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.

Sunday 20 October 2019

Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children at Slussens Pensionat and a Reflection on the Importance of the Stunning Venue

Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children at Slussens Pensionat
When Sweden's Psych-Rock legends The Soundtrack of Our Lives sadly called it a day in December 2012 there were many things I was dreading losing out on. It goes without saying that I would miss the music and their incendiary live shows but there was also the travel, the social life with the great friends and acquaintances that I had made along the way since I first saw the band. It’s not overstating things to say that TSOOL pretty much changed my life, or at the very least, set it on a different course. After all, they re-energised my passion for music and inspired me to recreate my old-school 1980’s cut and paste fanzine "Out of Step" which I renamed "Retro Man" after my favourite TSOOL song. However, it was the thought that there would no longer be any more gigs at the beautiful Slussens Pensionat that most filled me with regret. TSOOL first started playing at the stunning waterside location run by the lovely couple Vibs and Robert Sohlberg on the island of Orust in 2001 and word quickly spread that these were gigs and a music venue like no other. 

Slussens Pensionat by Paul Slattery
Ebbot at Slussens Pensionat with The Soundtrack of Our Lives by Paul Slattery
The band used these shows at Slussens Pensionat as a kind of summer break for themselves; you could sense they were a release from what was possibly a very stressful time. Their profile was getting higher internationally due to the breakthrough album “Behind The Music” and they had to deal with all the pressures that success can bring - major record labels, PR, management and such like. The Slussens Pensionat shows stripped away all the corporate bullshit and just allowed the band to relax and enjoy themselves. I was to get my first taste back in August 2003 and was immediately hooked, travelling over as many times as I could after that initial mind-blowing experience. It was a fan's dream. The band played sprawling sets that could last over three hours stretching into the early hours of the morning. They would play obscure album tracks, B-sides, cover versions and try out brand new, often unfinished songs alongside their more familiar numbers. Sometimes, they played whole LPs in their entirety, such as the Winter Lucia show in December 2008 promoting the release of “Communion” where we were treated to each song in sequence. 

Ebbot at Slussens Pensionat with The Soundtrack of Our Lives by Paul Slattery
Slussens Pensionat by Paul Slattery
The Slussens shows usually started rather sedately, with the audience enjoying dinner while the band sat on stools playing acoustic guitars. However, the nights would inevitably end in drunken chaos with tables moved out of the way and the crowd getting up to dance. Vocalist Ebbot Lundberg would climb over tables, sending drinks, bottles, glasses (and sometimes people!) flying all over the place. Microphone leads would often get wrapped around people’s legs and necks and mic stands went crashing all over the place. It was always great fun. One year I was there, they were filming the fantasy/documentary “Ebbot the Movie” and I make a fleeting appearance in it. It’s a great film that really captures the true essence of the Slussens Pensionat experience, as well as highlighting some rather suspect acting from the band members themselves. Another year, Ebbot invited my Retro Man Blog colleague photographer Paul Slattery along and he documented the proceedings with some superb photos, which you can see in the archive here. I met other TSOOL fans from all over the world, not just from Sweden or England but also from Norway, America, Scotland and as far away as Peru. I even met the actor Lars Melin, who appeared in one of my favourite Swedish TV shows, “Wallander” and he seemed a bit surprised that his fame had spread over to the U.K. There are many other great memories, for example, I saw Ebbot duetting with the fantastic singer songwriter Martin McFaul and on separate occasions interviewed both Ebbot and Ian Person for Retrosonic Podcast on the terrace overlooking the beautiful Orust scenery. 

TSOOL with Robert from Slussens Pensionat by Paul Slattery
The last photo of TSOOL together at Slussens Pensionat by Paul Slattery
Yes, indeed, when TSOOL split up you can probably now understand why I was so sad at the thought that I might never get the opportunity to return. However, the good news is that Ebbot has continued the tradition and has since returned to play at Slussens Pensionat for his own TV show “Ebbot’s Ark” as well as with his current band The Indigo Children. Therefore, in August I found myself once again returning to what had almost become my spiritual home and the weather was thankfully perfect, it was so great to be back. Since TSOOL split up, Ebbot has become a bit of a TV celebrity in Sweden, appearing in the popular music show “Så Mycket Bättre” and his own show “Ebbot’s Ark”, as well as various daytime programmes and cooking/travel shows and the audience demographic on the night probably reflected this somewhat. Ebbot appears and is in a cheerful and suitably summery mood, wearing a brightly striped nightshirt, shorts, crocs and a Hawaiian flower garland around his neck. 

Albert, Billy & Ebbot of The Indigo Children by Retro Man Blog
Anton of The Indigo Children by Retro Man Blog
There has been a slight change in The Indigo Children line-up again, following last year’s shift from the members of Side Effects to members of fellow Stockholm based band, EKEN. There are some familiar faces from my Retro Man Blog night for Ebbot & The Indigo Children in London last October - Oskar Nylén and Billy Cervin on guitars, Alfred Holmgren on bass and the powerhouse drummer Anton Fernandez. Then, there is the latest recruit, newcomer Albert Lorenz on keyboards. We have already featured the incredible story of Billy Cervin, who was barely in his teens when he started taking guitar lessons off a neighbour who just happened to be TSOOL’s Mattias Bärjed. Under Mattias’ tutelage, Billy quickly graduated to forming his own band, Side Effects (named like this Blog, after a TSOOL song) and this led to him standing in for Mattias at some TSOOL live shows to eventually teaming up with Ebbot in the Indigo Children. Billy was also recruited into the Union Carbide Productions line-up for their amazing reunion gigs last year and has proven himself to be the perfect foil and ally to Ebbot and his musical adventures. 

Ebbot, Billy Cervin (guitar) & Albert Lorenz (keyboards) by Retro Man Blog
Albert Lorenz of The Indigo Children by Retro Man Blog
But back to the new keyboard player Albert, who has a similar fairy-tale story to Billy. A few years ago, I met up for a beer with him at Pustervik in Gothenburg; he was a big TSOOL fan from Spain who had just landed a dream job at ex-TSOOL bassist Kalle’s Svenska Grammofonstudion, now Sweden’s most sought after recording studio. We also went along to see Ebbot at Slussens Pensionat and one of my lasting impressions was of Albert, a few beers down, enthusiastically joining in on backing vocals after an impromptu ‘stage’ invasion! This could have been an early audition and I think Albert was as surprised as me to find out he would end up as an official member of The Indigo Children. Albert admitted to me that he was a bit concerned about following in the footsteps of previous keyboard player Elias, but he did just fine. He brought an energetic stage presence, encouraging people to join in and clap their hands, wading into the audience with his tambourine. 

Alfred & Oskar of The Indigo Children by Retro Man Blog
EKEN by Retro Man Blog
Although I was nervous when I found out that the Indigo Children line-up had changed literally days before my show with the band in London last year – the new recruits did a superb job at such short notice. Thanks in main to Billy’s organisation, they did not let me, Ebbot or the London crowd down and I was really looking forward to seeing them again. However, let’s get back to the Ebbot’s Slussens Pensionat gig, and what followed was a mammoth set crammed full of The Soundtrack of Our Lives songs, yes, this was definitely a night for all TSOOL fans. Ebbot always throws in a few TSOOL numbers into in his solo sets but I don’t think he has ever played so many of their songs at one gig and I am transported back to all those great TSOOL Slussens shows over the years. For example, there’s the classic “Galaxy Gramophone” from the “Homo Habilis Blues” EP along with “Rest In Piece” and “Century Child” and songs cherry picked from every TSOOL LP.

Billy & Ebbot of The Indigo Children by Retro Man Blog
Anton & Alfred of The Indigo Children by Retro Man Blog
Tonight though, there is just the one new unreleased song “Comfort Zone” from the forthcoming Indigo Children LP, it’s pretty much the good old familiar favourites all the way. There is a break half way through and Eken come on and play two excellent songs, I love this band and played a track in an early Retrosonic Podcast episode about my favourite Swedish music at the time. After this nice unexpected bonus, Ebbot then appears on his own with an acoustic guitar and runs through a long story, humorous apparently to those that can understand Swedish! He plays his first solo single “Wishing Well” and we all join in on the Burt Bacharach style-backing vocals. There’s Union Carbide Productions “Can’t Slow Down” and great versions of The Beatles’ “Day In The Life” and Bowie’s “Five Years”. The band come back and run through another set packed full of great songs from all aspects of Ebbot’s career that include the cover versions “Don’t Blow Your Mind” and “Calling From Heaven” which the band have made their own. Of course, there’s the stunning singles “To Be Continued” and “Backdrop People” that all feature on the excellent debut Indigo Children LP “For The Ages To Come”. The set draws to a close with raucous attacks on “Bigtime” and “Mantra Slider” and despite the clock approaching 2am, they still come back for more. The encores are a blur, Ebbot climbs over me to stand on the table, I do remember “Sister Surround”, “Firmament Vacation” and what must surely be Sweden’s unofficial national anthem, “Instant Repeater ‘99”. The show finally draws to a close with an emotional and moving singalong of “The Passover” and it proved to be a truly memorable night that lived up to all those old classic Soundtrack of Our Lives shows at Slussens Pensionat. If you ever get chance to visit this magical venue then please don’t hesitate, you might end up like me, hooked for life.
Ebbot Lundberg & The Indigo Children by Retro Man Blog
Ebbot has been busy provided vocals once again for the ‘super-group’ 5 Billion In Diamonds who will be releasing their second alum early next year. The band is masterminded by Garbage drummer and Nirvana producer Butch Vig, James Grillo and Andy Jenks and features Damian O’Neill from The Undertones, David Schelzel, Damon Reece and Helen White among other special guests. Ebbot also spearheaded the Union Carbide Productions reunion last year with Billy joining original band members Patrick Caganis, Per Helm, Adam Wladis and Henrik Rylander and we were lucky enough to see a stunning show in Gothenburg which you can read about in the Blog archive here. There’s also good news that a documentary on the band is currently in production. The other members of TSOOL have been equally as busy. Following one superb album of classic Rock with the band Free Fall, Mattias Bärjed has become a critically acclaimed movie and TV soundtrack composer and has combined this with touring with Refused. Along with Martin Hederos, he got Nymphet Noodlers back with original members Mattias Hellberg, Jesper Karlsson and Jan Martens, who has also recently released his own debut solo LP “Voices”. Martin Hederos has also just simultaneously released two brand new albums, one of piano music “Era Spår” under his own name and another “Master of Fog” with Tonbruket. Ian Person is currently in the excellent Punk Rock band Pablo Matisse with Per from Division of Laura Lee and has also been working on a TV soundtrack with Kalle. Ian also produced and played on the “Ghostrider” album by Swedish Rock ‘n’ Roll legend Jerry Williams along with TSOOL’s drummer Fredrik Sandsten.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives at Slussens Pensionat by Paul Slattery
So, there is plenty of great new music from all the ex-TSOOL members to fill that void left since the band finished. With sincere thanks to Hasse & Liselott, Vibs & Robert and best regards to Ebbot, Albert, Billy, Anton, Alfred and Oskar. You can check out the Retro Man Blog Facebook page for more photos of the show and there are also videos up on our YouTube channel here. Check the Blog archive for loads of Soundtrack of Our Lives related features including the band’s last ever London and Slussens shows. There’s features on the Nymphet Noodlers and Union Carbide Productions reunions and don’t forget our Retrosonic Podcast special editions featuring interviews with Ebbot, Ian Person, Fredrik Sandsten, Mattias Barjed and Mattias Hellberg and much more. Thank you to Paul Slattery for his photos, copyright Paul Slattery or Retro Man Blog where stated.

Wednesday 14 August 2019

Joy Division at Strawberry Studios - New Retrosonic Podcast with Rock Photographer Paul Slattery & Lee McFadden

Joy Division at Strawberry Studios - Photography by Paul Slattery: A New Book of Iconic Photos Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of "Unknown Pleasures". In the latest Retrosonic Podcast episode, rock photographer Paul Slattery, talks to Lee McFadden about his brand new book of Joy Division photography out now via Legends Publishing. The book not only includes his iconic photo session of the band outside Strawberry Studios in Stockport but also from the Stuff The Superstars gig that very evening along with rare shots of their headline show at the Electric Ballroom in London. In this entertaining episode Paul also discusses his partnership with music journalist Dave McCullough for Sounds magazine and the excellent work done by the Stockport Museum in preserving the legacy of Strawberry Studios. Retrosonic Podcast has a valid PRS Certificate. Podcover photo copyright Paul Slattery. The book can be ordered from Legends Publishing here. Listen/download from our Soundcloud site below or subscribe to Retrosonic Podcast on iTunes.

Lee McFadden is currently playing in The Cult Figures and their latest LP can be ordered here.

Friday 26 July 2019

Robyn Hitchcock with Davey Lane at The Boileroom Guildford, Sunday July 21st

Robyn Hitchcock with Davey Lane at The Boileroom Guildford
Here's some photos and a couple of videos from Robyn Hitchcock's superb gig at the Boileroom in Guildford last Sunday. It was my first visit to this intimate venue and I really liked it. The sound and lighting were excellent and the attractive outdoor terrace with it's own pizza shack, all helped to add to the atmosphere. Robyn Hitchcock appeared on stage in customary dotted shirt and treated us to a two hour set packed full of pleasantly surprising song choices and in-between song chat that was often as psychedelic as his music. The more familiar songs from The Egyptians such as "My Wife And My Dead Wife", "Madonna Of The Wasps" and "When I Was Dead" nestle alongside unexpected solo treats such as "Cheese Alarm" and the new single "Sunday Never Comes", which was available as a lovely pink vinyl single at the merch table. His humorous and bewildering instructions to Spencer, tonight's sound engineer, were worth releasing as an album in their own right.

Robyn Hitchcock at The Boileroom Guildford
Robyn Hitchcock with Davey Lane at The Boileroom Guildford

Half way through the set Robyn was joined on stage by the mightily impressive Australian guitarist Davey Lane, who has also previously played alongside Todd Rundgren and is in the line-up of the popular Aussie Alt. Rock band You Am I. Davey somehow managed to coax some remarkable effects from his guitar that added undercurrents of pedal-steel, cello and psychedelic organ sounds to the stripped back acoustic performance. He also chipped in with some nice vocal harmonies and obviously has a great rapport with Robyn, in fact their on-stage chemistry made for a thoroughly heart-warming evening's entertainment. My personal highlights included a beautiful "Autumn Sunglasses" from Robyn's current self-titled album and a rare outing for a Venus 3 song, a rollicking run through of "Adventure Rocket Ship". There was even a nod to The Soft Boys with "Queen of Eyes" and a raucous crowd singalong to the classic "Brenda's Iron Sledge". It was just one of those great nights of live music, enjoying a true British musical legend at the top of his game in such intimate surroundings with a nice crowd of people. You really can't get much better than that.

Robyn Hitchcock with Davey Lane at The Boileroom Guildford
Robyn Hitchcock at The Boileroom Guildford

Robyn Hitchcock with Davey Lane at The Boileroom Guildford
Robyn Hitchcock at The Boileroom Guildford
All photos copyright Retro Man Blog 2019.