The Story Of A Venue – OPEN, Norwich

Venues are often places we rush in and out of with little thought of the story behind the place in which we spend a few hours listening, waiting, moshing, watching, laughing, rocking and generally having a good time. (Ok.. there are some ‘hope they stop playing soon’ gigs as well. Best not talk about those nights.) We look around to locate the important stuff like stage, toilet, bar and merch stall. Do we really care all that much about the place, or notice much? Probably not.  One venue in Norwich, however, is a place worth investigating.

OPEN Norwich, on the corner of Bank Plain and London Street, was for many years a branch of  Barclays bank. Old School in the extreme, it had high domed ceilings of white and gold plasterwork. The presence of cashier desks, glass and corporate logos was made insignificant  by the splendour and size of the place – it was worth going in just for a look, and it was probably in some visitor guidebook, too.
In 2003, the building was bought by the Lind Trust, who established a Youth Forum.  A need had been identified – the SOS bus facility (a seriously excellent thing) was available at weekends to support young people, but there was nothing during the week and that needed to be addressed. Two years later, charity status was awarded and in 2009 the current OPEN Youth Trust was formed. Every single penny of profit made goes to youth charities. OPEN provides early intervention of all kinds to over 4,000 youngsters using the drop-in facilities, supporting the next generation from ages 7-25.

OPEN hosts every sort of event you can imagine – art exhibits, musical workshops, shows of all sorts by young people, boxing, quizzes, lectures, book launches, drop in centre, recording facilities, dance studio, conferences, Body Art conventions, life skills courses, adult education, Christmas markets (a first this year) and awards nights. It is also registered as an exam centre. Several more new things are in the pipeline for next year, too. When I visited there was a weeklong dance workshop for kids going on. There’s a café, a climbing wall, ICT facilities and a wealth of access to advice and support. The vaults are also still in use – secure storage is a steady income.

Regular music events began back in March 2012, in a main hall holding 1400, with the more intimate and rather nice Club room holding 300. The range of music is pretty varied – London Grammar, Belle and Sebastian, Craig Charles’ funk night, jazz, Machinehead and a Queen Extravaganza. This month, The Darkness are welcomed  – the fastest selling gig the venue has seen. Rick Lennox saw The Darkness in 2000 at The Barfly with 150 people, loved them, and has wanted to put them on ever since. It’s only days away…

At the time The Darkness’ tour was being mooted and promoters were ringing round venues for free diary dates, OPEN had a booking for the preferred Saturday night so Monday was arranged – the other booking then fell through, much to Rick’s annoyance – too late to change by then.  Whilst tour itineraries are being finalised, the venues will hold dates as long as possible and chase if another enquiry comes in, but confirmation from the promoter can come in as early as the next day, so things can move very quickly. Dates for official announcements from the band and ticket sales are confirmed for release after the information goes on the band’s website. After that, the venue tech team will have liaised with the band’s production team, marketing will have sent the artwork and any posters, and the venue will have made sure as far as humanly possible that everyone knows where they should buy their tickets from.

OPEN itself is hired by the promoter, Live Nation, so there is no contract direct with the band. Rick is there to communicate, problem solve and make sure that everything runs smoothly (ie not letting Justin see the balconies). Which isn’t always as easy as it sounds…

This isn’t just an excellent venue. It’s a force for good in an increasingly bleak world for the young. If you’re there for The Darkness next week, stop, look around and think. Every venue has a story – some are helping the future happen, not just the now.

OPEN has two facebook pages – one for the youth activities and one for live music, as well as twitter and the website.

Many thanks are due to Rick Lennox and Hayley Gerrard at OPEN Norwich, whose help and time was much appreciated.  Have a look at some photos they provided – it’s an amazing building!

Banking Hall then & now 1 Banking Hall then & now image1

 

Anti-Nasty League – Pop Will Eat Itself

There are few bands who offer solace, social commentary and sober reflection all at once, but Pop Will Eat Itself manage to do so with polished aplomb with their new album Anti-Nasty League.
Solace is maybe an odd choice of word, but it comes to me in several forms. There is the comfort of intelligently vocalised shared views with which to identify. There’s a power current of gloriously blended chaotic sound which will strip away your tensions and affirm your belief in right. Not least, there’s the welcome visit from long admired musicians who believe in what they say and how they say it.
Whatever the society Nasty you dislike most, PWEI combat it in this album with humour sly and dry. Lyrics with a needle sharp point may leave you breathless, but they will make you consider whether you already agree or not. ’21st Century Civil War’ sets the tone with an anthemic list of bigotries and elitisms guaranteed to stir the blood. ‘They Can’t Take (What You Won’t Let ‘Em Have)’ continues the message for a crowd that will be moshing within seconds. ‘Middle East Street Party’s dig at the puppet masters of corporate globalisation is perfectly aimed and balanced. ‘Watch The Bitch Blow’ from the EP will leave you in little doubt of political leanings. You’re assaulted by sound as much as the lyrical target is assaulted by beautifully worded disdainful contempt  – always a strength.
The words are backed by the relentless synergetic communion of samples and instruments – as relentless as the sentiments ‘Digital Meltdown’ is head banging heaven, whilst Mental Pollution becomes hypnotic in the treatment of the vocals. Here and there those vocals lend a calm surreal counterpoint to the music – ‘(War Inside) My Stupid Head’ and poignancy to ‘Set Sail for Death’. ‘Sacrifice and Pain’ has a Kinks/Small Faces influence, with an intro that made me smile – that’s as near as you’ll get to a PWEI ballad. ‘King Kisser’ is the one that struck me most for its change of mood, and if you want a brilliantly evil song for an earworm, ‘Director’s Cut’ is going to do all sorts of things to your memory banks.
PWEI, for the uninitiated, have a history of the highest calibre, which has morphed and turned over the years from 80’s pop grebo to combine more genres and influences, lives and experiences, technology and reality. They’ve never been purely political, but always keenly relevant to music and issues.
So… drown yourself in politics, observations, and fathoms of sound, and retune your social crusade soul. You’ll have fun while the bits of you shrivelled by the world finally die and drop off.
And come to some gigs this month. They are WELL worth it.

Buy all yer albums, Tshirts, and gig tickets here. 

 

Calendar Update

Those of you who ordered a calendar will know that the project met with unsurmountable difficulties out of our control, and has been postponed until the end of this year.

I can announce that despite this, there were some very generous offers from fans to donate the money that had already been paid for orders. Thank you wholeheartedly for being so kind. The total given was £240.50. It was split equally between Teenage Cancer Trust and The Sophie Lancaster Foundation and paid over.

Refunds have also been made and left the bank, so all is in PayPal’s hands if you haven’t had yours yet.

Many thanks again for everyone’s support, donations, and the preorders I’ve already had for the 2016 calendar!

OI

The Darkness 2015 Calendar

Pre-orders are now being taken for this long anticipated, gorgeous Calendar – created by fans, for fans.  Here’s a preview of the awesomeness…One of the proofs...

To pay simply click on the links to PayPal in the pricing information below.  Pay the amount shown for your location in GBP using the ‘Send to a Friend’ function and the email address emilyalone@gmail.com. Make sure the following details are in the message box:

  • Email Subject: Calendar Order
  • Name
  • Full postal address
  • Paypal receipt ID
  • How many you want!

This will ensure that ALL the money goes towards costs and the charities – Teenage Cancer Trust and The Sophie Lancaster Foundation. Thanks to all those who have contributed, helped, listened and encouraged, and to The Darkness (as always!) because they rock in so many ways. If you’d like more than one, please enquire about the postage costs as the weight bandings are different in each location.

Please email any queries to oitd2015@gmail.com.

Thank you!

United Kingdom – £10 + £3 delivery

Europe – £10 + £5.50 delivery

Rest of World – £10 + £8 delivery  

Unofficially 2015 – The Calendar of Darkness

Once upon a Christmas 2004, a 2005 calendar featuring The Darkness was released. Ten years ago. Coincidentally, Optimum Impact was formed ten years ago too, and I think we were on our third issue by then. I decided that to mark these occasions it was only fair to ‘give’ everyone an OI birthday present…

There will be a 2015 calendar featuring The Darkness once again.                                      All profits will go to charity – half to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation and half to the Teenage Cancer Trust. Hopefully you’ll want one?

As to the contents… I can’t just put my own live photos in, and I’d really like you to be a part of it. If you want to contribute, please could you choose no more than 4 of your best live action images and email them to optimum.impact.rocks@gmail.com as soon as possible so that choosing the final 12 can be done. Watermark them, too, so you get credit! That way, this calendar can truly be created by fans for fans as a thing to keep. The front cover will be a work of splendour but I cannot reveal it because I haven’t seen it yet! More to follow on that. STOP PRESS! Analia, of The Darkness Argentina fame, has agreed to create the front cover. OI is honoured!

If you could comment on here, tweet, or like the Facebook post that appears, I’ll get an idea of numbers. Costs will be £10 plus p&p, and details on how to pay will follow. Help me make this fabulous, plus make lots of money for two brilliant causes.

Please note that this calendar IS unofficial.  The Darkness and the charities are not involved in the conception or organisation. It’s just me and all of you… 

Black Roses and Strong Words

Strong – in the sense of passion, commitment and conviction.
On Wednesday this week, I went to Parliament. The Sophie Lancaster Foundation and MP Kerry McCarthy hosted a very special event which started with the emotionally charged radio play ‘Black Roses’ about Sophie’s life and death, then moved on to a discussion about Hate Crime. It was somewhat humbling to be in the presence of so many erudite, eloquent, downright amazing people.  The discussion was tightly focused, yet covered so many areas. Legal, health, educational and social issues were all discussed in depth by experts in their fields, giving valuable insights into procedure or problems. John Robb chaired the meeting with considerable skill.
The room was filled with tears to begin with, but it was also filled with resolve and hope.

I wanted to write a review of it, but John Robb did so rather beautifully. Honestly, I could not have put it better, so I will let you read the master’s words.

The Sophie Lancaster Foundation has aims and goals that make you proud. It also has some damn cool merch.

 

Interview with Fatherson – The Open, Norwich

Interview with Greg, Mark, Ross and Chris of Fatherson

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting these great people from Fatherson, a very up and coming Scottish band.  On arriving at the venue, It transpired that the headline band’s singer had been struck by evilness.  No gig going ahead isn’t great, but it did give me more time to talk to fine people. The album is out on 7th April. Some videos and the website link are at the end of the interview. Many thanks to Rhea and Rebecca! 

 It’s not got off to a great start tonight, has it lads?

It’s not ideal, the sound check was fun but unfortunately it looks like Lonely the Brave’s singer  is really ill at the moment and we’ve had to cancel the show sadly  – which isn’t the best thing but it happens to everyone.  It’s better than doing any more damage.

So when is your next one?

 We’ve been on tour with Lonely the Brave for the last week and a half so tomorrow’s the last show and it’s in Cambridge so it’s not too far which should be good. That show’s sold out.

 Is he going to be okay for that one?

 Here’s hoping!  I think it’s going to be one of the reasons why tonight’s not going on – to make sure he’s fit and healthy.  You got to be really putting on a show – when you’re ill you can end up doing pretty serious damage which isn’t good.  If he’s really bad today and does some irreparable damage then it’s the end of this whole career they’re building for themselves.

It’s not happened to us but it’s happened to a lot of our friends’ bands. They’ve had to take the call and I think that everyone feels really horrible. Yeah they’re all really cut up about it

Well it’s happened in a nice place, and you’re in a nice place tomorrow. You could’ve been stuck in erm….I can’t really say where can I?

Somewhere… a not so nice place…

Let’s get back to where we were going to start – I got an email from a friend of mine asking if I wanted to come and see you. Mike said he’d been working with you for a couple of years, which is a long time. We’ve never heard of you down here, so what have you been doing for two years? And how long has it been going on before that?

We’ve actually we’ve been a band for – me, Greg and Ross – have been a band since we were like kids for years and years.  We actually noticed it was 8 years ago a couple of days ago that we put our first live video on You Tube of us playing this song.  We’ve been Fatherson for a couple of years now but we started working with Mike around about the time we became this band.  We spent a long time in Scotland just building up a fan base there because the UK. Its difficult when you’re – cos we’re not signed or anything like that – to go and take on too much at once so we just wanted to be able to play good big shows across Scotland. So we toured there a lot and did a lot of festivals and last year we recorded an album and this year we’ve just been playing a lot more down south and kind of spreading out throughout the whole UK.  So, it’s been like a kind of conscious thing, cos there’s no point going down and playing shows all about England that are rubbish shows where there’s no one there or anything like that.

Win the battle in your front garden.  If you can win the battle in your front garden then it’s much easier for going anywhere else. If you say ‘Well back in Scotland we do this many tickets here, this many tickets here, this is where we’re getting played’ and then they’ll go ‘oh right, okay’

So it’s definitely a conscious decision to win over the whole of Scotland.

 To an extent yeah but we’re nowhere near the biggest bands, but for an unsigned band in Scotland we’ve been doing pretty well.  That I’m pretty happy with and it allows us to come down and do this tour so it’s been nice. We’ve been wanting to come down and play more shows for a long time.  You can’t play about Scotland forever cos it’s not the biggest place in the world so it’s nice to stretch your legs and get the word out to more people.

What is the scene like in Scotland at the moment?

It’s great.

I’m kind of getting that vibe, but you know better than anyone else.

 It’s really one of those things…there’s just a lot of great bands in Scotland and there’s a community aspect. So everyone kind of helps everyone out and does shows together and stuff like that and it’s nice to see bands take that step that we’re trying to take just now. So they’ve won the battle in their front garden and they’re trying to go down south, or they’re going to America or they’re going Australia and they’re going to do all that so it’s just flourishing – there’s hundreds and hundreds of good bands in Scotland.

It’s a good mix

 It’s several layers of how popular or big the bands are but all the bands are aware of each other, like the big bands know who the unsigned bands are and the unsigned bands know who the big bands are and you see the bigger bands helping the smaller bands out.  There’s a nice community spirit going about especially round about Glasgow and stuff – it’s really helped us for the entire time that we’ve been a band and it just it’s really a nice place to BE in a band.

That’s a really big advantage to Scotland not being a huge place?

Definitely.

What about those disadvantages, are there any particularly?

I guess you’re just further away from London.

That’s not always such a bad thing apparently..

 I don’t necessarily see there being any disadvantage with us being a band based in Glasgow.  I know there are bands that will kind of base themselves elsewhere that have moved from Scotland or whatever but I just find it to be really good.  I think we’ve been lucky with some of the people that we’ve met and some of the stuff that we’ve done up there – but I haven’t really seen that there’s too many disadvantages with being a band that’s based up in Glasgow as opposed to anywhere else in the UK.

I guess the only thing is that like how far apart things are so obviously if you’re driving to do a show in London we’d go further than if we were a band in the Midlands if we were driving to London and also wanting to go to Glasgow.  It would be great if we were in the centre of the UK.

 Living in Norwich I think we’ve kind of got that because the road links aren’t  great really – we’ve got two roads out and you have to go a hell of a way to get anywhere out of here.

Exactly.

The genres in Scotland is there a really good mix of that or do you tend to find that everybody…

 Yeah well you can see like if you look at the big bands in Scotland just now you’ve got like Framed Rabbit, Total Antic. Framed Rabbit are a bit more folky, Total Antic who are a bit more rocky and Churches who are electro.  It ranges from really traditional to off the wall and it’s quite creative all over there’s lots of different bands doing lots of different things so no one’s really – I don’t know, it seems that weird way where you can always colour it with Scotland you kind of know it’s Scottish but it doesn’t have to sound like every other Scottish band if that makes sense.

It sounds Scottish but it’s not The Proclaimers it’s not like that. It’s you just hear it, there’s an influence, you hear that sounds like.

It’s funny, we went over and played a couple of shows in America and people went what kind of band are you,  everyone kind of asks that and we say we’re kind of Scottish band and everyone just went ‘oh, stuff like bagpipes and fiddles and stuff like that.’

There is a guy that quite often on a Saturday plays bagpipes in town, in full regalia… we try and walk away. It’s quite loud if you walk right past. Offensive is the term I think we meant.

 It’s the drone…

If you walk past it (it’s normally on street corners ) when the drone’s going it’s not so bad but when it starts again right in your ear that is kind of distressing.

Anyone who comes to see Fatherson will not hear bagpipes…. yet!

That’s always a blessing. So there’s not a national identity to Scottish music apart from that little lilt?

 He sings with a Scottish accent.

Most people do now sing with an accent and it’s become a lot more at the forefront of Scottish music because English bands always sing with an English accent or American.  Just sing in your own accent I think – just when it became more popular and Scottish bands in the charts it became a thing you could do, to sing in your own accent, which I think, is a huge benefit to Scottish music.

It made everything a bit more honest I think maybe the one thing I’d say to the sum of Scottish music is there isn’t much fake Scottish music going on everyone sticking to their guns.  People are singing about what they want to sing about and the way they want to sing it.

They’ve gone away from that ‘we must sound like this and this to get anywhere.’

Absolutely I think it’s a nice idea.

It’s working now though – 20 years ago you did that and that worked and you got accepted in America or whatever. Although I was listening to something on the radio this morning about Cliff never getting accepted in America and I thought that was hilarious… and nobody can work out why!

 The album is coming out soon and that’s self-financed.

With help from Creative Scotland

That’s cool. I was going to ask you why you didn’t go through pledging or crowd sourcing or something like that.

 It kind of goes back to what we were talking about earlier with the way that we’ve kind of done it by playing a lot of shows in Scotland and stuff has managed to get us to the way where it kind of actually is fan funded because we are able to play bigger shows in Scotland. So therefore, we get some more money in which we’ve just put straight into this album.  Basically we’re all still struggling away even though the band gets some money from bigger shows and we’ve just put it all straight into doing this. It’s been like the big focus all last year – we went in and recorded the record and then played about  with it, went down to London, met a whole bunch of people and got a really great team around us to help do it and put the album out. It’s meant we’ve kind of been able to do it on our own terms and our own way and stuff like that.  I like the way we’ve done it and it’s given us lots of control and allowed us to take time on stuff. Cos if you put something up and you go on to pledge music for an album and people are putting all the money in and it’s like people are expecting it at a certain time. And we’ve managed to get this finished article that we’ve taken our time on that we’re really happy with and really proud of and we’ve kind of done it ourselves but with the help of everyone that come to any show.

Anyone that’s bought our t-shirts effectively put money in to make this album which is quite a nice sentiment it’s nice it’s been made by everyone and by us and everyone who likes the band.

Did you have to apply for the grant?

 Applied for it and that paid for a certain percentage of recording and then e just got the money to do everything else.

 No strings attached?

No strings attached.

That sounds good.

It really is – it’s quite amazing cos they help quite a lot of Scottish bands it’s not like an impossible thing like let’s get this grant they give out different amounts of money to different projects.

Is that a necessary thing?

 I don’t know…you obviously get ‘we’ll give you this amount of money this year and you spend it” sort of thing with government stuff. It’s not means tested but there’s a limit to the amount of money that can be given out and I dunno how they work it out I dunno if it’s how good your application was or whatever but say it’s like they’ve got 20 grand max they can give out they’ll give out anything between…

So it doesn’t just go to a couple of bands, they just say right okay we like you, and you…

 So you can get £500. So that’s the deal really.

They’ve been really, really helpful.  We’ve played a creative Scotland showcase at the Great Escape last year and stuff like that. So it’s been very kind of working with their help bit bits and bobs which is the kind of thing you need when you are doing something yourself you need a little bit of cash injected in so you can get the ball rolling which has been great and it’s all worked out really well so far.

So now you’ve done that and it’s all going very well and you’re starting to filter down here.  I’ve met some bands that have got a 5 year plan and that’s that , and I’ve met bands that are going with the flow with a little kind of idea of where they’re going – what’s your balance of stuff?

We’ve got a 5 month plan – a 5 minute plan!

Some are like we are going to do this next month and in 2 months time we’re gonna do this and in 2 years time we‘ve got to be here… I think they might be setting themselves up for…

There’s a kind of unspoken plan.  I’m quite happy to get this album out and see what happens and then do another album.  I’m quite happy to just go “I wanna write music and make albums” and as long as people are coming to the shows and buying the albums.

We’ve got like as much as we know we’re putting the album out, we’ve got tours planned. We’ve got the rest of this year all sorted out and then we just start off as pessimistic as we can possibly get everything’s planned and the worst possible scenario and then it’s nice. It’s exciting its kind of how we’ve always done it cos things do take longer especially if you’re doing a lot of stuff yourself for it so we just take it as things come but with a general plan.  We know what we’re doing for the rest of this year.

It’s nice when you can go in with certain expectations and then it’s nice when you get the wee surprises like one or two come up in the year or whatever something you didn’t expect to happen and that just makes it even better.

You don’t mind having plans blown out of the water for that, do you?  So a year is kind of long enough?

 It’s all you can really realistically plan for, I mean you can’t plan for outcomes you don’t know are going to happen yet.

No but I’ve met people like that – they’re really driven and they know where they want to go and they really do have –  and I wonder ‘what are you gonna do if….’ it must be so stressful.

 I would personally find it so self-destructive because i couldn’t handle that.  I tried to  – like cos I’m quite –  I like to do a lot of things are going to happen. But we’ve been in a band for a long time so we’ve kind of had ups and downs and stuff like that even in just doing what we’ve been doing for the past few years and you never know what’s going to happen in music and it’s stupid. It took me a long time to realise that, that you can’t plan and work out what you’re going to do cos you have no idea.

At the end of the day it’s about how people react when they click on you and your Soundcloud link and whether they enjoy it.  At the end of the day the most exciting thing I think we’re ever going to do to date in this band is release this album and see what people think of it – what our fans think of it what new people think of it – cos its awesome!

We’ve made our favourite album – we’ve done everything we can to make it as good as we can so it’s just a case of…

Are there gonna be any surprises in there for your hardcore?

 I think so.

We’ve kept some songs – it’s difficult when you’ve been working on an album for so long and playing about and we’ve only released a couple of songs and you just have to play songs that you’ve got on the album because you just have to. You’ve got hour and a bit long sets and we’ve gone to headline tours we’ve made sure consciously to keep a good wee handful of tracks from the record pretty much secret. There’s one that’s never been played live to anyone and another one that’s been played once and that’s it.

It keeps it interesting… we release this album on 7 April we’ve been playing all the songs on it for the last year and a half you’d be like oh it’s great the albums out and you’re doing this exact same set.

We’re all itching to play these new tracks as well.

We’ve done them in sound check a couple of times and gone will we put it in the set and we’re like no, we’re just gonna wait.   The 7th April’s the day and after that they can be played every single show from then on.

You’ll self combust on the day.

 That’s it. It’s going to be the best day ever.

And you pick things up to play out the first time you go ‘oooh.’ (scared voice)

 I think it’s important we made the album we wanted for us to enjoy I remember like when we were younger and thinking about making albums and I was listening to albums, “I wanna do that!” And we’ve managed to translate some of that onto our album, which is really nice and I hope people have that reaction when they listen to it.

Do you take into account what you know the fans like? Cos there’s a balance with every band. They know what fans like and some of them don’t go away from that.

 I think it’s definitely stupid..

Well, you can’t pander to…

 We’re quite a spontaneous band. What happened with this album was we got to record it over March and April last year and we demoed everything in December and got to March and went, “It’s not good enough” and finished it with new songs.

We were like “this is what we could do, it’s acceptable, people will like it, they’ll be listening to it, but let’s just take a chance and add a couple things.” And the one they actually released as a single is the first one that got a good response. And that was not finished until 12 days into the studio.  So it’s like ‘pandering’ is a really hard concept to have when you don’t have an album out yet.

Having said that, I do know a band have been going thirty years and only just released their first one. I think they kind of got the gist of what their fans like.

 You get a sense of playing live, and we played a lot of the songs live, but the songs we’ve had about that we know people like that would be out on the album, cuz we’ve not done a track listing yet. It’s still a secret.

I think it’s unfair to put songs on that have been around for a couple of years but not released that people know onto an album, because they’ll go “I’m not getting anything new here.” (pauses to tie his shoe…hee!) You gotta keep it interesting if people are gonna pay money which, you know, they might not…

I’ve been quite heavily involved in fandom with two or three bands, and I know what it’s like on the expectation and the general excitement side from this end, from the other end to you.  I know that perhaps if a band release an album, there would be a couple of songs that fans would really, really want on there because they haven’t been on an album before, no matter when the next one came out. They would really want it to be there, you know. There as many different opinions of a band as there are fans. (Note, dear readers, this isn’t necessarily TD related)

 It’s about like meeting expectations but also surprising people as well.  I think it’s a very fine line to stand on.

We spent a long time working on the track listings. There’s been quite a lot of people that have heard it that are friends or family that are people that we know like the band and have liked the band for a while and kind of got feedback with that. And on board as well, in terms of what was on the record. I’m pretty confident that we’ve got the right mix on it. I think when people hear it, they’re gonna enjoy it, hopefully.

There’s no songs there I’m sad aren’t on it, if that makes any sense.  It was quite, not brutal, but the way the album turned out is the way that it turned out – I’m happy the songs went on it.

Is it sounding to me like it was a smoother ride than it was?

 I remember we were dreading it for so long cos we were in an argument and we sat down, I made some…

Yeah, it was just one of those days, I was just  like “are we gonna have a massive argument? I don’t have an argument.”

Yeah, but I made homemade chips that day.

They were pretty good.  These chips can make…

Chips always make things better.

 They do! We just wrote a list of every song that could possibly go on our album and then we all numbered them.

You just kept putting the number of chips it was worth.

 That one didn’t have any chips next to it. And the one with the most chips…

Actually it took about half an hour at the end of the day, and we made a couple of changes which is, I think, a good sign, hopefully.

Unprecedented. That’s quite a feat.

 We’re all on the same wavelength when it comes to like…

 Well, I think perhaps maybe you put it off so long and feared it for so long, it wasn’t quite as bad as you thought.  

 Yeah, maybe it was. Maybe it was so passive, we didn’t realize.

Or maybe we’ve made a horrible mistake and now the track listing’s terrible.

That’s 7th of April, it’s out.

 The album is called “I am an island.”

That’s it!, I clicked on it earlier.  I was looking at all your stuff. I’ve got written down here about genre and whether you have genred yourself in your heads or whether you just don’t care or whether it just evolves through things.

 I don’t really care. The way I see it is: listen to it and take what you want from it. That’s it. If you think it’s death metal…

(laughs) it’s definitely not…

If you listen to the songs and you think it sounds folky, that’s cool, that’s absolutely fine.

Well, some love the music that they listen to and they want to play it so much, it’s  “right, that is what we are.”

 I think there’s a lot, and it’s great. There’s not two tracks the same on the album, but it’s all the same band.

We didn’t start this band with an idea of how we wanted to sound. We started a band with the songs; we didn’t know we wanted to be a rock band. The songs just kind of turned out like that.

When I explain to relatives, like aunties and uncles, I just say we’re a rock band, a guitar band.

I’d say there’s not really a point trying to explain it to aunties.

 We always just say we started off playing Stereophonics covers when we started as a band and it doesn’t matter.  It’s kind of weird.

It’s just…Scottish.  Scottish, honest music.  Honest, that’s a good genre.

Honesty rock!

But which Scottish bands would you like to be considered alongside?  Not that you are ‘the next one of…’ But what would be on your roll of honour? Who would be on that with you?

 

 Idlewild would be in that.  Framed Rabbit, for me.

Needs to be up there with Biffy (Clyro) as well.

Deacon Blue.

I saw Deacon Blue in Glastonbury. By accident.  They weren’t the headline. They did the Sunday headline. We were all wet.

 I’d love to be as big as Calvin Harris. That’d be good, wouldn’t it?

That’d be awesome.

I always think that you always get ‘you’ll be the next big band’ ‘you’ll be the next [that] band.’ I’d just like to be the first Fatherson.

Yeah, but you know, it’s not like comparing yourself to them, it’s just who would you want to be up there with?

 I think, like, I mean Idlewild.

I’ve seen them, they’ve been here!

 I think people will appreciate those bands for what they do. I think that’s basically all you really want for being in a band. They’ll do it for a living and know that people like it. Even if one person likes it and ten people hate it, if that is the ratio I’d be happy with that, cos like one person likes it.

Or at least they’re paying you attention. It’s the middle bit you want to avoid.  They don’t care.

 No such thing as bad publicity.

I’ve been listening to the news today. David Cameron’s put his foot in it again with Scotland.  He made a speech in London. He’s telling people to ring and text and talk to their Scottish friends and tell them to vote ‘no’ and say ‘we want you to stay.’ It’s like, please don’t interfere with other people’s political processes. How do you feel about the Independence thing? Would it be a good thing for the Scottish music industry or are you pretty independent up there anyway?

 We’re a Scottish band, we live in Scotland, that’s something that we have spoke about quite a bit. I don’t necessarily think it would make that much of a difference in Scotland in terms of the music. It might do, but it’s one of these things it’s all speculation at the moment.

You never know, if it goes independent more of the music industry would move to Scotland, if that makes any sense. So that London wasn’t a powerhouse.

If.  Nobody really knows cos it’s not happened yet.

What would you like to happen?

 I would like people to read more about it and come up with their own opinions.

Both sides are obviously very biased.

And very passionate.

 There doesn’t seem to be a good overview of any of that yet. So you’ll get people who’ve read the White Paper and they’re like ‘yeah!’ And you get people, you know, have an argument about that, but not enough…

The one thing I have heard on Radio 5, which is very English, they’ve talked to a lot of young people and they seem to know what they’re talking about whatever side they’re on. And that is impressive, really, and kind of heartening.

 I think that like it or lump it, it’s the most important political thing that’s happenning to Scotland for the past three hundred years.

I think people not voting would be the worst thing.  You can vote either way, however you feel about what’s going on, but at the end of the day, I think it’s important that people vote.

It’s always an interesting thing with music and politics. We’re just not having too much to do with that. We’ve always spent a lot of time just getting to know both sides of what’s going on and making up our minds.  I think that we should vote and make our own mind up and have an idea.

And deal with what happens after that.

 Yeah, either way. It’s not the end of the world. Something will happen.

We’re still joined together. Sorry about that, it wasn’t my fault. I don’t think people hate the Scots nearly as much as they think we do.

 To me, it comes down to nothing to do with liking or loving or hating or anything to do with that, which is stuff I’ve always read. I think it just comes down to people doing what they think is the most sensible thing to do.

Let’s hope they do that. You need to vote with your heads.

 That’s why I think everyone should just read more about it, even if you have made your mind up, find the facts out. Just learn about what it actually means. There’s manipulation on both sides and I think it’s important that you learn what’s going on.

And be very wary of both sides as well. Yeah, you don’t get to be this old without being cynical about both sides. Even the one you support, really.

 Yes, exactly!

 Well that’s all I’ve got. Is there anything you’d like to add, say, promote, divulge to anybody? Say to your aunt?

 We’d like to thank Scott, who’s packed away all our stuff.

(To Jo) Thank you very much.

We’ll come back down as soon as we possibly can. We’re in Cambridge tomorrow, then we’ve got a couple of months, just doing a lot of stuff for the album, and we’re going to be going on tour when the album comes out, and then festivals and stuff like that. We’ve got some announcements coming up. Watch this space.

Beer and curry?

Facebook and website

Video – more on their channel.

 

RIP Phil Everly

by Rebecca Martin

The world lost another musical legend when Phil Everly died at age 74 on Friday, January 3, 2014. The moment I heard the news, two thoughts occurred to me. First, my dad played The Everly Brothers’ albums when I was growing up, even telling me that “Bye, Bye Love” was the very first song he learned on the guitar. Second, I used “All I Have To Do Is Dream” to catapult the love story in the novel I’m writing.

I spent an hour that night listening to my favorite songs by the duo and shedding a few tears. I continued to listen to their albums the next day while I cooked breakfast. As I listened, I was flooded with memories: listening to my dad’s albums like Herman and the Hermits Greatest Hits or Buck Owens’ album with special guest Susan Raye The Great White Horse. From a young age, I loved singing the harmonies. The songs of The Everly Brothers instilled this love in me.

Throughout the 80s, radio stations played many Everly covers, most notably Linda Ronstadt’s  1975 pop cover of “When Will I Be Loved,” Reba McEntire’s country cover of  “Cathy’s Clown, and Nazareth’s 1976 rock cover of “Love Hurts.”

I’ve spent the past 18 months reading rock memoirs, doing research for my aforementioned novel. I was surprised at how far the Everly influence reached the souls of the rockers I admired. For instance, Steven Tyler described their bluegrass-influenced harmonies as “heartrending.” Keith Richards sang Everly harmonies with his Aunt Joanna. In 1963, the Stones had the incredible opportunity to share the bills with the duo.

Where would any of us be without the sibling melodies that permeated the music industry in the 1950s and 1960s?

 

The Platinum Correction – CD up for grabs

Classic Rock had a live CD of the Thetford Forest attached to last month’s magazine – for subscribers only. On eBay, they were going for silly money.

Thanks to the generosity of Darklings (thanks Chris) and teachers (thanks egyptiangirl) I now have two copies to call my own. I only need one, so I’m letting one go far away to a new home. Classic Rock isn’t likely to have reached many of you overseas, so I’m making this a strictly non-UK giveaway. It looks like it’s going to appear on iTunes, but the actual CD is now a collector’s item so come and get it! The magazine isn’t included, and the CD hasn’t been played.

Let me know what one other song you would have put on this CD, and why. Track listing is:

Every Inch Of You / Black Shuck / Get Your Hands Off My Woman / Everybody Have A Good Time / Planning Permission / With A Woman / One Way Ticket / Growing On Me / I Believe In A Thing Called Love

You have a week to contemplate!

The Darkness – UK Cakes, fresh from the oven

Setting out on another tour is a strange and wondrous thing. And, if you’ve just remembered where the important things are hat should be in your bag, a bit annoying as well. It still feels odd to be off on a Darkness tour – brilliant, but odd in a wide eyed and still disbelieving way. Having a Darkness headline show all to ourselves is a something to be held to our collective breasts and cherished. There have been plenty of gigs, mind. Just none (two) of them here, and none (oh ok, TWO) just Darkness.

Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Ball had the lion’s share of Summer and Autumn. I’m not a great fan of stadium gigs as I prefer to be in a dark place, with walls and floor and banging acoustics, not outside with wind dictated sound and even big screens looking like matchboxes, never mind the stage. Gaga views were restricted further by the extended stage walkways – made for a fabulous extravaganza with boundless energy and amazing dancing – but even from the (non monster pit) front barriers I saw all that on a screen. It was an amazing show. I fully endorse Gaga’s stand against prejudices and for the right to be who you are. But… The show will look better on DVD. I’m glad I went, but I ONLY went to see TD. Now, they rocked, from the view available. They did a solid, professional job, got the crowd on their side rocking and singing, and Justin dropped his trousers. They never underperform.

America, then, to fill in a few US gaps after Christmas. That’s where it got back to normal. Reports and videos show the wildest, rockiest shows yet. TD have never been a band to stand idly around, but they seem to have outdone themselves with more energy than ever. Justin hurling himself around and Dan coming to the fore have got people talking, and they love it. Is this new confidence? A conscious decision to kick ass harder? Or a natural reaction to crazy crowds? Maybe there’s a sense of ‘second chance, let’s go do it harder, faster, louder this time’ ? I can’t wait to see it, at last.

Will I, though? Tonight, I’m in Sheffield for the first gig. It’s seated. There will be no crowd surfing or balcony jumps. The crowd walk will be a little tricky. There will be SEATS. If I had known that before I’d bought my tickets I would have thought twice. I’d still have gone because it’s The Darkness, but for ME to even consider not going, unless I physically can’t, is a wrong state of affairs. It’s going to be a strange experience. I’m expecting great music, passion, superb playing, banter and silliness and the sense of being home. I’m also expecting the atmosphere to be a slight step away from the norm.

Oh, what the hell. They’re here. A TD gig is a thing of strange and unconventional beauty, so I shall gladly go and fill my soul with it. More later.

Saxon release new album ‘Sacrifice’

Saxon? The name jumped out at me like a hit from the past. It’s been a long while since I listened to any of their stuff, and the band are most linked with memories of school and my best friend. He was a metalhead, I was an ex-mod goth – we covered a lot between us. Anyway… my good friend Andy was a big fan and it’s down to him that I ever heard them at all.

A new album, their 20th, is being released on 4th March. Sacrifice was produced by frontman Biff Byford, who has plenty to say about the back to Saxon basics approach. ‘I wanted to focus on the raw aspects which made us great in the first place’ he states. Indeed, if you were a fan back in the 80’s, you’ll find a lot that’s both familiar and classic to rediscover. If you weren’t, then you do need to be a metalhead to appreciate it fully. It’s steeped in traditions of lyric, legend and guitar that have wound themselves round several decades and albums. Listen, and ye shall find. New fans should find everything you need to know about the genre right here, given a fresh lick of amp power for the now generation.

Some release formats have extra acoustic/orchestral and re-recorded tracks, so look out for these. Saxon are on a UK tour in April and May – check out their  website for more details. There’salso an offer on there to go on tour with them. Interesting…

 Sleeve Saxon Sacrifice lo res 2

 

O.W.L.S. – Fiddlers Elbow, London 16.11.12

A little time has passed since my ears were last beautifully dirtied by the nice people of O.W.L.S. , so this night out was well anticipated. A four-band dose of live music is not to be sniffled at in any event, but when it features this band, the night’s going to be a good one. Even if I had lost myself, my nose ring and my oyster card in the 400 yards between tube station and venue…

First up were Evacuees, just after I got there. Perfectly reasonable band, reminded me a little of  Glasvegas. Can’t say they hit me where it hurts, but that’s not to say they weren’t any good – just maybe I was nattering too much.

Next were Zodiac N Black. Before they came on, I was told they were well worth watching, and Mr Macfarlaine’s words are usually to be heeded on these subjects. Off my bum and into the crowd… Well, of course he was right. They rock like heck, with energy and aplomb, and are REALLY GOOD.  What more do you want me to say? They know perfectly well what they’re doing musically and venues definitely need to be filled with their metalling. A little video… and more details at the bottom.

That’s the better quality of the vids – my camera is broken so filming done on the iPad – but see OI’s channel for the other.

A short break for vodka, guitar lead/cable/wire swaps and it’s time for O.W.L.S. I’ve described their approach to the cleanliness of sound before, and I can’t say that’s changed at all.  Starting with Only Joking, we were straight into hardness. No pussyfooting around here (Toby’s footwear excepted)! Go To Your Happy Place is a singalong of dark proportions, Hurt Janine an oddly delightful, joyous thing, Vitamins and Kibosh as moshy and headbangy as I remember. She Can Open Doors is below. I just watched it without sound, accidentally, and the rocking still shines through.

The sound pouring forth was something with a harder edge than back in February, with a surer performance. This had more punk and more assurance. February was no means lacking anything, but after a longish break, such a great performance was brilliant. O.W.L.S are brilliant, in a darkly shining way.

Get your vinyl copy of double A-side single Hurt Janine/Vitamins as soon as you can, as it’s a strictly limited edition.

Velvet Star were on last. Hmm. Sorry… not my thing.

Let’s get everyone out there to see both O.W.L.S. and Zodian N Black. You can see the former on 9th Dec at Emma Scott Presents, The Flapper, Birmingham.

Contact Info:

Facebook –  O.W.L.S.HQ    Zodiac N Black

Twitter – @OWLSHQ  @Zodiac_N_Black

 

 

 

BritRockArmy

Phillip Rogers is a dedicated sort of man. Earlier this year he took his convictions in his hands, examined them closely, and found them worthy of doing something about. What followed was just a bit of a whirlwind…

Finding little joy in the UK music scene, he decided that it needed a bit of  an arsekick. Where on earth was a home for unknown and unsigned bands? Who was championing the cause of the talented but largely unheard?  Hmm… and in the best traditions of those blessed with vision, courage and a bit of madness, he did something about it.

BritRockArmy is the result of the musings, and the start of something else. Reviews and interviews are breeding like rabbits on the blog.  Just a few short months after the first post, there’s an event showcasing bands, including acoustic sets, happening at the Birmingham Roadhouse on Sunday 11th November (see flyer below). A compilation album of donated tracks is in progress  – the tracks are being whittled down, and this is proving to be a hard job.  ‘BritRockArmy – Uprising’ (temporary title!) is to be a double album, and voting for the 15 bands to appear on Part 2’s People’s Choice is underway on Facebook .

BritRockArmy marches on behalf of everyone in music  – we are all in it together, and one part can’t exist without the other.  If you have anything to say, need a place to play, want to praise/promote/play your trade, then there’s room to do it.

A great example of following your dreams. Long may BritRockArmy fight for music’s unknown soldiers.

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Motörhead – The Wörld Is Ours Vol 2

Recorded at three different 2011 festivals, this DVD and/or CD set is a memento of, an introduction to, and an ‘arse, I couldn’t make it to’ Motörhead’s live performances. With an 80,000 crowd quoted for Wacken, they’re not exactly small and insignificant ones, either. Wacken’s dominates, being the whole set, and by virtue of its production. The film isn’t in parts, the sound wavers a little – but it gives an accurate idea of what it’s like in a festival crowd and  from stage. It’s real, just like it really was, and works for me. I’ve seen footage of gigs before and thought ‘it wasn’t like that at all’ so it’s rather refreshing to see something more honest. Reality gigging! It’s a long set in the rain for fans, but there are thousands throwing horns all the way through and their enthusiasm is unflagging. Opening with Iron Fist, there are 17 songs – Metropolis, One Night Stand, In The Name of Tragedy, Bomber, Ace of Spades and Overkill being just a few. It’s quite a thing to see, legends in action.

Both Sonisphere’s and Rock in Rio’s sets are much shorter, with much slicker film production. A good contrast, especially as Sonisphere’s set is in daylight, which seemed… unusual. Motörhead are a band for the dark, with afternoons a hidden, lost place – surely? It seems not! Both sets look and feel as good as Wacken’s, in a different way. Ste he could not have had. But let’s not get bogged down in video production details. Both approaches have a place, and show Motörhead’s performances in equally good lights. Good hard solid rock throughout, delivered without frills or fuss but with consummate ease. No pretence, no need of any. Sonisphere’s gig was the day after ex-member Wurzel’s death, as announced by Lemmy, so must have been rather a strange day for band and fans alike, but a greater tribute he could not have had.  It was a good watch, and the CDs will make damn fine driving music on those dark rainy nights. Look out for the Festival Impressions W:O:A extra – it made me laugh, has lots of beer and a few interviews.

Watching HAS made me want to go and see them live, as I’ve never had the chance. So, job done! Oh, and I’ve fallen in love with that bass.

Out now, from the usual places.

Tour dates 

FB fan page 

Win a DVD/CDs pack

 

 

 

 

 

Motörhead – Win Live DVD and CDs

Motörhead, noisemakers extraordinaire, are releasing a second live extravaganza on DVD and 2 CDs on 24th September.  The Wörld is Ours Vol 2 – Anyplace Crazy as Anywhere Else was recorded in 2011 at Sonisphere (July), the headline appearance at Wacken Festival (August) and Rock in Rio (September).

If you want to get your rock mitts on this little package of mayhem, just answer the following questions.

1. Who designed the iconic Motörhead logo?

2. What is a motörhead? (Oh come on. That one you can do in your sleep.)

3. Hawkwind released ‘Motörhead’ as an A-side single. What was the B-side?

Easy as headbanging, innit. Send your answers to optimum.impact.rocks@gmail.com, pm OI’s Facebook page, or DM me on Twitter. Lovely. Ready for a bit of the hard stuff?

Anyone wanting to also experience this in a more physical way can get dirty in person on the European tour in November and December.

 

Entries are restricted to the UK, and my decisions are final, etc.

 

ChameleonsVox – The Cockpit, Leeds – 11.5.12

The Chameleons are a band whose music has been closely woven in and out of my life since I started uni and first heard them, back in the mid-80’s. I’m not a fan that can get every single song title right, but I am one that can instantly recognise and sing along, one that leans back and let the sounds and words wash over and through me. I never got to see them back then, and until now, haven’t been able to get to the new lot of gigs. A trip to Leeds is always a pleasure, I’d never managed to get to the legendary Cockpit (after a swift date/venue change) before, and some much loved people were to be hugged in person at long last.

Thanks to travel on a Friday night from Norwich, we missed Vendemmian and Berlin Black who had both been and done by the time we arrived, sadly. But hey – time for a drink and hugs and finding a space to stand. The place is packed to the gills, hot, and ready to get sweaty. You could taste the anticipation. This is a crowd that really loves the band in a personal way, if not uncritically. It’s also Mark Burgess’ birthday, and the end of the tour. Party mode, from the start!

The good things began with no fanfare, but with authority and confidence. There are no new fans to win over, no suits to impress – just a time to play good music well, enjoy, celebrate the then and now.  It’s not a retro retail reformation thing going on. It’s for real, and it’s a family atmosphere thing. The crowd is passionate but polite, of an age not to be selfish in its enjoyment. Naturally I cashed in a few of my nice lady brownie points and ended up easily at the front to be able to see. The Chameleons (now with added Vox) always seemed to me to be a band that held up to scrutiny, that deserved critical acclaim, and were solidly sure and true. Somewhat in awe, I watched, and wasn’t disappointed.

The songs sound less written than allowed to flow to the stage where sounds perfectly synergise and the current is strong enough to carry any emotion, any point of view (indeed, it carried the energetic mosh pit without any effort). When you’ve got a back catalogue as good as theirs, it does give you a head start, but really, they don’t need it. They don’t (actually) really need the love of the crowd to carry them through, either. They are simply GOOD. Very good. No faff, no gimmick, no nothing except excellent playing and a few comments from Mark.

A few songs later, an excursion into and through the moshpit, and I’m back where I started to stand and listen in stillness. I can’t see, so I’m not distracted. That’s when the brilliance of the writing is evident. It’s almost possible to listen in stillness AND silence, to let it touch you. It’s emotional musically and lyrically. Anger, despair, sadness, acceptance, defiance are odd bedfellows to produce a kind of rapture, but they do. When finally they get to my favourite (it’s a whole life favourite, not just of theirs) In Shreds, then it’s as though I’m the only one there. It’s a bleak, soulless picture that it paints to me, a deep cry against crushing loneliness and struggling to keep a sense of self worth (in my opinion, natch). The vocals sound lost, like shouting through a thick fog with little hope of being heard. It just catches me every damn time, and on that day, with all that’s gone on in recent times, it crashed in with force. Can you ask much more of a song than to make you cry with upset whilst filling you with elation? Beautiful but deadly.

Gigs come, and they go, but I’m glad I didn’t miss this one. It really was one for the memoirs.

ChameleonsVox. 

 

The Rite of Spring EP – O.W.L.S.

O.W.L.S. have an EP out today. Their first. It’s available almost everywhere, so you need to go and get it.

There’s a wonderfully controlled wildness about O.W.L.S., which is rather apt, don’t you think?  I recall saying that I like a little bit of dirt and scratch left on my soul by music, when I reviewed their first gig, and I stand by that. There’s enough grunge grate in vocals, feedback scrape of strings, to do that job admirably. There are some delicate touches here and there, little bits of bright guitar and beat slipping in and out of the heavy storm. Not any old maelstrom, but one that morphs from relentless assault to full-on attack, the manic of Kibosh to the laid back (relatively) Vitamins. Hurt Janine has a smoothness to the delivery that belies the slight sneer I can hear. Only Joking gives a darn fine idea of what is and what will happen to your ears through the whole Rite. Every now and again a ghost of wholesome american 60’s pop sweeps by, but it’s given a thorough grunging over until it feels as dirty as the rest.

Everything was recorded live, which is how this really needs to be heard to get everything from it, so let’s hope there are gigs near us all soon. Tight band without being anal about it, well crafted and honed songs, rock in spades and grunge in bucketfuls. That’s a bloody good deal, and this is a bloody good debut EP.

Track listing:

Only Joking

Hurt Janine

Leave a Light Over My Grave

Vitamins

Kibosh

One In The Chamber

A Day At The Beach

(Stravinsky’s ballet ‘The Rites of Spring’ caused a riot at its first performance. A good hard mosh is much more sensible, kids.)