Three heads from a dying monkey: the Headcount Interview

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It was with the release of the Two Heads/Die Monkey Die EP that UK punk/noise provocateurs Headcount ignited a long term passion for their sounds here at the site, a slavery which only bled excitement when the band released their new album Lullabies for Dogs recently. The Oxford trio thirteen years or so on from their first steps as a band with the Malicious Damage Records released album showed they still had the snarl and lyrical provocation not forgetting the mischief which twisted our imagination and emotions into submission a decade ago. Grabbing the opportunity with possibly over eager hands to find out more about the band past and present we fuelled the band with numerous questions. With great thanks to vocalist/guitarist Rob Moss, bassist Rob Jeffrey, and drummer Stef Hale we talked about Lullabies for Dogs, Paul Raven, Marco Pirroni, the dying days of music and much more…

Hi and welcome to The RingMaster Review.

Before we talk about your new album Lullabies For Dogs, can we swiftly go back to fourteen years ago when the band began? What was the spark which brought the band together and what was the main driving force for its intent?

ROB MOSS: We were brought together by a mutual friend who sang in a pre-Headcount band for us. After he went to the states we just carried on! To be honest, we’d been starting to follow a heavier direction anyway but the change in circumstances gave us a chance to do a wholesale change of go for it!

The driving forces? Just general reaction to all that goes on in the world. You will note that I, in particular, seem to have an opinion on everything and , of course , believe that EVERYONE wants to hear it……..

Are those inspirations just as potent and forceful now or have they changed or evolved especially in regard to your songwriting?

ROB MOSS: Absolutely. Probably more so because the world does not seem to be getting any better does it? Look at Syria and Egypt and the whole global economic crisis or the homophobic laws being introduced in Russia. Hardly an improvement – more’s the pity

ROB JEFFREY: Our songs have always been about current issues, which kind of makes us like a loud version of HEAT Magazine. Mossy has something to say on most things, and whilst we don’t always share exactly the same opinion on everything we generally move in the same direction, give or take the odd punch up. If anything, our more recent approach is darker and more subtle then the old days of openly fighting paedophiles, the church & Earl Spencer!

STEF HALE: It’s a strange mix which makes Headcount but with all of our differing tastes in Music, this is what creates the noise, brutality and melody. Headcount are not wannabe pop stars, punks nor metal heads we play what we like and that comes through from Mossy’s punk, Robs thrash metal and my “listen to anything”. The collaboration is catchy and “fucking have it”! rhythm section with the lyrical content and melody from mossy of all the things that “gets on his tits” this is what makes us sound like…well, Headcount

So you still get as creatively angry about the same things or has that canvas widened over the years?

RM: It’s widened as there are more and more ridiculous events happening. Headcount existed pre 9/11. I was amazed that things went that far. I could NEVER have imagined someone crashing a plane into the two towers, call me naive if you like. From then on, anything seems possible and there are ever increasingly ridiculous scenarios being thrown up by the world. Politician’s expenses, banks failing, churches arguing over women bishops and gay marriage. All that nonsense!

As mentioned you have just released your excellent fourth album Lullabies For Dogs; is the anticipation and excitement releasing a new 528281_563301857015153_1671612872_nrecord the same for you as when you began or is there a different stronger emotion surrounding these moments for you now?

RM: Hmmmmm. Hard to say. The first things you release are always exciting but as you go on that excitement tends to give way to a more nervous approach. Will they like it as much as the last one? It’s still a great buzz getting your music out there.

RJ: It’s much more exciting now. Mainly because we know we are a good band with a damn good album, and other people do too, whether it is their kind of thing or not. We were really keen to see how people responded to it, because it is not classic Headcount as such, and the response and reviews so far have been great. The next album will no doubt sound different though.

SH: Just fucking glad it’s finished and we can move on to the next!

The album does have that familiar or rather distinct Headcount sound which for us seems less heavy than your previous albums but has a more developed intensity and even more deliberate snarl to its provocative attack. Would that be a fair assessment and if so did you aim for this direction or one which organically came about?

RJ: It’s Marco’s fault. He’s a dandy highwayman and can’t cope with riffs.

RM: Well, you say it’s less heavy, others have said it is heavier! Actually, I’m with you. I think it’s less brash. More refined but has a brooding malevolence about it because we have refined out songwriting, developed our musical skills (arguably) and got older. I feel better equipped to express myself than before.

How and where specifically has your music and songwriting changed and evolved since your early releases?

RM: We’re 14 years older! I can’t keep that pace up now. I’m an old man. To play like the first album, well, I’d need oxygen after 10 minutes. But seriously, our influences have changed, we have more subtlety in our lives now and I think ideas and methods have been absorbed into our approach in a good way. We have middle eights now and a few key changes that we didn’t have before because we just didn’t know how they worked!

RJ: We are little bit more experimental nowadays, especially in the studio, and songs tend to develop as we tinker rather than being a finished product at the first time of writing. But again, in true Headcount style the next era of Headcount could just as easily consist of 3 minute hardcore thrashers. Who knows? Or cares!

It has been five years between the new release and last album To The Point, time where the band seem to sink quietly into the background. What led to your low profile and did the sad loss of Paul Raven who produced your last two albums and I know was a friend, play a part too?

RJ: We needed a break from what we were doing. For lots of reasons. Not all bad ones, but we definitely all needed to do some other things. We actually rehearsed and wrote and recorded loads of stuff in that time, but that was kind of peripheral meanderings. We collaborated on a hip –hop album (yes Headcount and hip hop!) with Dynamax, recorded some secret punk songs with a secret trance superstar (still secret) and wrote lots of songs, which eventually led to us recording many and choosing a few of them. So, very busy just away from gigging and the whole ‘scene’ for a bit.

RM: Actually Raven only produced Die Monkey Die but his influence was there on To The Point. Raven died just as To The Point was released and that hit us hard and made us very introverted. There were a few things going on that made us think “what’s the fucking point” and we retreated. We wrote some new songs and they got heavier as we played them and we though “yes, this is Headcount” and went for it!

SH: Raven was an inspiration. The Man could extract more energy and playing ability from any of us than we ever thought possible. We all miss him. Outside of his death I think we all got pissed off with the music scenes and having to support the same type of shit wherever we played and what is it with promoters today putting us in with a religious acoustic band! I think this all got to us all so we needed time away.

headcount 2Was there a strong emotional element when recording Lullabies For Dogs, because of Paul’s presence in the previous releases and if so did it add something extra to the album would you say?

RM: In honesty, no. The sessions for Lullabies were different in that we recorded using different technology and had Marco on board who brought a very different dynamic. That’s not to say that we don’t miss Raven. He crops up when you least expect him to

The new album as you mentioned, sees for us the legend and ex-Ant Marco Pirroni bringing his guitar skills back to the band having appeared on your 2002 debut album. Was this in your minds when writing the album and what does Marco bring which accentuates and builds on your core sound and ideas?

 SH: Marco, although a miserable bastard at times, is a genius and transformed a couple of OK songs or album fillers into rip roaring classics with a couple of Killer riffs.

RM: Marco came on board just as we were about to record and I don’t think he had an intention of making an album with us. He was just looking for something to do and we kidnapped him and sent him home a year later! Marco is a great guy to work with. I can go all gushy if you want but seriously he is very inventive in the studio and very generous with his time. He provided some great hooks for the album like the chorus riff on Black Dog Days and forced us to look at the structure of the songs, cutting out the “bollocks” and looking at adding middle eights. He took the seeds of a song and said ”do this, do that, swap this with that, cut that out, play this here”. You can see that the lad has a bit of talent and I’m glad he finally got to work with a band as talented as us after all those years farting about with make-up and No 1 records.

RJ: Marco manages to find melody in the strangest of places, and you just have to let him work out whatever he wants as the track plays. He has definitely brought out the melody makers in us, and the songs where Marco’s playing is most prominent are definitely the most accessible to listed too.

Lyrically you as expected are pulling no punches on the album, as with the track News Corpse. I guess in the world as it is there will never be a shortage of triggers to inspire and vent against.

RM: I’m afraid not. There are plenty of targets out there aren’t there? People are pretty grimy creatures aren’t they?

On the other side do you think the music fan still takes as much notice of lyrical commentary or is led to thinking deeper about things by music nowadays as in previous decades?

RM: I don’t know really. Probably not. There are lot of great lyricists out there but if the tune isn’t kicking then it’s not going to fly is it? Turn it the other way round. How many great tunes have bollocks lyrics but are still hits? Some people love to look at the lyrics. Probably got too much time on their hands…..

SH: For me, music is dying a death. Where is the enjoyment of waiting outside Our Price for the new Iron Maiden album and reading from cover to cover? Maybe music is just too accessible and “clean” today. All being done with loops and synths. Teenagers have their little earphones and digital media, what’s happened to saving up for the expensive stereo with Fuck off speakers? It’s not only the lyrics people don’t listen to. Music has become a disposable commodity.

How much is the lyrical aspect of songs just observation of social and world issues and how much is closer to home, taken from personal headcount3experience?

RM: Probably 50/50. Some of the lyrics are personal, not necessarily me but reflecting issues in and around the band and others are wider socio-political comment. Depends on the mood of the day when writing; if something has irked me, it might become the subject of the song

Can you tell above another song on Lullabies For Dogs, the track Black Dogs Days and its link to the great mental health charity SANE?

RM: Churchill used the phrase Black Dog and it seemed apposite to use it when writing about depression. Then we saw that SANE were running a campaign to de-stigmatize mental health issues and we thought that there was a tie up that was worth mentioning. Their Black Dog campaign has really helped get the message over that mental illness needs to be openly discussed and that it does not mean that you are confined to an institution to chew your elbows! It’s treatable using all types of therapies and there are HUGE numbers of people who suffer but live normal lives. Just like people with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic flatulence (drummers mostly)!

Humour has always played a big part in your music in a merger with your directness and uncompromising look at things. This is a reflection of you as people and personalities?

RM: Yeah. We’re pretty easy going people. Like a bit of fun and try to make gigs an interactive thing. We like talking to people, sharing opinions and having a laugh. Our humour is cruel though. Poor old Stef gets it in the neck a lot. Mainly from Rob J who is an evil bastard. We couldn’t live our lives like we write lyrics. That would be just too grim.

What is next for Headcount?

RM: Promoting the album with a couple of releases planned. As many gigs as we can get and then maybe some more songwriting. The next album I want to record quickly. A few days. Bang it out. It might be a heavier album. Not sure yet. Let’s see what comes naturally.

Many thanks for sharing your time with us and revealing some of the depths within Headcount. Anything you would like to add?

RM: Thank YOU for having us. It’s really difficult for unknown bands to get the exposure so folks like you make a MASSIVE change. There are so many barriers to getting good music heard. There is a lot of shit that is bankrolled and gets the exposure. Honestly. So many shit shit shit bands stealing the oxygen of publicity! Lots of them with horrid clothes and wank haircuts and no fucking tunes!

You’ve left it so open ended Pete by asking if there’s anything we want to say that I fear we could be here for days!

So I’ll just say to folks, listen to the album (you can find it on Spotify first) then buy the bastard thing and come to a show for the full, undiluted experience. Live Headcount is something quite different to the recorded version.

See you there???

Read the review of Lullabies For Dogs @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/headcount-lullabies-for-dogs/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 27/09/2013

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Lucifer Star Machine – Rock’n’Roll Martyrs

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lsm- pic by-tinakorhonen

Caked in the filth of life and the passion of instinctive rebellion, Rock ‘n’ Roll Martyrs the new album from UK antagonists Lucifer Star Machine is quite simply unbridled, uncompromising punk n roll. From first violent note and lashing syllable through to its last vicious squall on the ear, the twelve track assault is nothing less than dirty hunger driven confrontation, but a fusion of punk and heavy to hard rock which leaves satisfaction greedy and thrills a plenty. With their third album the band is presenting the sound and merciless energy they are renowned for but have taken it up many levels of contagion and impacting persuasion to unleash their most potent and enjoyable moment yet.

Hailing from London, Lucifer Star Machine has left a legacy of destructive pleasure in their wake from live performances and releases. From intimate sweat drenched halls to festival stages across over ten countries the quintet has challenged and ignited audiences alongside the major names of punk rock whilst from debut album Fire In Your Hole in 2005 and its successor Street Value Zero four years later the band has marked out a portion of genre territory for their furious sounds. Released via I Sold My Soul Media and recorded with producer Andy Brook, Rock’n’Roll Martyrs stirs up the air, senses, and appetite with a blaze of corruptive addictive sounds which plays like the anarchist offspring from a union between Generation X, Turbonegro, and  old school Misfits. It is arguably the most accessible album the band has unveiled and certainly the most unforgettable and incendiary.

The riot begins with Hold Me Down, a fire which offloads a crucial groove spiked with intensive hooks from its opening breath. Often leading and never far from the surface of the song, the lure is as insatiable as it is addictive and twists lustfully around the ear as riffs and rhythms flail the atmosphere and tight sonic melody soaked invitations spark into an anthemic chorus and group calls which further capture the imagination. It is a magnetic tempest of a start which breeds real hunger for what is to follow, especially with the charge and inventive flames sculpted by guitarists Dave Malice and Laughing Boy Fernandes.

The following Sulphur & Speed starts with a healthy glam rock teasing which would not be out of place in the seventies but soon chews it1235933_717631201587116_811714221_n up and transforms it with a Misfits/Danzig like intimidation. The vocals of band founder Tor Abyss snarl with contempt and force whilst his clean delivery only adds to a great alluring presence. The merger of all that melodic swagger and feisty intensive rhythmic, riff, and vocal abrasion leaves a potent persuasion which has feet and throat in unison more often than not.

Through the old school bred Hammer Me Dead with a more caustic hardcore delivery from Abyss raging over the excellent cantankerous rhythmic testing of new drummer Txutxo Krueger (formerly of Last Resort and Total Chaos), and the irrepressible fist pumping anthem Death Or Jail, the album continues to ignite the passions and an instinctive fight within thoughts whilst the initially Clash like For Reasons Unknown, where the bass of Crusty Chlamydia coaxes in the imagination with ease, explodes another level of satisfaction and temptation upon Rock’n’Roll Martyrs. Evolving into a virulently catchy and dramatic treat, the song has elements of The Damned and New York Dolls to its stomp adding further adventure and variety to the album and pleasure.

Both Poison Arrows and Dead And Gone leave a pleasing taste on the palate, if without managing to reach the heights of the previous tracks. The first has a more restrained and poised gait though it does not lose any energy and impact in relation to its predecessors whilst its successor is a undefined smog of garage rock with a scuzz lining that intrigues and satisfies yet like the song before lies pale against the stronger elements of the release. Dark Water also lacks the spark which made the first half of the album so magnificently imposing and commanding but nevertheless has attention and appetite eager to consume and join its mission to provide honest ear barracking rock ‘n’ roll.

The malevolent Cancer Daddy pushes things back towards the thrilling peaks of the album, the song another breath stealing storm of anthemic bait and enterprise making way for the sinister charms of The Curse. It is a more than decent encounter which makes a good appetiser for the tempestuous excellence of Rotten To The Core, a furnace of middle finger attitude and punk confrontation which in its one minute twenty lays waste to the senses and emotions showing the emerging young punk bands how it is done. Explosive and bloody-minded, the track is another pinnacle to the album.

The closing I Hate You Forever leaves one final punk infested fight upon the ear, the Sex Pistols tinted riffs and hooks wrapped in a hard rock assault with rapacious sinews. It is a strong end but does not steal memories from the song before and earlier triumphs ultimately. Lucifer Star Machine offers punk ‘n’ roll at its dirtiest accomplished and weighty best, and Rock’n’Roll Martyrs their pugnacious call to arms.

http://www.luciferstarmachine.com/

8.5/10

RingMaster 27/09/2013

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Master – The Witchhunt

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Eleven albums in with the twelfth upon us, US death metal pioneers Master shows no signs of letting up or taking their creative feet off of the pedal from continuing to make one of the most inspiring potent impacts on the genre. The Witchhunt is their latest phenomenal scourge of the freshest contagious grooves and sonic temptation crafted within an insidious web of bone shuddering rhythms and predatory corrosive riffing.

Since being formed thirty years or so ago by vocalist/bassist Paul Speckmann and drummer Bill Schmidt, the pair meeting when the latter was brought into the former’s band at the time War Cry, the Chicago hailing band has helped sculpt and drive US death metal whilst influencing the genre across its extensive field. The band’s start was not quite a fluid event with the pair struggling to find a suitable guitarist. This led to Schmidt joining Mayhem Inc. and Speckmann starting up Death Strike which used some of the songs intended for Master.  Eventually Speckmann reunited with Schmidt in Death Strike which was subsequently renamed Master and its history truly began. Across their previous swarm of albums the band has continued to enthral and impress, let along incite and inspire many others, their releases never less than gripping and often acclaimed pinnacles of death metal. The trio of Speckmann, guitarist Alex Nejezchleba, and drummer Zdenek Pradlovsky now unleash another undoubted peak with The Witchhunt. Released via FDA-Rekotz, the release comes with a raw and coarse texture which you can imagine will not be for all but certainly brings an intensity and caustic breath which only accentuates the potency and venom coursing through the album’s veins.

The title track starts of the irrepressible temptation, riffs rhythms seizing the ear as a toxic groove permeates the synapses with MASTER_The_Witchhunt_cover_300dpiridiculously addictive bait. Barely a minute into the track with the vocals of Speckmann squalling nastily over the lure, song and album has hunger alight. Settled into its torrential assault the track does lose some of its surprise impact but offers an intensive unrelenting suasion of heavy shadowed urgency and sonic flames instead. It only accentuates the strength and call of the song, the band still yet refreshingly creating their trademark fusion of old school Motorhead, Venom, and early Slayer corruptive death metal enterprise.

The following Plans Of Hate continues the ridiculously addictive climate of sound and aggression if without matching the immense impact of the first. Grooves and imaginative guitar fire spirals across the plain of intensive provocation, whilst the gait of the track is juggernaut like and fuelled with high grade rapaciousness right through to its final swipe before Another Suicide parades its lumbering intensive pads of sound split with wonderfully niggling sonic rabidity and that vocal maliciousness and scurrilous delivery distinct to Speckmann.

The album continues to increase its grip on the senses and passions, getting better with each subsequent track with Waiting to Die next devouring ears and thoughts with its chugging thrash bred resourcefulness and contagious swagger. It alone confirms that the band still has the instinctive ability to create songs which ravage and annihilate whilst taking the listener on an impossible to resist ride of pure infectiousness and impossibly addictive sonic temptation. The guitar imagination which flails the song later on is equally as delicious and bewitching, ensuring every wants and needs of the appetite are catered for. The likes of The Parable with its swarming predation and the smothering, almost suffocating rampage of God of Thunder twist the passions taunt around their sinews and breath-stealing toxic crusades; the constant waspish grooves and sonic stings stalking the senses through the embroiling rhythmic barrage of invention and violence. Equally tracks such as the exceptional and transfixing Remove the Clowns, a song which shows more compelling twists and sonic curves than a pole dancer, and the Motorhead similar Wipe out the Aggressor, well until it unchains grooves and enticements which should be illegal such their addiction, leave the deepest greed for the album’s presence and corruption.

Manipulated to Exterminate sees Speckmann offering a spoken narrative alongside his usual excellent pestilence of a delivery which brings the lyrical side of the song more to the fore. It has to be said that lyrically the album is a bit of the blur but that is more to do with the epidemically narcotic pull of the distracting sounds; with close attention the word side of things is generally as firm as the maelstroms raging around them. The outstanding track is another major highlight in nothing but peaks with the closing furnace of The American Dream a matching destructive conclusion to one beast of a thrilling release.

The band continues to set benchmarks and certainly The Witchhunt will be another marker for fans and bands alike. The album is easily one of the most impressive and enjoyable extreme metal releases of the year, though do we really expect anything else from Master?

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Master/18521536017

9.5/10

RingMaster 27/09/2013

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Kindred Shins – Yes To Rioting Notoriety EP

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Soaked in blues fumes and coated in angst crafted expression, Yes To Rioting Notoriety the new EP from London based rockers Kindred Shins is a smouldering persuasion which from an initial enjoyable introduction evolves into an intense lingering in the imagination and passions. Consisting of six tracks which riotously dance, tease, and seduce the EP is a magnet which even if its sound is not a personal appetiser the release still leaves the recognition of one accomplished, fiery, and ascending band.

Consisting of vocalist Sonny McFadyen, guitarist Dave James, bassist Dave Cooper, and drummer Leon Morgan, Kindred Shins has built a strong reputation for their live performances and blistering sounds. This has led to a strong anticipation for Yes To Rioting Notoriety which sees its release via A Girl Called Grace Records on September 30th. With the band heading over to the states for a short treating of New York to their intensively flavoursome sound, 2013 looks like the year the world will discover Kindred Shins.

The release is opened by Regain Your Poise Hysterical Woman, a track which initially makes a pleasing if underwhelming entrance thoughYTRN the vocals of McFadyen are immediately tempting. The decent enough lure of guitar is soon elevated by stoneresque flames which rile up the air though the switching back to that restrained stance never quite lets the track explode into the fireball it suggests is waiting in its heart. Nevertheless with the guitar invention and craft of James also impressive, the song easily ignites attention and intrigue for what is to follow.

That inquisitiveness is soon rewarded by Sweet And The Strange and even more so by the outstanding She Floats Just Like The Witch. The first is a simmering ready to boil slice of blues sultriness with a delicious throaty bass prowl skirting the fire bred sonic entrapment and seductive melodic glaze which seeps over every note. Impressively imaginative and superbly crafted with the vocals again riveting, the song coaxes out greater hunger which its successor instantly preys upon. The brilliant She Floats Just Like The Witch is a ripe peach of a song, be it one with a wonderfully villainous infectious core and a sonic sheen which caresses and scorches the ear and beyond simultaneously. Bass and guitar carve out an irresistible narrative which Morgan frames with rhythmic power and understanding, and with the scuzzy wash which fills the air only adding extra tempting toxicity to the immense encounter it is left to McFadyen to complete the scintillating blaze with more contagious vocal presentation.

Yes To Rioting Notoriety is on a real high now leaving firstly Red Eye Blues and then We Both Know But I Ain’t Saying Nothin’, a challenge which both take on with unique and absorbing attempts. The first is another slow swagger of blues caressing and melodic invention interrupted by scythes of sonic invention and brawling intensity. Its successor is similarly clad and is maybe too like its companion to ignite major sparks, though again the bass of Cooper and great vocal harmonies across the band entice and leave a rich satisfaction behind whilst the song does venture into new detours. Neither of the songs can rival the pinnacle of the EP though, which was expected such its might, but the pair continue the excellent persuasion and stature of the release with ease.

    The Smoker completes the stirring provocation, the track a romping raw waltz of jagged riffs, fire breathing guitar enterprise, and a rhythmic stroll which is crisp and commanding. As ever the vocals ride and permeate the song with appealing style whilst the melodic breath of the track is a flaring temptation of passion and beauty. The song completes an impressive incitement which just gets better and more effective the more and longer you immerse within its volcanic depths. The Yes To Rioting Notoriety EP is a standout release in what seems like a growing tide of releases from young emerging blues rock bands. Right now Kindred Shins stands above them all with this record and somehow you do not expect that to change anytime soon.

www.kindredshins.com

8.5/10

RingMaster 27/09/2013

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