mercredi, août 29, 2007

Euros Childs

The year of the dragon.

Where do you go after Gorky's Zygotic Mynci? Jude Rogers talks to former frontman Euros Childs about how glad he is to be Welsh

Friday August 24, 2007
The Guardian

As the most restless musician in Wales bounds on to the stage at the Green Man festival, the sun dips behind the Brecon Beacons apologetically. It dips for someone whose music predated the psychedelic folk revival by over a decade, and who, next week, is about to release his third album in 18 months. Tonight Euros Childs is playing at home. And at 32, 16 years after his career began with the recently departed Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, his mission is still relentless. In nine words from behind his clompy keyboard: "More pop music for all of you - in Welsh!"

Euros Childs is to thank for making Welsh-language pop music respectable, thanks to the records Gorky's made through the 1990s. But, he says, while Gorky's were seen as pioneers, the truth is just that they were the first Welsh language band to be widely noticed. "In the Welsh language community, things had always been happening," he tells me after he has played. "It's like people talking about Club Underage and how it's a revolution for young people. Not in Wales, that's been happening for years." Two weeks ago, he played the National Eisteddfod - the week-long, annual arts and music festival that stages contemporary music alongside clog-dancing and recitation. "Every year, there's 600 teenagers blind drunk and singing along, and loads of them go on to make music. That's what modern Welsh-speaking culture is like, and we are part of that ourselves."

Euros (pronounced Eye-ross) Childs was born in Freshwater East in Pembrokeshire ("a tiny, very English-speaking seaside village with no shops, only pubs") in 1975. There were no local record shops, but local charity outlets were full of old classics and obscurities at pocket money prices, and the curiosity of the teenaged Childs gave him an unconventional pop education. "I feel bad for kids brought up being fed the Beatles, I really do," he says. "Because when we started making music in 1991, we were hearing them for the first time. And we were writing stuff fresh after that buzz of excitement."

Gorky's recorded their first Radio Cymru session, released their first cassette, Allumette ("20 copies, £25 in the bank") and did a set for S4C, in that order, in the year they formed, 1991. The next year, they signed to Welsh label Ankst. "All the supportive networks were there if you were a good Welsh-language band." By this stage, they were listening to John Peel, getting into older bands like Soft Machine and Faust, and Peel duly gave them their own session in January 1993.

How did that attention feel at 18? "It was brilliant - more than anything because it was exciting to know we could get that when our stuff was going against the grain." In the last days of grunge, when alternative music was about fuzzing Fenders and three-chord doomalongs, Gorky's were writing crazy folk songs about talking sheep, oil spills and peanut dispensers on acoustic guitars and analogue synthesisers, cramming as many ideas and time signatures as possible into two-minute songs - much better versions of the stuff Devendra Banhart would be garlanded for 10 years later. They released 1994's Tatay and 1995's Bwyd Time (it means Food Time) very quickly; inevitably, they were big in Japan briefly. And as the 90s wound to a close, they were signed to a major label, Mercury, and suddenly Welsh music was booming. Super Furry Animals had a top 10 album with Welsh language compilation Mwng (Mane), and Catatonia had a bilingual triple platinum No 1 album with International Velvet. Its title track's chorus ran: "Every day that I wake up/ I thank the Lord I'm Welsh."

Looking back, was this separatism helpful, or did it make Welsh a novelty? "I'm not sure. But you do get a sense now that people outside Wales know about the Welsh language because of the success of the Furries - our Celtic comrades in the cause of siarad cymraeg [speaking Welsh]." Gorky's, too, were on the brink of commercial success when their 1998 single, Patio Song, was made Simon Mayo's Radio 1 record of the week. But it stalled at No 41, and Gorky's went on to set a record for having the most top 75 singles in the charts (eight) without ever making the top 40.

Given your ambition, do you wish it had made it? Or do you wish you had changed things? "No, not at all. Our first rule when we started was to not let anyone change what we were doing. Even when we were 16, people tried to mess about with us, and we said no. Because what's the point in watering down what you're doing? There's plenty of people who don't want to hear music that's copying other stuff - and this way makes you much happier. It's obvious, really."

Gorky's later albums were more nostalgic and reflective, until last summer, a few months after Euros Childs and bassist Richard James released their first solo albums, the band split up. "In a weird way, it was in keeping with our spirit for the band to finish and the solo stuff to star, rather than to die a slow death." Why was that so important? "Because a band should be a band. They shouldn't make a record, do a tour, not see each other for three years, then regroup, make a record, do a tour ... a band should be full-on, making stuff all the time, not worrying about pension plans, not wanting to dilute things."

Since the break, Childs' work-rate has soared. He has made three albums in 18 months - Chops, Bore Da (Good Morning) and The Miracle Inn, "because the songs just kept coming" - and has worked with others. His songwriting also became jauntier: The Miracle Inn's title track, a six-part suite about his teenage years, sits alongside a melodic, adolescent love letter, Over You, and a cheeky glam-rocker, Horseriding, which sounds like the work of a perky, pubescent Chas and Dave.

But given he is now in his 30s, isn't it natural to think about those pensions plans occasionally - or even about growing up? Childs shakes his head energetically. "Oh, no. I just enjoy working on a loop - the next album, the next album, the next - then it all starts again." He laughs. "That's full-on!"

· The Miracle Inn is out on Wichita on August 27

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

mardi, août 28, 2007

Von Bondies news

Von Bondies Prepare For New Album.

by Paul Cashmere @ Undercover - August 21 2007

Von Bondies
Von Bondies

Von Bondie's last album 'Pawn Shoppe Heart' was released on 2004. Fans will get the follow-up in early 2008.

The new Von Bondies album is called 'Love, Hate and The There's You'. The album was produced by Rick Parker (BRMC), Peter Katis (Interpol) and Butch Walker (Hot Hot Heat).

All songs were written by singer/guitarist Jason Stollsteimer.

'Love, Hate and Then There's You' is the third album for Von Bondies. The first record 'Lack of Communication' was an indie and then the band signed with Warner for album two.

The band will play songs from the new album this Friday in New York.

Drummer Don Blum said " Real quickly: New record finished. Out in early 2008. We're proud of it. But we haven't had a chance to play a show in quite a while. Sure, a proper nationwide tour is in the works for later to support the new record, but we wanted to get out and play at least one show sooner than that".

"So we've set up a special New York City show for Friday, September 7 at the Mercury Lounge on Houston Street" he says. "It'll be an early show, which means we play at 8:30pm sharp. It'll be a chance for you to get reacquainted with us and hear some of our new material. You also get the chance to ask us questions, such as, 'How have you been, Don Blum?'

and 'Don Blum, we really like you!' and 'Don Blum! Don Blum! Don Blum!' Spock out."



Jason Stollsteimer - vocals, guitar
Don Blum - drums
Alicia Gbur - keyboards
Matt Lannoo - guitar
Leann Banks – bass

mardi, août 21, 2007

Madchester and Tony Wilson

Stars attend Wilson funeral.

Fred Attewill and agencies
Monday August 20, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Mourners carry the coffin of Tony Wilson at his funeral
Mourners carry the coffin of Tony Wilson at his funeral.
Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Friends and family of Tony Wilson, the legendary Manchester music impresario and founder of the Hacienda club, gathered today to pay their respects at his funeral.

Mourners included musicians from famous bands that he had made famous as co-founder of Factory Records in the 1980s.

The Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder and New Order's Peter Hook and Stephen Morris were among those arriving at St Mary's Roman Catholic church in Manchester city centre to say farewell to the man dubbed "Mr Manchester".

Richard Madeley and Judy Finnegan, with whom he worked at Granada Television in the 1970s, also attended the private service.

Members of the public gathered outside to pay a silent tribute.

The Salford-born journalist, a leading light in the "Madchester" scene of the late 1980s and early 1990s, died on August 10 from a heart attack, aged 57. He had also been receiving treatment for kidney cancer.

Through Factory Records, Wilson produced bands including Happy Mondays, Joy Division and James, and he is credited with helping to kickstart the cultural revival of Manchester.

Steve Coogan, who played Wilson in the 2002 film 24 Hour Party People, a semi-fictional account of his life, paid a warm tribute to him today.

"I'm working in Hawaii right now. There's a warm breeze, the sun is shining and the sea is turquoise, but I wish I was in Manchester and I wish it was raining," he told the Manchester Evening News.

"It should rain, because today the older brother for a whole generation of creative, bold, innovative people is gone."

During the past year Wilson was in the news as the NHS refused to pay for a £3,500-a-month drug that doctors had recommended after chemotherapy failed to beat his cancer.

Members of the Happy Mondays and other acts he had supported helped to pay for the treatment.

Educated at Cambridge, Wilson began to make history in the late 1970s when he championed punk while hosting Granada TV's regional music show So it Goes, showcasing the Sex Pistols among others.

By 1978 he had founded Factory Records and taken on Joy Division, who later became New Order. The label built up a cult following and at the end of the 80s found itself the centre of a youth culture phenomenon.

The Hacienda, the iconic club largely financed by the label and founded by Wilson, became a hub of the burgeoning dance music scene.

Paul Ryder, a guitarist with Happy Mondays, said: "I would still be working at the post office if it wasn't for Tony. He was the one that gave working kids like me and Shaun their chance."

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

samedi, août 18, 2007


There's a new songbird on the block.

Peter Robinson signs up for Robyn's new pop revolution.

Saturday August 18, 2007
The Guardian

Less than 12 months ago, Robyn's fanbase in the UK amounted to 217 hardcore pop enthusiasts, many of them bloggers. Most remembered her from her 1998 No 8 hit, Show Me Love, at which point she was a teenage pop warbler whom RCA were attempting to sell as a Britney. The hardcore busily blogged to each other about Robyn's continuing career in Europe, and subsequent albums called things like My Truth. They admired her independence when she left Sony to do her own thing, and when she released her fourth album, Robyn, her rebirth as the perfect 21st-century popstar was complete. But the prospect of another UK release, or any success over here, seemed unlikely.

Now she is No 1 in the UK pop charts proper. Partly because With Every Heartbeat, a collaboration with Swedish producer Kleerup, is one of the singles of the year - a four-minute, pocketsized emotronic symphony with the same captivating quality of Can't Get You Out Of My Head and a heartbreakingly sober lyric of regret and hopelessness. But as anyone will tell you in these difficult pop times, coming up with the song can be the easy bit, and selling it is where things get tricky.

Behind the scenes, With Every Heartbeat is No 1 after one of the most perfectly executed launches of recent times. Without having misrepresented or misled, it is a masterclass in having allowed record buyers to believe that a pop song by a popstar is actually a dance track by an indie auteur.

The campaign began nine months ago with a low-key EP release and some small, barely publicised gigs and a well orchestrated word of mouth campaign, hitting the indie tastemakers and DJs like Radio 1's Annie Mac. Robyn was seen as a survivor of the big, bad, late-90s pop explosion, a woman who stuck two fingers up at the majors in order to run her own label. Like Annie, she was the popstar it was alright to like, with a fierce DIY spirit. Robyn performed With Every Heartbeat live in the UK for the first time at London's Being Boiled on November 30 last year and it was released in Sweden at the start of 2007, but in the UK a further low-key single release followed. It missed the Top 100 but was again important in building up a credibility which meant that Jo Whiley, one of radio's most influential DJs for breaking new artists, would have no qualms about hammering the song, which she did. Soon, in a shrewd move, despite all the talk of having left major labels to pursue her own creativity, Robyn was in fact shopping herself around to majors again once her stock was high, and two months ago she signed a joint venture with Island.

Crucially, that was only half the story. The other part of Robyn's pincer-movement assault on the Top 40 was an astute club plot and a brilliantly well-selected package of remixes. Robyn has used her personality to gain credibility in some quarters and her potential facelessness to hit the club kids, coupled it all with an irresistible pop hit, and is No 1. Easy. Now just watch someone else try the same thing and get it all wrong...

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

vendredi, août 17, 2007

Edwyn Collins

'I was dead - and I was resurrected'.

Two years ago, a stroke left Edwyn Collins unable to walk, talk or even play the guitar. Now he's got a new album out. In his first interview since his illness, he tells Simon Goddard how he taught himself to be a musician again

Friday August 17, 2007
The Guardian

There's a noticeable spring in the step of the security guards at Inverness airport on an otherwise gloomy April lunchtime. All becomes clear when Girls Aloud clatter their way out of baggage reclaim to face a few Highland paparazzi, here to snap them as they arrive for a local radio awards ceremony. Amid this excitement, nobody pays attention to a onetime million-selling pop veteran sat mere yards away in departures.

Three of Girls Aloud weren't yet born when Edwyn Collins first reached the British top 10 in February 1983 with Rip It Up, as the frontman of Scottish post-punk pioneers Orange Juice. A decade later, Collins - long since solo - scored his biggest triumph with 1995's irresistible A Girl Like You, mixing femme-fatalism with Wigan Casino soul to create a global hit that changed his life.

Yet those who fail to recognise Edwyn as he awaits his return flight to London can perhaps be forgiven. The sculpted Eddie Cochran quiff of his pop stardom days has gone, replaced by a short, thinning haircut barely concealing a curved scar above his left temple, left by the surgeon's knife. He eats a sandwich with his left hand alone: his right is clawed in a fixed fist. When he stands up to begin boarding his flight, he limps, propelling himself slowly with a walking stick. It's a sight that could seem pitiable, were it not so miraculous that he's even here.

On Sunday, February 20 2005, Collins collapsed at his home in Kilburn, London. After being rushed to hospital, he was diagnosed with a brain haemorrhage. Five days later, after suffering a second, he underwent a high-risk operation. The neurosurgeons succeeded, only for him to then contract MRSA, which meant the titanium plate they'd inserted in his skull had to be first removed then restored. It was six months before he was finally discharged. Barely able to speak or walk, he faced a gruelling rehabilitation programme with no guarantee of recovery. Two years later, his astonishing progress speaks for itself. "I was dead," he says, philosophically, "and I was resurrected."

Weeks after our chance encounter in Inverness, I'm sitting with Collins in his spacious living room, the few stuffed birds in glass cases, a couple of stray guitars and a Bob Dylan Bootleg Series boxset suggesting a bohemian eccentricity. This is his first official interview since his haemorrhage. In that time, he's undergone intensive speech therapy to combat dysphasia - a neurological side-effect hindering his ability to communicate. The Collins of old was a fantastic orator, one of those rare interviewees who spoke in eloquent sentences and whose mastery of language was a dream to transcribe. Cruelly, his dysphasia means he now speaks in fractured bursts, pausing between individual words, sometimes fighting to remember a phrase that's eluding him.

Collins knows this interview isn't going to be easy for him, though we've known each other for more than a decade. In 1995, after seeing a puppet video I'd made at art college dramatising the life of 60s record producer Joe Meek, he invited me to direct the Meek-themed promo for his next single, If You Could Love Me (it flopped, unlike its world conquering million-selling follow-up, A Girl Like You).

Ten years later, in January 2005, I was the last writer to interview him before his brain haemmorhage. We'd spent the afternoon at his West Heath studio in London, where he'd reminisced at length about Postcard records - the legendary Glasgow label he had co-founded in 1979 with Alan Horne, and which set a template for the next decade of bleeding-heart indie jingle-jangling. He also spoke fondly about the album he'd just finished, recording, which he was considering calling Home Again. He looked well, if (in hindsight) a little puffy, and was as gregarious a host as ever. Like everything else that occurred in the months before his hospitalisation, he has absolutely no recollection of that afternoon.

"I can't remember," he smiles. "The first thing I knew was waking up in hospital and, good God!" His voice rises in theatrical disbelief. "I've had a stroke! Not me," he stutters. "It's impossible. Not me!" His voice calms. "First I couldn't talk. First I couldn't laugh. I had to learn to laugh again. I've had to learn to live again. I'm learning to understand this situation."

The cause of Collins' stroke was high blood pressure. He'd been experiencing acute headaches for weeks beforehand, trying to numb the pain with painkillers, though nobody made the connection. "It's mad, I know," he nods. "It's scary for me, my stroke." He becomes emphatic. "This is hard for me. This is so hard. Language is all in my head and I'm having to recognise the words. And, I'm having to talk. And, I'm having to communicate. But I'm getting there."

In spite of his dysphasia, his speech loosens and heartening glimpses of both his humour and his rich vocabulary begin to shine through. Discussing his weekly therapy commitments, he mentions his acupuncturist. I ask if that treatment helps. He arches a quizzical eyebrow. "Hmmm," he grimaces. "Debatable. But I must persist in that matter." His thirst for art and music have sped his ongoing recovery, frequently dumbfounding his support team of speech and physiotherapists.

A skilled draughtsman, like his art lecturer father, after his discharge from hospital he learned to draw again using his left hand, developing a ritual of copying a different illustration each day from nature books. His first effort, of a wigeon duck, was crude and childlike, but over time he recovered his ability. He shows me his most recent sketches, taking particular pride in his guillemot drawing. "I'm getting good," he says, smiling, and he is. I ask to see today's picture. It's of a leaping dolphin, the same animal that graced the cover of Orange Juice's 1982 debut album, You Can't Hide Your Love Forever. I pointing this out to Collins, who chuckles. "So it is."

It was ironic that Collins' hospitalisation during 2005 coincided with a renewed interest in Orange Juice, following Domino records' compilation of their early Postcard recordings, The Glasgow School. Critically lauded, it was a timely reminder of his band's legacy and continued influence on the band's Scottish heirs, such as Belle & Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand. However, Collins' own feelings towards the distant past are surprisingly unsentimental. "Some Orange Juice is OK," he ponders. "Rip It Up is, well, all right. But it's over with," he says firmly. "It's finished. On to the new."

"The new" is Home Again, his sixth solo album, recorded before his stroke but mixed and completed 18 months later with the help of his studio partner, engineer Seb Lewsley. It's a beautiful record, stylistically encompassing the gamut of Edwyn's career, from the white-soul disco of You'll Never Know, with its shades of vintage Orange Juice, to the wistful acoustic title track. Yet it also possesses an at times unnerving undercurrent in the wake of all that's happened. On the opening country-dub One Is a Lonely Number, Collins sings: "If life breaks your heart/ You needn't fall apart/ 'Cos you've still got your mind/ Which will serve you in kind/ If you're true to yourself." Asking him to elaborate on the song's meaning, he merely says: "It is me."

Then he sings the first verse a cappella. Throughout our conversation, he breaks into song often, suddenly delivering note-perfect blasts of A Girl Like You and Orange Juice's gloriously lovelorn debut single, Falling and Laughing. His speech may have changed but, as he is clearly eager to demonstrate, his singing voice, like his distinct gulping laugh ("Hurgh! Hurgh! Hurgh!"), has survived intact.

A handful of Home Again tracks have already been available for the last year on the MySpace site Collins' 17-year-old son, William, set up for him. MySpace continues to provide a vital source of encouragement, allowing Collins to communicate with fans directly through blogs dictated to his partner, Grace. "It's very important," he says, excitably. "It's my life. It's my joy. Blogs are great. It helps me enjoy life again."

Perhaps most surprising, though, is a complete absence of anger or frustration. He speaks of his stroke with pragmatic acceptance and of the future with an unflappable optimism. Rehearsals have already begun for a handful of shows in the autumn to promote Home Again, and he strongly believes that "in a couple of years" he'll regain the use of his right arm so that he can play guitar properly. "I hope so," he says. "Well, I'm praying." In this respect, his spirited determination to overcome all that he's been through is humbling to witness. "The show must go on," he beams.

Before we finish, he wants to play me a brand new song he's written. He shouts for William to fetch his vintage 1949 Gibson acoustic. Collins grasps it by the fretboard, then instructs me to "do this bit". Since he can't use his right hand, it's my role to become his strumming arm. So I lean behind him and start a basic rhythm. A breezy melody emerges as Edwyn changes chords. "I'm searching for the truth," he sings, "searching for the truth/ Some sweet day, we'll get there/ Some sweet day we'll get there/ In the end." He stops, letting out another hiccupping laugh before picking up his beer. Whatever he was searching for, Edwyn Collins smiles like a man who may have already found it.

· Home Again is released by Heavenly on September 17.

Edwyn Collins' blogs are at

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

mercredi, août 15, 2007

Happy Mondays

Former Happy Mondays Star Pays Tribute To Tony Wilson.

by Daniel Zugna - August 15 2007
photo by Tim Cashmere

Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays
Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays

Former Happy Mondays drummer Paul Ryder has paid tribute to the late Tony Wilson, describing the Manchester music icon as a "patron saint" for the city.

"Everything I've got in my wonderful life now I owe to two people: Mr Derek Ryder Senior, and my other dad, Anthony H Wilson," Ryder said.

"He took a chance on a bunch of lads in a band, gave us his faith when everyone else was telling us we were rubbish, and catapulted us with his enthusiasm into the heart of the phenomenon that was, and to some extend still is, Madchester.

"The fantastic city of Manchester is the way it is today because of him, his vision, his energy and his fearlessness. To say he will be sorely missed is a serious understatement.

"Manchester has just lost its Patron Saint – but I'm certain St Peter will have had him on the guest list, and I can just imagine him wafting past him saying, 'Thank you, darling'."

samedi, août 11, 2007

Tony Wilson RIP

Music legend Tony Wilson dies.

Staff, Manchester Evening News
Friday August 10, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

The music mogul Tony Wilson has died aged 57 following a heart attack.

The former Factory Records boss had been diagnosed with kidney cancer last year, and had been undergoing treatment in hospital in Manchester.

Wilson founded the famous Hacienda nightclub and was one of five co-founders of Factory Records, which produced bands such as New Order and the Happy Mondays during a period in the eighties dubbed 'Madchester'.

Born at Hope hospital, Salford, he went to De La Salle Grammar School, Salford, and studied english at Cambridge before beginning his TV career as a trainee with ITN in 1971.

He was a reporter and presenter on Granada Reports and went on to present So It Goes - the music show that first aired punk bands.

He also worked on World In Action - Granada's flagship current affairs programme - and Flying Start which showcased new businesses, as well as After Dark, a late night discussion programme on Channel 4.

Besides presenting, he helped to organise the annual In The City festival in Manchester which attracts musicians and critics from all over the world.

And Steve Coogan played Tony in the film 24 Hour Party People, a semi-fictional account of Tony and Factory Records.

More recently he has presented XFM Manchester's The Sunday Roast show and two BBC GMR shows, Ground Rules, a one-hour sports show, and Oxford Road Station, a Saturday lunch-time show.

His family were too upset to talk last night but wanted to thank staff at the MRI and Christie who have provided "fantastic" care for him over the last few months.

Professor Robert Hawkins, his doctor at Christie hospital, said: "It's very sad. He died as a result of something unrelated to his cancer. His cancer was responding well to treatment but obviously did contribute to his poor health".

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

vendredi, août 10, 2007

White Stripes Interview

If Something's Missing, All the Better.

Stephen Chernin/ Associated Press


They were wearing suits! And hats! No, not the two band members: Jack White was wearing red pants and a red T-shirt, while Meg White was wearing black pants and a red shirt. And besides, plenty of musicians dress up when they play Madison Square Garden. On Tuesday night, though, the White Stripes went one step further: those suits and hats belonged to the guys setting up the amplifiers.

Once the show started, the White Stripes were left alone: the two of them spent nearly two hours on a big stage in a big — and full — room. "I don't believe we've played this bar before," said Mr. White, surveying the Garden. He probably didn't feel quite that blasé, but he certainly didn't seem intimidated, or thrilled, or even triumphant. He simply went to work, howling and shrieking and sighing, while inducing his guitars to do the same.

The entire set was red, and carefully positioned footlights projected beautiful shadows of the two onto a huge red backdrop. The only special effect was a big disco ball, but that was plenty. In between songs, he paid courtly tribute to "my big sister Meg" (the two are actually a divorced couple), and to his opening act, the Nashville veteran Porter Wagoner, "the best-dressed man in country music." (The other opening act was Grinderman, led by Nick Cave.)

It's astonishing how much the White Stripes have achieved through pure stubbornness. Over the course of six albums, they have sidled up to the rock 'n' roll mainstream without softening their approach. They still sound as rude and as unhinged as ever, especially compared with the emo and alternative bands with whom they share the modern-rock radio airwaves.

At most rock concerts, there are moments when the machine — the band — briefly comes unhinged: the beat is a split-second late, or the guitar emits a deafening squeal, or a lyric emerges as a formless howl. A White Stripes concert consists of almost nothing but these moments, and that's the whole point. The two make a fierce, wobbly racket, confident that listeners won't miss the comfort afforded by steady bass lines and fuller arrangements. Hearing them play is a bit like reading a sentence with no vowels. Wh rlly nds vwls, nywy?

A White Stripes concert also underscores the importance of Ms. White, whose drumming is more sophisticated than many fans (and many more non-fans) realize. She refuses to imitate a metronome, refuses to flatten the songs by making them conform to a steady pulse. Instead she seems to hear the music the way Mr. White does: as a series of phrases, each with its own shape and tempo. In "Icky Thump," the title track from the group's most recent album, which was released last month, she occasionally warped the rhythm by shortening one of the beats, perfectly in unison with Mr. White's guitar. If her playing were mathematically precise, it would be less musically precise.

Much of the set was devoted to songs from "Icky Thump," which is a bit more raucous than its excellent and unpredictable predecessor, "Get Behind Me Satan." Where that album found Mr. White experimenting with marimba and other instruments, "Icky Thump" is a return to guitar-dominated tantrums and pleas. Ear fatigue occasionally sets in (that's one inevitable effect of the band's ruthless approach), but more often, it was simply exciting to hear familiar traditions — garage rock, country music, the blues — sounding so strange. And Mr. White's squiggly solo during "You Don't Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You're Told)," from the new album, sounded downright catastrophic, in the best sense.

The White Stripes are in the happy position of having too many songs to choose from, though they found time for most of their biggest hits, some of which were packed into the encore. There was a singalong version of "We're Going to Be Friends," a breakneck run through "Blue Orchid" and, eventually, a thumping rendition of "Seven Nation Army." But one of the band's biggest songs, "Fell in Love With a Girl," appeared only in modified form: a screaming garage-rock hit was reborn, slower and quieter. Perhaps some fans missed the original version. Others probably took it in stride: part of the fun of a White Stripes concert is learning how much you can live without.

samedi, août 04, 2007

Arctic Monkeys

Sheffield united.

Their careers have soared, but beneath all the hype, Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner and solo artist Richard Hawley are just two northern lads who lie awake thinking up tunes. Dorian Lynskey listens to them swap stories

Friday August 3, 2007
The Guardian

Alex Turner and Richard Hawley
Alex Turner and Richard Hawley. Photo: Linda Nylind

On a poor excuse for a summer's day, in a grey corner of west London, the fates seem to be conspiring against Richard Hawley. It's not enough that recent floods have damaged Lady's Bridge, the Sheffield landmark that gives the singer-songwriter's new album its title: they had to go and ban smoking in enclosed public places, too. "This bloke on the radio said he went to a pub and they were handing out deodorant to people," says Hawley, puffing away with gusto on the pavement outside the Cobden Club. "The smell of BO and stale beer is not a good combination."

Shortly afterwards, Alex Turner arrives, in town for a TV appearance with Arctic Monkeys. He has a confidence that wasn't there when the Guardian first interviewed him, two years and a lifetime ago, but he still swallows the end of his sentences when the tape is running, as if suddenly convulsed by embarrassment at the sound of his own voice.

Hawley and Turner's friendship began on the night of the Mercury prize ceremony last September, when the Monkeys and Hawley were in competition. When Arctic Monkeys took the stage to collect their award, Turner quipped: "Somebody call 999 - Richard Hawley's been robbed." Not an entirely unexpected move from a frontman who would rather inhale powdered glass than blow his own trumpet, but one that gallantly granted their much-admired fellow Sheffielder a share of the spotlight.

Arctic Monkeys' abrupt elevation to a plane of popularity where even Gordon Brown feels obliged to make reference to them is British music's most emphatic success story since Oasis. But Hawley's career is also blooming. Now 40, he cut his teeth in his teens touring Europe with a 1950s covers band, and went on to spend a decade with the indie band Treebound Story, join Britpop nearly-weres the Longpigs, play session guitar for the likes of All Saints (that's him on their cover of Under the Bridge, trivia-lovers), audition for Morrissey's band (unsuccessfully) and become Pulp's touring guitarist. Each of his four solo albums up to the South Bank Show award-winning Cole's Corner was stronger and more warmly received than the last, his careworn baritone and velveteen arrangements harking back to Elvis, Roy Orbison and Scott Walker.

Separated by age (there's a 19-year gap) and temperament (Hawley is as garrulous as Turner is reticent), the pair aren't exactly peas in a pod, but something stronger than mutual admiration - perhaps it's a Sheffield thing - binds them together. Sitting like bookends at opposite ends of a sofa, they are funny, thoughtful straight-talkers, strongly averse to advertising their own talents but perfectly happy to cheer each other on.

So you'd really never met before the night of the Mercury Prize?

Alex Turner: I think I served you at the bar once at [Sheffield venue] the Boardwalk.

Richard Hawley: Oh, really? There's a bizarre connection: John McCann.

AT: Oh yeah! That were weird, that. My grandad phoned me up and said, "Are you likely to see Richard Hawley tonight at that Mercury thing?" And I was like, "Yeah." And he said, "Ask him if he remembers John McCann." It's my grandad's wife's son.

RH: John was my best mate. We got locked in the house once when we were four years old, and the fire brigade had to get us out.

AT: I remember you talking about that on the night.

RH: There's a funny picture of me and Alex talking together. I don't know if people thought we were having some deep conversation, but we were just talking about John McCann.

What did you think of Alex's "Richard Hawley's been robbed" comment on stage?

RH: It was hilarious.

AT: We were so sure that we'd not won.

I lost money betting on Richard to win.

AT: Yeah, same here.

RH: I was really chuffed. It was great us winning all them awards at that time. I got my fair share.

How long have you liked Richard's music, Alex?

AT: I tell you what, I must confess. When we were at the Boardwalk, Richard was on with [his rockabilly band] the Feral Cats and they left some records behind. Somebody pinched [Hawley's third album] Lowedges and I ended up with it because it were hot goods.

RH: I heard the [Arctic Monkeys'] demos early on. I thought they were shit hot. It was the first time in a long time that I'd heard indie guitar music where the lyrics were really strong. They really stood out. There's a history in Sheffield of great lyric-writers, with Jarvis, and Adi from Clock DVA.

Do you hear aspects of Sheffield in each other's music?

RH: Oh, I do in yours, definitely.

AT: Oh yeah. [Pause] Perhaps you don't want to go searching for what that is.

RH: I use Sheffield as a backdrop because that's where I live. I don't know what it's like to live in Memphis or Abu Dhabi. So it stops it being just fantasy. To sing the songs every night and know they're connected with home, that's massively important to me. I couldn't make the music I make in another city. I wouldn't have the stories and the culture. My family's lived there for generations. My grandfather were a music-hall performer there.

Alex, your cover version of Barbara Lewis's 1966 hit Baby, I'm Yours last year sounded as though it could have been one of Richard's songs.

AT: I just wanted to do something that would freak people out. That's the best thing to do. The only way is to keep wriggling, 'cos the moment you stop wriggling, that's when you're ...


AT: Yeah.

And then you covered Diamonds Are Forever at Glastonbury.

AT: It was [producer] James Ford's joke that I took too far, I think. I sang it so much better when we were practising. I were so nervous.

RH: I'm getting nervous about the British tour. It's four days on, one day off, and there's no way we're going to get through that without being utterly battered every night. I hate moaning about it because it's a right laugh most of the time. Without music I would never, ever have travelled anywhere. Holidays to us were a weekend in Rhyl, do you know what I mean? I went on my first tour when I were 14, touring strip bars. That were mad as fuck.

AT: What tunes were you playing?

RH: Just rockabilly and rock'n'roll. I don't think they gave a shit. I remember playing one gig in Tilburg where they had a revolving stage and a revolting audience. We played behind this curtain while the girl did her thing, then the curtains would open, the stage would revolve and we'd come on and do a 20-minute slot, and all the dirty old men would just lift their newspapers and endure listening to us until the stage revolved.

AT: Sounds like a tune, that scenario.

RH: It is. But I haven't recorded it yet. [Pause] About writing, do you find it easy or hard? You've just done an album after a really successful one, and my album were pretty successful for me. And then having to go in and record another album - did you find that a pressure?

AT: No. I think because none of us wanted to exist as just that thing - that album and what went with it. We wanted to write tunes, because that's what we've always wanted to do. We'd get excited to do another one, because it's a laugh, innit? Messing about.

RH: Yeah. My favourite thing in the world, apart from my wife and kids, is writing songs. Ever since I was a kid. When did you first find out you could write songs? Did you try to do it or did you accidentally discover you could?

AT: Well, I only really properly started when I had the camaraderie of the band, because then it weren't me alone. I'd written things before but screwed them up because it's too uncomfortable. What about you?

RH: I remember it really well. I were nine, laying in bed at night quite late, arsing about with my guitar, as I always have and always will. So my dad came up and were right pissed off. "What are you doing still awake?" And I said, "I've got this tune and I don't know whose it is." I thought I heard it somewhere. So he said, "Well, play it me." And I played it him. And he goes, "It's thine. Now go to fucking bed." And he turned the light off, and I was laying there getting my head around the concept of making music myself. I make songs up in bizarre places. Pushing kids on swings. In the middle of Tesco's.

AT: It goes round in your head. I've been sleeping in hotels a lot recently and I keep waking up at four in the morning with a song and I can't get back to sleep.

RH: Oh yeah. The most interesting ideas definitely come at night.

You've both written songs about homesickness while on tour - 505 on Favourite Worst Nightmare and Dark Road on Lady's Bridge - but they don't explictly mention touring.

RH: There's a loneliness to it. But you don't want to write about it because it's boring.

AT: And then you'd have to sing it every night.

RH: Yeah, as you're touring!

AT: If ever we write anything that falls into that category, that's what stops us doing it. You think, "Do I want to sing that every night? No."

Richard, do you miss being in a band?

RH: I started off on my own but it's evolved. All the musicians in the band are my mates. I couldn't do it if it was any other way. I should, I suppose, have a band name. But we've never found a decent name.

AT: The Death Ramps is my favourite name for a band. Or just Death Ramp.

RH: We're a bit old for that. It's more like Wheelchair Ramp. Or Stannah and the Stairlifts.

AT: When we were kids, there were loads of hills and woods where you'd go and ride your bike. We called them death ramps. They probably weren't that deadly.

RH: That's what I like about your lot. Your band is very much like my first band, Treebound Story. You've known each other from acorns to trees. And that's a great feeling because you take it all with you. You don't leave it behind. It broke my heart when my first band split up. I was 25 and we'd been together since we were 15. But it had to happen. There was a point when I knew I had to move on.

Both of you, in your different ways, have found success entirely on your own terms. Is there a knack to it?

RH: It's not rocket science. Just don't do things where you feel a tool. That's the bottom line, isn't it? It's not being prissy. You just don't want to do something where you look like a knob-end.

AT: Cooky [Arctic Monkeys guitarist Jamie Cook] is a good barometer for things like that. He'll always go, "No, I'm not doing that." I probably would be more easily led if it weren't for him. Maybe not so much now, but earlier on.

RH: I need a Cooky. Or a biscuit.

Is there also an element of not wanting to get too big for your boots?

AT: Yeah, but it sort of goes without saying.

RH: Even though I did say it!

AT: If that were all you had, like, "Oh no, we're just normal lads, having a laugh," that's not enough. I mean we are just lads having a laugh but we don't need to be telling everyone.

RH: Analysing things too much is unnecessary most of the time. I'm with Yoda. Don't think. Do or do not. Simple as that. I think you've got to operate on instinct. You always know when you've made a tit of yourself. I just wouldn't want people in Sheffield pubs to think badly of me.

Richard Hawley's album Lady's Bridge is out on August 20 on Mute. Arctic Monkeys' album Favourite Worst Nightmare is out now on Domino.

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