Band of Skulls Interview

Gallery is here. Band of Skulls photos here taken by Angel Ceballos in Seattle.


Interview by Alexander Laurence

Band of Skulls are a band from Southampton, England. They formed in 2008.
In the band are Russell Marsden (guitar/vocals), Emma Richardson, and Matt
Hayward (drums). I met them three years ago, when they first came to Los
Angeles. They played a small show to hardly anyone. I caught a few songs and
thought they were promising. Now three years later they have totally changed,
and become a really unique band. I attended a show at the same place,
Spaceland, and it was sold out, and a line around the block. The new album is called
Baby Darling Doll Face Honey (2009). I got to speak to the band recently
about the new music.

AL: You guys are from Southampton?

Emma: It’s where the Titanic left from.

AL: What else is it known for?

Russell: Craig David. The soul singer. The drummer from Coldplay lives
there. And the Titanic. We see all those people around town. Craig David’s dad
is quite a character. He is a musician.

Matt: He comes into the pub where I used to work at. He is quite a local

AL: It seems like there are some other bands from there?

Emma: There is The Delays.

AL: How is the profile of Band of Skulls locally?

Russell: We haven’t been there for a year, so it’s hard to tell.

Emma: Russell lives in London now. Me and Matt still live in Southampton.
We have been traveling a lot, which has been great. We have been in America
for six weeks now.

AL: When did this new band and new record come about?

Russell: A year or so ago we sat down, and we decided to stop messing
around and do this thing properly. We wrote a new set of songs. We had to
re-think it. We aren’t totally changing it. But it was a new way for us.

AL: Those songs from the early EP was just songs that you did when you were

Russell: We weren’t doing the songs six months after the record came out.
That was like an apprenticeship. We wanted to do the real band now.

AL: How does the songwriting happen in the band now?

Matt: It is cut three ways. We all write individually. The idea is not to
finish the song yourself. If you can give it to the other two. If you finish
it yourself, it’s only one person’s song. It’s better when everyone can cont
ribute to the song.

Russell: We are like a team of writers.

AL: As a drummer are you writing words and music too?

Matt: I started out playing guitar. I picked up the drums afterwards. I
have always been writing stuff since I was very young. It’s nice for a drummer,
because sometimes you don’t have that opportunity in a band.

AL: How was the reaction to the new songs?

Emma: We had just progressed from what we were doing before. We were
writing. There was a bunch of songs. We chose a group of songs around the time we
were recording. We are trying out new things.

Russell: There seems to be a lot more space in our music now. Before it was
like music for a rock club.

AL: Earlier on you were building up a song, and now maybe it’s more like
eliminating what is unnecessary?

Emma: As a band you have to be brave enough to have more space.

Russell: When you are younger sometimes you only have a half hour slot in a
club. You do your loudest and best songs, really fast. Now we have more
confidence in what we are doing.

AL: Was there any specific song that you did, where you thought “Hey, we
have turned a corner.”

Russell: Yes. There is one song called “Impossible” which is on our new
record. It’s the song that we end our sets with. It was the first song where
that space arrived. It informed everything we did after that. We started
learning things and not forgetting them. Anything that worked we kept and built
more songs around. We were shooting in the dark. We were writing songs in
all different styles. There was no line through it. Now there is a continuing
line through everything we do.

AL: Are these songs about your personal lives, or they stories you made up
about yourselves?

Russell: We started out doing this crazy stuff that was made up. It was
nonsense. More and more we started writing real stories about our lives. You
have to have the bravery to do it. Sometimes we like to steal a catch phrase
and use it in our songs. That is a great thing. But it is a brave thing to
sing about how you feel.

Emma; Then you have to get up onstage and sing, no matter how you are


AL: Many bands today sort of bow out on the irony factor. They are not
really serious.

Matt: They dismiss themselves quite quickly as a joke band. What is their

AL: Then there are others who wear their influences on their sleeve, with a

Russell: If you listen to a band, and think “This band is a combination of
these three other bands.” There has to be that extra bit that you can’t
work out. There has to be something essential in a new band that makes that
combination of musicians something else.

AL: I was listening to the Pixies on the way over here. They are just so
fresh in the way they approach writing a song and putting all the parts
together. Most bands from the same time always refer to some other period of
music. The Pixies just refer to themselves.

Matt: Yeah. Their records are so different. Each song has its own
personality. It’s never a record of twelve songs that are all the same.

Emma: They take risks as well. It’s not always verse/chorus, verse/chorus.

AL: Do you ever slow things up, or speed things up in songs?

Matt: There are many songs that had different identities before we found
the right way to do it. There is a song called “Honest” which started out as
a melody. We tried to do it as a heavy rock song. But we recorded it as a
quiet acoustic song.

Russell: We did twenty takes, and Matt and Emma left the studio. There was
a black cloud over everything. We came back and did it acoustic and it was
perfect. We needed this moment.

AL: It takes a while to write songs then?

Emma: Some songs take a while and others happen quite quickly.

Russell: The main quality of the band now is the others can tell when one
of us has come up with something really good. We can be jamming for hours,
and then we can look at each other and “Say, what was that bit before?” That
is like quality control, and we can cut all the shit out. We can get to pure
nuggets, that come out being songs.

AL: How many shows have you played?

Emma: Maybe three months of touring altogether? We started out in the UK,
and we have been over here for five or six weeks. We released the record on
iTunes. When we came out to America, nobody really knew who we were. But
people have been showing up to shows more.

AL: There is this label Shangri-La. There is Duke Spirit and Amazing Baby.
It seems like Band of Skulls go well with those two bands.

Russell: I think so. We have played some shows with Amazing Baby, and we
are going to do a show with The Duke Spirit. Those bands like our record.
Everything seems to be going good now.

AL: I didn’t know you were in this band a month ago. I saw you at the
Hammer Museum, and saw you, and thought: “These guys look familiar?”

Russell: The fact that it is going well for us now, just puts things in
perspective. When we met you three years ago, that gave us a taste of what it
would be like. London is such a pressure cooker. There was always this
confusion with our band. For us, it was always going to happen here.

Matt: We have played a few shows in England, but it’s happening for us
quicker for us in America. The London shows have been great. We hope that people
find this music on their own.

AL: What other bands have you played with?

Matt: We did a show at the Wiltern with Metric. We have done about five
shows with Spinnerette, Brody Dalle’s new band. That was good. We got on well
with them. We are playing with Juliette Lewis in a few weeks. She played our
hometown a few months ago. It was really funny. She has great energy.

AL: The record came out today, July 28th. Who did this artwork?

Russell: Emma did the paintings. They were altered.

Emma: I painted a few bass guitars for this company.

AL: You just played this Capitol Hill Block Party. How did that go?

Emma: Really good. Those people really know their music. It was a real
attentive intelligent crowd. It was really great seeing Jesus Lizard. I have
never seen them play before.

Matt: We played at the same time as Spinnerette. It was the only band we
knew there, and we went on at the same time. We have played the Comet, and
Neumo’s, in Seattle.

AL: Are you playing any festivals?

Matt: We will be at Lollapalooza in August 2009. Latitude was our first
festival. It was in countryside above London. We played with Spiritualized and
Nick Cave.

AL: When people come to shows what should they expect?

Matt: We will be playing the record. We will be doing nearly every song.
Some songs go well together.

AL: Are there any towns you look forward to seeing?

Matt: We are going to Vegas.

AL: I like the old part of Vegas.

Matt: It will be good for one day. We will also get married there.

Russell: And divorced in the same night.

AL: All three of you are getting married?

Matt: Just me and Russell.

Russell: I will get married to my guitar. We are going to Europe. We have
never played in Europe. We are going to France. It’s weird. It’s a stone’s
throw away. We have played Japan before, but we want to go back. Kids are
afraid of Emma, because they think she is a giant.

AL: How tall are you?

Emma: Nearly six foot.

AL: You don’t seem so tall today, but at the Hammer Museum, you seemed
really tall there.

Emma; I went into the bathroom in Japan and two kids were so scared of me.

Website: http://www.bandofskulls.com/
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The Germs

don bolles germs Pictures, Images and Photos

THE GERMS: interview with Don Bolles
By alexander laurence

The Germs are a legendary punk band from Los Angeles. They had a movie come
out about them a year ago called What We Do Is Secret. The interest in the
band has been rekindled. They just finished an American tour with actor
Shane West. The band is as solid as ever. I got to talk to Don Bolles before the
show at the El Rey recently.

AL: You were connected to the scene in Phoenix, which led to the Feederz
and the Meat Puppets. How did you get to LA?

Don: I moved to San Francisco in 1976. I lived with this girl, Olga
DeVolga. On my way I caught the first Screamers show. It ruled. That was one of the
best shows I ever saw. It was at the Starwood. It was unbelievable. They
had a big American flag draped behind the stage. They had this weird
synthesizer noise. Someone came out and painted a huge black swastika on the American
flag. They kicked in to their Screamers set, with their old keyboard
player, David Brown. He was a nightmare on wheels. He was amazing.

AL: It seemed like there was a lot of strange bands in the mid-1970s,
before punk rock, like Sparks and Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

Don: You had to do something nutty to get noticed. There was Alice Cooper.
There was Alex Harvey with the guy with the mime makeup. Zal Cleminson and
all that Vambo business. Everyone had a gimmick.

AL: Many of these bands you would see on Midnight Special or Don Kirshner
rock concert.

Don: They had Suicide on one of those shows. That was the best Suicide
track I ever heard.

AL: That was one of the ideas of punk rock: that it was going to destroy
rock and roll. What do you think of that?

Don: It was supposed to destroy all the bullshit and bring back rock and

AL: Sex Pistols and New York Dolls had a lot of boogie woogie rock and roll
in it. It was like an angry Chuck Berry at times.

Don: We had glitter rock. We took off from glitter rock. I brought
something to that shit. Pat Smear really liked Yes. Pat and Darby really liked David

AL: It seemed like a lot of people in LA in 1975, who caught the tail end
of the Glam thing and glitter rock, got a haircut, and got into the punk

Don: Yeah. There was a bunch of girls from the Valley who missed out on the
Glam Era. They were taking their shit and putting a leather jacket over it.
They put some buttons on it, and then they were punk.

AL: I think many bands who are the best examples of a punk band are bands
who jettisoned the whole guitar-bass-drum thing. They just came out with a
synth and a drum machine, and people thought “What the fuck is this?” So the
best examples of that were Suicide, Cabaret Voltaire, and stuff like that….

Don: The Screamers were doing that. Suicide was more like a 50s doowop
band. I saw a lot of those bands when they first came to LA. I loved the French
punk band Metal Urbain. They had a synth, and drum machine, and some crazy

AL: Some bands like early Ultravox! Who are associated with punk and new
wave, are too musically advanced for that genre.

Don: Pat loved Yes because there wasn’t a trace of Blues in that guy’s
style. Steve Howe was beyond everything. Pat Smear is a great guitarist. He
wrote all the music for the Germs. He taught all the early band members how to
play. He wrote all the drum parts and made the fat girl play them, before I
was in the band. Pat is a genius and writes great music.

AL: What do you think about some of those bands of that era: like 20/20?

Don: I like 20/20. They were a great power pop band. One of the best. I
love “Yellow Pills.” I cover that now with another band. I sing and play

AL: Many people don’t know that back in the mid-1970s it was hard to be
band in LA and get gigs. You had to be a cover band, or had to be supported by
a big label. 20/20 was one of the first bands who opened things up for other
bands, who were playing new music.

Don: Clubs accepted them. They were a power pop band. They were not punk,
so they could play anywhere. We would get banned. The Germs got banned. We
were not allowed to play many places.

AL: Was X really a punk band?

Don: No. They were just what they were

AL: Billy Zoom was a lot older than everyone else.

Don: They got lucky coming along when Punk did. They were a high-energy bar
band. It was like weird arty pub rock.

AL: There were bands like Dr. Feelgood

Don: They were like The Vibrators or The Stranglers. They were pub rock. It
was outside punk, but it was eaten up by people who were into Punk too. X
is called a punk band, because what else are you going to call them?

AL: What about The Dickies?

Don: They were good. They were the first band to get signed. They had some
music biz cred. I knew Leonard and Stan. They might have tried other things.
But I think they were just doing The Dickies. Black Flag had a heavy metal
band before they were Black Flag. The Germs didn’t have another band before
The Germs.

AL: Many of the Huntington Beach bands were into heavy metal before punk,
so that’s why they might be more like Black Flag. What did you think of Fear?

Don: They were good musicians. They were funny. They had chops. I didn’t
like them. Who cares?

AL: How many gigs did the original Germs play? Fifty?

Don: Less than that. We have played more shows in the past three years.

AL: Everyone who saw The Germs in the early days just remembers those gigs
being chaotic. Some shows never finished. We would just watch to see how
fucked up Darby was going to be.

Don: It was crazy. People would go to see this completely insane thing. It
was almost like a shamanic fucking ritual. It was like : “live through this
dude, and you are going to be cool.” You had to let everything go. It was
like a voodoo ritual. It was about getting out of your ego. One of the things
that the Germs were about was Acid. People don’t think of us that way
sometimes. We did a lot of acid. We did more acid than Ken Kesey. Darby did more
acid than anybody. He wasn’t a heroin guy. At the very end, he got into that.
And that was stupid. We drank a lot and did acid.

AL: Don’t you think that you only need a few experiences with acid and LSD
to open your mind?

Don: No. You really have to go for it. You have to go for the jugular.

AL: Terrence McKenna started with LSD. But then he moved on to Mushrooms,
Peyote, DMT, and so on.

Don: We were suburban street walking cheaters with a heart full of napalm,
and we liked acid. It was what it was. It was evil and by far the more
dangerous of the psychedelics. It was easy to get back then.

AL: How far did you get out there?

Don: We took anywhere from five to ten hits of acid. I never had

AL: When you take DMT, all reality breaks down.

Don: DMT is harsh. I do it all the time. I love DMT. It’s like dying, but
you get to come back. It’s important to do that. You lose all fear of death
once you do that. You are not scared of death anymore once you do that. Andre
Breton said “Surrealism is a secret society that will introduce you to
death.” That is what psychedelics are. It’s fun stuff. When you actually die,
it’s uncertain where you go.

AL: That is some heavy deep, dark stuff. But is there light in the world
of the Germs?

Don: Darby Crash was one of the funniest motherfuckers I have ever met.
Pat is hilarious. They are brilliant people.

AL: What did you think of when Darby went to London and got into Adam and
The Ants?

Don: I thought Adam and The Ant was really interesting. I loved their
guitar player. He was like Gary Glitter meets Ennio Morricione. What could be
wrong with that? And the Burundi drumming. I knew what that was. I used to
collect world music. And the pirate look? That is a little gay, but who isn’t?
And then Black Flag has this over-reaction. It was “Black Flag kills Ants on
contact.” They had those flyers at the Starwood. Darby went overboard with
it. He was Adam and The Ants. It was weird. He did the Darby Crash band, and
that was a debacle.

AL: People didn’t understand the Mohawk. They thought he was being trendy.

Don: He was. It was going on in England. He came back here with that
Mohican. He was the first. He did that before Adam and the Ants played here.

AL: I remember going to see a Black Flag show at the Starwood. I saw one
hundred Mohawks at that gig.

Don: Suddenly everyone had one.

AL: This movie came out about a year ago. How do you think the movie
reflected the band?

Don: We got our new singer out of it. It enables us to do this tour.

AL: Was your portrayal in the film accurate?

Don: No. There are a million stories in my book. There are a lot of stories
outside the book. They had access to everything. Instead of all that, they
had this shallow, retarded, after-school special, sub-soap opera bullshit
script, where they blend five people into one person. They take eight stories
and make them into one story. The actor made me look too fat, and his eyes
are too close together.

AL: The guy who played Rodney Bingenheimer seemed like he was younger than
the band.

Don: He was there just to make fun of Rodney Bingenheimer. Somebody must
have hated Rodney. I love Rodney.

AL: How is this tour going?

Don: The guy from the T-shirt company put it well. He said: “Every
generation of 15 year olds will discover The Germs.” It’s been going on. That
record that I played on, after only playing for nine months, turned out pretty

AL: The Germs were chaotic on stage and in life.

Don: On record it’s like controlled chaos.

Website: www.germsreturn.com
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Psychic Ills

Psychic Ills plays Sunday, July 19th, at Part Time Punks.
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Andrew Bird @ The Greek (Hollywood)

I first saw Andrew Bird at the Henry Fonda three years ago. He was the latest new thing and it was the hot show of the week. We showed up at the last minute, and we were on the side smoking cigarettes during this intimate show. A girl came up to us and said "Shhh." It was the first time I had been "Shhh-ed" at a concert. It was similar to the no talking at Ray LaMontagne concert a few days ago. This is music to be listened to, and studied, and romantic feelings swirl in the air.

Andrew Bird has a few more albums now. His show isn't so quiet anymore. He has a full band now, and he goes from intimacy to comedy. He plays a lot of instruments. He is quirky. He has weird titles for songs. He played a lot of songs from the popular Noble Beast. We all whistled away and enjoyed the night.

Andrew Bird is a virtuoso. He comes out alone. He plays loops of violins, and it sounds like an orchestra. A few artists have done this looping before, but Bird sort of excels at it, and you can't imagine him playing the songs in a more straight-forward way or with additional musicians. He starts by taking off his shoes, using many foot petals. He plays violin and guitar, plus glockenspiel. He has some device swirling behind him, making weird air sounds. He plays with three other guys who all play several instruments themselves. It is quite a feat just watching all this musicianship.

Bird has his bag of tricks. His songs, his whistling. Many bands now can be one of four types: 1) great musicians 2) great songs that are catchy 3) bands that work hard to create a new unique sound 4) bands who are just a reflection of their record collection. Andrew Bird seems like he is a good mix of the first three, and he doesn't really remind me of other bands. There may a general alt-country feel to what he does, but he is great at disguising any borrowings. It all makes for a great live show and a unique experience.
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School of Seven Bells

School Of Seven Bells Partner With Vagrant, First Headlining Tour Announced

Vagrant Records has announced a new partnership with Brooklyn, NY-based School Of Seven Bells and their label Ghostly International. Vagrant Records/Ghostly International will be re-releasing School of Seven Bells' 2008 full-length debut album, "Alpinisms" on July 14th.

Benjamin Curtis and sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza formed School of Seven Bells just over three years ago after their previous bands (Secret Machines and On!Air!Library!) toured together. The group signed to Ghostly International in early 2008 and released Alpinisms on October 28th.

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