Monday, 23 November 2009

Red Hot Entertainment

Dan Hancox is a journalist currently living in London. He's published articles in Fact, Dazed And Confused, The New Statesman and The Guardian as well as being a contributor to several rather good blogs, like this one. Last year saw 'My Fellow Americans' released, a collaboration between Hancox and comic artist Tom Humberstone detailing their journey across the US following the presidential election of 2008. He's one of the good guys basically - interview after the jump.

-What's your background in the music industry - was it always intentional to become a writer?

I don’t have a background in music or the music industry, I can’t play any instruments or DJ – I’m just a fan. There was a guy at my university who only owned three CDs, because, he said, “I don’t really like music”. I always found that pretty extraordinary. That’s like saying “I don’t really like food”, isn’t it?

As for writing, I won a competition at school when I was 13 where we all had to write a 400-word review of Dragonheart, this god-awful kids film featuring a CGI dragon voiced by Sean Connery. I won a Down Periscope hat and a Nutty Professor long-sleeve t-shirt. So obviously with incentives like that I knew I was onto a winner.


-What journalists inspire the way you write?

So many of my friends and peers, too numerous to mention... most of them are linked on my blog. As for journalists I don’t actually know in person, people like Gary Younge and Barbara Ehrenreich I like a great deal in terms of their subject matter. Jason Burke and Jon Boone I find fascinating because they write about things I would know nothing about otherwise... but for style my main inspiration is PJ O’Rourke, whose libertarian politics I cannot stand, but he’s so brilliantly witty that I can’t help but read and re-read his stuff. I’ve just noticed that not one of those are music journalists. There might be a reason for that.

-As a music journalist do you still think bands see you in the old stereotype of the enemy?

They’re generally just a bit sceptical (understandably so, really), rather than oppositional or defensive. But then the people I interview have never been sitting in a hotel room all day doing 300 interviews in 15 minute slots – they’re musicians who are grateful for any sort of media interest, usually. So my job often means chasing grime MCs whose mobile numbers seem to change every week, waiting at Leytonstone tube station in the rain for two hours, going on wild-goose chases through the Isle of Dogs... but better that than dealing with handlers, minders, PRs and managers – and bored, boring ‘artists’ who’ve nothing to talk about but the quality of the room service.

-Your articles often focus on sometimes overlooked but nevertheless, important parts of urban youth, like food and music, are you trying to embrace the culture in London around you or is more tongue in cheek than that?

Er, there’s nothing arch or condescending about it – well, the Junior Spesh blog is very tongue-in-cheek (and also deadly serious, sort of), but that’s quite obvious – not least because it’s inspired by a brilliant novelty grime song. If you’re asking whether it’s patronising or condescending for me to write about ‘urban youth’ culture, well then no, it’s not. In census terms I’m a 28 year-old middle-class white male… but this is London. I’m not ‘road’, but – for example – I went to school with Neutrino from So Solid Crew, who among other achievements shot himself in the leg “cos I’m fucking crazy like that”, as he once spat. My point is that compared to most megalopolises, London doesn’t discriminate or segregate – it throws everyone together. Apart from the bits that voted for Boris Johnson – they can fuck off.

-What's the most exciting thing in British music right now?

First, the fuzzy, inchoate areas in the middle of the Venn diagrams of UK dance music. These grey areas between and beyond existing genres are larger and harder to define than ever before. We’re at a stage where grime, house, dubstep, and funky are bleeding into one another – what do we call it? I don’t know. But search for mixes and tracks by the likes of Bok Bok, Jam City, Untold, Roska, Scratcha, Mosca, Ikonika, Brackles, LVis1990, Cooly G and the Hessle Audio label.

Secondly, the much more clearly-defined world of funky bashment, which has been created, curated and nurtured by Gabriel Heatwave, with the help of a lot of great producers and MCs – it self-consciously connects the dots between Jamaican MCs and London electronic music culture – in this case, funky. There are a couple of great ‘primer’ mixes out there by Gabriel I’d really recommend downloading.

Tom Humberstone (left) and Dan Hancox by Humberstone


-In a recent blog post you mention how its very easy for the extraordinary to become normalized. Looking back at the US election it's pretty obvious why Obama won, but at the start did it feel like you were making a book about his journey to the Whitehouse?

Not at the beginning, not at all. His role in the story in January 2008 was clearly defined: he would be a noteworthy supporting cast member to the central narrative of Hillary Vs The Republicans. For the Democrats, he would motivate those few young Americans whose political spirit had not been entirely crushed by eight years of President Bush, revive the black vote a bit, teach the Washington mafia some new tricks in terms of online fundraising, and recede into the background like Howard Dean in 2004. Or possibly be Hillary’s VP candidate. Tom Humberstone (my illustrator/travel buddy/Ralph Steadman) and I bought this logic too – until the epiphanic moment when we saw him speak, in a snow-caked school gym outside Iowa City in early January. He was really that good.

-'My Fellow Americans' sold out of copies in UK, what do you think captures British peoples attention about the American political system?

Bigger fireworks, louder shouting, and shinier suits. This sounds glib – and it is – but it’s also true. Irrespective of your political views on the two of them, who would you rather watch a news item about: Sarah Palin, or Nick Clegg?

'The Cover'

-You released MFA last year and started it the year before that, do you ever think you'll be doing something like it again? What would be the next step from here?

Tempted though I was by the idea of writing My Fellow Kashmiris, I’m not really that kind of journalist. But the ideas that motivated My Fellow Americans are more pressing than ever: as the old media continues to die off, genuine grass-roots reportage is suffering. Time-challenged staff reporters are increasingly tethered to their desks, regurgitating press releases and doing phone interviews with official spokesmen – and editors half-heartedly temper this by sending their hacks on brief, surgical strikes to somewhere outside of Westminster for an afternoon. I’m not sure what the next step is exactly, except that I want to see more journalists doing genuine grass-roots reporting, and I’d like to be one of those journalists.

-I may have focused unfairly on you being a music journalist here, but you also write a lot for the New Statesman (amongst others) - are their any similarities in the types of people you meet and write about?

I suppose so. The musicians I interview very very rarely have publicists, agents, managers, or eyebrow technicians – and the people I talk to for political pieces in the New Statesman, Prospect, etc don’t either; in the sense that they’re not politicians, but normal people.

Dan Hancox can be found online via Twitter and Blogspot.

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Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty


Really really brilliant video of Girls meeting Lawrence Hayward in London last month. Highlights including but not limited to:

-Girls genuinely being massive fans of Felt/Denim
-Girls opening up about the difficulties of simply being in a band
-Lawrence explaining how he refused to give autographs for a small period of time
-Lawrence ripping on the guy from Red Krayola
-Lawrence loving the Iggy Pop Insurance ads
-Lawrence in general
-Lawrence still caring about getting popular and having fans above everything else

Parts 1,2 and 3 - with thanks to Magic RPM
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Monday, 2 November 2009

Sterling Crispin


Sterling Crispin is an artist living in Denver, Colorado. Using the Buddhist belief of the Sunyata as a common base for his output he creates installations, video loops and illustrations that focus on the infinite and unknown. Crispin also recently worked with musician Picture Plane to create the music video 'Gothic Star'. Interview after the jump

-Circles and symmetrical shapes seem to be key elements in you work, what fascinates you about these forms?

I'm interested in the ancient, primal and infinite feeling of geometry. It exists outside of time and space. It's an underlying invisible force making itself visible through interaction with matter.

I think that when you encounter a highly symmetrical form like a seashell or a crystal it can be a profound because it's this underlying force that's way beyond you suddenly saying "Hello". It's like pulling the wrapping paper off of a box that contains the infinite. You only get to see a very small slice of it, and you'll never unwrap it all, but what you do see allows you to infer what you cannot see.

And so I've been imagining a lot of the art that I've been making recently as tools for prodding into the void.

I also tend to imagine geometric forms as living entities or figures. When say "sphere" to someone they visualize a beach ball or spherical object, or they imagine just the idea of a sphere without any particular form. The thought of a shape just floating out in space somewhere that doesn't consist of anything is funny and interesting to me. That somewhere in some universe or dimension there is a realm of perfectly formed triangles or spheres sort of loitering about or doing whatever spheres do.

I like the idea that if a circle had a life / soul / consciousness, each time you drew a circle on a sheet of paper, you would be channelling the spirit of the ancient "one true circle" out there somewhere rather than creating a new life for each circle. And to clarify I'm more interested in the idea that a perfect shape could be a living or maybe conscious thing than in the idea of a perfect shape in general.

I'm also really interested in the idea of visible and invisible things, making the invisible visible and vice versa, perception really.


Crystal Field

-Digital images and videos seem to be another prominent medium that you work with, do you find yourself being able to do more on a computer or is it more aesthetic than that?

Well there's an appropriate time and place for everything, and I'm interested in all of it. Honestly If I had a bigger budget I know my work would look very different. I generally dream very big and then have to compromise. I consider all of the work I've done so far to be a maquette or sketch for something else I'm trying to get at.

So right now I'm driven to working digitally because I can execute my ideas quickly and its relatively cheap. There's an upfront cost obviously but pressing File > New is next to free.

Although that's not to say I'm not interested in computing. I'm very interested in emerging technology and theories of what the future will bring. Computers are really powerful tools, I think society as a whole is just slowly waking up to the potential of the technology we are developing. We are accelerating very quickly up the curve. I was born ten years after the release of the first home computer and I think that in another 50 years we may be faced with a computer based intelligence that surpasses every human mind on the planet combined. Or entirely synthetic or laboratory produced humans. How can anyone not be interested in that?

Prehistory Series

-Your illustrations, especially the Emergent Organic Form series (top of page) has some amazing detail to them, what are the processes like for creating such images and what influenced you in making them?

I draw them with fine point pens into a sketchbook, usually while traveling on the public transportation system in Denver. I've been using 005 Microns but I have been thinking of trying other pens, the tips are too fragile.

After they are drawn I photograph them and digitally edit them to become bilaterally symmetrical. I want to print them out in a limited series at a 16x20 inches with some high quality digital printer and mount them somehow but I'm too financially challenged to realize the series in any meaningful way right now.



Picture Plane Gothstar

-You've also directed a music video for Picture Plane, how did that collaboration come about and what do you think to the outcome?

Well Travis and I went to art school together and after graduating were both accepted into RedLine where we shared a studio in Denver for a while. We've been friends for a while and have a few shared interests and influences.

He asked me to produce a video for an album he was going to release, we threw a few ideas around and I put together a sort of video sketch. We had the video shoot afterward that was intentionally free form and sort of haphazard. I wanted it to feel like recovered footage from some sort of Stevie Nicks cult in the near past that had tried to capture or summon her spirit. Yet at the same time feel fun and light hearted and keep the ethereal and textural things going on in the song.

Overall it was a lot of fun and I think I'll probably be doing more projects like that in the future.


-Do you think you'll be doing more work with video?


It's hard for me to imagine losing an interest in video, maybe if I live long enough to see true virtual reality or the technological singularity I won't care much for video anymore. But its hard to say, who knows.



Water Particle

-I'm always in interested in different cities and the people who live in them, what's Denver like as hometown? I read an interview with Picture Plane and the interviewers perception of Denver seemed to be you spend all day Skiing, only stopping to watch The Denver Broncos occasionally, are things really that great?

I'm sure that there are people out there doing just that, but that's not the average lifestyle here. Actually I had to check and Coloradans mean income is among the highest in the country and the poverty rate isn't too bad, so maybe I'm wrong. There's a decent public transportation system here and there's a lot of good art in town. Denver is really supportive of the arts, I wish there was more support but it's pretty good. And of course the sky, mountains and land is just beautiful here. I just wish there wasn't so much suburban sprawl.

Gateway - 2009 Installation

What do people think of when they think of Denver? I think people perceive Denver as a cow town, they think of John Denver, the Denver Omelet, skiing and mountain men?

I actually grew up in Maui, then spent a few years in Pittsburgh and moved to Denver in 2005. I'm still acclimating to seasonal weather and I may never get used to it.

-You also do graphic design work as well, is it hard to make a living solely as an artist then?

Well I think graphic design is art, but yeah the term "starving artist" didn't come out of the blue, its tough.


Primordial Figure Series

-What projects do you have planned for the rest of the year and 2010?


I'm currently working with the Gates Planetarium here in Denver developing content for their full immersion dome as part of an arts and science collaboration between some local colleges and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. I'm really excited about that project right now.

I'd really like to get my hands on some rapid prototyping machines, or get into industrial fabrication, injection moulded plastics, large scale digital photographs and make a few more light boxes

Also I want to break into public art, and do whatever I can to avoid a 'day job'.


Sterling Crispin can be found online at sterlingcrispin.com


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Thursday, 29 October 2009



I'm off to see Fleetwood Mac tomorrow night at Wembley, and it's gonna be amazing. Recent interview in the Independant with Mick Fleetwood here, talking about the European Tour and a possible new album.

Plus anyone heard the Cheryl Cole album?

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Sunday, 18 October 2009

1968


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198?



Cringe Vision
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Tuesday, 22 September 2009

...


Not so intense
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'With my art I just want to survive'


Intense
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Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Mask


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Thursday, 20 August 2009

Tommy Boy


Since the advent of high speed internet connections an almost forgotten aural and visual landscape has slowly been unearthed by those willing to search for it; miners of lost disco gems and yuppie ores have found a past that looked to the future. A future of electric dreams and exploration of the unknown.

One such excavator is Tommy Boy - half of the seminal and consistenly enviable Arawa.fm he also pieces together films and music videos from the more esoteric and synthetic fragments of the past 35 years, creating soundtracks for the likes of CFCF, Telepathe and most recently Spectral Empire.


-When did you first start experimenting with video?

Well, I’ve always been enamoured with video, even as a kid. I vividly remember the moment I knew what I wanted to do as an artist. There was a show on MTV in the mid to late 90s called AMP. It was an hour block of mostly electronic and experimental videos. Most of the videos were generic and formulaic, however 2 artists really stood out. E.B.N. , and Coldcut's brilliant video work inspired me. Their video aesthetic consisted of sampled video, cut to the rhythm of the song, and rearranged to tell a story with syncopated imagery.

A few years later in Austin, Texas, I started to VJ with friends in a multimedia outfit called "Loose Id Studios" with the intention of emulating this style. It’s crazy remembering how much time went into making those productions. Video encoding took forever and our tools were so archaic. I was using one of the first multimedia apps at the time, VJAMM on my old IBM notebook. The output wasn't always the best, but I learned tons in that time. I definitely caught the bug for film then.


-You mentioned on Arawa that 20JFG asked you create a video for Spectral Empire's Black Shark - are you always commissioned in this way or do you find yourself starting something just through musical inspiration?

20JFG initially approached me to do a video for Telepathe based on my previous personal video work and my massive image dump on myspace the they often borrow from for posts. I think they just trusted my vision and decided to throw me a bone. From the Telepathe video, Patrik North from Ac├ęphale contacted me privately to do the CFCF video. Soon after that, 20JFG referred two more jobs to me, Spectral Empire and Gatekeeper (TBR). So, yeah, 20JFG have really made my year! Love those people. Plus, I really like the work that’s been sent to me. Fortunately, all these artists resonate with my interests, so the projects have been a blast. I like client oriented work since it keeps me on task. However, I do like to strike a balance between work and play. I definitely take time to make videos for myself. I like making music videos for bands that never had the chance. I did videos for Phill & Friends Band and Casco because I love them so much.


CFCF - 'You Hear Colours' commissioned by Patrik North of Acephale records


-The video for CFCF's You Hear Colours is a really great synthesis of sound and visuals - what was the process of making the video like?

Most projects start with me getting very familiar with the song. If it’s something new to me, I’ll listen to it on repeat for days, everywhere I go. It might take me a couple weeks to really get the song and find the right imagery for a story. With CFCF, it was the middle of winter when I got the song. I remember driving my car in the barren early morning light on my way to work, watching joggers stride by as “You Hear Colours” played in perfect harmony. I knew almost from the start that I wanted to do something that would capture that feeling. With that in mind, I began researching source material. I remembered a movie my Dad had turned me onto as a child. It had been probably 20 years since I’d seen “Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”, but after revisiting it I knew it would be the perfect backbone for my story. I intended for the video to be vintage. I think black and white footage frees the mind to fill in the colours as you see fit. If you were hearing colours from CFCF's gorgeous song, I wanted you to see his sound. So for me, this song will always end up looking like those early morning drives felt like, which is great.

-Your videos seem to exclusively use sequences and sections of other films and pictures, do you think you'll ever pursue making original content or is that not how you work?

This is a constant source of contention for me. I recognize I’m abusing certain copyright laws; however I feel I utilize video clips the same way a DJ selects songs to tell a story through a carefully selected mix. I have no intention of taking credit for the original footage I use. I hope people can see the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I’m always striving to tell my own story with borrowed footage. I would love to start using more of my own original footage, but with limited budgets and lack of equipment I’ll most likely rely on sampling for the near future. If someone wants to do an all expense paid shoot with me, I’m totally game. Seems like the only people who can afford that kind of work with me are corporations who want me to make a widget demonstration video for their website. God help me if I have to keep doing those. My career is totally upside down, as I’m sure it is with most artists. I get paid for shit I hate to make, and I do stuff for free because I love to do it. Besides, there’s a vast archive of video out there just ripe for the picking. I really enjoy researching film history. Dissecting and rearranging existing footage is still a thrill for me. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Telepathe - 'Devil's Trident' remix by Diamond Vampires commissioned by 20 Jazz Funk Greats



-Do you see a career in what you're doing at the moment with videos with or do you see it more as a past time?


I don’t really see a career in making music videos the way I’m making them now. I run the risk of being a one trick pony at best, at worst I could face litigation. So, yeah, the time for doing this stuff is finite. I experiment with video as a means to express myself as an artist. I'd like to make a career of it, because I have so much work I still want to do. I spend my time VJing when the video projects are slow. I recently enjoyed doing work for the Butthole Surfers fall ’08 tour, as well as the Maker Faire in Austin, TX, Crystal Castles/VEGA, and Nancy Fortune shows in ’09. I like taking video out of my house and on the road. So, maybe there’s a future in VJing. Who knows. It’s all still up in the air.

-Your music tastes seem to be centered on the dark and synthetic output of the 70's and 80's, what is about this sound and era that appeals to you?

My artistic interests incorporate a healthy respect for retro-futuristic ideals. I’m a child of the 80’s, that era of romantic futurism in the grip of the Cold War. Science Fiction has always been a major influence on my life. My first memories of sound were from a Fischer-Price plastic record player with my own 45” copy of Disney’s “The Black Hole”. I have a profound sense of nostalgia for all the sights and sounds from my childhood. I remember spending entire summer days at my neighbour’s house who had MTV. I sat mesmerized by the crazy “New Wave” videos that often mirrored the futuristic vision of my favourite movies. I spent my formative years in music education researching anything and everything electronic. My heart fell in love with the roots of electronic music and all which sprang forth from that creative force. I don’t necessarily feel I’m drawn to the darker side of electronics, but compared to my ARAWA.FM partner, Sean Donson, I can see why you drew that conclusion. Ok, sorry for this lame analogy, but the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle explosion is closely related to how I see music. It’s the promise of the future coupled with the tragic reality of the present. It’s the beauty in tragedy, the shortcomings of technology, the human will to break barriers and forge new territory. All of that. Music from the late 70’s and early 80’s embodies those ideals for me. Synths were just coming onto the scene, people were embracing the future, music was sublime, transcending time and place. Most of this music sounds more relevant to me today than I’m sure it sounded when it came out. Especially the left-field, obscure, bizarre tracks. Maybe my taste does lean to the darker sounds of synthdom. I guess I like my dystopian disco to sound like it was actually made in "1984".


'Repossesed' a submission for Moon Illusion



-Mixes are another interest of yours, do you DJ as well?


I have been DJing about as long as I have been doing video work, but with mixed results. For the moment, my biggest gratification is to release mixes on the web. I hope my mixes swim in the same circles as my mentors. The biggest influence on me right now is DJ JAZ aka John Zahl. As long as guys like him are killing the tables, it’s best for me to stay at home and work on video. DJing for me is like making mixtapes for high school crushes. I miss those days. I have always loved the art of a good mixtape. So, I guess I’m just making 21st century mixtapes for all my internet lovelies. But I digress.

-What's the story of how Arawa came into being? What inspired you and Sean Donson to collaborate?

ARAWA.FM is actually Sean Donson’s brainchild. Sean’s from San Francisco and we’ve actually never met face to face. I think he started blogging about a year before I did. This would’ve been around ‘06-’07. When I started my own blog, I noticed his name popping up in comments from time to time. And vice versa. We started talking and one thing led to another. I think the partnership came out of necessity and a mutual respect for each others work. We’re not the most consistent bloggers, so strength in numbers seemed to make sense. I officially became partner after an insane Halloween posting juggernaut we produced last year. It was as if stars were aligned and a cosmic force was unleashed once we teamed up. Besides, Sean is like the ying to my yang, I absolutely adore his style and direction. Sean has a real talent for graphic design, an area I’m sadly lacking in. I was more than happy to jump on his bandwagon. He had already made a strong foundation for ARAWA. His posts are always fresh to me, consistently supplying me with treasures I never knew existed. Sean and I have had a lot happen to us since we started to collaborate. We recently completed work for JAZ, Nancy Fortune, and Gatekeeper as a result of our blog endeavours. Things keep coming in too, which is a real amazing since this is a just result of us just doing what feels good. Sean added a quote to our blog which really drives home our mantra. It’s from one of my favorite works by David Lynch, from the epic series, “Twin Peaks”. It says “"... I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange." This is really the story of Sean and me. My brother from another mother, my cosmic twin, Demian to my Sinclair, the best friend a guy could ask for. Aw shucks, love me some Sean, love me some ARAWA.FM too.


Obligatory Fleetwood Mac reference - 'Gypsed'


-Lastly, do you have any current infatuations, be it videos/songs/links that you'd like to share with us?

I don’t know if these are current as much as they are things I have loved for a long, long time. For the video enthusiast in me, I consistently draw inspiration from these sources:

TV Carnage, Paperrad, Animal Charm , Church of the Subgenius , 5minutestolive , Totally Wreck Production Institute

And as far as music is concerned, anything these guys are up to usually rocks my world:

Lovefingers , Donnaslut , Dream Chimney , Bumrocks

And lastly, ARAWA.FM has a new sister site for all the things that just don't make it on the blog. Please bookmark http://youmakemefeel.tumblr.com for more ARAWA related fodder. Stay tuned, there's lots more to come



Tommyboy can ofcourse be found online at Arawa.fm (ofcourse) and also at Vimeo and Youtube.

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Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Comus



A few months ago my friend Chris Mapleston emailed some questions to legendary folk band Comus with the hope of using the answers for a zine he was setting up in his adopted home of Japan. Which in itself is just a bit ridiculous really. Considering the band, so unloved and discarded during their heyday should only exist in a world of their own - untraceable and unattainable to anyone born after 1973, remembered by few and fondly by less.

Yet somehow this isn't the case; since reforming in 2008 due to an overwhelming resurgence in popularity Comus have steadily become more and more prolific, almost as active as they were in their heyday - playing gigs and festivals at home and abroad, being featured on radio, in magazines, rehearsing and performing new material, and embracing such 21st century miracles as blogging and myspace. While my friend Chris gets his zine together he's very kindly let me upload the full interview here for now, for which I'm incredibly grateful for as this is a pretty big deal, you know?

-You’re headlining the Equinox festival in London this summer, playing the “First Utterance” album in its entirety. What are your feelings towards the album? Are you surprised that the album has developed such a dedicated fan base?

Roger Wootton (Vocalist/Guitarist): I was amazed at the steady resurgence of interest in First Utterance and to have picked up such a young following. I distanced myself from the album for some time after we split up, because it was so unpopular.

I have reappraised it and are now much more proud of it. I am still perplexed at the difference in reaction to it now. I think it is the complete originality of the whole band sound which we and everyone else find stimulating.

-The failure of First Utterance upon its initial release has been cited to be the result of “poor reviews” and “postal strikes.” At the time had you expected the album to be received better than it was?

RW: Yes, although I was disappointed in it and felt that we performed the material much better live, the negative reaction, even from Dawn, the record company was extremely frustrating. Fans would contact us, saying they could not find any record shop that stocked it and had to order it and Dawn were completely disinterested and seemed to want to bury it. I think at that time, 1970-71, that there was every indication that it would be successful due to audience reaction.

–It always surprises me how young the band were when First Utterance was recorded. Were you all prodigious musical talents?

RW: Not really. I think it was just luck how the particular members fell together. It seemed to be the chemistry amongst the members that made us aspire and be more inspired than playing with anyone else.

Comus circa First Utterance

-First Utterance is undoubtedly the album which the Comus cult has developed around. Do you feel its follow up “To Keep from Crying” has been somewhat neglected?

RW: No, I am ashamed of it. The material wasn’t originally intended for Comus and, because of the atmosphere at the time with glam rock, there was a need to find some way of commercialising ourselves. The problems were increased by the fact that only three of the original members wanted to do it. We regard To Keep from Crying as an artistic failure.

-You played with David Bowie back in the day; does he still keep in touch?

RW: No, we lost touch shortly after the Ziggy Stardust album took off. After he became a star he didn’t want anything to do with most of the people he had associated with before.

-Over the years Comus have been praised by many bands, most notably Opeth, but also groups such as Current 93 and Nurse with Wound. Are you familiar with their work, and if so do you feel any common ground?

RW: Yes, Current 93 got in touch with me in 2000 and David Tibet and I got together a couple of times. I am not familiar with Nurse with Wound, but it was Michael Ackerfeldt of Opeth who was largely responsible for Comus reforming. When Opeth were asked to play the Melloboat Festival in Stockholm in 2008, he stipulated that they would only do it if Comus could be persuaded to reform and play the festival as well. He came to London for the signing of the contract and we met for the first time. Since then he has been an important contact and friend to the band and we are in regular contact by Email. Opeth are constantly touring all over the world.

-Do you listen to any modern folk music? Many bands labeled with the “freak folk” tag from a few years ago seemed to have taken influence from Comus…

RW: I think the members of Comus all have varying tastes. I, myself, mainly listen to modern classical music and follow such composers as John Tavener, Osvaldo Golijov, Arvo Part and John Adams.

-Like Comus, many of the bands playing the Equinox Festival seem to take their influences from pagan and folkloric imagery and iconography. Is this still something you take an interest in?

RW: I have looked at many kinds of mysticism and philosophy throughout the world but am now reacquainting myself with paganism since Comus reformed. I am now immersing myself in all the subject matter and imagery of the original Comus in order to write new material.

The Reformed Comus Line Up L-R: Jon Seagrott, Roger Wootton, Andy Hellaby, Bobbie Watson, Glenn Goring, Photo taken from The Wire

-The Comus line-up contains a number of illustrators and designers. Can you tell us a bit more about your work?

RW: I did the drawing for the outside of the gatefold sleeve and a lot of the promotional illustrations and posters. Glenn (Goring, Guitarist/bongo player) did the painting for the inside of the sleeve. I have since begun to return to this style of drawing after many years. I had given up on it because of lack of interest in the UK. Even now I cannot get any illustration work in England outside of Comus. I have returned to the same technique and have so far designed the poster for Melloboat 2008, a Christmas card for the Melloclub in Stockholm, 2008 and the sleeve drawing for the shortly to be released DVD of Comus live at Melloboat. I am currently working on a new T shirt design (Which can now be found here).

-It was only after the release of the “Song to Comus” compilation that the band reunited. How did the decision to get back together come about. And had you ever considered reforming before?

RW: At first, at an emotional reunion at the old manager’s house in 2005 after the rerelease on Song to Comus, we decided that after 35 years it was out of the question – too much water under the bridge – even after Sanctuary had offered us a record deal; but the interest continued to build and we were almost pressurised into reforming in 2007. Until this point we had no idea how popular we had become and it still seems unbelievable considering the lack of interest and negativity we had experienced originally.

Melloboat Festival 2008

-You played the Melloboat Festival in Sweden recently, performing for the first time in 34 years on a boat in Sweden. How did it go?

RW: The gig went very well considering half of us had flu and Bobbie had broken her wrist. The audience were fantastic and very encouraging. Over a hundred had come over from the UK specially to see us and some even flew over from the USA. It was then that we experienced for the first time just how passionate a following we have and decided to stay together and carry on. We played pretty well but over the last 12 months we have got a lot tighter and we have all improved as musicians.

-Has it been hard to relearn Comus’ material, or did it all come flooding back?

RW: It was extremely hard. Trying to relearn the chords from the CD, as nothing was ever written down and trying to find my Comus voice again was a major effort. We all struggled at first finding the rhythms but gradually we got tighter. Most of us were rusty, having not played for a while but gradually it came back.

-My first experience of First Utterance was buying the “Song to Comus” compilation in 2005 and wandering round the caves of Nottingham pubs researching ghost tales for my degree. Every time I listen to the album images from that day spark through my mind. Do you get any similar trips to the past when listening to your work?

RW: Sometimes – we all have our memories – but one of the reasons we were so reluctant to reform was that we had a lot of bad memories of life on the road and did not want to go through it all again. I think though, that the years have created a kind of distance from the music and we are now reassociating with the songs in a new time and reality, knowing that we have a lot of fans.

-How much do the feel the internet has helped ignite the Comus fanbase?

RW: If it were not for the internet Comus would not have reformed. It is largely through file sharing that we now have a global fanbase. When we split up we were unheard of outside Europe.

-Your website tantalizingly reveals that you’re recording new material. Can you shed any light on how it’s shaping up? Will the Malgaard Suite finally see the light of day?

RW: No, the Malgaard Suite is largely forgotten. It was so complex and parts of it did not work very well. We only have one poor sounding recording of it from a gig and we feel it is best left behind. What we wanted to do was to kick back in as we were in the middle of 1971 and what should have been the second album – a continuation from First Utterance and that is what we are doing. The first finished song, ‘Out of the Coma’, will be performed at the Equinox Festival. We are intrigued to see how it will go down. It is very much in the same vain as the songs on First Utterance and we are all working on more.

-Bobbie, on the Colins of Paradise website, among the band’s friends you count artists such as Ital Tek, Venetian Snares and Vladislav Delay. Are you a big electronic music fan? Any chance of this filtering into the new Comus material?

Bobbie Watson (Vocals/Percussion): Jan Jelinek, Burial, and X.A.Cute featuring Mike Ladd, are some of my/our sure favourites (Jon Seagroatt is my husband) - a whole world away from Comus....

-And finally, any plans to take Comus over to Japan?

RW: There was a gig planned for Tokyo but it never came to anything. We look forward to an opportunity to play in Japan.

Comus can be found online at Comusmusic.co.uk.

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Monday, 27 July 2009

Washed Out


Sleep Deprivation can throw up some odd if unmemorable experiances - fortunatly my most recent bout with it has led to my introduction to Washed Out the musical persona of South Carolina native Ernest Weatherly Greene - whose bedroom excursions and online foraging has produced some of 2009's lushest somnambulisitic synthpop gems. Interview here.


-Is your name actually Ernest Weatherly Greene? If so then that's amazing

Yep... Ernest Weatherly Greene, Jr...

-As a person do you feel 'washed out'?

Can't say that I do...I'm too young to be washed out, right!?!

-Your music has been hyped by some respectable sources: gorilla vs bear, pitchfork to name a couple - do things like that mean much to you? Does it matter how many and how much people listen to your music?

I guess more than anything it gives me confidence to put things out there... In the past, I've been hyper-critical about releasing stuff-even with family and friends... so I guess it makes it a little easier...

It also makes it easier to ‘properly’ release something...currently, there is no way that I could afford to self-release, but I'm hoping to settle with a label in the next couple of weeks...so we'll see...

-Not sure if you're familiar with it - but the start of your song 'Feel It All Around' sounds a bit like the intro to I Want You by Gary Low - do you like italo disco?

Good call! Yeah, I love italo... I have a friend who really knows his stuff, so he turns me on to some good jams... I also scour the internet for gems...

-What do you use to create music?

I have a simple set-up in my bedroom with a few mics...I use Reason 4.0/Cubase SE to record, arrange and sequence everything... That's pretty much it besides a guitar and midi keyboard to play synths/trigger samples...


-Your songs are all pretty gorgeous and dreamy - do you have to be in a specific state of mind to write them?

Not really... I pretty much zone-out while recording, so it is all very natural...I've found that I work best when I have no distractions, so I'll basically just lock myself in my room while working on a track :)

-In terms of influences, what inspires you that may not be that obvious to listeners?

I pretty much have two different types of ‘listening styles’... I have the stuff that I really love that I will listen to over and over... and then I'll also listen to some pretty far-out/cheesy stuff just for inspiration or for sampling purposes... I can find something to love about pretty much any song (whether it be the production or the songwriting or even a two-second synth line...), so I can really annoy my girlfriend by listening to 80's r&b on the radio 24/7...

That being said, I really don't have that many dance songs that fit in that 'love' category... at the moment it’s basically lofi GvB type stuff or guys like Bullion and Samiyam...

-I had to Google South Carolina to just find out where abouts it was in America - what's it like to live in?

It's not bad... I used to live in Columbia (I currently live with my parents in rural Georgia)... which is a mid-sized college town...

There is a nice river that runs through the middle of town which is a lot of fun during the summer...the beach is also about an hour away...


-This isn’t a proper question by the way, but just out of curiosity is this shirt (above) from American Apparel?
Yes it is...Sadly, it is at the bottom of a huge lake in rural Georgia...Lost it during a recent trip :(

-What do you plan to do for the rest of the year with WO - do you have any other projects/commitments?

I'm trying to finish up a full-length that will include most of the songs up on my myspace profile as well as a few more I've been writing over the last couple of weeks... I'm currently talking with a few labels about putting it out ASAP...

The most immediate release, though, will be a tape with Mirror Universe... I used to record a lot of hip-hop-ish stuff, so I'm thinking I might incorporate some of it... It will definitely be pretty different than the full-length...

Washed Out can be found at myspace.com/thebabeinthewoods

And if you wanted some free mp3s - you can find them courtesy of No Pain in Pop and Gorilla vs Bear

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Wednesday, 22 July 2009

No No No


Inspired by 'a love of good illustration and good printing' Nobrow are a collective of film directors, artists amd illustrators formed in December of 2008. They have published prints by the likes of Bjorn Rune Lie and Paul Blow, a book from the mind of TLL endorsed Ben Newman and an oversized bi-annual collection of bespoke sumptuous illustrations from artists such as Stuart Kolakovic, Alex Spiro, Sarah King, Blex Bolex A Richard Allen, Alex Bland and McBess.


-No Brow No1 has been selling pretty well so far - you must be pretty chuffed with it's success. (Out of an initial run of 3000 - less than 500 remain)

We have to say, though we were hoping for this type of response, we certainly didn't count on it and we are really happy that people dig what we're trying to do. It's good to know the hard work and sacrifices have not been in vain....

Ltd Edition Prints from Bjorn Rune Lie (top) and Paul Blow (below)

-Why choose the theme of Gods and Monsters for your first issue, was it just something that you felt the artist's could run with?

Funny you should say that, because we were thinking about the artists when we came up with it- the convo went something like this:

a: what do you think they'll want to draw?

s: I dunno what do you want to draw?

a: monsters...

s: me too...

a: actually, most people I know, at the most fundamental level, want to draw monsters, but it is rare that anyone lets you.

s: cool

a: it does sound a bit vacuous on its own...

s: how about 'Gods and Monsters'....

...and there you go

Work in Progress

-You've just published The Bento Bestiary by Ben Newman - How did the project start? What is the publication about?

It's really awesome, printed by hand by us, bound by us, illustrated by the ever prolific genius of Ben Newman; buy one, its only 40 quid!

The publication is about Yokai monsters from Japanese legend; I think it grew from Ben's submission for the mag...

Detail from The Bento Bestiary

-Can you tell us anything about Nobrow No2 - when will it be out, who will it feature?

Nobrow 2 is coming out on the 14th of November and it is going to be a beaut! All we can tell you at this point is that it will be a fresh bag of tricks (colour wise and otherwise) and contain another set of new illustrators from around the world that will blow your socks off.

A Nobrow Exhibition at Jaguar Shoes, London

-Apart from publishing, do you plan to move into any other fields?

Well we'd love to make toys, but its a very tricky business, so we'll have to see, in the mean time we'll continue with the small press, producing lovely prints and cool limited edition book projects and also pushing the publishing into other fields - comix, collections, etc. keep your eyes peeled.

Nobrow can be found online at nobrow.net.

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Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Outer Space



Above's a clip from a Chicago Cable childrens program called Chic-A-Go-GO featuring Jazz musician Kelan Philip Cohran. In the video, Cohran talks about his invention of the frankiphone, recites a much longer than expected self-penned poem of his and at the end of it gets all the kids in the audience to dance along to one of his songs.

Though most famous for his work with Sun Ra's Arkestra Cohran, now 82, has a incredible back catalogue of his own - The Wire wrote a pretty comprehensive article on the man if you ever wanted to find out more.

Philip's eight (EIGHT!!) sons make up nine members of The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble who are pretty interesting in their own right. Many thanks to them for putting up so many videos. Including this ripper:


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Sunday, 21 June 2009

Pocahaunted



Pocahaunted could have easily just have been another (albeit incredible) female-voiced drone band from the West Coast of America. Instead earlier this year they chose a different path, recruiting and regrouping as a five piece.

They’ve been showcasing their new material on a brief tour of Europe with fellow LA experimentalist (and now keyboardist with the band) Sun Araw. And I was fortunate enough to grab 10 minutes with Lead Singer Amanda (right) and Bassist/vocalist Diva (left) after their show in Nottingham.

-TLL: How has the tour been going, so far?

Amanda: It's been pretty good

Diva: Most of the shows that we've had there's been like dancing and stuff, they come up to us afterwards and they're like 'we didn’t expect to be like coming here, dancing and having an uplifting experience’ but they really got into that mode and everyone's just been like having fun I guess.

-TLL: I've noticed live, now don't take this in the wrong way or anything, but I'm not sure whether it's your guitarist's guitar lines or your drummer's beard but you've got a bit of a 70's feel to it - that whole 70's Californian feel to it, are you quite influenced by that?

Diva: I think we're influenced by a lot of music from then I guess you'd say we're influenced by a lot of jazz, afro beat and a lot of the afro funk is from around that era.
Amanda: Yeah absolutely, the time when like California Soul and funk were sort of for everyone, getting fairly mainstream - coming away from the roots and African American based music and it was even more of like a world phenomenon. And I think that's when like all styles converged and that's why it sound sort of psychedelic, but also a hybrid of dub and reggae beat to it.
Diva: We also really like dub, a lot of psychedelic influences too maybe not as much (70's) but early 60's stuff like with the other guys and stuff.

-TLL: I've noticed you guys seem to have a penchant for Fleetwood Mac as well.

Amanda: (Laughs)I like Fleetwood Mac, quite a bit.

TLL: I noticed the cover of your new record Passage, it's pretty much identikit to Rumours in like the font.

Amanda: It's hard not like them and I’m not really even into the genre that they come in, they just have a special soul to them and do think there's a funny balance between having two women and three men and having this play off like power structure in the band. Like the female voices being like lead voices.

TLL: A bit like Pocahaunted then?

A: Yeah (laughs) a bit like that!



-TLL: I read an interview with you guys on Alan McGee's website toocooltodie.com...

Amanda: It sounds familiar, did I say anything? (Laughs)

TLL: There were a lot of odd questions like 'What are the secret origins behind Pocahaunted?’ 'What are the secret origins of your name?' implying all these mysterious origins and I think the answers were a bit like 'ooo eerr, what? We’re just a band'.

Amanda: Diva and I talk about this constantly. When people ask a band where their name comes from, I think a lot of people put a lot of stock in their band name and they find that it really reflects them and I think sometimes it doesn’t reflect you, you grow into it, rather than it defining you. And the band name Pocahaunted', literally came to me in a dream (laughs), which is cheesy, but it's true. And I woke up and I went 'Pocahaunted!?' How funny' and then all of a sudden you start playing music and you SOUND like Pocahaunted almost like it was clothes that we had to grow up into and so when people say 'oh is it because you love native American imagery?', 'is it because you want play on that idea of ethnicity?' - it's not necessarily and if that happens it's a coincidence because we just play the music that we played and all of a sudden people were like '..! spooookeey, natiiiiive'.
Diva: It’s all coming from the same person so it makes sense. Yeah, asking a band where they got their name from it just takes the mystery away it's not usually that good of a story.
Amanda: it's makes you wonder if anyone ever asks The Beach Boys where they got their name or like The Beatles - what would they say? They would say 'I don't know'.

-TLL: Yeah you've pretty much touched on the question that I was gonna ask you next, I think with a name like Pocahaunted, it's just a good pun, most bands could like start and end with that where as with you, you seem to have taken it as far as it can go.

Amanda: Yeah, I mean they say you know a shark has to keep moving or it dies, I think the same is true with the band (laughs) if you stop like illuminating in your music then stop giving any of your soul to your music all of a sudden what do you have you know? You have a band with 13 of the same albums forever, and I think a lot of fans feel comforted by that, 'oh I know I like this, here's more of what I like' but as the person creating it, to keep loving it...
Diva: To grow as person and have it fulfil the purpose that it gives to you...
Amanda: Because it's hard, as you're growing as a person, you're touring hearing other bands play meeting other people, you're like 'oh I heard this amazing song by a Thai 60's rock group record that's crazy like sparsey jam' all of a sudden you're like 'I want that in my music, I wanna translate that'. So to be this sort of like mopey, steady thing that never pulls in these other influences it's just... it's not for us.
TLL: It's not so cool unless you're like Slayer.



-TLL: Again with the whole Native American thing, they're all these like your websites, and like videos, I've noticed with you guys... they're somewhat more of prominent thing.

Amanda: I think to Diva and I, our aesthetic is really important and if you represent your band then you kind of represent yourself, then you kinda want your art to be in everything and as like a full fledged artist it's not just we want to play you great music but we also want to present you something beautiful or interesting or unique. So if you see our record cover: it reflects us, if you see our video it reflects us and on and on and on. It's kinda sad when you love a band and then you see their art and it's just black with their names in white and they're kinda like 'what does it mean' you know?
Diva: I think a big part of music is taking your own personal world, like your own personal reality that isn't part of this one and giving that to other people, expressing that to other people. And you wanna do that completely and you wanna create an entire world, if music is the most prominent thing you wanna create a world for it to live in not you know.
Amanda: I think it's hard for bands to get lumped into genres and scenes and microcosms of microcosms and we're sort of genre-less and we're sort of aesthetic-full and we just pick colours and images that we connect with all the time then we're much more vibrant than just being rock set in the middle like 'Drone band!' you know, what fun is that?

-TLL: You could have easily been lumped in with that whole West Coast female drone thing with Grouper and Inca Ore, but now you're this full fledged band and it's just developed into this whole other story.

Amanda: It's an incredible blessing to be around people like Liz from Grouper and Eva from Inca Ore and the other women doing their own projects, but I think the vibe of that is a lot about beauty ceaseless and endless beauty and then there's depths to that. We may be more about rhythm and think that starting to be more prominent, our voices are beautiful and they are, but sometimes they're not beautiful but you push it and you're not obsessed with coming across as precious and it think it works for them and that's why it's a beautiful expression of them. And for us, with Bethany and I, we had to be less precious - cause we're not so precious (laughs).

-TLL: I'm not sure why she's not here tonight...
Amanda: She moved to New York to go to college, we had to split coasts. She's much younger than and I couldn't stand in the way of her dreams.
TLL: It seems rude to ask about whether you continue with her, but it seems like a really good friendship between you two, I guess you'd have to be, considering you spend so much time together.
Amanda: Yeah! That's the thing about this particular band, we're all really close and I was obviously incredibly close with Bethany when she lived in my city and Diva's one of my closest friends, and my husbands in the band and two of our really good friends finish up the back line.
TLL: Which one's your husband?
Amanda: My husband's the guitarist, one of the ones with facial hair (laughs), they all have facial- yeah you have to be really close, it's an endeavour.
Diva: We've been together for a week and I think we're just standing strong.
Amanda: (laughs) Yeah, we're standing strong!... No it's been good, you have to be strong and also I think about bands like The Rolling Stones and they go into their shows in five limos, they have five difference dressing rooms, they're like 'Don't talk to me, I've known you for 45 years. Don't even speak to me let's go play Satisfaction and go home'. And I think if you get that point then in the beginning then you have to be brothers and sisters, you have to be close because the creative process is really intense... you know in 45 years I might be like 'Diva, I'm taking a private jet, take your own damn private jet I'll see you when we get to the venue, dammit' - but for now together.

-TLL: How long of the tour have you got left?
Amanda: Two weeks, we've only done one week.
TLL: So it's kinda fresh so far.
Diva: It doesn't feel fresh! (laughs)
Amanda: (laughs)
TLL: Is it too much!?
Amanda: No!
Diva: I mean we're playing every single night on this tour, we haven’t had one day off on this tour, so that's a little intense.
Amanda: We were kinda like 'Hi Ireland... bye Ireland!’ 'Hi Scotland... bye Scotland!'
Diva: At home we're pretty used to staying at home and we've kinda developed our own lives at homes, I mean it's been really amazing, it's been really exciting to come out of that and have all these experiences... but we're not fresh.
A: (laughs) We’re not used to it. We’re doing well, we're eating good food.

-TLL: So do you reckon when you get back, you'll have a bit of a break or do you reckon you'll be going in and recording things?

Diva: We'll have a little, little, little break but we're definitely gonna try and start recording as soon as possible because we have 5 songs already that we need to record and we wanna get the record done, I say as soon as possible but not like rushed, we want it to sound good, as good as it's gonna be. We're gonna start working on that soon.
Amanda: Cause after the tour we'll be slamming at these songs. After 21 days of playing them, if we're not good by then, they’re not meant to be heard by the world (laughs)!

Pocahaunted can be found online at notnotfun.com/pocahaunted and at myspace.com/pocahaunted

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