Turning on the future: an interview with Mike Scalzi of Slough Feg

Mike Scalzi

As numerous impressive releases find them drenched in acclaim already this year, the outstanding Digital Resistance from Slough Feg stands on the frontline as one of the more imaginatively incendiary and virulently contagious adventures. Stretching and pushing their unique blend of Celtic folk and traditional metal with an array of additional potent flavours for  release which triggers a new thirst for the band’s sounds past and present, Slough Feg show themselves to be a force which continues to evolve and impress adding something special to the world of metal. Seizing on the opportunity and pleasure to delve deeper into the band and new album with vocalist/guitarist Mike Scalzi, we explore Digital Resistance, home town prejudices, technology and humanity, Slainé and much more…

Hi Mike and many thanks for sparing time to talk with us.

Before we get to your new album Digital Resistance can we ask about the band name… it comes from the Slainé story strip in UK comic 2000 A.D., a publication I have boxes of around the office I must admit. You are comic geeks or just this one character captured the imagination?

I was never really that into comic books—- except when I was pretty young and into Marvel stuff. The Slainé comics I just came across kind of by mistake and liked the “Warp-spasm” idea a lot, and thought it would be cool to write heavy metal songs about that. They came out with a 2000 AD hard-cover book recently featuring all the old cover art from the original Slainé comics and allowed me to write some of the liner notes—– really great. I was really happy about that.

As mentioned you have just released your new album, Digital Resistance, a release which marks a new strength of adventure in the band’s sound?

This is more of a statement than a question. But, here’s what I think:

We’ve done concept albums and albums that were taken to be concept albums that were not. This one I would have to say, is a concept album in the sense that the Beatles Sgt. Pepper is a concept album— it has somewhat of a consistent lyrical theme that runs through several of the songs, but not every song— it is not a concept album in the sense that our Traveller album is. I used to like technology, and still do in a poetic/literary sense, but the reality of it is becoming quite frightening. This theme then expanded to the role of technology in human evolution, etc. I am a teacher, and I watch students’ mindsets changing on a yearly basis—let’s just say I can’t say they are becoming noticeably smarter, with the advent of all this technology at their fingertips.

Did you musically have any clear intention with the direction of Digital Resistance or has it been primarily an organic coveremergence of ideas?

It’s just whatever we felt like writing at the time, no real preconceived ideas. Whatever inspires us at the moment is what we write. I tried to accomplish some different types of sounds on this album— some organ, some more rock songs, some more traditional, simple songs as well.

Your sound seems to be tagged as a merger of Celtic folk and traditional metal, something the new release certainly supports but there is plenty more flavours working away from within suggesting that if not inspirations your own personal tastes in music are potently wide and varied. How would you describe Digital Resistance to newcomers to really nail its presence?

I don’t know if I can. When someone asks me what the band sounds like, that is someone who has never heard it before, I say it sounds like Maiden, but older, with more traditional music influences, even stuff from Broadway musicals. I just write songs, and listen to different types of music, not just metal. In fact I don’t listen to too much metal these days— more traditional songs, like Frank Sinatra, and older rock stuff like the Beatles and Yes and even the Police, lately. These influences find their way into the music.

At times the album sparked up thoughts of bands such as Horslips as well as Thin Lizzy, Helldorado, and Hammers of Misfortune as additional loud whispers in an overall unique sound and adventure. Are there specific inspirations which have actually flavoured your invention over the years would you say?

Well, the stuff I mentioned above. Horslips was an influence at one point for sure; we covered Dergid Doom from their Tain album on Hardworlder. But that’s the only Horslips album I’m familiar with.

As you referred to earlier lyrically Digital Resistance looks at technology and how it impacts on all aspects of life, can you expand on its theme and how personally you have seen that ‘invasion’ coming into your lives?

Some of the songs are interconnected just because they have the same theme—resisting technology, or at least what it’s doing to the human mind— making it lazy and ‘flabby’. Some of the songs though are not about this— they are just about growing up and becoming middle-aged in a world you do not understand. Very simple—- many people go through this— especially today when musicians in particular don’t want to grow up— they want things to stay the way they were when they were younger— when you get older  you tend to think the world is getting older, or dying with you. It’s hard to accept the changing world. I am no exception. I don’t understand what’s going on in the mind of most Americans, it scares me. SO I write songs about it, like Warrior’s Dusk and Magic Hooligan.

Society is leaning on and allowing technology to infiltrate their daily lives more and more, how long do you see it before cyber implants and upgrades become as common place as tattoos and breast enlargements?

No long at all. That’s some of what the record is about. It’s not going to be long before the cell-phones are not outside of our bodies anymore— now people’s eyes are glued to them. Soon they won’t have to stare at them; they’ll already be in their brains!!

..and until the species becomes ‘stupid’ as machines make our decisions for us?

It’s already happening.

Back to the album, how have you approached Digital Resistance in its creation and recording which was different from previous releases?

Not really any different. It’s the same basic songwriting and recording process.

SFHow does the songwriting play out generally within Slough Feg?

Usually I write guitar or now organ parts at home, and then bring them down to the band to see if they sound good with everyone playing their own parts. I let the other guys do whatever they want to do over my riffs– unless it doesn’t sound right and then we all throw in our 2 cents. Generally we agree on what sounds good. Songwriting is really mostly editing. Coming up with the parts and melodies is not the hard part—- ask any songwriter– it’s putting it all together that is challenging— making it all sound like a song.

Having numerous albums under your belts, does each new adventure become easier to immerse within and bring to fruition or are there always new questions and obstacles to engage in which each journey into the studio?

Usually the latter… It is actually becoming very difficult trying to find a new way to do things, so that things continue to sound ‘fresh”. I always worry about putting something out that sounds just like the last thing we did— bands should be more concerned with this, because how many albums have you heard that sound just like the last one the same band put out? Bands need to try to break new ground, but they are often scared to do this because they may lose their audience. But I think they run a higher risk of losing their audience by doing the same thing over and over again.

How has that processed change most dramatically for you over the years?

It was not different than any other album, other than the fact that I used some organ on this one, but really it was just the same.  The songs were written with the band in the rehearsal space just like our other albums- etc. And the singing took forever because my voice is getting old and decrepit, and was never really suited for metal in the first place. I have a crooners voice, or if I’d worked at it a little maybe a choir voice, but not a high pitched metal voice– but I love metal, so I try to sing like Freddy Mercury and fail- and end up sounding like Neil Diamond on steroids. What can I say?

Pretty much the process remains the same—and I’m not actually that happy about it—I write guitar riffs, or now sometimes piano parts, and then bring them to the band and we work out arrangements, transitions, etc. But honestly, after a while that gets a little old, I’d like to do it a little different in the future— maybe if we had more money we could go into the studio and write a lot of the stuff in there and get a more spontaneous feeling for the record— we did some of that on Twilight of the Idols and some really interesting songs came out of that approach. But that takes a lot of time, which means money that we don’t really have right now.

I have noticed in previous interviews you are a band which looks back at your older releases and are quite honest in what worked and just as openly did not work. How soon after a release does hindsight lead you to these observations, when does the cold light of day sink in?

It usually happens in waves. I get pretty critical of the album right after we’re done with it, and then later on after listening to it a bunch I start to like it. But then I start to get critical again in a few months and after a few months I decide I don’t like the record. Then later after a year or so I start to like it again!!!!! It drives me insane!!!

Digital Resistance is released through Metal Blade Records, how did that union come about?

They asked us to do an album with them and we said ‘yes’, that simple. We negotiated a contract and went with it. What do we have to lose?

Mike you are a philosophy teacher, and I was wondering is there a comparison or similarity between that profession and music itself for you, in its content and presentation especially?

Yes. It’s almost exactly the same lecturing in front of kids and performing music in front of them. You have to use gimmicks to sf2keep them interested, and you have to write out content that is interesting and valuable. Doing a philosophy lecture is just like playing a metal show. It has to have peaks and valleys, heavy parts and light parts, a good intro and outro—– you have to keep them engaged just the same!!!

Slough Feg and its sound is not a typical San Francisco band I suspect, how have you fitted in your hometown’s scene over the years?

They hated us for the first 10 years. Hated us, in fact I think we stayed together just to spite everyone here. This was during the 90′s when everyone hated metal, and they hated us a lot. It wasn’t until the late 90′s and early 2000′s that people started to appreciate us. We don’t fit in here, never have. But now we have fans here and it’s cool, but I think we do better in a lot of other places.

What is next and across 2014 from Slough Feg?

A European tour in late May/early June, a couple of local shows and then in July shows in the Midwest– Chicago!! We did a movie soundtrack recently, and a few other projects. Just the same stuff——writing music, recording and playing rock and roll!!!!!!!

Thank you again for sharing time with us.

Thanks!!

https://www.facebook.com/sloughfegofficial

https://twitter.com/slough_feg

Read the review of Digital Resistance @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/slough-feg-digital-resistance/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 05/03/2014

 Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

http://www.audioburger.com

Horse Party – Scarlet & Blue EP

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Following up the success of previous singles Clarion Call and Back To Mono earlier this year, UK trio Horse Party now treat our senses with the Scarlet & Blue EP, a three track release recorded live at The Hunter Club, Bury St Edmunds, UK, on Saturday 4th May 2013. It is a release which easily shows why the band is so warmly talked and enthused about for their live presence as much as their recorded material. It is a mesmeric encounter which wraps around the ear as if you were there and sweet talks the passions into being seduced by the magnetic garage rock lures of the band.

Hailing from Bury St Edmunds, Horse Party came together in the latter part of last year with drummer/vocalist Shannon Hope and guitarist/vocalist Seymour Quigley recruiting vocalist/guitarist Eleanor Lou (Ellie Langley) to join their project. Taking inspirations from the likes of Bjork, Fugazi, Cat Power and terrible films into their unique vision, the three piece immediately drew attention with that debut single Clarion Call in January soon joined and exceeded in success by April release Back To Mono.

As the singles, the new EP is released through Sturm Und Drang Recordings and starts off with Back To Mono, its opening guitar a0259051376_2strikes seemingly steeped in the Beatles track Get Back. It is an immediately luring start backed eagerly by the punchy rhythms of Shannon Hope. Simple but as potent as you could wish for the band hold their audience and listener in their musical palms especially when the fine vocals of Eleanor Lou offer a further melodic smouldering ably assisted by the strong tones of Seymour Quigley. It is one of those songs which calls the heart with instinctive understanding of what it needs to find its flame and live its potency is arguably even more powerful.

The following Scarlet & Blue smoulders tenderly in the ear as the vocals and guitar place melodic arms around the shoulders of thoughts and senses. This warm suasion is a constant temptress but has to give way to an equally satisfying raw clash of percussion and riff blaze offering enticing crescendos. Again you can almost feel the mesmerised audience drifting away on the evolving winds of the song such its dominant but reserved temptation.

Final track Six with its sultry air and evocatively heated melodic caresses completes a hat-trick of thoroughly absorbing treats with guitars and vocals, drums and warmth all pouring from the stage through the speakers with creative passion and energy. Alongside its fellow instigators of the passions, the song leaves a lingering impressiveness in its wake to confirm Horse Party as one of the really exciting bands to emerge in the UK in recent months. Available as a free download from http://horsepartyparty.bandcamp.com/ the Scarlet & Blue EP is an invitation you really should not pass up.

Catch Horse Party Live 2013 @ Sat 13th July – Bury St Edmunds Hunter Club w/The Vitamins • Sat 31st Aug – Bury St Edmunds Homegrown Festival • Sat 7th Sept – Stowmarket John Peel Centre w/Shonen Knife

https://www.facebook.com/horsepartyparty

9/10

RingMaster 10/07/2013

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

http://www.audioburger.com

A melodic transfusion: an interview with Roxanne de Bastion

Roxanne de Bastion 2

From playing and writing songs at a tender age, relocating to a new country, and immersing in a full experience of playing varied venues and cities across the country to share her music, singer songwriter Roxanne de Bastion is at the point where wide awareness is just an inviting one big step away. Following on from her successful single Red & White Blood Cells, Roxanne is counting the eager days to the release of her debut album The Real Thing. Wanting to find out more about the artists and release before its unveiling we had the pleasure of talking to Roxanne about her early life, music, and forthcoming album.

Hi Roxanne and welcome to The Ringmaster Review

For those yet to meet you musically tell us about yourself and your history to date.

Hi everybody! My name’s Roxanne de Bastion and I write songs and perform them, usually on my guitar. I was born in Berlin to a German mother and an English father – we moved back and forth a bit when was a child. When I finished school I was finally able to pursue music (which is something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember) and moved to England with my guitar a bunch of songs and a suitcase. Last year I got the chance to record my first album, which I’m releasing on Nomad Songs on April 18th.

Was music a constant in your informative years whether from personal or family interest?

Yeah – it’s still my only constant. I’ve never wanted to do anything else. Some people have a very distinct concept of ‘home’, their family house, the town they grew up in… I just feel at home in music.

When did the passion for music take over leading you to make it your career?

Hmm… that’s quite tricky. It was kind of a seamless transition. I’ve been gigging and writing songs since my early teenage years, so when school was over it was more a matter of “how am I going to do this?” as opposed to “what am I going to do now?”
This is super nerdy, but I just looked up the definition of “career” and the free dictionary calls it “a chosen pursuit”, which I can totally live with and, in that case, I guess it was always a career.

What were the predominant sounds and bands which caught the imagination of a young girl in Berlin?

The predominant sound was that of the Beatles! I fell in love with their music when I was about four years old and I am still just as enamoured with it as I was then. It was John Lennon’s songwriting in particular that got me hooked. Bob Dylan, the Kinks and The Who were all close seconds. Years later the next thing that really grabbed me was Alanis Morissette and No Doubt…spent hours singing their songs in my room as a teenager.

You came to the UK in2007 I believe, was this an investigation or with intentions to stay and perform as long as you have to date?Roxanne de Bastion

It’s still an investigation! I guess the thought of moving away from Berlin was so scary that I just made myself believe that I’d just be “checking it out”… and here I am! It’s a lot less scary now.

How did you find things on arrival and how have things musically progressed for you since arriving here?

It was weird, man! It really was… I was culture shocked…which sounds strange, but everything was so different overnight, especially as my very first months were spent in the West Midlands and not in London: So I moved from laid back city life in Berlin, living with my parents and going to school, to working in a pub in, what seemed to me to be the middle of a field (which at least did remind of Pepperland, so that was cool), serving drinks I’d never heard of, having rent to pay and a whole new life to come to terms with. It was one big adventure. I got to meet a lot of great people that inspired me. Musically things have come a long way – the best way I can describe it is starting off in a completely dark room, feeling your way around and bumping into furniture, now my eyes have gotten a little more used to the dark or maybe someone’s opened the door a little.

It must have been daunting at first, how did you cope with or stand strong against the things which naturally would have sprung up, loneliness, lack of contacts etc.?

Music’s great for that. You find out where all the open mics are in your area and automatically you stumble upon a group of friendly musicians. It was daunting, but it always will be – as it is for everybody! That’s just part of going out and living your life.

You have and do perform across the UK not just in London where you are based. How easy was it to find venues welcoming a complete newcomer to play around the country?

Well that’s the good thing about being a bit of a Nomad. There are some places like Liverpool and Coventry outside of London where I gigged often enough for it to become a kind of a base. Judging by its suggestions, Twitter still thinks I live in Liverpool… not that I would mind!

Although it’s not always easy, I am infinitely thankful to be able to practice what fulfils me most, to make and perform music, and for all of you who have found enjoyment in my songs and journey. Thank you so much for coming to my shows, listening to my words and for your support!

1010354224-11You have just released your single Red and White Blood Cells, which people can grab as a free download. How would you describe its unique sounds for those new to you?

Oh, how about “Riot Grrl Folk”? I got to play electric guitar for this one, which was super fun! The song itself is a little silly, inspired by listening to a lot of Regina Spektor and constantly catching colds in London.

Is the single a good representation for what your forthcoming self-released debut album The Real Thing will offer?

Only in the sense that all songs were recorded live – just a couple of full takes with no major post-production. Style wise I think the songs are all very different.

How do you write songs generally and what seeds them more often than not?

Very undisciplined…I find I can’t force it…either songs come or they don’t. I’ll pick up the guitar and coast around chords or melodies I find interesting, sometimes I start by playing somebody else’s song that I’m currently listening to, but usually, when a song comes, it comes pretty much complete, as if it were there all along – tis a strange thing!

What are your major influences and how have they impacted on your unique sound and style?

The move to England and newly found shoebox-life in London influenced me a lot…people I meet and new music I hear. I think growing up with two different languages and cultures, where you only really feel at home in a combination of both of them probably plays a big part.

In our review of your single we said your voice was ‘angelic and devilish at the same time’, a fair description? …and which singers if any have inspired the standout delivery you have?

Why thank you! Regina Spektor has been a huge musical influence over the last couple of years. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Judee Sill, so completely different style again…

The single and album was produced by Gordon Raphael (The Strokes / Regina Spektor) I believe. How did the link up with him come about and what impact has he made on how you looked at and recorded your songs in the studio?

Well, I looked at the back of my “Soviet Kitsch” CD and saw his name, typed it into Google and emailed him with a couple of my demos. The bizarre thing was that, although he’s from Seattle, Gordon is actually living in Berlin at the moment. So we met up over Christmas last year and decided to record the album pretty much then and there.

I loved working with Gordon – lots of fun and just what I wanted for my songs. He does everything very organically and always has time for whacky suggestions. Plus, he has a really cool collection of instruments like the Hammond organ and the Gibson guitar we got to use on the record.

Can you give us some hints and background to what will be on the album?28343_10150168457630707_2459924_n

Not much more than I’ve already given you!

When will it be released and what is planned around it for yourself and the rest of 2013 in general?

I’m going on tour again in the UK and in Germany towards the end of April and throughout May. Hopefully I’ll get to play some fun Festivals in the summer and I think there’s another Germany tour in the autumn. Other than that, not sure yet and really can’t wait to see what’s going to happen!

A big thank you for taking time to talk with us… Any last thoughts you would like to share?

Thank you! I hope you keep in touch and perhaps see you at a show soon!

And finally as you travel the country by train etc. what is your personal musical soundtrack to while away the hours between venues?

I neeeed to invest in an MP3 player…! During the last two tours I’ve been using my laptop as an overly large jukebox, which has oddly consisted of the soundtrack to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Sky Captains of Industry (my friends’ amazingly fun band in NYC), Anais Mitchell’s “Hadestown” as well as a few stray Regina and Bob Dylan Songs.

Read the Red and White Blood Cells @ 

http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/roxanne-de-bastion-red-white-blood-cells/

The RingMaster Review 06/03/2013

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

www.audioburger.com

Cosmic Punch: Clay Pit Road

cp

    Clay Pit Road the new album from Florida band Cosmic Punch, is like a variety box of cookies or chocolates, full of multiple flavours all igniting the taste buds. It is a release which courts sounds from various decades and genres to spawn something which is thrilling and quite irresistible. All of the nine songs upon the album bring honest and openly recognisable sounds but revitalised into an engagement which just brings a big grin to the face and heart.

Cosmic Punch consists of Ryan Michalski (lead vocals/backing vocals) and Juan Gonzalez (lead vocals/backing vocals/music/producer).  The first of the pair is known for his musical projects (Space King, Dead Dark Slide) whilst “Punchy” Gonzalez  is best known as a producer, notably of death metal records including releases from Morbid Angel, Diabolic, and Lover of Sin. The pair came together initially in 2005 to create a project which brought different ages and styles of rock music into one compelling entity and as the album shows have come up with something quite irresistible. The music is a mix of the sixties, seventies, and eighties with a modern vision and breath to the results. At any point on the album you can encounter alternative rock, power pop, pop punk, and hard rock in distinct presences and that is simplifying things. There are many additives and musical references to eras and bands on the album which are perpetually shifting and continually mesmeric. The bio states to ‘think of Monkees meets Beatles meets Boston meets Queen meets Beach Boys meets E.L.O.’ to give you the feel of the sound, it is a fair declaration though misses out on plenty of other juicy spices which captivate the ear.

Opening track One Man Pop Band provides all the persuasion needed to know the album is going to be a real treat, its convincing 1326047570_cP_Cover_idea_new000000power pop energy and melodic enterprise immediately contagious and thrilling. It plays like a mix of Herman’s Hermits, early Green Day, and Weezer bringing feet, heart, and voice in an unashamed union with its sonic rapture. It is a great start immediately left in the shade by the fiery entrance of How May I. With electro teasing and flames of tight sonic guitar the track soon has a magnetic hold, its punk essences reminding of The Dickies and sizzling melodic hooks of the Buzzcocks, and everything employed just aural manna. The electro swagger behind the feisty charge of the song and the vocal harmonics also lure thoughts forward, those of The Beatles, Jimmy Eat World, and The Dandy Warhols. It is the best track on the release and one of the most enjoyable songs anywhere to be unveiled this year.

The irrepressible variety continues with the smouldering Beatles, E.L.O, XTC mellow textures of You’re Great and the hard rock cored Join the Party. Both tracks fall short of the first two but still build their own unique piece of lingering pleasure inside with their imaginative and warm refreshing expanses. The second of the pair would not feel out of place within a Cheap Trick or Aerosmith set if given a slightly harder spine and both easily leave one with a heightened eagerness for what is to come.

The Long Slow Road and The First Time keep the baton flying high, the first with golden pop kisses within blustery sonics whilst the second breaks out tenderly caresses harmonies and provocative keys within a swiftly strolling urgency. It is a new wave wash of warm and energising majesty which soon recruits the passions and voice to its pulsating presence.

Another giant highlight comes with International Nerd Holiday, a track with all the fun and melodic mastery of The Monkees and the confident swagger of bands like Purple Hearts. It is a glorious celebratory riot of pop rock through the ages and seriously rivals the first two tracks as top tease.

The release is completed by the E.L.O./House Of Love wrapped Walk Away and the rock/punk feast of heat that is Bring You Down, a track which is like The Super Happy Fun Club meets Huey Lewis and the News in a party held by Jane’s Addiction. It is a brilliant end to a terrific album, a release all pop fans from any direction should embrace with at least an investigation. Cosmic Punch is a pleasure which brings nostalgia and new imagination into a whole new satisfying realm.

www.cosmicpunch.com

RingMaster 12/12/2012

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Interview with Leon Welburn of Mammal Hum

Sometimes a band steps forward to truly captivate and excite the senses, to thrill the heart and fire up the imagination like very few others are able. One such band is UK psychedelic pop band Mammal Hum, a quartet of musicians who have created not only one of the best albums this year but treated the passions to mischievous sounds of textured and layered majestic beauty. The release is a mouthwatering expanse of diversity and mesmeric soundscapes to ignite open ardour towards it. Not just wanting but needing to learn more about the band, album, and the minds behind such a unique release we had the pleasure to fire off questions to band member Leon Welburn.

Hello Leon and welcome to the site.

Firstly please just introduce the band.

Hi everyone. We are Mammal Hum, a four-piece from Hull, made up of Nick Cammack, Simon Andrew, Sarah Mole and myself, Leon Welburn

We have to ask firstly about the band name…?

Ha! The band name was a laborious process. We very nearly all fell out over it. So, four part harmonies are an essential part of our sound. We saw it as a whole-band voice. A communal ‘hum’ with each member vital to the mix. Hum can also be extended to form the word Humber, the river by which our hometown rests. We’d like to think its different if anything else.

Can you tell us how Mammal Hum began and how Geoff Travis comes into the equation even though it is before the band is a reality I believe?

Nick formed a band a few years back in London, involved with Blanco Y Negro. Geoff Travis was linked to them at the time and basically Nick landed a deal after speaking to him. Then, the band went their separate ways. Nick returned to Hull in 2008 while the others continued to pursue different musical projects. A few months after this, I put my house up for sale, and Nick was one of the prospective buyers. He didn’t end up putting an offer in, but he did notice a Hammond Organ in the corner of the room, and we started chatting about music and bands. A week later I saw Nick in our local pub, and we agreed to have a jam one night with Sarah, who we had both known for a while. The band was pretty much formed that night.

What are the musical experiences for you all leading up to the band?

Nick and Simon have been in a variety of bands for years, Sarah is into DJing, and although this is my first serious band, I’ve been playing and recording solo music for about ten years.

Now a quartet, I read the band began life as a trio before Simon joined up, if so did that mean you used guest drummers, electronic or went without?

We started as a six-piece band with a drummer, two guitarists, bassist, two keyboards, and four singers. Quite hefty really. We lost one guitarist early on when he moved away. Then our drummer left to work abroad. For a while we tried to work as with drum machines and loops, and take it in an acoustic direction, but it just didn’t sit right. One of our ladies (Nick’s partner) departed to have their first child. At this point we realised we desperately needed drums. We knew Simon played guitar in another band, approached him one evening, and he agreed to rehearse with us. The minute he began drumming, we knew he was exactly the person we needed. A loose jazz style, with lots of heavy, rolling toms. That was, and still is, the Mammal line-up.

We used the tag psychedelic pop which most seem to use to describe your music for our review of your new album What’s Behind Us Is Not Important. It is a description which just grazes your sound to be honest, how would you explain your music and intent to newcomers?

Bright and breezy pop nuggets with layered group harmonies, chunky guitar and big drums scattered in and out of various tracks. It’s an album that tries its best not to be too serious. That’s not to say we are deliberately tongue in cheek or humoured. The songs just seem to happen this way.

What are the influences which have had the biggest impact and effect on your individual and band sound? One imagines there are many whispers which spice your ideas.

We always liked the idea of not being tied to a specific musical genre. We have so many different influences from the Beatles and Beach Boys, along with a host of 60s psychedelia, to Sparks, Super Furry Animals, 80s and contemporary electronica….there really are too many to mention, but hopefully this gives you an idea.

There are shall we say nostalgic tones to your music but with a freshness and imagination of modern times, how easy or instinctive is finding and reaching the balance in your sounds?

We used to write the tracks separately, and then it reached a point where we felt the best songs were being created organically in the rehearsal room. One of us would come up with an underlying theme for a track, and the rest of us would all contribute with lyrics and ideas. Pretty much the entire album is based on this system. We do keep influences in mind when writing songs, but always manage to pull ourselves away from being a sounding too much like our influences. I suppose we all value the importance of wanting original sounds, and creative freedom, so luckily yes it feels like a fairly easy process. Always helps!

Where do your songs seed from and how do they evolve within the band?

Our songs come from childhood memories. The Bingo Wing is about sitting in social clubs playing bingo as a kid. Mechanical Horse is about a local bus I used to travel on, and the varied and interesting characters you would see and become accustomed to week in, week out. The life of a car, bee epidemics, close and distant acquaintances, folk tales and our seemingly tiny existence in the enormity of everything which surrounds us……just some of the things we like to write about.

Though the songs upon What’s Behind Us Is Not Important are organic and breathe melodies like we do air, one senses that in the studio a lot of care, time and attention is attached to every aspect of the tracks, is that the case?

Yes. In a way. We do actually try to keep our production quite raw. Not too embellished. However, we do return to songs regularly with new ideas on how various sections can be improved, how vocals may be better structured, re-structuring sections, adding and taking out instruments……basically trying to get a song sounding as interesting as we can, usually within the space of three or four minutes. This isn’t a set rule we stick too though. It does commonly happen though.

How long did the album take to record and was it one big session or an ongoing process in its birth?

It took about two and a half years in all. We originally started recording in late 2010 on an analogue desk belonging to Nick, and then the desk lost its way, and had to be serviced…..in fact it’s still in need of a service. We had major problems with it in the end. The rest of the album was recorded during the last twelve months, by our friends Richard Gilbert from label-mates Lymes, and Patrick Tobin at Room Room Studios in Hull.

Admittedly I am no musician but it is hard to imagine where you start to compose your sprawling mesmeric soundscapes, so please give some clues haha.

Going back to the rehearsal room idea. We really do start with a riff, or drum pattern or keyboard part, or a bass run. It usually has a Captain Beefheart twang to it. What usually happens next is a twenty minute jam. I’ll usually record it on a mobile phone, and we will build the track up over a series of rehearsals, before layering it all up in the studio. It’s a four-way split from nothing. That’s how we roll in Mammal Hum

You are all multi instrumentalists I believe, does that bring a depth of ideas and imagination to songs which maybe are not as strong in other bands?

Not so much multi-instrumentalists. Well apart from Simon, who really can either play every instrument, or is learning to! We do like applying ourselves to, and experimenting with other instruments though. This definitely makes a more interesting sound. It does expand your creativity and make you much more imaginative. You don’t feel constrained to the usual formula.

How does your expansive sound transfer to a live setting, do you have to make any adjustments to bring the same effect as on recordings?

We use samplers, effects pads, overdriven bass and guitar and the big big drums, to try and reflect what goes on in the records. That combined with four voices on stage makes it quite challenging on some tracks to get the overall balance. A good challenge of course. At the same time, we like to tinker with our live set enough for it not to be a repetition of what you hear on the album. You may as well just give the crowd then an album each and send them home. We find the idea of sounding exactly like the album tracks a little……well…….constrictive! That’s absolutely no disrespect to bands who aim to achieve this. We have actually started doing more acoustic gigs to see how the tracks convert when played unplugged. We can then push the harmonies further to the front. The acoustic gigs have been working well actually! We sit in the middle of the room instead of on stage. It’s a nice vibe.

In our review of What’s Behind Us Is Not Important we brought up names of artists like Kontrust, De Staat, The Knack, XTC, The Monkees, Flaming Groovies, Ok Go and even Marilyn Manson (read the review to see why ;)), showing the diversity of your release and richness of its sounds. Any there you would agree with or have you wondered if we were drinking at the time? Haha

I can see The Monkees in there, and some Flaming Groovies. We do like XTC too………Marilyn Manson???? That’s not a comparison I’d either thought I’d hear to be honest! Interesting! Haha!

Is there a prime intention or aim you bring to your music and has it evolved over time?

No specific aim, other than for us all to be creative, enjoy it and invent! The music certainly has shifted in style slightly as band members left, and others joined. The music on the album is certainly representative of our direction over the past three years though.

Also how has your music changed since those early days in 2008?

The music has changed quite a lot, and for the better in our opinion. The voices have always remained, but we are certainly much more versatile now.

What is next for and from Mammal Hum?

We are planning a follow-up album on Mollusc Records. We are currently writing tracks for this one, and hope to start recording next year. Expect a different direction, a lot more laid-back, gentle affair. A bit of a departure really, but an idea we really want to work with. We have plenty of ideas in the pipeline……

A big thank you for sharing time to talk with us, any parting words you would like to leave behind?

Thanks for chatting to us, and to friends for their support, and Mollusc Records for their continued hard work. Please listen to the album…..and yeah start a band. It has ups and downs, but its good fun. What’s Behind You Is Not Important……

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mammal-Hum/11380710291

Read the review of What’s Behind Us Is Not Important @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/mammal-hum-whats-behind-us-is-not-important/

RingMaster Review 27/09/2012

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Toy Horses – Toy Horses

There has been a lot of fuss over and feverish acclaim sent the way of Welsh duo Toy Horses ever since their early demos hit the internet in 2010. Those early songs took no time in becoming a constantly growing success that led to national and international radio play. The insightful melody lined and expressive uncluttered tunes the pair created rode a word of mouth wave that without any real self promotion from the band itself, took them to the ears and close attention of fans and media both sides of the pond. As things led to other things and more opportunities the stepfather-stepson duo Adam D Franklin and Tom Williams found themselves the attention of US radio guru Nic Harcourt who invited the band to perform at his SXSW showcase. Proclaiming them his highlight of the festival Harcourt then had the pair perform his KCRW radio show in LA. This led to Ken Coomer (Wilco) becoming aware of them and to be another to fall to their impressive indie charm. He contacted the band personally offering to produce their debut album which was subsequently recorded in Nashville and released in the summer of 2011.

The self titled collection of ten assured and vibrant tunes is re-released as a luxury edition on February 27th and will surely sweep up many more eager followers which it missed the first time around with its captivating melodies alongside expressive lyrics and emotions. From the opening Play What You Want it is easy to see why so many have taken the release and band to their hearts. There is an openness to the songs in word and sound that simply endears itself far beyond the ear. The first song alone is an infectious tease with an air of mischief about it. It is a little romp across the senses tempered by the lyrics personal plea.

Every song within the album is crafted with love and attention, each obviously thought over and though some do not quite grab with the depth of others it is something relative to the individual which is which. The use of piano and strings in And It Was You and in the wonderful closing track Interrupt offer a depth and extra emotive touch that most bands either neglect or do not imagine showing the intelligent ideas Toy Horses give to their sound.

It is when the pair lift up the tempo and pulse rate that they really excel with an extra flair that marks them for big things. The brilliant Damage Done has a siren like appeal and within moments one is mesmerised by the pulsating keys and minimal rhythms behind the vocals. If ever the term less is more was more proven it is on this song. Matching its flair are the equally impressive Loyal To The Cause and No Ones Gonna Leave You. The first of the two reminds of eighties band The Bluebells with its incisive and irresistible melody whilst the other and best song on the album, has a feisty nip to it reminding a little of the likes of Babyshambles. It comes with a little more attitude and offers an energetic rockabilly like vein throughout that sparks. Across the release the songs generally have a sixties feel at times bringing a kind of Kinks/Beatles like essence which works nicely but it is with the sounds and tunes that have this bite or raising of intensity that the album is at its best.

Toy Horses the band and album is refreshing. The duo write songs that are instinctive and heart warming but with an eager wicked glint in the eye. It is clear why the band garnered such a response to their sounds so far and though this album does not quite blow us away it indicates it is merely a question of time.

RingMaster 21/02/2012

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Henry’s Funeral Shoe – Donkey Jacket

 

Take two men, a blues fuelled guitar, a set of firm and eagerly heavy drums plus expressively inviting songs and you have Welsh duo Henry’s Funeral Shoe and the second album Donkey Jacket. Too simple a description to be fair as there is much more to the band’s music and a thoroughly engaging and at times exhilarating experience it is too.

Brothers Aled (vocals/guitars) and Brennig (drums/percussion) Clifford return with the follow up to their highly acclaimed debut Everything’s For Sale, bringing forth more of their striking blues/southern rock/ garage punk mix though on Donkey Jacket they have moved it notable steps forward in creativity for a more rounded yet still slightly raw sound. From Ystrad Mynach, South Wales the brothers formed the band in 2008 inspired and influenced by their father’s vinyl collection whilst growing up, artists making the deepest impression including the likes of The Who, Peter Green, Robert Johnson and the Beatles.  Their music is open in its influences from artists and sounds alike but they are infused into their own ideas to create blues veined rock ‘n’ roll with psychedelic and eager garage punk urgency.

One could not say Donkey Jacket is particularly unique but its defined variety and expressive songwriting and music more than stands the band out from the similar aurally adorned crowd. From the opening hearty blues rock of ‘Be Your Own Invention’ with its loving guitars and acute melodic energy through to the closing emotive ballad ‘Across The Sky’, the album intrigues and envelopes the ear to great satisfaction.

Every song offers up variety and a heartfelt passion whatever its guise, the twosome feeling their songs as they bring them to life for us.  Each track comes with well written and unpredictable cycles though the band never make things complicated leaving each track impossible to simply gloss over or let slip by the ear. The strongest tracks on the album show its varied content. The southern blues of ‘Love Is A Fever’ with a fine rock start is impressive as is the wonderful gothic darkness of ‘The Walking Crawl’ with its slight but lingering discordant tendencies reminding of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers. The albums best track by far though is ‘Dog Scratched Ear’, a song incessant in attack and beckoning energy that is spined by a vibrant and mesmeric resonating riff.  It refuses to be ignored, demanding and getting full attention with its garage punk flavours and firm direct rhythms.

Recorded by Tim Hammill in Wales and mixed in Detroit by Jim Diamond the release features guest appearances alongside the duo’s own flavoursome skills. The reefabilly tinged ‘Bottom To The Top’ features John “Ned” Edwards, a long time collaborator of Van Morrison on slide guitar and mandolin, whilst elsewhere sees the contributions of Pete Hurley, the bass player for the legendary seventies Welsh band Lone Star, and Justin Beynon of the Broken Vinyl Club on piano. Donkey Jacket is a lively affair that never dulls the senses or lets them drift off elsewhere. It might not be breaking new grounds but it is an impressive and at times smartly inspired release. Rich in freshness and fun Henry’s Funeral Shoe have given an album that feeds the senses and warms the heart, a perfect tonic for those long winter days and nights.

RingMaster 17/12/2011

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The Kinks In Mono

The Kinks In Mono is one giant glorious treat for the heart, a retrospective gift for the senses and emotions from one of the most influential bands the UK has produced. The Kinks have touched and influenced generation after generation of musicians and bands, their uniquely marvellous command of incisive and instinctive melodies, wickedly irresistible hooks as well as cheeky and intelligent lyrics found in the fabric of songwriting from The Jam to The Pretenders on through to current bands Young Knives and JacksonsWarehouse.  The list of bands and artists inspired by Ray Davies and co could go on for page after page and for many of us forget The Beatles, The Kinks were the English greats that changed music.

To be honest first hearing of the box set and the fact that all the tracks were the mono recordings was not the most convincing proposition. First thoughts were what is there for diehard fans that have everything anyway and for newer recruits to their music and those used to digital sounds, what is the incentive to grab lower ‘quality’ recordings. Instantly the songs leapt from the speakers all doubts were squashed for these are not inferior recordings, yes the crispness may not be as it would digitally but all the heart and feeling is there and the raw sound gives the tracks a depth and the ear an authenticity and pure feeling that is lost when digitized.

The Kinks In Mono is a 10 CD box set consisting of the first seven Kinks albums from their debut self titled album through to Arthur plus 4 extra EPs and 2 volumes of further collectables in unissued tracks and various singles from around the world. With the added 32 page, pop annual style book with new liner notes, rare photos, memorabilia, discographical information and more, the release is a giant and pleasing package, an impossible to refuse invitation to dip into the history of The Kinks. 

Listening to tracks brought home how from the first album they made a major mark on music that would last without any decline in effect. Kinks contained numerous great songs, of which only five were Kink originals and mainly delivered with an affected American accent. It was a strong album if hardly jaw dropping but it did contain ‘You Really Got Me’, the first on a subsequent conveyor belt of wonderfully inspirational songs that not only stand the test of time but still drive and influence new artists. From second album Kinda Kinks the band found the sound that grew to be quintessential Kinks with Davies singing in his genuine English accent and the sound that went on to mesmerise emerged.

The rest of the albums in the box set bring stunning gems such as ‘All Of The Day’, ‘Sunny Afternoon’, ‘ Waterloo Sunset’, personal favourite ‘Victoria’, and of course ‘Lola’ to just skim the musical cream on show. With everything packaged in an impressive rigid Dansette style box there is nothing skimped on presentation, the look matching the wonderful songs inside. Released through Sanctuary The Kinks In Mono is a must have for all discovering the beauty of The Kinks, yes it is a big package and substantial outlay but it is all there, everything to cover the most influential time of the band.

The fact that the recordings are mono is a major positive, the initial uncertainty wiped away immediately by the rawer punch and intenseness of the sound. It also brings the passion and attitude of the band and the time straight to the fore, something stereo recordings fail to portray very often. The Kinks In Mono is a treat, a must, and evidence, in case there are still some around unaware of how influential and important The Kinks were and still are in music.

RingMaster 26/11/2011

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