Monday 24 September 2018

Billy Childish & CTMF with Johnny Moped - Exclusive Photos by Paul Slattery from Damaged Goods 30th Anniversary Gig

Billy Childish & CTMF at Koko - Photo Copyright Paul Slattery
I thought my Retro Man Blog colleague, Rock photographer Paul Slattery had first started taking pictures of Billy Childish when he was in The Milkshakes back in the early 80's, so did he...! But it took an email from Billy to set the record straight as unknown to Paul at the time, he had actually captured Billy at a historic gig totally by coincidence some years before. I found out more when we both met up with Billy down in the Medway a few years ago for our Retrosonic Podcast special. I started off the interview by asking Paul: "You've photographed Billy on and off for how many years?" Paul replied, "30 years" but Billy interrupted "Oh, don't forget it's actually 37 years". Then Paul explained further, "I've just given him some pictures that I took of the Sex Pistols playing at Brunel University in 1977 which Billy saw on the NME web-site and he said, 'that's me in the front row shouting at Johnny Rotten, have you got any more of those pictures?' So I looked through my negatives and sure enough, I had four shots with Billy in". Indeed, you can clearly see a young Billy Childish down there at the front clutching a monitor as Johnny leans over the audience with Sid looking on. It's a great moment captured for posterity and I can see why Billy was keen to get some copies. Paul has photographed Billy occasionally since The Milkshakes days right up to the cover photo on CTMF's recent single "A Glimpse of Another Time" and he was down the front at the show on September 6th to celebrate Damaged Goods Records 30th anniversary at Koko (or the Music Machine, as it might be better known) with special guests, Johnny Moped.

Billy Childish & CTMF at Koko - Photo Copyright Paul Slattery
Nurse Julie, Billy Childish & CTMF at Koko - Photo Copyright Paul Slattery
Billy Childish & CTMF at Koko - Photo Copyright Paul Slattery
Wolf Howard, Billy Childish & CTMF at Koko - Photo Copyright Paul Slattery
Billy Childish & CTMF at Koko - Photo Copyright Paul Slattery
Billy Childish & CTMF at Koko - Photo Copyright Paul Slattery
Johnny Moped at Koko - Photo Copyright Paul Slattery
Johnny Moped at Koko - Photo Copyright Paul Slattery
Johnny Moped at Koko - Photo Copyright Paul Slattery
Damaged Goods Records continue to celebrate their 30th anniversary with a special 7" Singles Club and more gigs in December at The Lexington including Graham Day & The Gaolers, Holly Golightly, Cyanide Pills and Johnny Moped. For more information, check out the label's web-site here. Don't forget our two-part Retrosonic Podcast special with Damaged Goods boss Ian where he tells us the history of the label and plays a selection of his releases from throughout the years. Then we have our Billy Childish special where Paul and I travelled down to the Medway to chat to Billy about his career and his favourite records which you can listen to or download directly from our Soundcloud site below or subscribe for free at iTunes:

Thanks to Paul Slattery. All photos copyright Paul Slattery 2018.

Sunday 23 September 2018

Groovy Uncle "Meanwhile Back In Medieval Britain" - Amy K-B reviews Glenn Prangnell's Collective's latest Album

"Meanwhile Back in Medieval Britain" is the 7th studio album from singer and songwriter Glenn Prangnell's musical collective Groovy Uncle. Recorded at Ranscombe Studios and released on Glenn's own label Trouserphonic Records, MBIMB (bit of a mouthful but there you go) is unique in Groovy Uncle releases in that it includes tracks written by people other than Glenn, and as well as featuring GU favourites Suzi Chunk and Miss Modus it also showcases the vocal talents of Ani Graves and Rachel Lowrie. Arriving scarcely a year after "A Clip Round the Ear", the cartoon cover (artwork by Darryl Hartley) hints of the whimsical humour we've come to expect from Groovy Uncle, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. "A Clip Round The Ear" was very much a nostalgic album, but MBIMB is firmly in the present and full of current references; Brexit, #metoo and the rather Donald Trump-esque Howard Eno ('got the greatest, biggest button in his tiny hands') and whilst a lot of the songs have a very sixties flavour to them there is a striking originality and freshness to the album; clearly there is no danger of Groovy Uncle running out of material any time soon. There is little continuity of style between tracks, but who wants that? If you don't like one song (and I can't imagine that you wouldn't) there's another one along in a minute to grab you by the collar and ensure your full attention. I asked Glenn how the idea of a more collaborative album came about, and he told me that it was something he'd already been considering when he was approached separately by Jon Barker (The Senior Service), Darryl Hartley (The Senior Service) and Andy Morten (Bronco Bullfrog) with the idea of using songs they'd written. Although the five non-Glenn penned tracks do stand out as being different (as indeed they should), they fit beautifully into the overall feel of the album, particularly the title track (by Darryl Hartley) with its mixture of snippy political commentary and sunny optimism. "Astronauts" (also by Darryl) is a Divine Comedy-esque epic, laden with strings and unapologetically theatrical. I was unfamiliar with Bronco Bullfrog until I started doing the research for this review (yes, I do research) and it's a band I'm delighted to have found; "She'll Never Be Mine" by Andy Morten puts a Groovy Uncle spin on the Bronco Bullfrog brand of 'sunshine pop'. Witty, wistful and 'poptimistic' (apologies to Andy for stealing that), its a great track.

Glenn with Suzi Chunk
I'm more familiar with Jon Barker's instrumental writings with The Senior Service but his contributions "Days Like This" and "You Think Too Much of Me" prove that he's an incredibly versatile songwriter. "Days Like This" (featuring Graham Day on guitar) is an immediate stand out track, and the Hammond led "You Think Too Much of Me" is unbelievably catchy. Glenn told me that he prefers writing for other singers than for himself, and MBIMB showcases some great examples of his long term collaboration with Suzi Chunk; "20/20 Hindsight" and "Reading Between the Lines" are classic Suzi songs, showing off her amazingly powerful and passionate voice, and "Lie to You" is drowsily gorgeous and proves that the inimitable Ms Chunk can indeed do both. Many Groovy Uncle fans will have been eagerly awaiting the return of Miss Modus, and her blistering rendition of "Good Child" is a definite high point. GU newcomers Ani Graves and Rachel Lowrie are sweetly haunting on the folky "It Wasn't Me It Was Yesterday", and their voices are a beautiful compliment to each other despite them not having met until the day of recording. As always Glenn is accompanied by a supporting cast of amazing musicians, this time including Mole, Wolf Howard, Nick Rice and Anna and Paul Jordanous. Most Groovy Uncle articles and interviews tend to touch on the subject of whether these are songs we will ever heard played live, something that Glenn has always said is very unlikely, due to the numbers of people involved, and the geographical difficulties, but wonderful though I'm sure a live Groovy Uncle gig would be, there is something special about the little bubble of perfection that this recording project has become. MBIMB is a perfectly polished wall of sound; in short, flipping excellent.
- AKB, September 2018

Thanks to Amy for the great review. MBIMB will be released on October 1st and is available on 180g Vinyl with download code, numbered lyric sheet and sticker and it will also be released as a Digipack CD. You can order from the band's web-site here and also hear a track from the album in our latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast which can streamed/downloaded for free below:

Wednesday 12 September 2018

The Courettes - New LP "We Are The Courettes" & Live at Weirdsville with Oh! Gunquit

The Courettes at Weirdsville - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Hot on the heels of the recent bonus mid-week Weirdsville featuring The Schizophonics came another knockout show courtesy of Mr A & Alex. This time round it was The Courettes, the Brazilian girl/Danish boy duo who were over here promoting their excellent new LP "We Are The Courettes" which is out now on Sounds of Subterrania Records. The band had the unenviable task of following the night's opening act Oh! Gunquit who were on fire, treating us to a powerful all-action set of their unique blend of Voodoo rhythms, Garage Rock rumblings and Surf shenanigans – all topped off by Trumpet, Sax and Hula Hoops! They were the perfect start to another great Weirdsville night.

Oh! Gunquit at Weirdsville - Photo by Retro Man Blog
Oh! Gunquit at Weirdsville - Photo by Retro Man Blog
So, The Courettes certainly had a tough act to follow especially as there was just the two of them. Martin Couri’s drum kit was set up right at the front of the stage next to his wife and partner in crime, guitarist/vocalist Flavia Couri and after a couple of songs, they certainly banished my fears of how they would cope after Oh! Gunquit. They were simply superb. Martin was a blur of thrashing arms as he pounded around his drum kit, often bashing the floor tom with maracas or tambourine for added percussion. Flavia is a stunning front-woman with her shock of jet black hair and Vox Phantom guitar. When she was not singing or flinging her guitar around she was leaping into the crowd or kneeling down in front of her amp, coaxing out screams of feedback.

The Courettes at Weirdsville - Photo by Retro Man Blog
The Courettes at Weirdsville - Photo by Retro Man Blog
I was talking to Mr A about how good the band were recently and he described them as 'Bubble-gum Garage Pop' so I told him I would nick that comment for my review (thank you!) as it kind of sums them up perfectly. They take the melodies of The Shangri-La's and crank them into timeless fuzzed up three-minute classics. In particular, more familar songs such as "I’ve Been Walking" and "The Boy I Love" from their 2015 debut mini-album "Here Are The Courettes" are delightful slices of Ronettes meets Ramones pure pop perfection. The new songs are catching up fast though, growing on you immediately from the very first chord, in particular the melodic "Time Is Ticking" is something that sticks in your head for days. "T-C-H-A-U" is an adrenaline-fuelled 100 miles per hour stormer and another of the nights highlights was "Boom! Dynamite!" which proved a great example of singalong audience participation. "All About You" is a catchy melodic delight with some great backing vocals from Martin. "Strawberry Boy" slows the pace for a minute only to highlight a beautiful heartful vocal from Flavia which shows a real soulful side to the band.

The Courettes at Weirdsville - Photo by Retro Man Blog
The Courettes at Weirdsville - Photo by Retro Man Blog
They are joined by a saxophonist for the encore "Voodoo Doll" and this adds a great dimension to the sound. The Courettes also have a cool 'look' and Mr A was telling me that the band design all the covers and artwork themselves. They have everything off to a tee starting off with their super cool tour van right down to Flavia’s black leather jacket with the Courettes' logo on the back. Their videos and record covers all have an immediately familiar look and the merch table at the gig is bulging with an array of goodies including vinyl LP's, CD's, plectrums, badges, T-Shirts and even stick-on Martin Couri sideburns! All items are beautifully designed, packaged and presented. However, like the Schizophonics and Oh! Gunquit, The Courettes can certainly back up their strong visual concept and exhilarating live performance with some mighty fine songs. Go buy their new LP now and you'll see exactly what I mean...

The Courettes at Weirdsville - Photo by Retro Man Blog

You can order the "We Are The Courettes" LP from the band’s web site here or it is also available via Rough Trade in the UK. The next Weirdsville promises to be another cracker with Les Kitschenette’s and The Voo-Dooms on Saturday September 29th. We’ll be featuring The Courettes in our next episode of Retrosonic Podcast. For more photos of the gig please check out the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here and we also have videos at our YouTube channel here.

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Ebbot Lundberg on the Union Carbide Productions Reunion & "Live at CBGB New York 1988" LP Release

Ebbot Lundberg with Union Carbide Productions at Liseberg, Gothenburg by Katarina Hansson
Union Carbide Productions, The legendary Swedish Psych Punk band who would later morph into The Soundtrack of Our Lives, have recently announced two high profile reunion shows. A couple of weeks ago they played at Liseberg in Gothenburg and this Thursday September 6th they will perform at Gröna Lund in Stockholm. In the build up to this highly anticipated second gig, I caught up with frontman Ebbot Lundberg and asked him how the reunion came about.

Ebbot Lundberg: All because of the 30th anniversary release of the "Live at CBGB New York 1988" recording on vinyl for the first time. It’s only been available as a shitty bootleg before but we found the original tapes and remixed them just for fun. However, I think the reunion is more like a kind of mental redemption for us as old friends.” 

Retro Man Blog: The reunion sees the return of most of the line-up that played the CBGB's show – yourself, Henrik Rylander, Adam Wladis and Patrik Caganis but there’s no sign of original guitarist Björn Olsson, his place is to be taken by Billy Cervin your current guitarist in The Indigo Children. Many fans would love to see Björn play again, was there no chance even if just for a guest appearance.

EL: Not by any chance. Björn stopped playing guitar a long time ago so he naturally declined. The only original guitarist is Patrik Caganis, who is in my opinion, the identity of UCP. There's nobody that sounds like him. It's like John Coltrane on guitar. He was and still is the Don Van Vliet/Syd Barrett persona of the group and without him; this reunion would have been totally meaningless.

Ebbot with bassist Adam Wladis by Katarina Hansson
RMB: Why is guitarist Ian Person not involved this time?

EL: Because he was not in the band when we did the CBGB’s show. He joined the group after the first two albums in late '89.

RMB: The original bass player Per Helm who played on the first two albums is in the current line-up but so is Adam Wladis who replaced Per and played at the CBGB's show. How is it going to work with two bassists? 

EL: That works fine. It's very powerful. Like Nitzer Ebb.

Per Helm Union Carbide Productions by Katarina Hansson
RMB: Most of us in the U.K. only really discovered UCP much later on through TSOOL and by then of course it was too late, the band were already history. Why do you think you never made a mark over here in the U.K? 

EL: We did play at The Marquee once in 1991 but that was a total disaster. Our sound engineer and tour manager were totally gone on bad acid and it was so loud that the audience left. Including the label that was checking us out. We never focused on England for some reason. I just remember in the late 80's there were a few English bands, like Thee Hypnotics and maybe Zodiac Mindwarp that were trying to do the same thing as us.

RMB: But you did make quite an impact in America. Kurt Cobain was a fan and Sub Pop were once interested in working with the band weren't they?

EL: Our Record label in Sweden (Radium) turned Sup Pop down for some reason in 1989. Instead, the first two albums were released on Skyclad and the rest is alternative history.

Ebbot Lundberg with Union Carbide Productions at Liseberg, Gothenburg by Katarina Hansson
RMB: The CBGB's gig has since gone down in folklore, not just for some outrageous onstage behaviour but also for the Punk luminaries who were there to witness it including Sonic Youth, Foetus and Lydia Lunch. What do you remember about the show? 

EL: Not very much. Except that I wore yellow underwear and a Harpo Marx wig during the concert. We came on very late because we'd just arrived from a gig in Boston we had with Bullet Lavolta the day before and I do remember that Jello Biafra was backstage in a trench coat looking very horny. Maybe some of us hung out with Jim Thirlwell and Lydia a little bit. However, I had lost interest in the so-called underground scene. I was just fascinated by the energy and sounds of New York and the Wall Street area at the time. It was like feeling the core of cancer slowly beating poison into the veins of the Earth. 

RMB: You did return to the States in 1992 as Steve Albini from Big Black produced the final UCP album "Swing". I know you weren’t happy with the finished product; after all, you wrote "This Is Shit" on my copy…why didn't you like the album and what was it like working with Albini?  

EL: You mean the rocket scientist wannabe who fucked up the Stooges? I think Steve was all right as an artist and human being but I was not a fan of Big Black or anything he'd done. However, I truly admire someone who has his own profile when it comes to sound. I was not especially thrilled because I've always been the main producer when making albums, which is basically the whole UCP and TSOOL catalogue up until now (though I seldom take the full credit for it). So I was against working with him to be honest. At that period, I was so fed up with the group that I just thought, “Well, let's go to Chicago and see what happens" but it did not solve any problems. Another stupid reason we went to Chicago was that our label was pushing us because they knew that Nirvana were going to record after us, which was ridiculous. The only fun with Steve Albini was sneaking into the studio library listening to the original tapes of Cheap Trick’s "Live at Budokan" at the Chicago Recording Company. We also played some live shows together with Jesus Lizard and Laibach at the Metro. After the whole trip, we just went back to Sweden and remixed the whole thing. The reason I thought "Swing" was shit was that it only came out as a CD at the time with too many songs and an indescribably ugly cover that was made behind our backs. However, I honestly think the newly released vinyl version is probably the best of all the UCP albums. It also has the original cover art which means a lot when you're making a record. So please go get it!”

Ebbot Lundberg by Katarina Hansson
RMB: Union Carbide Productions developed a more Psychedelic sound on their later albums and on songs such as "Golden Age", you can sense the link between UCP and what was to come next. Did this slight change of direction contribute to the break-up of the band and the formation of TSOOL? 

EL: When Grunge arrived in the late 80's we kind of lost interest in our old sound and started to move towards more lysergic Rock 'n' Roll material which obviously later on led to the forming of TSOOL. The reason we decided to split was more on a personal level, we just fell apart like most bands do with that kind of energy. Although we were together for seven years, which is a pretty long time for such a band I think.

RMB: I know UCP often challenged conventions and up to this day, you have never played the corporate music industry game. I'm guessing this must have been detrimental to you commercially over the years, any regrets?

EL: I have no regrets whatsoever. In my opinion, life is to consciously apply mystery to everything and when you are born, you have a number so you're already part of the corporation in the bigger picture. However, to spread your music around the world you have to have some sort of organisation behind you. It's inevitable or at least it was before the TV-spiders came and created the internet. But to calculate a strategy to reach some gigantic level of fame or to be a bandwagon jumper is not my cup of tea. Music to me is about being spiritual and honest and to have fun. That's why I still get around with a pat on the head I think.

Union Carbide Productions new LP "Live at CBGB New York 1988"
RMB: Has there been any creative spark working together again as UCP that might lead to writing and recording some new material?

EL: We're thinking about it but we just may not go to Chicago to record!

Ebbot Lundberg will return to London with his new band The Indigo Children for a show at The Half Moon Putney on Saturday October 13th. The "Live at CBGB’s New York 1988" album is available now from Bengans Records. You can hear a superb EXCLUSIVE unreleased track from the forthcoming Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children album in Episode 32 of Retrosonic Podcast, which will be released later this week, along with music from Union Carbide Productions and Ian Person's new band Pablo Matisse. Keep an eye on the Blog or Soundcloud page for the release date or even better, subscribe for free at iTunes so you don't miss an episode. For the full uncensored story of Union Carbide Productions by Mike Stax I thoroughly recommended tracking down issue 16 of the superb Ugly Things magazine. All photos copyright Katarina Hansson. Thanks Katarina, please check out more of her excellent photography here.

Tickets are available for Ebbot & The Indigo Children's London show on Saturday October 13th at The Half Moon Putney, expect a mixture of classic Union Carbide and Soundtrack of Our Lives songs along with plenty of new material. Special Guests on the night are The Galileo 7 who feature members of The Prisoners, The Baron Four and The Embrooks. You can book your tickets and get more information from the Half Moon by clicking here.