jeudi, août 31, 2006

The Beatles

The Beatles Butchered

by Paul Cashmere

August 30 2006

The Beatles

Producer/Guitarist Bob Kulick has gathered up his famous friends such as Alice Cooper, Billy Idol and Lemmy to cover The Beatles.

More than 50 artists contributed to 'Butchering The Beatles'.

Alice will be heard belting out 'Hey Bulldog', Lemmy tackles 'Back In The USSR' and Billy Idol goes psychedelic for 'Tomorrow Never Knows'.

The album will be released on October 24 on Restless Records.

Butchering The Beatles tracklisting is:

1. "Hey Bulldog" - Alice Cooper, vox; Steve Vai, guitars; Duff McKagen (Velvet Revolver / Guns N Roses), bass; Mikkey Dee (Motorhead), drums.

2. "Back In The USSR" - Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead), vox/bass; John5 (Marilyn Manson / Rob Zombie), guitars; Eric Singer (Kiss / Alice Cooper), drums.

3. "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" - Geoff Tate (Queensryche), vox; Michael Wilton (Queensryche), guitar; Craig Goldy (Dio), guitar; Rudy Sarzo (Dio), bass; Simon Wright (Dio), drums; Scott Warren (Dio), keys.

4. "Tomorrow Never Knows" - Billy Idol, vox; Steve Stevens (Billy Idol), guitars; Blasko (Ozzy Osbourne), bass; Brian Tichy (Billy Idol), drums.

5. "Magical Mystery Tour" - Jeff Scott Soto (Yngwie Malmsteen / Soul Sirkus), vox; Yngwie Malmsteen (Rising Force / Alcatrazz), lead guitar; Bob Kulick, (Meat Loaf / Paul Stanley Band), rhythm guitar; Jeff Pilson (Dokken / Foreigner), bass; Frankie Banali (Wasp / Quiet Riot), drums.

6. "Revolution" - Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), vox / guitar; Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard), guitar; Mike Porcaro (Toto), bass; Gregg Bisonnette (David Lee Roth / Ringo Starr Band), drums; Joseph Fazzio (Superjoint Ritual), drums.

7. "Day Tripper" - Jack Blades (Night Ranger / Damn Yankees), vox; Tommy Shaw (Styx / Damn Yankees), vox; Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake / Dio), guitars; Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake / Thin Lizzy), bass; Virgil Donati (Steve Vai / Soul Sirkus / Planet X), drums.

8. "I Feel Fine" - John Bush (Anthrax), vox; Stephen Carpenter (Deftones), guitar; Mike Inez (Ozzy Osbourne / Alice In Chains), bass; John Tempesta (The Cult / Testament), drums.

9. "Taxman" - Doug Pinnick (Kings X), vox; Steve Lukather (Toto), guitar; Tony Levin (John Lennon / Peter Gabriel), bass; Steve Ferrone (Eric Clapton / Tom Petty), drums.

10. "I Saw Her Standing There" - John Corabi (Motley Crue), vox; Phil Campbell (Motorhead), guitar; C.C. Deville (Poison), guitar; Chris Chaney (Jane's Addiction), bass; Kenny Aronoff (Smashing Pumpkins / Jon Bon Jovi), drums.

11. "Hey Jude" - Tim "Ripper" Owens (Judas Priest / Iced Earth), vox; George Lynch (Dokken / Lynch Mob), guitar; Bob Kulick (Meat Loaf / Paul Stanley Band), rhythm guitar; Tim Bogert (Vanilla Fudge / Beck / Bogert & Appice), bass; Chris Slade (AC/DC), drums.

12. "Drive My Car" - Kip Winger (Winger), vox; Bruce Kulick (Kiss / Grand Funk), guitar; Tony Franklin (The Firm / Whitesnake), bass; Aynsley Dunbar (Whitesnake / Journey), drums.

mercredi, août 30, 2006

Reading Festival 2006

Pearl Jam sparkle on their return to the European rock circuit

By Chris Mugan

Published: 28 August 2006

Grunge veterans Pearl Jam made an emotional return to the European festival circuit at the weekend, closing Reading with a sparkling set that proved them worthy headliners.

The band had shunned Europe since eight of their fans were crushed to death at the Roskilde rock and dance festival in Denmark in 2000 and last night the weight of responsibility hung heavy until a wild jam to extend crowd favourite "Even Flow.

Then on, the band were in sparkling form as they powered through a greatest hits set. Usually earnest frontman Eddie Vedder even played Sabbath's " Iron Man" on ukulele.

Rock took centre stage for Reading's last day, though, on the margins, more funky sounds gave the festival the air of an urban warehouse party. Spankrock's bass-heavy party tunes from Baltimore vied with clever rhymes from UK rapper Sway. His cutting-edge beats showed a willingness to take on the US's more fêted stars. Lady Sovereign belied her diminutive size with a venomous performance.

The spoils, though, went to Goldie Lookin Chain in fluorescent steward garb, a sight only seen by many on a screen outside a packed tent. Dropped by their label, these losers were still on a winner as they used house samples to jump on the rave revival.

More melancholy fare came from Hope Of The State, their spine-tingling sound driven by a furious fiddler. Canadian collectors Broken Social Scene trumped them with a layered approach that gave a cosmic seal to their folksy sound.

Saturday's headliners, Muse, combined the paranoid prickliness of Radiohead with the showmanship of Queen. The band's frontman, Matthew Bellamy, seems an intelligent bloke, but the point of his creativity got lost in the bombast of hits old and new.

Having packed a side stage last year, the Arctic Monkeys stepped up to the main stage with ease. Such was the group's confidence they could open with their number one hit, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor", though band leader Alex Turner still insisted on asking if people were enjoying themselves, even as fans sung along to B-sides. They managed to take control of previous hormonal rushes by adding thrilling diversions to old material.

Before them, The Streets had been in all kinds of trouble as Mike Skinner struggled to find his voice and the mix of samples and live band failed to fuse. In the end, his set was saved by the gambler's home bankers. " Never Went to Church" was still touching and "Fit But You Know It" encouraged the odd streaker.

Earlier in the day, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the US outfit propelled to fame by the internet, took a while to make an impact. Their driving rhythms were hampered by fuzzy sound, though there was an irresistible, ecstatic feel to their performance.

If this all seemed too jolly for a rock festival, then at least Mark E Smith was on hand to puncture the love bubble. His band The Fall played a typically uncompromising set of harsh, functional riffs from recent albums that suited Smith's raw vocal style. Not even he, though, was immune to the happy vibes, dedicating one number to a chap from his home town of Manchester who had made the journey. Another happy punter, then, at a vintage weekender.

Grunge veterans Pearl Jam made an emotional return to the European festival circuit at the weekend, closing Reading with a sparkling set that proved them worthy headliners.

The band had shunned Europe since eight of their fans were crushed to death at the Roskilde rock and dance festival in Denmark in 2000 and last night the weight of responsibility hung heavy until a wild jam to extend crowd favourite "Even Flow.

Then on, the band were in sparkling form as they powered through a greatest hits set. Usually earnest frontman Eddie Vedder even played Sabbath's " Iron Man" on ukulele.

Rock took centre stage for Reading's last day, though, on the margins, more funky sounds gave the festival the air of an urban warehouse party. Spankrock's bass-heavy party tunes from Baltimore vied with clever rhymes from UK rapper Sway. His cutting-edge beats showed a willingness to take on the US's more fêted stars. Lady Sovereign belied her diminutive size with a venomous performance.

The spoils, though, went to Goldie Lookin Chain in fluorescent steward garb, a sight only seen by many on a screen outside a packed tent. Dropped by their label, these losers were still on a winner as they used house samples to jump on the rave revival.

More melancholy fare came from Hope Of The State, their spine-tingling sound driven by a furious fiddler. Canadian collectors Broken Social Scene trumped them with a layered approach that gave a cosmic seal to their folksy sound.

Saturday's headliners, Muse, combined the paranoid prickliness of Radiohead with the showmanship of Queen. The band's frontman, Matthew Bellamy, seems an intelligent bloke, but the point of his creativity got lost in the bombast of hits old and new.

Having packed a side stage last year, the Arctic Monkeys stepped up to the main stage with ease. Such was the group's confidence they could open with their number one hit, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor", though band leader Alex Turner still insisted on asking if people were enjoying themselves, even as fans sung along to B-sides. They managed to take control of previous hormonal rushes by adding thrilling diversions to old material.

Before them, The Streets had been in all kinds of trouble as Mike Skinner struggled to find his voice and the mix of samples and live band failed to fuse. In the end, his set was saved by the gambler's home bankers. " Never Went to Church" was still touching and "Fit But You Know It" encouraged the odd streaker.

Earlier in the day, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, the US outfit propelled to fame by the internet, took a while to make an impact. Their driving rhythms were hampered by fuzzy sound, though there was an irresistible, ecstatic feel to their performance.

If this all seemed too jolly for a rock festival, then at least Mark E Smith was on hand to puncture the love bubble. His band The Fall played a typically uncompromising set of harsh, functional riffs from recent albums that suited Smith's raw vocal style. Not even he, though, was immune to the happy vibes, dedicating one number to a chap from his home town of Manchester who had made the journey. Another happy punter, then, at a vintage weekender.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

lundi, août 28, 2006

Kasabian new album

Album: Kasabian


By Andy Gill

Published: 25 August 2006

Like their similarly immodest contemporaries Razorlight, Kasabian talk a good fight - or enough of a good fight, anyway, to make you overlook the shortfall in achievement, when compared with their boundless ambition. In recent weeks the band's singer Tom Meighan and guitarist Serge Pizzorno have been bigging themselves up aplenty in the pop press, making outlandish claims for Empire while offering entertaining sideswipes at their rivals, as if in denigrating them, they might also raise their own reputation by comparison.

But listening to Empire without the blinkers of vested interest, it's hard to tell whether this is the great breakthrough they maintain, or just the last hurrah of Brit Pop as the spotlight shifts elsewhere. Admittedly, it's an improvement on their patchy debut, the band's sound honed by hundreds of performances; but it all seems to be looking back, rather than forward, with the group apparently transfixed by their influences and idols. Instead of chummying up to Liam and Noel, perhaps they ought to consider whether Oasis had actually made any records worth hearing in nearly a decade, and address their own efforts accordingly.

Which is not to say that Empire is actually a bad album. There's an enjoyable swagger to the galumphing boogie-monster of a title-track, while the lolloping handclap groove of "Shoot The Runner" sounds like Primal Scream doing a T Rex cover. Indeed, as one delves further into the album, the more it resembles Primal Scream, particularly on the pounding motorik of "Sun/Rise/Light/Flies", with its gently pirouetting Arabic strings and cycling synth lines. Elsewhere, the drug anthem "Last Trip (In Flight)" occupies the niche separating P. Scream from "Silver Machine", while the juddering staccato keyboards, "I Feel Love"-style techno loop and heavy rock drum groove of "Apnoea" recalls The Chemical Brothers in their pomp.

Some variety is introduced late on with "British Legion", an apparently impromptu romantic tribute to some salvatory lover, sung by Pizzorno over his understated solo guitar, and "The Doberman", which concludes the album with a veneer of Morricone-esque brass. But what strikes one immediately after it's finished is how insubstantial the songs are - how little, if anything, is actually being said. It's as if Kasabian have been so obsessed with writing big, anthemic crowd-pleasers, full of endlessly repeated chant-along refrains, that they've neglected to actually write anything apart from the hooks.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Shoot The Runner', 'Sun/Rise/Light/Flies', 'Apnoea', 'Last Trip'

samedi, août 26, 2006

Rock and Guitars

Guitar bands strike a chord to send instrument sales rocketing

Audrey Gillan

The Guardian

The rise of skinny-tied guitar bands such as Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs has fuelled the popularity of the instrument, with UK sales at an all-time high.

Figures released yesterday show that musicians spent £110m on electric, bass and acoustic instruments last year. This was up from £102m in 2004. Sales may have also increased through the success of once little-known artists such as 19-year-old Paolo Nutini, who has been playing the guitar for just a few years and whose album has recently gone gold.

Steve Macari, the owner of Macari's music shop on Charing Cross Road in London, which provides guitars for bands such as Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Oasis and Primal Scream, said: "I think if anything, we have noticed an upturn in acoustic guitars and electric-acoustic guitars.

"It's probably got a lot to do with guitar bands and kids being inspired by young singer-songwriters."

Howard Whatley, a musician and salesman at Macari's, said: "I think it's because there's so many young, good bands out there and this is encouraging people to get out and do it. They are looking at bands like the Libertines and the Arctic Monkeys that are pretty talented and it encourages people to try it for themselves. We have a lot of kids aged between 10 and 18 who have never played a guitar before but are so into these bands and they want to be able to play their singles."

At Macari's, acoustic guitars outsell electric by eight to one - probably because this is what most people learn on - but they have noticed a steep rise in the number of electric guitars sold in the last year.

The Music Industries Association (MIA) said an influx of cheaper models made in China had pushed down prices. Guitars are the bedrock of UK instrument sales, with nearly a million sold last year, up 200,000 on 2004. Electric and bass guitars are the most popular, making up £70m of 2005 sales compared with acoustic at £40m. The average electric guitar now costs £150, compared with £75 for the average acoustic version.

MIA chief executive Paul McManus said: "The popularity of the guitar in the UK is clearly going from strength to strength." The MIA figures are based on government statistics for UK guitar imports. The MIA is the UK trade association for the musical products industry.

jeudi, août 24, 2006

Imogen Heap

Brit Songstress Imogen Heap

The one-woman wonder performs four dazzlings songs in Rolling Stone's midtown studio



Imogen Heap Photo

Imogen Heap

Photograph by Statia Photography

Brit songstress Imogen Heap was trained as a classical pianist while growing up in Essex, England, but her sound is more electro-pop than chamber music. Her latest album, Speak For Yourself, consists of computer manipulated sounds ranging from her own voice to piano to carpet tubes, layered with electronic beats and Heap's introspective lyrics.

Heap has been releasing beautiful music since her 1998 debut, I Megaphone, but it took a couple of choice TV and film placements to really put her on the musical map. Her breakthrough moment came in 2004, when her song "Let Go" was used as the soundtrack to the emotionally charged final scene in the Zach Braff-directed romantic comedy Garden State. The track, a breathy, swelling love song that sounded tailor-made for the movie's poignant finale, was recorded in 2002 under the moniker Frou Frou -- a one-off electronic music collaboration between Heap and producer Guy Sigsworth (who's worked with Madonna and Bjork).

The music had an impact: not long after the movie's release, producers for the tune-heavy series The O.C. approached Heap about using some of her songs on the show. (Four of her songs have been featured on episodes of the show, including "Goodnight and Go," performed here live for Rolling Stone.)

mercredi, août 23, 2006

Frank Black

'I used to have a band, and now I don't'

When the Pixies reformed, they invited a film crew to join them for the ride. Frank Black talks to Xan Brooks about the train-wreck of a tour that followed

Tuesday August 22, 2006

The Guardian

The Pixies
The great should-have-beens of American music ... The Pixies.
Photograph: Chapman Baehler
The artist formerly known as Black Francis answers the phone and explains that he can't talk; he is in crisis. He's in Pennsylvania but can't say where, exactly, because he has switched hotels twice in the past few hours. He has four children and they are very hungry. He has lost his charger and reckons there is maybe 40 seconds of life left in the mobile. "You could say that I'm facing a lot of challenges in my life right now," he bellows. Charles Thompson (aka Frank Black, aka Black Francis) is currently tripping eastwards on a solo tour of the US. It sounds nearly as fraught as on his last outing with the Pixies.

I have been chasing Thompson for several days now, eager to gauge his reaction to loudQUIETloud, a rambunctious little documentary about the Pixies's 2004 reunion tour, which debuts today at the Edinburgh film festival. Directed by Steven Cantor and Matthew Galkin, the film is a bit like a Pixies song itself. It is film where simmering tensions erupt into primal storms, where high tragedy goes cheek-by-jowl with low comedy, and where the drummer goes mad and won't finish his solo. "We knew the band had an acrimonious break-up so we knew it wouldn't be plain sailing," Cantor tells me. "That said, there were still some surprises along the way."

The Pixies were the great should-have-beens of American music, an impish, ill-starred quartet who indirectly kick-started the grunge movement and then imploded too soon to reap the rewards. They recorded songs that flared red hot and ice cold in the space of a heartbeat, that played the Old Testament as sexed-up soap opera ("You crazy babe, Bathsheba"), and led Kurt Cobain to write Smells Like Teen Spirit in a vain attempt to, in his words, "basically try to rip off the Pixies".

Once upon a time this band meant something. But by the time of their reunion they have been defunct for 12 years and the royalties have dried to a trickle. Thompson (rechristened Frank Black) is struggling to sustain a solo career. Guitarist Joey Santiago is "eking out" a living writing TV soundtracks, and drummer Dave Lovering has lost his home and needs the cash to support his new job as a conjurer. As for Kim Deal, the Pixies' iconic bassist, she is fresh out of rehab and living at home with her folks. The tour was wonderful news for Kim, her mother explains "She needs something to do besides writing poetry and, er, sleeping all day."

If the aim was to boost the band's bank balance, the Pixies comeback was a huge success (tickets sold out within minutes). But, behind the scenes, matters were more torrid. Initially conceived as a celebration, loudQUIETloud quickly veers into train-wreck territory. Lovering is the first to crash. Devastated by his father's death, he hits the bottle, guzzles valium and suffers a public breakdown on stage in Chicago. His behaviour appears to impact on Deal. Having initially stipulated that the tour should be alcohol free, she is shown surreptitiously nursing a bottle of beer during a stopover in Reykjavik. "Hey, it's only 5% proof," she insists. "Pretty much all beer is 5% proof," retorts her sister, Kelley.

Actually there was plenty more in this vein, Cantor says. It's just that the band ordered him to take it out. "Kim, in particular, felt there were too many scenes that showed her trying to stay sober," he explains. "She felt that there was more to her than just being, like, rehab woman. So yes, we had to tone it down." At times the band's intervention was more forceful. In one scene, during a protracted drugs debate between Deal and Lovering, Thompson seizes the camera and pushes it to the floor.

Was the band happy with the final version? "Oh yes," the director assures me. "They think it's really truthful. They recognise themselves in the movie." Yet he sounds slightly doubtful.

Rumour has it that the Pixies remain unimpressed with loudQUIETloud. Perhaps this is why Thompson is proving so elusive. Exasperated, the film's distributors suggest that I try a new tactic. I should approach his management company, tell them I want to discuss Frank Black's solo tour, and don't mention the film at all. I should pretend, in fact, to be unaware that there even is a film.

The day after our aborted conversation in Pennsylvania, I trackThompson to a hotel in Washington DC. It's eight in the morning and I get him out of bed. "Hold the line for a moment," he croaks. "I must pass my urine or I won't be able to think." He is gone so long I start to wonder if he's slipped away again.

On stage, Thompson is an electrifying presence: big, bald and bawling; a furious baby grown to the size of a barn. But he emerges from the documentary as an oddly distant figure. For some reason, the film features numerous shots of him lolling, semi-naked in bed, lovingly patting his belly, or stroking at his scalp. He looks like a cross between Leigh Bowery and Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now.

Thompson flushes the loo and returns to the phone. I ask him what he thinks of the documentary and he hums and haws.

"Look," he says, "I've got nothing against the film or the film-makers, but they manipulated the whole thing. They wanted a story, and that story became this tension within the band, how awful we got along, and Dave's downward spiral. Whereas Dave was actually the one who was holding us together. His breakdown only came at the end of the tour when he was upset about his dad's death. Then he became this kind of Jekyll and Hyde figure, dulling the pain with red wine and pills."

Deal's portrayal proved the other sticking point. "Kim wasn't happy with the film at all," he admits. "It made her look like she was hardly there, clutching her beer and chain-smoking cigarettes. It made it look as if we had just scooped her out of the gutter." So they asked for some scenes to be removed? "Well, yeah. We told them we didn't care for the original cut. We ended up putting a lot of stuff back in."

The problem, Thompson suspects, is that the film-makers never really understood their subject matter. "They were naive, like a lot of people who don't understand how rock bands are when they go on tour. They'd roll into the hotel every morning and say, 'So what are you guys going to do today? Ooh, are you going to go buy some ice cream?' I guess they expected us to be like the Monkees, always up to mischief. But we're boring, you know. And touring is boring. You just sit around not talking to each other."

This, at least, is something that the film was able to pinpoint. "The movie as it stands is basically truthful, even though it's exaggerated," Thompson says. "But it does suggest something that is correct: the awful lack of communication within the band. That silly dysfunctional quality. Sometimes we don't speak enough."

Thompson famously broke up the Pixies by fax back in 1992. At the time he thought this was the classy way to call it quits. He says now that he regrets the decision, and that the band still hate him for it. Recently he has been angling for a longer-term collaboration: he wants to corral the Pixies into a studio and test-run some new material. "But there is some reluctance, let's put it that way. They don't trust me." He sighs. "They used to trust me."

I had been hoping to wring a quick quote or two out of Thompson. But we have now been on the phone for more than 40 minutes. He keeps beating back into the past; unpicking old grievances and festering rivalries; discussing who's still mad at who, and why; spotlighting all the waste and loss that lurks in the wings of loudQUIETloud.

"I used to have a band," he laments. "And now I don't have a band anymore. That's why I'm off doing my little solo tour. That's why I'm sitting in a hotel room telling you all about it".

Rockumentaries that went wrong

Cocksucker Blues (1972)

The genre's seedy antecedent trails the Rolling Stones on their 1972 American tour. But the group was so incensed by the portrayal of them as narcissistic, drug-guzzling hedonists that they sued to prevent its release. It remains under a court order to this day.

Ramones: End of the Century (2003)

Johnny steals Joey's girlfriend, Dee Dee is a junkie and Tommy struggles to keep time and make peace. The Ramones might not have been real brothers, but the fraternal tension is palpable.

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004)

There is a decided whiff of Spinal Tap about this portrait of a band bedevilled by death, drugs and galloping self-absorption - particularly when their management hires a costly therapist to sort them out.

Dig! (2004)

The Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre start out as allies with a mission to get "a full-scale revolution going on". One band ends up on a Vodafone advert; the other goes down in a hail of rotten fruit.

New York Doll (2005)

In which bassist Arthur Kane quits the Dolls and becomes a Mormon, but finally rejoins the band at the Meltdown festival. Meanwhile, three other band-mates have long since died and gone.

· LoudQUIETloud is at the Edinburgh International Film festival on August 22, 25 and 27. Details: 0131-228 4051. The film is released on DVD in November.

Related articles

lundi, août 21, 2006

Lily Allen Live

V popular Lily Allen a festival hit

Monday August 21, 2006

Lily Allen
Lily Allen performs at the V festival. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA
More than 130,000 festival-goers braved the mud and rain at the two-day V Festival staged simultaneously in Essex and Staffordshire, to see musicians including Razorlight, Keane, Paul Weller and Radiohead.

Lily Allen, in trademark ballgown, enthralled the crowds at Hylands Park, in Chelmsford, with a typically cocky performance, including her recent number one hit Smile.

Morrissey closed the show in Essex last night, while Radiohead were the main attraction at Stafford, where The Ordinary Boys had to pull out when their bass player fell ill.

Other acts included the Sugababes, Faithless and Hard-Fi.

Three people at the Essex site were treated for serious burns when a tent and camping stove caught light and another man was treated for wounds to his hand after stabbing himself with a tent peg.

Related article

V Festival, Hylands Park, Chelmsford

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

dimanche, août 20, 2006

Siren song

Keating, Portugal. The Man, The Receiving End of Sirens, and Circa Survive at Avalon, August 14, 2006

8/15/2006 6:35:47 PM
The Receiving End of Sirens, shown here at Bamboozle Fest earlier this year

If you’ve ever wondered what the Mars Volta, the ghost of Jeff Buckley, the Blood Brothers, and a few grains of Old West sand would sound like if they were thrown in a blender on high and lit from below by strobe lights, see Portugal. The Man the next time they come around. Thanks to three total guitars (normally a four piece, they had two extra players on stage), the songs off their latest album sounded beefy and ready to rumble, a veritable noise assault. Because this was the last day of the Twilight Army tour, slices of bread were hucked, instruments were stolen and played, Portugal men were tackled, and lights were turned off — I think for the most part by the dudes of Keating, who opened the show with underwhelming Coldplayian earnestness. It was a chaotic and fun-to-watch ending to a fun-to-watch set.

Boston natives The Receiving End of Sirens played next. Coming out to the “Cheers” theme (“Sometimes you want to go….”) and the screams of a packed Avalon, it was clear that it was good to be back. Down a member and up an iPod nano (guitarist/laptopper/keyboarder Casey Crescenzo recently left the band; a friend Ross filled in on guitar, and drummer Andrew Cook controlled the iPod), the band sounded no less crisp, which is especially impressive considering they’ve been on the road for the last year and a half. My only complaint might be that they were too crisp; each song was performed almost exactly as it appears on their album Between the Heart and the Synapse. Which isn’t a bad thing considering how strong the album is, but it would’ve been cool to hear them play with some of the more powerful atmospherics.

With the crowd as energized as the band (or, maybe, with the band as energized as the crowd), the lyrics from “Planning a Prison Break,” proved true: “This is the last night in my body.” Everyone was everyone else, a singular voice that transcended the individual. That was, until, a banner was unfurled that said “TREOS” with a picture of a cock and balls on it. More last day pranking. The banner hung flaccid though, and the crowd was undeterred.

Circa Survive, featuring the ex-lead singer of post-hardcore notables Saosin, completed the night with their undulating, strangely time-signatured prog. Without much stage banter, lead singer Anthony Green wailed his way through the set, part siren and part banshee. The green glow stick beach balls tossed out during the final song were the perfect match for their supernatural, otherworldly sound.

vendredi, août 18, 2006

Julian Cope

Bassoons, flamenco, monks' cowls ... welcome to the new rock underground

Julian Cope explains why heavy metal, so often maligned, is at the heart of today's rock avant-garde

Friday August 18, 2006

The Guardian

Metal: SunnO))), Comets On Fire, Acid Mothers Temple
Metal recast: (Clockwise from left) SunnO))), Comets On Fire, Acid Mothers Temple

In April this year, after my half-hour stint as a guest vocalist for the US doom metal band SunnO))), I left the stage at Brussels' Domino festival and removed my burka. Backstage, I remarked to the band's biographer, Seldon Hunt, how open-minded heavy metallers had become: they were accepting, as festival headliners, a band without a drummer, a bass player or guitars, and with every bearded, long-haired musician among them clad in the habit of a Christian monk. Percipiently, Seldon commented that because the support acts had contained all of those ingredients (except the habits), SunnO))) considered it their duty to reject every metal cliche, replacing each of the archetypal rock instruments with Moog synthesizers, downtuned enough to bring the plaster off the theatre's ceiling.

SunnO))) are taking metal to places you never imagined. Their music inhabits the territory that once was the preserve of meditative, ambient and experimental music alone. And they are doing it through the most critically reviled music of all. More remarkably, they are not alone. Across the world, underground scenes are using the shell of heavy metal - the volume, the grinding riffs, the imagery, the nomenclature - to test rock'n'roll perceptions and explore boundaries, all the while shamelessly subsuming other vastly different musical styles into their own work.

In a worldwide underground music scene that encompasses artists playing improvisatory music, folk, psychedelic and free jazz, metal is the common thread. You don't hear much about this music in the mainstream press, especially in Britain, where the kingmakers of the music press have inadvertently created generations of musical whores, all doing their utmost to produce what they think the NME will want, rather than the music they want to make. But why is metal the link? Because the avant-garde musicians in the vanguard of today's experimental underground scene grew up on it. They spent their late childhoods/early teens playing noisy computer games, watching 24-hour news of the first Gulf war and listening to grunge and metal. As they are mostly in their late 20s and early 30s, their strongest cultural landmarks are the suicide of Kurt Cobain in 1994, and, before it, the overwhelmingly loud sludge of Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica. Therefore the "inner soundtracks" of the new avant gardists are informed by grinding metal bands, just as the sound of the Velvet Underground's Sister Ray informed that of my own punk generation. Older readers who equate the term heavy metal with the brash, stupefying 1980s anthems of Def Leppard and Bon Jovi will do well to remember that these bands are long out of the equation, having been at their height over 20 years ago.

Let's go furthest away from metal first in our tour of the new underground, to acoustic music. In northern Portugal, the Galician separatists Sangre Cavallum accompany their often improvised songs of national identity with traditional instruments such as bagpipes, lyres, Iberian flutes and chanters, each song sung with an aching and a longing more reminiscent of Sardinia's traditional Tenores music than anything current. We move closer to metal's metaphor with the drum and hunting horn-led Saxon acoustic folk of Waldteufel, which conjures up an ancient atmosphere of Woden's wild hunt careering through a dark-age forest. But the hand of metal is clear by the time we get to Wolfmangler, from Germany. Their album art may look like every other Germanic death metal trudge-o-thon, but the music of their latest record, Dwelling in a Dead Raven for the Glory of Crucified Wolves, features a six-piece line-up replete with trombonist, bassoonist, flautist and two bass players.

As slow and brooding as compost with a grudge, Wolfmangler are the bridge between pure ritual and "death folk", a hybrid music whose best representatives are probably Austria's Cadaverous Condition. This band began as a black metal act way back when, but have, in recent times, brought forth a delightful acoustic side that no one could have been prepared for. Indeed, the only surviving black metal element in Cadaverous Condition's current performances is the Cookie Monster vocals of singer Wolfgang, whose delivery is performed with such a straight edge that it demands we take him entirely seriously. Once past the initial smirk of discomfort, we find ourselves a party to the hopes, fears and shattered dreams of a loathsome troll destined to live out his days under a haunted bridge awaiting the occasional victim, and singing to himself of how he dreads their piteous cries as he gnaws at their bones.

But the clear leaders on the acoustic side are an American band, Ben Chasny's ensemble Six Organs of Admittance, who record incredibly dark gnostic meditations. Propelled by Chasny's masterful acoustic guitar, the tumultuous clamour of Six Organs of Admittance inhabits a heathen netherworld reminiscent of the Lucifer Rising soundtrack recorded by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page, their 20-minute mantras never once falling into the cod-raga of so much so-called 1960s-informed folk music.

America's underground leads this immense musical experiment. Its gargantuan land mass and the localised nature of its media ensure that no musician can rise beyond their local throng without having first paid their dues. And it is American bands of the past - not necessarily underground bands - that inspire many of the underground artists elsewhere. In Spain, for example, Viaje A800 take inspiration from America's biggest live act of the early 1970s, Grand Funk Railroad, as well as the proto-metal group Blue Cheer, to play a brooding, soul-based slow metal. They bring their own origins to bear by having the singer always employ his own, unique Spanish style (and taking an age in the process). Another band, the trio Orthodox, take the Spanish angle on metal even further. They have recontextualised the doom metal sound associated with the Nordic nations, and the methods of SunnO))), by dressing in the Ku Klux Klan-like cowls of the Easter parade in their home city of Seville (complete with ropes around their necks). They perform extremely long, arduous pieces accompanied by a female flamenco dancer, and separate themselves from the Wodenist, pagan traditions of the Nordic bands by appearing in press shots hailing brightly enamelled statues of the Virgin and child.

Second after America, probably, comes Japan, whose underground has inspired America's own. (The Yoshimi of the Flaming Lips' album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is a former member of the Boredoms, and now has a group called OOIOO). Here, too, metal is at the heart of things. The prolific Acid Mothers Temple commune/band rose from the ashes of proto-metal bands such as Mainliner and High Rise. Their international success has, in turn, inspired Japan's psychedelic ritual cult act Death Comes Along, whose free- fuzz sonic avalanches take such titles as Psychedelic Inferno, Children of the Death and Death Death Death. Led by the mysterious Crow, Death Comes Along have also modelled themselves on earlier, more politically motivated 1960s commune bands, such as Berlin's Amon Düül - who shared living space with the Baader-Meinhof gang - and the communist agitators Les Rallizes Denudes, whose own career was forced underground after their bass player hijacked a JAL airliner and took it to North Korea in March 1970.

Politics informs much of this underground music, especially that made by musicians working in repressive social conditions. My travels through southern Armenia in 2003 put me in touch with Iran's progressive trio Kahtmayan, whose violent marriage of krautrock, the French Zeuhl music of Magma, and early Metallica contains samples of US pilots' radio communiqués as they prepared to attack northern Iraq. Recent pictures of these guys show them making signs of the horned god, and images of Tehran's business centres sprayed with Kahtmayan's own heavy metal graffiti - which all inclines me to believe the rumour that one member was recently murdered by Iran's secret police. But I digress ...

The journey from acoustic to electric brings us back to Ben Chasny, who is not just the leader of Six Organs of Admittance. He's also the guitar player in the Santa Cruz psychedelic band Comets on Fire. Even without a real songwriter among the lot of them, Comets remain the rising stars of the underground scene - they are signed to a big independent label, Sub Pop, and even manage to get reviewed in papers like this one. They are the real thing, for shit damn sure. Commencing their career as a radical mix of Creedence Clearwater Revival, 13th Floor Elevators and Slade,they just got better. You didn't know what they were singing about - which was possibly nothing, but what an electrifying nothing. This euphoric noise got the band signed to Sub Pop, where someone told the band's yawping, howling singer Ethan Miller that he had to write some songs. He couldn't, but maybe he thought he could. Mercifully for us, and luckily for Comets on Fire's career, Ethan spewed out these efforts as a side project entitled Howlin' Rain.

Which brings us to the brand new Comets album, Avatar. In Comets terms, it's been an age coming, but compared to your average English rock underachiever, it's way ahead of schedule. The production sucks, but then so does mine. Ethan's not singing enough, but then he never did. Avatar's only great crime is the "everything playing at once" lack of dynamics that Jim Morrison always accused Jefferson Airplane of having. Once their flavour-of-the-month status has passed, however, Comets on Fire's continuity will return and we can look forward to 30 years of classic barbarian space travel barfed out every nine months. Lovely.

The underground is in better shape than it's been for years - and greedy for the prizes. Today's underground collective chant would probably go something like: "Where are we going?" "Everywhere!" "When are we going?" "Now!"

· Avatar by Comets on Fire is out now on Sub Pop. You can read Julian Cope's writings about the rock underground at

Related articles
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

jeudi, août 17, 2006

Kasabian live

First Night: Kasabian, Brixton Academy, London

Self-aggrandising and gobby but Meighan's band win people's vote

By James McNair

Published: 16 August 2006

Foolish, perhaps, to expect largesse from a band named after Charles Manson's getaway driver, but the indie rock/electronica act Kasabian dish the dirt on a regular basis. The Kooks? "Biker Grove with leather jackets." Pete Doherty? "He'll go down in history as a tramp, not a poet." To make matters worse, Kasabian are such a gobby, self-aggrandising bunch that their tuppence worth sometimes grates. The front-man, Tom Meighan, recently claimed his band's new album Empire was as good as Oasis's Definitely Maybe, while his guitarist bandmate Serge Pizzorno ranks it alongside The Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed.

To be fair, Empire is a quantum leap forward from Kasabian's eponymous 2004 debut. Still, for those of us who can hear how much "Sun Rise Light Flies" owes to Noel Gallagher and the Chemical Brothers' "Setting Sun", it can feel like a familiar trip with slightly different scenery. That every generation wants its own hedonistic indie heroes can only help Kasabian's case, and with the new album's title track entering the UK singles chart at number nine, and this gig reportedly selling out in 10 minutes, they clearly have the people's vote.

When they applaud their audience before it applauds them, it helps cements Kasabian's proletarian band status. It also results in them winning the Brixton crowd over before the opening number, "Shoot The Runner", has reached its first chorus. "We've just come back from a gig in Ibiza and we've still got the shakes!" Meighan says further in. In Kasabian-land, where dilated pupils are commonplace, this is a revelation that is easy to interpret.

One thing the Leicester-based outfit has learned from dance-music culture is the worth of a good "drop-down" section. They excel at such sonic pit-stops, taking their audience to the brink of euphoria, then prodding them into a blissful abyss with another yobbish, chant-along chorus. "Reason" works like this, and so does "Cut-Off". Through it all, Meighan comes on like an over-zealous audience member who has somehow managed to breach the stage and commandeer a microphone. Subconciously or otherwise, it's that old "mirror your audience if you want them to love you" trick - and he's excellent at it.

Kasabian are that comparatively rare thing: a band that is much better live than in the studio. The jam-like, cut and paste approach of new songs such as "By My Side" and "Empire" lacks subtlety on CD, but in a live context these become anthems. Meighan is still having it large as the closing double-whammy of "Club Foot" and "Stuntman" sees the Academy's famously pliable floor take a right old pummelling. Primal Scream have done this kind of thing just as well if not better, but unlike Kasbian, their time is not now.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

mercredi, août 16, 2006

Kristin Hersh

Kristin Hersh’s family affair

Throwing Muses, 50 Foot Wave, and Bullseye

8/15/2006 3:53:23 PM

Kristin Hersh
It’s a family affair. Really. You can argue that any rock outfit is family up to a point, but there was more to it last Friday night at the Middle East downstairs. Kristin Hersh, singer/songwriter/guitarist of the headlining Throwing Muses and the opening 50 Foot Wave, is married to Billy O’Connell, her long-time manager and the father of her four boys. Muses bassist Bernard Georges and drummer David Narcizo have been in the band for æons. And the line-up of Hersh’s punkier 50 Foot Wave includes Georges and drummer Rob Ahlers. Hersh started the Muses in Newport with her half-sister Tanya Donelly (who went on to front Belly) when she was 14. So she saw nothing wrong with inviting her Amherst-based, Newport-raised pal Greg “Skeggy” Kendall to bring his two kids — bassist/singer Lucas, 12, and drummer Dana, 11 — and their four friends to play the middle part of this bill. They’re called Bullseye.

Before the gig, I ring up Hersh to see how she’s coping with bringing both of her bands on tour. “I don’t know if I can even do this. It’s quite a workout to play with either one of them. It’s like an athletic event. 50 Foot Wave is like racing down the stairs. With the Muses, it’s getting lost in notes and chords of music, leaning on autopilot.”

Backstage on Friday, she corrects herself. The Muses had just played a festival in Iceland — the first gig in three years. “I was playing these chord clusters in different positions. No more autopilot.” She’s still worried about the two sets. “Something about the resonance of 50 Foot Wave, it shakes my body. But playing with the Muses, it shakes other things.”

50 Foot Wave roar and clang, with Hersh peeling off abrasive guitar shards. It’s loud, smart punk that drops back and charges forward. During the break, Hersh sips a beer and sighs, “This is confusing for me.” On stage, the Bullseye kids deliver eight tunes of hooky punk pop including the Kinks’ garage-rock classic “I’m Not like Everybody Else.”

The Muses are the icing on the cake, conjuring a beautiful, anguished mood with angular songs, artsy, oblique, mercurial, and full of nature references. “If you dumb it down, you can make money,” Hersh says after the set. “I didn’t dumb it down. I know no one’s questioning my motives. I get the benefit of the doubt. The listeners are going to take the ride with you as long as you’re not going to lie to them.”

mardi, août 15, 2006

Websites that changed the world

Amazon used to be a large river in South America - but that was before the world wide web. This month the web is 15 years old and in that short time it has revolutionised the way we live, from shopping to booking flights, writing blogs to listening to music. Here, the Observer's Net specialist charts the web's remarkable early life and we tell the story of the 15 most influential websites to date. Tell us what you think of our choices

John Naughton

The Observer

Johannes Gutenberg took the idea of printing by moveable type and turned it into a publishing system. In doing so he changed the world. But he did not live to see the extent of the revolution he had brought about. If you'd told him in 1468 - the year he died - that the Bible he had published in 1455 would undermine the authority of the Catholic church, power the Renaissance and the Reformation, enable the Enlightenment and the rise of modern science, create new social classes and even change our concept of childhood, he would have looked at you blankly.

But there lives among us today a man who has done something similar, and survived to see the fruits of his work. He is Tim Berners-Lee, and he conceived a system for turning the internet into a publishing medium. Just over 15 years ago - on 6 August 1991, to be precise - he released the code for his invention on to the internet. He called it the World Wide Web, and had the inspired idea that it should be free so that anyone could use it.

And just about everyone did, with the result that the web grew exponentially. Today nobody really knows how big it is. At a recent conference, Yahoo's head of research and development put the size of the public web at 40 billion pages, but the size of the 'deep' web, the area where web pages are assembled on the fly and served up in response to clicked-upon links, is estimated to be between 400 and 750 times greater than the part that is indexed by search engines. Since you started reading this piece, thousands of pages have been added.

By any standards, the web represents a colossal change in our information environment. And the strange thing is that it has come about in just 15 years. Actually, most of it has happened in less than that, because the web only went mainstream in 1993, when the first graphical browsers - the computer programs we use to access the web - were released. So these are early days. We can no more envisage the long-term implications of what has happened than dear old Gutenberg could.

The strangest thing is how casually we have come to take it for granted. We buy books from Amazon, airline tickets from Easyjet and Ryanair, tickets for theatres and cinemas online, as if doing so were the most natural thing in the world. We check the opening times at the Louvre in Paris or the Museum of Modern Art in New York (or browse their collections) online. We check definitions (and spellings) in online dictionaries, look up stuff in Wikipedia, search for apartments to rent on Craigslist or a host of local lookalikes such as in Ireland. You can buy and sell just about anything (excluding body parts) on eBay. Children seeking pictures for school projects search for them on Google Images (and download them without undue concern for intellectual property rights). Holiday snaps escape from their shoeboxes and are published to the world on Flickr. Home movies likewise on YouTube. And of course anyone with doubts about a prospective blind date can do an exploratory check on Google before committing to an evening out with a total stranger.

All this we now take for granted. To get a handle on the scale of what has happened, think back to what the world was like 15 years ago. Amazon was a large river in South America. Ryanair was an Irish airline that flew to places nobody had ever heard of. eBay was a typo. Yahoo was a term from Gulliver's Travels. A googol was a very large number (one followed by a hundred zeroes). Classified ads were densely printed matter in newspapers. 'Encyclopedia' was a synonym for Encyclopedia Britannica. And if you wanted to read what your MP had said in the Commons yesterday you had to queue at the Stationery Office in London to buy Hansard. Oh, and there were quaint little shops in high streets called 'travel agents'.

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the web we've assembled a list of sites that have become the virtual wallpaper of our lives. What the corresponding list will be like in 15 years' time is anyone's guess. As the man said, if you want to know the future, go buy a crystal ball. In the meantime, read on and wonder.

· John Naughton's history of the internet, A Brief History of the Future, is published by Phoenix at £7.99


Founded: Pierre Omidyar, 1995, US

Users: 168m

What is it? Auction and shopping site

You cannot buy fireworks, guns, franking machines, animals or lock-picking devices on eBay, the internet's premier auction site, but almost everything else is OK: sideburns, houses, used underwear and of course Pez dispensers.

Pez is where it is said to have all begun for eBay's ponytailed founder Pierre Omidyar when he responded to his fiancee's worries that she would no longer be able to expand her toy collection when they moved to Silicon Valley. Omidyar developed a car boot sale anyone could use wherever they were, and without the need for getting dressed. The name sprang from Echo Bay Technology Group, Omidyar's consultancy company, and the first sale was a broken laser pointer.

Things have moved on a little since then. We spend more time on eBay than any other internet site. There are more than 10 million users in the UK. And eBay is far from just a second-hand stall. New items are sold by global companies; many people have abandoned their jobs to eBay full time, and normally sane people fret about 'negative feedback' and being outbid by 'snipers'. eBay owns PayPal and Skype, making dealing almost effortless.
Simon Garfield


Founded: Jimmy Wales, 2001, US

Users: 912,000 visits per day

What is it? Online encyclopaedia

As a young boy growing up in Hunstville, Alabama, Jimmy Wales attended a one-room school, sharing his classes with only three other children. Here he spent 'many hours poring over encyclopaedias', and faced the familiar frustrations: their scope was conservative; they were hard to navigate and often out of date.

In January 2001 he created a solution. Wikipedia was a free online encyclopaedia and differed from its predecessors in one fundamental regard: it was open to everyone to read, and also to edit. If you had something to add - from a pedantic correction to an entire entry on your specialist subject - the Wiki template made this easy. The software enables entries to be updated within minutes of new developments. There is nothing you cannot find - how best to make glass, the use of the nappy in space exploration - and if something isn't there, you may wish to take matters into your own hands.

Like any fast-moving venture - the site attracts 2,000-plus page requests a second - it has not been slow to attract criticism. Occasionally a libellous article will lie undetected for months, as happened with an entry linking one of Robert Kennedy's aides with his assassination. But Wales says his creation is abused only rarely, and swiftly corrected by other users. 'Those who use Wikipedia a lot appreciate its true value and have learnt to trust it,' he says. 'Sometimes a prankster will substitute a picture of Hitler for George Bush, and within an hour someone would have changed it back.'


Founded: Shawn Fanning, 1999, US

Users: 500,000 paying subscribers

What is it? File sharing site

Shawn Fanning created Napster in 1999 while studying at Boston's Northeastern University, as a means of sharing music files with his fellow students. Of course, it was entirely illegal (home taping kills music, remember) and was quickly attacked by a mainstream music industry already struggling to make profits on its money-guzzling artists. Its popularity reached a peak in 2000 with over 70 million registered users before Fanning's company was forced to pay millions of dollars in backdated royalties: a move which bankrupted the original, free-to-use Napster the following year. By then, however, the premature leaking and sharing of hotly anticipated albums by some of the major labels' most bankable artists had proved to be a stimulant, not a thief, of sales once the CD version was released. The new Napster - effectively a renamed version of a pay-to-download MP3 site owned by the original Napster company's buyers, the German giant Bertelsmann- has never recaptured its original cool, precisely because it is now legitimate. What it did in its brief period of illegal notoriety was popularise the notion that making music freely available on the internet - through MySpace, one-off downloads or artist-sanctioned 'leaks' - does artists no harm at all; indeed, it's helped to launch the careers of many.
Lynsey Hanley


Founded: Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, 2005, US

Users: 100m clips watched a day

What is it? Video sharing site

When Chad Hurley and Steve Chen began working out of a garage in San Mateo in late 2004 to figure out an easy way to upload and share funny videos they'd taken at a dinner party, they had no idea just how huge an impact their creation would make. The former PayPal employees launched the user-friendly site in February 2005 and it has since become one of the most popular sites on the net, with YouTube claiming that 100 million clips are watched every day. Through the grassroots power of the internet and good word-of-mouth, the site quickly went from a place where people shared homemade video clips to users posting long-lost TV and film gems such as bloopers from Seventies game shows to ancient music videos. It has also taken off as a place for amateur film-makers to show off their talents - take David Lehre, a teenager whose MySpace: The Movie became such a popular clip he's already fielded job offers from major movie studios.

Not all television studios immediately embraced the idea of their archived copyrighted footage being shared. 'We're not here to steal,' insists Chen. 'When [US television network] NBC asked us to take something down, we did.' In fact, NBC only last week announced plans to work alongside YouTube, airing exclusive clips and trailers and eventually hoping to post episodes of The Office and Saturday Night Live on it. The company has had several offers to be bought out, but the pair swear they will not sell out. They continue to work out of their San Mateo loft, overseeing 27 employees and developing ways to make the site easier to use while whirling lucrative deals with studios.
Gillian Telling


Founded: Evan Williams, 1999, US

Users: 18.5m unique visitors

What is it? Weblog publishing system

There weren't too many computers lying around in the cornfields of Nebraska in the 1970s when Evan Williams was growing up. But he was drawn to them when he found them. He was also drawn west, to California in the 1990s. Williams founded Pyra Labs with two friends. At first it made project-management software for companies. It was not glamorous. Then it made Blogger and changed the world.

'The funny thing was I actually hesitated before working on Blogger because I didn't see the commercial applications,' says Williams. 'We had started a company and we needed to make money. We didn't see how this little hobbyist activity was going to make anyone money.'

The little hobbyist activity was blogging, the art of keeping a weblog - of diarising, theorising, satirising, fictionalising your life and observations online. It had already taken off among the tech fraternity in the Nineties, but it required building and maintaining your own website; the luddites were excluded. Williams created a tool that made self-publishing online as user-friendly as word-processing. It is hard to exaggerate the importance of this innovation. It didn't just create a new form of creative expression, it turned the media upside down.

Content was once made by companies for passive consumption by people. After Blogger, people were the content. They wrote about and read about their friends, their opinions, their cats. (There was a lot about cats in the early blogs.) None had a huge audience but collectively they were massive. 'Now you see TV networks saying: "We've gotta get on the web because that's where the audience is,"' says Williams.

There is no accurate count of the number of blogs in existence now. There are millions. One is created every minute. The revolution might have been possible without Blogger but it would have taken everyone a lot longer.

'Something like it would have existed anyway,' says Williams. 'And lots of things like it do exist. It was a combination of helping push an idea as well as just being in the right place at the right time when the idea was right.'
Rafael Behr


Founded: Steve and Julie Pankhurst, 1999, UK

Users: 15m

What is it? School reunion site

In July 2000, as the dreams of the internet boom crumbled around them, a husband-and-wife team were busy launching a rough and ready web phenomenon. Friends Reunited, which was sold to ITV for £120m last December, was Julie Pankhurst's brainchild. While pregnant, she became obsessed with finding out what her old friends had been up to since they left school. Her husband Steve, a computer programmer, had been brainstorming with his business partner Jason Porter for an original internet-based idea, and Julie suggested a website to cater for her newfound obsession. It took her some time to convince them. 'In the end,' says Steve, 'I designed Friends Reunited just to shut her up.'

The site took off slowly, getting half a dozen hits per day, but everything changed at the start of 2001 when its lone server collapsed. 'The Steve Wright show on Radio 2 had made us their website of the day. Tens of thousands of people had tried to access the site at the same time.' Within a month membership rose from 3,000 to 19,000; the couple were working 18-hour days. Friends Reunited quickly became a household name and membership soared into the millions.
Killian Fox


Founded: Matt Drudge, 1994, US

Users: 8-10m page views per day

What is it? News site

What began as a gossipy email newsletter has, since its first post in 1994, developed into one of the most powerful media outlets in American politics. Today the Drudge Report has evolved into a website,, and its threadbare, no-frills design belies the scale of its influence. It received an estimated 3.5 billion hits in the last 12 months; visitors regard it as the first port of call for breaking news.

Fedora-wearing founder Matt Drudge monitors TV and the internet for rumours and stories which he posts as headlines on his site. For the most part these are direct links to traditional news sites, though occasionally Drudge writes the stories himself. In 1998 he was the first to break news of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Named this year as one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people, the 38-year-old regards himself as a maverick newsman working free from the demands of editors and advertisers. Others, particularly critics from the left, view his reportage as biased towards conservatives, careless, malicious and frequently prone to error.

A report in 1997, alleging that White House assistant Sidney Blumenthal physically abused his wife, generated a $30m lawsuit against Drudge, which was dropped in 2001. In June 2004, Drudge apologised for a February 'world exclusive' claiming that John Kerry had had an affair with an intern.

Drudge has been labelled a 'threat to democracy' and an 'idiot with a modem' as well as 'the kind of bold, entrepreneurial, free-wheeling, information-oriented outsider we need more of in this country' (by Camille Paglia); his importance in the US media is undisputed.


Founded: Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe, 2003, US

Users: 100m

What is it? Social networking site

When business-school alumnus Chris DeWolfe set up the social networking site MySpace with his partner, ex-band member and film studies graduate Tom Anderson, three years ago, there was little indication that the one-stop online friend-making shop would soon boast 100 million members and more page visits in Britain than the BBC. The pair envisaged a site that would bring together all the qualities of existing online communities such as Friendster, and LiveJournal, with added features including classified adverts and events planning.

They got the formula just right: the MySpace-opolis is growing by 240,000 a day, making it the fourth most-visited website in the world. DeWolfe believes that the key to the site's success is its founders' rapport with the people who use it. 'We looked at it from the point of view of how people live their lives,' he says.

One of those features is the ability to upload and listen to music, which has attracted 2.2 million new bands and artists to the site, some of whom - most famously Lily Allen and Arctic Monkeys - can attribute their chart success to having spread the word through MySpace.

MySpace's parent company, Intermix, was bought by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp last year for $580m, causing consternation among some of the music world's more politicised acts, but no large-scale boycott. The site is simply too valuable and effective - and ubiquitous - to ignore.


Founded: Jeff Bezos, 1994, US

Users: More than 35m customers in over 250 countries

What is it? Online retailer, primarily of books, CDs and DVDs

The earth's biggest bookstore was originally called Cadabra, but Jeff Bezos thought again after his lawyer misheard it as 'cadaver'. He chose Amazon as something large and unstoppable and so, with current annual revenues of $8bn, it has proved. It was just a trickle to begin with though: the first office was in a Seattle suburb with desks made out of old doors. But it quickly became the headline act of the dotcom miracle and Bezos was Time magazine's man of the year in 1999. Amazon's continued dominance rests on price-slashing that would make Wal-Mart wince, and a reputation for reliability. Though selling books (and now almost everything else) on a vast scale, it has tried never to forget the value of intimacy.
Tim Adams


Founded: Rob Malda, 1997, US

Users: 5.5m per month

What is it? Technology news website and internet forum

'I'm just a geek that likes to poke around with hardware,' says Rob Malda. His site,, hosts news and discussion for techies and is one of the most visited websites in the world. Time magazine included him in its top 100 innovators, stating: 'Malda has taken the idea of what news can be, hacked it open and rebuilt it for the internet age.'

Most of the site is written by users; posts include a short synopsis paragraph, a link to the original story and a lengthy discussion sometimes running to 10,000 comments a day. Slashdot pioneered this user-driven content, and influenced sites including Google News, Guardian Unlimited and Wikipedia. In 2002 the site leaked the ruling of a court case involving Microsoft before the verdict had even been delivered to Microsoft or the US government. There is also the Slashdot effect, where a site is swamped by heavy traffic from a Slashdot link and its server collapses.

In 1997, 21-year-old Malda started what we would now call a blog, hosted on his user account at university. As the site picked up users he divided his time between college, paid work and the site. 'It was a blur. There were many nights when I did not sleep.' Two years later Andover bought Slashdot for $5m, shared between Malda, co-founder Jeff 'Hemos' Bates and other partners. They also shared $7m in stock between them. In 2000 VA Linux (now VA Software) bought Andover for $900m. Slashdot now has 10 employees dedicated to maintaining the site, most of them based in California. Malda has remained in Michigan, where he grew up and went to college. He is director of Slashdot. He proposed to his wife Kathleen on the site in 2002.
Katie Toms


Founded: David Talbot, 1995, US

Users: Between 2.5 and 3.5m unique visitors per month

What is it? Online magazine and media company Salon grew out of a strike. When the San Francisco Examiner was shut for a couple of weeks in 1994 a few of its journalists taught themselves HTML and had a go at doing a newspaper with new technology. They found the experience liberating, and David Talbot, the Examiner's arts editor, subsequently gave up his job and launched the kind of online paper he had always wanted to work for. Salon was originally a forum for discussing books, but the editors quickly realised it had to be more journalistic than that. They aimed at creating a 'smart tabloid', not afraid to be mischievous while maintaining a rigour with news. Talbot believes that online journalism came of age with the death of Princess Diana and the Lewinsky scandal. It proved with those events that it could be nimbler and more gossipy, it could update itself continually and, crucially, let readers join in. Salon's Table Talk forum established a new relationship between a news outfit and its audience, letting readers write themselves into the story.

Salon was not afraid of muck-raking. When Talbot decided to run a story about Henry Hyde, who was to sit in judgment of Bill Clinton after the Starr report, he was roundly criticised not just by the entrenched Washington media but also by some on his own staff. The story concerned Hyde's extramarital affair of 30 years before, and the more august sections of the American media, not to mention the right-wing impeachers of the President, thought this was beyond the pale. Talbot recalls how Salon 'got bomb threats, I received death threats... [but] I think if as a new organisation that comes into the world, a new media operation, you don't take risks with stories that no one else does, then what's the point?'

For all its journalistic success, Salon has always struggled financially. A couple of times the site has nearly gone under; on one occasion Talbot was forced to fire his wife who ran a women's page. A subscription system saved it, along with the growth in online advertising. These days Talbot sees Salon's competitors as the big news organisations, the New York Times and so on, who have strong online presence. Having shown a few of them how it's done, Salon now faces a daily battle to stay ahead of the game.


Founded: Craig Newmark, 1995, US

Users: 4bn page views per month

What is it? A centralised network of online urban communities, featuring free classified advertisements and forums

Craigslist is one of the most deceptively simple websites on the internet. It is also one of the most powerful. It is - pretty much - simply a free noticeboard. But its astonishing popularity has given it immense power. Want to rent an apartment? Sell a car? Find a job? Meet someone to spend the night with? Craiglist will provide the answers. For free. It has revolutionised urban living in America. It has also undercut one of the main reasons for newspapers: classified advertising. As nearly all Craigslist's content is free, it rarely censors ads and its readers number in the millions, it is far more useful to post an advert on the site than in your local newspaper. Thus a huge decline in newspaper ads and revenue, triggering cost-cutting which will see reporters tossed on to the scrap heap... and the end of a free press and democracy as we know it (if the critics are to be believed).

The website was founded by Craig Newmark, an ubergeek with a hippyish mentality. It started as a simple email that he would send around listing various events going on in San Francisco. From such humble beginnings Craigslist has grown into a multi-million-dollar business. Yet Newmark refuses to sell his company or charge for every ad.

Why should you care? Craigslist is all over the world - and coming to your home town soon.
Paul Harris


Founded: Larry Page and Sergey Brin, 1998, US

Users: A billion search requests per day

What is it? Search engine and media corporation

Its name is listed as a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary. It commands the largest internet search engine in the world. It is the fastest-growing company in history and its founders are worth almost $13bn each.

The search method devised by Larry Page and Sergey Brin was instrumental to Goggle's success. Rather than ranking results according to how many times the search term appeared on a page, their system measured the frequency with which a website was referenced by other sites. Another key factor was the site's stripped-down design, which made it speedier and more accessible than its competitors.

From such plain foundations a gigantic empire has sprung and is branching out into email (with Gmail), news (Google News), price comparison (Froogle), cartography (Google Maps), literature (with the much contested Google Book Search), free telephony (Google Talk), and, most strikingly, Google Earth, an incredibly detailed virtual globe. Google styles itself as a laidback, hippyish organisation but its founding motto, 'Don't Be Evil', is already being tested: the compromise it reached with China over censorship has proved particularly contentious.


Founded: David Filo and JerryYang, 1994, US

Users: 400m

What is it? Internet portal and media corporation

It receives an average of 3.4bn page hits a day, making it the single most visited website on the internet, but in recent years Yahoo! has been eclipsed by Google. Both companies were launched on a very small scale by Stanford University graduates and, very soon the portal that Jerry Yang and David Filo had started as a hobby was en route to becoming the most popular search engine on the web. On the back of its early success, Yahoo! (an acronym for 'Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle') branched out into email, instant messaging, news, gaming, online shopping and an array of other services.

It also started buying up other companies such as Geocities, eGroups and the web radio company Yahoo! survived the internet collapse at the start of the decade and brought former Warner Bros chief exec Terry Semel on board in 2001 to navigate the difficult waters of the post-boom period. Semel began to address the challenge of making money out of the internet without relying on advertising revenue alone. Google notwithstanding, Yahoo! is still very much a contender.


Founded: Stelios

Haji-Ioannou, 1995, UK

Users: 30m passengers last year

What is it?: Budget airline

It's easy to forget what it was like back in the old days, when we didn't just pay a tenner, pitch up at Luton and pop over to Rome for the weekend. We mini-breaked in Bournemouth. Travelling to Scotland was an all-day affair. Airlines issued quaint old-fashioned things such as meals. And tickets. And seats.

And then along came Stelios. That's Stelios as in Haji-Ioannou, although he now, alongside Delia and Jamie and Sven, belongs in that rare category - the surnameless celebrity. He's also that other elusive British beast - the celebrity entrepreneur. In 1995, after borrowing £30m from his dad, a shipping magnate, he leased two second-hand Boeings and began selling flights to Scotland for £29 each way.

EasyJet was the first low-cost British airline and, presciently, the first to start taking bookings over the internet, although, as Stelios admits, he wasn't won over straight away.

'We started off as something very obscure like And I said: "This is never going to fill the planes. It's just for nerds." Then some time in 1997 we bought the domain for about £1,000 and put up a proper website. At that time we had the telephone number in big letters on the side of the plane. And we put a different telephone number on the website. Week after week I watched how quickly the numbers were growing and that gave me the confidence in April 1997 to launch a booking site.'

It was, he says, the neatest and simplest way: 'you outsource the work to the customer'. And it turned him into an internet evangelical. The first company he set up after easyJet was easyInternetcafe and all 15 companies in the easyGroup have some sort of web component.
Carole Cadwalladr

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