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Jimmy Cauty in depth interview about his new exhibition


North Edinburgh Arts, 15a Pennywell Court, MacMillan Square, next to Muirhouse Library, Edinburgh, EH4 4TZ, May 28 – June 26, Thursdays – Saturdays, Thu – Fri,10am – 4pm, Sat 10am – 1pm

K-Foundation artist’s new model village explores urban dystopia from the back of a lorry.

Jimmy Cauty’s new installation, ESTATE, looks set to be transported to Edinburgh for a month long residency from the end of May and throughout June 2021.

ESTATE   is a dystopian model village experience featuring four abandoned concrete tower blocks at 1:24 scale (approx 2 metres high) housed in a 40-foot shipping container.

The tower blocks each serve a different function in the ESTATE and contain amusing scenes of mass social, economic and environmental devastation.

Produced by L-13 Light Industrial Workshop, ESTATE is hosted in Edinburgh by new producing collective, the Society of Spectacles.



John Robb : We were talking about this the other day – every vision of the future seems to be dystopian! Is that because we really are heading into a very dark world or does it
make for better art! I sometimes think the future will just be generally mundane with dark edges!

Jimmy Cauty : ESTATE is set sometime between 2018 and 2020 so it’s not so much a vision of the future
but more a general look around at the situation today. I guess after WW2 there was a vision of the future started in America that basically was about flying cars and spacy looking
architecture but by the end of the century everyone realised there was never going to be flying cars (Drone vehicles don’t count, a real flying car uses anti-gravity) and all the spacy
architecture is just a load of corporate nonsense. So future visions (dystopian or utopian) have been cancelled until further notice.

John Robb : The tower block is a very emotive symbol – is there a whiff of Ballard to this project? I like the idea of the blocks having no residents – adding a Marie Celeste mystique to the pieces. Or is it that the very buildings are somehow alive.

Jimmy Cauty : Yes there is more than a whiff of Ballard in there but also eventually the whiff of mould and urine in the elevator shafts. An artist friend in Auckland who specialises in smells has concocted something for the project, I haven’t installed the smells yet but at some point in the future that will happen and it will be quite unpleasant. I like to think that the tower blocks
are a kind of stage set for a movie/Netflix mini-series, the narrative is unknown but by studying the content of the tv news bulletins that are playing in some of the flats the
audience can come up with their own version of events. The towers are all wired for sound and light so they are sort of alive and I think small animals and insects have already taken
up residence.

John Robb : I live in a tower block and like it’s functionality but post Grenfell it’s felt a little edgier – is Grenfell part of the backdrop?

Jimmy Cauty : The project was started about 6 months before Grenfell. At first I thought the real-world events would have an impact on the project but over time that hasn’t happened. I don’t live in a tower block but I guess ever since the Ronin Point tower block collapse there has been a feeling of unease, the utopian vision of high-rise has gradually given way to the reality of decay due to lack of investment and poor maintenance. Some of the equations and graffiti on the walls of ESTATE talks about entropy and decay. We plan to take the towers out of the container at some point and set them up in a forest and just walk away and leave them to nature. The concrete will last a couple of thousand years but some of the expanded foam used for the insulation in the walls will eventually end up in the food chain… sorry about that
folks, but model-village building is not very eco-friendly.

John Robb : Does art still have the power to disrupt the narrative? (KLF were proof that music once had this potency)

Jimmy Caauty : I think the only narrative that’s getting disrupted here is the one about the bucolic English
model village and that’s a pretty easy target to disrupt. The most disruptive thing I’ve seen lately was the spontaneous toppling of the Colston statue in Bristol and that wasn’t even
billed as an art event.
What happened in the music busines back in the last century is probably best left back there.

John Robb : The devil is on the detail – the pieces look amazing in their detail – is that to draw the viewer into your world? The same attention to model making and detail as the train set in KLF video? 

Jimmy Cauty : My obsession with detail goes right back to the 70s and the Lord of the Rings poster, the
theory being that if I put in way more detail than all the other artists then somehow that would make my stuff better. That idea has not really gone away but it means I have to do
50% more work than everyone else for the same money – not that I do it for the money, model village builders are incredibly poorly paid.

John Robb : Are the dystopian visions of the current project a modern version of the Lord Of The
Rings illustrations you made your name with? They were forged in war and industrial
revolution –  what are the modern shadows? Nihilism? Pandemics? Eternal war? What
kind of landscape would the hobbits now be wandering in! Scaled down tower blocks?

Jimmy Cauty : The Lord Of The Rings poster was forged in a haze of dope smoke and LSD in and around
Dartington Hall in the early 70s. By the end of that decade I was denying I had anything to do with it… how was I supposed to know that punk was just about to happen?
I think we still have the same shadows that the cave dwellers had and yes, the world will still be basically the same in another 5000 years from now: still no flying cars, model village
builders still badly paid etc.
I think if Hobbits started appearing today wandering around they would be quickly picked up and transported to a high security hobbit holding warehouse somewhere in Kent. Priti Patel would say something like ‘’It’s totally unacceptable that Hobbits can be wandering around in this day and age” and they will be dispatched back to the 1970s where they belong.

John Robb : Will you ever make any more music or is art your main expression and channel now?

Jimmy Cauty : I actually used up my allotted package of musical ideas sometime in 1992, so I haven’t really
done anything since then, apart from some not very good remixes and some sonic weapons soundtracks in the late 90s, but recently I’ve been experimenting with sound again. Mostly
Chinook engine sounds combined with extremely right-wing announcements by Amber Rudd. I have a new half-imagined band called Shunt Resistor and the L-13 Light Industrial
Orchestra. We are interested in creating some AV installations inside a 40ft shipping container called the World-Famous Shunt Resistor Wall of Death. We plan to tour that container along with ESTATE and the Aftermath Dislocation Principle, so three containers in the same place at the same time, it will be like a kind of model village/wall of death experience… whatever the hell that is?

John Robb : Has the role of art changed in the 21st century? Did we lose the counter culture and punk wars or can an artist still make the change?

Jimmy Cauty : Who cares about art? The war was lost, Unilever took over the world and the shopping channel replaced the Whole Earth Catalogue… All the things the hippies were banging on about came true, it’s now a total shit show but there is still the L-13.
Note: We are thinking of minting some campaign medals for various counter-culture events, Bristol statue toppling, pole tax riot, Castlmorten rave, battle of the bean field, last night of
The Trip etc. Ideas on a postcard to if we get enough postcards we might even do it.



A new publication will be produced by the Society of Spectacles to coincide with ESTATE.

The publication will include new material by acclaimed Scottish writers Laura Hird and Gordon Legge.

This will be the first new work to be published by both writers for several years.

The publication will be available during ESTATEEdinburgh and at

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In Conversation with Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff (Nadja)

While speaking to the members of Nadja, I notice how well the music of the project reflect personalities of Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff. Both abstract thinkers. Getting together in the early 2000’s, they kept on exploring the musical landscapes on the crossroads of shoegaze and ambient – combined with post-metallic blood-like-aftertaste.

The newest Luminous Rot is not that different. The duo did their best, getting from 41 minutes-long instrumental Seemannsgarn to something more structural, masterfully combining the elements of improvisational with the well-known structural patterns of the music of Nadja.

In the interview for Louder Than War, Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff speak about their beginnings and improvisational component of their music, about fragility of DIY and working with David Pajo on Luminous Rot, about Berlin and artistic mentality.

LTW: I find it interesting that dealing with certain compositional structure – parts, introductions, codas, you manage to get from notes and chords exploring music on a textural level. With noises, sound-landscapes etc. And you still manage to keep it structural. What pushes this transition from actual parts to textures?

Aidan: “I guess, the songs start from the very basic structures. So, there’s always that sort of root-progression or chord-progression that’s like a backbone of a song. As we add textures and sounds – that can change the direction of a song. The texture can’t affect the way songs ends up. But, there’s always that root simple structure in the basis that’s isn’t always audible sometimes but other-times depending on what we add to it, it’s more parent.”

LTW: What’s the natural way for you two to work on something ?

Aidan: “It depends on a project, really. Some projects are very quick and fast and intuitive and it’s there. With others – we take more time and work like building up song-structures or re-arranging different parts in more-composed work. Less instinctive, I suppose.”

LTW: You were asked quite a lot about your relocation to Berlin from Toronto. How much of this transition affected you, creatively ?

Leah: “I think, increased, since we moved here…”

Aidan: “Yeah. I think we have more freedom to be musicians here. Back in Toronto…Toronto is a much more expensive city than Berlin. [Where] we always had to have other jobs. But here, in Berlin we’re able to live from our music and art. That allows us more freedom, to be more creative. More time and more possibilities”.

Leah: “It’s incredibly easy to collaborate with people here. There are so many people that are either come to stay for a while or live here, from all over. For musicians it’s very easy to produce music here”.

LTW: Initially, it was you Aidan, who set up the foundation for Nadja in the 90’s. Experimenting with sounds and loops. But if back then your approach was extremely minimal, later on you get to writing songs like Luminous Rot. How much has your approaches involved since you decided to make this transition – from sound-searching to something more concrete ?

Aidan: “I don’t really know that it’s changed so much. I think that element has always been there. Or both elements have always been a part of my musical expression. So again, it depends on the nature of a project. What I want to achieve. How much concrete and how much abstract is mixed in the process”.

LTW: At the same time you’ve always tried to write intuitively. Does it presuppose the presence of a certain distance from any particular ideas or there are still some concepts you’d work ?

Aidan: “Again, I think, that’s the combination. Depending on the project and what we want to be active. Sometimes, if we have a very specific idea in our heads – then it becomes a much more structured and focused methodology-work. And if we’re more trying to express less of a conceptidea and more of a feeling and emotion or something like this – then it becomes more intuitive work”.

LTW: Previously, you released Seemannsgarn – a 40-minute long instrumental piece. When you set the foundation for something as massive as this one composition, what do you have in mind ? A feeling you want to express, sound-texture you want to explore or something else ?

Aidan: “This is a very good example of a very intuitive piece. Cause, it’s mostly improvised. It’s more of a try to capture an atmosphere and a feeling then trying to express a specific kind of concept or more focused-structured kind of song. And we wrote this piece as meditation on a part of the city where we live. [That is] under threat of development and gentrification. It’s a very peaceful natural space. We try to express a bit of what that environment means to us. Sentiments that it brings to mind for us. We find it a very peaceful and meditative space within the city. So we try to make a song that reflects that in a way. But also, because there’s a certain darkness in the song – the idea of a conflict between the urban environment and the human environment, how they come together, how they clash, how they might work together, how they might struggle…”

LTW: Leah, I couldn’t but ask you: when you have more song-structural, it’s easier to understand where and how you should contribute to, being a bass-player. But how much does the lack of a drummer in your interaction affect you ?

Leah: “There were a few times when we played with the drummer, a live-drummer. Where it was more of a strict bass-playing kind of thing. But I think, in general, with Nadja, I’m very often playing the same chords Aidan is playing. It’s more of heavier…Sometimes, more prolonged with beats and stuff with the drums…But really, it’s a lot like an extension of the guitar. Particularly with most of our stuff”.

LTW: And when you played with the drummers – like you did for “Dagdrøm” getting Mac McNeilly of The Jesus Lizard to play drums. What it was like to get to this band-type of interaction ?

Leah: “That’s actually wouldn’t be one I’d consider be one of the ones we’d played with the live-drummer ( laughter )! ‘Cause, that one – it was done all online…”

Aidan: “…Through file-sharing…”

Leah: “Yeah. I didn’t actually play with Mac McNeilly AT ALL. We did tried to re-create a few records live with a drummer. And it really made the whole atmosphere SO DIFFERENT. Concert, the songs, everything – quite different. So there’s a place for it. For sure. I think, my experience as the bass-player with Nadja is not in any traditional real-bass-playing-way”.

LTW: While re-listening to your discography, I was thinking that a lot of your work touches different polarities of one emotional spectrum. Having both these oppositions involved in what you’re doing. Are there any emotional tonalities you’re strict to ?

Aidan: “I suppose, we have a very expected sound. People expect a certain sound from us. But I wouldn’t say we’re locked into that. Because, certainly we’ve done things that are outside of that sound. Whether people expect that – it’s their own choice. And I think, we tried to get away from that sometimes. Because, we don’t want to be confined by anything. And we want to have a freedom to express how we want to express. Regardless of ourselves trying to make it “sound like us”. Or something else”.

LTW: Was it organic to work on Luminous Rot ?

Aidan: “I guess, it was pretty organic. It started out quite organic. Intuitive. Instinctive. As we created sort of backtracks of what the album would be. And then, as we went back to work on the first parts we recorded, it became more structured and more focused. If we have two distinct working methods, than Luminous Rot is an example of both. We started with an intuitive way and then turned to a more structured and focused way using the material that we recorded intuitively to begin with”.

LTW: With Luminous Rot it’s interesting how one song goes into another. So you’d listen to it like one big piece. Even though the songs are pretty different. How did you manage to reach such contiguity ?

Aidan: “That was the part of building the record essentially. The songs were separate. Or mostly separate as we were working on. And then, we kind of pieced them together as they sort of felt to go together appropriately…”

Leah:”…It actually felt they were very different.”

Aidan: “Yeah?”

Leah: “( laughs ). Now, when you say that – this album in particular seems like classic Nadja in a way. But also, the songs seem to be very different to me. Or varied somehow. Even more then usual. I guess, we’ve been composing a lot of these long big pieces that maybe feel more organic to me. And so, with this one – with songs and some of them…I guess, it’s similar to some of our last records where we have shorter, tighter songs involved. And maybe that’s just more organic for us now. It’s just an evolution, I guess”.

LTW: And when you work, basically experimenting with the sounds – when does your work usually come to an end ? Or does the finished piece just resonate with you?

Aidan: “I think, resonating is a big part of it. And it can be tempting to just add more and more. A part of a craft of working on a record is knowing when to stop. If you’d pile so much on and you’re not gonna hear certain things…So it’s about letting voices have their voice. So, if there are different guitar- voices in there and you don’t want them to come up too much, you want to have a nice balance between density and airiness and simplicities”.

LTW: You Leah, once mentioned that it was very difficult for you to get into an improvisational part of your work, at the beginning of Nadja. How long did it take for you to get comfortable with immediate creation ?

Leah: I don’t know…It’s a good question! At the beginning, it was probably quite difficult for me. That was 15 years ago…(laughs). I guess, with Nadja, we were kind of thrown into performing live quite quickly and I think, our first couple of years – we were pretty strict with playing songs and records. We didn’t improvise as much. I think we probably started improvising more on stage and then translated more and more into the records. I think it took a couple of years. And I think you could already see it with albums like Thaumogenesis“.

LTW: Previously, you spoke about the fragility of DIY-scene. At the same time, releasing your LP on Southern Lord you still follow the norms of DIY, the same principles. So what causes this fragility you spoke about previously ?

Aidan: “I think, that’s just an uncertainty in general. Because, the pandemic is a very good example. As soon as it hit, the fragility of DIY-scene was suddenly really apparent. Because the venues and the bands, promoters – everybody was suddenly really struggling. Their lifestyle was taken away completely. So the DIY-scene has existed and has been very strong. But when you throw in a factor like a pandemic – it really shows how fragile it is in my mind”.

Leah: “Yeah, in a DIY-scene people are generally not financed in the same way. Of course, it becomes a little more difficult. But it’s also a community. I think it will survive! I think more then anything, the DIY-scene will survive”.

Aidan: “I think people would maintain some sort of existence coming through. Once this would be over and we’d be able to tour and play again…Obviously, there would be people who aren’t able to maintain, unfortunately. But I think there are enough people working together so the network will still exist”.

Leah: “Actually, speaking about Russia. The DIY-touring scene there is incredible. We’ve been going there close to 10 years. Doing these DIY-tours where, sometimes once we did five shows in Russia, all through this network…The people are so spread out. But so well-connected. At least for us to witness somehow. I feel like if anything would come out of the ashes of this – it would be this DIY-connectivity. It would survive somehow”.

LTW: You’ve been asked a lot about your cooperation with Slint’s David Pajo, who mixed Luminous Rot. What according to your opinion David brough to the record ?

Aidan: “I think he definitely highlighted elements of the mix we wouldn’t have. So it changed the sound significantly. At the same time, it still sounds like us. And that was a part of our back-and-forth. When we were talking about mixing. Cause he asked what we wanted out of it, how we wanted to be presented etc. We sent him a bunch of our older albums to compare. So he was aware of the aesthetics we had with our sound and I think, he respected that in the process. But at the same time, he added things from his own personal aesthetic to make it sound the way he thought it should sound”.

Leah: “He was a very sensitive to what we wanted and at the same time, added something…Kind of new, we’d never have done before. So, having these fresh ears on it was like a good mirror for us, in a way”.

Luminous Rot is out now on Southern Lord.

Photo credits: Janina-Gallert.


Interview by Dan Volohov. Find his author’s archive here.

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Asian Dub Foundation – Interview – Access Denied

Access Denied

X-Ray Production


Out now

Asian Dub Foundation present a special deluxe reissue of their cognizant Access Denied on Record Store Day.

Celebrating cultural diversity, Asian Dub Foundation adventurously mix various genres and create heterogenous music that can be compared to the melting pot of London. With the new tracks added, their updated ninth album sums up issues that have been affecting the world on the global and personal level – from addressing the climate change message to an ironic stance in response to Brexit. Although being provocative, Access Denied is much more than a rebellious rant. Embroidered with various elements, its inclusive texture is a patchwork of sounds alluding to different episodes in the history of music.

Originally released in September last year, the album brought a comical note to the baffling and uncomfortable Brexit reality. Featuring a sketch by the British comedian Stewart Lee, Coming Over Here took over the UK sales chart in the first weeks after the transition period. “Working on this track felt therapeutic”, admits Asian Dub Foundation’s Steve Chandra Savale. The remixed version of the song is one of the five new compositions on the deluxe reissue. It delves slightly deeper into the chronology of global migration presented in the sketch, poking fun at one of the speeches of Paul Nuttall, a former leader of the UK independence party.

LTW: The new version of Coming Over Here has a slightly darker, sinister sound. Was there any imagery behind it?

Steve Chandra Savale: I had this idea of neolithic people stomping around. Stewart Lee said to me when he heard the track: “This is like a stoner rock track with a Spinal Tap Stonehenge thing”. Nathan (Nathan Flutebox Lee – ed.) came and did a bespoke flute solo for that. It sounds really primitive.

LTW: Had you been following Stewart Lee before he and the band started collaborating on this track?

SCV: Not particularly, that’s another funny thing. I mean comedy, the British comedy has a huge audience in this country. But it is not something I had been that interested in over the last decade or so. And I don’t know people who followed that either. There were some second-hand, third-hand contacts – people who would say “My brother is a big fan of his” but not necessarily well familiar with his comedy. As a band, we didn’t have much contact with the comedy world anyway. But a lot of us knew that sketch. It’s a sketch that came into our world. I think Stewart even didn’t realize how powerful it was for people like us to hear that. Coming Over Here is something we grew up with. It is something that we remember. It’s more powerful than he thought it would be. It was a slight extension of the logic of Paul Nuttall, leader of the UK Independence Party. Just extend the logic of anti-immigration politicians and you get a brilliant comedy sketch. Now apart from this one, I know a lot more of Stewart Lee.

Where did the idea to work on this particular sketch come from?

There was a trigger. Because it went down to a festival for which Stewart Lee was doing a lot of stuff. He was making a documentary of one of John Peel’s most favourite groups called The Nightingales, funnily enough, I knew some members of when living in Birmingham, so he was presenting something on that. I saw him there and that reminded me of the sketch he had done. I listened to it while I was working on the music. I was literally just playing the sketch while working on the track. It was a moment of inspiration with no real aim other than to see what it would be like.

Both new versions of Coming Over Here and Kursk Down have this distinct sound as if the music was heard from the ocean bed.

Well, you are on the right track. When I did the drum loop for Kursk Down, it had this submarine sort of vibe. The melody was inspired by a choir singing that one might hear in a Russian Orthodox church. Eventually, we debuted this track during a gig at an old Soviet shipyard in Estonia two years ago. Kursk Down is very site-specific, I think, it’s something we’d never done before.

The new versions of Kursk Down and Hovering Shadows were produced by Adrian Sherwood, who, needless to say, has been a legend in the dub music scene. ADF has had a story of collaborating with Adrian. Was the working process organized in any specific way?

We did it in the style he used to do records and still does. He gets a set of live musicians and then dubs them live. And that would be an album. Basically, we did a special gig, just for that, at the Ramsgate Music Hall which has become quite a prestigious venue in Britain. It’s quite small but it’s an amazing little place. Adrian set out a sound system because he lives there. We went and did the whole instrumental set there. So Hovering Shadows and Kursk Down are live tracks that were mixed by Adrian, with a few little tweaks from me. There is not much drums and beats on them, almost classic live dub going on. We were pretty happy with the way that turned out.

It could have been expected that, among other serious issues, one of the bonus tracks would comment on the current pandemic situation, yet, this topic is not mentioned. Was it omitted deliberately?

There is a line on the track Stealing the Future which mentions spreading infection but it is unintentional. I just wonder how effective the comment on that would be. I’d probably write from personal experience – I haven’t really thought about it. We are actually writing a lot of new material at the moment but funnily enough, the pandemic theme hasn’t come into it at all. There is a new track called Polarizing, it might eventually end up with a different title, but it refers to the point of polarization of ideas. Society is not as homogenous as it was before. It’s defined by ideas. There is a complicated controversy around the pandemic issue too.

What do you think about the anti-lockdown protests that were taking place in Britain recently?

For many people, lockdown feels like something that the government uses in order to control them. Especially for those with the propensity to have a conspiracy mindset. I had a debate with a friend of mine and we both came to the conclusion that the lockdown protests are results of incompetence, inconsistency and disunity about the response to the pandemic. If the government were organized and actually cared about the population, then there would be nothing or fewer things like mixed messages and hypocrisy that caused people to march on the streets. Yet, although I’m sympathetic with the spirit, I think it’s also misguided. It’s better safe than sorry. I don’t think it’s a big deal to wear a mask.


Access Denied is available for purchase in record stores and online on the Rough Trade webpage.

Asian Dub Foundation are on Twitter, facebook

Asian Dub Foundation Website

All words by Irina Shtreis. More writing by Irina can be found in her author’s archive.

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Arctic Monkeys’ Matt Helders Interview – Don Valley Bowl – June 2011

We celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Don Valley Bowl Sheffield shows on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 June 2011 with this short interview of Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders by Jacob Brailsford.
Both iconic nights featured Miles Kane whilst Friday’s event had The Vaccines & Dead Sons. Saturday’s lineup had Anna Calvi and Mabel Love.
The two dates coincided with the release of the band’s 4th album Suck It And See
Jacob ‘This was an interview when I volunteered as station manager for HBS Radio and a presenter on Sheffield Live.’

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Freddie Jackson: Idiot’s Dream – EP review + interview

Freddie Dickson

Freddie Jackson: Idiot’s Dream EP

(Shakey Records)

DL and Streaming now

Freddie Dickson, Berlin living, British Indie singer-songwriter released his new EP Idiot’s Dream on 4th June.

The quality of this EP hits you immediately. It’s quality production, the arrangements, the musicianship and Freddie’s outstanding soulful voice. It’s clear that the artist knows what he’s doing. So should we/you know who is Freddie Dickson is?

Yes, no and possibly. We’ve actually mentioned Freddie on the site before, although it was while ago. His first release, the Shut It Down EP came out on Heart Throb Records in 2013 which saw him being picked up by Colombia Records. As you’ll read shortly this wasn’t a happy marriage.

Idiot’s Dream, was written when Freddie relocated to Berlin in 2018 after a couple of independently released albums. Recorded and produced remotely in 2020 with his band alongside collaborations with other artists from London and Berlin, he says of the title track, ‘although I was under no illusion that I was going to just move to another country and everything would be fine, the reality of being alone in a new city, not knowing the language or way around suddenly became a little overwhelming and I realise that I had a big challenge ahead of me’. With a bass line that would put Adam Clayton to shame, there is an epicness to it which demands you listen through speakers rather than on your AirPods (other brands of devices are available).

There is a ‘soundtrack’ feel to all four songs. This makes sense when you learn that Freddie is regularly invited to pitch pieces for TV and Movie projects, a prime example being the initially brooding Sky Without Wings quite aptly then soars. Recent single Night People maintains the quality, not sounding too dissimilar from the Waterboys with a touch of Americana mixed in for good measure. He closes with Let The Good Times Last A Long Time. It’s a stripped-back slow burner with a ghostly feel of the Foo Fighters’ Times Like These.

Having heard the EP and being aware that there was a story to be told, I sat down with Freddie for a chat…

LTW: Freddie, It’s been a while… we first ‘found you’ in 2015 at the Camden Barfly. Our review said ‘this guy’s soulful voice can probably be heard down the road in the market as he belts out quality tune after tune’. We seem to have lost touch, how have you been?

Ah, that was a long time ago. I remember it being a fun show. I’ve been good thank you. Obviously a lot has happened since then but mostly positive and exciting things.

LTW: Let’s address the elephant in the room. After your first release in 2013, Shut Us Down, you were signed to Columbia Records, but left after a couple of well-received releases, Speculate and News. What happened?

It just didn’t work out. It’s a long story but I feel those songs were quite an unnatural progression from Shut us Down. I guess I wasn’t quite sure of who I was as a musician at that time and was still figuring it out. Different people were telling me different things. It was all quite confusing. I think that became apparent in those songs as they just didn’t seem to connect and now I see why.

LTW: Is there a reason these songs aren’t available on streaming services?

After I parted ways with the label I took some time out to figure out who I was and where I wanted to go musically. These songs just didn’t seem to fit the mould or represent me anymore.

LTW: You released the albums Panic Town in 2017 and Blood Street in 2019. Were these albums you would have made if on a major label or informed by moving on?

No, I definitely don’t think it would have been allowed. There are very few singles on those records! Quite a [there are] few songs on Panic Town that I wrote when I was on the label but they were very overproduced. The songs had become quite suffocated so I ripped them up and started again with the producer of my first record John Davies. I just recorded my voice and electric guitar and then we just built the production around that and allowed the songs to breathe a bit more. I guess it was a 1 step back, two steps forward kind of process.

LTW: You moved to Berlin in 2018. Of this new EP, you say it’s ‘focused around the uncertainty of everything and about wondering if I had made the right decision leaving my comfortable life in London’. Why Berlin?

Without the money from the label I couldn’t really afford to have a band in London anymore and so I went back to playing solo and was offered a few gigs and tours in Germany. Every time I was due to leave Berlin I got kind of sad as I felt like this could be a really good home for me.

LTW: 3 years in, have you made the right decision moving there?

Yes, I definitely think so, I kind of felt like I’d done the London circuit for a long time and to be honest a lot of promoters wouldn’t really book me anymore once I was no longer signed. I wanted a fresh start where nobody knew me. There are so many creative people here and financially it’s a lot more manageable than London especially as a musician.

LTW: What’s the best thing about Berlin?

The creative scene is wonderful. There are so many great places to play and people are always up for collaborating. There is also very little judgement which I find very freeing. You can really just be yourself. Also you can get a kebab and a couple of pints for a tenner!

LTW: What do you miss about London?

My friends.

LTW: There do seem to be a lot of British musicians now living in Berlin, do you mix with any socially?

Yes a few but the whole city is incredibly multi-cultural. It’s really interesting to hear everyone’s stories of why they moved here from different parts of the world in order to pursue music.

LTW: How did you find recording the EP, sometimes remotely, during lockdown?

It was obviously not as fun as doing it together in a room but we managed. I do most of the production and recording myself so I was kind of used to it and everyone just sent me their parts online and I kind of just put it all together. I am looking forward to ‘zoom jams’ dying a slow death though. It’s just not the same without proper human connection.

LTW: You’ve released some interesting covers over the last couple of years, including Glory Box (Portishead) and House of The Rising Sun (The Animals). How did they come about?

I get quite a few requests for dark/moody covers for TV and film pitching but I really liked how those ones came out so I thought I would release them.

LTW: With these and the EP you’re not the only ‘voice’. Tell me about your collaborators.

Well there is my band who are the core of the record and then I worked with a lot of amazing singers I met here and also a couple of friends in London recorded some vocals and sent them over. It was a real challenge trying to figure out who would work well together as we couldn’t meet up so there was a bit of gut instinct involved but I was very happy with the results! You can’t beat the sounds of great voices coming together.

LTW: Do you see Idiot’s Dream as a follow up to your last album or a ‘comeback’?

I would see it more as a ‘progressive extension.’ Sorry if that makes me sound like a bit of a knob ha. The vibe is still quite similar to Blood Street but I feel the EP is a little more commercially accessible and the production has definitely taken a step up.

LTW: I hear a lot of comparisons to Nick Cave and The National but I’m also hearing a mash-up of The Waterboys doing Americana (especially on Night People). When you write do you have a particular style in mind or do you find your songs develop over time?

Ha, I love The Waterboys! My main style at the moment is based around my beloved Fender Jaguar but with Night People I knew I wanted to try and write an up-tempo song. Often I’ll listen to a lot of bands I like and see how they do it. I tried to figure out how I can do a faster song while still keeping it sounding like me. I nearly binned it because I thought it was too cheesy but I guess I had to break out of my comfort zone!

LTW: What have you planned to promote this release? 

Well this is the first time I’ve ever released a record and not been able to play it live so I’ve been doing the usual independent artist route of applying to blogs and reaching out to people in the hopes that they hear it. It’s pretty tough particularly at this time when there is so much music being released but it’s a fun challenge. The local Berlin scene has been super supportive.

LTW: Will you be looking at doing live events?

As soon as it’s humanly possible! If was offered a slot I’d play in a zoo right now. 2022 I will be on the road as much as i can for sure.

LTW: Easy question last. If you had to pick your Top 5 favourite songs of all time, what would they be?  

How is that easy?? I mean I could be here all day thinking about it but this seems about right.

Neil Young – Helpless
Nick Cave – Jubilee Street
Portishead – Roads
Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone
John Lennon – Mother

Photo Credit : Merle Sibbel & Mark Hunt

For more on Freddie visit his BandcampYouTubeFacebookInstagram and Twitter.


All words by Iain Key. See his Author Profile here author’s archive or on Twitter as @iainkey.

The post Freddie Jackson: Idiot’s Dream – EP review + interview appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Steve Diggle : the lost interview! in depth from the archives

photo by Justin Herring

Harmony in his Head: The Lost Steve Diggle Interview 

This year it’s forty years since Steve Diggle released his first solo effort, the 50 Years of Comparative Wealth EP. To mark this anniversary, Louder Than War presents the first part of a previously-unpublished interview Mark Youll did with the Buzzcocks guitarist in 2009 in which he speaks about his formative years growing up in Manchester, his early musical inspirations, mod bands, Motown and the advent of punk rock.  

MY: What were your first memories of Manchester as a child?

SD: Lots of terraced streets. I was born in a house with a garden and stuff and I suppose that might have been posh then, a semi-detached, you know? Me mam had a business and that went down the pan so we had to moved to a terraced street, like Coronation Street , that was when I was seven. In fact me mam had this baby’s clothes shop and she’d give credit out to people as you did in those days, people would pay back weekly. One of them was Myra Hindley’s mother or some other weird connection. My dad also decorated Ian Brady’s bedroom around the time Brady was sixteen and he was coming out of Borstal. Dad never told me till years later, I think it was the eighties when he mentioned it, around the time of The Smiths and stuff.  I couldn’t believe it, you know? That whole thing was lurking in the background for us; it was a big thing in Manchester and we didn’t live far from where it was all going on.

Was this when you were growing up in Rusholme? 

Well, I’d moved to Bradford by then but I was born in St Mary’s hospital just off Oxford Road. I’m the only Buzzcock that was properly born in the centre, just to the left of the curry mile. In the eighties at St Mary’s they split these two Siamese twins.  It was the first time this had been done and it was a big thing.

   So I was born there and then because me mam’s business went down so we moved. That was a great time, I remember being seven and walking down the street and there were all gangs on the corners and I thought what are we getting into here?  But it was great, and we adapted to that, it was very inspiring that street. It was called Goole Street which is where the new city ground is now. The pub on the corner is still there, The Bradford Hotel. I keep meaning to go back and see it, see where I come from. We had a street army defending the woody on bonfire night. It was the school holidays and we stayed up till twelve or one in the morning defending the wood cause kids would come round and you would throw bricks at them ‘cause they were trying to nick your bonfire wood, you know? We would get up at seven and we’d be running down the street with people’s back doors, about forty back doors for the fire, and then we’d be back in bed for half ten. Me and another mate had a street newspaper as well. We had a little printing machine with a cylinder and so we made a street newspaper. It only lasted about one and a half issues!

What sort of things went into the street newspaper? 

The main thing was about a Great Dane escaping from security van and just stuff about the neighbours. You kind of knew everybody which was great, like in the east end, but it was a real northern thing. There was a lot of interaction with people. We would get in trouble with people and we’d get a clip around the ear off some bloke if we was up to summat or whatever. We never thought nothing of it then, like you’d get arrested these days. It was a great environment. There was a croft at the end the street, it was just like wasteland where we would go and play football and end up smashing some blokes window or summat. Great times. The guy I did the newspaper with, we would be told by people in the street that we would get nowhere, but he became ended up a brain surgeon! Very creative and very inspiring time.

When did your interest in music begin?

My cousin lived two doors down and he loved Elvis. He was a rock & roller and from his upstairs window there would Elvis and Little Richard coming out.

Would that have been the first music you remember hearing? 

Well I suppose that would have been the awakening. My dad used to have Nat King Cole records and the old 78s and we used to sit on them and break them. Nat King Cole coming out of an old radiogram with that big bassy sound, they were like old jukeboxes made of wood, you know? You had your dials with radio Luxemburg and you couldn’t usually tune it in but it looked good! So my cousin would play Rock & Roll much to the annoyance of the rest of the street and then The Beatles came along just when I got my first transistor radio. I would listen to all these joke bands, comedy stuff that George Martin was producing like Charlie Drake or Bernard Cribbins…Rolf Harris even! The thing I didn’t like was my mam got me that radio on HP so every time school would finish, I’d have to get a bus to a place miles away to pay the fucking ten-bob or whatever it was to pay for this fucking radio! I remember The Beatles’ ‘Love Me Do’ coming on and it was cool. Other than that it was Michael Holliday singing ‘Runaway Train’ which had sound effects on it. So it was ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘Please Please Me’ and then me mam got me ‘Twist & Shout’ the EP off the market, and that was what really got me going. The next thing I know my cousin’s sister took us to see A Hard Day’s Night at the Manchester Apollo, and we also went to see Help! after that. Across the road from us lived this lad and his sister had the first Bob Dylan album and first Beatles LP, and I remember going across the road and listening to that. It was mad to hear The Beatles and then Dylan, Dylan with this voice, you know? I remember thinking I don’t know what he’s saying but something sounds right about it. His voice is still like that to this day, you still can’t quite work out what he singing about! So I remember listening to these records and watching this lad’s sister drying her hair with a hairdryer, this great big thing that looked like a Russian sputnik or summat. She was combing her long blonde hair and I’m watching her and listening to Dylan and The Beatles, and I plucked the string of this old Spanish guitar and it resonated against me, and I think that was my first sexual experience! Little did I know that all of that would become my life.

What came next, would it have been groups like The Who and Small Faces…? 

Yeah, the Stones and The Who. I used to watch Ready Steady Go and all that. I’m just proud of myself that I had good perception to pick out groups like The Rolling Stones, because you kind of knew that groups like Brian Poole and the Tremolos and Freddie & the Dreamers didn’t count. Back then it was all pop music, stuff you could have a sing and a jive to.

Would you say the destructive elements to The Who’s music were essentially what drew you to them? 

Well, I was into the melodic stuff in those groups as well. I remember being in junior school and they would take us to the swimming baths and you would hear ‘Tired Of Waiting’ by The Kinks. It was the summer and you’d be swimming and have these songs in your head. Ray Davis lives in Highgate where I live now, and I’ll be having a coffee and I’ll see him buying a newspaper, it doesn’t get more British than that! There was something real about those bands and those songs, it made a big impact. The thing about The Beatles was you had your mam and dad and your school teachers teaching you stuff, but this music was telling you something else, something they couldn’t explain. They could tell you about geography and maths and that, but The Beatles gave you a sense of humour. It was poetic and colourful. By the time they got to Magical Mystery Tour it was psychedelic, me mam thought that was a bit weird.

Did you prefer the early Beatles to the later period? 

No, I liked it all. I liked the journey they had. One thing about groups from that period they all had this journey. The Who had the three minute songs and smashing up the guitars and stuff, the next minute they had them big beards! I miss that in music today in a way. Sound effects and studio effects that changed those bands, like The Beatles’ Rubber Soul and by the time The Who got to ‘Baba O’Riley’ with the synthesizers and that sort of stuff. It was all great poetry and great magic and it all touched your soul and made sense. It was up there with Shakespeare and all that stuff.

Would you say the mod thing was more to do with the storytelling in the songs than the attitude and the clothes? 

It was the attitude as well, but being a sensitive kid then you were looking for more, you were looking for the poetry in life. Your living a shit terraced street so you had to see through all that you know? There was a guy that used to ear a T-shirt all the time that lived in the street we used to call him “T-shirt man”. In those days it was a bit weird for a bloke with kids to wear a T-shirt! Normal blokes would have greased back hair and would shuffle down to the local pub. Blokes were traditional back then. It was people with ordinary jobs and you thought you’d never get out of that. My brother became an artist. We had to see past all that, to the poetry. It still counts today. You can call The Clash poetry or the Buzzcocks, Pistols. From this you could get into art or whatever else you wanted to really…

Was northern soul something you listened to?  

Oh yeah, my brother used to go more than me, places like The Pendulum and The Twisted Wheel, and he’d come home with singles by The Bar-kays and all that sort of stuff. I don’t know why I didn’t go as much as him but I did go a few times….

Did you see people like Roger Eagle DJ?

I didn’t know who anybody was then, I was very young. But we were into all of that stuff, what became Wigan northern soul. You could sometimes blag your way in, but most of the time we didn’t have the money so we couldn’t go all the time. My brother had stuff had Johnny Johnson & The Bandwagon’s ‘Blame it on the Pony Express’ and we’d have parties at the house and half the fucking records would get nicked. I got into Motown around that time…

What was it about Tamla Motown that appealed to you?

The songs, the tunes, it was instant, you know?

Why do you think Manchester embraced black American soul music as much as it did?

Probably because it’s got heart and spirit and soul. Like a lot of the places this music came from places like Detroit, rundown areas but it’s soulful you know? It was also the origination of the blues and pop via slavery or whatever. To be honest I felt like a slave up there, you’re gonna be fitted up a shit job, so I felt like a slave as well! The music was catchy and it was great. Also, it was what The Beatles were listening to with the Smokey Robinson ‘You Really Got A Hold On Me’ cover they did. You didn’t think about influences then, it was just the music. I once swapped a pushbike for a load of records and my granddad bought me a record player but it never worked. I used to listen to the stylus! I was twelve when I bought Help! and I’m listening to Help! through the sound of the stylus! I had all me Beatles chewing gum cards stuck to the inside of this record player, it was fantastic and it smelt like a record player, you know, that kind of smell. I wish it fucking played!

Tony Wilson once remarked that Manchester was the ideal environment for punk because of its social condition at that time. Would you agree?

Yeah. Like we were saying about the blues in America, or Motown in Detroit. I don’t think anybody really thought before punk, that you could be influenced by your town, and bring that into music in a sense. You can listen to a lot of records and there is lots of stuff about love, relationships or whatever, but with those Manchester bands and that Manchester attitude and things that come from around there and those streets, it comes through in the music, you know? There is less distraction up there. When you come to London there is a lot of distraction. When I finally moved to London I was being invited out to this and that, just loads of distractions. When you’re in Manchester in a room with a light-bulb, you start to think you know what I mean? You start to think who you are. It gets a bit philosophical.

Do you think that was reason the Manchester groups like the Buzzcocks, Joy Division or The Fall had such an edge, and sounded raw or so dark?

Yeah. Manchester, way before punk in the fifties and early sixties was always known as a good time city. The beer, the pubs, it was a vibrant city for that. It gave you a spirit. I remember me granddad going to the Bellevue dogs, and what they had there was amazing…

What was the Bellevue? 

It was like a massive amusement park, almost like what Blackpool has, but with a zoo as well. As a kid you could see elephants and stuff like that. They even had a flea circus. I remember going and thinking I can’t see any fleas here. There was more fleas in people’s houses! I remember going to Bellevue as a kid and seeing lads in parkas with, you know, The Who on the back of them…

What year would that have been?  

Around ‘65. I would have been ten.

Was it much later you would be interested in the mod music and the clothes?

It would around that time really. It started with The Beatles and I had me black polo-neck and the Beatle boots. I remember me cousin was still into Elvis and Little Richard, but we said Elvis doesn’t write his own songs, so we thought Elvis was a bit dumb. You’d see the Elvis films on TV, and he would but saying (adopts American Accent)“Hey, let’s start the show right here..!” then The Beatles came along and blew that away, particularly with their first film (A Hard Day’s Night) for all it’s realism. The clothes kind of came in from that. We made some guitars from cardboard boxes and tubes and did our own Beatles performance in somebody’s back yard. I couldn’t afford a parka, but I bought me first Levis and a pair of brogues and braces, stuff like that.

Was image important to you at that age? 

Yeah, I think it was. Via The Beatles and James Dean’s Rebel Without A Cause, which would be on the telly late at night, all that stuff had a big effect on us as kids. Like I said, the streets were black and white, old blokes doing their thing, so you needed a bit of glamour somewhere. I remember when a kid a bit older than us had his scooter in the street, and I remember it had no kick-start so he had to push it up and down, but I remember clearly it had union jack flags and side-panels an all that. That sparked a lot of things off for me. That sense of rebellion. Your folks weren’t into it, and so you could get the clothes and be like them. It was almost like a gang mentality then.  When you got your first Levis it was great, before that you would get your jeans for like ten-bob, in dark blue or ice blue with a white X on the back. I remember a guy in the next street got some Oxford shoes in cherry red, all polished, and I thought how did afford them?  But getting me first pair of Beatles boots that had to have the seam down the middle, that was it. Timpsons used to sell them, Proper ones with the heel and the tag at the top. Then I saw Lennon with a pair that went up to his knee and I thought where did he get them? The style was very important.

Did you see any live groups around that time?

It was quite a lot later when I saw the groups. I would have been around sixteen. Before that, I remember going to see a band at the local church and there was a Coca-Cola machine there and all that!

Do you think the attitude and music of the mod scene was easily transferable to what would become punk? 

Absolutely yeah. I remember seeing that whole Brighton thing (mods & rockers riots in 1964) on the telly. That was important to it all. We had an auntie who lived in Chelmsford, so we used to get to go to places on the south coast when these disturbances were going on. That was a distinctive image for me, those kids jumping off walls onto the sand and fighting. I think it’s natural to have criticism and be rebellious in some ways. You’re fitted up for something in this life, particularly for the working class where its like get a job, get married and all this. So with the clothes and that attitude, you felt different you know? The teddy boys, my cousin with his drape coats and all that. We are that, they are this. I mean it’s weird, I love Elvis now, but watching him then in Fun In Acapulco jumping off a cliff into the sea, and I thought I’ve never seen cliffs and the sea…it was like going to the fucking moon, it was kind of alien. The Beatles and The Who seemed to be about us and the streets. It was The Who saying “I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth” or Kinks “Tired Of Waiting For you…” Songs like ‘Well Respected Man’ were real man, told you things. Also Saturday Night & Sunday Morning being on the television, Room At The Top, all that stuff had a massive impact on who I would be and what we would be as a band.

What groups were crucial to the advent of punk?

The psychedelic thing and then you had the Velvet Underground thing, Andy Warhol. My brother passed a lot of the art things onto me. He used to go out drawing old buildings and then he got into all that arty Ozzy Clarke sort of stuff. Later came The Southbank Show, which was very important looking back. It was a real culture thing. When you put these things together it was the development of punk really, for me anyway. I remember somebody at some point mentioning the Sex Pistols but then the term punk was really unknown. McLaren had seen the New York Dolls and all that stuff, and then he came back home and put the Pistols together. In Manchester I was taking acid listening to Arthur Brown’s Kingdom Come and we would trip out to all this stuff when I was seventeen. It’s not like kids these days who hold of get music easily, it’s so accessible now. Back then you had to dig stuff out, discover music naturally. I like that period of ‘67/’68 when music tripped out a bit. There was something a little bit Alice In Wonderland which was magical for your imagination.

What was your reaction to the Sex Pistols initially?  

By that time I was rehearsing with a group, tripping out, taking photographs of stuff spinning around. Eventually, I got bored of all that and started thinking about The Who again, three minute songs and smash the fucking guitars you know? With that whole hippy thing I went to see Yes and one song was the length of a whole album. But even that stuff was quite rebellious at the time. The whole country had moved onto this ( progressive rock) thing. It was a powerful thing. Taking acid and listening to this stuff made sense.  I felt that anger and frustration. I thought, I don’t wanna be a fucking window cleaner!


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Interview: Fast Cars – Once Again … I’m Lost For Words

Fast Cars: Once Again … I’m Lost For Words

(Detour Records)

Vinyl | DL | Streaming

Out Now

Buy Here

Manchester’s Fast Cars have just released Once Again… I’m Lost For Words via Detour Records. Recordings that had been ‘lost’ for 40 years!

Five of the tracks on this release were recorded at the Phonogram Studios, London during September 1980 as an audition piece for Polydor. Completing the set is a blistering live version of The Kids Just Wanna Dance recorded in Japan in 2008.

The story of Fast Cars is an interesting one, it’s actually deserving of it’s own film. Partly right place but wrong time, partly good things come to those who wait. Named after the Buzzcocks song, Fast Cars are Manchester’s version of Sixto Rodriguez as featured in the documentary Searching For Sugar Man, but in reverse. Years after splitting up, the Swinton foursome found that they were ‘big in Japan’ and their aforementioned 1979 debut, of which only 1000 were initially pressed was changing hands for serious money; the group hailed as “The Kings of Powerpop” and “The Best British Powerpop Band” in Japan.

Formed in early 1978 by brothers Stuart and Steven Murray (bass and vocals respectively) after recruiting Haydn Jones (lead guitar) and Tony Dyson (drums) via auditions held at TJ Davidsons Rehearsal Rooms. Fast Cars spent 7 months with a Saturday night residency at The Butchers Arms, Pendlebury, as well as gigs at legendary Manchester venues such as The Oaks, Pips, Rafters and The Russell Club. Jones left to be replaced by Craig Hilton in September 1978.

On 21st October the group lost their residency and were banned from the pub as “someone danced just a little too much”… an event which was then immortalised on the first single. After spending most of 1979 gigging, The Kids Just Wanna Dance was released on the independent label Streets Ahead Records based in Altrincham.

It was well received and over the years has been included on a number of compilations, including the seminal Greater Manchester Punk 1977- 81, Manchester, North Of England and most recently Gary Crowley’s Punk and New Wave. They reached a wider audience in 2013 when a version was included on the album Lost at Seventeen by Emily’s Army (now SWMRS). The track/band introduced them to Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, whose son, Joey drums in the group.

Following its release, Fast Cars played throughout England and built up a solid reputation. Fast Cars supported a number of renowned acts of the time, including Joy Division, Ed Banger, Buzzcocks, XTC, The Rezillos, The Chords, The Freshies and many more. 3 weeks after supporting The Jam at Manchester Apollo in November 1980, the band split. Fast forward 21 years… after finding out about their fame in the Far East, Fast Cars were playing two dates at Tokyo’s prestigious Studio Jam Club!

Of the tracks Once Again … I’m Lost For Words, versions of Marching As To War and the cover of This Old Heart of Mine were released on their 2001 ‘debut’ album on Coming … Ready Or Not. Tracks I Go Where You Go; Sophisticated Lady and Way Of The World hold their own against releases of that era, all be it in demo form. You can hear the New Wave influences of Buzzcocks, XTC and The Undertones throughout.

Now if you’re like me, and have read up to now, I’m sure you will have a few more questions, so I sat down with bassist Stuart for a chat about the bands career.

LTW: Stuart, I’ve so many questions but we’ll start with this release. Lost for 40 years? Who found it? Where was it?

I have kept a list of all our key dates for the Fast Cars website but didn’t have one for our time in the studio in 1980 so I messaged Dennis Munday who arranged the session to see if he could find out. He did more than that, he told us it was in archive vaults in London! I passed this info onto Dizzy Holmes owner of Detour Records who managed to obtain them. Dizzy specialises in releasing music from bands that didn’t quite make it so I thought he would have the skills to get it and he did!

LTW: How did it feel hearing tracks like Sophisticated Lady which you had no memory of writing or recording?

Very unusual, we had re-recorded some of the songs in 2001 as we could still remember them (although they are not quite the same) as we had played occasionally throughout the ’90s and they were in the set but Sophisticated Lady was not remembered by any of us including our Steve who wrote it. We think it must have been his latest song at the time and we got the basics down, maybe to finish another time but that never happened as we didn’t get the deal we were looking for. It was not even mixed but James Perrett has done the most with what was there.

LTW: I do think the tracks stand up against what was being released at the time. Were the bands you were supporting an influence?

The Jam were an influence at this time but our influences were still The Beatles, The Who, Bowie, more pop-based but we wanted to add power to them get our own sound. We didn’t see ourselves as a Punk band, our attitude was “here’s our music like it or not, we don’t want to be labelled.” We were 18 to 20-year-olds and thought we knew best in hindsight perhaps we should have taken a different route?!

LTW: The Isley Brother’s This Ole Heart Of Mine had been a hit in 1975 for Rod Stewart so I wouldn’t have thought was very punk/New Wave. Is there a story behind the cover?

Again other New Wave/mod bands had covered some Motown/Sixties songs so we thought we would have a go, the Rod Stewart version still fresh in our minds. We did something similar in 2004 after we had reformed with My First, My Last, My Everything by Barry White thinking that needed speeding up too!! Both songs have been popular in our live set and I have a good version of This old Heart live in Japan and the crowd sing along with us. I’m hoping one day we can release the full “Live in Japan” show on record.

LTW: What kind of music were you playing in the pre-Fast Car’s bands Piledriver and Heartbraker?

We were doing very similar to other young bands at the time learning how to play. Our set was Chuck Berry, Rolling Stones, The Who, covers eg: Jumping Jack Flash, Substitute, Johnny Be Good, up-tempo rock and roll type songs. The only difference in the 2 bands were Nick Bold (who went on to form Virginia Wolf) was the Guitarist in Piledriver and Craig Hilton was the Guitarist in Heartbreaker. Our gigs were mainly Pubs, School/Youth Club discos, wherever we could get on!!

LTW: Your brother Steve was briefly in The Sirens with Marc Riley prior to him joining The Fall. Do you know how that came about? Swinton and Wythenshawe are hardly neighbouring towns.

After Heartbreaker split, Steve had got into Punk and was going down to The Oaks to watch bands and wanted to get into that scene. He saw an ad in A1 Music in Manchester (in those days everyone hung around there on a Saturday) for a singer so he went for an audition. It turned out to be Marc Riley, Craig Scanlon and Steve Hanley (all later members of The Fall). They rehearsed in Tony Davidson’s place in Manchester. That was our introduction to the TJM Rehearsal Rooms. I went to watch rehearsals and said to Steve we could form a better band than them and could join in on the “New Wave!”

Steve did one live gig with them at Pips and then decided we should form a band ourselves. We held auditions at TJM after putting an ad in the Manchester Evening News but we were not happy with those who came along. We decided to ask the former members of Heartbreaker if they would join us, Craig was in another band and wasn’t interested; Tony Dyson wanted to play drums again so he joined us, but was never into the music we were playing. We were told the best guitarist in Swinton was Haydn Jones so we tracked him down and persuaded him to play.

LTW: You seem to have been on the cusp of ‘making it’ throughout 1979 and 1980 after the release of the single, coverage in the Music Press, Local TV, a number of support slots and the demo sessions for Polydor. Was calling it a day a gradual decision or snap decision?

It was a gradual decision, we were going to release a second single on Streets Ahead but they had ceased trading (but a white label test press was made) then Polydor decided against signing us and then our drummer decided he no longer wanted to be in the band. We had no gigs booked for 1981 so after our last gig of 1980 at the Portland Bars Manchester, (where Craig had his guitar stolen) we called it a day. We’d had 3 drummers in 3 years and didn’t want to go through auditioning again the music scene was changing, and we were just fed up. Steve and Craig were now 20 and me 22 so we were getting too old for it all!!

LTW: What did you do between 1981 and 2000?

I got married in 1982 (divorced in 1990) so for those years I never touched a bass, the first thing I did around 1990 was join a band that had the 2 guitarists from The Two Tone Pinks in and we did the Pub circuit for a few years. Tony and Craig both played in different bands on the cabaret circuit but Steve carried on in bands namely, The Thorns of Affliction, Design 9, and Made in Hong Kong. All those bands have released recorded material, Design 9 got lots of airplay on Piccadilly Radio but once again never got the deal they were looking for.

LTW: When and how did you become aware of the fam and reputation in Japan?

During 1999 I was on a Management course and some of the work entailed researching on the internet. One day in the library whilst bored I typed in “The kids just wanna dance” expecting no results, to my amazement it came back with 11 results. One was of an album released in Germany in 1994 entitled Back to Front #4 which contained the track. Intrigued I contacted them and was told it was popular in Japan and there was also a bootleg copy of it released out there.

In early 2001 I mentioned this to a colleague at work and he suggested I make a website and see what happens. I did just that and within weeks I had a message from Detour Records asking about how many demos we had and would put out an album if we had enough (hence re-recording songs we could remember to get the deal!!) Then we had a request from 1977 Records in Tokyo asking if we wanted to play in Japan. Of course we did.

As I said before we had played a few gigs throughout the ’90s so we were still in touch (Me, Steve, Craig and Tony) and decided to give it a go. We went into Ionian Studios in Bolton and put down as many old songs as we could remember and when listening back we sounded no different to our 1970s selves. We sent them to Detour and got the deal we had wanted so much back in the day. It was suggested we couldn’t pull it off but we did and never told anyone which were 1970’s recordings and which was 2001!!

LTW: Would the Fast Cars have had a new lease of life without that?

I doubt it, we might have done the occasional gig to friends but nothing more than that.

LTW: After Coming … Ready Or Not in 2001 you released Well … You Started It in 2007. How easy was it to write new material?

Steve has been writing songs since he was 15 and has never stopped so it was easy for him to write some more Fast Cars style songs which we used on Well You Started It. Some could easily have been written in the ’70s. Anytime we get back together we just become those teenage boys wanting to play their own music nothing has changed inside of us.

LTW: As well as the 2001 trip to Japan you returned for dates in 2008. How did those gigs compare, did you find a new younger fan base?

A lot of those who came to see us in 2001 also came in 2008. By 2008 a lot more had discovered our music hence being able to play in several other cities around the country using The Bullet Train as our tour bus, totally amazing experience! The audience in Japan was always a lot younger than us, around 20 years on average, a lot now follow us on Social Media, and from that I managed to track down the girl who got on stage in Tokyo and sang along, which can be heard on the live track.

LTW:  When did you become aware of the Emily’s Army cover? Were you aware of the Green Day connection straight away?

Since 2001 I have constantly searched the web for information on Fast Cars, some information I didn’t know or remember myself! One day I found the cover by Emily’s Army and contacted the band and was blown away when they said Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day) had suggested they cover it (and later produced it for their 2nd album). That’s when I found out his son was the drummer! When they toured the UK they asked us to be special guests on the bill at Sound Control Manchester, their singer joined us on stage when we played it; and me and Steve went out when they played it, that was the first time we had played to a younger UK audience and we got quite a few new followers from that.

LTW:  After this cover was there an increased interest in the band? I guess that Social Media / Streaming was really kicking in at this point so was there an uptake in people searching you out?

Yes, a lot of their followers thought it was their song and were surprised it was from 1979 by an unknown UK band so much so someone put our version on YouTube and it’s had over 105,000 views and the latest is Spotify where it’s had over 56,000 plays both increasing daily.

LTW: You’ve gigged sporadically over the years but sadly Craig Hilton, ‘the man behind the sound of the band‘, passed away in January. Is Once Again … I’m Lost For Words the ‘full stop’ for Fast Cars?

We hope not, we are still saddened about Craig’s passing, we have known him for over 50 years as he was a school friend of Steve’s long before the bands. We have a few guitarists in mind that we would like to rehearse with, just waiting on when it’s safe. There is already a gig next February for the Pete Shelley Memorial Campaign in his hometown of Leigh and others pencilled in waiting on the outcome.

Photo Credit : Kevin Cummins

For more on Fast Cars visit their home page, FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


All words by Iain Key. See his Author Profile here author’s archive or on Twitter as @iainkey.

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Henry Normal : The John Robb interview

Henry Normal has had a fascinating career – he started in the UK eighties underground promoting DIY gigs like one by my band The Membranes in Chesterfield in 1986 and went on to part of the team that propelled Steve Coogan into the mainstream and form Baby Cow – the TV media company responsible for so much of the best comedy in the past decades.

He was inspired by post punk and especially the ranting poets like Swells who we also talk about in-depth in this interview as well as his upcoming poetry tour and book and how to cope with autism…

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Interview: Jess and the Ancient Ones

Jess and the Ancient Ones, from Finland, play an intoxicating and wonderfully quirky mix, of psychedelic, garage rock and metal music that, on their latest album Vertigo, reaches a new creative peak. Louder Than War caught up with Thomas, the band’s guitarist and songwriter, to ask about their influences, the new album, and when we might see them play live again in the UK.

LTW: At Louder Than War, we really loved the new Jess and the Ancient Ones album, Vertigo. Thank you for taking the time to talk about the band and its music.

Thomas: Hi there! Oh, that’s nice to hear, thank you for the support.

LTW: How has everyone in the band been during the pandemic? We hope you are all well.

Thomas: We are all good thank you for asking. We’ve been living our lives back here. All of us are working or studying, and the current situation has not affected those areas in any major way. At least not yet. We have a lot of new material in  pre-production at the moment, so we have been busy on that front while the world is locked.

LTW: The band was formed in 2010, can you say a little about how the band got together?

Thomas: A lust rose back then to write and play rock music. My past had been within the extreme metal scene, and I wanted to have a band that operates in a different field of music. Soon after that vision we had a line-up for Jess and the Ancient Ones. All the musicians were found nearby, and some were old friends. We recorded our first demo songs straight in the beginning of the band, and by that recording we got signed to Svart Records. It’s been a fantastic journey so far to say the least. The best is still yet to come!

LTW: In the music of Jess and the Ancient Ones, there seems to be a myriad of fascinating musical influences, including, for example, garage rock, metal, and even something of the west coast sound of The Doors and the Jefferson Airplane. What, for you, are the key musical influences on the band?

Thomas: We’re not afraid of change. I think many try to maintain their sound and style to please the masses, but we play selfishly to ourselves in a certain sense. The need and the want to explore is always there, and we follow that call without hesitation. All of us in Jess and the Ancient Ones are huge music lovers with a broad appetite for different bands, so I guess it also shows in our music.

I personally love the old nuggets movement and the primitive era of garage rock. Lately I have been listening to 90’s metal and alternative rock with the likes of Paradise Lost, Type O Negative, REM and Monster Magnet. Jazz, popcorn soul, funk and lo-fi trip-hop have also been on great consumption. Best newcomers that come to mind are Khruangbin and Boy Harsher. The subconscious reveals us through music.

LTW: On the new album Vertigo, the spoken samples and voiceovers, add a strangeness, that seems to echo the 1950s sci-fi/horror movie genre. Is that what you were aiming for?

Thomas: For me they add that small little extra kick to put the mood on. My advice to approach them is that one should think of them in their new surroundings. They become a part of different storylines and thus they transform to a new being. I love to take something old and give it a new meaning and a new surrounding. In a way it’s also almost like this sacred mission. To highlight these particular moments in history, and to evoke the feelings of yesterdays.

LTW: Summer Tripping Man, which was the first single off the album, is accompanied by a superb, animated video, created by Giuliano Di Girolamo. How did you team up, and what was the concept behind the video?

Thomas: I found him through Instagram, hah! The modern world shows its good sides sometimes I guess. There was an idea to have an old school styled animation video and so I started to look for videos behind certain hashtags. As soon as I saw Giuliano’s art, I knew that this is it. When he said he was interested in doing this, we had a minor discussion about the images that we wished to have on the video, and he proceeded from there on using also the lyrics of the song as a guideline. He is a great talent, and he did a huge job by doing it in the old school style. Much respect and love to him, a true artist.

LTW: Strange Earth Illusion, clocking in at over 11 minutes, feels to be Vertigo’s magnificent centrepiece, with all the key elements of the Jess and the Ancient Ones musical sound in place. Could you describe how the track was put together and recorded?

Thomas: Actually, we finished this track in the studio. We had the backbone ready before entering but we did some structural tweaks at the last moment. We recorded the base of the song live with all the main instruments and then added some layering guitars and keyboards here and there. The song had this cinematic feeling and we tried to follow its feel structurally. Not to return to repeat any parts except some verses.

LTW: I was lucky enough to see the band, when you played Glasgow in 2018, at the North of the Wall metal festival, I think perhaps your first ever UK gig. It was a great set that really won over the audience. What are your memories of the visit to Glasgow and the gig itself?

Thomas: I remember that evening very well. We enjoyed the beautiful city of Glasgow from the first glimpse to the last. The venue was really good, and the staff of the house were fantastic. They made us feel really welcome. We attacked with all guns blazing as we tried to match the intensity of the other acts, and the people seemed to enjoy it. We love being the odd bird in heavier festivals. After many hours of blasting, people are in need of something different, yet similar in spirit. I think we can offer you that. Also, the afterparty was great after the show, and we stayed there almost until the morning. The DJ was blasting out all of these great classics, and the beer was great! Met a lot of nice people there, and hope to travel back someday.

LTW: What touring plans do Jess and the Ancient Ones have, once touring is possible again? Might you return to the UK to play?

Thomas: The world seems to open up bit by bit, but we haven’t made any plans yet. We have a lot of new material in the pre-production phase, and we continue to work with them. Of course, if the opportunity comes to do shows, we’ll take it. We must come back to the UK to play. It’s been a wish of mine to do a row of shows in the UK, and someday it will happen. Take us to the nearest Helter Skelter please!

Best wishes to the UK! The home of the best bands in the world!

LTW: Thanks again for your time.

Listen to the brilliant Love Zombi from the Vertigo album here:

You can find Jess and the Ancient Ones on Bandcamp and Facebook.


All questions by Gareth Allen. You can find Gareth’s author profile here


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Interview: Boris Grebenshikov (Akvarium)

This month, one of the oldest Russian musical collectives, Akvarium, presented their newest release: tribute Dyan LP featuring songs from artists such as Kino, Zvuki Mu, Mike Naumenko, Nautilus Pompilius and XZ. Dan Volohov sits down with Boris Grebenshchikov to discuss the KGB, the formation of Leningrad Rock-Club, releasing his major-label debut and working on Dyan. 

Despite the general rise of rock and alternative music in the USSR in the ’80s, the foundational tendencies had existed long before in various forms. As Akvariums’ Boris Grebenshchikov says today, the first introduction for him became listening to Vladimir Rekshan’s St.Petersburg collective “in the small school hall in the early ’70s”. Developing the folkish tendencies of the late ’60s and uniting them with his outstanding lyrical voice, Grebenshchikov has probably done more than anybody else, forming the style that is considered to be “Russian rock”. Not a group of artists on a certain geographical position or the people of one mentality, but a number of tendencies, captured and mixed together in quite specific proportion forming what Russian rock is to this day.

The problem with the KGB was still current by the early ’80s when Leningrad Rock Club was established. However, as Grebenshchikov states: “It was something like the 18th attempt…Only this time the initiative came “from above” and became one of the first organizations that united artists from St. Petersburg. It also became the place the KGB could have all the possible artists in one place – the members of the organization.

But everything has its own positive and negative sides, right? The Club was established and bands finally found the place where they could play. “Even for free, without being stopped by the police” – says Boris. Akvarium’s lead-singer continues saying: “Nobody cared about the political motives; we all knew in our bones we have to play and the Universe will take care of the rest; what is exactly what happened.”

In my mind, I draw some parallels between back then and now listening to Akvariums’ newly released Dyan LP (Dyan is Russian for “Tribute”). Just like Grebenshchikov did in contributing to the creation of a Rock Club, he united various artists of 80’s era on the newest tribute album, not only those who came from St. Petersburg but the ones like Nautilus Pompilius from Ekaterinburg (then Sverdlovsk) or Eno’s favourites, Zvuki Mu from Moscow.

Grebenshchikov stresses that despite any specifications “every album is a symphony…” and Dyan is not an exception. Of course, songs are obviously different, written by different people in different circumstances and environments. It wasn’t a problem for Akvarium leader to put them together. Boris explains to me: “I take a song and record it in a way that makes me proud to be a part of it. Make them mine. Then put them together.”

Solidified together, they’re presented in a way that makes all the releases of Akvarium special: the ability of Grebenshchikov to create an intimate connection with his listeners despite the stylistic differences of the releases and the number of people involved.

Of course, there are some exceptions. Radio Silence, which became the first major-label release for the founder of Akvarium, is the example of Grebenshchikov’s evolution from work within the band, as Akvarium was at that point working on his solo-work with the contributions from Eurythmics’ Annie Lenox and David Steward, who produced the album with further collaborations with Chrissie Hynde, Billy Mackenzie and Siobhan Fahey.

Despite various factors involved in the process of releasing his debut solo LP, Boris still considers it not much different from everything he had been doing over the years. “I was writing songs in a new language and that was an adventure in itself – to try and write them true to what I’ve felt.” says Grebenshchikov when I ask him about anything different. He gets to the production part stressing: “I needed to learn how to record properly as opposed to our old homemade way.”

Grebenshchikov is the person who can read you like a book. Just like he would do with anybody. But with both majors involved in what you’re doing and some new constants, it’s uneasy to feel comfortable yourself. “Touring and perception – was it that different ?” I ask.

“Nobody knew who we were and people were just curious…But it was ok. A part of the learning curve. I needed to learn how to communicate.”

A good point to put a full stop at the end of this sentence. But it is possible to describe somebody’s career and evolution in a few sentences? Especially, that which Boris Grebenshchikov has had over the years. Founding Akvarium in the early ’70s, releasing numerous records, getting acquainted with artists like Bowie and Yoko Ono, becoming the first USSR artist signed to a major, passing through various stages of his career…It’s all that I can think while Grebenshchikov only looks to the future:

“I finally had time to work on the long-term unfinished albums…New Aquarium album; a double album of bonuses for the deluxe edition of Thor; an album of Hindu Bhajans; an album of covers of Russian bard songs – and some instrumental music…” says Boris, giving me a strong feeling that it’s not even a half of his list.

Photo credits: Maria Pleskova, Andrey “Villie” Usov.


Interview by Dan Volohov. Find his author’s archive here.



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