday Times ‘Song of the Year’ 2007:
“Trevor Jones finds the poetry in real life; Marcus Cliffe anchors it in the sweetest pop. Gorgeous as ever. You may cry”

During a lull in new recording, in 2008 MM released ‘Coffee and Stars’ a compilation of songs taken from their 7 albums.

TJ: “‘Coffee and Stars’ seems an appropriate title, as caffeine and wonderment have been our prime stimulants for the past decade, during which these songs were written and recorded. Choosing the tracks for this collection was challenging. Marcus and I had different favorites and, like children I guess, we seemed to favour the slightly wonky, cross-eyed ones. We’ve included a couple of those here (can you see them?) alongside the more obvious favourites that aunty always kisses first.
So, this is like a family photo, with most of the family still locked in the attic. Let’s hope that ‘Coffee and Stars’ compels you to visit those neglected children in situ, on their original albums. We hope, like us, that you’ll come to love them all.”

The liner notes to ‘Coffee and Stars’ were written by a much respected music journalist, Johnny Black. Maybe they are the perfect words to conclude this particular part of the Miracle Mile story:

“For the truly creative artist, perfection can never be achieved for more than a fleeting moment. Painting the ultimate landscape or writing the definitive song inevitably redefines perfection, pushes the standard of what might be possible next time a little higher, a little closer to what was once considered impossible.
Every Miracle Mile album since their debut offering, ‘Bicycle Thieves’ in 1997, has included songs, which, at the time, redefined the limits of what the perfect song might be. This compilation includes eighteen of them.
The cuts were selected not so much to provide a simple ‘Best Of’, as to create a sustained listening experience in which each track flows naturally into the next. It would be easy to quibble with the ommisions, but only a fool would deny that the tracks chosen fit together like pieces of a much-loved jigsaw, depicting an aspect of Miracle Mile that none of the seven individual albums could hope to deliver.
On most Miracle Mile songs, the primary elements – melody and lyrics – are provided by songwriter and singer Trevor Jones. For the past seven years, however, Jones has worked so closely with multi-instrumentalist and co-composer Marcus Cliffe that his contributions have become integral to the sound and shape of the music they make. Whether it’s the yearning regret of ‘Yuri’s Dream’, or the playful lyricism of ‘Sunburst Finish’, the Jones-Cliffe partnership transforms each song into much more than the sum of its parts. When Jones captures the bottled lightning of everyday existence with a beautiful turn of phrase like, “Paper planes and pony tails lead me back to you”, Cliffe colours in the word pictures with unfailingly apposite textures and melodic filigrees.
Best of all though, Miracle Mile will never sink a fang into the jugular when they can plant a whisper of a kiss on that sensitive spot at the nape of the neck and set off a tiny ripple that will, in the fullness of time, explode in the heart.”

Johnny Black
Spring, 2008

Trevor Jones has since gone on to produce two critically acclaimed solo albums ‘Hopeland’ and ‘Keepers’.

Praise for ‘Hopeland’:

“Moves you to tears and refreshes the soul. Scintillating.”
***** Maverick

“The beauty on offer here is enough to make you weep. It did me.”
9/10 Americana UK

“The title track must simply be the most beautiful ballad anyone has written this year.” **** SUNDAY TIMES

Praise for ‘Keepers’:

“A tender sadness. Songs that have universal resonance.”

“A lush swoon of gorgeous pop. Genuinely life enhancing and life changing” 9/10 Americana Uk

“A melancholic ocean of poetry and sublime song-craft.
Life is indeed worth living and all the richer for hearing this.”
Properganda ‘Album of the Week’

‘Trevor Jones has produced a gorgeous pop album that few will hear — unless there’s justice in the world.’ The Wall Street Journal
“Jones has compiled possibly the finest catalogue of adult pop. Gently beautiful and genuinely moving”
The Sunday Times ****


The Miracle Mile – Breaking the Barriers


Thanks so much to Katie Bergström for the interview. These days Katie has been releasing records under her latest band Katie Goes to Tokyo but before that, earlier this century, she had a band called The Wilson Hospital that I really like! And even before that she was involved with Backfish who released in the great Swedish label West Side Fabrication. But this time we talk about The Wilson Hospital who only released one album, but what an album that was!

++ Hi Katie, thanks so much for the interview. I hear you are in Toronto these days? What are you up there?

Hi Roque, nice to be interviewed by you! I was staying in Toronto for a couple of months to write songs for my new album. Now I am in LA, doing the same thing.

++ Hopefully we can do a second part interview for Katie Goes to Tokyo, but this time let’s go back in time, The Wilson Hospital wasn’t your first band, right? It was Backfish who released an album on West Side Fabrication. Who were Backfish? What do you remember from those days?

Backfish was my first band and it will always have a special place in my heart. Backfish (German word for a young girl that moves to a new town) was put together by some friends of mine, and I was hired as their keyboard player at first, but then I advanced to be the singer/songwriter of the band. Our first record was produced by Ken Stringfellow (the Posies). I have so many good memories from my time with Backfish and I was so sad when we finally decided to split.

++ How cool was it to release a record on a quite important independent label of Sweden like West Side Fabrication, home of so many fantastic bands?

I don’t know, pretty cool I guess 🙂 Backfish actually got an offer from another record label as well called NONS, but West Side was located in our hometown and all our music friends were tied to that label one way or the other. I guess we just wanted to be a part of “the big family”. I think we were shocked to get a record contract so soon. I can see now that West side has made a huge impact as a indie label- they’re a hardworking company and great at finding new great bands.

++ And then what happened? When did you start The Wilson Hospital? Was immediately after the demise of Backfish? How did you know Mårten?

I actually met Mårten before we quit Backfish. He played drums in a band that supported Backfish in Linköping. After the gig Mårten asked me if I wanted to sing on some of his songs. I thought he was just flirting with me at first, but then we got together and he played me his demos. His songs were amazing! I always wanted to do the 60’es pop thing but couldn’t really get Backfish to go in that direction. So Mårten and I started writing some songs together. At the same time Backfish started to fall apart. It wasn’t because of my new band. It started long before that and I think we just finally realized that it was time to let go.

++ Who came up with the name The Wilson Hospital? And what’s the story behind it?

The Wilson Hospital was actually the name of my fathers old rock-band from the 60’es. Mårten heard the name and loved it (he is a big fan of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys). The “Hospital”-part you will understand if you know your Brian Wilson.

++ Did you play many gigs? If so, any anecdotes you could share?

We played a couple of gigs. Something that hit me pretty early on was that every time we were about to play somewhere, someone in the band got sick. We always had 3 or 4 musicians with us and it was always the same thing. It was almost like a curse. And after a while there was so much pressure building up to a gig that I stared to get stage fright, because I just knew that something would go wrong. I remember one time, we were playing at a festival that was a 6 hour drive away. I was so nervous and anxious that I couldn’t eat anything the whole day. I was hungry, but the second I smelled food I just couldn’t eat. It was just a very weird situation. I had never felt that way before. Immediately after the gig I felt normal again. Then it took me a couple of gigs to get over the stage fright.

++ What would you say were the main musical influences of The Wilson Hospital?  Were there any Swedish bands from the time that you really liked?

I guess we mainly listened to American and British bands at the time. Mårten listened to the Beach Boys and I listened to the Beatles.

++ Tell me about Morphine Lane Records. Who were they? And how did you end up signing with them?

Morphine lane records was funded by the drummer in This Perfect Day- Johan Nilsson – and the keyboardist in Atomic Swing- Micke Lohse. Backfish had toured with This Perfect Day so I knew Johan from before. We heard Johan and Micke were starting a record label together and so we gave them our demo. They loved our music and we loved them for that and that’s how we all got to work together.

++ With them you released your only release, the fantastic album “Medication for a Lost Generation”. What’s the meaning of the title? And which is your favourite song of the record and why?

Haha thank you! It was Mårten that came up with the title. He pictured that our music would be like medication for tired and clueless souls out there, the lost generation, our generation. “The lost generation” is a phrase from Hemingway’s “The sun also rises”.

“Call Me A.S.A.P” is Mårtens favorite song. I love that one too. But I guess “Don’t be late” is my favorite song to play live.

++ Mine might be “Call Me A.S.A.P.” though my choice changes all the time. But if you don’t mind, I’d love to know the story behind this song!

Mårten got the idea to call me A.S.A.P when he was in the subway, waiting for the train. I think for the part “I need to see you baby” he was thinking of me :). Call me A.S.A.P was actually aired a lot on Swedish radio, and we go a lot of attention because of it.

++ And how did the creative process work for you being a duo? Was it much different compared to Backfish?

The creative process was very different from Backfish. With Backfish I wrote most of the songs, so naturally I always got it my way. But when I started working with Mårten, he wrote at least as many songs as I did, maybe more, and on top of that he wanted to change my songs so that they had less chords! It was a struggle. Suddenly I had to compromise and it was just a horrible experience for me. What I learned from that is that I really hate compromising. But we finally made it through I guess.

++ The artwork of the CD is really lovely, all in sepia, like reminding us of a bygone era. Who came up with that idea and why?

Mårten gave me a book with photos from the 30’es – 60’es for my birthday. I love photography and was doing a bit of that myself for a while. There were a lot of pictures of different airplanes in the book and that’s where I got the idea to use the wooden-planes you can see on the cover. I also wanted to have that old photo look to our pictures so that’s why we chose sepia. We had the chance to work with a very talented photographer – Carina Gran.

++ I read you were already recording or were preparing to record a second album, what happened?

Yes, we started recording some new songs, and at first we were really excited to make another record. One of the major labels in Sweden were interested in working with us and to be able to do that they had to buy us from Morphine lane. However Morphine Lane wanted a much higher price to let us go than they were willing to pay, so in the end nothing came out of that. We were really disappointed and didn’t really feel that we could find the energy to start over. It just felt like we were fighting with everybody and when that happens it’s just no fun to write music anymore. So we decided that we would take a break and do other things for a while.

++ And when and why did you split?

Did we split? I think we’re just on a break…still working together in other projects though.

++ What would you say was the biggest highlight for The Wilson Hospital?

I think it was when we released our album and Call me a.s.a.p was all over Swedish radio. We released the album in Japan as well, but we never got to go there.

++ You were based in Stockholm at that time, right? I’m actually traveling there in less than a month. I’m wondering if you could give me some tips of your favourite bars and restaurants? Perhaps even record stores? 🙂

Oh, cool! Well, Stockholm is a really nice and beautiful town. There are not so many record stores left but I would check out Pet Sounds. It’s on Södermalm. There are a few stores and bars on the same street – Bondegatan (Petsounds record store and Pet Sounds bar and some other nice bars). I would also check if there are any concerts at Debaser (Slussen) or Debaser Medis (Medborgarplatsen). You could also go to hotel Rival at Mariatorget – Benny Anderson from ABBA owns the place and I think he plays in the hotel bar with his jazz-band sometimes. Where to eat….hard to say. My favorite places to eat used to be Jimmy’s steakhouse and Tezukuri Sushi in Hammarby Sjöstad) but I’m a vegetarian now…. I haven’t been in Stockholm for almost 1 year, but I imagine everything’s the same as when I left 🙂

++ What about Skellefteå? That’s where you are originally from, right? Do you miss the city at all? I’ve never been there, but I’m wondering, if I ever go, what are the sights that I shouldn’t miss?

When I think about “home” it’s always Skellefteå that comes to mind, not Stockholm though I’ve lived there for a long time. My parents and my little sister still live in Skellefteå. I love the bright summer nights because the sun barely goes down at night and I miss the winters because they are dark and cold and you get the time to just crawl up in the couch and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and watch a good movie. Any good sights not to miss…well if you go in the summer I would recommend a boat trip on Skellefteälven, and then go and see the Dragrace in Fällfors outside of Skellefteå. My sisters husband builds drag racing cars and hot rods, maybe he could take you for a ride :=) Let me know if you’re going, I might be home! I could show you around.

++ And as you are Swedish, forgive me if this is silly, but, do you like Abba? And if so, which are your favourite songs?

Haha, yes I love ABBA! My favorite song is Bang-A-Boomerang. I listened to them so much when I grew up so I got a bit too ABBA’d for a while.

++ One last question, aside from music, what other hobbies do you have? What do you like to do in your spare time?

I found a new passion – yoga – a couple of months ago. I love going to class everyday and just take a break from the outside world for a while. It makes me feel really good inside. I think it’s really important to have something in your life that is not connected to performance anxiety, self criticism, being judged by others and everything else that comes with being in the music industry. But apart from all that, writing music is my greatest love.

++ Thanks a lot Katie, can I count you in for a second interview, this time for Katie Goes to Tokyo?

Yes, absolutely. I’ll be here 😉 Thanks Roque!

++ Anything else you’d like to add?

It’s settled now – I AM going to Korea and Japan in May-June!!!!


The Wilson Hospital – Call Me A.S.A.P.


All ready. All set. I got my stupid tourist visa. Ready to spend vacation time next month in Europe. The lineup of Madrid Popfest has been confirmed and all I can say it is that I’m looking forward to it a lot, especially to see bands I’ve never seen before like The Haywains, Northern Portrait and Alpaca Sports. This time though, I’m traveling by myself so I’m much more open to meeting up with friends and exploring the city, something I didn’t do much last time. Last time I dedicated my days to day travels to different cities around Madrid like Segovia, Toledo, Avila among others. It was fantastic, though being by myself, I don’t see much of a point, who will take photos of me posing as a good tourist for example? Record shopping will be a must, and so, if anyone wants to join, let’s do that. I’m also very excited for the Madrid restaurants with their 10 euro menus, which was something I really enjoyed the first time around.

But the best news of this week has to do with the release of the Flowers 7″. The official release date is the 15th. One day after Valentines Day. Do you celebrate that? I wonder. I’ve never read or heard any indiepop kid celebrating it. But then, it’s perhaps something very private or probably indiepopkids hate capitalist inventions like that. What do I know. Anyhow, the record is ready and it’s shipping to all over the world. It’s perhaps the records with most pre-orders that Cloudberry has released. Very anticipated debut by the London trio!

I’ve only seen them once. Last November, when I decided to travel to England even though I wasn’t going to meet the girl anymore. It was a difficult decision because it was going to bring memories and perhaps I wasn’t going to like my holidays as much as I would want to. But at the same time, life goes on, and because of something circumstantial like that, I couldn’t just trash my plans I thought. I had already told many of my British friends during Indietracks that I was returning to London later that year, that we’d find a place for her to leave her cat safe and sound and all, and that we’d enjoy at least a weekend together there. In the end, it was just me. I expanded the weekend to a whole week. Went all the way to Scotland and back, back even to the southern tip of Great Britain, to Portsmouth and all. And as always I saw castles.

It was that day that I went to Arundel with Paloma, who happily joined me at last minute, who was strangely and randomly enough staying just a tube station away from where I was staying at Chez Navarro’s. After sightseeing around Arundel and having still a couple of hours to burn, we looked at a map and decided to keep exploring. For 10 more pounds we could go to Portsmouth and back. I didn’t know much about Portsmouth, aside from the football team, but sounded like a good plan. We had already circled Arundel and there was not much more to see. Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t fantastic. I truly recommend people visiting it. The castle is beautiful.

We both wanted to go to the Flowers gig that night. Happily Rachel had been nice enough to put me plus guests on the guestlist. So that wasn’t something to worry. But just the timing. We had to take all these trains back to London and we had to do transfers. A mistake in trains could make us miss the gig. We were thorough and asking the officers and such we finally succeeded and returned to London just in time. We had some so-so food at a Weatherspoons around Buffalo Bar and got just in time for the first band.

Two folk bands and two indiepop bands was the premise for that night. Don’t hate me if I don’t remember the name of the folk bands. But the indiepop class was represented by Cosines and Flowers. Flowers were headlining. Cosines had among their ranks many people I know like Alice, Dan and Johnny. Also my dear Kajsa was playing with them. It was a pleasure to see her playing keyboards again, smiling, dressed in a cute pink dress. She has one of my favourite smiles. A smile that I first met in Stockholm so many years ago and that I seem to see at least once a year since then. Can’t really complain, with the distance and all, must be one of my international friends I see the most. But anyways, I had been to the Buffalo Bar to see Flowers. And so after buying and buying San Miguel beers, because Rory wouldn’t give me a free one (!), it was about time for Flowers to get on the stage.

You’ll think I’m biased, but the thing is, that Flowers were amazing. They were a new band, but they sounded like soldiers of many battles, tight, and very confident. They knew what they were doing. Rachel with her one-string bass, Jordan with his noisy guitar and Sam banging the drums with a true C86 beat. I knew they were fantastic, I knew that since I found them on bandcamp ages ago and bought their 2 demo CDRs. But seeing them live, and making all the crow to be awe-struck, confirmed it to me. They were special. Wait, they ARE special.

The 7″ took a bit of time to be made. Issues with computers, with artwork, and stuff. But it was all worth it. It sounds great, it looks great, and it feels great. Four short songs of noisy pop, with vocals that remind you of a bygone era, like when people listened to The Parachute Men or The Nightblooms. But updated. Updated to sound like a band from today. Not surprisingly another Cloudberry graduates, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart invited them to tour around Europe with them. And it’s also not surprising that they have already signed a deal with Fortuna Pop to release an album later this year (also The Spook School joined them at this, could it be that Fortuna Pop trusts Cloudberry’s taste?).

If you haven’t already, please do check “When You Lie” on the Cloudberry website. It’s just a teaser, but it’s a fantastic song. If you like it, do order it. Or if you are in London pick up a copy at the next London Popfest where they will probably amaze everyone!


But let’s move to the obscure band of the week: Boxing Clever.

I remember looking for them many years ago, with no success. I remember finding one of the members on Myspace, I think he was involved with some sort of punk band. Sadly I never heard back from him. I wanted to interview him about the band for the blog of course.

The only piece of information comes from the Falkirk Music Scene page. It says:

Falkirk / Edinburgh pop / rock act formed in 1988 by ex-Breakfast Boyz member Justin Skelton (vocals / guitar). He added local drummer Ian Wallace (ex-Nirvana, no not that one!) and Edinburgh musicians Gus Carmichael (keyboards), George Christie (guitar) & Eddie McGlone (bass). The band released one single in 1989, “Toy Soldiers”, on the BMG label before splitting. Skelton later ran a rehearsal room, whilst Wallace joined The Cotton Train.

“Toy Soldiers” (12 inch single, BMG, 1989)

None of those bands named in that little biography had any releases sadly. So it’s hard to track them through them.

The Urban Dictionary says that Boxing Clever means: to use inventive thinking above all other attributes in order to achieve an end goal.

Is that why they named the band like that? One can only wonder. The truth is that the only other bit of information I could gather was from the back cover of their 12″ release. A 12″ I haven’t had any luck in having or finding.

We know that all songs were written by Justin Skelton and then arranged by the rest of the band. The songs that were included in this release were “Toy Soldiers”, “I Just Do”, “Nobody Else I Know” and “William”. There’s a little information about each one of them:

Toy Soldiers – Recorded at Palladium Studios. Produced by Boxing Clever and Chris Harley. Engineered by Keith Mitchell.

I Just Do – Recorded at H.M. Studios. Produced by Boxing Clever. Engineered by Alan Cuthberson.

Nobody Else I Know – Recorded at H.M. Studios. Produced by Boxing Clever. Engineered by Alan Cuthberson.

William – Recorded at The Howf. Produced and engineered by Justin Skelton.

Keyboards and accordian were provided by Gus Carmichael and John Sweeney respectively.

All tracks published BMG (a major! horror!) Music Publishing LTD. But it was released by Beaver Records.

The sleeve design was thanks to Rose O’ Connor. And the record came out in 1989.

And that’s all there is. I could tell you  a bit about Falkirk as it has some interesting history, if you like though? Well, so…

An Eaglais Bhreac is a derivative formed from the Scottish Gaelic cognate of the first recorded name Ecclesbrith from the Brittonic for “speckled church”, presumably referring to a church building built of many-coloured stones. The Scottish Gaelic name was translated into Scots as Fawkirk then later amended to the modern English name of Falkirk. The Latin name Varia Capella also has the same meaning. Falkirk Old Parish Church stands on the site of the medieval church, which may have been founded as early as the 7th century.

 The Antonine Wall, which stretches across the centre of Scotland, passed through the town and remnants of it can be seen at Callendar Park. Similar to Hadrian’s Wall but built of turf rather than stone so less of it has survived, it marked the northern frontier of the Roman Empire between the Firth of Forth and Firth of Clyde during the AD 140s. Much of the best evidence of Roman occupation in Scotland has been found in Falkirk, including a large hoard of Roman coins and a cloth of tartan, thought to be the oldest ever recorded.

And that’s all I can tell you about Boxing Clever and Falkirk, and Scotland this week. Though probably after listening to the song, you’d wonder why there’s no more information about them. I ask myself the same. Wish I knew if they had more recordings. If they appeared on compilations. Whatever happened to them? Where are they now? So many mysteries. Maybe some of you remember them? Maybe some can fill in the blanks!


Boxing Clever – Nobody Else I Know


Thanks so much to Gary Marshall for the interview. A Game of Soldiers hailed from Liverpool and released only one 7″ though many recordings were made. Many of these, plus new recordings by Gary can be heard on his soundcloud page. There was so little information about them online, so I’m very happy to hear from Gary the whole story of A Game of Soldiers in this interview. And also be their fan on Facebook! Enjoy!

++ Hi Gary! Thanks so much for the interview. Hope all is well. I saw you are still making music these days. Care to tell me a bit about your new adventures? Is it just you or you have a band? And how different it is to the sound of A Game of Soldiers? Do you have any releases?

I still have that burning urge to create and make music after so many years of being in a band.These days it’s just for pleasure and indeed good therapy! I have, what I call a ‘desk top’ studio at home, it’s great to go to when the ideas spring to mind or I hear something on the radio & think ‘I can do that better’! It’s really about putting stuff down for keeps sake, at the moment, kind of a diary or some small legacy to leave for my kids…better out than in…I say! Future releases? maybe? I’d like to compile a cd of new material some day. The main difference from ‘A Game of Soldiers’, I guess is the guitar work, my stuff is very keyboard based.

++ So let’s rewind, let’s go back to 1980. That’s when A Game of Soldiers started as a band, right? How did you get together? How did you know each other?

I actually joined the band as a keyboard player, they were already formed, but placed an advert in the world famous ‘Hessy’s’ store (Frank Hessy’s Liverpool. The Beatles guitar shop). I auditioned & found the band where only two streets away from my home!

++ How many lineup changes happened in the band? I see plenty of people listed on the Facebook page!

Too many to remember! but, yes many came and went.

++ During those early 80s there were plenty of fantastic bands coming out of Liverpool. Which were your favourite bands there and did you feel part of a scene?

Liverpool was so vibrant & exciting in the 80’s. We rehearsed in a place called the ‘ministry’ in the city center. The heart of all the excitement. We had Echo and the Bunnymen, A Flock of Seagulls, Julian Cope/Teardrop Explodes & many others practicing in the same building.I remember sneaking to the rooms for a listen & a chance to meet my our idols.

++ And who or what would you say inspired you to make music?

Living in Liverpool surrounded by such a musical legacy, the beatles etc was really enough to inspire you to play music, or indeed the other option would be to play football.
We as a group,had different tastes in music, from Pink Floyd, Ultravox, Simple Minds, U2, Bowie etc

++ It wasn’t going to be until 1988 when you would release your first record. The fantastic “Big Bad Money World”. What’s the story behind this song? And who released this single?

The song actually was inspired by my fiance! We, like many couples, struggled to pay bills in our new home.My fiance made the statement ‘it’s a big bad money world’!, meaning everything is about money.
That was it. I thought,say that again…wow that’s a great title for a song. We released the single ourselves, and actually gave away many during gigs and to radio stations. It was really about getting our name out there & our music played.

++ Why do you think it took that long to release the record?

During that period we became increasingly frustrated, searching for a manager & trying to get that break we needed. It almost became a case of there being too many unsigned liverpool bands circulating at that time. I guess we were just unlucky. So we decided to fund the single our selves and get it played.

++ I was looking at the video for “Rainforest” on the Facebook page, and I notice there’s some footage of you guys. Did you ever made a video or something?

Yeh,we had a video made our selves. A friend of mine filmed us. He normally did weddings! God, i wish we had facebook & soundcloud back then!. Lots of bands nowadays promote themselves & release stuff online. I guess in a small way, we were already doing it.

++ And was there any interest from the big labels?

We only approached the smaller independant labels.

++ Tell me about the band’s name, A Game of Soldiers, where does it come from?

It’s London Cockney in origin, a variation of ‘Sod this for a lark’. It’s a term of exasperation, meaning that something is not worth the effort or the trouble.I like to say ‘ fck this for a game of soldiers’!

++ Would you consider yourselves a political band?

We we’re certainly no U2. Tho our lyrics did reflect attitude towards the government of the day. We played a gig in support of starvation in africa, around the time of ‘liveaid’. I remember we were confronted at the end of one gig by the manager criticising our anti government comments made inbetween songs! So maybe we were a little political.

++ From all your songs, which would you say was your favourite and why?

That’s a difficult one, I think when your in a band or indeed a songwriter, the last song you did is a favourite for a while, until the next idea comes along. ‘Stop the Dragon’ an anti drug song is certainly one favourite.

++ What about gigging? You seem to have gigged quite a lot, which were the best gigs you reckon? Any anecdotes you could share?

Yeh, we loved gigging & played every week for a while. We played mountford hall, here in Liverpool with the band ‘Toy Dolls’, they had a UK hit with ‘Nelly the Elephant’, bloody awful kids song!
We tried to play all the ‘hip’ places of the day. So there were lots of dark night clubs in basements, some of our audience would be rats! yes, the rodent kind!… running around the place! We played a place called ‘the Venue’, i remember Will Seargant of Echo and the Bunnymen telling us we were ‘cosmic’, i quite liked that label sounded cool. I remember we played on a roof, in the style of The Beatles, Abbey Road gig. It was a great gig, we could see for miles!

++ Aside from the two songs on the 7″ single, are there any more recordings by A Game of Soldiers? Did you release any demo tapes?

We made several demo cassette tapes,remember cassettes? ha, we gave them to local radio stations and had some air play from them. We would send them off to A&R men at indie labels.

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

Actually, I don’t specifically remember that we did split?, you know, we kinda got frustrated and disillusioned.It seemed every band around us at the time were getting record deals. We never felt like we got the break we deserved. So really, we just dessolved.

++ What did you guys did after? Were you still involved with bands?

You know, I think its quite telling that none of us joined or formed another band. Some of the guys dont even play to this day. I think we all put our heart & soul into the band,made sacrifices, and did all that we could to drive forward,then having not achieved our goal, really lost the faith.In truth we resigned ourselves to the fact, it just was’nt ment to be.

++ What about today. What do you do? What other hobbies do you have?

I still make music,and write the odd song,but not everyday as back then. Its more of a therapy these days and of course fun too. I wish we had todays synths and software, back then. It’s much quicker and easier to record stuff these days.

++ And looking back in time, what would you say was the biggest highlight of the band?

For me, the biggest highlight, was putting a song I wrote, in about 10 minutes, on a scrap of paper, onto a 7 inch plastic record! I was so proud to hold it in my hands. Even if we had split there and then,I still would of felt we had achieved something special.

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

thank you Roque, its been great to reflect back to those days, so many great memories. thank you.


A Game of Soldiers – Big Bad Money World


Thanks so much to Nick Langley for the interview. The Penny Candles were a fantastic indiepop band from Hull that left us only one 12″ record and a handful of compilation appearances. They also put out three tapes during the late 80s. Their songs were brilliant, the kind of indiepop I love. Very honoured to learn more about them!

++ First question is what everyone is wondering, will there be a retrospective CD with all of The Penny Candles recordings? Please say yes!

To be honest, it’s not something I’ve ever thought about. Everything that we professionally recorded was released in some form of another. We released a cassette called “Sunny Enough For Cats” initially followed by “Sunny Enough For Cats Too” which was an updated version of the first and then “Wossname”. After that came the single. I don’t think that there’s anything else left to release. I still have some of the master recordings so could potentially release them as MP3s but I’d have to think about that one!

++ Who were The Penny Candles and how did you know each other? What made you all start a band?

The band was originally started by myself and Alison Hughes. Back in the mid-80s, Hull had one music venue, The New Adelphi Club. It was the only venue in the city hat catered for bands playing their own material. Within months of it opening it became the home of all the local musicians – we virtually lived there! Not surprisingly, the hard core of about 40 people became quite good friends. Alison had come to Hull to read Law at the university and formed a band called The Mockingbirds in her final year of study. I saw them play a couple of times at The Adelphi. In 1988, having played drums and sung backing vocals in numerous local bands, I’d decided that, having taken up the bass guitar, I wanted to start my own band. One day I went down to the University Student’s Union to put up adverts saying, “Bassist/Singer/Songwriter looking for Guitarist/Singer/Songwriter to form band” and I bumped in to Alison. We spent the next couple of hours talking about music and bands. She had just graduated with a Law degree and wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next so we decided there and then to form a band. Steve Parry was our original guitarist and was someone that Alison knew. I can’t remember the circumstances around him joining the band – one day it was the two of us, the next Steve was there! We were offered some free studio time from friends of ours who had a record deal with Virgin and had built their own studio but for that we needed a drummer. Hugh Whitaker was a friend from the Adelphi so one day I popped round to his house and asked him if he’d do the recordings for us and he ended up staying in the band for the next 18 months.

++ Where does the name The Penny Candles come from?

Like most bands, we spent HOURS trying to think of a name. Eventually Alison turned up with “The Penny Candles”. It was the least rubbish of all the other names we’d thought of so we opted for that. It comes from the title of a book that Alison was reading at the time called “To Light a Penny Candle” by the Irish author, Maeve Binchy. A penny candle is a candle lit in churches when prayer requests are made. You’re supposed to put a penny in a box to pay for the candle (I think!).

++ Only one release, the Taj Mahal 12″! How many copies were pressed? it seems to difficult to find a copy these days. What do you remember from recording these fantastic four songs!

The main reason for the 12″ was to raise the band’s profile – an attempt to get the record labels to pay more attention to us. We only pressed 1,000. I think I’ve got the last 30 sitting in my studio at home. I remember having a great time during the recording. We loved being in the band. There’s a special camaraderie shared by a small group of people who spend 18 hours a day in each other’s company, sharing new experiences. You become incredibly tight knit and close. We recorded the tracks at the same studio we used for “Sunny Enough For Cats” and I think we did it over a long, 4 day weekend. We were a pretty tight band by that point as we’d gigged a lot up and down the country so it was a fairly quick process. Steve Parry had left the band by that point so the lead guitar parts are played by Mark Eddie Whatmough who spend about 8 months with us. I can honestly say that his guitar solo in “Swings and Roundabouts” is still one of my all time favourites of ANY guitar solos I’ve heard. All the more remarkable because he was only 17 at the time. A lovely bloke. I remember Alison having a moan on the Sunday and refusing to come back to the studio after lunch, as a result all the guitars on “Making The Most (Of It All)” are me – including that terrible solo – and for some reason we had to some pick-ups on “Taj Mahal” which Eddie couldn’t do, so the outro electric guitar is me too. Hugh is great in the studio. Apart from being a rock solid drummer he’s also a rock solid bloke. Alison and I were a bit more, what’s the word? – childish! We’d argue about the tiniest detail and we’re both really stubborn. Hugh was the voice of reason. Also, neither Alison nor I liked the other one criticising each other’s singing. If one of us was singing a line flat we’d get very defensive. However, we’d listen to Hughie. He’s got a great ear for vocals. We used to call him “the referee” partly because he’s step in and resolve arguments and partly because – and here comes the football joke – he’d inspect the pitch!

++ Why weren’t there more releases? I also know of the existence of a tape called “Sunny Enough For Cats Too!”, care to tell us a bit about this cassette?

“Sunny Enough For Cats” was recorded as our first demo tape which we used to secure gigs. If memory serves me right, the only difference between “Sunny Enough For Cats” and “Sunny Enough For Cats Too” is that we re-recorded the lead vocals for a couple of the tracks but I can’t remember which ones. I think that the track listing is the same but I’m not sure. I’ve got a copy of “Sunny Enough For Cats Too” in front of me and the track list in this is as follows: SIDE 1 “Nicely”, “No Doubt”, “Sometimes”. SIDE 2 “Memorybox”, “Just a Word”, “Turn it Off”.

++ And what about the other two tapes released, “Sunny Enough For Cats Too” and “Wossname”? Do you remember the tracklist for all these three tapes? I can’t seem to find that information!

Unfortunately I can’t find a copy of “Wossname”. I’ve a feeling that I still own one but I’ve no idea where it is. Sorry!

++ You were in a couple of compilations as well like Turquoise Days, Borobudur, Positively Teenage!, You Can’t Be Loved Forever Vol. 2 and Vol.3, and Hell & Happiness. Am I missing any? How did you end up on this, I mean , what was the process?

Truth be told, with the exception of Borubudur, they just lifted recordings from demo tapes and included them on their albums. No one ever sought our permission and, if any money was ever made, we never saw any of it. To be honest though, we always saw things like this as free publicity – all recordings were a way of increasing the band’s profile they were never intended to make any money.

++ The 12″ was released by your own Red Eye Records. How was the experience of running a label?

In those days it was the only sensible way of doing it. Unlike some bands however, we did it properly. We secured a distribution deal with a company called SRS. They made sure that it went in to the shops. A lot of bands started there own labels and ended up with boxes and boxes of unsold records in the basement. Running the label didn’t involve much until the tax man came looking for me! I then had to demonstrate that I hadn’t made a fortune, which, obviously, I hadn’t!! It can’t have put me off that much because I’ve just started a new label a few months ago called Scratch 23 with plans to release stuff this year from a couple of local artists as well as some of my own stuff.

++ What was the creative process for your songs? What inspired you guys?

Unrequited love. What can I say. Just about everything I wrote was about broken hearts. The process is much the same now as it was then: pick up an instrument, fish around until you hear something you like, hum a tune and you’re off. I gave up music in 1993 and didn’t touch and instrument for the next 12 or 13 years. I began writing songs again about 3 years ago and I find it easier now than I did, but it’s the same old process – strum and hum!

++ And what bands would you say influenced your music?

The Beatles were a big influence on me. I’m of an age (just) where they were still together and actively recording. My mum’s from Liverpool and once played at The Cavern so we always felt that they were in some ways “ours”. Apart from them there were loads of contemporary bands, Prefab Sprout, Everything but The Girl … the list would be endless if I thought about it for long enough!

++ Is it true that Taj Mahal was named after a reverb setting? Were other songs named after other uncommon conventions? 🙂

How the hell did you know that??? It was indeed named after a reverb patch in an Alesis Quadraverb. It’s the patch used on the arpeggio guitar at the beginning of the song. I used to quite like giving songs obscure titles but I prefer single word names now as it’s easier to remember them. I can’t really think. There’s a song called “Dial M”. The chorus says, “the morning after can be murder”. Alfred Hitchcock made a film called “Dial M for Murder” so I decided to call it “Dial M”. A bit childish really!

++ How was the scene in Hull during those late eighties? Do you still live there? If so, do you find it has changed much? If I was in the city, doing a “Penny Candles” tour, which place or sight will you show me that was really important for the band?

The music scene in Hull back in those days was amazing. As I said earlier, Paul Jackson bought an old working men’s club called the New Adelphi Club and turned it in to a music venue. From that point on we had a home. We were all on unemployment benefits just dossing around making music and enjoying life. It was fantastic! I still live in Hull in the same area I’ve been in for the last 27 years, with my wife and 4 kids. The city has changed a lot but for the better. Hull was founded on fish, we used to have a massive fishing fleet – 200 trawlers a day used to land fish in Hull – there are about 12 a week now. By the late 1970s the fishing industry was dead and the city went in to a catastrophic decline. Over the last 20 years however, things have picked up and we’re now at the forefront of green, renewable energies so it’s a fairly prosperous city. I run a small project recording studio for teenagers and am fortunate enough to have a recording studio at home. Paul Jackson still owns the Adelphi club, although there are other venues competing with him now, so that’s still the spiritual home of music in Hull. If you ever make it this far north, you MUST go to the Adelphi clucb – it’s legendary. Everyone’s played there at some point, The La’s, Primal Scream, The Happy Mondays, Radiohead, Oasis, the list just goes on and on and on …

++ Did The Penny Candles gig a lot? Any particular gigs you remember as the best time ever? What about the Reading Festival gig?

We’d do a gig just about anywhere. I figured out early on that you make your own luck in the Music Business. We have a saying in this country – a bi fish in a little pond. It’s easy being a big fish in a little pond. A lot of bands are happy playing in their local venue once a month. All their friends come down, get drunk and jump around making them feel like rock stars. Anyone can do that. It’s a different game when you travel 100 mile to a city where no-one’s heard of you. You have to work 10 times harder to make an impression. We accepted every gig we were offered. We’d travel 400 miles there and back for £15 just to have an audience to play in front of. Other local bands would refuse gigs like that. They’d say “I’m not going all that way for that money, we’re worth more than that”. But it’s just an excuse. They’re terrified of taking the risk and getting booed off stage. Alison and I formed the band in June 1988. We did our first gig in September 1988 and our first short tour in January 1989. Other bands were jealous but we got off our arses, worked hard and took risks. We weren’t happy being a big fish in a little pond, we wanted to be a big fish in a BIG pond. To achieve that you have to get out there and work hard, which we did. I loved touring: a different town each night, a different audience, a different vibe, it was a dream come true. We got the Reading Festival gig because of that attitude. The festival is booked by a company called The Mean Fiddler. They own about 8 venues in London. We sent a demo tape in and nagged them for a gig at one of their venues. In those days support bands used to have to pay the venue to play! However, a bloke called Neil O’Brien who worked there, quite liked us. All he could offer was a slot in their acoustic venue which we gladly accepted. We weren’t allowed to use a drum kit so we worked out a special 40 minute set just for that one gig in the middle of a tour. It was nerve racking but a great little gig. Because of our willingness and professionalism he offered us a slot a Reading, which was just amazing. We took about 12 friends with us and more met us there and we had a fantastic weekend AND we were getting paid to do it. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Around May 1990 we were on tour, playing a venue somewhere. We were in the middle of a song and my mind started drifting. Two things struck me: 1) all the songs sounded the same to me, which is NOT a good thing, and 2) my mind shouldn’t be drifting off. I should be wrapped up in the show, but I wasn’t. It was then that I realised that I wanted to leave the band. I felt we’d taken the band as far as we could. It was decided that I’d fulfil all the band’s commitments which were the rest of the tour and then the gigs leading up to Reading, so Reading Festival was my last gig with the band. Alison kept the band going, replacing me with a bass player and adding a keys player. They did one gig at the Adelphi in early 1991 and then she decided to call it quits. I went on to for a band called The Juniper Chute. I wanted to write some songs with a bit more balls to them so for the first time I wrote them all on an electric guitar. I then asked Hugh Whitaker, Eddie and a friend called Matty to form a band an we did a handful of gigs. The sad thing is that it was only intended as an experiment. I was sick of being in a band. I’d spent 2 years of my life trying to get the Penny Candles signed and got nowhere. Neil O’Brien offered us a gig at one of their venues. It was only our second show. In the next few months, after that show, I got rung up by every major record label in the country chasing me up. I was so disillusioned that I never returned the calls. The band members all had other commitments so it was never intended to be a permanent thing, so they drifted off and that was that. I then spent the next couple of years writing songs for a band called Scarlet who were originally from Hull bought who had moved to London. They had a publishing deal with Chrysalis Music and eventually signed a record deal with Warner Chappell. They went on to have a one hit wonder called “Independent Love Song” (sadly, not one of mine) and I had a couple of songs on the album. by that point (1993), I’d had enough. I sold most of my stuff and enrolled at a local university to do a degree.

++ Are you still in touch with the other Penny Candles? What do you all do nowadays?

I still see Hughie and Eddie occasionally. Hugh’s still very eccentric and keeps himself busy playing in a couple of local bands. Eddie still plays in pubs and clubs. Alison became a Producer for the BBC and is based in London these days and has been so for 20 years now. As far as the future is concerned, I’m in the process of writing and recording an album which will hopefully be released later this year.


The Penny Candles – Swings and Roundabouts


So that petition I urged everyone to sign at the White House page has expired because it failed to reach the amount of signers required. It’s probably how things will be then for at least a year, high postage to send records abroad. I don’t want to cause panic, but it’s pretty obvious we won’t thrive though some geniuses at Darla are boasting that they are having amazing sales and all other record labels are whiners. Good for them. It shows how “indie” they are, giving a f@ck about the rest.

Doing some research around, looking for reasons for this collapse of our beloved USPS, explanations on what had happened I found two very interesting posts on the eBay Forums:

Globally, Some countries have been in the middle of an economic downturn. Since the USPS International rates are standardized across most countries- changes for the majority effect even the minority. Plus it makes things less complicated. Many countries want MORE money, and by definition share of the money spent on postage, to process international mail that comes into their country. Very Cheap International Postage made the amount of money, when split between both the USPS and the receiving country kinda small. So they have corrected it so that both the USPS is happy with the money they make and that the receiving country is happy too.Since the UPU the body that help sets the rates only formally meets every four years we get sticker shock.

As far as UK buyers are concerned, there will be huge ramifications of this USPS price hike. This is because there is a paltry £15 limit (which was REDUCED from £18 recently) on the value of any incoming parcels, and this INCLUDES the postage cost. Anything over that gets slapped with a 20% customs charge and – wait for it –  a flat £8 “administration” fee. So even a small hike in postage will mean that buyers, even of small light and inexpensive items (like myself), will be deterred from continuing to buy, since the new prices will most likely push the value over the UK tax threshold. Ironically, it will really only be worth buying expensive items on eBay, as the taxes and charges won’t dwarf the cost of the actual item!

We haven’t really thought about these ramifications that these new prices will have. But there will be a domino effect, no doubt. It wouldn’t surprise me that other countries start raising their prices. The only ones that might be celebrating with this situation is the Canadian post. You ask why? It is very common in that Canadians living next to the border, would just cross it to post their things, even when they wanted to send their envelopes and parcels within Canada as it was always cheaper. Will they cross the border now? Perhaps not, as the prices will be around the same.

So for now, we can only sit and wait, see what all this USPS mess will bring us all. I had to raise all Cloudberry prices at the moment, and I’m happy to say that there is still support from fans. I hope it continues this way. It all depends on you all who support bands and labels that we continue our indiepop dream.

Yes. There are Cloudberry news. So let’s move to that. Happier topic.

Three days to go for the release of the Alpaca Sports 7″! As you all know, as you all have heard, it’s a cracker. And they’ve worked hard on it, recording videos for each of the three songs of the vinyl. Head to the website and listen/watch and order. They will be promoting the record very soon too in Madrid Popfest. And in Stockholm too, at the So Unbelievable club, where I will be celebrating my birthday. Oh good times ahead. Two days ago, Andreas gave a solo Alpaca Sports show in Lima, Peru, too. From what I hear it was an amazing success. I still haven’t seen them live. And I can wait for next month. No surprise they were voted best new band of 2012. And I hear they will be in the US this year too!

Then in less than two weeks the Flowers 7″ will be out. Will write more about this release next week. You don’t want to miss this one. Pre-orders have been pouring. And I’ve read some reviews saying they might be the next big thing? I wouldn’t be surprised. They are special.

But I wanted to tell you about the new fanzine I’ve been working on, and this time I’ll be super thorough not to make pagination mistakes. Promise! The CD is almost ready, and I will be announcing the tracklist soon. Right now you can preview one of the tracks on our soundcloud. It’s called “If It’s True” and it’s the fab Tiny Fireflies behind it. And about the paper zine, I’m just missing a couple of pieces. Hopefully I can finish writing it this week if I have enough time.

Also there are new bands that will be working with us on new 7″ releases. Can’t say the names yet, but, I’m already very excited. One is from Japan, the other based in Scotland. That’s enough hints I can give you all!

And now, let’s finish this week’s post with a very obscure band, The Fontaines.


Fontaine is a French word meaning fountain or natural spring. 

Fountain – is the title of a famous sculpture by Marcel Duchamp.

So where do you think the band got their name from?

The Fontaines only left us one 7″ record. Two songs that were recorded in 1987. Upon listening to them, you’d understand why they are not enough. They are too good, especially the fabulous B side, that one can only crave for more.

The label was 51st Parallel. Probably their own label. A self-release. The catalog number is FONT1.

There are two 51st parallels:

51st Parallel North: At this latitude the sun is visible for 16 hours, 33 minutes during the summer solstice and 7 hours, 55 minutes during the winter solstice.  The catchment area of London can be broadly defined by the 51st and 52nd parallels.

51st Parallel South: The 51st parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 51 degrees south of the Earth’s equatorial plane. It crosses the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean and South America.

Most probably named because of the northern parallel.

The A side was “I Want Everything”. The B side was the amazing “Bernadette”.

I first heard about this band thanks to the list on Twee.net of future bands to be showcased on the Leamington Spa series. Then later I remember “Bernadette” being uploaded to Youtube though it’s not there anymore. And lastly on the amazing compilation CD Rupert from Turntable revolution shared with me. Actually, Rupert, on his blog, had found some interesting facts back in 2009 (!) and I hope it’s ok to refresh them here in my blog:

Recorded in three days in August 1987 this superior independent release vaulted into the pop world to a clamour of indifference. Unfair treatment indeed. With lyrics redolent of Morrissey after an all night kitchen sink drama video session they may well have been ready to perch on the throne of misery the Smiths were about to vacate. Nothing more was forthcoming though and this slice of pulchritudinous pop was consigned to the carrier bag of discarded dreams.

The band consisted of Brian Green on vocals, Duane Fontaine on guitar, Louis Jones on guitar, Andy Reynolds on bass and Ed Grimshaw on drums. I had an email from Dr. Andy Reynolds who tells me that Louis Jones and Ed Grimshaw went on to form the Warm Jets and Brian Green went on to record an LP with Hugh Cornwell, then went to Nashville and now teaches song-writing MA in Bath. Apparently there exist videos of the band performing other songs which may one day appear on Youtube. Dr.Reynolds is now a reader in medieval archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology in London. Perhaps five hundred years from now someone will dig up an old Fontaines record and marvel at this gleaming example of mid eighties pop.

I haven’t had the chance yet to find myself a copy of the record, but some kind person has uploaded the back sleeve of the 7″ and there are some more clues about this amazing release. For example there are credits for Matthew Reynolds who played harmonica and trumpet. That it was recorded at Sam Studios on the 28, 29 and 30th of August 1987. There are thanks to Bryan & Alex Deacon, the Locks, Nick Adams, Terry Medford, the JimBeamGang, Derek Batey, Julian & Florien for their help + advice. Farewell to Eamonn.

There are a couple of cryptic images and words. “Hines for President!”. “Love in Batch”. A map showing Finchely Road. And write to them at a PO Box in Chippenham, Wiltshire.

Let’s keep on digging. So Andy (Andrew) Reynolds actually has a Wikipedia page as he has become a successful archaeologist publishing several books.

And the band Warm Jets, that had Louis Jones and Ed Grimshaw, also has one. Grimshaw had been part of another band, even prior to The Fontaines. They were called Ophiuchus and you can read their whole story here as well.

That’s all there was left from The Fontaines. One fantastic 7″. One very hard to find too. Perhaps not many copies were pressed. But as always I do end up wondering if they left any other recordings. Perhaps some demo tapes. If only those videos Rupert talks about would show up on Youtube one day. To unveil a mystery. To know more about this fantastic band that history decided to keep them in obscurity. Unfair. Songs like “Bernadette” should have been a huge hit.


The Fontaines – Bernadette


Paul Hopkins, who played with Life Studies (read about them here) just before they broke up, has kindly shared with me some songs from a practice session.

I joined the band for one gig after they’d released the single. Martyn the bass player had gone to Israel and Phil and Graham needed a bass player. I bumped into Phil on a Gloucester -bound coach at Heathrow airport and he asked me if I wanted to play – hence the practice session recording at Spadger – just myself, Phil and Graham. They formed the Trout Faced Few not long after  with some people from the Erratic Strides.

The songs were recorded on a cassette recorder as part of a practice session in preparation for a gig at the Flying Machine, Brockworth between the release of the 45  ‘Girl on Fire’ and the demise of the band.

This is Leave Me Alone, a New Order cover.

This is Inside Out.

This is 1000 Closing Doors.