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Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Acid Fascists - These are the howling sounds of the Acid Fascists

'Slogans and symbols mean nothing at all.....HEY MOTHERFUCKER get up against the wall' is 100% definitely a lyric from Edinburgh's mighty beat combo The Acid Fascists, but it's equally a grindcore anthem for the masses.
A big sexy rolling bump and grind that's bearing it's teeth and growling at the moon.
It's also the first, and last, of seven gems that features on the very aptly titled 'These are the howling sounds of the Acid Fascists', album.
A collection of songs that could blow the roof off of any club.
In fact play this through a very large bank of amps aimed at a city, and when the last chord rings out then have a peak around the corner of said amps.
It will look like the the four horsemen of the apocalypse have ridden into town for a party.
It's that relentlessly powerful that it feels like a force of nature.
The last time I heard a garage punk band that had an impact like this was the last time the Acid Fascists released an album.
That's not to say I don't enjoy a blast of dirty sixties inspired rock and roll from other bands, but instead that these guys consistently deliver it to such a high quality that the other fantastic exponents of the stomp and roll that I enjoy fall in line behind the Acid Fascists.
There's no point in saying any more. Just watch the video and let the music do the talking...........motherfucker.

You can contact the band and buy this might opus here.

Destroy Nate Allen - With Our Powers Combined

When you hear the term folk punk it immediately leads you to a certain sound.
The sound of earnest young men and women thrashing on acoustic guitars with clench jawed determination.
Along with the sound is the obligatory 'this guitar kills fascists' statement scratched into the body of said guitar, or if they can afford it, a sticker bearing the legendary Guthrie comment.
So here's husband and wife duo of Destroy Nate Allen who are a self proclaimed folk punk act..........only they are like no other folk punk duo that you have ever heard before.
Instead of pandering to expectations they are more about day-glo clothes, big happy smiles, kindergarten entertainment for adults, and a take on punk and folk that most people wont really feel has much to do with either genre.
Although I would disagree.
From my point of view the relaxing of the genre rules of both camps has provided us with an album that has more to do with the real roots of both styles than most would care to admit.
With this album, 'With Our Powers Combined' they have thrown a multicoloured flash-bomb into both sepia toned genres and given them the garish hues of a cartoon.
It's akin to listening to the music in the heads of hyperactive kids.
Unabashed, unashamed and joyous expressions of whatever is going through their heads at any given time.
Brilliantly unrestrained.
It's their seventh album, the first with a full backing band – Gnarbots – and it's a frenetic head trip of youthful wild abandon as seen through the eyes of two adults who while they are fully aware of the the the good and bad in the world, haven't lost the ability to comprehend it in a more honest and childlike manner, and then express it in a very exciting way.
The album has been my own little ray of sunshine on a cloudy day, and who could ask for more than that?
Big smiles R US. 

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Dee Snider - Dee Does Broadway

I've got a hat here and I'm eating it.
The reason I am munching on the brim is because a few weeks ago I was laughing at the prospect of Dee Snider releasing an album of show tunes.
The whole Billy Idol Christmas album debacle rushed to the forefront of my mind and I was quick to express my low expectations publicly.
Nothing positive sprung to mind about the concept at all.
Then I heard the album, and now I'm eating a hat.
Dee Snider gets an A for this, and it's an A for Awesome.
Laugh all you want, but I love it.
There's always been a great deal of humour in the gonzo approach to rock that Dee and his band mates in Twisted Sister have displayed, and while it isn't missing on this album it is well balanced.
Show tunes are supposed to be over the top anyway, and if you want an over the top vocal then Dee is the guy to deliver it, and deliver it he does time after time on this.
There's also a bunch of pretty cool guests such as Cyndi Lauper helping out, and the addition of these guests all add to the wide variety of material that is grabbed and throttled by Dee.
It's a pretty heady mix of show tunes from the iconic Cabaret to Stephen Sondheim's Ballad of Sweeney Todd that manages to take make the Burton movie version come across as weak as dishwasher.
I fully expect a bit of a backlash as I expect most will be laughing rather loudly at the idea, if not the execution of it.
Fair enough. Bring it on.
I feel very comfortable in stating that my initial loathing of the idea was rooted in nothing but ignorance, and now I have heard the album repeatedly I have to be honest and admit it.
Similar to Iggy Pops recent release this is an album that people need to listen to with fresh ears and leave the respective artists back catalogues out of the equation.
If the public can do that then I suspect they will get hours of enjoyment from listening to it.

Here's a nice tongue in cheek video of Mack the Knife that owes a lot to Twisted Sister.

Iggy Pop - Apres

There's a few current releases that apparently don't make much sense on paper, or are leaving fans of the artists bemused with the intent of their idols.
Once such album is Iggy Pop's 'Apres'.
It's his second album that you could say has been recorded for a Francophile audience, with much of it being covers of songs sung in French, with the addition of a few English speaking ones that have a Gallic flavour to them.
His record company didn't want it as no one involved seemed to think that it could make them any money.
So Iggy released it himself.
It's less a bold move than a shrewd one, because it's a damn fine album, and by being independently released, without any involvement from his label, I suspect that as the money rolls into the Iggsters bank account some record execs could be kicking themselves for refusing to put their finger in the pie and showing the punk lizard king some faith.
I doubt that many would disagree on listening to it that Iggy displays a vocal range that effortlessly fits this style of material.
Cast aside preconceived ideas, close your eyes and listen, and it makes complete sense.
There's a drawling aspect to how he enunciates the words that verges on being stereotypically Gallic, but not in a cartoonish way.
It just seems naturally a fit between tone and delivery.
It works.
Whether it is Edith Piaf or Cole Porter he nails it.
Granted, the less open minded Iggy Pop fans who want a bit of Raw Power may struggle to feel any affinity with Apres, but it's not going to be as vast a reach for those who have weathered the years with the Godfather of Punk.
Neatly side stepping the expected he has once again managed to surprise an audience.
How many other 65 year old performers are still doing whatever they damn well please and doing it so well?
Not many is the answer you are reaching for.

Dark Shadows

Well it's an Orange Wednesday cinerama extravaganza for the second week in a row for Kel and me.
After last weeks surprise enjoyment of the Indonesian ultimate fighting movie 'The Raid' it was a similar experience again as I have to admit to really enjoying Tim Burton's 'Dark Shadows'.
Like others I've been slowly losing faith in Burton, and while I have enjoyed a few of his films over the last few years (Sweeney Todd was acceptable I thought), I could argue that none of them have had the impact of some of his older classics (Mars Attacks/Sleepy Hollow/Big Fish).
Alice in Wonderland for example has very few redeeming qualities at all, and while I would jump to defend the right to anyone expressing themselves artistically, that would be the exception to the rule, and should have been aborted at the idea stage.

However, Dark Shadows on the other hand, is a very enjoyable romp indeed.
It's more akin to an Addams Family movie for a slightly older audience than a carbon copy homage to the original series that is the source material, but what is wrong with that?
It wasn't aired here in the UK anyway. So I very much doubt that any sort of sizeable number of people could make a comparison.
For most this will be a singular movie that has no ties to the past.
A stand alone Burton/Depp collaboration, and on that basis it is far better than a few I could mention.
It's not all fantastic though.
If I was to pick at something that annoyed me it would be the involvement of Helena Bonham Carter.
Her role just seems to have been welded on to give her some screen time and another mention on the IMDB website.
Sheer wasteful nepotism really.
I could have maybe let it slip past if she had some of her wonderful cleavage on show, but she didn't.
I mean c'mon.
Carter minus cleavage is pointless. 
Why do women think that us men sat through the costume dramas she was in?
Like I said. Pointless.
On the flip side of the coin, the bit I did very much like was another pointless part of the film, and that was the section that focused on Alice Coopers cameo.
Some have claimed the film to be disjointed, and this may be the portion that springs to their mind as it could be a mini promo video for Alice if you extracted it from the film.
A brilliant Burton directed Cooper promo vid at that though.
So while it does stand out, and it would be foolish to deny that, its inclusion didn't really derail the film at all.
Maybe the problem with Dark Shadows is that some can't see the wood for focussing on the trees.
Break anything down and you will find enough faults to put you off, but why go to that effort when instead you could just sit back, turn your brain off, and go with the flow and enjoy it for what it is.
A fun filled and daft movie with a ghoulish bent to it.

Suspire - Get yourself together

The first I heard of Suspire was when a mate, Robbile Mills, was telling me I should check them out after he had seen them blow some headline act away.
I have to admit that at the time they managed to get lost in the shuffle of multiple recommendations and until now I'd failed to lend them an ear.
Never one to shy away from admitting my own failings I'll happily accept that this was a big mistake on my part.
When I was told to seek them out I should have.
It really is that simple.
They're not a band that should be left sitting in the corner.
Check this out.

Classy bonus is that they are playing the Dirty Weekender this Friday.
Fingers crossed that they don't clash with one of the other equally fantastic bands that are on offer.

Hurray for the Riff Raff/The Dirt/Matt Scott/Little Fire - The Bay - 30/18/12 (Glasgow)

It gives me a great deal of pleasure to announce that itsaXXXXthing is once again going to be dipping its toe into the shark infested pool more commonly known as promoting, and I will be putting on the utterly fantastic Hurray for the Riff Raff from New Orleans in Glasgow.If you haven't heard of them just yet, then don't worry. You soon will.
With an album that The Times and Mojo are heaping praise on, and plenty of live performances that are leaving audiences gape jawed in wonderment at the talents on display, I fully expect that by the close of this year their star will be on the rise and the name of the band will rest easily on the lips of many. Watch the footage below and I won't really have to say anything else about them, as that will say far more than I could about just how special this band are.
Oh. I was just asked what the Alabama Shakes connection is.
It's that the Alabama Shakes guitarist produced the current album Look Out Mamma.

In support are three acts who I personally feel no shame in saying that I am a fan off.

Little Fire who has played with everyone from The Secret Sisters to JLS, and has a gig coming up with the legendary Joan Armatrading very graciously accepted the offer to play, and I am sure that the music fans of Glasgow will be as impressed with his music as I am.

Matt Scott is a personal friend, but our friendship has nothing to do with his name being added to the bill. 
Instead he is there because he has an uncanny knack of blowing an audience away.
Raised on classic rock music he has grown into a young man who has learned his craft at the feat of varied artist such as Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Frankie Miller and others who would be credited as poetic geniuses as well as accomplished musicians. 

Last, but it is obligatory to mention, by no means least is The Dirt.
With his deep vocal range Graeme Dirt is the Johnny to Jen Dirt's June, but don't expect a jolly rendition of 'Jackson' from this pair as their hearts are of a more darker hu,e and they delve into the anti-populist genre of the murder ballad with a great deal of aplomb.

As of an hour ago when The Dirt confirmed and the whole line up was secured I felt a chill of excitement run up and down my spine. This is going to be a great gig. I can feel it in my bones.
If I wasn't putting it on I would be attending it anyway.

As for the venue itself. This will be the first time that I will have used The Bay in Glasgow and I am looking forward to working with them on this as their ethical approach to hosting bands is something that I admire.

All in this has been a good day. I hope you can all join me on the night as the entertainment will be of the highest standard, and coupled with very reasonable drink prices and the allure of food I reckon this gig will cover the needs of most music lovers looking for a special night out on the town.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Chris Devotion and the Expectations - Amalgamation and Capital

I could have reviewed this months ago, but I didn't want to.
The reason wont make much sense to many, but it was because I think it deserved to be reviewed once I had actually parted with cash for it rather than from mp3s sent through.
I wanted to be able to hold it in my hand, slide the disc out, place it in the tray and crank up the volume and engage with it on a physical level before uttering one word about it because that's what this album deserves.
For me this is the pop album of the year, and while some will shudder at the word pop being mentioned I should clarify what that means to me.
It's that the music on this is hugely, immensely, tremendously danceable.
It's Husker Du on a sunny day, the Ramones surfing in the warm Californain sun, it's the Pixies at a barbecue, and much more.
It's sharp and soft. It's heartbreaking and uplifting, it's losing a love and finding another.
There's slashing guitars, pounding drums and bass, songs sung from the heart, and within all that it retains a sense of a catchy tune and manages to maintain an unbreakable grip on a hook.
How do you put into words just how good something is when you are at a loss to find any that would do it justice.
That's my problem here.
Nothing I can say is going to come anywhere close to describing how completely fantastic this is in its entirety.
I could wax lyrical about this, and even throw out praise worthy comments for hours on end, and they would still all fall short of being able to convey how much I personally love this album.
CD/EX were being touted as a band to watch in 2012 by the BBC, and recently were announced as an act that will appear on the T Break stage at the globally recognized T In The Park Festival, and without feeling that I am over stating this I believe that every single plaudit that is cast their way is well deserved and now, not tomorrow, is when you should allow yourself to be beguiled by them.

The Girobabies - Big Society (Apocalypse) ft Loki & Mog.

This is a (sort of) review of a singular song that I was privileged to hear today.
It's not even a finished song, but it is important to me that I give readers a heads up and ask them to keep an eye out for it when the fully finished track is available to the public because some songs actually need to be heard.
Some songs go far beyond just being a tune in the background, and rather become an expression of a moment in time.
They are the voice of a section of society who are no longer asking for permission to speak, but instead are providing an unvarnished truth to be considered, and this is one of those songs.

Listening to the Sun Dog mix of the Girobabies track Big Society (Apocalypse) that features Loki and Mog is like being pushed violently thrown through the back of the wardrobe and instead of finding yourself in Narnia your picking yourself up from the rubble and gasping for breath in a dystopian landscape of frightening proportions.
Yet anyone with half a brain will hear the truth in the lyrics.
You can't look away, plug your ears, or bury your head in the sand, because this song isn't a warning of a future that occupies the distant horizon.
Half of it is rooted in today and the other half in tomorrow.
It's a hypnotically caustic appraisal of society as it is and what it is going to be.
Very few people are going to feel comfortable about this, but the Girobabies and a couple of cohorts are delivering a bitter pill that needs to be swallowed.


Dick Valentine/Tragic City Thieves - ABC2 - Glasgow (25/05/12)

I like the unexpected.
The moment when you realize that what you think you are going to get doesn't quite transpire, and instead it's a whole new ballgame.
I would happily exist in that moment, that exact second when peoples preconceived ideas are bitch slapped to tears.
In a list of personal motto's I suspect that 'dash my expectations motherfucker. I dare you.' would rank quite high.
So when Tragic City Thieves took to the stage, in support of Electric 6's Dick Valentine in the ABC2, and began an acoustic set the shivers ran up and down my spine as I was caught completely unaware.
This was not what glam trash terrorists should sound like.
Instead of thrashing the songs out acoustically the band have reworked them completely, and while they are recognisable as the originals its very obvious these beasts have a thumping heart all of their own.
Each song is the bastard offspring of what has come before.
In the space of one track being played a whole world of new opportunities opened up for them.
In the future they needn't feel constrained to playing electric sets as acoustically they are just as fantastic a band.
The guitar work from Stu seemed effortlessly organic. On each song he provided the perfect balance of flourishes and at times there was a definite cinematic feel to it all.
If pushed I could probably write a thousand word essay on how impressed I was with his ability to paint an aural picture over every song, but I could equally do the same for both Jim and CJ.
Jim's use of an acoustic bass instead of an electric, as I so often see being played in acoustic sets, gave everything a warm and authentic feel, while CJ's vocals allowed us all to appreciate his abilities as lyricist with his delivery of the songs.
In less than a week I have seen these guys play two completely different sets, and both have cemented in my opinion that no one comes close to touching what they do here in Scotland.
If this band fail to make an impact on a much larger scale then I would forever use them as an example of how talent and passion does not necessary equate to success, and that's just wrong.
If you have it, then you should reap the rewards. Simple as that, and these guys have got it in spades.
So how does Dick Valentine follow that?
Well quite easily truth be told.
Even without the pizazz that Electric 6 have, Dick on his own still commands attention.
He doesn't even really have to do much to draw the eye to him.
It seems to be that he naturally has a quality about him that has a presence on stage.
When he ambles on he could be a roadie, but no one pays much attention to roadies while every eye in the house is on Dick plugging his guitar in.
Avoiding the big entrance he steps up and shakes hands and chats with fans before getting down to the business it hand.
This isn't really what people expect from a headlining act from the US playing a show, but Dick could never be accused of following the herd. .
For all intents and purposes this is actually less of a gig as we know it, and more an artists communing with his fans on a very basic level.
From the beginning to the end it's all very relaxed with the between song banter akin to friends just shooting the shit.
I like it.
There's a real warmth in the room, and he's more than deserving of the reaction he gets when he does start in on the opening song of the evening.
Part of the appreciation may come from the audience knowing that this is a real solo tour to.
It's quite literally one man, a guitar, a bag full of CDs and a train ticket.
It's not a new concept and bands have been doing it forever, but the pioneering spirit of globe-trotting with a bag full of songs and little else is one that I find alluring, and I suspect others do to.
It's got an appeal to it.
No doubt their will be hardships along the way, long hours filled with mundane shit, and nights where he is so bored sitting alone in a hotel room that he may succumb to masturbating himself close to death just to fill the time, but they will hopefully fall short of shadowing the good times.
Let's be honest here and admit that travelling the world, experiencing new adventures on a daily basis, and entertaining people at night with a song is something that most of us would love to do, and here he is doing it.
The wandering troubadour aspect is tantalizing isn't it?
Anyway, the gig, yeah, the gig.
An easy raconteur Dick happily lefts Electric 6 at the door and mainly concentrated on the material from his solo album 'Destroy the Children'.
His run through of the songs illustrates that he is a songwriter of no little talent, and while some have dismissed his humorous approach to a song as on par with a low rent Tenacious D I would strongly disagree, and instead firmly push the argument that managing to insert some fun into a song doesn't make it comedic.
When you listen to him there's plenty of darkness alongside the sunshine and you would be pushed to name someone else who can deliver it so well.
He provides the audience with plenty of proof of this.
Songs like Mr Shadow and I Don't Speak French had me standing there trying to get the smile on my face under control before the muscles on my face had a mishap.
Brilliant material and it stand up alongside the best he has written throughout his career
Even the surprise inclusion in the set of Keane's 'Everybody's Changing' wasn't enough to derail the experience for me as it was quite frankly better than the original.
The gig was one that flew past.
A sure sign that it was an enjoyable one, and I'm pretty sure that everyone there will have been as equally impressed as I was and will be sure to acquire an Electric 6 ticket for November.
Maybe the full on Electric 6 gig could have the full on Tragic City Thieves in support.
Now that would be a gig that would require the ABC to check that the insurance for their roof is covered for acts of rock that could leave it blown off.

Highlight of the year may be a Glaswegian crowd chanting WE WANT DICK, WE WANT DICK, with no shame or explanation offered.
We should have taken the chant out on the street after the show and continued it long into the night.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Raid

What I know about Indonesian cinema could be fitted on the end of a pinhead.
A very small pinhead. A pinhead so small that it wouldn't be visible to the naked eye.
Yet today Kelly and myself availed ourselves of the Orange Wednesday deal and went to see the uber-violent, and much lauded, 'The Raid'.
We both came away from it stunned at how such a limited story stretched over a hundred odd minutes could be so exhilaratingly entertaining.
Here's the spoiler, so if you don't want to know what it is about I would advice you to look to your right and pick a blog that I've got listed as a favourite and amuse yourself reading them until I return with an update that tickles your fancy.
Got that?
The Raid is about an Indonesian SWAT team sent on a mission to extract a gang leader from a block of flats that he rules with an iron fist.
The whole block is very nearly solely occupied by junkies, scum, thieves and assorted villains who are under the protection of the gang leader at a cost.
The twist is that it's not an official raid, but more a hit on the gang leader by persons unknown.
A back story is that one of the rookie cops has a brother who is the gang leaders right hand man.
As soon as the SWAT team arrive it isn't long before they suffer major casualties and there are only a handful of survivors left fighting for their lives with no back up.
Cue mayhem.
That's it in a nutshell.
I am actually very surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.
For long periods of time there is zero dialogue and just one fight scene rolling into another with the body count increasingly rising and rising, yet it is done with such style that I would say that it verged on balletic.
The choreography would shame some professional dancers.
It just looks exhaustingly fantastic.
The violence isn't the draw, but instead the relentless and physically daunting aspects of the interaction between the fighters.
If anyone had asked me if I could have sat through two guys trading blows for five minutes or more without a break then I would have told them it wasn't possible, but as with anything, when it is done to such a high standard, you can find a degree of appreciation for it.
I'm not even going to claim it was grudging admiration.
This film just flew by and I was transfixed throughout.
I've just seen that it has been grabbed to be remade for US audiences and for the life of me I can't see how they will match this one.
Fans of action movies will love the original, and those, like me, who can take or leave action films could be just as surprised at how much enjoyment they could get out of it.
Well worth a swatch as we would colloquially say.

Tom Jones - Spirit in the Room

The new Tom Jones album is being touted as one full of covers.
Isn't that what Sir Tom does anyway?
Maybe it's just me, but covering songs is his thing isn't it?
It would seem that some would make a sort of distinction between those who sing other peoples songs, and those who sing established artists successful songs.
It's not actually of any relevance to me where the song came from though.
All that matters is the song itself, and how it is performed.
The facts are that Tom Jones is not known as a songwriter, but instead, like Elvis Presley, he is a great interpretor of other peoples material.
What he brings to the table is his voice, and what a voice it is.
He has the ability to make a good song great, and take a great song and fire it into the stratosphere.
All those years floating past under the bridge and his voice still resonates as strongly as it ever did.
I suspect that he may gargle with water from the fountain of youth as his vocals certainly sound immortal.
Put the strength of his voice aside for a moment though, and lets talk about his career for a second.
It would seem obvious that there's a great deal of parallels with the work of Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin on the American Recordings.
Both have had their trials and tribulations, then came back strong with some of the most critically acclaimed material of their careers, and then deservedly stepped firmly back into the spotlight as recording artists.
To continue to tread the same path then all he needed to do was follow Praise & Blame up with an album of equally artistic stature.
So how do I put this?
He just has.
While Praise & Blame was the opening salvo in the resurrection - and sounded like a manifesto of intent sung from the pulpit - I'm pretty sure that there would have been some whispers that it was a one off, and that the quality wouldn't be maintained for the next, but I'm very pleased to find that on Spirit in the Room that the material is of a similarly high quality, and just as powerful.
I have no idea who Tom Jones is working with when seeking out the material for these albums, but I would advocate that he continues the relationship as so far they haven't put a foot wrong.
It would be fair to say that on this outing the gospel and blues influence is more restrained, but his ability to meld the songs to his own strengths is where the magic lies, so even without what was perceived as the earthiness of Praise & Blame being on display this will still raise the hair on the back of your neck.
His interpretation of the Leanord Cohen song Tower of Song as the opening track sets the benchmark very high, and then the rest of the album maintains that level of excellence with nary a consideration of padding itself out with some filler.
I sincerely hope that he is aware that this is the path he should be treading and continues to release albums that will allow him to engage with everyone who appreciates quality music passionately performed.  

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

In conversation with Little Fire

You've been doing rather well for yourself over the last few years. Some solid support slots with some very big names and a relentless gigging schedule.
Do you feel that things are starting to fall into place for you as a performer, that you have built yourself a solid foundation to progress from?

Little Fire - The last two years have been absolutely brilliant musically, all in all it’s been a really positive time and I’ve really enjoyed myself.
There’s been a good bit of progress made confidence wise and at the moment I’m enjoying performing more than ever. I love it.
I really feel like I’ve made some good headway in getting my music heard by people through gigging so often locally.
It's been worth all the hard work, and I do feel I have a solid foundation to work from, but I also have to acknowledge the support that I have received, as without the people coming out to see me there would be no foundation.
You can't do this alone.
So it's all good just now.
Right now my main focus is on finishing my album.
I've started recording it in Chem 19 studio and I want to push on with that.
That's not to say that I wont be gigging though.
I'll still be playing, but it's got to a point in my career that I have to manage my time a bit better.
So to fit everything in I will be cutting back on the local gigs so that I can play some gigs further afield than the bonny 'shire.

Apart from pushing your own career you have been a very vocal advocate in promoting the talents of others.
The music business is often portrayed as a back biting and narcissistic one, and there seems to be enough evidence to support that.
So how important is it for you as an artist to try and provide a positive alternative to that?

Little Fire - I think it’s important to share your enthusiasm with music that excites you and resonates with you, and for me there’s a lot of that around here.
It’s an exciting time for a lot of bands and musicians I know, and we’re all at an interesting point with festival slots being achieved and debut albums in the mix.
It’s an exciting and interesting time for sure and essentially I want everyone to do well.
This isn’t like a race at the Olympics where someone has to get the gold.
We can all share the gold.
There can be consideration that competition does exist for support slots, or opportunities, or whatever, but I think it would take a lot of enjoyment out of this for me if I honestly viewed it as a nothing more than a dog eat dog competition of sorts.
Enjoyment is the number one reason why I make music, and should that ever change I would stop, well I know I wouldn’t as I get too much joy strumming a guitar and having a bit of a sing song, but you know what I mean.
I am positive that that back biting exists in the music industry though, as it does in any other, but it’s not something I’m too concerned with.
I’m not somebody that does it, and I don’t really advocate it as a means to better or further yourself.
I just like getting on with life.
When gigging and having meetings with people in the music industry I've met the good and the bad.
You come across a lot of different personality types, and attitudes do manifest themselves in the music, the way people handle themselves, the way they conduct themselves and it’s quite interesting in a way.
But I keep shying away from the negative and reaching to embrace the positive and because of that I’m in a good place at the moment, but it’s not like I’ve always been so positive y’know.
I just think that I've come to realise that it’s of the highest importance to me to enjoy your music, not worry too much about what everyone else is doing and just get on with it.
Why spend your life overly concerned about what others are doing.
I mean it's your life. 
So while I'm not consciously offering an alternative I suppose subconsciously I am. 

Have you found that the positivity that you are known for can sometimes be viewed with suspicion due to it being virtually the polar opposite of what is expected?

Little Fire - I’ve only had a few people who have viewed my positivity with suspicion and it just made me laugh really.
Why would anyone be suspicious of someone being happy, or feel resentment towards it?
Why do people think there has to be an angle to being happy and wanting others to do well. 
Maybe it's a sign of the times.
They maybe have to question their own outlook on life if they feel suspicious about my positive attitude.
I just think that there has never been a more exciting time than right now and I think a lot of people just don’t get that.
I take a great deal of satisfaction from making music, listening to music, and mixing with people, and that’s it.
It’s just my personality type coupled with a real appreciation for what’s good and great in life that leads me to think positively.
As much as I could be considered an optimist I am most definitely a realist as well.
My optimism is rooted in me being able to feel the possibilities in life.
Why be an overly cynical negative bastard when there is so much you can do and so much to enjoy. Spiteful, negative cynics are not my cup of tea anyway.
I’d rather spend my time with, and around people with, positive energies who try to make the most out of this thing called life.
Make the best of it I say and fuck those who don’t or won’t. 

Currently you have one EP available to the public, and are working on the debut album.
Can you tell us how the album is coming along, what we can expect and who is involved in playing on it?

Little Fire - I’m really glad to be finally getting it together and getting stuck into making the album.
It’s about time really.
I’ve had a good staple of songs that I’ve been playing for the last two years which will go on the album.
The tracks are all pretty much decided upon.
I’ve a tendency to experiment and tinker a lot with my songs and I’ve found songs to have changed a fair bit in the last couple of years and I’m looking forward to committing them to a recorded form and I'm personally excited about how it’s going to turn out.
As I said earlier I’m recording up at Chem 19 in Blantyre, home to the legendary Scottish independent label Chemikal Underground.
It’s got a great feel to it and to know that so many smashing records have been made there by some great Scottish artists including Arab Strap, Mogwai, Emma Pollock, Franz Ferdinand, Teenage Fanclub to name just a few.
You know you’re in great hands recording there with people who really give a shit how you sound and that’s nice.
It's been a cool experience so far.
I’ve got 5 sessions booked to record in June and I'm really going to go for it.
It’s taken me rather a while to get it together to go and record but I think feeling ready to record the songs is a really important thing.
I could have done a few of them before, but in hindsight they wouldn't have been what I wanted.
Maybe I've grown into some of the older material
Other songs that will appear on it are brand new, but both the new and the old all feel ready for the studio.
It's the songs which I’ve been playing for the best part of two years that I’ll be a bit more cautious with in painting the picture of how they sound.
I’ve become quite familiar with them so I hope to treat them well and do them justice.
The recording experience is something I used to find a wee bit daunting, just the finality of a recording itself can be daunting, but of course it’s possible to do something many times before saying “ yep that’s it”.
Having a producer you are comfortable with is something I’ve really learned the importance of.
For me it’s vital to have a positive rapport and an open and friendly dialogue with the producer so that I can feel able to tell it like it is and try to get the sound that I’m looking for.
The young gentleman I’m working with at Chem 19 is called Jamie Savage and he’s a top class fella to work with, easy going but very much a guy who wants to make it the best he can and he really does try to understand me when I attempt to describe something in the music.
With me not having a great understanding of technical terms with the production side of things it’s important to be able to find your own language with the producer that you can both understand and relate to.
As for who’s playing on the album so far I’ve had Ari from Rose Parade come and help me out with some instruments on ‘ High Hopes’ and I think that’s sounding pretty good.
I’ll have some guest spots from other musicians in due course. The album will be at least half made up of band orientated productions with the other half solo acoustic.

Once it is finished then what is the plan?

Little Fire - Once the album is finished I’ll do more gigs than ever before and I’ll have something to sell which will be fantastic!
I’ll shop around and see if it’s possible to get a publishing deal for the album. do some travelling and touring.
New adventures. That's what I want.
I’ve been doing pretty well for someone with no album, so I imagine the album will open the door to other opportunities.
I will just have to wait and see but I’m really looking forward to what’s coming up this year.
The gigging is important though.
It’s really very easy for me with just being on my own and it’s the thing I enjoy the most.
The plan is to spread out around the UK and look to tour abroad.
The possibilities are endless, they really are. Whether I do a tour with the Secret Sisters in the US or I’m playing weird and wonderful gigs throughout Europe, or working on music with a childhood music hero, it’s all possible and I always have that in mind.

Apart from working hard on the album you have found time to get the ball rolling on a live event that will be taking place in the Burns Museum and celebrating the work of 'the Bard'.

Little Fire - Absolutely, I’ve put together an event called ‘Third Degree Burns’, it’s taking place on Saturday 2nd June at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway an it’s comprising of some very talented souls indeed.

How did that come about and who else will be performing at it?

Little Fire - Well there’s the Burns’ an’ a’ that festival which takes place in Ayr.
It’s been running for a few years now and I’ve had some smashing experiences with it in the past from seeing Pete Doherty to being impressed by Julian Cope, to dancing about off my trolley to Mylo quite a few years back.
I performed at the last couple of years of the festival supporting Dougie MacLean and Midge Ure to.
 So I wanted to do something similar to that, but concentrate more on promoting the talents of home grown artists.
Basically with my event Third Degree Burns it’s independent of the Burns Festival, yet it’s included in the festivals brochure and website and it’s being considered as a fringe event apparently.
With Third Degree burns all the performers are from Ayrshire, every one of them.
The night is going to have a diverse range of contemporary interpretations of Burn’s poem and songs, as well as performers doing their own original material.
It should be exciting stuff!
With the Burns an’ a’ that festival there aren’t very many performers from Ayshire, and it would have been logical to have a larger ratio of performers from the local pool of talent.
It's not as if we don't have any.
We have bands who have been selected to play T in the Park, others that the BBC have claimed to be ones to watch out for in 2012 and another who will be playing the large summer festivals.
 Third Degree Burns is all about Ayrshire talent celebrating Ayrshire, it’s my hope the event could grow year upon year, the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is a stunning venue for it
On the night we have Rose Parade, Melisa Kelly and the Harmless Thieves, Alan Frew, Paul McGranaghan, Slanj, Hipshot Theater and myself.
I nice eclectic mix.

Is it true that you have recorded some Burns material that will be available on the night?

Little Fire - Absolutely! I’ve been working on an album of Burns songs which will be ready for sale on the night.
I really like performing Burn’s songs and doing it in a way which feels natural to me.
The magic is all in the lyrics and I really enjoy singing them.
I’ve sang at a few Burns suppers now and it was an honour to be invited to perform at the opening of the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum two years ago. I really enjoy dipping my toes into the more traditional forms of music and putting my 2012 26year old spin on it.
So it's a mix of old and new.

As you are Ayrshire born is the Burns connection something that you feel some affinity to, and what relevance do you think he has to a modern audience?

Little Fire - Ah well really I’m a Falkirk bairn but I’ve been living in Ayrshire since I was 4 and certainly my heart is here, I love it. I just think it’s superb that the legend of Robert Burns lives and I think it couldn’t be overstated how important it is to celebrate your heroes.
His life’s work was amazing, his output, his revolutionary thinking and his vision live on today in his work.
I think he’s just as relevant as ever really. Burns was rock and roll.
His commentary on humankind shows a man of conscience, fairness and great intellect as well as being of a most romantic nature.
His defense of the peasantry, both Catholic and Protestant minorities, the American ‘rebels’ and French revolutionaries indicate a man who was not afraid to truly support liberty and freedom for everyone. He was a supporter of the intellects and place of women, whilst much is said of his womanising he was certainly someone who saw women as equals to men, something which was not the norm of the time.
It’s funny that there were people who considered that such grand ideals could simply not come from a poor ploughman and must be from some higher power, or from someone else.
It’s fantastic that an everyday man such as Burns was had such wonderful feelings towards life, whilst a poor man he obviously lived it to the fullest and I respect that.

You were recently out in Australia and while there soaking up the sun managed to do a few gigs.
How was that as an experience? Are the Australian audience different from the UK?

Little Fire - Gigging in Australia was superb, there were a couple of gigs which were on outside stages which was fantastic, last time I tried that here in Scotland my fingers were near freezing off, it was winter mind you, but still.
I came across some really talented people in Australia, and for me it was certainly good fun playing on being Scottish.
I’d consider that I hear a greater concentration of talented musicians in a smaller space here though although I did hear some cracking singers

I see that you are going to be supporting Joan Armatrading later this year with that show being confirmed and you have your fingers crossed to get on the bill with Suzanne Vega.
Is this the sort of audience that you feel could engage with what you do?

Little Fire - It’s going to be superb to support Joan I’m really looking forward to that, it will be on the 10th November in Stevenage just near London. It’s a privilege and it is going to be a fantastic experience I’m sure.
She’s an inspirational person as an artist, and I’m genuinely honoured to be doing it.
I’m very hopeful to support Suzanne Vega.
That's not something that is confirmed, but I hope it all works out.
I really appreciate her music, and like with Joan, it would be a privilege to support her.
For me there is little more satisfying than sharing a stage with someone you’ve actually grew up listening to and admiring. These two artists are both inspirational figures to me and many more I’m sure.
I think I’m very much in the way of feeling that I would much rather support artists who have had sustainable careers and are still getting stuck in with passion and love for it.
I would much prefer supporting real artists such as these than the buzz bands who will probably have a relatively limited shelf life.
I don’t think these buzz bands would want me gigging with them anyway.
For me I want this to be a life long career, with many twists and turns and happenings. I want to be doing this when I’m an old man indeed, still very much full of the joy for it. So I think I’m far more likely to get listened to when supporting artists of a particular ilk rather than supporting some indie band or something.
I’d rather be with the experienced pro’s and pick up tips and advice from them.

I'm sure this will be an interesting one to finish on, but tell us. If you could have a perfect year for yourself, and your peers locally, then what would it include?

Little Fire - Wow!
Well, wow.
A perfect year.
Well a perfect year for me personally would include being invited on tour with someone I really admired, that would be the coolest thing for me.
I’ve done support slots here and there but to go on tour with someone would be very exciting.
To get my album done this year and be invited out on tour, that’s my hope, I’m sure it will happen at some point I’ve just got to get the album done, stay positive and keep going and more good will come.
A positive attitude is always more likely to bring about success than a negative one.
For my peers locally, well I just want to see them all doing well, in getting support slots with more established artists, maybe with their favourite bands and singers, that can do a lot of good for your confidence I think.
I would like to see all my Ayrshire cohorts be received well nationally and for their albums to receive positive press and airplay.
Basically I want everyone to do well and to enjoy themselves.
Plus I’d like us all to be invited by Richard Branson to go and play on one of those planes going into outer space.

It's a fact that an opinion is not a fact.

Most will be aware that Michael Gove had a brain fart of an idea about putting bibles into every school.
It's old news and as far as I am aware the Bibles are currently languishing in a warehouse somewhere with thousands of copies of CDs released by past winners of the X- Factor.
Both will be coming to a poundland near you soon I presume.
Anyway, apart from it being an arrogant assumption that everyone shares his belief that religion has some merit, and that others would appreciate his support of Christianity while blatantly ignoring alternative religious views, I would strongly argue that there is maybe a need for more dictionaries in schools.
The reason being that some words seem to be misinterpreted in this modern world.
Some more than others.
Take the word criticism.
It really means that to critique is to judge the merits, positive and negative, of something or other.
It's supposed to be a balanced breakdown of anything from making music to writing an essay.
It's also an opinion expressed, but I will get to that.
Is that how people perceive it though?
If I was to say I was criticizing a band the immediate assumption is that I'm tearing them a new arsehole.
Far from it.
The critique could be expressing my opinion that the band in question are at the peak of their talents and there is nothing negative that springs to mind that requires to be commented on.
So why is there this misunderstanding of the meaning of the word?
I have no idea, but if I was to say that it's possible that people are just a tad thick then no one would be too pleased at my critique of the intelligence of my fellow occupiers of the planet.
Maybe it is just that some people have become dislocated from the written word, unless of course it is within a twitter word count limit, or it is written sans vowel in the manner of txt spk.
Then again maybe it's the media and their sound bites, and the misunderstandings lie in the inability to process information, coupled with an obvious lust by individuals to respond prior to absorbing something in it's entirety.
Here's another one.
An opinion is a subjective belief, but when it is expressed it often seems to be mistaken for a fact by others, and then people like myself have to explain the difference between the two.
In fact sometimes those expressing an opinion also mistake their opinion as a fact to.
That is a fact.
You see the difference there?
Just because someone believes something does not make it a fact.
I try and make that very clear in my blog.
I reiterate the point to exhaustion that virtually everything in a music review is a subjective opinion.
Others are free to agree or disagree, but they can't say that my personal opinion about how a sound has made me feel, or how a performance has been executed, is wrong.
Yet many do.
It must be that they have just failed to understand the differences in what opinions and facts are, and and in their minds they are both interchangeable.
I mean it couldn't be that they just arrogantly presume that they are right, and anyone who disagrees with their opinion would be wrong.
That would be crazy.
There can't be people like that in the world.
Can there be?
They would have to make up a word to describe them.
I wonder if fundamentalists has been considered?
Maybe if people just had a bit more of an understanding of the meaning of a word then we could all save a great deal of time by avoiding such confusion.
There would also be the added bonus that if we were really sure that people knew what the words meant, then instead of accepting that there may be a bit of genuine ignorance* involved, then we would know for a fact that anyone who was misusing them was just a cunt who thought the world revolved around them.
Wouldn't that be refreshing?
Demand more dictionaries in schools now.
With a few more dictionaries going about we could all be free from a great deal of bullshit.
Support the cause, if only to help us differentiate between the dense and the arrogantly superior who are often interchangeable with the dense.

*Ignorance. There's another. Calling someone ignorant is not a criticism, or it shouldn't be if it is used correctly.
I'm ignorant of the skills required to be a top class brain surgeon.
That's not a dig steeped in self loathing, but simply a fact.
I have the absence of knowledge required to do the job, and there's nothing offensive in it being used in that context.

Tragic City Thieves - Bar Bloc - 19/05/12 - Glasgow

The future of rock and roll is not to be found on the cover of a magazine.
Neither will it be found on many of the summer festival tents.
Instead it will be found on any stage that Tragic City Thieves perform on.
It's been a while since I have seen the band play, and their much welcomed return to the live arena was far more exciting than even I had anticipated.
Before I would have classed them as the best sleazy glam rock band that the west coast of Scotland had ever spawned.
Now I'm going to take that back.
Instead they are the best that the UK has to offer.
(Well the best I have seen.)
The comment was made during their set that this is a band that shouldn't be playing at a bar and club level, and I fully endorse that view.
While the current Guns and Roses are looking for £50 per head for a show it is a fact that Tragic City Thieves would rag doll Axl and his pick up band from here to next week without breaking a sweat.
If they break a sweat then any big rock band you care to mention should shudder in fear.
You want the fire then here it is.
I could lavish so much praise on them that readers would consider that it was a pastiche of a review, but ten minutes into watching them perform and the acceptance of the truth would hit them hard, and the truth is that no matter how much hyperbolic praise I shower them with it will still fall short of the reality.
Much of the set comprised of material that will be on their forthcoming sophomore release and will be new to an audience, but while that can normally be the kiss of death to a performance due to the unfamiliarity they exact opposite happened here.
Instead I'm left craving hearing them again, and I quite literally can't wait for the album to be released.
There's a huge step forward in the quality of the material, and that's not to say that the original album was lacking in quality.
More so it's to try and convey that if the punters liked that then they better hold onto their hats as this one is going to be all killer.
I count myself very lucky that so far in this year I have seen some fantastic live performances and here was yet another to add to the list.
Tragic City Thieves have to break through to a wider audience.
I don't want to keep them to myself as a grubby little secret.
I want the world to know about them.
Fans of everyone from the New York Dolls to The Dead Boys, from Turbonegro to The Dwarves, from The Stooges to Bowie are going to love them.
This is the future of rock and roll.
People just need to wake up to that and get with it.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Coffins/Rabid Punk Guitars/Sixth Avenue Traffic - 19/05/12 - The Bay (Glasgow)

Sixth Avenue Traffic are a strange band.
Everything seems to be there, but they just fall short of taking the performance to a level where an audience would feel stunned.
It's actually verging of frustrating watching them at times.
You want them to soar and then they hit cruise control.
On paper the band will work. There's no doubt about that.
The original material is of a high quality, the band have a more than acceptable level of musicianship, and the singer has a hint of Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes about his vocals.
It's all good, but live they don't quite manage to provide that moment that acts as a catalyst and imprints their name forever on the lips of an audience as a band to watch out for.
Two things seemed to be stopping them from creating the magic.
One was that they seemed uncomfortable squeezed into The Bay.
A larger stage would have possibly given them some room to make more of a performance rather than just play the songs.
The second was the stiffness of the singer in the delivery of the vocals.
I was mentally urging him to let go as I reckon he's got it.
The problem isn't that the talent is missing, it just seems that he is holding it all tightly contained, and he needs to let it all out.
The cover of The Florence and the Machine hit Dog Days was interesting, but it was on this song that the holding back was most apparent on.
Even on the reworked version there are points, such as the 'Run fast for your mother, run fast for your father' break, that lend themselves to a more gonzo approach.
Sixth Avenue Traffic need to let loose.
A tip would be to glance over their shoulders at their own drummer who was the only one who seemed to have keyed into what playing rock and roll should be about.
There has to be some wild abandon and a sense of danger.
Some bands have more attitude than talent, and can very often disappoint, but the opposite was on show here.
The very obvious talent on display needs a fix of attitude, and when that's added then I suspect that they will turn some heads.

R.P.G, from Perth, had no problems in the attitude department, or could be considered lightweights when it comes to musicianship either.
I've got a broad understanding of what punk is that many would disagree with, but no one would raise an eyebrow if I was to say that R.P.G were a real punk band.
The passion, the raw anger, and the' fuck you, I wont do what you tell me', foundations of what punk is all about are all present and correct.
Then the addition of the real essence of punk rock as I understand it - a refusal to kow tow to a uniformed template - is right to the fore to.
The dual bass sound of the band is mind blowing.
The throbbing post punk runs add a whole new dimension to the sound.
Not that the band are solely defined by the bass sound, as the guitar and drums are equally as important, as are the duel vocals.
The whole aural tapestry of what they are doing is heady stuff.
Plenty of bands could do with checking out what RPG are doing, and taking some notes.
If there's a rock and roll rule book then the guys in the band read it from cover to cover and then tore it up and wrote their own.
That's what punk is about.
It's not a ghetto to get bogged down in. It's a wide open vista of opportunity, and here's a band that fundamentally get that.
Once again it would seem that it is down to those who have been around the block a couple of times to lead the way.
Punks dead, long live punk.

The Coffins are one of those bands that you have to see live to get it.
Part garage punk, part performance art, and all rock and roll.
The influence of Alex Harvey looms large in the material, but it is far darker, and far more visceral, than anything that Vambo would do.
The world of the Coffins is one where less than savoury characters exist, blood runs in the gutter, and anyone with any common sense prays for the dawn.
Even when they introduce their summer anthem 'waves' it quickly melds sun and surf with being swept under the waves of the title.
If Screaming Lord Sutch was to record an album that was written by The Birthday Party then it might come close to sounding like The Coffins.
Front man Joe Bone stalks the stage like a demented serial killer.
All twitches, psychotic stares and props.
Michael Wernick on bass is a thrashing dervish who never stops.
His excitable style of of playing the bass would probably make him the main focal point in most bands, but the Coffins aren't most bands, and at any given time your attention can also be caught by Bil Gilchrist on guitar and swinging shrunken head, or the pounding Graham Platt who never ever misses the beat.
The is a real band and not three guys backing up the one individual as we so often see.
All are cogs in a machine that effortlessly mesh together and allows it to run fast and smooth.
In a very short time they have built up a solid fan base, and it's very obvious why as attending a gig by them is akin to being swept up by a hurricane.
I would reckon that after seeing them once then most people would be up for a return visit.
It's all the more laudable that they have accrued this success as they have bloody mindedly refused to pander to pay to play promoters and instead sought out ethical venues and bookers and worked hand in hand with them to promote themselves.
It's a positive example to other bands that there are other options available, and there's really no need to offer themselves up to be exploited.
In fact here's some advice.
Get in touch with bands like The Coffins, promoters like Punk Rock Rammy, bookers like Mark McG of the Girobabies, speak to venues like The Bay, Bar Bloc and the 13th Note.
Use what is out there and work with the good guys.
They're not the only ones kicking about Glasgow.
There are more, but crack in and get recommendations from them and take some control of your own destiny.