Posts Tagged ‘Interview’

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AU66: Devo feature

September 15, 2010

I’ve been meaning to post this up for a while – a feature that appeared in AU during the summer to coincide with Something For Everybody, Devo’s first album since 1990. It’s one of my favourite interviews, first of all because the idea of me speaking to someone of the status of Devo’s Jerry Casale still seems pretty bloody unlikely, but also because it was such a fun conversation.

It was a bit of a saga getting the interview organised – as is so often the case with big major label artists – so that was cause for apprehension in itself. Then there are the natural nerves of speaking to someone not far off ‘hero’ status in my book. And what would be be like? He is a man in his 60s after all – would be be a curmudgeon? Go through the motions? Deem my questions below him? Maybe he would be as completely nutso as his band’s persona. Or such an intellectual that I would struggle to converse on a similar level.

You see where I’m going with this. In fact, he was charming, self-deprecating and extremely affable. Most interesting, though, was the extent to which Devo’s off-the-wall schemes are the product of carefully planned marketing campaigns. I had supposed – naively, perhaps – that their ‘Devo Song Study’ was the band’s idea, perhaps a wry parody of audience-inclusive TV like American Idol and X Factor, where everyone who wants a say gets one. Casale was quite happy to set the record straight on that one…

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On ASIWYFA and the advantages of meeting your interviewees…

September 12, 2010


All photographs: ASIWYFA, photographed in Portrush for AU by Carrie Davenport

I had a few post-work pints with AU writers Francis Jones and John Freeman yesterday. Fra was the editor of the mag before me, and we’ve both been involved with it for about five years. His day job has changed but he still contributes regularly and is a good friend. John is from Manchester and found out about us through a mate of his who is obsessed with Duke Special – when we had Duke on the cover a couple of years ago, this guy got hold of a copy and showed it to John, who got in touch, pitched some work and soon became one of our main feature writers. However, he had never in his 40 years been to Northern Ireland so after interviewing Jeff Tweedy for our Wilco cover feature he took the opportunity to fly over for the band’s debut NI gig, at the Open House Festival. After innumberable phone calls and emails it was good to finally meet him.

Anyway, we were chatting about the mag and music writing in general, and got on to talk about the interviews we do. Being based in Belfast, most of our interviews are done on the phone – we are normally either previewing a gig to be played here, or the artist is promoting a new album. Either way, the interviewee is unlikely to be in Belfast. On certain occasions it does work out (sometimes we interview bands when they are here to play a gig, especially if they are about to release an album soon after) and of course we often interview bands from Northern Ireland.

Any music writer will tell you that a face-to-face interview is always preferable – there is only so much you can do with an interview based solely on words down a phone line. When you meet up with an interviewee, however, there is so much more to play with. Context, geography, even something as simple as facial expressions and body language make a huge difference.

With that in mind, and because I haven’t posted it up here yet, here’s an interview I did with And So I Watch You From Afar in March last year, just before their debut album came out. The photographer Carrie and I went to their own patch – Portrush – for the day and chatted to them in Barry’s Amusements, the Harbour Bar and on the beach. It was a fun day. Read the rest of this entry ?

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James Murphy interview (October 2007)

April 5, 2010

The main reason this blog has been so quiet of late is that I’ve been pretty heavily consumed with work for AU. The new issue of the mag (the second this year) goes to print on Wednesday and it’s been hectic times with an office move and the fact that I didn’t start full-time until last Monday, leaving Jonny and Kim with a lot of slack to pick up on their own.

However, we’ve pretty much got there and it’ll feel great to get the mag out (hopefully at the weekend) and get cracking on the next one – the first I’ll be working on full-time. Yowza.

As a wee preview of the next issue, then (nudge nudge, wink wink), here’s an old interview with James Murphy that I did in the autumn of 2007. I’ve been a massive LCD fan since I heard Losing My Edge and Beat Connection back in about 2002, so it was pretty exciting to get the chance to speak to him, and he didn’t disappoint. Affable and chatty to a fault. Total man-crush material.

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AU62: Snow Patrol cover feature

April 4, 2010

Bit of a delay on this one…

The feature ran as the cover for the last AU of 2009. It was a great chance to speak to Gary Lightbody, especially as the quality of his music seems to be in inverse correlation with the success of his band. Not that I quite told him that. But the most striking thing I took away from the conversation was his resolute belief that the band is on a steadily upward curve. As I hopefully make clear in the piece, I don’t believe that for a second… Read the rest of this entry ?

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AU61: Oppenheimer In The Studio piece

January 4, 2010

Here’s a curio for you. This article was published in November, a month before Rocky and Shaun announced that they were splitting up . So although the interview is all about their upcoming third album, that record will not now see the light of day. And they sounded so optimistic and all… Oh well. Apparently they are going to release an EP culled from these sessions, so we can look forward to that. And wish them all the best for the future.

IN THE STUDIO

OPPENHEIMER

WHAT: Third album
TITLE: TBC (potential titles, Nightmare On Ice, All In With The Kicks)
PRODUCER: Self-produced
STUDIO: Start Together, Belfast
TRACK TITLES: ‘One Day Your Life Will Flash Before Your Eyes – Make Sure It’s Worth Watching’, ‘Let’s Get The Hell Out Of Texas’
COLLABORATORS: Tim Wheeler, Hornby, Tom McShane, string arranger Van Dyke Parks (TBC)
RELEASE DATE: Spring/Summer 2010
LABEL: TBC

Big changes on planet Oppenheimer. Since the release of 2008’s Take The Whole Mid-Range And Boost It, Rocky O’Reilly’s (and friends) Start Together Studios have gone from strength to strength, while partner in pop Shaun Robinson has got married and decamped to New York. We dropped in on them when Shaun was last in town to get the skinny on album number three.

How’s recording been going so far?
R: We’re both living very far apart at the moment, and we’ve been recording songs by ourselves and sending them to the other person. It’s the first time we’ve been so isolated. It was initially a problem and really weird, but it’s turned into something really cool because we’re developing the ideas in a different way. [Shaun]’s not restricted by me being the engineer and sound-finder – I’m writing lyrics and trying vocals, which is terrifying.
S: One things that’s changed for me is that I’ll play a song for three days until I’ve got it totally live, one take, so it’s a real human being. We play it straight and rely on machines to record it, but rely less on machines to, erm, polish that turd.

What’s this album about, for you?
R: I want this to be about the stuff we’ve been listening to and the bands we’ve been touring with. I want it to be about people, and for that human angle to connect with people. We both got to see The Bronx play in New York this year and that was just life-changing, because there were 800 people tearing down the walls of this building and it was rough as anything, but amazing. We toured with The Presidents of the USA, who believe that if you can’t play it in one take, you shouldn’t be writing it. It’s not quite that extreme because we can’t play anything in one take but, you know, it’s definitely taught me about different ways of writing and recording.

How are the songs sounding?
S: Well, Rocky’s rapping, which I think is a brand new thing.
R: A terrifying new thing.
S: Writing songs, this time round I had a piano in front of me rather than an acoustic guitar. So I’ve written some Pink Floyd-esque monstrosities – there’s one song that’s nearly eight minutes long, which is a complete departure.
R: The way Shaun’s been writing, and the way that I’ve been writing as well, it’s much more structured around the song than about the process or the production.
S: Plus, changing the rules or having a blast at doing things. One album that I’ve been quoting is Midnite Vultures by Beck. [On] over half of the tracks on that album, there comes a point where it just turns into a completely different song, and it never goes back to the way it was before. It just goes… zhoink! It’s something that I’ve thought about. You’ve got to be playful sometimes.

Do you think people will be surprised when they hear it?
R: I think it’s one of those things where they’re still going to hear Oppenheimer in it because it’s still us, but for people who’ve written us off as an electro, synth-pop duo, deliriously happy – those days are gone. We’re not happy any more.

Are you collaborating with anyone on this album?
R: There is going to be, hopefully – budget allowing, a collaboration with a string-arranger who has come forward and wants to work on the album. We just need to find the cash to make it happen. That’s going to take us in a completely different direction, and in a way that we never thought possible.

I take it you’re not naming names?
S: His name’s Van Dyke Parks. He did the instrumentation for Smile by Brian Wilson.
R: The Bear Necessities for The Jungle Book, U2, Silverchair. It’s remarkable. And he just contacted us saying that he really, really liked us and let’s find a way to make this happen. So possibly, at some point, we’re going to be in LA watching an orchestra playing Oppenheimer songs, which is incredible.

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AU61: Why? interview

January 4, 2010

This one’s tinged with sadness, because Why?’s latest album was my single biggest disappointment of 2009 (review here). Maybe in time I will come to embrace it, but after the glorious Alopecia, Eskimo Snow was an almighty let-down. Nevertheless, I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to speak to Yoni Wolf myself and ask him about it. Of course, i didn’t tell him how gutted I was about his new album, but it was interesting to get his perspective on how different it is from Alopecia, and why that is. Incidentally, the interview was conducted over two days – he had to break off first time round because he was about to have a big slap-up lunch with his brother’s family. And the next day, he seemed to be eating while talking to me. Sound enough to chat to though, despite that.

COUNTRY SAD BALLAD MAN

YONI WOLF ON THE WHY? RECORD NOBODY SAW COMING

Little more than a year after releasing one of last year’s summer-defining – and best – records in Alopecia, indie-rock wordsmiths Why? are back with a radically different follow-up. Eskimo Snow and its predecessor were written and recorded in the same sessions in early 2007, but sonically they are poles apart. Where Apolecia was a wry, witty concoction of indie-pop and languid hip-hop, Eskimo Snow is as dark and – at times – bleak as its title, an album that sees mainman Yoni Wolf recast as a country troubadour, obsessed with sex and death.

“It is different,” he affirms from his brother (and drummer) Josiah’s house in rural Ohio. “It’s kind of a small, consistent, melancholy type of record. If Alopecia is kind of large in scope and out in the world and erratic, I would say that Eskimo Snow is a bit more consistent and internal.”

That manifests itself in a brief and sombre set of songs – “pretty mortality-based” as Wolf admits. The gorgeous, fragile title track closes the album with a lyric that is typically opaque but full of arresting imagery. According to Yoni, it made sense as the album title – the song that “really represents the album”.

“Eskimos have a million words for snow,” he explains. “They live so close to it, it’s so much a part of their lives that they see it as if through a microscope – very clearly and in all its intricacies. So [the line] “all my words for sadness, like Eskimo snow”. I just feel like that word ‘sad’ is such a vague, basic word. Any of the words for emotion, like happy or sad. I feel like what I do is take those kinds of words and figure out the long answers – the things that can’t be explained in one word.”

The songwriter’s background is in underground hip-hop act cLOUDDEAD and as part of the Anticon. collective, but rather than the dextrous rapping that has marked out so much of his previous work – including Alopecia Eskimo Snow often sees his voice reduced to a resigned croak, albeit one that has a lot of startingly vivid things to say. But then lyrical ingenuity is nothing new on Why? records. The lack of any remnants of hip-hop is. Not that Wolf wants to engage with that.

“Throughout my career, I’ve run into people always wanting to categorise me,” he says a touch frustratedly, “and I just don’t think in those terms too much. I listen to a lot of quote-unquote rap music, yeah. I say rap more than hip-hop. When I grew up, hip-hop was the culture and rap music is just that someone is rapping. Whatever, I don’t have a problem with all that stuff.”

It’s something that has and will continue to come up a lot when this album gets discussed, because it sounds so very different. Is that something Yoni is conscious of or worried about? “I’m not worried about it,” he says bluntly. “I’m conscious of the fact it doesn’t sound like rap at all. Alopecia sounds like rap music, or half of it, and this doesn’t. Who cares, you know? It’s a record – listen to it for its own sake.”

Remember, though, that this is just one record pulled from those bewilderingly diverse sessions in 2007. Next time round, Yoni hints, things could be very different again. “I’ve been writing some rap-type stuff, I would say – rhythmic and hyper-rhyming, and I imagine the next record will be kind of like that.”

ESKIMO SNOW IS OUT NOW ON TOMLAB

WWW.MYSPACE.COM/WHYANTICON

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AU61: Crimea X Incoming piece

January 4, 2010

Crimea X are an Italian duo who first came to my attention via their Phoros EP, which I reviewed last year. They recently released a follow up, and I was able to do a short email interview and write this piece about the band. Check them out if you have any interest in cosmic disco.

CRIMEA X

MEMBERS: DJ Rocca (programming, keys, flute), Jukka Reverberi (bass, keys, vocals).
FORMATION: Reggio Emilia, Italy, 2009.
FOR FANS OF: Holy Ghost!, Prins Thomas, Lindstrøm.
CHECK OUT: Chorne More EP, out December 6 on Hell Yeah. Phoros EP out now.
WEBSITE: www.myspace.com/crimeax

Disco speaks of nothing so much as hedonism, a genre built for dancefloor escapism and largely unencumbered by intellectualism and politics. Not so with Italian duo Crimea X, two men driven by a fixation on Soviet Russia. “We were raised up in leftist families where it was quite usual to look in the eastern direction, [and] Jukka comes from a village where they still have a Lenin statue in the main square,” explains Luca (aka DJ Rocca), and indeed each song on new EP Chorne More (‘Black Sea’ in Russian) is named after a figure from those eastward-looking childhoods – Jurij Andropov was the head of the KGB in the Seventies and Eighties, while Varvara Stepanova and Liubov Popova were prominent avant-garde artists in the 1910s and 1920s, before the anti-intellectual Kremlin banned abstract art.

The pair describe their music succinctly as “socialist krautdisco” and, musically as well as politically, there is a lot going on, especially in the pair’s debut EP Phoros, which provided one of the tunes of the summer in the sublime ‘10pm’. Luca and Jukka used the three-tracker (plus remixes) to explore the synthesised textures of Krautrock bands like Tangerine Dream, Neu! and Harmonia, skilfully blending them with the arms-in-the-air, spaced-out euphoria of cosmic disco. “Daniele Baldelli’s lesson is a clear influence,” says Luca of the DJ credited with inventing the genre at the Cosmic club on the shore of Lake Garda. “The way he mixed genres in his old tapes or live sets is truly inspiring. We love also the German cosmic adventure made by the cosmic groups from the Seventies and Eighties. They demonstrate that it is possible to have a national musical scene outside USA and UK.”

Chorne More is significantly different from Phoros, evidence that the fledgling act have much more to offer. It’s poppier and more direct, as the glitterball leftists raise the tempo, brighten the tone and, on lead track ‘Jurij’, incorporate a hooky vocal line from Reverberi. Luca puts the change down to the pair’s divergent backgrounds – he as a prominent DJ and Jukka as a member of post-rockers Giardini di Mirò – and indicates that the band themselves don’t even know what their debut album might sound like. “Balkan folk? Nope. We don’t know. We are working on it. We’ve got tons of material, but a full-length is not only a collection of different songs but it is a journey in a musical world. So we need some more time to work on it and think about it, but we honestly [think it will] be ready in the first half of 2010.”

Meanwhile, look out for live shows – nothing in Ireland as yet, but the two Italians have played in London, and they are keen to stress the musical aspect of what they do. “We are both musicians!” says DJ Rocca. “So along with programming we play live bass, flute and some synthesisers. In the future, we’d like to have a more live experience with our marvellous vintage synth collection and a real drummer to perform with us.” The hammer and sickle, we suppose, are optional.

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