Interview by Alexander Laurence
Martina Topley-Bird (born 7 May 1975) is a British vocalist who first gained fame as the vocalist on Tricky's debut album Maxinquaye. She worked with him on his follow-up albums and released her own solo album Quixotic (2003). This album was nominated for the Mercury Prize, and was later released in the US as Anything (2004).
There have been a few collaborations with Massive Attack, Gorillaz, and Danger Mouse in recent years. Her second album is called The Blue God (2008), which she worked on with Danger Mouse. This summer there is a live album being released by Damon Albarn. She opened up and toured with Massive Attack in May 2010 in the US. They were on the Jimmy Kimmel show on May 21st, where Martina performed “Tear Drop.” I got to talk to her backstage before the show and catch up with her activity. Martina and some of the Massive Attack band had made a trip to a nearby taco stand.
AL: Have you playing in America before?
Martina: This is the first time that I have toured in America. I have only done one gig at the Tribeca Grand in NYC as a solo artist. That was a showcase gig in 2004. That was all I did.
AL: Did you play in the UK in support of the first record?
Martina: I played in Europe and the UK. We played not many shows. I had a ten piece band and it was expensive to tour. I hadn’t released a record for about five years in 2003, and by that time, the industry had completely changed. I was used to having a label with a whip cracking behind you to get you to tour. There was a sea change and everyone was worried about downloading. Labels were losing money. My label didn’t do tour support. I didn’t know how things operated. I didn’t know that until we started to book a tour. It cost five grand to do a show. I figured that for this showcase that we should have ten people. In my mind, I only wanted to play with three people. But since we were doing one show, we figured “let’s have this big band” and everyone loved it. I played one show supporting Massive Attack back then in Bristol.
AL: What were you doing between the first and second records?
Martina: I was working with several people on material. I thought that I wanted to have one producer for the whole record. I met Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse working on the Gorillaz record. I asked him if he wanted to do a record. He said “yes” and we waited for time he was available.
AL: Who did you make the first record with?
Martina: My stepbrother and his mates in London. I wanted to work with someone who would influence me or had a strong signature sound. I wanted my own sound. I felt good working with my stepbrother. I did a couple tracks with Tricky and David Holmes. David Arnold was on there. On the second album I only worked with Danger Mouse and Josh Klinghofer.
AL: So when Danger Mouse got on board, did you have a bunch of demos, or did you write together?
Martina: Both. I had a lot of songs done. He likes to start from scratch, and I feel like you can never have enough songs. I was happy to do that. I wrote with him, and I wrote separately from him as well. There were only two or three backing tracks that we didn’t use. I am doing this new live album. The record is re-interpretations from the first two albums. The premise of the record is it’s just me and my percussionist and songs. The way we did them live merited a new recording because they all have a different feel. There is an emphasis on music and voice.
AL: When you did these new songs with Massive Attack, was the music already finished and you wrote the vocals?
AL: Do you work that way?
Martina: I start with melody first.
AL: When you write lyrics and songs, are you writing about specific times in your life, or are you just doing story telling?
Martina: It depends. When I write those songs for Massive Attack I still consider them my songs. I write from my own experience and what I am thinking about, but it’s not always literal.
AL: Sometimes a vocalist will do a vocalization of sound rather than words first.
Martina: Yeah. I do that.
AL: Are you playing only new songs on this tour?
Martina: Mostly songs from The Blue God. A few from Quixotic. One new one.
AL: Will you come back and do some solo shows?
Martina: I want to, but I am committed to the Massive Attack tour. They will be playing for a year. They are planning on coming back to Los Angeles in October.
AL: Will you open some of those shows too?
Martina: I hope to.
AL: You had some very colorful dresses in New York. Are we going to see such color here on the west coast?
Martina: Maybe. I have a lot of different colorful kinds of stuff. I like the incongruous nature of me in a dress and doing everything myself.
AL: Do you like any new bands?
Martina: Beach House. I saw them at Coachella.
AL: Is there anything you do before a show?
Martina: I usually drink one glass of champagne.
AL: You are doing some re-interpretations of Massive Attack songs. What do you think of the Elizabeth Frazier vocal?
Martina: I am a big fan of hers. The weird thing is her husband is in the band. Damon and Elizabeth were living in Liverpool at the time. He told me that they moved to Bristol because they liked what I did on the Tricky records. So weirdly, if it wasn’t for me, they would have never moved to Bristol, and there wouldn’t have been a collaboration with Massive Attack. Robert ran into her at a supermarket there.
AL: That is where all good collaborations are made.
Martina: We haven’t changed “Tear Drop” but the feel is different. It’s more naked. It’s very bare.
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They are playing many shows in LA. They are all sold out!
May 30th: Miike Snow @ El Rey
May 31st: Miike Snow @ Henry Fonda
June 1st: Miike Snow @ Belly Up Tavern
June 2nd: Miike Snow @ Henry Fonda
June 3rd: Miike Snow @ Jimmy Kimmel
June 4th: Miike Snow @ Fox Pomona
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WIRE "new song" MOREOVER
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Gallery is here. First Aid Kit photos here taken by Angel Ceballos in Seattle.
First Aid Kit
Interview by Alexander Laurence
First Aid Kit is a band of two swedish teenagers Klara Söderberg (17) and Johanna Söderberg (19). First Aid Kit have been gathering numerous fans worldwide since the release of their “Drunken Trees EP” in February 2009. Their first full length, “The Big Black and The Blue,” comes out this month in the USA. This release will be followed by their first tour of the States in June 2010.
They have played a few shows at SXSW. They have toured the UK and Sweden, but many of us discovered them a while ago on youtube. I am looking forward to their first show in Los Angeles. The reviews have been very positive about their first album. I got to talk to them before they embarked on their first American tour.
AL: How was your experience of SXSW?
First Aid Kit: It was pretty amazing for us to be there. We had never been to America before, so we were excited about that. It’s such a big event that it’s an honor to be part of that. It is a strange environment, but we knew it was a special place to be.
AL: How many shows did you play?
First Aid Kit: We played six shows that week. We played two at the Mohawk. That was our official gig. We played at some other bars. It was chaotic. It was weird, but fun.
AL: Do you just jump on stage and play?
First Aid Kit: We like to do a longer soundcheck. That was impossible there. It’s just the two of us, so it’s not that difficult. We were supposed to play upstairs at a bar. It didn’t work out so we played two songs at another part of the bar where there was an open spot. Another show was cancelled. Sometimes things are strange there and there’s no way of controlling it.
AL: You were supposed to play CMJ back in October 2009. What happened there?
First Aid Kit: We didn’t get our visas in time for the show. It is very difficult to get a work visa sometimes.
AL: Have you played in the UK?
First Aid Kit: Yeah. We have done two proper tours there. We love it. We miss England. We played with Slow Club and Fanfarlo. We did a double headline show with Fanfarlo. Then we did our own headline show. All the shows have been great and exciting. We love the UK audiences.
AL: There are some new bands like Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling in England? What do you think of that?
First Aid Kit: We are not from England and not a real part of that movement. But we feel that there is a big interest in folk music in England. Swedish folk music is very different. We are a like outsiders here in Sweden.
AL: How many videos have you done? I have seen a few where you are in the forest, and others like “Hard Believer” which are more proper videos.
First Aid Kit: We have done a few on our own with a digital camera, like the Fleet Foxes video. The others in the forest we just did ourselves. We just went out and played some cover songs. Then there are a few videos of us in the forest made by some other guys. They are professionals. It was in the same forest where we did the Fleet Foxes song. It’s about five minutes away from where we live. And then we made two more videos, like you said, which are standard videos. They are not live performances.
AL: I saw the covers of Fleet Foxes and Johnny Cash. Which other songs have you covered?
First Aid Kit: Johnny Cash was not our production. We were in Paris and this guy filmed it. We have done “Simple Man” by Graham Nash. There have been about five songs altogether.
AL: Did you find some of these records in your parent’s record collection?
First Aid Kit: No. They don’t really listen to folk music. They were more into rock.
AL: When you said “I like Bright Eyes or Graham Nash” what was your parents’ reaction?
First Aid Kit: A pleasant surprise. Prior to that we listened to more mainstream radio music. They were very happy that we discovered this. As a family we were into the songs on “O Brother, Where Art Thus?” We liked bluegrass.
AL: You had already started the band before you heard Fleet Foxes, am I right?
First Aid Kit: We had released out EP prior to hearing them and recording the cover. We changed the key of the song. Robin Pecknold is such a great guitarist. It was easier for me to play the song the way I played it. I think we left out a chord in the middle. We played with Robin in a festival in Holland. We were so excited to be there, I didn’t know what to do because we do the song in a different key. I am glad we got to do that. Fleet Foxes had seen our video right after we uploaded it.
AL: You have a brother too. Does everyone tour with you?
First Aid Kit: No. Just our father. Our mother and brother are very involved, but our father is the only one who tours with us. He is the only one we work with. It’s a family affair.
AL: The EP sounds a little different from the album. What was going on then?
First Aid Kit: We weren’t sure what we wanted to do. We were just playing around with it. It has a charm. It’s very playful. We are more mature on the album and we had listened to more music by then. We knew more what we wanted to do on the album than when we did the EP.
AL: When did you record the EP and the album?
First Aid Kit: The EP was recorded in 2007. The album started in December 2008 and ended in May 2009. We were still going to school, so we would record it on the weekends.
AL: Have you finished school yet?
First Aid Kit: Yes. Klara took two years off. Our father is a high school teacher. He knows what we are missing. In Sweden, if you miss school, you can always go to school later. It was a choice of whether you wanted to go to school, and do math, or be in a band, go on tour, and be in a studio. It wasn’t hard to make that decision.
AL: I met some Swedish bands, and they told me that the government gives you money to be in a band. Is that true?
First Aid Kit: It’s not exactly like that. The government does help you out but I don’t know if it has helped the music. I still have the opportunity to go back to school when I am thirty. Sweden has a lot of bands.
AL: Have you met a lot of other Swedish bands?
First Aid Kit: Yeah. You definitely feel part of a community. It’s like a big family that supports each other. It’s very encouraging that there are a bunch of Swedish bands out there who already have international careers.
AL: Are you in Stockholm?
First Aid Kit: Yeah.
AL: I noticed that in some of the early videos there is a lot of flannel shirts. But as you go along, there is less. Are you going to bring the flannel on this American tour?
First Aid Kit: I had a flannel period. Now I am trying to mix it up. I will be bringing one flannel shirt just in case. We don’t wear it too much anymore, but maybe when we get to Los Angeles, we will do so.
AL: When you get to Seattle are we going to do a photo session in the forest there?
First Aid Kit: Yeah!
AL: But I heard that Johanna is afraid of trees.
First Aid Kit: That’s scary. You really know me. It’s not all trees. I am scared of certain trees that have been cut a certain way. I am not afraid of the forest. I love the forest.
AL: I see that you did the Bandstand Busking thing. Have you done real busking in Sweden?
First Aid Kit: I did it once when I was 11 or 12. I wasn’t doing it for the money. I was just singing to see how people reacted. It was a great experience. You have hecklers standing there saying “You suck.” You have to take that in. If you are on a stage, there is a respect. But if you just on the street it’s like you are a nobody. Most people are nice.
AL: You play some rock clubs where people drink. Do you have hecklers there?
First Aid Kit: Oh yeah. We were singing “In The Morning” a capella, and some guy was yelling at us once. I told him to shut up and have some respect. You have to talk to them.
AL: You have to make sure you are not going on before some heavy rock outfit.
First Aid Kit: We have no control over those things. We play with a drummer now, so we have more volume. People tend to be quiet when we play.
AL: Do you like The Mighty Boosh?
First Aid Kit: We love that show. (Starts singing “The Soup Song”).
AL: Are there any bands that you like recently?
First Aid Kit: Well, I like Samantha Crain. I can’t believe that she is opening up for us, and I get to watch her every night. We like watching the support bands.
AL: What songs do you play now?
First Aid Kit: A few songs from the EP, a lot of songs from the album, a few covers, and maybe a new song.
AL: How many songs have you written?
First Aid Kit: Eighteen. Plus some new ones.
FIRST AID KIT will be playing their first Los Angeles show ever on June 1st, 2010 at the Bootleg Theater.
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Gallery is here. Los Campesinos! photos here taken by Angel Ceballos in Seattle.
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Gallery is here. Wedding Present photos here taken by Angel Ceballos in Seattle.
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Coming to Los Angeles June 1st.
At the Bootleg Theater....
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Goldfrapp's new single "Alive" is out June 8th with a slew of remixes - and we're giving you a sneak peek right here right now. Hear the whole set here:
http://soundcloud.com/muteusa/sets/goldfrapp-alive-remixes or grab them individually at the links below.
Alive (Joakim Mix)
Alive (Dave Aude Remix)
Alive (Arno Cost Mix)
Catch them on tour
June 21 – WASHINGTON, DC @ 9:30 CLUB
June 23 – NY, NY @ HAMMERSTEIN BALLROOM
June 26 – OAKLAND, CA @ FOX THEATER
June 27 – LA, CA @ HOLLYWOOD BOWL
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MASSIVE ATTACK WILL PERFORM ON U.S. TV FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER WITH FREE OUTDOOR CONCERT ON ABC’S “JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE” FRIDAY, MAY 21ST
First North American Tour Since 2006 Started In Toronto Last Week In Support Of New Album Heligoland
“…one of music’s more spectacular live shows – a cerebral 16-song, 106 minute performance that rivals Radiohead for rock dynamics, vexed nerves, implied drama, astounding sound and thrashing aftershock.” – Q Magazine
(May 13th, 2010 -New York, NY) – Legendary duo Massive Attack who just embarked on their first North American tour since 2006 has announced that they will make their debut U.S. television appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Friday, May 21st to air at 12:05 a.m./ET . Fans can attend the mini-outdoor concert for free, ticket information is available at http://www.1iota.com/events,
4817,Jimmy-Kimmel-Live- MASSIVE-ATTACK-outdoor-mini- concert.html. Massive Attack are currently touring North America in support of their new album Heligoland, which was released in February by Virgin Records. The tour started last week in Toronto and will wrap with a headline performance at this year’s Sasquatch Festival in George, WA on May 30th. Long-time collaborators Martina Topley-Bird and Horace Andy will join Massive Attack on stage during the tour. Martina Topley-Bird will also perform a solo opening set on all dates with Anti Pop Consortium, Neon Indian, MNDR and Nite Jewel supporting on select dates (full schedule below).
Heligoland was released on Feb 9th on EMI’s Virgin Records and debuted at #46 on the Billboard 200, marking the highest U.S. chart position of the duo’s career. An all star cast join founding members Robert Del Naja (3D) and Grand Marshall (Daddy G) on their first studio album in 7 years which includes Damon Albarn, Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, Martina Topley-Bird, Elbow’s Guy Garvey and TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe. USA Today praises the collaborator’s contributions on ‘Heligoland’ by saying, “They give the gloomy grooves and chilled beats a heartbeat but also step into Massive Attack’s otherworldly sonics with enticingly haunted performances.” Billboard praised the album by saying “Massive Attack’s arsenal has expanded and the resulting onslaught is nothing short of brilliant.” Albarn also plays bass on “Flat Of The Blade” and Keyboards on “Splitting The Atom” while Portishead’s Adrian Utley plays guitar on ‘Saturday Come Slow’. The band also collaborated with DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy on selected tracks. The cover artwork features an original image by Robert Del Naja.
Over the last three years Robert Del Naja has written and produced soundtracks for a number of films and documentaries, including ‘Trouble In The Water’, ’44 Inch Chest’, ‘In Prison My Whole Life’ and ‘Gomorra’, the latter for which he won the David Di Donatello Award for Best Song. Last year Massive Attack won the Outstanding Contribution to British Music Award at the Ivor Novello Awards. In September, Massive Attack headlined this year’s Bestival ahead of their first full UK tour in three years.
For more information on Massive Attack, visit www.massiveattack.com or massive attack wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
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Gallery is here. Band of Skulls photos here taken by Angel Ceballos in Seattle.
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Room 7 ½
"beautiful and astonishing"
The Observer Music Monthly magazine
Room 7 ½ is an unusual and arresting collection of heartfelt pleas demanding true love amongst an atmospheric-noir backdrop of some beauty. The album is produced by PJ Harvey producer Rob Ellis and Dot herself.
The album features Bad Seeds members Mick Harvey, James Johnston and the wonderful Mr Terry Edwards. The 11 songs are all delivered in Dot’s velveteen lose-yourself-in-them unique vocals, occasionally punctuated by the eternally youthful yells of Peter Doherty or the sexy growl of Paul Weller.
Free download track #3 I Wanna Break Your Heart Feat. Peter Doherty
Room 7 ½ Collaborators
“I got involved with Paul Weller as he texted me out of the blue one night when he was out with Bobby Gillespie” says Dot, “He just introduced himself, explained he got my number from Bob and asked if I fancied writing a song with him”. So, off they went and the result is “Love’s Got Me Crazy”.
'Love's Got Me Crazy' appeared in the Mojo Playlist monthly top 10 tunes at a much coveted No. 2 position.
The album’s other duet, the frenetic “I Wanna Break Your Heart”, is with Peter Doherty and will be the lead single in the US, expect remixes to be had shortly. The duet was hailed as 'Songs you must hear' on the NME weekly top 10 chart at No. 3 and 'I Wanna Break Your Heart' also topped the NME Jukebox chart at No. 1.
Dot has collaborated with Peter on many occasions; whether it’s co-writing songs or performing with Babyshambles. She also co-wrote the duet “Sheepskin Tearaway” on his debut solo album. Dot explains how the partnership between herself and Peter came about…
“I sang on “At The Flophouse” without even meeting him (He liked my voice from afar and asked me to cover it as a B- side for The Shambles) I went to the studio and it was just me and the engineer, so I recorded it myself. Later he texted me to ask me to perform with him singing Carl's parts at The Rhythm Factory... and that was the beginning to our long term writing and performing partnership” Dot co-wrote and is featured on Peter Doherty's long awaited and well-received solo LP.
She also went on tour extensively with Peter around the UK & Europe, both supporting and guesting with Peter alongside Graham Coxon and Stephen Street.
The final piece of this collaboration triumvirate came in the form of the Bad Seeds’ Mick Harvey for “Cry”. Dot was also a fan of his work with PJ Harvey and she wanted to create a similar sound for “Room 7 ½”. She says “I asked (producer) Rob Ellis to approach Mick, James Johnston and Terry Edwards of the Bad Seeds to help me get that natural sound. With these musicians, I love the looseness and space they leave and their choice of sound and harmony, I think they are incredibly empathic, emotive players”
The album also features a cover of the Scott Walker song “Montague Terrace (in Blue)” which originally appeared on the tribute album “30th Century Man”. Scott requested that Dot join his production of "Drifting And Tilting" (The songs of Scott Walker) at The Barbican in Autumn 2008 alongside Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker and Baritone Owen Gilhooly among others.
Dot has been supported at BBC radio nationally and has taken part in several regional programs, both being interviewed and playing live sessions, including BBC London, BBC Ulster, BBC Scotland, BBC Manchester, BBC Liverpool, BBC Nottingham & BBC Birmingham.
Dot is currently breaking into motion picture world and has just completed recording on a new film score, 'The Black Death' starring Sean Bean for the director Chris Smith with Christian Henson. Dot is the soloist and performs with a 40 piece orchestra in this bleak, visceral beautiful score. She is heavily featured throughout the film.
Dot also recently collaborated with Christian Henson for another new horror movie directed by Chris Smiths, which is called “Triangle” where her voice is a large part of the original score.
Dot was synched onto the last Judd Apatow movie, 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' which was Number 1 at the U.S. box office.
Dot was Number 1 on The Guardian playlist in the Film & Music section
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I was born on May 6th.
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I did an interview with The Buzzcocks in 2003. I just found out that I forgot to post it here. It's a great interview and they are playing again in the LA area on June 5th and 6th.
The Buzzcocks Interview (2003)
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The Buzzcocks Interview (2003)
by Alexander Laurence
Formed in Manchester in 1975, the Buzzcocks were one of the most influential bands to emerge in the initial wave of punk rock. Over the years, their powerful punk-pop has proven enormously influential, with echoes of their music being apparent in everyone from Hüsker Dü to Nirvana. Shortly after their formation, Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto booked a local club, the Lesser Free Trade Hall, with the intent of persuading the Sex Pistols to play in Manchester. At the Pistols show, Shelley and Devoto met Steve Diggle, who joined the Buzzcocks as their bassist, and the group found their drummer John Maher through an advertisement in Melody Maker. Within a few months, the band played their first concert, opening for the second Sex Pistols show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in July of 1976.
At the end of 1976, the group joined the Sex Pistols on their Anarchy Tour. After the tour was completed, The Buzzcocks released the first do-it-yourself, independent record of the punk era. The Buzzcocks released several singles that charted in the Top 40. The band released the great albums Another Music in a Different Kitchen (1977) and Love Bites (1978). Later, A Different Kind of Tension (1979) displayed some signs of wear and tear. They embarked on their first American tour in that year, which coincided withthe singles collection, Singles Going Steady (1979), was released in America. They were at the height of their popularity. Their record company was bought out and they took a year off. Losing the momentum along the way, The Buzzcocks broke up in 1981.
During the 1980s there was many rumors that they would reform. In 1989, the group did and toured the United States. The following year, John Maher left the band and former Smiths drummer Mike Joyce joined the band on tour. By 1990, the reunion had become permanent; after Joyce's brief tenure with the band, the final lineup of the reunited Buzzcocks featured Shelley, Diggle, bassist Tony Barber, and drummer Phil Barker. The new version of the band released their first album with the new lineup, Trade Test Transmissions (1993). After its release, the band toured frequently. The Buzzcocks released more albums in the following years: All Set (1996), Modern (1999). Recently, they have come out with their most raw album yet: entitled just Buzzcocks (2003). This is the band playing at their peak, twenty years later.
I spoke to bassist, Tony Barber and guitarist/singer, Steve Diggle.
AL: Have you been in the band for a long time?
Tony: Twelve years. Every record in the 1990s except the first single. Me and Phil Barker have been in the band since 1992. We have been on the last four studio albums. We have been on all the live albums. Who knows what else?
AL: People seem to like the new album. When did you start recording it?
Tony: We started doing the demos for four months. We actually started recording in January 2002. Me and Steve got together. Steve had some songs. We went through a pile of tapes and a bunch of songs, and went through them all. We sat down and made demos for a while.
AL: How did you decide what songs to choose?
Tony: They chose themselves really. After I did some demos with Steve, I went over to Pete's house, and helped with his demos. After a while we got a bunch of songs together and recorded them. We recorded thirteen songs at first. Then we decided that about eight were good. We knew what kind of record we wanted to make. We came back four months later and recorded some more songs. Out of the two sessions we had the album. There is a bunch of stuff left over. We just put out a 45 limited edition vinyl only. There are a lot of collectors in Britain. We just sold the last one the other night. It's not really a single. We just wanted to do this additional single with this independent label, Damaged Goods.
AL: You did a few songs by Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto?
Steve: What happened was when we started writing stuff for this album, Pete and Howard got back together and started writing. They had no intention of getting back together and doing a record. They wrote that track "Stars." That was written for the new Buzzcocks record. But in between the time they wrote it and our album coming out, they continued writing, and made the Buzzkunst record. It's on there too. We are not doing a cover. It was written for the Buzzcocks record. But their record came out first.
AL: And the song "Lester Sands?"
Steve: That's an old song. That's a song we did on the first demos when we first got together in 1976. It's never come out as an official release, so we put it on the new album twenty-six years later.
AL: What did you think of the Buzzkunst record?
Steve: I thought it was shit. It's not my bag really.
AL: Howard hasn't done any music in a while.
Steve: You have to get a persepctive. He did seven gigs with us and left twenty six years ago. He hasn't been around since the first record, Spiral Scratch.
Tony: We have done more gigs than that this week!
Steve: People keep asking: "Where is he?" He left a long time ago. The lineup is what it is now. We have been playing for more than ten years, and that's longer than Devoto was ever in the band. He did do this song. It causes confusion. People think he has joined again. He'll never be back. He doesn't tour and there's no place for him. He did four albums as Magazine. I see him as being more Magazine than Buzzcocks.
AL: Does Howard show up to some of your gigs?
Steve: He doesn't even go out. There's eight great songs on the new album. It's a great band as it is. He's ancient history.
Tony: If the Buzzcocks broke up after Spiral Scratch, and not gone on and done fifteen hit singles and been on Top of The Pops a load of times, I don't think that people would be talking about Howard Devoto to be honest. If you are talking about Buzzcocks, it's like saying Garth played a big part in the Buzzcocks. He played on one single like Howard Devoto.
AL: Part of the reason there's an interest in Devoto, as there is in Joy Division, is because of this movie Twenty Hour Party People. What did you think of that?
Steve: Again, that starts with a clip of the Sex Pistols, a clip of the Buzzcocks, and shows you that first Free Trade audience. Then it leaps about five years into the 1980s. The bands they feature are Happy Mondays which have fuck all to do with punk music. That was 1980s dance scene. The Hacienda wasn't built till 1980. Punk started in Manchester in 1976. That was the scene with Tony Wilson. It's sort of a misnomer: it's not really out of punk rock. There was five years of small clubs and people writing fanzines in toilets. There should be a film about that.
Tony: If you want to do a film about the Manchester punk scene it would have to start in 1975, surely.
Steve: Yeah. They wouldn't let you in clubs in the beginning. There was one club that let punks in. It's a good film. It's funny. It's not really a punk rock film.
AL: Did you play with Joy Division?
Steve: They supported us in the early days. Ian Curtis died after the tour we did with them. He hung himself two days after the tour. They were playing small clubs at that point. We had moved to the theaters. We were on the charts and played Top of The Pops. We took them along on tour. Joy Division was still unknown. There was a vibe about them. We had a party after the last show in Edinburgh. Ian said to me: "I have this problem. I met this girl in Paris and I am married." To anyone in a band, being twenty two years old, that didn't seem that problematic. It was a moral dilemma. He was his own man. You didn't think much of it. Two days later I was at a club and I found out that he had hung himself. I thought that was weird. I was with him two days earlier. He was telling me that story of being traumatized.
AL: What where the first shows like in America?
Steve: We waited for about two years. We had been invited over a few times. We came over with Gang of Four because they had the same agency as us. It was a sold out tour. We played some medium sized venues that held a thousand people. Some palces were small clubs. Then we played the last show at the Santa Monica Civic for five thousand people. That was a pleasant surprise. I remember seeing that Elvis Costello was playing the Whiskey. We were playing down the road and we sold out the Santa Monica Civic. That was 1978. That was our first American tour. People said that they were waiting for us two years.
AL: You both live in London?
Tony: I live in Williamsburg, but I still have a house in London. I am back and forth.
Steve: I have lived there for eleven or twelve years. I hate London. My accent has changed.
Tony: I live near Walthamstow. It's about four miles from Steve. He's more Northwest.
Steve: I am three stops from Camden Town.
AL: Oh yeah. Everyone goes there.
Tony: That's the Williamsburg of London: Camden Road.
AL: Is there much to do in Manchester anymore? Do you ever go back there?
Steve: It's the center really. It's not that big. It's easy to get around. You can go around for drinks. The rest is suburbia after that.
Tony: It's like London. There's a center and there's surrounding villages and towns. It's all part of the whole thing. No one from London lives on Charing Cross Road. People used to squat in Russell Square in the early 1980s.
AL: What was it like playing the Inland Invasion last year? There were a lot of new American punk bands who were inspired by especially The Buzzcoxks, since they also combine melodies with punk music.
Steve: It was a good lineup. It was a good day for people who like that kind of music. Many people want to see The Sex Pistols and The Buzzcocks. I spoke to someone from The Offspring. They covered "Autonomy" as well. They must be inspired by The Buzzcocks. I think of Blink 182 but I didn't run into them. The generation we come from which includes The Sex Pistols, The Clash, and The Buzzcocks, there is something solid. You can tell the difference. It's more unique. When we started, we found our own identity by being ourselves and doing what we wanted to do. We were working in the dark. Whereas, some of these bands see what went on and synthesize things and go "We should be like that."
Tony: This kid was telling me the other day "Those other bands just sing about their girlfriend." I knew exactly what he meant. It's too stylized.
Steve: The way they jump about, it's like they don't have no feeling or have anything to do with music. It is like it is choreographed. Good luck to them.
AL: Were there any specific bands you were inspired by at the beginning?
Steve: Some Bowie and some Bolan. When we started we just made the music on the spot. We never started copying someone's record. We weren't the kind of players who could figure out the chords and play them. It was easier to write your own tunes. You can't hear the influences. The Ramones was an influence. When we started, The Ramones first record had come out. We had copies of that. You can hear the similarities between The Buzzcocks and The Ramones in terms of the distorted guitars. It wasn't a conscious thing. Me and Pete grew up with The Beatles as well. He liked a tune. I liked a tune as well. That's there.
AL: Who came up with the one note guitar solo?
Steve: Pete did that in rehearsal one time. We were playing "Boredom" and he did that. We just fell about laughing. It's very distinctive.
AL: Did you like any other bands from Manchester?
Steve: I like The Smiths as well. They took a cue from The Buzzcocks. They have jangly guitars instead of distorted guitars. All the Manchester bands have a character about them. The Stone Roses and The Smiths and all that. Even if you don't like them, they have a certain original sound.
AL: What did you think of Oasis?
Steve: I thought that Oasis was good when they first started. There was nothing happening at the time. They came out at the right time.
AL: What sort of songs do you play on this tour?
Tony: It changes from tour to tour. If you keep going out on the road and do the same set all the time, it's like being a fucking cabaret band. We always make our set reflect what our new album is about. The last tour and the last album was more eclectic and experimental sounding. We were doing songs like "Moving Away From The Pulse Beat," "Why Can't I Touch It?" and "ESP." We were doing the weirder stuff and some synths. This new album is just twelve songs and it's thirty-five minutes. That is what the set is like. It's more stylized to that album. There are a lot of two minute songs.
AL: Many people like this new album because it's so fast and has a lot of energy. Another band from that time, Wire, have just released a new album featuring fast and shouted singing. Have you ever played with them?
Steve: I don't think we have. We were supposed to do this tour recently.
Tony: For the last five years, this American promoter keeps asking us to do this tour. He reckons it's going to be Devo, Buzzcocks, Wire, Pere Ubu, and somebody else. It's supposed to be this big tour. It's been in the cards for years.
AL: Is that going to happen?
Steve: I don't know. But in a way I am glad it hasn't happened. This tour has been great. We are joining Pearl Jam on the east coast.
AL: You are playing with Pearl Jam at Madison Square Garden on July 8th. What is that going to be like?
Steve: People wonder if the Pearl Jam audience will get into The Buzzcocks. Eddie Vedder is a big Buzzcocks fan. He used to come to see Buzzcocks before he was in Pearl Jam. If his fans like what he likes, I guess that they might like The Buzzcocks.
AL: How many shows are you playing with Pearl Jam?
Tony: I think it's thirteen shows. It came out of the blue. We were getting ready to put out our record. We got a call from our agent saying that Pearl Jam had been in touch. They requested us to be special guests on their tour. Someone asked us today: "Did Pearl Jam ask you, or did you ask them." Like as if we phoned them.
AL: What are some of the other previous members of the Buzzcocks doing like John Maher?
Steve: John is doing dragster racing. Steve Garvey is hanging about in Philadelphia. He has got a few kids and all that. He's getting on with his life. He doesn't do music anymore.
AL: What about Garth?
Steve: We are still looking for him. I don't know what happened. He's disappeared.
AL: Do these guys ever show up to gigs?
Tony: Steve will be there at the Philly show or in New York.
AL: Are there any new groups that you played with that you thought were good?
Steve: There was a girl group in Australia called The Spazzies.
AL: Are you going to do another album soon?
Tony: I think the plan was to tour for the rest of the year. Take a few months off. We might start another record early next year. We haven't done a record the next year in the past twelve years. It's a challenge to do another record right away. I am getting fed up with waiting three years to put out a record. The record industry is geared up nowadays for putting out a record and touring for a year or two. You leave it all and then you let it all go down and then you let it build back up again. But on this tour, we are doing like one hundred and fifty shows and we are rocking. We could easily go back in and do another album. It would only take us two weeks to record another album.
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The Raveonettes are playing a free show this saturday, May 8th at OC art institute. It's in Costa Mesa near South Coast Plaza. See you there.
The Raveonettes at OC Art Institute
Harbor and Sunflower
Events starts at 3pm
Raveonettes at 8pm
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