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Rolo Tomassi

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Article for Subba Cultcha.

They say that waiting is the hardest part, and anyone who has witnessed the kinetic speedball explosion that James Spence helps to create on stage, as part of UK underground pioneers: Rolo Tomassi, will have no problem imagining how hard it must have been for the young dynamo to spend the summer cooped up at home waiting for the fervour that the September release of their debut album ’Hysterics’ would elicit.
“Oh absolutely, it’s been tough. I can’t want to get back on the road.”  James states when quizzed as to whether this summer has been a  little cabin feverish. If a week is a long time in politics, then the gap between Rolo Tomassi’s last original release and ‘Hysterics’ is a virtual lifetime. Barring the repressing last year it’s been over 18months since  the release of the Rolo Tomassi 12” EP.

So why the wait and has it been worth it? Bands can be funny beasts, to the listening masses  there are only the end results, the live shows and the releases, it is often hard to remember the investment bands put into an album, how long they have lived with the songs. There has been  a spate of great young British bands recently who have disbanded shortly after their debut albums, a pertinent example being the demise of schizophrenic Guilford rockers Meet Me In St Louis who’s debut was so long in the making that by the time it came out the band had moved so far on and were so over the album that they couldn’t keep it together. It’s with this in mind that the gap between the Ep and ‘Hysterics’ makes me a little nervous as to the  well being of the Rolo Tomassi camp. “Well we were still at school and we wanted to do this album properly so we basically took a year off” confirms James as to the delay in releasing ‘Hysterics’. They have not been idle though. ‘Hysterics’ is a huge leap forward musically and also sees the band departing Holy Roar Records and joining hot little indie label Hassle  and so now count amongst their label mates Alexisonfire and Anti-Flag. They have also been crafting their most accomplished work to date. It’s a blunt force trauma of a record that hits you from every angle possible, it is also a more complete sound. Despite this new depth, though, it manages to avoid moments that might bring with it the tag ‘maturity’. This might usually be seen as a negative but for Rolo Tomassi it is quite the opposite.  There is no denying that they are a young band, any more than they are a band with a female vocalist, to gloss over these seems more contrite to highlight it.  They are primarily a live band, indeed that is the way they write, no Billy Corgan style 100 track guitar overdubs here, and the  energy and anger of youth that the band  produce live is translated wholesale onto tape without compromise.  Songs like ‘Scabs’ and ’Abraxas’ pulsate and explode in the headphones like the band do on stage.  “Absolutely everything we do is written for live. If we can’t reproduce it live we change it.” States James.

Rolo Tomassi trade on opposites, quiet and loud, menacing and seductive, light speed key loops versus half time drum slams and that old confrontation of male versus female. It seems contrite to highlight but the juxtaposition between  the Spence siblings, James and little sister Eva informs the heart of the band more than the protagonists maybe wish it did. It seems impossible to read a Rolo Tomassi feature without the presence of  hell raising screamer Eva being raised and paraded like the one stop badge  to define the band.  “I’ve never thought about it like that, or with it put like that but I guess it has helped yes,” says James when asked if in some way it has helped to have a female co-writer to balance out the perspectives.  Although many of the songs on ‘Hysterics’ are written from an ambiguous sexual identity about subjects that come from universally accessible source, it is noticeable that the protagonists seem to be more rounded and aware than some all male bands manage.  They manage to avoid tackling every subject in the well worn grooves of simply boy meets girl, boy dates girl, boy loses girl and writes angry song.

Talking with James you realise that more than anything else the band are simply a collective of hardcore music fans and record collectors that are giving back into the very thing that they have loved for years. “It’s all there is,” notes James about record collecting, “I’m totally obsessive, I have to have everything that a band I like has released. I’m constantly trading play lists with friends. Music is all there is.” It’s something that’s highlighted by the bands MySpace site where their releases are meticulously catagorised, from their early demo tapes through to ‘Hysterics’.  To coincide with the release of ‘Hysterics’ the band will hit the road for a gruelling 6 week tour that takes in the length and breadth of the country. They will finish the tour playing with Blood Red Shoes but the first half sees them taking Mirror!Mirror! and Throats on the road. It’s one of the perks of taking another step up the ladder. “We always look at who’s playing when we’re considering shows and that’s very important to us but this is the first time we’ve really got a say in who goes out on tour with us. They are both amazing bands.”

As you read this ‘Hysterics’ will be being loaded onto and swiped off shelves up and down the country. It’s a record that you need to own this year, it’s the fulfilment of a 2 year old promise made on the Rolo Tomassi EP and it does not disappoint. There will be endless reams of hyperbole spilled about Rolo Tomassi this year but the best advice anyone looking to witness a band playing genuinely adventurous music with a passion they didn’t download in a ’startaband’ kit from can take is to catch Rolo Tomassi live, now. You might not understand it in the moment, but in time you will rave about the fact you were there.


Written by Jonathan

September 23, 2008 at 10:33 pm

The Mystery Jets – Interview with Blaine

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This article originally appeared on Subba Cultcha.

“We all got pretty pissed off…members off the band started to trash the stage…everyone started throwing bottles at the road crew and the organisers, so it kind of turned into a bit of a mini riot.” Blaine Harrison Queen laden videos and how to deal with having your festival set cut short.

It’s not always easy being in the Mystery Jets. The band have recently returned to the live arena following an enforced absence brought about by Blaine’s illness. Returning with sets at Reading and Leeds would have been a celebratory affair you might think, but the course of live music never runs smooth. Things started well enough with their Reading set, “ Yeah we had a good weekend. Reading, Reading was really fun, good turn out and it was the first gig we’d actually done in a long time, so it was nice to be out playing to so many people again.” However, when Leeds rolled around things were not quite as simple, “Um Leeds was not so good, we had basically our set cut short by four songs by the organisers due to, God, I think it was due to stage times overlapping. I think there was a 15 minute change over before or set which was just not long enough really, and yeah, our set just got cut in half and we all got pretty pissed off. I wasn’t really involved in this but other members off the band started to trash the stage and everyone started throwing bottles at the road crew and the organisers so it kind of turned into a bit of a mini riot. I mean I suppose it was quite a dramatic ending but I would rather have had a full set, so that was a bit frustrating really.”

2008 has been a rollercoaster year for the Mystery jets, the release their defining album ’21’ in march saw the band take giant steps forward stylistically, fulfilling much of the promise they had signposted on ‘Making Dens’ and ‘Zootime’. They moved into the summer with a series of triumphant shows, including a turn at Scotlands Rockness festival.  Yet just in the middle of a string of UK and European festival dates that would have seen the band performing to the largest audiences of their career Blaine was taken ill and everything was put on hold. Forging on from their return at Reading and Leeds the band have just released chart bothering single ‘Half In Love With Elizabeth’, which contains the only video in recent memory where the Queen plays basketball continuing an increasing line of experimental and satiric videos, “well in the past we’d write a bunch of screenplays and send them out to a bunch of different directors and whoever came back with the best storyboard we’d go with them but we felt for the second album we wanted more of a consistency between the videos and more of a defined style. So we came across this guy James Copeman, and the first we saw of him was the Noah and The Whale video ‘5 Years Time’, and we said look we want to get this guy. So we’ve stuck with him for the whole record, and ‘…Elizabeth’ is quite a step on for him because it’s like a mini movie. so I think it was a really good thing for him to do and I think he did it really well, so I’m really pleased with it. The song itself was always meant to be like a stand alone between albums. We were actually playing it a long time before anyone had heard it recorded, like 2 summers ago we had an early version of it. We actually went in to record it with Stephen Street who’s such a good producer and it was amazing to work with him but we really went in before we had any idea what sound we wanted for the new record. That’s a sound we achieved eventually which is quite a stripped back sound whereas with ‘…Elizabeth’ there’s quite a lot going on, which is Stephens style, so I think it stands apart from a lot of the rest of the record sonically an stuff, which is cool because it bridges the gap from the old sound to the new sound.”

The events of Reading and Leeds along with preparations for the October tour have Blaine musing about the nuances of performing to partisan and loyal crowds. “I have to say I prefer our own gigs (to festivals) as perhaps the people there are people who don’t need to be convinced, they’ve already bought your album and are ready to have a good night and know we’ll make sure they have a good night and they’ll make sure we have a good night. So it’s usually, if you’re doing your own tour, a guaranteed good night, whereas at festivals there is this sense that you do have to win people over. They might have read some hype or heard a couple of reviews and want to see if you and your songs match up to what they’ve heard about you, so there’s that challenge, ” offers Blaine. “I mean sometimes that challenge…you do get off on it and you play for your dinner really, you have to work harder to win people over, so that’s exciting too.”

Hitting the road again in October the band will put a summers worth of experimentation into practice as they hope to deliver the most rounded Mystery Jets sets to date. “When you start touring a record there’s always songs which are more difficult to play, and songs that come to you very quickly. Like the singles which are better known and the crowd pleasers, they always go down well whereas the quieter songs are maybe more difficult, but over the summer we’ve done a lot of work. Right at the beginning of the summer we did a tour with The Zutons, which was really good training for the summer and I think there’s a real art to how to read crowds because we haven’t really played festivals since two years ago. So I think that building a set is something that comes with time and our set in October will be a much more refined version of what we did at the start of the year. There may not be new songs post the album but there are old songs which we’ve revisited and chopped about a bit and brought them up to date. I think it’s always exciting to look at old things and give them a lick of paint. Plus, they’ll definitely be a few surprises we haven’t thought of yet.”

So it’s heady times for the gentlemen from Eel Pie Island. Certainly following on from the October tour Blaine is keen to get to work on the follow up to ’21’. “I’d like to get on with it quite quickly, because often there’s a lag between coming off a record and waiting for everything to happen, for a new campaign for mixing etc, so I’d like to get on it as soon as possible. So even though we’ve got dates up until December we’re starting to write as of now. You hear about some bands waiting 2 or 3 years to bring out an album but thats just not us, I don’t think we have a specific sound thats going to be tied to now, I think we always try to make everything sound as different as possible to what we’ve done before, and we’re very influenced by new music around us so it’s important for us to keep up and to be constantly putting stuff out.” A testimony that will ensure that whilst they may only be half in love with Elizabeth their fans hold total devotion for the Mystery Jets for a long time to come.

Written by Jonathan

September 7, 2008 at 11:22 pm

David Holmes – Interview

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This article originally appeared on Gigwise.

“I had to do this myself”. David Holmes, DJ, composer and soundtrack arranger extraordinaire, is contemplating the introspective process of putting together his long awaited fourth album proper, “The Holy Pictures”. The new album is a monumental roller-coaster of emotion that sucks the marrow of Holmes’ life in Belfast city and commits it to tape in all its expansive technicolor. It deals with love, birth, heartbreaking loss and the ever present spectre of death and mortality, tracing it’s conceptual genesis back to his mother’s passing in the mid nineties. It’s a departure from the ostentatious fantasy soundtracks that you may expect from Holmes, an album of constant juxtaposition encapsulating the stark collision of tragedy and joy seeking that the world has watched unfurl through Belfasts streets on news reports over the last thirty years. At once uplifting yet haunting, it has certainly been the most difficult album he’s put together but it may very well be the best thing he’s ever done.

Having spent the summer reacquainting himself with live audiences across the festival circuit with appearances at events such as The Big Chill and Green Man, David is currently back in Belfast preparing for the release of “The Holy Pictures” and battling against the floods currently sweeping Northern Ireland. “It’s not so bad, I’ve been getting used to this for the last 30 odd years, so you know, but it’s been the wettest summer on record. The worst thing about that is that it just goes straight into winter which is so depressing.” The prospect of eternal winter may explain his unmusician like enjoyment of current promotional duties. “ Well I’ve been doing a lot of press for the new record, and, well interviews are fine if you actually have something to say, you get approached all the time for interviews when you’ve nothing to say, but now I do, so it’s been fun.”

Between his mothers death in 1996 and the release of ‘The Holy Pictures’ Holmes has recorded countless soundtracks, most notably working with Steven Soderbergh on the Oceans franchise, other solo albums and worked with the Free Association before finally getting down to in earnest to the process of soundtracking the experiences and themes that he had been building and storing over the last decade. Given the themes of the ‘The Holy Pictures” it is a surprisingly joyous album with tracks such as first single “I Heard Wonders” and “Holy Pictures” conjuring Kevin Shieldsesque tinged, techno-soulled wall of sound binges. “When you have a record that’s this personal, it’s roots firmly planted in Belfast and family, through major loss in your life, losing your parents, losing your friends it’s a hard process”, notes Holmes looking back, “but it’s not just about that, I think there’s a very positive air about the record too, like a celebration. I don’t think it’s a depressing record. So what I was trying to say is that it’s the process that began back then, and the whole process of this record was very organic, I just never felt ready before.”

The organic approach left Holmes with an unprecedented period of creativity producing vast swathes of material as he searched for the perfect tracks to complete his vision. “It got to the stage where I had 30 or 40 tracks so it was definitely a case of editing down for this album, and there were some cases where I was writing 4 or 5 tracks just to get one that I really liked.” Initially Holmes concept was a loose ideal, he just knew that he wanted to make an album with solidity and cohesion that captured his experiences growing up and becoming a man within his family and his home city. Pinpointing as he has the death of his mother as the beginnings of this desire it was a second death that focused his mind onto the concept of “The Holy Pictures”. “It was when my father died thats when all the lyrics started coming”, he recalls. “There were some tracks that were inspired by other people in my life, my best friend, people still alive and people lost in tragic circumstances, but it was when my father died, that’s when I went into the studio and tried to encapsulate how I felt, not just about losing my dad but being parent-less. When you lose the second parent it’s a very different hit to the first because suddenly you’ve got no one. So thats what I was really aiming to capture when I went into the studio, to encapsulate how I felt in the music and words.”  Holmes has more than succeeded in conveying the duplicity and complications of loss, nowhere more viscerally than on the albums ethereal closer “The Ballad of Sarah and Jack”, that lilts into view on a minimalist piano line and grows to flood the surroundings, sweeping the listener into its world.

But for all the loss surrounding “The Holy Pictures” perhaps one of the defining moments comes in the last 20 seconds of “Hey Maggy” where we hear Holmes’ daughter on tape for the first time. “Well I had a daughter along the way so that changed a lot of things. That was actually her first realisation she liked somebody. I was up in my control room and she walked into my live room when the microphone was still on and I could just hear her so I hit record.” The resulting recording is the sound of a child lighting up with an innocent joy so penetrating that it serves as a fulcrum around which the entire album twists. It’s a powerful reminder amongst an album inspired by such loss that life and family will always be a continuos saga. “It was just amazing to hear her expressing that she liked someone and to understand what that mean so it was a really special moment.” The album also features slightly more conventional appearances form Martin Rev of Suicide who feature on the track “I Heard Wonders”. “Martin was just someone I really wanted to have singing on the record. Most people know him as a keyboard player, but if you’ve ever checked any of his solo stuff… I just love his voice, it’s really sweet but menacing at the same time.”

The productivity of ‘“The Holy Pictures” has left Holmes with a wealth of excess material, including what he mutes as some of his best work but tracks that just did not fit the purpose of the album, “there were some tracks that people close to me really questioned leaving off, “ he recalls. But when hearing the album as a whole it is hard to imagine how it could be reworked or edited in any way. Fans shouldn’t despair though as the tracks are all intended to be released in various formats whether through downloads or bonus tracks or with magazines. Some may well even find there way into the projects that Holmes is already working on. Indeed as a man who, including soundtracks, has averaged nearly 2 albums a year for the last 11 years it is no surprise to find that the future has Holmes working on several soundtracks as well as renewing his relationship with director Soderbergh on an upcoming project . So there will be no shortage of David Holmes activity in the coming months or years, but right now “The Holy Pictures” allows us to take a look behind the curtain of an incredible musical mind to discover his roots and his soul. This is not just a soundtrack to an unshot film, this is David Holmes giving his actual self to you on  record, and an astonishing ride.

Pop Levi Interview Full Transcript

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A version of this interview appears in the september issue of Beat Happening.

Pop Levi, raconteur, philanderer and explorer. Resembling a sonic Dorian Gray in the process of administering Purple Rain era Prince a Droogesque kicking the ex Ladytron man has been busying himself around the mansions and streets of LA concocting material for the follow up to his 2006 solo debut ‘The Return To Form Black Magick Party’. Recorded in the studio Quincy Jones used to walk Jacko through ‘Thriller’ and ‘Off The Wall’ Levi has returned with a shimmering, groove addled, pure pop dirty bomb, tracks ‘Wannamamma’ (surely a noodle advert waiting to happen) and ‘Semi-babe’ providing perfect sun dried pop intelligencia. Here he offers a little insight into the mechanics of the Levi mind.

Ok to get things started can you set the scene by telling us how this new album came into being? How did recording ‘Never Never Love’ differ to ‘ The Return to Form Black Magick Party’? From writing to recording? Was it a more arduous process or did you find this album easier/more organic?

I made ‘The Return To Form Black Magick Party’ entirely on my laptop whilst I was traveling in America and Europe. Recording was done on trains, in planes, in warehouses, on the top of Cathedrals, at the beach, in bathrooms, hotel rooms and tombs. I made sure to capture the first take of everything I recorded and then took the tracks to Sacramento to be mixed. Then I wanted to make a record in a very different way and so ‘Never Never Love’ was recorded at Westlake in Hollywood, where Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson laid down Thriller. I wanted this record to sound like Japanese toys falling in and out of love with each other so I spent four months making sure to comb almost any human element out of the music until I ended up with some kind of automatic, artificial soul.

When you approach the recording do you go into the studio with the material 100% finished or is there a lot of studio evolution?

The songs are always finished. I write the music and lyrics for my songs in my head, with no accompaniment. Years ago I thought about the idea of using the memory as a quality filter – I figured that if I could remember a song six months later then there must be, by definition, something memorable about it. And that’s what I’m looking for in a song. Once in the studio, I have a very clear idea of how I want to produce the song, what sounds I want to create, how I want it to feel and how I’d like people to feel when they hear it. But, of course, there are always surprises that happen along the way and I like to keep these, too. Surprises make intention more real.

You’re quoted as saying, “It had blue skies, palm trees, and they’ve made some serious records here”, about LA when you visited with Ladytron and realised you wanted to live there. Did that inform your choice of studios for this record and did you feel a sense of that tradition and legacy when you were working there? There are definite Jackson and Prince-esque inflections to this record production and sound, alongside the Brian Wilsonisms.

I love Los Angeles. It’s a truly weird place. And in so many ways. You’d have to spend a great deal of time here to really get to what’s good about it. But ever since I was a kid it was a dream of mine to make a record in a famed Hollywood studio, and this time I did it. I don’t think that any particular way of recording is better than any other – it’s just makes for a different approach and therefore a different outcome. Never Never Love was made with the same microphones, the same mixing desk, the same speakers, the same piano and in the same room where they made the most successful record so far in history and that made a marked impact on how I put the record together.

The video for Semi-Babe, where you worked with Aaron Willmer & Martin Dobson, is something a little different. Can you talk me through how that came to be and what you try and achieve with videos for your songs. It reminded me of the Flaming Lips Album where you have 4 discs you are supposed to play simultaneously!

l’ve known Martin Dobson for a while now and when he and his cousin Aaron Willmer approached me with the idea of shooting a dual-screen video for YouTube I jumped at the chance. I love ideas like this and was sad I didn’t come up with it myself! I flew to London from LA to shoot this and we completed it in an hour. I always like my videos to have a very simple premise – this way the spotlight is on the performance, the clothes, the look.

On the video note, you have always been very hands on with your YouTube site, updating regularly and you’ve talked about a desire to make films before, is that something thats still very much alive and could you see yourself moving from music into film in the future..and in what capacity? Directing? Writing? Acting?

I moved to Los Angeles to make film as well as music. I like the idea of becoming a cult film director out of a singer and music producer. It’s not a move many have achieved before. I’ve been making short films for years now and have maybe 100 in my catalogue right now. I’ve been developing cinematic techniques that incorporate a DIY mentality – I’m in love with the fact that with a laptop and a point-and-shoot camera you can make cinema that people all over the world can view in their own homes with-in the time it takes to upload. That is the future of artistic freedom right there.

You once penned that blogging and the boxing career of Miles Davis were all you thought about… but what’s preoccupying the Pop mind currently?

The boxing career of Miles Davis, I told you already.

How are the songs translating live? I know you’ve been playing a few solo acoustic sets how have they been. What’s the scene like in LA right now?


You’ve picked up some pretty eclectic celebrity fans and plaudits along the way.. do you get starstruck?

Not yet. If Bob Dylan gave me a kiss I might be for second, though.

Was there any particular music flying around or albums that soundtracked the recording process? I was listening to a Ninja Tune podcast from 2007 where you selected tracks and you were pulling out a lot of old records, old Bo Diddley, congas.

Bo Diddley, congas. These are just two of my favourite things, she said. When I was recoding ‘Never Never Love’ I was listening to a load of Missy Elliott and Timbaland tracks. ‘Let It Bump’ is a serious jam, for sure. There’s a bit at the end where Timothy thinks it’s ok to start rapping about how long his engineer has been mixing for and how they’re sitting on something that’s black on black. Get to it – crucial shit.

Outside of music what’s geting you fired up right now? What was the last movie you saw? Book you read?

‘The Holy Mountain’ by Alexandro Jodorowsky. If you haven’t seen this film, get your ass to YouTube and watch the trailer as soon as is humanly possible. I was made in Mexico in ’73 by Jodorowsky and features some truly on-it scenes. There is a moment where Christ, having been drugged by an obese transvestite, wakes up in a vast room full of life-size statues of himself nailed to the crucifixes. And another where an army of toads are dressed in full Aztec warrior uniform.

Is there anyone you would like to work with in the future or who you would particularly like to remix your work?

I want to sing with Bob Dylan in a cave on Lanzarote.

What’s the next 6 months hold in the Pop Levi universe?

Writing, playing, recording, meeting, flying, lying, feeding, listening, filming, counting and praying. Same as the last six months.

If you were to take a Pop fan record shopping this afternoon what 5 records would you not let them leave without?

1/             Sun Ra – Night Of The Purple Moon (1970)

This is one of my favourite albums of all time. No matter where I am or what I am doing, if I put this record on I am instantly a new man and in a mood that no other record can induce. It’s mainly a quartet performance, which is a small ensemble for Ra, and the pieces are recorded in a very intimate production that sounds deeper and deeper with each listen. Truly music for soul dance!

2/             Herbie Hancock – Future Shock (1983)

I was turned onto the track ‘Rough’ the last time I was in New York City. My friend Anahit has the Future Shock vinyl in her apartment and I must have played the record for days on end. Check out the sounds on this – produced by Bill Laswell – drums and bass by Sly and Robbie and it all sounds computerised, yet so alive.

3/             R Kelly – Double Up (2007)

R Kelly has quickly become my favourite singer of the moment. I love this record more than any other record I heard in 2007. He’s created his own world where he writes and produces everything himself and makes these songs about hyper-real life. Songs about ringtones, about the internet, about drinking to much Patron at the club, about being a flirt – I love all this stuff – he’s like a modern Marvin Gaye, a modern Smokey Robinson.

4/             Prince – The Jewel Box

For every prince fan that has all the official albums, check this out if you get the chance. I bought this bootleg in England when I was 15 and have loved it with a passion ever since. It’s a compilation of unreleased tunes from 1980-1992, but the early tunes, the first disc, is the best. Check out ‘Lisa’, ‘Extra Loveable’ and ‘Purple Music’ – these are classics that will have you writing to Warner Bros. to release the full quality versions.

5/             Bo Diddley – Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger (1963)

And this is as serious a pop record as you ever gonna hear! I mean, it’s all here – girls, sadness, madness, cars, guns. The guitar sounds that Bo gets on here are some of the best of his career – and to think that The Beatles’ first album hadn’t even come out yet! Check out ‘Doing The Crawdaddy’ for some kind of African R&B groove-out and ‘Googlia Moo’ for the best song about being in love with an invalid.

Joe & Will Ask?

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This article originally appeared in Who’s Jack magazine.
You wouldn’t know it to look at them, easing back into a Camden sofa and sipping Guinness with more fresh faced joie de vivre than gatecrashers at a Larry Clark wrap party, but 16 hours ago Will Green and Joe Ashworth, of ascendant London producers Joe and Will ask?, were in the process of reshaping the foundations of The End as they introduced their own brand of bass to the Durrr party. The pair are currently churning out new tunes and remixes at an alarming rate including gems like their Ellen Allien mix and the glorious, unofficial Human League remix currently adorning their MySpace. Durrr was their first trip back into the live arena since their latest EP ‘Monster’ sent speaker diaphragms into meltdown in July prompting a wave of adoration and playlisting from admirers new and old.  “The feedbacks been great, I mean from the promo there’s people we never even expected to hear our stuff let alone like it,” beams Joe, “we’ve been producing a lot so we wanted to take some time off to give it a break between the producing and gigging so when we came back we’ve got a lot of stuff we’re excited to play,” and they have good reason to be very should you!

Joe and Will ask? are so hot right now Derek Zoolander is almost certainly locked in hibernation working on a new look, they have a live diary that will see them DJing and performing live across Europe throughout the winter and continuing to hit Londons’ hottest club nights. It’s a long way from where the duo formed, in true traditionalist style, after a drunken debate in 2005 when Bournemouth Drum and Bass devotee and producer Joe tackled the convictions of fashion student and House enthusiast Will. It took them a while to actually complete the transition to producing their own first track only really linking up as a musical entity in 2006. They escaped the chrysalis flying however and have been on a constant rotational treadmill of producing, gigging and remixing ever since and are finally generating a reputation commensurate to their prodigious talents.

‘Monster’ crashed riding a wave of hype from amongst other sources the catwalk shredding accompaniment to uber label Balenciagas’ autumn/winter collection, enforcing the relationship between fashion and sonic design. It’s a perfect slice of Joe and Will ask? cresting on dark, dirgy bass foundations that grab you from that building intro, sounding like Lewis Hamilton jump starting an Amiga 500, and the second the swirling hypno-synth hits you’re a slave on the dance floor. Together with ‘Surge’ and earlier titles ‘Single’ and ‘Bayham’ ‘Monster’ has been forming part of Joe and Will ask?s recent forays into live arena. “Basically it’s just half an hour of all our music and it’s loud and it’s just…everything, the opposite of DJing because when we DJ we like to play for a long time, but I think it’s good because for half an hour because you have peoples attention with two guys, some laptops and keyboards…longerand you need to bring more instruments in.” More instruments are indeed in the offing but for now the Joe and Will ask? live experience is a raucous snapshot of dance floor perfection. Of course the hybrid nature of DJs suddenly embracing the live side is not without its pitfalls. “Ah, sometimes people don’t really know what’s going on, we have had people come up during the live set and asked if we could play Pendulum. But at least they’re listening enough to know it’s not!” notes Joe with a wide grin.

With the release of ‘Monster’ they have plunged into the murky waters of video production with their brilliant clip for the ironically titled ‘Warm it up”. “We were just freezing cold in Clapton and we just had to stand there,” gestures Will getting quite animated before Joe dives in… “because it was obviously stop motion so the concept was we had to move really slowly so the masks are moving as well as the background.. it sounds so much fun but it’s easier said than done at 6am, we nearly killed ourselves because it was easier than finishing the shoot.” “We didn’t talk to Claire and Zaiba (Directors) for about two weeks after that just to get over the experience… but the end result was awesome.”  “Actually we’re doing another one this sunday for the new Ep” winks Joe. Pressed for a timetable on the new EP they reveal a more stealth like approach. “ I think we’re going to sneak this one out rather than hype it like ‘Monster’, maybe a free download, I mean why not. It’s going to be called HellHawk as it’s just such a noisy song we wanted something really dramatic and cheesy, so I think that will be out maybe in a month.”

When Joe and Will ask make sure you answer.

Written by Jonathan

September 3, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Roots Manuva – August 2008

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This article originally appeared on Subba Cultcha.

“Oh the Roots of 1999 would not have liked this record (Slime and Reason), I’m not making bachelor bedroom hip hop anymore.” Rodney Smith, aka Roots Manuva premier elect of UK hip hop, is responding to the question of what has changed in the UK hip hop scene and in the Roots Manuva world in the decade since he dropped ‘Brand New Second Hand’ which, crazy as it seems, will reach double figures next year. Has it really been 10 years since everything?

Roots Manuva is back with a brand new LP, the glorious ‘Slime and Reason’, launching with two devastating singles that in two easy strokes have created a one man battle for song of the year. First off the dirty frolicking slice of scuzzed up dancehall that sees Roots laying down sweet temptation for the ladies of Hackney by offering promises of such stunning rituals as pulling a wheelie in exchange for some intimate attention. It’s the first example of three collaborations from Slime and Reason to feature the mystical skills of baby faced producing prodigy Toddla T. The two seem to have found a harmonious balance that allows Roots to sounds as free as at any point in his career, sliding freeform lyrical meanderings over tight beats and pelvis agitating bass. Secondly, in follow up single ‘Again and Again’, Roots has produced a track who’s melodies will stick to your with 10 times the staying power of anything Duffy or her cohorts ever produce. The Shy-FX produced single version featuring a horn section that sucks up a lethal dose of summer and injects it straight into your heart like a reggae loving extra from Pulp Fiction. It’s a knockout one two that declares Roots Manuva is back and has produced the album that may finally see the masses become aware of what many have been shouting from the rafters since 2001s touchstone ‘Run Come Save Me’ LP.

Talking with Roots Manuva is not the easiest thing in the world, anyone who saw him capitulating at chess against Trevor Nelson in Ibiza will know he’s a man who can easily lead you off on a wily tangent to avoid speaking about his craft and simply let the music talk for itself. Those of you who follow his Twitter updates from his site will know he recently had to fly to Paris and Berlin to service what he sees as the promo beast and he is as duplicitous in interview as on record. His records and his persona straddle the line of observational, biographical and socially informed and the dryly comic. It’s a line that has in the past caused him some discomfort with Roots remarking about his last album ‘Awfully Deep’ “I’m less concerned with trying to be Mr Stand Up reflecting on life this time. I was pretty disturbed by the misinterpretation of the last record!” It’s still a juxtaposition on Silme & Reason, for every Again and Again there’s a “The Struggle” detailing the travails of Roots’ personal life so it might explain the overtly comic nature of his recent videos. The videos of Slime & Reason come across like an urban Benny Hill flying around in ice cream vans and suffering a mishap laden afternoons cricket. “I hate making videos man”, cries Rodney when asked how much he likes to get involved in the process. “But I come up with the ideas, like the cricket idea (Again and Again) was mine. I usually come up with the idea I’ll hate the most and pick that. I love videos but I hate the process of getting that idea to the screen. they’re hard work!”

This summer has seen some big one off and festival shows such as Ibiza Rocks, and the upcoming V Festival and Bestival. Asked what he thinks of these shows compared to the more intimate headline stops he notes. “With my shows they can pretty much go off anywhere you know. It depends on the mood, on the audience but they can go off anywhere. With a festival show you got to play a certain type of show. It’s more about the hits. Bt the new stuffs gone down really well.” Being a uniquely british urban voice is there a barrier to breaking through outside these shores? “ Nah man, Europes just a different vibe, they approach it in a different way to the UK fans, in the UK you get some who only like the first album or some who only like the second album and I think on the continent it’s more of a blur so yeah, they’re good shows to play.”

With Slime & Reason landing in september and a full scale Uk headline act in the autumn there is going to be a lot more of the promo beast for Mr Manuva to cope with, but backed up by an album that, despite not being his masterpiece is his best and most accessible work to date it will be a sacrifice worth making. The only reasonable choice this autumn is to get yourself good and Slimey!

Roots Manuva

Written by Jonathan

August 19, 2008 at 12:15 pm

Restlesslist – Brighton, July 2008

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This article was conducted for The Beat Happening magazine.

There’s something about island and coastal dwellers. Perhaps it’s an imbalance of sodium in the veins, maybe its the incessant threat of falling foul to some Hitchcockian seagull related demise or the muggy vapors of those lost at sea wandering the streets, eulogised on harbour wall plaques. Whatever the provenance the proximity of the sea seems to break down the normal restraints of human self control, creating a palpable frisson, an infectious theendisuponus spirit that fuels wanton creativity and overt depravity. It is apt then that scintillating Brightonian instrumentalists Restlesslist have produced an album perfectly encapsulating that essence of the modern British seaside town. ‘The Rise and Fall of the Curtain Club’ is aural schizophrenia, a cut up combination of the classic funfair facades and the punch drunk explorations of relentless house parties and 3am deckchair liaisons.

Conceived in the cradle of modern bandom, the converted bedroom studio, as a natural extension of the friendship between Benjamin Elliot (art, hearts and ink) and Mathew Thwaites (you know him from Electric Soft Parade) and fired by house party discussions and DJ slots the two quickly decided they wanted to fuse their creativity. As they noted what they were creating quickly demanded an audience outside those privy to their homestead and they begun the onerous task of assembling a full band. “It hasn’t really been a bedroom thing for a year maybe two,” offers Ben before Matthew adds, “we still write in their though, we’ve got a converted studio about the size of this.. (Small arm gestures)”. “We didn’t really think about it, it was just a hobby that we kind of kept to ourselves but then we got a gig and had to put a band together,” “couldn’t” notes Ben chuckling, “yeah couldn’t so got dropped from the gig, and then just carried on. A few people have come and gone but now it’s a band.” A band indeed and currently employing the very able talents of luminaries such as Brakes man Thomas White along with Matthew Davies and Max Erle. “It’s been good because of the way it’s gone”, continues Ben, “because we didn’t start with any idea of how we’d sound or how we’d look it’s bee a very natural progression. It all makes sense.”

Many of the bands compositions, such as ‘Dirty Pint’, for which they recently completed a gloriously compulsive video, and ‘Mint Sauce’, lilt menacingly between elegiac seaside organ evocations and complete sfrozando. They take imperialistic British seaside whimsy and subject it to a Burroughs tinged cut-up groove surgery, the resultant heady brew conjuring scenes of Billy Childish channelling the ghost of Ennio Morricone and the pair cruising the bars and boardwalks glassing organ players left and right before torching the whole damn mess. It’s a ragged edged soundtrack that will launch a million filmmakers amongst its listeners. Interestingly though many of the key signposts surfacing in their reviews, such as Morricone, are surprising the band themselves. “I actually got into Morricone through reading one of our reviews,” states Matt, “the name kept coming up so I looked into it.” Matthew does go on to reveal an insightful addiction to collecting Disney soundtracks proffering that The Little Mermaid may just be the pinnacle of modern fairy tale embellishment. Though a brief mini tour of their house reveals endless mountains of bizarre instruments and scattershot piles of vinyl turning up everything from scandinavian elf Bjork to BBC field recordings reflecting the eclecticism that translates to record.

For all their lo-fi bedroom roots Restlesslist have started 2008 in gloriously high profile form and have been garnering high praise from all quarters with BBC 6’s resident ex-Fall man Marc Riley declaring ‘Butlin Breaks’ the best record he has heard. Alongside Album Of The Week accolades from Huw Stephen’s, endless spins from Colin Murray and Steve Lemacq and triumphant live turns at the like of Truck festival and The Great Escape, Restlesslist are poised to make huge waves. Every life is better soundtracked, and Restlesslist are grand masters of the art.

Written by Jonathan

August 18, 2008 at 10:45 am