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Sunday 27 October 2013

In conversation with Matt Scott

A week ago you were talking about either taking a hiatus or maybe just giving up entirely.
What happened to make you change your mind?

It was a couple of things.
The main one being waking up in the middle of the night and looking for a pad to write down some lyrics and then with that came the dawning realization that at my core this is what I do.
All the things that chip away at my confidence are external factors.
Things that happen to me, but if I am left on my own then what I do is make music, and it struck me that the struggle to get gigs, to draw attention to what I am doing, and to create something in the music business for myself, and all that crap that goes with it is actually something that is separate from the writing and performing of my songs.
The songs are me naked and everything else is... well sort of like the clothes that I put on.
They matter, but the body of myself is the important thing and I think I was losing some focus on that.
That was the catalyst that took me to the second thing, which was heading to my brothers house and in one night recording nine songs.
It wasn't really planned, but it was the best approach I could have taken to recording.

You have spoken often about different ways to try and capture your live performance.
Do you think you have done it this time?

I was over thinking it.
I was also looking to try and frame it in what we all do.
You write songs, you work on them, you perform them, and then you look for a studio and record them.
Then you look to get the songs out there in one way or another, but it's all so much of a template.
The A that leads to B and then to C.
It's bullshit really.
It's actually nothing to do with the music and letting go of that was exactly what I needed to do.
There's a bit of me that is annoyed that I didn't come to that conclusion early.

So do you know what you are doing next with the material?

No, but that's no longer concerning me.
Going along with how it was created I am not looking to take it back to straight jacketing the songs into any sort of get some CDs done, have a launch party etc etc.
When I listen to music a great deal of it is raw.
Early Woody Guthrie, John Lee Hooker.
Guys like that whose initial recordings were done on rudimentary equipment and in the strangest places, and in some way had their own power to them that maybe wasn't because of the surroundings, but despite them.
It's all about stripping everything back and letting the songs breath and tell their own story now.
I'm aware that when I am saying that out loud it sounds pretentious, but I can't word it in any other way.
I'm putting my faith in the songs themselves and it feels right. It feel natural.

How were they recorded?.

My brother John is a genius.
He set us up in the hallway of his tenement flat, and using two microphones on some tracks and just one on others he ran it straight into his laptop and that was it.
It's all live?

All live and no overdubs.
Seriously. Nothing has been touched at all.
It's basically a live session.
So as there's an albums worth of material are you putting them all out there together?

Right now I have no idea.
I was thinking about using four or five of them.
Some are new songs and others are older ones that I have changed.
I'm going with my gut on what happens next.
I am happy with them all, but I need to sit down and digest them.
Think about how they would flow best and compliment each other.
It was only last night that I recorded them with John so I've not even thought that far ahead.
There's a freedom to the way I am thinking just now.
I might just put them online for free download.
Maybe get a run done on CD to sell at gigs.
I do know that while I am not writing off a record label getting involved at some point in the future, I am no longer looking to chase these people.
That part of my career when I did that seems like a partial waste of time now.
I was putting a great deal of energy into something that had little return, well little positive return as it took me to a point where I felt drained and I was losing my way.

You sound a bit evangelical with this?

I am.
I hear it in my own voice when I am telling you about it.
I feel excited again for the first time in many months. Got my mojo back (laughing)
I have though.
I'm not embarrassed to say it.
I feel really good for the first time in recent memory.
What do you think of the songs?

I'm very impressed.
So much so that I think you should just take everything you have online down and look at this as a new beginning.
Your brother has captured the live performance and that's a lightning in a jar thing.
I've never though there was a formula to it, but he's caught the lightning.

That exactly what I was thinking of doing so I am glad that the ideas in my head are being shared without having dragging them out.
I'm pleased that you are enjoying the songs to.
I'm not sure how I would have felt if I had shared the songs with you and the reaction wasn't positive as it may have dented the high I am feeling.
You don't know how good I feel that your reaction is the same as my own.
I am so happy with how this is going that I am thinking that this is what I will keep doing.
Just write material and then head around to see my brother and my career will now just be punctuated by live sessions.
I have a lot of ideas that I am just edging around.
One is to start a club, and if people want to join then as I record then they will be sent the results as I do them.

For a price?

Well yes, but, and bear with me as I have no idea what will happen, but maybe for say £10 a year the person gets everything and I would have made a promise that within that twelve months they will be guaranteed to get at least an albums worth of material and there would be no cut off point.
If I did six sessions in a year then they get them all.
I'm not saying that will happen, but I am opening myself up to considering different options and tomorrow I may have another idea with yet another jumping in days after that.

Sort of a pledge deal that lasts a year?

Ha. Well I could say yes, but I am literally thinking on my feet here.
I might wake up tomorrow and think of another way of getting the songs to people.

I want you to make me a promise though.

What's that?

Well now that I have heard the songs you have to promise that self doubt wont creep in and lead them to the back of a drawer.

Ha. Okay. I promise.

It's easy to promise that as right now my head is spinning with songs, ideas and............Oh man I feel everything so far has just led to this.  

Sunday 20 October 2013

The Sunday round up.

Just some things that I have been thinking about.

So in aid of charity people are giving up drinking alcohol for a month.
Now while I support people making an effort to raise awareness and funds, and I did in fact donate, but there's a bit of me that is asking if this particular effort is a good move.
Lets say just 5% of the population stop drinking for a whole month.
That's got a good spin to it hasn't it?
There's health benefits to stopping drinking and the person participating can save some cash while actually making some from sponsorship for a charity.
It's a win-win situation, but is it?

It means alcohol sales drop by 5%*, kebab sales drop, taxi drivers incomes drop and everything else that comes with a night out on the tiles that includes having a drink is impacted on.
While some businesses can absorb that very easily there will be those who are clinging on, and that months decline in income could terminally finish them off.
So is this really worth one person losing their job over?
Some would say it is, but surely not if there's an alternative.
I'm not saying people should stop supporting charities, but instead think about how they do it.
Lets not fuck up one persons life attempting to save another.
In fact here's an idea.
For every drink bought slip 20p in a collection tin.
Is that not a better idea?
Something else to think about.
What do we want our taxes going on.
Pay rises for politicians or to cancer support and research.?
* I only said 5% as an example. I have no idea how many people are giving up a drink or the impact in reality.

And keeping to the subject of where our taxes go.

This week the Government has described the neglect of the elderly in this country as something that we should all be deeply ashamed of.
They highlight just how lonely so many of the elderly are, and are looking to shame us all into upping our game.
Of course the elderly deserve our attention, support and respect.
That's not really worth arguing about is it?
I'm just wondering when they will lead by example.
Instead of admonishing everyone, and looking for us all to provide support at no cost to them, it would maybe be heartening to see them protect pensions, and look to create community schemes that assist the elderly while providing them with the much needed contact with the outside world that they deserve.
Possibly they could look to remove the fear of being unable to secure medical attention from the elderly.
Now here's one.
Could they maybe look to ensure that the figures of the elderly freezing to death over the winter months is addressed.
Maybe find some time to discuss the reality of fuel poverty.
There very obvious emotive manipulation is a slap on the face for every single carer out there who gives up their time to help the elderly.

Once the government starts matching the efforts of those people I may start taking them more seriously.
As it is they are still useless bar stewards clinging onto the idea that you can fool all of the people all of the time if you have a good pr team behind you.

Friday 18 October 2013

In Conversation with Folk Grinder

Good evening.

KJ: Greetings Mr M...

Hope all is ship shape and I promise that's the last nautical comment I will make. So how are you Koozie? How is the good ship Folk Grinder? 

KJ: hahaha All's ship shape tip top and dandy, thank you for asking..... and all's well aboard the good ship Folk Grinder too heave ho!!!!

Okay that really is the last one.

KJ: Promise.....

Now that the tour with Kirk Brandon is done and dusted and you have been up and down the country to promote 'Any old trollop, same old port' how are things looking for the band? You appeared to impress wherever you played.

KJ: Yes all has gone very well on the last tour, the two acts have worked well together and we have a lot of new fans on board now. KB's audience have been very accepting and welcoming. They have got into the spirit of what we are doing from the off and have been buying the album and have given us a warm reception wherever we have performed.

Did you enjoy the tour?

KJ: Yes very much so. We have met some lovely people that have shown great support and hospitality. It has also been a good laugh too as we all get on very well, having known one another for a number of years now and have a great deal of mutual respect for each others craft.

It's obviously a great deal of hard work. In one incarnation or another who have been globe trotting for decades now. Do you ever feel that you have played on pretty much every stage there is?

KJ: Yeah i've played a lot of stages over the years in many different countries but there are still many more to play and replay. New venues are appearing as well as older established venues are being revamped and improved on all the time. I love traveling and playing live, i love meeting people and experiencing new places. Any old port..........bring it on.

What is it that keeps you going?

KJ: It's what i do it's my passion, and if i'm not out there playing somewhere i feel lost and restless. The hunger to write and perform music has never left me and it's a necessity too, as like everyone else i need to make a living. Music is my sanctuary and without it i'd go insane though others might think i already am hahaha......

I've been joining you as you have been revisiting your past and posting photos of the bands you have been in on social media. Give us a run down of the the ones that you loved being in, and the ones that you look back on with less fondness.

KJ: Well yes there's been a few and far too many to mention all, but prior to FOLK GRINDER i have played Bass and Guitar in various bands as well as fronted a couple of bands.  
LAUGH IN FEAR (83-85) which was my home town band back in Gloucester when i was 17 and included drummer Darrin Stevens, who played skiffle snare on the album and gets up and guests with fG on our live shows. SHOT (91-93) that i'd formed with former Cortinas/Clash mk2 guitarist Nick Sheppard and Singer Colbert Hamilton and were signed to IRS and managed by the legendary Miles Copeland. WILD CRASH 500 (93-95) that featured former Tenpole Tudor members, drummer Gary Long and guitarist Bob Kingston as well as guitarist Ray McVeigh who was in the Sex Pistols off shoot band The Professionals with Steve Jones and Paul Cook. OBLIVION DUST (96) based in Tokyo and ended up becoming a very big and successful band in Japan. TYLA/DOGS D'AMOUR (96/97) playing with Tyla was a good laugh and was crazy at times a very good song writer too. SINNERSTAR (2001-2005) a band i fronted that had a bit of a revolving door line up and featured in it's last line up guitarist Kien Lim and former Thunders/Strummer/Matlock drummer Chris Musto as well as bassist Paul Slack of UK Subs fame. GLEN MATLOCK & THE PHILISTINES (2004-2007) featuring original Sex Pistols bass player and my old band brothers Chris Musto and Ray McVeigh. A high light show for me being in Hollywood at The Knitting Factory when Steve Jones joined us on stage for 'God save the Queen' and 'Pretty Vacant'.

And now tell us how Folk Grinder measure up?

KJ: Folk Grinder has been a breath of fresh air for me and completely different from anything else i've done in the past. I enjoy the simplicity of it and at the same time the challenges it presents. I love the earthiness i like the vulnerability it has, the stripped back sound and skiffle approach appeals to me it's very back to basics. The songs have got to be good enough to stand up on there own.

The sailor angle that transfers over into your stage wear would lend itself to some thinking that you are a folk band and obviously the name would give that impression to, but really at heart you are a bit of a sleazy rock and roll band with your vocals edging into the Tom Waits drunken troubadour style. Do you ever get confused looks from members of the audience who were looking for shanty tunes?

KJ: Myself and accordion/piano player Miro Snejdr wanted a name that could have been a Tarantino film title and we thought 'FOLK GRINDER' had that. Yeah it's fun seeing some peoples reactions to our take on the sea shanty, after all what is a shanty but a work song a song about the sea, a tale of woe and the missing of ones loved ones a journey of adventure of hardships.......There are drinking songs, stories about love and pain, joy and loss. I delve deep into the topics of addiction and affliction i pull on my own personal experiences in life and what i've gone through and how i've survived to tell the tale. What i put across is very real and heart felt. If you've lived life then you'll get it. The fact that its got a Rock'n'Roll edge to it all i guess was inevitable.

Where did the original concept of guitar and accordion come from?

KJ: I've always loved the sound of an accordion and bless the day i ran into Miro, for he's an exceptional player and gifted musician. His playing style compliments my writing and playing style, it just works.

As I have touched on how long you have been performing for can you tell us what you consider the biggest change is in the musical landscape when you look back over the years?

KJ: Simple, a lot of music these days has now become so over produced it's a kind of quick fix fast food music with no depth or substance. So much of what we hear is conveyor belt music, there's a lot of desperate wannabes out there. We are being swamped with so many manufactured celebrities that kids are growing up with a twisted view of music and role models and they seem to have lost touch with what's actually real. Sadly for so many young'uns it's become all about the bling.

Apart from touring with Kirk Brandon he produced your album too. How did that transpire? Do you guys go way back?

KJ: I first met Kirk back in 1982 on the Theatre of Hate Westworld tour. A mates band that i was joining called 'Death Beat' were supporting them. I remember chatting with KB before the show and recently i reminded him of this. He says to me ''was i nice to ya Kooz?'' and i laughed and said ''yeah you were, you signed my ToH 'Rebel without a brain' record sleeve for me' writing on it 'STAY LUCKY' .......he laughed and said ''Good". Later on over the years our paths would cross again and we would work with some of the same musicians and became good friends. He called me up in 2010 and asked me if Folk Grinder would open for him on a couple of acoustic dates he was doing in London and those were fG's debut shows (1st & 2nd Oct 2010 at the Redeemer Klub) hosted in an old Victorian Music hall in Exmouth Market. Then in September 2011 he came to see fG play a show at the 12 Bar Club in London and approached me after the show with regards to producing our debut album. He told me the story of when Mick Jones from The Clash had produced Theatre of Hate and said he'd reached a point in life when he wished to return that favor and wanted that favor to go to me. I was taken a back by his words and honored too, it was perfect timing as well as perfect casting. We ventured into the studio in February 2012 and began making the album. On it's completion we were then invited to support Theatre of Hate on their 30th Anniversary tour and then since our albums release in December 2012 have gone on to tour with Kirk on his acoustic tours in 2013 as well as various shows of our own.

Bands now seem to have to emulate the shark and keep on moving to survive. It's as if the taking the foot off the pedal leads to certain death. It can from the outside looking in appear to be an all consuming. Do you think now, more than ever, you have to live and breath being in a band just to get by?

KJ: It takes a lot of stamina and dedication and i guess you gotta really love what you do with an extreme passion to keep doing it. At the end of the day if it's what you do and want to do then you find a way to keep doing it and hopefully make it pay.

It's not been that long since the release of the album, but do you have anymore plans to return to the studio?

KJ: There is still a lot more playing to be done promoting the first album but the next fG album is already written and some of it has been demoed. When the time is right and the finance is there then we shall record our second album.

When can we expect you back on the road, or is the near future more about hit and run shows rather than a tour?

KJ: Soon........there are various fG shows booked and being booked around the country as well as there are more tours with KB planned for the end of the year and for the new year so keep an eye on our website and the press for details.

Thursday 17 October 2013

The Jim Jones Revue/The Amazing Snakeheads. - King Tuts - Glasgow - 16/10/13

I've been scratching my head all morning trying to think back to when I seen The Amazing Snakeheads before.
From a small drawer hidden behind fragments of memories in a dusty room at the back of my mind a voice whispers that it was a 'flowers in the dustbin' promoted show in the 13th Note, but that may not be right.
Regardless of when or where it was the reintroduction was a pleasant one.
There's a raw delivery to the songs that I often gravitate towards.
One part ranting drunk at the taxi rank, one part Alex Harvey, and a great deal of garage ramalama added to the mix provides pretty much the perfect rock cocktail that begs to be knocked back with eye watering glee.
If the Amazing Snakeheads were a party it wouldn't be one that finishes before midnight with a ten minute clean up to get the flat back to the state it was in five minutes before the guests arrived.
Instead it would be the sort that requires the police to break it up and it's easier to move and start life afresh than make an attempt to clean the place up.
As the band pushed hard at the second track into the set I was starting to think that King Tuts should be looking out their insurance to see if they were covered for structural damage as they were in danger of losing their roof.
For a three piece it's a potently driven tour de force that you can feel as much as hear as it pounds against you.
It's little wonder that they have secured themselves a deal with the illustrious Domino label.

In a strange way the Amazing Snakeheads are the sort of band that the Jim Jones Revue must love having to open for them.
For a band who can always be confident of being the most energetically gonzo on a bill there must be times that they think that they could take their foot off the gas just slightly and still coast in at 100mph in front of the competition.
Only that is never going to be the case with this line up like this night after night.
Jim Jones and his band must look at each other prior to going on stage and instinctually know that they will have to dig deep and go for it.
And go for it they did.
The gloves were off.
One day a Hurricane is going to be named after this band.
They are a force of nature.
There is no eye of the storm, just the howling wind and a trail of destruction in their wake.
With an initial set devoted to the 'The Savage Heart' they showed that the initial burst of activity that seen them first arrive on the scene was just a jumping off point.
The rock and roll template is still in place, but the band are taking it a little further down the track now, and while some may want them to just remain that blast of rock and roll it is the shading that they will provide to it all that will ensure their survival in an every changing, and often fickle, world.
A second set dubbed 'The Jim Jones Revue Jukebox' was their homage to the fans as Jim hollered out for requests and the band delivered them as they rolled in.
During this 'Big Hunk O' Love' served to provide me with a personal highlight, although earlier in the night '7 Time Around The Sun' maybe edged it.

The Jim Jones revue must be one of the hardest touring acts around.
So please don't miss out on the opportunity to see them.

Chris Wilson – It's Flamin' Groovy!

It's not been a bad year for Chris Wilson of The Flamin Groovies.
It's creeping up on the band being together for fifty years, and instead of considering being put out to some surreal rock and roll pasture for retired proto punks, he has instead managed to fit in a tour of sold out dates, opened for Springsteen, and even slipped in a solo album that is on par with anything 'the groovies' have done.
If he has a bucket list at hand I doubt there's much left for him to score off.
On 'It's Flamin' Groovy!' he starts off strong by immediately picking up the gauntlet and reassuring fans that there's still plenty in the tank to power this engine.
The intervening years since the last studio outing from Chris effortlessly slip away as one power pop classic eases into a stonesy country rocker and then back again.
It's very easy to realize why he has drawn the legendary tag to himself in certain circles as when you listen to this release it becomes very apparent there's not one song could be considered the black sheep of the flock.
The twelve tracks simply ooze class.
(Twenty Stone Blatt Records)

Thursday 10 October 2013

Game of two halves

Today I have seen both the best of human nature, and a rather ugly side to it in the short space of a matter of hours.
Life is often like that.
The dark cloud with the silver lining.
Or if you are the glass half full sort then that would be the silver lining with the dark cloud.
It is the yin and yang of existence.
Wherever sunlight falls a shadow will always surely accompany it.
It really is quite simply the natural order of things.

The best was when I visited Sunny Govan radio station.
It is a project that has been fifteen years in the making, and the positive opportunities that it provides to Govan as a community, and Glasgow as a whole, cannot be quantified.
That they have literally saved lives is something that they probably wouldn't claim to have done, but they have.

They very obviously have.

With their open door policy they have taken people from a socially deprived area and thrown them a lifeline.

It is something they do daily.

A lifeline that has led to employment, that has laid a foundation for strong family units to be build from, that has allowed those with substance abuse issues to find some worth in their life, and one that is there for anyone no matter what creed, colour, age, gender or sexual orientation they are.

It's a rather humbling experience to sit within the casual buzz and see first hand what is happening.
I was there to discuss business, but as I left my over all impression was that I had just had a welcome respite from the rush of life.
Just spending time with those who run the station, who volunteer there, and those who avail themselves of the help that is offered recharged my batteries to an extent.
With so much negativity being the cornerstone of our media it was a welcome break to be able to see first hand that there are still people out there who are willing to offer a hand to those who have fallen, or are on the edge and need guided away from it.

To say that I was impressed wouldn't really cover it.

Unfortunately the buoyant mood that they instilled in me didn't last too long as the behaviour of four young girls travelling from Glasgow to Kilmarnock effortlessly stripped away much of the feel good factor from the day.

While waiting along with other commuters I was surprised, and then slightly disappointed, to see them step past everyone waiting in line and position themselves so that they could be first to board the train.
The sense of entitlement they had was very obvious, and as I was standing right next to them I could tell that they found it all rather amusing.
This wasn't a case of them just being oblivious to what they were doing.

As we all do I stood there in an uncomfortable silence waiting for someone else to say something.
Then I heard a voice, my own, say 'excuse me, but people have been waiting here for the train.'
The response was some giggling and shared smirks.
By now I really didn't see any point in letting it slide so I asked if they thought it was acceptable to just walk to the front of the line.
More smirking and then the red headed one said without looking at me 'fuck off'.

Charming eh?

More smirking and giggling commenced.

By now I would say that all the adults in close proximity were holding their breath and silently willing me to say or do something.
Here was that moment when their long haul home of a night could culminate in a victory against all the arrogantly rude public transport users who fail to acknowledge that they are not in fact the center of the universe.

That wasn't to be though as what can you really say to children?
You can't rage at them.
You can't in no uncertain terms, and with colourful language, admonish them until the tears flow.
You can't beat them with a stick.

So instead I kept it calm and asked if they were proud of themselves.
At another muttered curse I was reminded of the 'you filthy fuckin' rotter' moment from the Pistols.
Here I was the face of the adult world being given the finger.
I asked if she kissed her mother with that mouth and that seemed to dent their confidence slightly, but I wasn't personally willing to go further than that.

On the train I read a book and in the background they stage whispered about what they could have said, and what they would say.
It was all rather pathetic, but I couldn't help but think how their sharp tongues would feel if they were to direct their ire towards a peer.
It was something that was very easily imaginable.
Under the carefully applied make up and teased hair there was an ugliness about them.
These are the girls who take pleasure from demolishing the confidence of others, whose sense of worth is tied into making others unhappy.
I'm not guessing that they are like that.
They were unashamedly broadcasting it to the carriage.

On stepping off the train in Kilmarnock they followed me down the platform, and then as they began to wander off in another direction one peeled of from the groups and shouted that I was a wanker.

I really want to make it clear here that these kids were not from any of the schemes in Kilmarnock.
These were the children of your middle class families.
The shouting that I was a wanker was done very confidently.
Safe in the knowledge that my options to respond were limited she was enjoying creating some drama.
She followed that on with loudly asking something along the lines of if I got a kick from harassing young girls in an attempt to paint me as some predatory weirdo.
I really felt that I would have to say something in reply so I clearly and calmly pointed out that I had neither sworn, or raised my voice at them, and the saddest part of this was that none of the four were apparently ashamed with the behaviour of their friends.
Of course I added that their parents must be very proud of them.

That was really it, but I can't help wondering about how much misery these children have caused, and will go on to be responsible for.
They all appeared to get a great deal of enjoyment out of being......well arseholes really.
They were like the tween faction of the Bullingdon club.

I hope in some weird twist of fate that one of the girls parents is reading this - it was the 6.12 from Central to Kilmarnock by the way - and recognizes that it was their daughter.

Maybe they could discuss with them where they are going wrong.

Barring that they could point them in the direction of the young conservatives where they would no doubt feel at home.

I would take the company of the good people of Govan, with all their issues they carry, over the company of these four, as the people of Govan have far more compassion and empathy than they could muster between them. 

Sunday 6 October 2013

Michael Monroe - Horns and Halos

Three albums into his post Hanoi Rocks career (2nd phase) and Michael Monroe is looking to close the gap with the past.
Everything has come full circle in the best possible way, and with his band he is redefining the rock and roll landscape again by dragging us all back into the gutter where we can imagine that the stars are within our grasp.
While I was impressed with the debut, and it's proper studio follow up, they are now relegated to being magnificent rungs in the ladder that we stepped on as we made our way to Horns and Halos.
When Ginger moved on to pastures new I mourned his passing right up until it was announced that Dregen was on board, and then I did that dance around the room that you would rather others didn't know about.
The shading he has brought to the material is no better, or worse, than what Ginger brought to the band, just different, and equally as entertaining.
With Sami Yaffa, Steve Conte and Karl Rockfist, and Dregen of course, backing up Michael on stage, in the studio, and on the song-writing this may just be the best band on the planet right now.
In fact you can scratch that.
Right at this moment in time no one is coming close to touching them.
Between them all they have an enviable track record and best of all they have the gang mentality that all great bands need.
Everything has simply clicked into place.
The piano in Child of the Revolution, the guitars in.....well, in everything actually.
It's them against the world and the rest of the world may come in as a poor second in this fight.
There's nothing you could throw at them that they would flinch away from.
They deliver one hundred percent, one hundred percent of the time.
The guitar work dueling back and forth between Steve Conte and Dregen is sublimely and ecstatically fluid.
It's rock and roll nirvana.
Blisteringly good.
There was probably a moment when Sami and Karl were listening back to the album when they looked at each other and smiled knowing that they had built a foundation that was unshakable.
If so, then they were right.
You could build a skyscraper on the back of their input and no storm would topple it.
Michael is the consummate ringmaster throughout.
The icing on the cake.
A glam punk demigod dipping into reggae, clash styled sonic attacks and New York Dolls blues influenced sleaze while barely taking a breath.
Any self respecting rock fan would be in thrall to this.
The frightening thing about it all is that in reality the band are still in their infancy to.

If world domination doesn't materialize then I'm kicking off a revolution as who really wants to live in a world that doesn't celebrate such life affirming music as this?

XSLF - Pivo Pivo Glasgow - Oct 3rd

XSLF have been using the tag line 'The fire still burns' to promote their current run of live dates, and the proof that the statement is no idle boast was apparent from the first chord being struck right up until the last shook the plaster from the ceiling of Pivo Pivo in Glasgow.

It is without a shadow of a doubt that Henry Cluney, Jim Reilly and Petesy Burns could never be accused of going through the motions, as the material from the first few SLF albums were delivered with far more passion and commitment than most would have realistically expected.
It was as if they had been told that they only had one shot at this and something kicked in and took it to a level that left the audience physically and emotionally spent.
In the aftermath I lost count of the sweat drenched men who stated that the performance surpassed that of the current SLF line up, and while that will be hotly debated, those who have seen these guys firing on all cylinders will find it hard to disagree.

That's not to demean the Burns fronted line up, but to highlight just how much energy was expelled in delivering the songs.
It did no harm that the set was made up of what most would claim to be the best in the SLF back catalogue either.
It's a relentless run of classics that has the audience punching the air, pogoing wildly, crowd surfing at one point, roaring out the lyrics, and in addition helped many lose some weight with a serious aerobic workout. ;)

Fans are aware that Henry has had some health issues, very serious health issues, but it can be seen that he has left them behind as his delivery of the material is a powerful testament to his talents, Jim is a machine, behind the kit he is the engine that never flags, and Petesy dominated the bass.
It would be an act of folly to try and pinpoint one singular negative as there were none.
No one dropped the ball on this, and it is simply stating a fact when they say that ' the fire still burns'.
This was no flickering light in the darkness, but instead a fire that when burning at its brightest could be seen from space.

In support 4 Past Midnight and The Red Eyes showed why they are both considered the big hitters in the Glasgow punk scene, and new to Pivo The Puzzlers opened the night with a set that would leave the majority of headline acts wondering just how they would follow it.
It could be said that the night was book ended by magnificence and filled in the middle with sterling performances.

If a famous beverage did gigs then this would have been it.

A special shout out has to go out to The Media Whores for stepping aside to allow The Puzzlers to play.
It can't be said often enough how much that meant to the band and myself.


Unless you live on the dark side of the moon, or have chosen to disengage with the media, then you must be aware of the furore surrounding the promotional video for the track Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus.
A young woman cavorting naked to sell a song - nothing new - has managed to get a spectacular amount of people upset.
Initially Sinead O'Connor started the 'wrecking' ball rolling with an open letter, that while it lacked any sort of diplomacy, passionately stabbed a dagger into the heart of the matter.

The response was one that few of us would have expected.

Highlighting the mental health issues that Sinead has battled in the past smacked of nothing more than a race to the bottom in debating skills.
Ugly, ignorant and inappropriate sums the reply up, and ultimately the attitude displayed by Ms Cyrus could be more damaging to her career than any amount of simulated sledgehammer fellatio could be.

Meanwhile the media have had a field day.
From the red tops to the broad sheets, and across the unlimited expanse of the internet, everyone appears to have commented.
In addition, the bandwagon that was already beginning to creak under the weight of the debate, had a few more passengers to carry as Amanda Palmer, and then Annie Lennox, brought their views to the table.

Now I want to make something very clear at this point.

I personally consider that there is a great deal of worth to be had in continuing the debate.
The video in itself has most definitely opened the door to a wider debate that can be had about feminism, about misogyny, about the sexualization of young children through the medium of entertainment, and so much more, and the response from Cyrus should be addressed with opinion pieces on the attitudes towards displayed towards those with mental health issues, but I have an problem.

My problem is this.

Currently there is enough going on in the UK, and globally, that we should be concerning ourselves with, and the media is doing us all a disservice by pushing this story so hard into the public eye.
It is a distraction that we do not need.

When we consider that a little over a week ago a man set fire to himself in a job centre - after having not eaten in three days due to his benefits being stopped - then between that and the Miley Cyrus debate what story do we think should be highlighted?
What one should carry the most weight in the press?

How about some of the draconian measures that are being touted at the Conservative party conference?
If they are successful in implementing these policies then the impact will be felt across the genders, across generations, and pretty much only a minority of the already affluent will manage to buck the downward spiral trend.
Is that not a more pressing story to report on at this present time?

I must stress again that I consider the subject deserves our attention, but how much of it is the question?

Where should this story sit in the press?
Is it a leading story?
Of course salacious headlines sells in the world of the red tops, but this has managed to leap the divide and is attracting just as much attention from the broadsheets as it has from the gutter press.

It concerns me as it could be considered the thin end of the wedge.

I wouldn't bat an eye at a comment piece about the television show 'The Only Way is Essex' being included in a broad sheet, but I would if it was on page two and an article about how many under twenty years of age had died in drone attacks was on page nine.

So in closing this is not an attack on the opinions expressed by Sinead O'Connor, Amanda Palmer, or Annie Lennox, but an attack on how the media appear to cherry pick what they want to distract us with.

Friday 4 October 2013

In conversation with The Ballachulish Hellhounds

Is it a source of pride that very rarely anyone manages to spell the bands name correctly? Is there any weird and wonderful versions that you read and wonder how they could get it so wrong?

Ah, the name.
Its a double edged sword sometimes.
On the one hand we're not too precious about folk getting it right, particularly if they've made the effort to come and see us play.
It's a memorable name, if a little hard to pronounce for some people.
I do get a wee bit annoyed when someone’s booked us and they cant be arsed spelling it right on a poster or promo. We live in a world of 'copy and paste' so there's no excuse really.
On the other hand we got booked to play the Grand Ole Opry in Glasgow a couple of years ago and the promoter had us down as The BallaHELLISH HOLEhounds. That tickled us, even thought about changing it permanently, for about ten seconds...

I hear you received an interview request due to the band being young and up and coming. Do you want to share with us when you actually formed?

Yeah, that was funny and a bit sad really. Symptomatic of the lazy amateurs running about today’s music scene, but that’s another conversation altogether.
We actually played our first gig in 1989 as a psychedelic blues rock band, complete with a harmonica playing army deserter as our front man (seriously!) and a drum machine.
We played like that for a couple of years, then life got in the way.
Myself and Zander met up in Glasgow 7-8 years ago and started jamming again, played a few gigs as a duo and discovered that folk seemed to like what we were about. The turning point was getting booking for The Wickerman Festival in 2007, things seemed to take off after that.
Since then, we played the length and breadth of the UK, put out 2 well received albums and an EP and amassed over 300 gigs and counting.

So it's been a rapid ascendency in popularity for you all?

You could say we're an overnight success, if a night lasted 25 years...

To be serious though you guys have been pushing a hard bluegrass sound for a while now.
Do you feel that sometimes the americana/folk scene can be accused of being a bit clean and your sound could be described as a tad more authentic, as apart from it having a frayed blue collar there's a great deal of dirt under its nails?

We're kinda outsiders on the scene, but that’s ok with us, we like it that way.
It can be too 'clean' as you suggest, our roots are in noisy rock and punk, so I think that comes across in our live shows. Sometimes I think you can give roots music too much respect, we like to mix it up and play it with a bit of edge, particularly at our live shows.
We have more of an 'up and at em' approach, which isn’t really how a lot of UK Americana bands do it.
We're the real deal though, anyone that comes to see the Hellhounds will know they've been to see a band that’s honest about what they do, hopefully they'll think we can play a bit as well and come back for more.
Where we come from in the Highlands, Kinlochleven and Glencoe, used to have an Aluminium factory right smack in the middle of the mountains, so we grew up in a curiously odd place. Heavy industry and everything that comes with that, set to a back drop of mountains and a small village lifestyle.
I worked for ten years there stacking Aluminium ingots and working shifts, my collars are still frayed and blue and I can still remember the dirt and the grime from working there, Zander was the same. I think has given us a good work ethic along with a bit of a fuck you to the man attitude. Nothing worse than some middle class boy or girl singing about 'working on the rail-road' 'drinking moonshine' or how bad it is in jail.
I usually find it pretty crass and think to myself “if that fella/lady ever seen a hard days work, then My name is Johnny Cash....”

What do you think about the rise in popularity of roots music over the last few years? Pros and cons?

Personally, I think its great.
As with any genre, if you stick to playing well and honestly, you last the course. We play what we like and if folk like it, that's grand. We've been doing it for a few years now and it comes and goes. The first wave in recent years was when the soundtracks for O Brother Where Art Thou and Brokeback Mountain came out.
That piqued some interest.
If I'm being honest, I don’t really see any cons, anything that can get folk listening to some music they might not have discovered otherwise is fine with me.
Any genre specific music always attracts scensters, Americana music isn’t any different.
If it means they buy a tickets to see us and maybe even a CD, that's cool. Although, I’m a wee bit pissed off about the amount of checked shirts on the go these days,
I used to wear them because they were cheap, now every fuckers got one...

You are a self released band. Is that through choice or necessity?

Its a bit of both really. There's another band on our label called Dixie Fried, I've played in bands and been friends with their drummer John Murphy for years. Both of us have been working in and around music for a while running gigs and helping our other bands. We decided that the best way to go was to set up our own wee label called Big Rock Candy Records and self release our own music.
Its been a good learning experience, but very worthwhile.
There's 4 acts on the label now and we wont have any more than that on it. The best thing is that we have complete control over what we do. Everyone involved in the label does a proper shift when they have to, its a pretty good collective of like minded people. It goes back to the work ethos I spoke about earlier, there's far too many really talented folk that aren’t prepared to put in the extra work to get themselves to the next stage.
We have the label at a level we're comfortable with, playing music is our priority, but running our own label makes us to push ourselves a bit more.
And apart from anything else, being in control of our own destiny has made us find out more about the pond we swim in. I’m sure you won't be surprised about the amount of musicians that don’t actually have a clue how the business works.
We're no experts, but we have a bit of a clue...

You played recently as part of the No Mean City festival in Glasgow. It was a far reaching run of dates and you played the opening night. How did that go?

That was a great gig for us, although I’ve played there in a couple of other bands, this was the first time The Hellhounds had played the ABC and to be playing as part of No Mean City was great.
We got a cracking reception, always nice to be invited to these sort of things.
We played King Tuts for the first time this year as well, never too old and all that...

While some acts seem to be rooted to one geographical location you appear to do as many gigs in the north of Scotland as you do on the west coast if not more. Are the audiences quite different as I have this idea in my head that the further north we go the more they would get what you guys are all about. Is that a fair view?

That's true to a certain extent. When we play up north folk seem to be right up for the night out and usually get right on board with the craic.
That’s not to say we don't enjoy playing in our home town (Glasgow), there are just far more opportunities for a band like us to actually get paid and looked after by travelling to far flung places outside our comfort zone.
Definitely sharpens your tools by hitting the road, that's for sure.
We're a bit old school in our approach, we sell most of our CD's at gigs, so it makes good sense to play in as many different places as we can.
I get bored really quickly playing the same venues in Glasgow, in fact over the last 2-3 years, we've only played 2 or 3 gigs a year in Glasgow.

Festivals. Of course I was there at Eden this year and I had a ball, as you all obviously did to, as we bumped into each other often enough in ongoing degrees of intoxication. Was that one of your favourites and what others did you play and how did they measure up to it?

Eden was great! That was our 3rd year in a row there, top festival and always a grand gig for us. Proper party people.
This year we also played Belladrum amongst others, headlining The Potting Shed Stage for the 2nd time, that’s a right home gig for us and always a good weekend.
The crowds there are mental, in a good way.
Probably, playing festivals is when we really thrive. We can play a 45-60min set and really go for it. Not forgetting we're usually playing to a crowd that in the most part, haven't heard us before.
That's a challenge we like, bringing a bit of mayhem to the uninitiated, always fun.

And finally what's next for the band. Have you more recording plans, live dates, supports?

Well. We've just finished a run a dates from April-September which included a pile of festivals, King Tuts, No Mean City and a whole heap of places in between including our first gig in Mull, which was a lot of fun.
At the moment we have a couple of gigs in November and that's us for the live stuff for the year, unless we get a decent offer for something good.
In 2014 we're celebrating 25 years of The Ballachulish Hellhounds, so we're making plans for that.
I can say, there will be an album simply called The Ballachulish Hellhounds with all original songs. Along with a big party in Glasgow and one in the Highlands.

I cant say much more than that at the minute, but if you follow us on Facebook, that's the place to watch. We also have our website where you can keep up to speed with any news and stream all our music to.

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Sweathearts of the prison rodeo – On the desolate hillside

Just recently there was a large thread on a social network site that followed on from my asking if young people in general engaged with live music blindly as my compatriots and myself did way back in the mists of time.
The discussion was a long and varied one with multiple views being expressed.
A great many reasons for what seems like a disengagement was touted, but there didn't appear to be any argument to say that people did still just go out and put their entertainment needs into the laps of the gods.
Maybe I am one of the few elephants shuffling off to our mythical graveyard then as this is how I stumbled across Sweathearts of the prison rodeo.
I was in Glasgow and had a look through some listing sites online and the name jumped out and from that I read a bit about them and thought 'this could be right up my street'.
The deal was sealed when an artist I like and admire turned out to be part of the supporting bill.
So with that there I was in the 13th Note for the album launch and yet another act were added to my list of those who provided damn good nights.
There's no point in trying to force the band into a neat little box as they are a sprawling glorious mess of free expression that has a socialist heart, and they are impressively fearless in how they put themselves across.
Thankfully none of that was lost when it was transferred over to the studio.
Some have described them as an americana act, but while that does indeed flavour some of what they do you could also say confidently that they are a post punk band who understand the importance of folk music.
In bits I am reminded of the Nyah Fearties in the attitude they display if not sound, and that's not a bad thing.
The main thing that keeps coming to mind when I listen to the album is how we need bands like this.
They are the antidote to the bland, the anarchic storm that thrashes through banality and apathy, and leaves the air crackling with life in the aftermath.