Wednesday, 26 February 2020

The Valves "Better Late..." Edinburgh Punk/New Wave Legends Finally Release Debut Album...! Featuring Exclusive Paul Slattery Photos.

Back in Episode 9 of Retrosonic Podcast, my colleagues Adam Donovan from The Jetsonics and Rock Photographer Paul Slattery were reminiscing about some of the great bands they both saw at The Nashville in London back in 1978. One such band were the Scottish Punk band The Valves and they both picked a blistering track of theirs called "For Adolf's Only" to play in the episode, which you can hear at our Soundcloud site here. Then a couple of weeks ago, Paul popped round to my place excitedly clutching a vinyl LP - it was The Valves 'debut' album, a lovingly packaged record that's only taken forty odd years to see the light of day and I smiled when I saw the ironic title "Better Late..." The album features one of Paul's photos on the cover and some great live shots in the insert, so I asked Paul to explain how he got to know and work with the band.

The Valves - Copyright Paul Slattery
"I’d already got The Valves first two singles which were released in 1977, "Robot Love" and "Ain’t No Surf in Portobello" which I’d played to death so I was mad to see them play live which I finally did, supporting The Zones at The Nashville in September ’78. They played a blinder and I came back to The Nashville a week later to see them support The Records. The Valves were a superb band with great tunes and catchy lyrics, but what I really liked was their humour. Dave was just a top frontman, the two Gordons were a fantastic rhythm section and Ronnie was a bloody good guitarist. The other thing I learned after the second Nashville gig was that they were all a good laugh and liked a drink so we all got on like a house on fire. I got a tape in the post soon after that gig, seven tracks which I thought would be the basis for an album. I didn’t know at the time though that I’d have to wait forty two years to see that album released! In October of ’78 I went up to Edinburgh to do a photo session with the Valves, walking around Greyfriars and Edinburgh Castle and then going down to Portobello Beach. It was a fun session and the band have been using these photos ever since. The evening after the photo session they played a late gig at the Yellow Carvel in Edinburgh. The Stiff Train tour had played that evening and they all came down to the pub to see the Valves play a packed out gig. Wreckless Eric wanted to sing with them but was so pissed he fell over before he could get on the stage. The home crowd knew all the words and went crazy - It was a wild night! I’m really chuffed the band have used the Portobello photo on the front of their finally released album "The Valves...Better Late" and a few of mine from Nashville and Music Machine gigs on the album insert. The album is a wonderful slice of Post-Punk R&B and it’s real feelgood music. A very nice package too. Bands come and go but I always had a soft spot for the Valves. That old demo tape I got from them has been played to death over the last forty years so it’s great to finally hear the songs on vinyl. If the band were to re-form and play a couple of gigs to celebrate this album release it would make my day." - Paul Slattery February 2020

The Valves - Copyright Paul Slattery
The Valves were originally from Edinburgh and the line-up featured singer and lyricist Dave Robertson, guitarist Ronnie MacKinnon, bassist Gordon Scott and drummer Gordon Dair. The band released three singles between 1977 to 1979 before disappearing, until now! They always regretted not releasing an album like so many of their contemporaries but finally, after years of preparation they have assembled a re-mixed and re-mastered compilation of demos, studio sessions along with three live tracks, for this superb collection on their very own Portobello Record Company.

The Valves - Copyright Paul Slattery
The Valves sound is a thoroughly entertaining and uplifting mix that zooms across the Atlantic and back again, picking up some varied influences along the way. There's the summery Californian West Cost harmonies of "Ain't No Surf In Portobello" and one of my favourites, the catchy Bubble-gum Pop of "Diana Barrymore". Then we hop over to the Lower East Side of New York to the Dolls swagger of "Mum & Dad" and “West End Club” in which Dave Robertson's gruff, snarling vocals remind me of the New York Dolls' David Johansen. Then it's back to the U.K. for some raw touches of Canvey Island Feelgood R'n'B on "I Don't Wanna Eat You" with its choppy Wilko style guitar and some wicked harmonica playing. "Anytime" would have made a classic Stiff Records single in the Costello and Graham Parker mould. However, the band specialise in their very own brand of tuneful Punk Rock and New Wave as perfectly captured in the album opener “Adolf's Only", The Valves' quintessential late 70's Punk nugget of a 7” single. They certainly have the tunes, "Sister Radio" is a masterclass in perfect Power Pop, packed full of the melodic suss of bands like The Nerves and The Boys. "So Stuck Up" is  a great up-tempo Punky R'n'B number but it's the slow burning and menacing remix of "Linda Vindaloo", which is undercut by a psychedelic sitar motif, that is one of the highlights for me. "Fab Front Loader" and "Walk Don't Walk" are both tuneful songs with stinging guitar riffs from Ronnie MacKinnon. A live version of "Robot Love" complete with robotic beeps and bleeps as backing vocals is followed by the storming "Haircuts From Mars" with its thunderous bass and rolling drums powering it along at breakneck speed. It’s great stuff! Hopefully this album will not only satisfy long-time fans such as Paul and Adam but also bring The Valves to the attention of a whole new appreciative audience. I wonder how long it takes until the follow up...?!

The Valves "Better Late..." will be released by the Portobello Record Company on March 13th, for more information check out the great The Valves web-site and Blog here. Photos copyright Paul Slattery. Live photos from the Yellow Carvel, 18th October 1978. Copyright Paul Slattery.

You can hear Paul and Adam talking about The Valves and their choice of track in Retrosonic Podcast Episode 9 below. The full Retrosonic archive is available at our Soundcloud site here.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

The Parkinsons - Photos from Some Weird Sin at Nambucca London 31/01/2020

The Parkinsons at Nambucca - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Parkinsons treated us to a raucous set of adrenaline-fuelled Portuguese Punk Rock at an excellent Some Weird Sin Club Night at Nambucca. It was the first time I'd seen the band since their Sunday afternoon set at Hipsville back in 2018, which you can read about in the Blog archive here.
I certainly wasn't to be disappointed after such a long wait, especially as since then, I'd grown to fully appreciate just how damn great the latest album "The Shape of Nothing To Come" is. Tonight at Nambucca it's the four piece line-up, missing the keyboard/percussion player, who I thought added a nice original touch when I saw them at Hipsville, so it's as stripped back and raw as it gets. The band struggle a bit with technical problems at first before blasting through an intense set packed full of their catchy and melodic Punk. Afonso spends a lot of the show either down among the audience (I even get a go on the mic for the chorus of "New Wave"), crowd-surfing or being held aloft Iggy style before scaling the precarious speaker stack. He is one of the best frontmen I've seen - a tattooed time-bomb of unpredicability and danger which he somehow manages to balance with an easy charm and self-deprecating sense of humour. I've always thought that Victor Torpedo is one of the most underrated Guitarists around, his unique style encompasses all the best in pure Rock 'n' Roll and I'm sometimes reminded of Mick Jones of The Clash, Gang of Four's sadly missed Andy Gill, East Bay Ray of Dead Kennedys along with an angular Post-Punk spin which really elevates The Parkinsons sound. Live, he's also a great foil to Afonso, leaping around the stage, high kicking and sometimes even getting down among the crowd to play. Supercool bassist Pedro Chau and the powerful drummer Ricardo Brito are a superb rhythm section, kicking up a mighty storm particularly on a crunching verison of "Heavy Metal" and the classic "Running". Here are a few photos from the gig, hopefully they will capture the sheer joy and energy of a Parkinsons show.

The Parkinsons at Nambucca - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Parkinsons at Nambucca - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Parkinsons at Nambucca - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Parkinsons at Nambucca - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Parkinsons at Nambucca - Photo Retro Man Blog

The Parkinsons at Nambucca - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Parkinsons at Nambucca - Photo Retro Man Blohg
The Parkinsons at Nambucca - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Parkinsons at Nambucca - Photo Retro Man Blog
The Parkinsons at Nambucca - Photo Retro Man Blog
For more information on The Parkinsons check out their official Facebook page here. You can order the DVD of their excellent documentary "A Long Way To Nowhere" here. News of upcoming Some Weird Sin club nights and gigs can be found at their site here. Some Weird Sin is run by Mauro from The Speedways and Simon from Desperate Journalist, who I first saw back in 2013 when they were bandmates in Jonny Cola & The A-Grades

Friday, 31 January 2020

Retrosonic Podcast Episode 37: "Songs The Limiñanas Taught Us"

Photo by Alain Bibal
In Episode 37 of Retrosonic Podcast, Steve from Retro Man Blog takes a look at the Blog's "Band(s) of 2019" The Limiñanas and their collaboration with Anton Newcombe and the French actress Emmanuelle Seigner in the project L'Épée. We look at The Limiñanas other collaborations with Étienne Daho, Peter Hook, Bertrand Belin and Pascal Comelade, pick out some great previous and related bands and play some originals of the various cover versions they have recorded over the years. Featuring great songs by The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Gentlemen, Wanda Jackson & The Cramps, The Kinks, Echo & The Bunnymen, Lords of The New Church, Jay Reatard, Michel Polnareff. The Beach Bitches, Les Bellas, Toxic Farmers, The Llamps, Hair & The Iotas & Les Wampas. Here's the track-list, please click on the highlighted links to find out more information on the bands and how to order their records. Enjoy! 

The Limiñanas "Tigre du Bengale"
The Beach Bitches "Paranoid Zombie"
Toxic Farmers "Feel Alright"
Les Bellas "I Love You"
The Gentlemen "It's a Cry'n Shame"
Wanda Jackson & The Cramps "Funnel of Love"
The Limiñanas "I'm Dead"
The Limiñanas "Migas 2000"
Hair & The Iotas "The Highest Grounds"
The Llamps "Mon Tour"
Crank "Hard Way"
Jay Retard "An Ugly Death"
Lords of The New Church "Russian Roulette"
Michel Polnareff "Time Will Tell"
The Limiñanas & Pascal Comelade "One of Us, One of Us, One of Us"
The Brian Jonestown Massacre "Vacuum Boots"
The Kinks "Two Sisters"
Echo & The Bunnymen "Angels & Devils"
The Limiñanas with Peter Hook "Garden of Love"
The Limiñanas with Betrand Belin "Dimanche"
The Limiñanas with Emmanuelle Seigner "Shadow People"
L'Épée - Dreams
The Limiñanas with Etienne Daho "One Blood Circle"
Les Wampas "C'est Politique"
The Limiñanas "Funeral Baby"

You can subscribe to Retrosonic Podcast at iTunes or listen direct from Soundcloud...

Retrosonic Podcast has a valid PRS licence. Cover photo courtesy of Alain Bibal, you can check out more of Alain's excellent photography here. Please check out The Limiñanas excellent on-line store Migas 2000 at Etsy for lots of Limiñanas and related albums and merchandise.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

L'Épée at EartH Hackney - Gig of The Year from the new 'super-group' featuring The Limiñanas, Anton Newcombe and Emmanuelle Seigner

L'Épée at EartH Hackney, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
I first became aware of L'Épée following The Limiñanas superb show at the 100 Club in London back in February. They played a couple of great sounding songs that I didn’t recognise and I guessed they were new unrecorded tracks. After a bit of research I found a couple of demos on YouTube under the name L'Épée. I was intrigued and then news filtered out that this was some new kind of ‘super-group’, the idea for which could probably be traced back to the release of last year’s Limiñanas album “Shadow People”. The Limiñanas are an unorthodox band. They are a duo comprising the husband and wife team of Marie and Lionel Limiñana and as neither are lead vocalists, they prefer to recruit guest musicians and singers to bring their songs to life. This philosophy culminated in the excellent 2018 album “Shadow People” which featured Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, actress and singer Emmanuelle Seigner and vocalist Bertrand Belin who all contributed standout songs. They must have enjoyed working together as Lionel, Belin and Newcombe set about writing new material together initially with the idea of a new solo album for Emmanuelle. However, this idea soon developed into a brand new band instead which they named L'Épée and the resulting songs would go towards the stunning debut album “Diabolique”. At first I thought it would remain a studio project but the announcement of extensive live dates was met with intense anticipation. Unfortunately, Belin isn’t involved in the touring line-up, which is made up of Marie on drums and Lionel on guitar, Emmanuelle on lead vocals, Anton on guitar and then basically The Limiñanas line-up that I saw at The 100 Club (minus vocalist Nika Leeflang who is now working on some excellent solo material as can be heard in our latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast). 

L'Épée at EartH Hackney, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
L'Épée at EartH Hackney, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
As the band takes the stage of EartH in Hackney, the first thing I notice is this large broadsword appearing out of the dry ice and lights like Excalibur. As L'Épée means sword in French it was an apt piece of decoration and it would certainly deter any would-be stage invaders, that’s for sure. The glowing Moroccan lanterns hanging all around the stage provide the perfect backdrop to opening song “La Brigade De Maléfices”. With it's snakelike Arabic influenced riff and exotic swelling keyboards, it could almost be the score from a movie set deep inside the chaotic souks and Medina of Marrakech. I’ve always found The Limiñanas to be incredibly cinematic, in fact it’s no surprise that the latest release from the prolific Marie and Lionel is the soundtrack to Pierre Creton’s movie “Le Bel été” and with L'Épée, they have carried this feel even further. Yes, there are elements of fuzzed-up 60’s Garage Rock nuggets, the nihilistic attack of The Stooges and the feedback drenched Drone-Rock of The Jesus & Mary Chain and Spacemen 3, but there are also evocative touches of Spaghetti Western and Nouvelle Vague movie themes too. I think Ennio Morricone, Lalo Schifrin and John Barry might be as much an influence as The Velvet Underground, Serge Gainsbourg, Can and Suicide. The gig that follows is a truly mind-blowing experience, one that is going to stay with me for years to come. Marie’s hypnotic floor-tom heavy beat is at the heart of everything, it’s almost mantra-like, completely bereft of cymbals and hi-hat, Emmanuelle’s tambourine is the only percussive accompaniment. Lionel attacks his guitar, a master of knowing when to hold back and when to hit you between the eyes with a stinging fuzzed-up chord. His sense of dynamics allied to Marie’s drumming is probably the key to the sound of both L'Épée and The Limiñanas too. 

L'Épée at EartH Hackney, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
L'Épée at EartH Hackney, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
The band perform the whole of “Diabolique” (minus “Springfield 61”) and despite the album only being a few months old, it already feels like an old favourite that’s been part of the collection for years, such is the quality of the song-writing. Emmanuelle is a charismatic presence swaying away to the grooves, an archetypal Femme Fatale and her voice is perfect for the material, often delivered in sultry spoken passages. Although she is probably better known as an actress, she is certainly no stranger to Rock ‘n’ Roll having released a couple of great solo albums and a collaboration with the Psych Rock band Ultra Orange. Fans of The Brian Jonestown Massacre will no doubt appreciate Anton’s instantly recognisable sound and memorable riffs when they hear L'Épée, and tonight his guitar playing is superb. There is however a section of one song where the complicated riffing and time signatures drop out of sync and you feel the tension rise. You can also sense the nerves in the crowd, hoping that Anton doesn’t blow his top. Luckily, he seems more annoyed at himself and before the tension gets too much, they all suddenly lock back into the groove and take off again with just a pinch of additional aggression. One of the highlights of the set is an upbeat new song “Beginnings of Sorrow” which is more of a catchy Garage Yé-yé number and with it’s insistent "I say yeah!" chorus; it would make an ideal single. The good news is that it hints to more L'Épée material to follow in the future. “Dreams” is another high point, crashing in on a “Gloria” style riff; it certainly raises the temperature in the strangely cold venue. At one point they all crowd around Marie’s drumkit, the orange lights and smoke create a really spooky scene and as the music builds to a crescendo Anton scrapes his guitar neck down the broadsword. 

L'Épée at EartH Hackney, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
L'Épée at EartH Hackney, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Things slow down a bit with sublime performances of the atmospheric “On Dansait Avec Elle” and “Grande” and you can appreciate the subtle textures that the band is capable of. I spoke before in my review of The Limiñanas 100 Club gig one thing that struck me is the skill that Marie and Lionel have in assimilating many and varied guest musicians and vocalists to bring their music to life. The main core of the band are also great characters in their own right. There’s Renaud Picard from the excellent Crank on guitar and vocals and super cool bassist Mikey Malaga, swaying and swinging his low-slung Fender. Then there’s Alban Barate who plays keyboards and adds yet another guitar. In fact, I haven’t seen a line-up with so many guitars since the last time I saw The Blue Aeroplanes. Ivan Telefunken is a true character but unfortunately he’s almost hidden away at the back and his fluorescent dotted guitars and keyboards are often all that’s visible through the dry ice. He coaxes strange electronic sounds and controlled feedback from his collection of brightly coloured equipment, swinging his guitar around for maximum effect and his presence adds a touch of unpredictability to proceedings. They remind me of The Soundtrack of Our Lives in their prime where each band member adds their own unique stamp on proceedings and their energy makes for a stunningly exciting visual display. Talking of TSOOL – have a listen to their great collaboration with Jane Birkin, “Midnight Children” – it could almost be a forerunner of “Shadow People”.

L'Épée at EartH Hackney, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
L'Épée at EartH Hackney, London - Photo Retro Man Blog
Current single “Ghost Rider” is another high point, reprising The Limiñanas “I’m Dead” in the chorus and the B-side, the powerful Garage Rocker “Shiny Shiny” also stands out. For “Istanbul Is Sleepy”, Anton puts down his guitar and crouches on the floor to manipulate his effects pedals while delivering his only lead vocal of the night. They end the set with a blistering ‘Un Rituel Inhabituel’, which segues into ‘The Train Creep A-Loopin’, and then it’s all over. There’s no encore, basically because they couldn’t really follow up such a perfectly plotted set and the appreciative crowd certainly understand, filing out into the freezing December air thoroughly satisfied. It was a stunning show and gig of year as far as I’m concerned, jumping into top spot ahead of – yes, you guessed it - The Limiñanas at The 100 Club. You can read the review of that show in the Blog archive here.

More photos of the gig can be found at our official Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and there are more videos at our YouTube channel over here. For more information please click on the highlighted links throughout the feature. You can also check out the official sites for L'Épée here and The Limiñanas here. "Diabolique" is released on A Recordings and is available from Cargo Records.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Retrosonic Podcast Episode 36 "I've Got Some Action To Give For Free"

Retrosonic Podcast Episode 36 is out now - We're not all retro at this episode we feature a Brexit-busting selection of brand new releases from our favourite International, multi-cultural and multi-talented bands and artists, including both sides of the great new single from former Missing Souls frontman Ian Kay. There's superb new material from The Sensation Seekers, Refused, The Schizophonics, Las Aspiradoras, Goodbye Victory Road, Gatuplan, The Flaming Sideburns, Pablo Matisse, Råttanson, The Limiñanas & Étienne Daho, John Hoyles, Then there's a spotlight on new releases from Damaged Goods Records including King Salami & The Cumberland 3, Billy Childish & CTMF, Fabienne Delsol, Graham Day & The Gaolers and The Shadracks. Turn it up!

If you enjoy the music featured in this episode then please do click on the highlighted Band/Artist names below for further information, news on upcoming gig and details on how to buy their music. Here's the track-listing, enjoy!

The Sensation Seekers - "Monkey Paws"
Ian Kay - "A Man Like Me"
The Flaming Sideburns - "Trance Noche"
The Shadracks - "Things I Hear"
Billy Childish & CTMF - "The Used To Be"
Graham Day & The Gaolers - "Just a Little"
Fabienne Delsol - "So Many Could Not" 
The Limiñanas & Étienne Daho - "One Blood Circle"
Nika - "Good Sunday"
Gatuplan - "Millennial Blues" 
Refused - "Damaged III"
Pablo Matisse - "Human Warmth"
John Hoyles - "Leavin' Tonight"
Råttanson - Small Venue Concerts"
Las Aspiradoras - "Vaya Chapa"
The Schizophonics - "Nine Miles"
Goodbye Victory Road - "We Are The New Wave"
Ian Kay - "Ain't Coming Home" 

Retrosonic Podcast has a valid PRS licence. This Episode's cover star Ian Kay. Photo courtesy Ian Kay. Our full archive is available at our Soundcloud site, featuring all regular episodes 1-36 along with our special dedicated interview episodes with Artists such as Billy Childish, TV Smith, Damian O'Neill from The Undertones, The Fallen Leaves, Graham Day & The Forefathers, That Petrol Emotion/The Everlasting Yeah, Chris Wilson from The Flamin' Groovies, Mattias Hellberg, Ian Person, Fredrik Sandsten, Paul Slattery on Joy Division, Ebbot Lundberg from The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Harley Feinstein from Sparks, Buddy Ascott from The Chords and many more.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

The Brian James Gang - Former Guitarist with The Damned & Lords of The New Church Promotes New Biography at The Troubadour in London

Brian James Gang at The Troubadour - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Punk Rock introduced me to some extremely original, talented and often unorthodox Guitar geniuses - Keith Levene of Public Image Ltd, Paul Fox of The Ruts, Andy Gill of Gang of Four, Rob Symmons of Subway Sect and Stuart Adamson of The Skids spring to mind for instance and Brian James of The Damned should never be overlooked. After all it's his instantly memorable riff to "New Rose" - the first ever U.K. "Punk" single and his crazed wig-out solo over that famous bass intro to "Neat Neat Neat". It's his splintered, almost Post-Punk sound on "Feel The Pain" and not forgetting the snake-hipped groove to the sublime "Fan Club". He wrote those songs too, not bad eh? In fact, The Damned's debut album "Damned Damned Damned" is all his own songwriting, bar Rat Scabies' "Stab Your Back" and a cover of Brian's beloved Stooges classic "1970 (I Feel Alright)" of course. Brian also had to carry most of the song-writing burden of the rush-job follow-up album "Music For Pleasure", which was slated at the time but it's evolved over the years into one of those records that's often described as a 'hidden gem'. Indeed there are some treasures on there, "One Way Love" and "Your Eyes" for example have become two of my all-time favourite Damned songs. Brian James is also the subject of an excellent new book by John Wombat entitled, "Bastard, The Damned, The Lords of The New Church & More: The Authorised Biography of Brian James"

Brian James Gang at The Troubadour - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Brian James Gang at The Troubadour - Photo by Retro Man Blog
With a foreward by Henry Rollins and contributions from many of Brian's musical colleagues from his time in pre-Punk band Bastard right up to date with his often revolving Brian James Gang. There's snippets of information on his collaborations with Jean Jacques Burnel of The Stranglers and his time spent touring with his hero, Iggy Pop and many other side-projects and attempts at new bands along the way such as Tanz Der Youth and The Hellions. There's light shed on his dealings with the music business, signing to Stiff Records and the underhand dealings of Miles Copeland's I.R.S. label. However, it's the stories of Brian's time spent in his two most high profile outfits, The Damned and Lords of The New Church that will probably be of most interest and fans of both bands will not be disappointed. Damned drummer Rat Scabies is an entertaining contributor, as is former Sham 69 and Lords of The New Church bassist, Dave Treganna and they both add their own insights and perspectives to the tale. The gig at the legendary Troubadour in Earl's Court also doubles as the official launch party for the biography and both Brian and author John are there early to personally sign copies. Brian then takes the stage with his "Gang" who feature long time musical colleague Malcolm Mortimore on drums who's relationship with Brian goes back to the pre-Damned years and Mark Taylor on keyboards, who once played with Lords of The New Church. Austen Gayton is on bass and I recognise him from when I saw Brian, Rat Scabies and TexasTerri perform "Damned Damned Damned" at the Retro Bar a few years back, which you can read about in the Blog archive here.

Brian James Gang at The Troubadour - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Brian James Gang at The Troubadour - Photo by Retro Man Blog
The show starts off with Brian handling lead vocals on the first few numbers including the Stooges inflenced "Alone" an early song that was to appear on "Music For Pleasure" and "Walkin' Around Naked" from the excellent solo LP "The Guitar That Dripped Blood". Then, The Damned's "Born To Kill" raises the temperature in the packed out Troubadour quite a few degrees higher. The band are then joined by singer Alan Clayton from The Dirty Strangers and they treat us to a selection of songs from throughout Brian's career including a couple of covers, "Route 66" and "The Last Time" and a raucous run through of The Damned's version of The Stooges "1970 (I Feel Alright)". They played "Method To My Madness" by Lords of The New Church and I spotted LOTN bassist Dave Treganna smiling away at the front of the stage. I was hoping he was going to get up and play but instead he contented himself with a tambourine and backing vocals from his place in the crowd. "Neat Neat Neat" gets the full audience participation treatment and for the encore, John Wombat gets his chance to plug in a guitar and join in on "New Rose", why not, it's also his night!

Brian James Gang at The Troubadour - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Brian James Gang at The Troubadour - Photo by Retro Man Blog
The Kult 45's rounded things off with a set of down and dirty good time Rock'n'Roll, it's probably the best of frontman Dale Senior's many and varied line-ups that I have seen so far, and I've seen a few! The band ooze cool, all decked out in black and leopardskin and songs like "Law of The Jungle" and "Where D'ya Get Your Love" fuse The Cramps, Glam and The Stooges/Heartbreakers into an enjoyable Primal Rock 'n' Roll mash-up. I'd recommend checking them out if you get chance.

The Kult 45's at The Troubadour - Photo by Retro Man Blog
The Kult 45's at The Troubadour - Photo by Retro Man Blog
You can order the book from Amazon here and check out John Wombat's web-site here for more details on his other books which include biographies of Bryan Gregory of The Cramps, The Stooges' guitarist Ron Asheton and Johnny Thunders. Brian James official Facebook page is here.

Brian James Biography by John Wombat
You can see some videos of the Brian James Gang and The Kult 45's from the launch party at our Retro Man Blog YouTube channel here and more photos over at our official Facebook page here.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Iggy Pop in Conversation with Will Self at Rough Trade East Record Store, London

Iggy Pop in conversation with Will Self - photo by Retro Man Blog
Rough Trade East Records in London continued their fine tradition of quality in-store appearances when they hosted Iggy Pop in conversation with the author and journalist Will Self. Iggy was in town to promote his latest album “Free” and although he didn’t play any gigs this time round, BBC6 Music filmed a special live set and interview in their studios, which is well worth checking out on YouTube here. He also found the time to make an entertaining appearance on the Jonathan Ross TV talk show. Iggy will be back in London to play a now sold-out show at the Barbican Centre on November 21st where he will be performing “Free” as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. Anyway, back to the talk at Rough Trade East, the P.A. system crackles and there’s a palpable buzz of excitement as the cinematic opening track to “Free” washes over the audience with Iggy’s rich baritone crooning the song’s only lyrics, “I Wanna Be Free”. Then he suddenly appears on stage with Will Self to rapturous applause, Iggy looks in great shape, tanned and dressed in black, looking nowhere near his 72 years. Self starts by asking Iggy what he thought of London when he first visited back in the early Seventies. Iggy said he loved going for walks, in particular around Kensington Gardens and the Royal Albert Hall, recognising places he had seen in movies and he recalls the buildings and memorials being all dark and dirty. He liked stores on Chelsea’s King’s Road such as Let It Rock at World’s End or Granny Takes a Trip, where he could get things like snakeskin platform boots. He remembered the band liked to eat at the charmingly named The Great American Disaster, one of the U.K.’s first American style burger joints, but admitted he always preferred Wimpy’s himself, which stirs a murmur of nostalgia from the crowd. He also enjoyed going to Speaker’s Corner to check out the soapbox preachers or, as he puts it a bit more succinctly, “to watch all the loonies”. 

Iggy Pop in conversation with Will Self - photo by Retro Man Blog
The talk gets round to the new album “Free” and Self says it’s very emotive and admires the fact that Iggy often follows a period of hard, driving Rock & Roll by stepping back and exploring other, more experimental projects. Iggy explains that even though The Stooges first album may have become a prototype for Punk Rock, initially they were always experimental. After all, they used to put on strange performance-art shows using instruments made from stuff found in junkyards. At one point, this included a drum-kit comprising a 55-gallon oil tank, which they hit with wooden beaters and Iggy would use a vacuum cleaner to create weird noises. He somewhat disappointedly confesses that by the time The Stooges got round to recording their first LP, the others in the band wanted to be a bit more ‘normal’. However, he is proud that the first Stooges record included “We Will Fall”, a 10-minute Hindu chant with John Cale playing viola, a track which most reviewers seemed to conveniently gloss over. Self gets a bit deep and pretentious here, talking about white and black voids and even comparing “I Wanna Be Your Dog” to Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony and Iggy has to ask him politely what he’s talking about. However, Self is spot on when he says guitarist Ron Asheton had an “accidental virtuosity” and he always found that The Stooges music did have a Mantra like feel to it. Iggy thought that was something to do with Ron tuning into the sounds coming from his guitar and amp, using the different tones of the feedback to make noise of their own free will while he was semi-controlling it. It was more like a Ravi Shankar vibe as opposed to someone like Ted Nugent, who just wants to control their instrument.

Iggy Pop in conversation with Will Self - photo by Retro Man Blog
Iggy was confident when he first made records with The Stooges that there would be people who would like it, he just didn’t realise how hard it would be to reach a significant number of them. He goes on to say that The Stooges were not only appreciated by misfits and stoners but that metacritical people always seemed to like them too, “oh how very interesting!” he says in a posh Professorial English accent, a dig at Will Self maybe? Self then talks about vinyl making a comeback and wonders if the current technology of streaming and the internet has affected him at all. Iggy says, not at all, the worse years were the 80’s, when he would walk into a record store and there was Bruce Springsteen posters and advertising everywhere. He would have to find his way to the back of the store to the racks, usually located by the Men’s room and search under the subculture section and he might not even have his own filing card. Now through the internet, people can discover and check out his music much more easily. He then somewhat surprisingly announces that despite it being an “ugly little format”, the advent of the CD was The Stooges salvation. Iggy said he always found that the original mixes of the Stooges albums on vinyl were pretty quiet and weedy as the Record Company people would squash and compress the sound. However, the people who were remastering albums for CD were younger, knew a bit more about music and realised that this sound should be more in your face. “Suddenly in America in the early 90’s I’m surrounded by these Nu-Metal guys with beer bellies and pumped up muscles at the same time, which annoys me. They are all covered in tattoos and have just learned to curse. One band is heavier than the other but they all listen to my band, which is this weedy little thing. So, I said I’m going to make the loudest record in America basically, so loud that even the Rollins band will quiver in fear! I can say that ‘cos Henry Rollins is a nice boy. When I first met Henry, it was like a scene from the movie Robocop when Robocop has to meet the giant machine that dwarves him. So, I remixed “Raw Power” as loud as possible”. In this clip, Iggy recalls that first meeting with Henry Rollins.

They mention that the new album incorporates eclectic ethnic influences and some of the collaborators come from R&B and Hip-Hop backgrounds. Iggy talks about the influence of black musicians on him from way back as a teenager in the 60’s, hearing Latin, Caribbean and African Rhythms in the Top 40 from artists such as Booker T and Joe Tex, although he was just a little white kid living in a trailer park. He was brought up in an area that benefited from the exodus of African-Americans and unemployed poor white people moving north in search of work. From his time at the University of Michigan, he got to know people who were in Blues bands and who had impressive collections of Chicago and Mississippi Blues records. Iggy goes on to explain that one new track “Dirty Sanchez” for example, has a groovy touch with a New Orleans beat played by French musicians and he laughs, saying it sounds like “a sophisticated Tijuana Brass”. Self says that the ballad “Sonali” speaks to him of the problems facing the Southern part of America – the climate emergency, rising sea levels and migration and Iggy, now that he’s living in Miami is in the heart of all that. Iggy explains that the song is about a first generation Sri Lankan who speaks like an American and wants to live that American life. She wants to be accepted but as the signs on the ironically named, freeway say, you have to “stay in your lane” and Iggy admits, “that line in the song killed me, you have to stay in your lane according to your speech, background, job etc.” Self asks Iggy if he was involved in the production of “Free” and he replies that he was involved in choosing the general idea and emotive qualities but he stayed away from asking questions like “shouldn’t the bass be louder on that?” Self then compares “Free” to the Director David Lynch’s later works, which is outside the mainstream with Lynch using his own resources, acting as an artistic impresario. Iggy says these sorts of projects are never going to be the money spinning ones, but if you can pay for it and do it, then it will all be worth it.

In reference to the poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”, which features on “Free”, Self asks if Iggy is raging against the dying light. Iggy replies with a rueful grin, “I’m sneaking up on it!” and admits that when he gets asked to do things now he thinks “he’s chosen me ‘cos he thinks I might die soon, that’s my new qualification. People want to get autographs before I die, I know that”. Self enquires, “At this stage of life, are you just Jim all the time now, have you left Iggy behind?” Iggy tells us that Bowie once wrote a song with the line “Oh, Iggy Pop, when you gonna stop?” and quickly adds, don’t worry it was never released! He says when he was younger he made a couple of good decisions – the first was when he was 18 and decided to drop out of college to play the drums, not to make records or anything like that; he just wanted to be a musician. Then the second decision was sticking with the Iggy name. He explains, “The older guys hanging out in the local record store would start to call me Iguana to mock my High School covers band, The Iguanas. I plotted and got another band together and was thinking what should my stage name be? I thought about Jimmy James but in a review of one of my shows, the writer called me Iggy and I knew that was my break so I kept quiet. Initially, I had a big problem with it personally and insisted that people who knew me called me Jim but I was always Iggy when I worked. I didn’t like it if the wrong person called me Jim in the wrong way. I would say “Call me Iggy” if they were like, going, “I’m not falling for that Iggy shit”. Self then asks Iggy if the myth ever started to eat him up and he replied that it was easy and sometimes convenient, to hide behind a persona. “I started to grow into it little by little but was only really comfortable with when I reached my 50’s, I thought, wow, look what I’ve done; I like this track and I like this album. I resurrected The Stooges and got the guys a bit of money – OK yeah, I like this”. Self says he has met many famous people over the years and he rather touchingly admits that Iggy is “one of the few to be unaffected in a spiritual way by such a degree of fame, you have no side, you are what you are”. Did Iggy attribute this to his upbringing he wondered? Iggy talks warmly about his family, about the hardships that they and the war generation had to go through and suddenly there’s the burden of having to deal with this brat. “Everyone I met after I left school thought I was a rich kid, but my parents had no money, they had a tough upbringing and we lived in a little trailer but they were well educated. They would do everything for me, pick me up from school activities, and try to shelter me from Elvis Presley. They let me set up a drum-kit and rented a piano, and I would try to play along to Muddy Waters records. My Dad never got my interest in the Blues, he used to say, “Son, I can understand why that man is crying, but you don’t have to”.

Iggy Pop in conversation with Will Self - photo by Retro Man Blog
The album “Free” is out now and Iggy also has a new book of collected lyrics published by Viking called “'Til Wrong Feels Right” which can be ordered from Rough Trade here. In the book Iggy offers an insight into his creative world with this collection of lyrics brought to life by full-colour photos, never-before-seen notes and memorabilia, short pieces and commentary from other music legends, including Danny Fields' Johnny Marr and Chris Stein from Blondie. Subscribe to Rough Trade’s newsletter for details of future in-store events or check out their web-site here.