British Sea Power

British Sea Power
By Alexander Laurence

Another great band at this year's Noise Pop was British Sea Power. They are an exciting quintet from Brighton, England. We only know them by their first names: Hamilton, Noble, Yan, Eamon and Woody. The band was formed in 2000. Their shows are famous for their use of military outfits and trees and statues of animals. Geoff Travis (of Rough Trade) came down to one of their clubs, called Club Sea Power, and was shocked immediately, and signed them on the spot. After some shows in Europe with Interpol, Flaming Lips and Pulp, their fanbase grew. They made an impression on all the jaded industry deadbeats at SXSW in 2003. Then in June 2003 we had the release of their first album: The Decline of British Sea Power.

On their website they talk about their experiences on tour and some plans for a second album: "All of which, we can tell you, is stirring the members of British Sea Power into an implacable determination to write a song with 159 verses. (Or to record a second album). To travel to within 79 kilometers of Geneva. (Or play some concerts in Holland). To see a new face depicted on the coins of 36 countries. (Not their own, of course, but maybe the likeness of the increasingly respected actress Denise Van Outen, possibly disgraced ice queen Tonya Harding, or, best of all, the resplendent singing star Jamelia)."

I met them at the Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco, where I had previously met other people like Irvine Welsh, Mogwai, and Roni Size. It tends to be a hotspot for bands. I got to talk to a few members of the band before their two big shows at Noise Pop. Afterwards Hamilton and Eamon jumped into the nearby pool in their underwear. Eamon was sporting a pair of boxing shorts at the end of its life. Their show that night at Bottom of The Hill was one of the highlights of that week. We hope to see them play more on this side of the pond.

Yan: Vocals/Guitar
Hamilton: Vocals/Bass
Noble: Guitar
Woody: Drums
Eamon: Keyboards/Drums

They will be playing at Coachella 2005. They will also be playing at The Echo on May 1st.


AL: How long have you guys been playing together?

Yan: It's been about three or four years. Hamilton is my brother. Woody over there who plays drums: we all went to school together in Kendal. We met Woody when he was about eleven years old. I am a year older than those two. We met the others at Reading University.

AL: Did you play music back then?

Yan: I wasn't into it. Those two were in all sorts of bands. Woody was like the town drummer. I saw him play at a little local club. Woody was playing in six local bands in one evening.

AL: Are you shooting some Super 8mm film?

Hamilton: Yeah. I am shooting things that happen to us. I am making a video.

AL: This will be in the next video?

Eamon: Is that what you are doing? (laughter)

AL: What music did you listen to when you were growing up?

Yan: I used to listen to a lot of rare music because I had a brother who was ten years older. He was a real music buff. He started off liking Echo and The Bunnymen and then he expanded. He had about five hundred quality albums like Sonic Youth, Pixies, Julian Cope, and Pere Ubu. Loads of alternative stuff.

AL: Did you ever get to play with any of those bands that you listened to?

Yan: Pulp was one band that I grew up liking. I was a big fan of theirs. We got to play with them on their last tour when they played all those shows in the forest. We played with The Fall. There is a chance we might play with The Pixies in London. I have never seen them. I was too young the first time around. There's a chance that they might be good.

AL: How did you write the songs on the first album?

Hamilton: Yan wrote most of the songs on the first album. Then we wrote some of them all together. I wrote a few songs. We had most of the songs around for a while. The songs developed over time.

AL: Do you have material ready for a second album?

Yan: We have just starting preparing for it, really. It will be a total group effort.

Eamon: We hired a barn out in the countryside. It's in Sussex. There's a lot of snow and mushrooms. There are some chickens.

AL: That sounds ideal. Where is that?

Yan: It's in the South. There is a guy named David Dimbleby. He produces a talk show on BBC television. He lives opposite us. We are doing some demos there. Our first album came out in June 2003 in the UK.

AL: I heard that Interpol had a lot to do with getting you guys on tour and eventually signed?

Yan: I have a lot of respect for those guys.

Eamon: We spent six weeks with them. That was the first major tour we did. We went through all the major countries in Europe.

AL: Interpol were playing big festivals in France before anyone had heard of them in America.

Yan: I think that Europe accepted Interpol with open arms. Americans are too worried about being cool.

AL: Does British Sea Power play into that?

Noble: Can't help being cool. (laughter)

Yan: It's an exotic thing. With America and Europe there is a mystique. I think that works the opposite way for us.

AL: Have you moved to London?

Yan: I am not a big fan of London. It's a bit too grim and dirty. We are an hour away. We like to stay away from any industry. It's better being at home by the sea. It's more peaceful.

AL: You are missing out on all those Soho parties and Award shows.

Eamon: I am too busy trying to start a relationship with Carrie Von Bondie. She just fell of the stage in London I heard.

AL: Has the band had any accidents?

Yan: We have had a lot of accidents. It's not that much really.

Eamon: I have scabby knees.

AL: Woody is over there on the other side of the pool ignoring us. He is reading a book. Have any of you been reading any good books recently?

Yan: I am reading one of those USA Travel books. I am reading a guide to twentieth century philosophy.

AL: Where is the after party tonight?

We were making too much noise last night. Eamon was jumping off the roof. We were thinking about coming back here to The Phoenix and have a party. Someone broke into the bar and stole drinks. We have already checked out. We might go see Super Furry Animals tonight. We don't usually have after parties. We are more likely to end up in the forest or halfway up a mountain. I like campfires.

AL: How long is this tour?

Yan: It's been about a month. We started in New York and it's ending in Texas at SXSW.

Eamon: SXSW is the best festival. We played at it last year. It's like one street with forty venues.

AL: When people come to see British Sea Power what should they expect?

Yan: They should expect not to be bored.

AL: How do you deal with hecklers?

Yan: I quiet them down. The worse thing is when everyone looks blank. You think that maybe they are enjoying it or maybe they wish that they were home shagging their girlfriends. You can never understand what anyone is saying. I think that someone was offering us "Free Monkeys" at the last gig. I was confused.

AL: What is your set like now?

Yan: The majority of it is the album. Then there are some favorites that never made the album and are b-sides. We have one or two new songs creeping in. It's a slow process bringing in new songs.

AL: Are there any other contemporary bands that you like?

Noble: We like The Cooper Family. They have been playing for two hundred years. They have tour America. They have played at the White House. We played with them a few times.

Yan: They are good beer drinkers. We also had a good time with The Flaming Lips for a week. It was their last tour in England. They were good guys.

AL: Did you jump up there onstage with a animal costume?

Yan: I got to be a rabbit for a little while.

Hamilton: We were helping out people in the back because it was very hot. They were roasting in those suits. So we were spraying them with water.

AL: You called him Uncle Wayne?

Yan: He put a curse on us accidentally. Hamilton kept on falling off the stage. Wayne Coyne came over like a concerned uncle and said "We like what you boys are doing, but you have to look after yourselves. You are going to end up getting injured." So a few weeks later when we went on our own tour, that was when a couple of us busted our ankles. We ended up on crutches. Wayne told us that we would end up like that Superman dude in the wheelchair. We almost did.

Hamilton: I think that we have broken out of the curse now.

AL: The Flaming Lips used to set cymbals on fire.

Eamon: They know danger.

Noble: I set my guitar on fire once. It snapped in half.

AL: When will the second record come out?

Yan: If all goes well it will come out in September 2004, or a few months later. We are pretty busy. Everything is going to have to go perfectly.

AL: Did you win any music awards this year?

Eamon: Not really. I think our record was number 15 on the combined "Best Of" list. We did win an award from Time Out Magazine as best live band.

AL: What is your favorite part of music?

Hamilton: Writing a good song is nice.

AL: Have you seen any movies recently?

Yan: We just watched The Last Waltz by Martin Scorcese. We watched it on the bus the other night. I have read about it. I couldn't believe that I haven't seen it before. It was amazing.

AL: It was filmed at The Fillmore which isn't too far from here.

Yan: The way they set up the stage was interesting. The performances themselves were amazing. It's proper film quality.

AL: Have you seen any other films?

Hamilton: We saw Lost In Translation on the plane.

Eamon: Do you know what Bill Murray said to her at the end?

AL: I don't know. Maybe he said, "I am a homosexual." I don't think you are supposed to know.

Noble: "Have you ever seen Caddyshack?"

AL: You have been playing a lot of shows with the band Kaito. What do you think of them?

Noble: They are good. I think that enjoy them more the more I drink. I don't know why. I like all the strange noises that Nikki makes when she is singing.

AL: Do you play with those sorts of bands that have no commercial interest?

Yan: Have you heard of The 80s Matchbox B-line Disaster?

AL: Yeah. They haven't played over here yet. The guy from Cooper Temple Clause liked them too.

Yan: We played one of our first shows with them in Brighton. I don't know where they are at now. I know that they are absolutely fucking crazy. They started out sounding like some shambolic group like The Fall, but they get faster and heavier every time I see them.

Eamon: They are the only band at the moment who make me want to pogo dance.

AL: What is the hardest thing about being in a band?

Yan: Staying mentally functional. We have been getting bus psychosis.

AL: Does anyone have any hobbies?

Yan: I did a lot of painting before the band. Painting for me is something you have to do every day to get anything out of it.

AL: Did anyone in your family have a musical background?

Noble: My granddad used to play the piano. He played a church organ during the war.

Yan: My background is perfectly unmusical.

AL: What do your parents think of the band?

Yan: They love it now. It's probably their main interest in life now. My dad is about eighty years old now. The last five years he has really been getting interested in music. He has been getting into us and The Butthole Surfers, and Nirvana. He has good taste for an eighty year old.

AL: He'll probably be buying some Ministry this week. Does your parents come to shows?

Yan: yeah. I think that parents either hate the fact that you are wasting your life in a rock band or they become fanatical.

AL: Who does your website?

Hamilton: Woody does it. He doesn't talk very much.

AL: If he was over here talking to me, what would he sat?

Yan: I don't know. He could get quite paranoid. We do it all ourselves. It started off really good but it has become lame because we haven't had time to do it. We do all our own videos and album covers.

AL: What are some of the conspiracy theories on the message board?

Eamon: They were wondering how old we are. They were saying that we are really old.

Yan: There was that and who is the sexiest member of British Sea Power. You want to know? It's was you, Eamon. They like your matureness. There are a cult group of people who come to a lot of shows. They used to talk about us. Now they just talk about what they got up to. How drunk they got. All about their stupid activities. It's like a self-help group for mentally challenged.

AL: What does your average British Sea Power fan look like?

Noble: Like a dwarf.

Yan: It is all country related. In Japan, they are all girls. Screaming girls. In England, there used to be a lot of men in overcoats. That is changing. This guy who was in The Goodies has been coming to, our shows.

AL: Do you think that the government would use your music for a commercial about the Royal Navy?

Yan: Like "Don't go in!"

Website: http://www.britishseapower.co.uk/


--Alexander Laurence

Share/Bookmark Read more / Permalink


DJ Krust (Roni Size)

DJ Krust is the co-founder of Bristol's Full Cycle crew (with Roni Size, DJ Die and Suv), and he is much noted in the drum and bass (jungle?) underground for his push-the-envelope productions both alone and in collaboration with Size.

Born in Bristol in 1968, Krust was raised on hip-hop and began DJing in the mid-'80s at schools and small clubs around the area. His interests grew to include acid house and rave by the late '80s, and a stint in the group Fresh 4 landed Krust in the middle of the charts, when "Wishing on a Star" made number nine in late 1989. After meeting at the 1990 Glastonbury Festival, DJ Krust and Roni Size soon began to produce tracks together, often in collaboration with DJ Die and Suv. The outfit recorded solo and in tandem for Bryan G and Jumpin' Jack Frost's V Recordings during the early '90s, but then in 1992 formed the Full Cycle label with manager Chris Warton. Along with its sister label Dope Dragon, Full Cycle released several crucial singles and the 1995 label retrospective Music Box, through an agreement with Talkin' Loud Records.

DJ Krust continued to record for V and Full Cycle, and helped out on remixes for Goldie and fellow Bristol crew More Rockers. Size's debut album New Forms -- featuring considerable production help from Krust -- hit the music world like a bomb in 1997, leading to Krust's own major-label contract the following year. His Polygram debut, True Stories, was followed in 1999 by Coded Language. His sophomore effort Through the Eyes was issued a year later Recently he's on tour in America with Reprazent. Their new record IN THE MODE is banging and fresh. Their live show is a pure adrenaline rush.

Roni Size and DJ Krust are both going to perform at Coachella 2005.


AL: The shows have been getting better and the audiences have been getting larger. Have you guys made it a purpose to tour America heavily?

Roni Size and Reprazent
DJ Krust: Full Cycle was our own record label. So some people knew us from those days. We had an underground cult audience from those days before we did any albums. When the album came out, we attracted a whole other audience. The audience is made up of people who know us from Full Cycle, V Recordings, and Dope Dragon. Now they know the first album, Coded Language, New Forms, Breakbeat Era. People know about all the records and they know what's going on.

AL: Was it always a band at first or were you DJs?

DJ Krust: At first it was a DJ thing and we came out of that mentality. It was always a DJ thing. Making records to play for ourselves. That's how it started. We started out as DJs on the scene and we weren't getting noticed or getting any breaks. We weren't getting noticed anyway, so we started to play some of our own music. We started to give out our records to Jumpin' Jack Frost and Bryan G in the early days. And they were the first DJs who started to play our music. They started V Recordings. Then, bam, it started taking off from there. They paved the way for us to come through. So when we did the album, we wanted to promote it, so Roni had the idea of putting a band together. Nothing like that had been done before in that music.

AL: When New Forms came out and won The Mercury Prize and caused a lot of attention, did you decided to take a break for a while? And maybe focus on the solo records?

DJ Krust: No, it wasn't really like that. We didn't know how things worked when you win prizes and everything to that extent. We toured the record for a year non-stop. For us, we're DJs. We don't have a band mentality. I already had signed to do an album already. Roni Size and myself signed record deals at the same time. We took time and effort making Reprazent. After that year, I had to make an album, and our own label didn't get any attention. We had a lot of problem so we had to take care of business. Everyone had personal agendas that they had to deal with. It took us that long to get things back together and sort out personal problems. We had to put a new identity to Full Cycle. I did an album and Roni and Die did Breakbeat Era. All these projects, which were in the pipeline before, were all of a sudden put of hold. After Reprazent, we finished off all these other projects, getting them out there. It was two or three years later before we were able to do In The Mode. And it was like, bam, everyone thinks where have you been? We were busy doing other things.

AL: It seems like Wu-Tang Clan, where you have the band and many side projects and solo records?

DJ Krust: We are like a lot of people. In the band we are all individual artists who have all their own individual projects as well.

AL: Is Jazz a big influence?

DJ Krust: The whole thing about Jazz is on New Forms there was a vibe of Jazz on it. We are more about funk. I didn't know anything about Jazz. I know more about Jazz now than I did then. For us, we are coming from the old days, the funk era, like Parliament Funkadelic, George Benson, and Motown. That's our whole vibe. That's what we grew up listening to. People saw a double bass, and to them it was jazz. But it was more than that.

AL: Do you collect a lot of vinyl?

DJ Krust: I have a real small flat and it's hectic. You walk in there and there's records everywhere. I get a lot of CDs these days. The first tour we did we went around and collected vinyl, but now we are trying to build on the equipment we have. We all bought laptops and we're more studio based. In the beginning we were all about samples. We used to sample a record and fit it in with what you are doing. Now we learned how to play instruments and play keyboards and use live drummers, instead of sampling a record to create a vibe, you can create your own vibe. Instead of sampling the record with a certain keyboard sound, you go out and buy the keyboard. You look for it and you source it.

AL: Have you got any Moogs and Arps?

DJ Krust: Exactly. We have Moogs and Arps. That's right. Once you start hitting these keyboards, something comes out. You add that vibe with some of the new technology today, with the breaks and the drum machines, and the laptops, and you automatically start using the equipment in a whole other way. We started using Ataris. We are the computer generation. We grew up using Ataris. It's been in the last three years when we started using Macs and Pro Tools that we were able to go inside and really fuck with them. We prefer Pro Tools.

AL: How do you go about composing new tracks for an album?

DJ Krust: On the last two records Roni has done most of the work. He's an arranger. Roni will do most of the work already and then someone will come in and catch a vibe. They'll do this or do that and contribute with something, even a little keyboard here. I play strings basically. That's what I'll do anyway. Or various things. Bam, I bring that to the table. Suv will bring all his effects. Die will bring his own keyboards and start working on melodies. Roni will go through everything and sift through it and get what he wants, and that's what it is. We almost finished another record, the new album, the third one. We went to Australia and did The Big Day Out. It happens seven days around the country. It was a great experience. We did that and came back full of energy. We went back into the studio for two weeks and made fifteen tracks. We all sat down and contributed. It was a great. It was a very spontaneous thing.

AL: How did you work with Method Man and Zack from Rage Against The Machine?

DJ Krust:Roni had an idea to work with Hiphop people really early on. We asked them a while ago and nobody knew who we were. So Zack met Roni at Glastobury and they got along and decided to work together. After a few years, people knew who Reprazent are. They said "I know them!" It was a different ballgame then. We have a track record. We are not some fly by night thing.

AL: Then you decided to do some songs and some more song based stuff? DJ Krust: It's all about where we are coming from. Our whole background is about songs, growing up and listening to music. Instrumental music is great but you can't really sing along to a bass line. Words are easier to follow. When you have a hook or a line, something to sing to, that's what stays in your head. That's what I remember from old school festivals in Bristol. They still have carnivals during the weekend. That's where I grew up. There was the Wild Bunch, who are Massive Attack now, that's where they would play every year. They had the biggest sound system ever. They would play all day and all night. You would wait to hear the new tunes and the new techniques. That's what the whole vibe is about.

AL: You guys grew up as B-Boys?

DJ Krust: Yeah, definitely. Hiphop started in our era. I had just left school and there was Hiphop, Bebop, and Electro. That was what was happening. We used to get these albums Electro Volumes one to ten. I kept them all. They are really wicked. It was like an English Culture that you are not presented with anything that is naturally you. You are looking outside. We were like a lost generation of kids without a background or history. All our parents and the parents of our friends were from Jamaica. You sort of rebelled against that upbringing, because they were still stuck in that Jamaican mentality. We weren't exactly Jamaican. We were Jamaican/English. We were born and bred in England. Our parents were like go get a job and go do this. And we were like we'll do that but we're into music. They couldn't understand. For them, it was like respect your parents. Being into music we thought was positive.

AL: So you liked NWA, Public Enemy, and Afrika Bambaataa?

DJ Krust: Loved it. The Beastie Boys. There was not one thing we didn't like. It was a culture and a lifestyle. It was more than music. It was something we could take on board. It's about scratching, breakdancing, graffiti. It's discipline, a code, and about respect. It was a type of respect you didn't experience in school. It was a type of respect we experienced in our own group. We felt like finally we had something for ourselves. Kids rebel. It doesn't matter what your mum and dad says. You'll do the opposite.

AL: Why do you think the establishment has given you all these awards, such as The Mercury Prize?

DJ Krust: We helped create a musical scene, something that started from the streets upwards. Then the establishments begins to accept what we're doing. We have to contribute and show up. We have to say this is the people behind the music, this is us. This is who you have given the award to. You have to play the game and be part of that. As well as being us. Nobody can get away with that.

You have to break it down and think about how Dr. Dre or the RZA was embraced by the industry. They went through the same struggle ten years ago. Now we're going through it. They have given us award. Why have they given us awards? They want us to contribute. They know we are serious. We have toured the world. You have contributed by having hit singles. Between all of us we have 200 remixes. Maybe more. We have put out over 300 records on three record labels. Hiphop has been around for twenty years. We have been doing it for five years or so. We still have a lot of work to do.

AL: You did a show in New York Central Park last summer. What was it like?

DJ Krust: Amazing. One of the best gigs ever. Central Park. It was a dream come true. We grew up dreaming about going to New York just to buy some records. Now we come to Central Park playing for an audience we grew up wanting to be a part of. We would have given our right arm to go to a Hiphop jam back in the early 1990s when Hiphop was vibrant and fresh. We got all these DJ Red Alert tapes. We studied them. The Wild Bunch and Soul II Soul were great but New York was where it was all about: you wanted to buy the trainers, the jeans, the white Kangol hat. You wanted to be part of the lifestyle.

Official Website: http://www.ronisize.com/

-Alexander Laurence

Share/Bookmark Read more / Permalink


Keane Interview

The Keane Interview: Coachella 2005
By Alexander Laurence

Some bands come from nowhere and go against everything that is presently cool and hip. Keane is one of those bands. They are not from New York City, they don't wear black clothes and sunglasses, and they don't even have a guitar in the band. Tom Chaplin (vocals), Richard Hughes (drums), and Tim Oxley-Rice (piano) are childhood friends from the posh town of Battle, East Sussex, in England. Keane are a band who get along really well and are well behaved. They were formed in 1997 while still in college, and initially started out as a cover band. They liked songs that were anthems and focused on songwriting. They played Oasis, U2 and Beatles songs for years to get their chops. Keane are named after some old lady they knew, not the football player.

Tom Chaplin left Edinburgh University in the dust and moved to London to join the rest of his mates. They got rid of their guitarist and things started to happen. They began writing and recording almost immediately. This is when Keane really started to find itself. They all still look like they are in college. Tom Chaplin still looks like a teenager. They had confidence although labels weren't really biting at Keane's rich, piano-driven rock & roll. They were still under the spell of bands like The Strokes and White Stripes. In December 2002, Keane finally got a break. A fan in the audience one night turned out to be a record label boss. Fierce Panda's Simon Williams was so impressed by the band's performance, that Williams offered to issue the band's next single, "Everything's Changing." Keane signed to Island UK and to Interscope in America and released their fourth single, "This Is The Last Time." The band's album, Hopes and Fears, is finally released in America in May 2004. They played some shows in the States to sold out crowd. I got to speak to the architect of Keane's sound, Tim Oxley-Rice. He was polite and cheerful.

They will be playing Saturday, April 30th, with Coldplay and Bauhaus.

AL: How is the tour going?

Tim: We are having fun. It's good. A lot of shows were sold out.

AL: You are from the South of England?

Tim: Yeah. In that neck of the woods. In Sussex, slightly east of Brighton. It's a small town called Battle. We have known each other since we were very young. I have known Tom since he was born. He is a few years younger than the rest of us, me and Richard. Tom was born at the same time and the same hospital as my brother.

AL: It's a small town?

Tim: Exactly. You meet people like that and it's nice.

AL: What is Battle known for?

Tim: The Battle of Hastings took place in that area. The town is known for tourism basically. It's a nice place. There is a castle that was built to commemorate the Battle of Hastings. That is a tourist attraction. Not much happens there. It's one of those sleepy town were you grow up.

AL: Do you go to school there too?

Tim: Yeah. In that general area. A few miles from Battle. We all went to a local school, and then another which was a half and hour drive away.

AL: Did you go to a University?

Tim: I went to University of London. So did Richard. I studied the Classics. I read a lot of books in Greek and Latin. It's doesn't really help you in an immediate way. It doesn't help you find a job. But it's good for the soul and it's good for the brain. It helps you think about arty things. Not everything is black and white. There is often a grey area that is interesting to think about. I suppose that you can use that as a background when you are writing music.

AL: Did any of your families have a musical background? Did you parents encourage a musical career?

Tim: It wasn't a big family thing. My dad plays piano. My parents aren't really musical. It wasn't a very normal thing for us to do music. It wasn't encouraged. It was a weird thing for us to do. You know how it is when you are a teenager: you are worried about becoming a lawyer or a banker. Being young and having fun is what making music is about.

AL: Did your parents turn you on to any music?

Tim: Yeah. My parents were into music in the 1960s. They were Beatles fans. They liked Simon and Garfunkel, Buddy Holly, and The Mamas and The Papas. That sort of thing. All those records were very exotic. It's great how the Beatles are still handed down from generation to generation. They are a great songwriting band. I remember that sound going around all the time. It's great to have that songwriting ability as a basis. We have that as a starting point for our band.

AL: You write all the songs in Keane?

Tim: Yeah.

AL: There was a different version of "Everybody Changes" on Fierce Panda?

Tim: Yeah. It's slightly different. We re-recorded for the album to get it a little bit more chunky and live band sounding. The first recording was a demo and it sound tinny. It's like a bedroom recording. That's cool.

AL: You wrote most of the songs in the past two years?

Tim: No. There is loads of other stuff. I have been writing all the time. That gives you the freedom to choose only the best songs. There isn't much other stuff that we haven't recorded for the album and b-sides. There is some stuff on a Dictaphone or in my head.

AL: How does a song start for you? You start with a riff or some lyrics?

Tim: It's exactly like that. Sometimes I can piece things together. I think it is best when I can write things straight through. Those are the ones that have turned out the best. It's a funny type of process. I do that thing where I will be driving in my car and I will get a tune in my head and I will have to phone my own answering machine. I'll sing a little of the tune and a little bit of the bass so I know what chord I am suppose to be singing over. It sounds horrible. But it is annoying if you can't remember things. If you can get these tunes recorded down somewhere, you can make a demo, and present that to the band. If it works out, then that will be a song for the album.

AL: Do you sing on the demos?

Tim: Yeah. We know that. The guys are used to my terrible singing. We can pick out a song from my wobbly vocals. We have an instinct how to make a good song. We have known each other for so long that we have an instinctual relationship and chemistry where we can take a terrible sounding demo and make a great recording out of it.

AL: Were there other people in the band before?

Tim: I play the bass guitar too. I played on the record too. We used to have a guitarist for three years. He left. He decided he had enough. It's the humiliation of never getting anywhere.

AL: What were the songs like in the early days?

Tim: It was still melodic. The songs were not as good. We weren't there yet. We were probably rambling on. We were still a guitar band. People thought we were too much like Radiohead.

AL: The voice in Keane is the lead instrument.

Tim: The song really is the main feature. Tom's voice is so good at expressing the emotion of the songs. You can write a melody that has a lot of width and range and jumps around a bit. It's expressively exciting. It takes the band to get out all that passion and emotion across. It's good that the way we play, without loads of distorted guitar, you have space for the melodies to come out and the words to be heard. All that matters is the songs getting across.

AL: What are your songs about?

Tim: I am not so much a storyteller. All the songs are incredibly personal songs. All our songs are honest and exposing our hearts to the elements. We are saying what we feel and not holding anything back. That is important. If you are not being honest, how do you expect people to respond? The songs are about people I guess. They are about us primarily. They are all about how people communicate or fail to communicate.

AL: Do you take any chemicals or alcohol to get inspired?

Tim: To get that loved up feeling? No. We are all partial to wine and beer. With us, when you get a great song going, and you get the hairs standing up on your neck, that is an incredible feeling.

AL: When did you get that feeling that the songs were more than just songs?

Tim: Definitely when we started being a three-piece things got better. In the last six month when we have played "Bedshaped" for me it has been electrifying. I love all the songs.

AL: Do the songs change the more you play them?

Tim: A little bit. Since we have done the album we have been playing for the best part of a year. We have refined them live on the road and in rehearsal. We knew what we wanted to do and we recorded the songs quickly. We are very happy where they are now.

AL: I was reading some articles about you in various magazines. Most of them compare you to other bands. What bands do you think are legitimate influences? What are some bands that you are compared to but have no relevance you feel?

Tim: There have been the lazy comparisons of Coldplay and Travis. I think that comparison can be made for any British band with a piano. Those are good bands but we don't listen to them very often. If I think of what really influenced the record I would generally think of people like U2, and Oasis probably. I remember listening to a lot of The Smiths when I was writing the songs. There is Sigur Ros. I love those dreamy vocals. I listen to a lot of their first album. There are direct influences like The Smiths and even the Chemical Brothers.

AL: Did you record this record in live takes?

Tim: Yeah. I played bass guitar and piano, not at the same time. We would play together live and then I would add the other parts later. I have an analog synth that I play. All the string sounds is that. Everything on the record is organic.

AL: Are there any other bands that you like?

Tim: I like this band The Delays. They are cool. We have played two gigs with them. We have played so many small gigs that some of the bands we never see them again.

AL: Have you read any books?

Tim: The last thing I read was An Ice Cream War by William Boyd.

AL: People are lining up already for the show tonight. You can see them outside the window. You fans are 90% girls.

Tim: It's nice. We are happy that any people have a relationship to the music. We don't care about only attracting a cool crowd. We don't care about that stuff. The music is the important thing.

AL: What do you think of "emo?"

Tim: It's hard to follow movements. In Europe, they talk about "emo" as being something different as what they talk about and mean over here. They called us "emo." I get confused with all these names. It depends on how you want to articulate it. The way we want to articulate it may be different from a heavier punky band. I think that if you get up there and actually say what you feel and you are honest about it, and people like it, that's great. There is room for different types of bands. If everyone was the same it would get boring.

AL: What are you going to do the rest of the year?

Tim: We are going to play a lot of festivals. We are going over to Japan and Australia. We will be back in America in September 2004. We are going to make some noise and have some fun.

Website: www.keaneband.com


--Alexander Laurence

Share/Bookmark Read more / Permalink


Jah Wobble Interview

Blast from the Past: June 2000
I interviewed Jah Wobble but he quit this band before they played any gigs together.

Jah Wobble is a member of Invaders of The Heart, Deep Space, and now The Damage Manual, who will be touring this summer in America. Wobble was original the bassist for PIL, and other bands including Human Condition. He has also played with David Holmes, Holgar Czukay, Primal Scream, and Brian Eno, to name a few.

He had a top ten single with
Public Image and his most successful album is Rising Above Bedlam which featured Sinead O'Conner. In 1994, he played with Peter Gabriel in the WOMAD festival. He's also been busy running 30 Hertz Records. In the past year, he has hooked up with Martin Atkins, of Pigface and Invisible Records, and started a new band, The Damage Manual. Geordie Walker of Killing Joke and Chris Connelly of Ministry are also members. We talked recently by phone about what Jah Wobble was up to lately.


AL: You have been doing records with Invaders of the Heart for several years, and you have your own record label 30 Hertz. How did you find time to do a separate group with Martin Atkins and The Damage Manual? How did it come about?

Wobble: I've only seen Martin Atkins once since I left Public Image in 1980. He called me about 18 months ago and we had a chat. He was in England and asked me how would I fancy giving him a bassline or two on DAT tape so he could sample it. I said that since we were both actual musicians that we should get together and play. Martin said okay. We began to think of other people who could participate and the first person who came very much to mind was Geordie Walker, of Killing Joke. He was one of the best musicians of that era, the late 1970s. That's how it came about basically.

AL: These first sessions took place in London?

Wobble: It was one of those things where everything comes into sync. Martin had come back to England. Geordie was just visiting. We did one session and then another. Musically it was very open. The only predestined thing was that Martin had brought some loops. We didn't really know where it would go. Maybe it would be this really weird hybrid rock record? At that point I didn't think we were going to be a group or band. It was very relaxed and there was no pressure about being a successful band. I enjoyed the fact that it was a bit "rocky" because I was doing modal and dub music for years. I'm used to doing jazz or avant-garde music. This was the first time that I did a rock record. Most of the songs we played live. There must be five hours of tapes that we did. Maybe more.

AL: Did you do any singing on these tapes?

Wobble: No singing. There was no definite plans for a singer at that time. I remember that Martin took the tapes away and did things with cut-up voices. There was stuff from an Alex Harvey voice over. It was a spoken word record. That was okay, but I thought that we needed something else. I knew that these were powerful sounding rock songs, so I knew we needed a powerful singer. So at some point Chris Connelly came along. I thought that was interesting, because I did want a singer that had some enthusiasm about the project which Chris had. So Chris got together with Martin and laid down some tracks. I heard the basic song arrangements in October and I was very surprised. It all sounded good.

AL: What did you think of Martin's work and his approach in the studio, compared to the type of records you have been doing the past ten years?

Wobble: It's quite different. I am not honing actual songs from live stuff. I have worked like that, but not anymore. Martin does a very good job. Sonically I would have done it a little bit differently. But I'm very happy how things have come together. I was pissed off about the sound in January, but after a few arguments on the telephone, things are basically much better. The EP turned out to be really good. We have benefited from arguing about production values. The original demos had a real edge to them. What Martin and Chris did with those tapes is amazing. What I was pissed off about early this year was I think that they were going too far in the production. But since we talked about it, the EP is back where it should be. And the album will probably be mixed by Bill Laswell, because he's one of the few people who has the strength of character to mix an album properly. Bill Laswell is the real deal. Most people are fake the way filmstars are. But I'll tell you without Martin Atkins there wouldn't be any Damage Manual, because he dedicated a year to it.

AL: You've played on records by Primal Scream, David Holmes, and Brian Eno. How is playing with them different than The Damage Manual?

Wobble: With Primal Scream, that's very straightforward, that's me playing in a session for them. I've played for Brian Eno and produced a record for him. So there's different ways of working. Sometimes you're a session musician and sometimes there's actual collaboration. On the first night with The Damage Manual, the first session I said to Martin, "This is very strange. This feels like a group, a rock group!" A feeling I haven't had since Public Image. Don't get me wrong. I have been in other groups since, but none that had a rock group feeling. In a rock group you have four people arguing over how a record should sound.

AL: But when you think of most good bands, you think of four people from the same town, with the same background. There is a shared experience that they are drawing from.

Wobble: Most of the members of PIL were from the same area of London. As far as The Damage Manual, Martin Atkins was in that same generation of players. Geordie is most definitely a kindred spirit. He comes from an English working class background. I was in Geordie's house the other night and he was like fish and chips on a Friday night. He comes from East London. Most of his family is from York. He lives in this estate that is full of Eastenders and Cockneys. I'm a Cockney. Geordie is like what you call "One of your own." He has a bad temper and likes to drink....

AL: Is he a fan of Arsenal?

Wobble: I hate Arsenal. I'm a Tottenham fan. They're the big rivals. Geordie is not into football. Martin is. He's a Coventry fan. I went to a football game a few weeks ago. It was Coventry vs. Tottenham. Tottenham won 1-0 in a very bad tempered game. It's a working class thing. Chris Connelly is from Edinburgh. He's a very clever fellow. Scots I get on with the best of all. There is a link there. Chris is four years younger than the rest of us. You know what I'm saying? I can definitely sit down and have a laugh with these fellows. I had some fantastic arguments with these guys already. I quite liked it. I'm not afraid to stand in my corner. Every argument is not a good situation, but I think this one is. If we ever make it on stage, it's going to be very tense.

AL: What currently going on with your record label 30 Hertz?

Wobble: We just released another Deep Space album. Then in May we have the Molam Dub record, which is all these local musicians from Southeast Asia, from Laos. They perform a type of music which is called "Molam" which is similar to Reggae and Ska. For a few years I wanted to make a very heavy dub record.

AL: Who is presently in Invaders of The Heart?

Wobble: Well, Bill Laswell is coming over as an honorary member. Our drummer is Mark Sanders. Chris Cookson, the guitarist. Clive Bell on pipes. A Frenchman also on pipes, Jean-Pierre Rasle. And the Molam Lao. They all sing and play percussion. There's about twelve musicians altogether.

AL: What are some of the other people you have played with in the past doing? Ollie Marland from early Invaders, Keith Levene and Jim Walker from PIL, and Animal from The Human Condition?

Wobble: You know about me don't you? Ollie, I haven't seen him since 1985. He went off to be the musical director for Tina Turner. Some people you stop working with and then you bump into them two weeks later. I was very good friends with Ollie. He was a laugh. I'd like to see him again. It's sad about Levene after all those years with PIL. He is one of those people who really gets on my nerves. He got under my skin on more than one occasion. I tried to be his friend but eventually I told him to fuck off. I haven't seen him. I heard he was back over here in England. I saw him in 1993 last. It was all fast talk and hype bullshit. Funny enough I just got an invite to the premiere of the new Sex Pistols film by Julian Temple. I've seen John Lydon several times. He used to come round to my shows. I saw him again at his book launch and we had a chat. We get along. But I don't really see anybody from those days. Jeanette Lee is quite sensible and I get along with her. You can actually have a conversation with her. (laughs). She was the assistant to Geoff Travis of Rough Trade. She has three albums.

AL: What about some of the early albums by The Human Condition and The Bedroom Album?

Wobble: Martin wants to bring out The Human Condition tapes. Animal and Jim Walker were in The Human Condition. Jim was a great drummer. Jim and Animal gave up playing at some point. People always talk about The Bedroom Album. I don't have any copies and lost the master tapes. Maybe I will make a new tape from taping an album? I was never going to put that out. It was really a bedroom album. No plans. A guy from Rough Trade came over to my house and I played it to him on a four-track machine. I told him that I needed some money. He said that he could make that tape into an album. He told me "You'll make money!" I said "Then do it!" I am more concerned with the new stuff, so I tend to overlook what has been done. I am more concerned with Deep Space and Molam Dub. I'm also trying to finish a college degree. I also fancy being a bass player in a real rock band. It's a big responsibility being in a band and touring. I'm 41, so I might not have this chance to do it again, unless I'm very lucky.

AL: Unless you are married and have kids too? You don't have to worry about that?

Wobble: Yes I do have kids. It's the reason why I do a bunch of single shows and I usually don't go away for two weeks at a time. I miss my kids too much.

AL: What do you think of most of the mainstream music now?

Wobble: I don't believe in it. I wasn't a big Led Zeppelin fan, but I cared when I first heard Physical Graffiti. It was a great album. It was tough and it was something that I believed in. Same thing with The Who. It was great and you believed it! And the playing was amazing. I think that is a lost art now. All these big rock groups are really retro-sounding. There really isn't an edge there. Give me some names?

AL: The Flaming Lips?

Wobble: Haven't heard them.

AL: Beck?

Wobble: Yeah. I heard some. I think he's very clever. I think he's very comical in a good way. I'm not an expert on what he does. But there's an essence that isn't there for me. Sorry. When I hear a good record I get turned on, but it happens less and less.


For Damage Manual: http://www.invisiblerecords.com/
For Wobble projects: http://www.30hertzrecords.com/

Share/Bookmark Read more / Permalink


William T. Vollmann Interview

photo by Alexander Laurence 1992.

I met Bill Vollmann in 1990. I had read Rainbow Stories and read a few stories of his in Conjunctions. I lived in San Francisco at the time, and except for a few people and friends, nobody knew who he was. Vollmann had lived in San Francisco off and on since 1981, but I had no idea how to contact him. I found out later that he was living in New York City at this time and was writing Fathers and Crows.

I asked a few papers in the Bay Area about doing an article on Vollmann. They weren't interested, because he wasn't part of the PC fads. In 1993 and 1994, I finally got to do some interviews with Vollmann and I saw him a lot during these years. Many of these magazines were apprehensive about doing anything about him, but I soon made them believers.
I remember one time when I met Bill in Noe Valley. We walked down to Mission Street and all the way to the 16th Street Bart Station, talking about the hotels and the people who would later show up in The Royal Family. Today you see articles in the Bay Area newspapers and magazines much as you see articles about lesser writers such as Amy Tan and Anne Lamont, who have been over-praised and had too much attention given. I mean if some lesbian built a table, as long as it worked, as was a nice looking table, I wouldn't care who built it. The Royal Family is a novel about two brothers. Henry a detective who is looking for the Queen of the Whores. John a lawyer who is thinking about the loss of his Wife, Irene.

Enough about me, and more about Bill. He was born in Los Angeles in 1959. He attended a few colleges like Cornell University and Berkeley, but we won't hold that against him. He's won plenty of awards and not enough cash prizes. His journalism has appeared in Spin Magazine, The New Yorker, and Cups Magazine. His novels include You Bright and Risen Angels (1987), The Ice-Shirt (1990), Whores For Gloria (1991), Fathers and Crows (1992), and The Rifles (1994). His short story collections include The Rainbow Stories (1988), 13 Stories and 13 Epitaphs (1991), Butterfly Stories (1993), and The Atlas (1996). His only non-fiction book is actually the first he wrote, An Afghanistan Picture Show (1992). His next book will be Argall, part of the Seven Dreams series of novels which include The Ice-Shirt, Fathers and Crows, and The Rifles. Vollmann now lives in Sacramento with his wife and child.

You can see him at Saturday, April 23rd at the LA Times Book Festival. His most recent book is called Europe Central.


AL: The Royal Family book over the past fifteen years. You must be excited?

WTV: Well, a book is a book. Another day, another dollar, Alexander.

AL: By the way, am I speaking to Bill Vollmann or William the Blind?

WTV: Maybe both of the above.

AL: The narration of The Royal Family seems slightly different than the other books. There are coroner's reports and documents. Different characters seem to narrate the book themselves. There are not as many intrusions as there is in the other books where William the blind shows up. So could you talk about the narration and how you handled it with this new book?

WTV: I was trying to describe a lot of life and a lot of people, so it seemed that there was no reason to make it more complicated by throwing in some of the narrative tricks. It was already about all I could handle. I didn't want to make the book unreadable. It's already pretty long so why not let people off the hook for a little bit? The narrator himself is not such a strong presence you know. I guess your right.

AL: Are all these characters like Domino and Dan Smooth in the other books or is everyone a new character?

WTV: They're all new characters I would say.

AL: A few years ago you were talking about a play you staged. It was called "Queen of the Tenderloin" or "Queen of the Whores." Was that the genesis of this book?

WTV: That's exactly right. I did that with lots of different prostitutes and so forth, to get some ideas, to see how they would act out the roles. That was one of them.

AL: One of the last times I talked to you, you said that you were working on Argall, you had a book of poetry, and then there was a long book, an essay called, "Rising Up and Rising Down." Since you had so many other books in the works, how did you find time to write this new one?

WTV: I work on lots of books at the same time. So this is the one that happened to get finished next. It was kind of fun writing it. Yeah, "Rising Up and Rising Down:" some people are looking at it. Who knows? Maybe it will get a publisher too? I have been working on The Royal Family for the past four years, maybe more.

AL: Did you write this book while you waited for the other books to get published or at least get some attention?

WTV: I keep chipping away at all of them, and I try not to think about the publishing. The publishing is like this business thing that I do not have a lot of control over. I do the best that I can. I work on whatever I feel like doing on any given day. That's what I do.

AL: I was reading a few magazines and editorials about prostitution. It's been so many years and I don't think many people understand it. Nothing changes. People have the same attitudes.

WTV: You're so right. It's sad.

AL: People say about prostitutes: what's wrong with these people? Why don't they get a job? Girls think to themselves: sex is something personal, letting someone enter you, how can they take money for that? Prostitution is a closed world unless you want to go in there and see it for what it is. Could you comment on that?

WTV: Well, I still think it should be legalized and regulated. If they were to do that, if they gave the prostitutes a safe place to work, I think that there would be less crime, less disease, and everything would be a lot less hypocritical. It would be a win-win situation for everybody, as long as they let everyone work. If some prostitute got a disease they would have to figure a way for them to still get money. Otherwise she would be out there on the street doing thing for a cut rate. In the long run, everybody would be better off. There wouldn't be people who think that just because they are prostitutes, everybody has given up on them, and they have to be drug addicts and thieves, and everything else, like be covered with lice. It would be so much better. It's very cruel and stupid the way it is now. It really makes me angry.

AL: You talk about the way it is in Nevada where prostitutes are legal as long as they stay in those house. You deal with that in the section "The Feminine Circus." They want the Queen to work there.

WTV: In Nevada brothels it's quite expensive. Presumably more competition would allow there to be more variation in the market. There can always be high-priced and low-priced ones. It's the low-priced ones who I'm concerned about. The high-priced ones already operating. These escort services, these women are doing fine. Some of them have told me that they like prostitution being illegal, because they can go to someone's hotel room, get the money, and refuse to do anything. Or they can do what they want. Or they can blackmail the guy. So it's very convenient for them. But it's the women working on the street that no one seems to care about. They get harassed. It's pretty sad.

AL: You quoted de Sade saying something like "If you create laws, you also create crimes…."

WTV: That's true of prostitution. That's for sure. They should make everything easy and honest. It's such a waste, like the drug war.

AL: Who are some of these characters based on, like Dan Smooth, for instance?

WTV: They're just fictional characters, you know, based on people I've hung out with, or stories I've heard, or people I've read about. They're not based one-to-one on someone real.

AL: The Royal Family is probably your darkest book about San Francisco. Do you think that you are protecting us from all these myths that San Francisco wants to portray itself as, like the land of the Dot.Com, the clean city by the bay where you invest your capital?

WTV: It's certainly going to be more and more that way I suppose. But Henry's life and John's life are similar, you know. Even if all the Henrys are driven out, and all the Johns will are there. They will still be Johns and they will be going to different kinds of prostitutes. Lots of luck.

AL: What do you think about the critical appreciation of your work?

WTV: All I hope is I can get some money for the next book, and I can keep doing what I want. Critical acclaim is a means to that end. But if I don't get it, it doesn't hurt my feelings, and if I do, it doesn't really impress me that much. Because it's really like people talking and saying what they think. I don't think it's that important. The marketing people keep up with that. It's a bad time for the libraries. That's why I dislike the Internet. People think that they can get information just by sitting at a computer terminal. If that information is just a screen length excerpt from a book, as opposed to the whole book itself, some people don't care. There should be places where libraries keep all books and no book should be discarded. Every book is valuable.

AL: It's become very unfashionable to read the Classics, the Greeks and the Romans, and their literature. Some of your books suffer from the fact that a classical education that readers used to have is no longer in place.

WTV: That's right. Fortunately the world is so big and the technology of publication is so efficient, if it turns out, ten years from now, that there's only a handful of people who care about what I care about, maybe there will be enough to support me, and let me do what I want to do. And if there are other people who don't know what a book is, more power to them. Hopefully it won't just be a bunch a priests. Hopefully it will be a bunch of fun-loving people who can pick up some whores.

AL: That's whom you dedicate this book to. Whores, junkies, people who like to have fun….

WTV: People such as yourself….

AL: Yeah, except I don't do any drugs anymore. But when I see you next, we'll have to do a line of bump. In this book there a mention of Doestoevski, and this book, Irene's Cunt, by Louis Aragon. Are you interested in Surrealism?

WTV: Yeah. Irene's Cunt was interesting. It has some pretty sentences in it. Maldoror influenced me, but that's beginning to be an old influence. I read that before I wrote my first book. I wanted to write a book that was searching and was spiritual in certain ways, and Doestoevski was a master there. It was interesting to think about him and The Bible and the good and bad things in that. And to consider Buddhism and addiction. Some of the Gnostic scriptures were important to me in this book, The Royal Family. But the main thing was to be honest and to give some of the characters the drive to understand their worlds and make sense of their selves. The more intellectual ones are going to use Doestoevski, and the others are going to use crack. They're trying to go to the same place whatever that place is.

AL: A few people have compared The Royal Family to a previous book, Whores For Gloria. Are they on to anything there?

WTV: It's the third in a trilogy: Whores For Gloria, Butterfly Stories, and The Royal Family. They are all love stories. Each one is about a man who gets involved with one or more prostitutes. Each one has a slightly different point of view of that subject.

AL: I just read Fathers and Crows for the first time a few weeks ago. That seemed the most different novel from the rest, and maybe the most heavily researched. Is Argall going to be more like that?

WTV: That's right. It's going to be a little like that. There's going to be a strong Elizabethan narrative voice. There's more research on the Elizabethan mindset, and a little on the anthropology of the Indians. I hope to make Pocahontas come alive. It's more similar to Fathers and Crows.

AL: I had a little minor question about You Bright and Risen Angels. In the table of contents it went on to describe further chapters that weren't in the book.

WTV: If you read that table of contents you can sort of tell other things that happened in the book. It was a fun little trick. At least I thought it was fun at the time. You can see that the Bug's Revolution doesn't really succeed and a bunch of awful things happen and it makes sense and ties together. And having seen that, it makes no sense to have the book go on to describe those things. It's a book about disconnection, alienation, and dwindling away, and death, and so forth. So that's a way of doing it without all the chapters being there.

AL: That book was also about Deep Springs?

WTV: Well, sort of. Deep Spring isn't really like that. But Deep Spring is a great place and the Society of Daniel is a really evil place. Some of the historical settings of Deep Springs were recycled. But some of that Society of Daniel was in fact based on Telluride, Colorado. Telluride was where the founder of Deep Springs first started using alternating current. That was L. L. Nunn.

AL: Have you traveled anywhere in the past year? Have you went anywhere new?

WTV: I returned to Afghanistan. Haven't been there in 1982. I returned to Columbia. First time since '99. And I have traveled all through the United States for a story about guns. I am working on a story about Asian Gangs right now in California for The New Yorker. I have done a little traveling for that but not much.

AL: A character in a few books is Brandi. She's in four or five books. But she doesn't show up in The Royal Family. Are we to assume that she's died by now?

WTV: Hard to say, Alexander. It's a pretty unpredictable world out there. She was in a couple book come to think of it.

AL: And now she's gone?

WTV: I could always resurrect her. If I write any more about prostitutes? Maybe I have written enough. If the spirit moves me I'll write about them. Argall will probably be the next book. And I am working on some short stories about Europe during World War Two. I'm hoping to finish that up in the next year. I'm working on my Book of Candles, which I started in 1995. It's a massive project. I printed a page last week. I hand-color the pages and I got to finish the boxes. It's going to be a few years before I finish.

AL: Are you still making bullets?

WTV: Absolutely. It's gives me something to do in my free time.

Share/Bookmark Read more / Permalink