Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Olympic Swimmers: ‘No Flags Will Fly’

The Royal Mail arrived yesterday and the CD  got its first proper spin on the home stereo. I’ve been grateful to have had the last few weeks to listen to the mp3s you so kindly forwarded me. I’ve had the chance to listen to it quite a bit on the daily commute. As accessible as it is there is a considerable amount of depth. Some of the ‘local’ press I glanced at seemed almost surprised that the record was as good as it is. I found that puzzling. Are you happy with the reaction?

“Definitely happy that anyone likes it at all…did have a slight worry somewhere in the back of my head that we might be the only ones that thought it was any good! I’m not sure that I’ve picked up on people being surprised, maybe I’ve missed that but the only thing that has slightly puzzled me is the desire to talk about the olympic games or swimming! Our name is just a name, and apart from the fact that I consider it to have nothing to do with the olympic games, I’m surprised that anyone would want to waste words/space talking about something so far removed from an album of music! It’s a really difficult thing to self-release an album in a town that’s pretty saturated with music, in a world where fewer and fewer people care much about music itself, so we really appreciate any support we’ve had from bloggers, press, radio, twitter-addicts etc.”

 I am pleased that you took our “advice” and put ‘Apples and Pears’ on the record. Apparent changes: opening inverted in the mix, the vocals and song are given more space to breathe, some more playful guitar lines, drumming is toned down and more focused; all in all an excellent revision of a gem of a song. It solidly anchors the record in the 4th position. Were there any conscious decisions made when polishing up the song? You weren’t seriously contemplating not including it were you?

“We were very seriously considering not including it (sorry!). We had several rounds of voting throughout the demoing, recording and mixing. I can’t remember now when and where I voted for it but it wasn’t all the time! There were other songs we recorded in full, and some that started out and were left ‘on hold’ that at times threatened A&P. I think we recorded the original version quite soon after it was written and so there were things about it that later bothered us that we wanted to change. We re-recorded it for the album to see how it would be with some revisions and I think it scrubbed up well!”

The bass line in the second track ‘Knots’ is a joy to listen to. It is probably my favourite new song. It is constantly rattling around my head. The vocals, in terms of pacing and delivery, especially in the choruses, remind me of Yuki Chikudate of Asobi Seksu. Are you familiar with them at all? Most of the songs sound very unique vocally; it is just the first reference that came to me. Of course, my comparisons must be taken with a grain of salt as in ‘Where it Snows’ I can hear Liz Fraser as well. Do you have a specific approach to singing?

“I don’t know Asobi Seksu’s music very well but I’m pretty sure Jonny really likes them so maybe he was subconsciously influencing me! Liz Fraser, on the other hand, is one of my favourite vocalists but I feel as equally influenced by Jaz Coleman and you’d probably struggle to hear him in there unless you were really trying! When I sing the chorus it sometimes reminds me of Ron sexsmith, I’m not sure why! Singing approach, I suppose there’s two parts to that – the melody and the physical approach. In terms of melodies I don’t think I let myself think about it too much – my favourite tunes to have come out of my head just came out without me having to ask them to. I usually just try loads of things out loud or in my head while the others are playing as loud as possible or while I’m listening to something we’ve recorded in rehearsal. What I can physically do with my voice has definitely changed in the last few years maybe as I’ve gotten more confident with trying new things and maybe also because I’ve been thinking in much more depth about the way my throat or mouth or breathing feels and how that affects the sounds. I think when people see us live they’re a bit surprised that i can make so much noise but I’ve never had much of a problem belting it out! Its actually the other extreme I’ve found more difficult but my brother Simon pushed me to try a much softer approach when we were writing songs for the album and I’m really glad he did because I think I needed some balance in there!”

I couldn’t find any evidence of Green White Violet records. Is the album self- released?  Is there any chance of a possible future vinyl release?

Green White Violet is simply the label I had to set up for us in order to self-release. Maybe I should set up a website to satisfy the desires of future curious googlers! I chose the name because green, white and violet were the colours used by the Women’s Social and Political Union at the start of the 20th Century and I thought that the themes that represents of equality, union and drive toward a common goal were pretty decent values on which to base a DIY approach to making and releasing music!  We would love to do a vinyl release…and so we might…should probably be on green, white or violet vinyl though eh?!

The June 24th Oran Mor lineup is remarkable. Have you played or attended this event before? Is it the culminating piece of the Westend Festival? I’m curious how the multi-stage line up works. Are the sets staggered or do difficult choices need to be made?

“Because I was away when you emailed me I can now satisfy your curiosity because we played it last night! The sets were staggered to a certain extent but I think maybe some folk had to make certain sacrifices throughout the day. My regrettable decision to attempt to take some of our equipment away from the venue before RM Hubbert came on meant I missed most of his set but I can’t exactly blame that on any clash of lineup, just my own stupidity! I don’t think Oran Mor have run anything like this before but I sincerely hope they do again (and have us back!) because they nailed it! We had our friend Alex filling in on drums for us because Jonny was flying back from America and didn’t think he’d be able to make it in time. He turned up as we were going on, so had the bizarre experience of watching us play.”

Could you relate some of the back story for ‘Your Father Said’? Why did another song from one of the EPs end up as lead track for your debut full length? (beyond what is in the Peenko song rundown)

“Beyond what I said on peenko about the lyrics, Father Said grew out of a demo Graeme and I recorded in our living room. It was originally much faster and about twice as long, there was also another bit of a vocal melody that never made it to the final melody, so I might go back to it at some point. On the original recording Graeme played guitar and Jamie played bass. It was originally recorded for the album because we love it! And because we hoped that the album would have a broader reach than the EPs had, so it seemed like a waste to ignore it just because it had been on ‘One’. Once we had re-recorded it we felt that it was even more worthy of being on the album.”

Have you heard any of the forthcoming third Meursault record? On a whim, I recently added a vinyl copy of their debut to my Leg order from the Toad. Playing the record was a revelation. It is arguably my favourite record at the moment. Have you ever re-discovered’ something after a cursory introduction?

“I haven’t heard it I’m afraid but am gutted to hear that your favourite record at the moment is not OURS! I’m going to mortify the rest of my band here … my dad has the definition of eclectic taste and fed us abba to the incredible string band to camera obscura over the years so I have always loved abba but during my teens I probably thought I didn’t need to add that to my list of loser qualities so definitely turned my back on them! I’ve been back in love with them for a while but I hadnt listened properly to the visitors for years until Graeme bought me an old lp last year and I had forgotten how much I am in love with those voices! On a slightly less uncool note my friend Craig tried to get me into Antony and the Johnsons a few years ago and I resisted. I watched them with him at a gig and despite being totally overwhelmed by the set I didn’t buy any records. I recently amended that error and am now in full obsession. This has tended to be the pattern of my friendship with him that he’ll try to get me to like things, I’ll protest and then later admit he’s usually right.”

Good experiment or bad idea? I noticed that Modern English are playing down the hill from me next month. I saw them back in ’83 during my first year in college. I quite liked the records; Ricochet Days was actually one of my favourites. Live it was a disaster. They are touting the “original lineup”. They couldn’t possibly still be as bad could they? I am strangely compelled to go and see — as a musical experiment. Have you gone to see a band you admired from the studio but the live performance induced the desire to flee? Could you tell us who they were?

“Quite a few but none I feel comfortable immortalising on the internet! I once lost my ticket on the way to see Sonic Youth play the barrowlands after a very long time waiting to see them and then had to buy another one from a tout at a ridiculous price. I don’t think they were actually bad, but they didn’t live up to what I hoped it would be nor the price I’d then paid for it, but thats probably mostly my own fault!

I just ordered a second copy of ‘No Flags Will Fly”. The plan? – take it to the JAMC show tomorrow night and give it to Phil as a thank you for the guest list spots. What artists have you discovered while on tour or because of a show? (I don’t suppose I could convince you to un-shrink wrap and sign this one?)

“Please let me know how you got on with this plan! I can’t really think of anyone we’ve played with that we haven’t known about, or at least investigated before hand but I did really like Junip when we played with them as I’d never really heard them before but I celebrated that night by having a few ales and singing Aerosmith in the street, so I’ve tried to wipe the entire event from my memory. And yes I’ll un-shrink wrap and follow your instructions!”

Are there any acts we should be looking for? Ideally something we might not have heard of yet?

We played with a very nice band called No Comet who are really good and you might like. Scottish bands other than the ones I’ve told you, I like French wives, Miaoux Miaoux, John Knox Sex Club but you probably know them already! Still more in love with Desalvo, Holy Mountain and Happy Particles than its safe to admit.”

Lastly, isn’t it about time Emma Pollock comes back to SF? (bringing her backing band and Olympic Swimmers as support)

“Isn’t it about time you came over here on holiday?!”

T&P

Our Jesus and Mary Chain adventure was limited to being on the guest list. No backstage passes were handed out that evening for them due to illness and a flight out right after the show. But hey … we can say we were on the Mary Chain guestlist.  (saving $55 each didn’t hurt either)

Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

Miaoux Miaoux

The Edinburgh album launch was June 14th, with Mitchell Museum and Conquering Animal Sound no less. Do tell us how it went. Is it common to have a Glasgow album launch and an Edinburgh album launch as well? I’ve seen this before, but being the literalist that I am, wouldn’t the album launch only happen once?

“It was great, thanks – we were going to play a show with the whole band (Kris from Mitchell Museum and Paul from the sadly departed Dananananaykroyd as the mega rhythm section) but Paul couldn’t make it so I ended up playing on my own. Conquering Animal Sound and Mitchell Museum both did killer sets. The venue, Electric Circus, has these bizarre karaoke rooms at the back, painted with snakes, graffiti and the carpet pattern from the Overlook Hotel, so the whole place has quite a strange vibe. Lots of mirrors, brushed chrome and excellent sub-bass. I did a video interview in one of the rooms before the show, heavily sleep-deprived, which was pretty trippy. Fun! I suppose it’s common to only have one launch, but I’m a greedy bastard.”

Fortunately, we had the Jesus and Mary Chain in town the night of the launch as consolation. Assuming that they probably were not; would you care to share any of your musical influences?

“It’s a question that keeps coming up and I keep giving different answers, so here’s a list of some acts that had a particular impact on me: Fleetwood Mac, DJ Shadow, Pete Heller, Squarepusher, Dire Straits, Mice Parade, Deerhoof, Armin Van Helden, Chris Clark, Nathan Fake, Boards of Canada, The Prodigy.”

The blurb for the Electric Circus launch night cites as you as a “Londoner”. Up until now, I’d assumed you were Scottish. The 405 interview pronounces you a “Glaswegian producer”. How did you end up in Scotland? Was it a purposeful musical act?

“I’d got work up here as part of my degree studies, and it was the first time I’d been in the city – I didn’t know what to expect really. Over the year, I got involved with the music scene and really loved it, so decided to move back once I graduated. So yeah, I guess it was a purposeful musical act, in as much as I moved because of music. It’s great up here.”

My own album ‘launch’ will happen when my Chemikal Underground package finishes its Atlantic and continental crossing. I ordered the vinyl with cd insert. I love that they frequently do this. As much as I’ve come to love my new vinyl collection listening to CD is still not without attractions. Does the artist have a say in what formats they release?

“Well, some of a say – Chemikal have their preferred ways of releasing things, which I personally love as well, so I was happy to go with it, but if I’d insisted on no CD they probably would have gone with it. There were some heated discussions over the packaging, for sure. Vinyl with additional digital format (download or CD) is definitely the way forward.”

Needless to say, I’ve developed quite a warm spot for the label. I literally have, in one form or the other, everything they’ve released beginning with Bis. They, wisely I might add, have yet to respond to my request for a blog post. Could you tell us anything about your signing to Chemikal? Who approached who, what’s it been like working with them, who packages up the online orders …. anything you care to share at all would be welcome.

“Good work! They approached me after a show last year. It’s been great working with them, they’ve been really supportive of what I do, and there’s been no pressure to be one thing or the other, which suits me perfectly. They’re packaging the orders, I did stamp and sign all the vinyl though.”

Do you consider this your sophomore release or the first proper one? I just purchased Rainbow Bubbles now from bandcamp. I hadn’t noticed it before. What additional resources were you able to apply to the recording of the new record?

“It’s definitely the sophomore release but a lot of people are treating it as the debut, which I guess I’m fine with, as it’s so different. I started renting a studio space in Glasgow around 2 years ago, and have been building up my gear ever since. So ‘Light of the North’ was done in this dedicated space, where I can make noise at any time, rather than slapped together in a bedroom – a much better way of working.”

My iTunes folder has a surprising amount of your remix work. This, of course, has a lot to do with the excellent artists you’ve done one for: Martin Henry, Jonnie Common , Zoey Van Goey etc. Do you have anything you could term “an approach” when doing a remix?

“The artists I’ve worked with might be horrified to hear this, but I try not to listen to the track I’ve been asked to remix beforehand. This gives me no preconceived idea of how it should sound, so I end up taking parts and using them in completely the wrong place, or out of time, or whatever. I remember with the Zoey Van Goey remix (one of the first I did), the vocals were two whole beats out of time from the original. Must have been confusing on the first listen. So the approach is just taking parts that interest me and making something new out of that.”

Paul Savage obviously shows up a lot on the albums I buy. What was it like working with him? What does he bring to process? Was there something you learned or took away from the experience?

“Paul is a great engineer and producer, and a very relaxed and confident guy to work with. His mixing ability is fantastic, and he really made the record sound great, and in a very short space of time (we mixed the entire thing in six days, it would have taken me months), which is why I pushed to work with him. He had some great production input as well, kept urging me to repeat choruses. Being an engineer myself, it was great to watch him at work, and I definitely learned a huge amount about the mix process – it’s entirely possible to over mix something, and kill it.”

I see that you are also on the June 24thOran Mor mega-bill. Who are going to be playing with in your section of the venue? What are your thoughts on the new Olympic Swimmers record? Have you or are you going to remix something of theirs?

“Yeah the mega bill is going to be mega fun. Don’t know where and with whom I’m playing yet, up for anything with that lineup really. Apparently they’re putting a quadraphonic PA in so I’m going to try and figure out how I can use that. The Olympic Swimmers record sounds great, only heard it once but absolutely love ‘Where it Snows’. I’m friends with Jamie, the guitarist, and we’ve talked about remixing it so hopefully that’ll happen.”

Going back to the March SAMA awards here. Congratulations on the nomination. I had to look up the actual winners. The first thing I found was the Thornhill Ontario Fridge Magnets. Proceeding to the Glasgow ones and listened to ‘The Death of Rock ‘n Roll’, I need to ask you what the ‘alternative’ in SAMA actually is referring to? To this ear, they are about as alternative as the Canadians.

Haha, well I suppose ‘alternative’, like ‘indie’, has lost some if not all of its meaning – for a lot of people, ‘alternative’ is the mainstream now. I don’t know anything about that band, but obviously someone likes them!”

Is there someone you could recommend to us that you’ve recently discovered?

“There’s a band called Super Adventure Club that I saw live recently and completely blew my mind. Hardcore prog punk three piece. Just unbelievably tight, and very silly. In terms of electronic music, Discopolis are on the verge of taking over the world, and Kill The Waves are doing nice things. Also check out the forthcoming Adam Stafford / Rick Redbeard split on Gerry Loves, both great artists.”

I’ve purposefully avoided listening to snippets of the new record. I’m saving that experience for the vinyl when it gets here. How has the reaction to the release been? Has it met or exceeded your expectations?

“It’s been very positive so far, I’m really happy people like it. I was confident in it as a record so I guess I’m satisfied rather than surprised, but it’s always great when people get what you’re doing.”

If you were to reinterpret a Simple Minds song what would it be?

“Well the band and I learned a cover of ‘Theme for Great Cities’ which we played on a session for Vic Galloway a few weeks ago. Great fun to play, bassline of dreams. ‘I Travel’ is also pretty great.”

About a year ago I whimsically purchased an advert/postcard or something from a show offered on bandcamp; a little piece of Glasgow. It either got lost in the mail or you pocketed my 1.50. When I eventually get there, I shall hunt you down.

“Hahaha, oh dear. Sorry about that. I’m coming to San Francisco in August so I’ll bring one over specially. Save you killing me.”

T&P

Immediately after listening to the record once, I went online and ordered another as a gift. Doing my part to support C.U. for sure. I then listened to it 2 more times. This isn’t usually something that I do. I enjoyed it that much. Hopefully, the recepient will concur.

Posted in Bands We've Chatted With

The Jesus and Mary Chain (Phil King)

Who the fuzz (bass) is Phil King?!A man of many, many talents…Mr. King has locked in the groove for several influential groups over the years, including Felt, Lush, and The Jesus and Mary Chain. He filled us in on his journey as a sideman just as he hits our shores with JAMC’s return to the Fillmore on June 14th.

Lush and JAMC was the first concert I went to (and the reason I went to Lollapalooza ’92). Nothing like hearing the opening notes of ‘Stray’ in 90+ degree heat and humidity at high noon to kick off a rock festival. What was your first concert experience? 

“My first concert experience was Wizzard at Sutton Granada in 1974. It was at a local cinema. I was 14. My friend was meant to go with me – but he decided not to in the end so I had to go on my own. I sat next to Rob Davis, the guitarist from Mud. I was so starstruck I couldn’t relax for the whole show.”

The world could use some Lush again, with all the ’90’s nostalgia and rediscovery going on, is it at all on the table for a possible reunion?

“We’ve talked about it a few times in the last few years – but the logistics have been too difficult as we have day jobs and families. Maybe one day. I even got asked if Lush would come to China when I played there a few weeks ago with The Jesus And Mary Chain. I was told that 4AD is popular out there.”

Along with spending my hard earned teenage money on that first concert, I managed to scrap together a few more bucks and buy a Samick bass guitar and practice amp, A Korean sunburst Fender copy of a beauty that only a 16 year old stuck in the suburbs could truly love. The first thing I learned was “For Love”. Did you find the bass or did the bass find you? What are some bass players you looked to when starting out?

“The bass found me. When I joined The Servants it was a case of one six string guitarist too many. David Westlake was the singer and songwriter and played the rhythm guitar and John Mohan was the talented lead guitarist and they really needed a bass player. They had a short scale Fender Musicmaster bass – and also an amp – to hand so I picked it up and started playing it – and have been playing bass ever since.

The first song I really noticed the bass playing on was Herbie Flowers on Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side.’ I understand he got double session rates for that as he played both a stand up bass and an electric one. In terms of bass players that influenced me when I was starting out playing I would say David McClymont from Orange Juice and Ken Forsi from Love. David McClymont’s playing was very inventive, quite busy, but very melodic and you could dance to it. Quite a difficult thing to pull off. I particularly like Ken Forsi’s playing on the first Love album. It is outrageously loud in the mix too. As a bass player I like that.”

Fast forward 6 years to 1998, and I got into a sold out Mary Chain show (and their last, before breaking up) in NY, thanks in part to your predecessor waving me past security through the loading dock. I owe him a pint wherever he is. How did you come to play bass for Scotland’s favorite punk experimentalists?

“Actually maybe that was me as I played bass for them on in 1998! I’d met them briefly on Lollapalooza and had even auditioned for them (as a guitarist) around the time of Automatic. Ben Lurie got the job. William tells me I didn’t get it because my shoes were too pointy whereas Jim says they tossed a coin whilst in Paris and it came up tails for me.”

You’ve also logged time with Felt, another under appreciated band who’s been perking interest as of late. What can you tell us about any future plans with this influential group?

“Lawrence has vowed never to reform Felt. I did have had a passing thought about forming a Felt instrumental group made up of ex-Felt members. Felt’s music would certainly lend itself to being played just instrumentally. I did mention it to Lawrence and he didn’t think it was a bad idea.”

Apart from holding down the rhythm section for these and many more, you have been a picture researcher for NME and currently, Uncut. Some of your projects include writing for “The First Time I Heard” book series on New Order and David Bowie, and contributing to a new album art book highlighting the Junk Shop Glam era called, Wired Up!. Where do you see the world of publication heading with the likes of Kickstarter allowing for specialized projects getting a chance to see the light of day more organically. What projects are you currently working on and is there a subject you’ve always wanted to cover for a book?   

“I think certainly in terms of music books I can see there being a lot more limited edition books such as the Felt photo book that came out recently where you pay upfront for the book and then once enough money has been accrued the book is published. At Uncut we did an i-pad app version of a Bowie magazine special which I thought worked very well. It was album by album plus archive interviews and galleries of photos and Youtube links.

I tend not to be that pro-active about writing for books. Normally I am approached and if it is something that interests me I will do it. For example the Wired Up book. I had already done the interviews with Jesse Hector, Brett Smiley, Sal Maida (Milk N Cookies) and Chris Townson (The Jook/Jet) over the last few years for various magazines and it was great to get the opportunity to have them all in one place. It’s going to be a beautiful book. It looks amazing. Scott Heim approached to write something on David Bowie and New Order for The First Time I Heard series of book and to be honest I was quite surprised what I wrote as I realised that when I pulled up the memories of when I first heard them it was very much linked to what was going on in my life at the time.”

Two years later, in 2000, shuffling through a used cd bin at a record store in Chicago, I came across a live bootleg of the Lush/JAMC sets from the same Lollapalooza show I was at. They say music comes full circle. How has music come full circle for you?

It’s interesting that I seem to be working my way through my past musical career. My first group The Beautiful Losers finally had the recordings we did in 1980 released in 2010. My next recording ‘Skylon’ came out as bonus track on The Second Layers ‘World Of Rubber’ album on Cherry Red in 2009, The Servants had a Cherry Red compilation out a few years and Captured Tracks released a vinyl album last year (now on its second pressing I understand), the Apple Boutique single was reissued (twice) and an album came out last year too. There is a See See Rider album due this year. All we need now is some Lush reissues – or a box set with bonus tracks. I’m just saying.”

2008 saw the return of the Mary Chain to the stage for me once again, on a cool sundown in the desert at Coachella and among the ghosts in the living landmark of the Fillmore. Any impressions from that tour as I believe it was your first with them?

“That was a pretty amazing show. Especially playing as the sun was setting. On the intro to Just Like Honey the drums seem to reverberate off the mountains in the far distance and come back at us with a slight delay. It made me think of The Ronettes and Phil Spector who was being tried at that very time in the same state. The sky had a pinkish hue, the flashlights were going off as Scarlett Johansson walked onstage to sing backing vocals on the song and the big old Hollywood stage set lights behind us burned into us like sun ray lamps.”

A few days from now, you’ll plug in at the Fillmore and treat old and new fans to how the Reid Bros attack feedback and melody. Your current tour leaves a big gap between China and the US start and then again until the Toronto date. Are you trying out new material/booking any studio time during this period?

“There is talk of recording new material but nothing as of yet. There are certainly a stockpile of great songs by Jim and William”.

Finally, any questions for us?

 “Yes, any new good used records stores in San Francisco?”

 Ah, record shopping… our favorite therapeutic pastime. Check out small but mighty,The Explorist International, opened shop about a year a half ago on 24th St. in the Mission. Great finds with great prices on a great street with great eats! (Phil King and Lush pictured below)

Pedro