Full steam and sexy brawls: an interview with Jack Kansas of Damn Vandals

Jack Kansa photos by Julian Simmons

Jack Kansa photos by Julian Simmons

In every decade there is a band which flouts the rules, kicks up sonic dust, and sets new templates for the following young protagonists of rock to set their inventions by. Right now it is hard to look past UK psyche rockers Damn Vandals as one of those inspirational rioters, especially taking their new album Rocket Out Of London as evidence. Their second album is a mentally twisting maelstrom of psychotic goodness from the London based quartet, a scintillating brawl of garage punk, psyche, and raw rock ‘n’ roll which brings addiction, dementia, and vigorous pleasure into a feverish union. Greedy to find out more and celebrate our competition to win a copy of their brilliant album, we accosted frontman Jack Kansas who, with the rest of the and breathing down his neck, talked about origins, killer riffs, the turn of a vicar’s ankle, and Star Wars analogies…

Hello and welcome to the site. Thanks for taking time out to chat with us.

Great to be here, the pleasure is all ours …

First up can be get some background to Damn Vandals and its members, their personal histories and how you all linked up?

Damn Vandals are a pan-European sludge (part Swiss, part Sheffield, part Northern Irish, and part London) that evolved and crawled on to land just over three years ago. We’ve now mutated in to a rock monster sustained purely by a love of rehearsing alongside a blue plastic bag full of beer.

What was the spark with brought the band to life; any specific intent?

Foremost, we just try to entertain ourselves. If you’re going to spend the day lugging amps around and dodging over-zealous traffic wardens, then it’s best to ensure you’re getting your fun come show time.

What about the band name…an admission of a misspent youth? 😉

Hell yeah. Here at Damn Vandals HQ we strongly advocate misspending as much time as possible. Benefits include better song titles and a higher quality of pool playing.

It is fair to say that your debut album Done For Desire was eagerly devoured by fans and the underground press upwards, but it looks like the release of your new incitement Rocket Out Of London is poised to stir up a bigger hornet’s nest. Did you have any feeling in its making as to how it would impact on people and so swiftly?

We recorded the album in about ten days so there wasn’t really much time to think. I remember a lot of shouting and a lot of noise. Being in the studio can be a narcissistic process, but I can’t recall much of that sort of thing. If anything, it was like running naked through a hall of mirrors whilst bashing yourself on the head repeatedly with a hammer. Great fun if you like that sort of thing. Glad people are picking up on the urgency in the music.

Both albums have that Damn Vandals distinctive sound but the new release feels like it explores deeper depths and shadows within your songwriting as it brews a stronger almost intrusive virulence to its imagination. How do you see the difference and evolution between the two?

Yeah, Done For Desire is a bit bonkers, but Rocket Out Of London is full-on bonkers … this time we just plonked a bag of bricks on the accelerator and fastened our seat belts really.

The new release draws on the rich essences of everything from punk to noise rock, psychobilly to garage rock in its own form of rapacious DV coverrock ‘n’ roll. Have you taken any deliberate directions with Rocket Out Of London or has it emerged predominantly organically?

Adam the bassist has been yelling for the songs to be faster, shorter and harder for quite some time now. Basically he’s worn us down. He’s the Frankenstein. Personally I put it down to the soft abrasion of his Northern Irish accent – so trustworthy, yet so compelling. I love that man.

The album, as the first, seems to find inspiration and themes either lyrically or musically from the darkest seductions available. Where do you find your strongest sparks and inspiration seem to brew from?

You only have to turn on the internet to realise that the world is ablaze with billions of screaming voices, each with a bunch of weird stories. I guess we tap in to that and form a playground in the darkness. It might scare some, but hey Star Wars would be the dullest movie on earth without Darth Vader. You’ve got to a least entertain the dark side a bit, shake the tree and see what fun can be had with it – else there’s no sense of wonder when you finally blow the death star to smithereens and speed off in a blaze of glory screaming yee-haa. If in doubt, a highly complex Star Wars analogy answers most difficult questions – that’s what I usually say ….

How does the songwriting generally emerge within Damn Vandals?

All good rock songs should just start out as a killer riff – I learnt that by watching a BBC documentary on Black Sabbath, I think it’s the only thing TV has ever taught me. The riff works better if there’s a punchy hook. After that we smash the idea around the rehearsal room and see what joy we can have with it.

Does it run smoothly for the main or is there a tendency for vivacious debate when it comes to creating songs initially?

You can’t polish a turd. We learnt that early on. If an idea isn’t getting all four of us excited then it’s best to bin it as soon as possible and move on. That’s the ideal. We’ll probably have a blazing row now tonight …

I believe you were going to call the new album This Music Blows My Tiny Mind, also the title of one of the tracks on the release. What triggered the change to Rocket Out Of London?

It just sounded cooler. TMBMTM was a great working title that reminded us to keep the music on the edge of crazy. It just had too many words in it. ROOL just seemed to exactly fit the 10 songs.

The band and albums have been graced with comparisons to plenty of bands even with your uniquely flavoured sound and we have been no different though we seem to differ in finding a healthy flavour of Irish eighties rock band Fatima Mansions and now additionally Rocket From The Crypt in the new release also. What are your strongest inspirations personally and upon the band which have added a breath to your music?

At the end of the day, all we want to be is Led Zeppelin in their prime. That’s all any guitar boy really wants. Only a few of us are man enough to admit that.

 Marcus Maschwitz Photography 2012

Marcus Maschwitz Photography 2012

Is there a particular moment within Rocket Out Of London which gives you a naughty tingle of satisfaction, an essence where you feel the band has found the sweet spot?

One moment that hits the tingle button for sure is in Too Lazy To Die, Too Stoned To Live (Adam the bass player gets the credit for that song title, he said it down the pub once). Tingle time comes at about half way, as the tempo gears up and Frank flings himself in to one of his demonic trademark solos. Watching Frank lay down guitar tracks in the studio blows my mind. I love that guy.

You recorded the album as you did the first with producer Julian Simmons, what does he bring to the recordings which sparks the band’s creativity further in the studio?

Julian Simmons is the most aerodynamic man I know. He is also a genius and a man of considerable wit. Like most super heroes, however, he does have a weakness – his being a soft spot for hot female vicars. It’s his Kryptonite. Just the thought of a toned lady’s ankle swathed in the trim of a swaying cassock turns him to jelly. Other than that, he’s a dream to work with. He brings light, warmth, happiness, but most of all discipline in to the studio. Love that kid.

Did you change anything around or to the recording of the album which differed or evolved dramatically from the creation of Done For Desire?

There was just way more sweat this time around. I remember Chris the drummer emerging from the live room after takes looking as if he’d just sprinted at full tilt down to the Cost Cutter and back. He really shredded those skins to bits, relentlessly for days. Great drummer…Got to love that dude.

The first single from Rocket Out Of London certainly raised extra appetite for the album and makes a contagious opener for the album. Can you give some background to Twist Up And Tangle and its breeding?

Twist Up was the most recently written of the ten songs. It came together quickly in the rehearsal room and just made the recording session by a whisker. Frank’s guitar sounds as if it’s going to tear your ears off at the beginning – just seemed like a lovely way to start an album …

You have a big reputation for your feisty and fiery live performances too; we can expect plenty of shows in support of the album across the rest of 2014?

We’ll be playing as much as we can. First up, this May bank holiday we’ve got a couple of back-to-back festivals – Off The Tracks in Castle Donington on the Friday and Lechlade on the Saturday. They’re two great festivals – looking forward to those … of course there will be others too …

Are there any other plans for the year from Damn Vandals you can give us a sneak preview of?

Let me just open the pad lock on the DV’s box of top secrets … ah, I see wonderful things … some plans for a video involving 20 dancing girls, a Pooh bear suit and a giant pot of honey – not sure where we’re going with that one … oops, Frank’s coming – better shut the box …

We cannot let you leave without hearing about the wonderful story behind a song from the first album, The Revenge Of Spider Toothy.

No one believes me when I say that song was written by a three-year-old child. But once again I’ll scream it’s true … It’s based on a conversation I had with this kid. He had an imaginary anti-super hero friend called Spider Toothy who was out to seriously f-up human kind. I just nicked all the crazy things he did and all the creepy places in which he hid then made the odd bit rhyme. Bingo…Instant rock ’n’ roll. The kid’s got another track on the new album called I Hate School. Nobody believes he wrote that one either.

Once again our big thanks for sharing time with us. Have you any last thoughts to leave us pondering?

The pumps don’t work ‘cos the vandals took the handles. Bob Dylan said that. Thanks for having us Ringmaster, love Jack and all the DVs xxxx


Check out the Rocket Out Of London review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/damn-vandals-rocket-out-of-london/

And win yourself a cd of the new album @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/win-a-copy-of-damn-vandals-spanking-new-album-rocket-out-of-london/ but hurry as closing date is Saturday May 17th

Pete Ringmaster
The Ringmaster Review 09/05/2014

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Yugal – Enter The Madness


Though the dark intrusive provocation unleashed by French metallers Yugal upon their new EP Enter The Madness may not be carving out a dramatically original bedlam, its raw and uncompromising attitude and skilled enterprise makes it an encounter which rigorously infests the imagination and passions. The five track tempest of sound and aggression is an easily accessible and demandingly intensive affair. It holds no major surprises but rewards attendance with a predatory fusion of thrash, death, and groove metal which captivates imagination and appetite alike with its riveting raw sound and invention.

Hailing from Vannes in Brittany, Yugal formed in 2010 with their first demo From Pain to Pleasure emerging the following year. It was the striking six track EP Illusion of Time in 2013 which drew a certain concentrated attention upon the quintet but it is easy to predict that Enter The Madness will be the most potent trigger in thrusting the band into a greater deserved spotlight. Infused with supposedly oriental spices, though we suggest they are more Middle Eastern seeded, the new EP reveals a band which has impressively matured in songwriting and sound whilst retaining the passion and superbly sculpted hostility which marked its predecessor. Arguably the release lacks the unique character to set itself apart from the busy crowd but you can easily feel the potential of that realisation lying in wait within the extremely pleasing proposition.

The release opens with an instant lure of Spanish bred guitar as Mindless Fool edges into view. It is an enchanting entrance which a3390718700_2immediately has thoughts grouping around its emotive texture. The gentle coaxing is soon submerged in a tempestuous roar of thumping rhythms and intensive riffing, a furious but deliberately shaped storm which tenderises the senses ready for the irresistible grooves which begin veining through the thick fury. Those Eastern kissed grooves come with a mischievous swagger, a relish which also permeates the coarse rapacious vocals at times, both sauntering through ears with a confident contagion and magnetic toxicity. The track is a scintillating incitement, setting the release off on a major pinnacle which truthfully is worried but never matched again.

The following Free Jail though gives it a more than valid go, its opening bluster of causticity through again rampant rhythms and coarsely grazing riffs a formidable invitation into mystique clad grooves and refreshing hooks. Group vocals behind the lead provocation also add to the fullness of sound and narrative as the song evolves into something comparable in many ways to Bloodsimple meets Sepultura with extra fuel from Cryptopsy. The guitars weave an enthralling suggestiveness upon the compelling canvas built by the brutal rhythms and predatory basslines, whilst vocally the band reaches deep into its malevolence and anger to bruise the senses just as voraciously though they equally come with an intrigue and swing which makes addictive bait. It is an absorbing antagonist soon matched by the title track, its entrance upon a barbarous flurry of rhythmic intent another viciously catchy beckoning. That infectiousness continues across the whole track as the guitars once again cast woven grooves and melodic acidity into the annihilatory riffery prowling thoughts alongside the dark hearted bass. The song proceeds to ravage and seduce with increasing success and strength, building to a fiery finale which leaves ears ringing and appetite greedy.

Psychotic wraps the ears initially in a reserved sonic ambience though one with a portentous air to its touch; a menacing feeling which soon intensifies with the entrance of intimidating guitar hues and eventually a ravenous assault of drums within similarly rapacious but inviting sonic twists and colour. Though the music does not match its title initially, there is a brewing bedlam behind the driving drums and scarring riffing which without ever truly exploding ensures the track is a constant skittish and evocative antagonist for the psyche. Vocals and guitars again impress with their unpredictable and fluent shifts in attack and designs respectively, whilst the wall of sinews built by drums and the at times bestial tones of the excellent bass work, create an inescapable cage you only want to be confined within.

Another scarring crescendo sees the track make way for the closing Fearless Pride, its appearance also coming upon an intimidating sonic mist which is subsequently speared and stretched by the citric sonic craft and adventure of the guitars. Arguably the most corrosive and raw track on the release, its body a more ‘messy’ and undefined ferocity which only adds to the enjoyment, the song bruises like a wounded bear yet captures the imagination like a gladiatorial warrior. It makes for an intensive and highly satisfying conclusion to the release even without matching earlier successes. With a great and skilled evocative instrumental hidden in its shadows, Enter the Madness feeds ears and passions with a highly accomplished and exciting incitement where to be honest only a major lack of originality is its only issue. You feel listening to the EP that Yugal is still in evolution in sound and distinctiveness but that it is only a matter of time and we for one cannot wait.

The self-released Enter The Madness is available now @ http://yugal.bandcamp.com



RingMaster 9/05/2014

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Smash Fashion – Big Cat Love

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The wantonly enigmatic sound and presence of US rockers Smash Fashion has always made for a compelling and thrilling proposition since forming in 2004 and new album Big Cat Love provides no deviation in that potency. In fact it takes it to richer captivating levels with another collection of riotously varied and adventurous fusions of rock ‘n’ roll. The album sees the band again reaping the blooms of various decades and styles of raw and boisterous rock music, hard and glam rock as home within their invention as fifties rock ‘n’ roll and power pop. It makes for a tantalising proposition from the band’s third album, one which even with a couple of lulls in its persuasion is a stirring captivation from start to finish.

Hailing from Los Angeles, Smash Fashion consists of musicians drenched in experience and successes. The band is led by vocalist/guitarist Roger Deering alongside bassist Nigel Mogg (ex- London Quireboys), drummer Repo (ex-Smack), and guitarist Lloyd Stuart Casson (ex- Rock City Angels). Their previous full-lengths A Gentlemens Guide to Sophisticated Savagery and Don’t Pet The Sweaty Things in 2006 and 2009 respectively, set the band apart and into an eager spotlight for their expansive sound whilst last year’s single Blame It On The Brandy more than hinted at the promise of and raised anticipation for the new release. It was potential easily realised by the again Electricpudding Recordings released album, a confirmation of that clue and of the ever hungry invention and appetite of a band which has graced stages with the likes of Ian Hunter, Arthur Lee and Love, The Zombies, Cheap Trick, Psychedelic Furs, The Alarm, Missing Person, Orson, JET, and The 88 over the years.

A gong opens up attention and the entrance of first track Wicked Ways, a shock to ears which are soon filled with enticingly grooved big-cat-love-albumguitars and crisp probing rhythms. It is instant agreeable bait which only increases its lure with the vocals of Deering and an increasingly potent infectiousness which soaks the melodies and chorus of the song as well as the vocal delivery. You cannot say that the song is a startling protagonist for the imagination and emotions but it is a persistently persuasive stroll of finely sculpted hooks, fiery grooves, and sonic enterprise which achieves the same impact. Feeling like an old friend in new clothes in many ways, much like the album, the song is an impressive opener which is swiftly matched by Marionette. Bringing more punkish seeds than the first whilst still firmly involved with a hard rock canvas, the excellent track seduces like a mix of early days The Jam and The Vapors, easily igniting and passions. The fact that it is a reworking from an appearance on the last album makes no difference to its might and presence on the album, such its thrilling offering.

The following Strike My Fancy (Knickers Down) is as flamboyant and wonderfully sleazy as its title suggests though with a refined touch in restraint behind a melodic colour which flames around the senses as keys tease their submission. It is another excellent romp with more contagion than a strip club and just as sexy, especially with the incendiary guitar craft blazing across its body, a skill just as evident in Stay Off My La La and You Love to Suffer. The first of the pair shows its intent to rock from the first seconds, riffs and vocals a keen devilry within a sturdy frame of rhythms and dark roaming basslines. As all the songs there is something virulently catchy and anthemic to the track easily bringing feet, voice, and emotions into its grasp. Thoughts of bands like The Motors and Eddie and the Hot Rods are stirred occasionally through the song before it makes way for its successor, a smouldering ballad which from humble temptations emerges over time as a riveting enticement with dark sixties punk croon to its suasion.

The title track comes in next, starting with a mischievous almost tribal groan which sparks real intrigue but then as swiftly abandons the bait to twist into a glam/seventies pop rock which is more than decent but just does not excite like the previous songs. Like Darts meets The Quireboys it is a satisfying romp but not one to fire up any real passion in personal tastes, though the bass endeavour and climactic conclusion to the song are big pluses. The perfectly accomplished and varied Just a Kiss At the Starting Line is much the same in success though different in sound with its country rock twang and bold melodic rock stroll. The guitars and drums again ensure there is plenty to engage and run with, just not enough to spark any major ardour for.

Super Glam next builds a bold rock lure of country bred spice amidst a power pop lilt and darkly toned vocals. It is another song taking time to convince but succeeds eventually through its excellent pop swagger and hard rock veining of outstanding guitar craft and pumped rhythms. It is one of those devious songs which takes a deeper grip than first realised to be a lingering presence, though the following punk infused Aim for the Heart soon has total attention for itself, the song an outstanding fusion of the addictive hooks of Buzzcocks and rich drama of Psychedelic Furs all immersed in the kind of premise which only Smash fashion can conjure. The song is an infectious temptation with feisty intent, a mix equalled by Blame It On the Brandy right after. The song immediately has ears at attention as it opens with ridiculously addictive rhythms before settling into a brew of alluring hooks, stirring riffs, and healthily anthemic vocals. Bringing seventies glam flourishes into a tempest of blues kissed rock n roll, the excellent encounter is a mix of American rock and Thin Lizzy, and a complete joy.

The dusty climate and vocal shade to Live to Tell makes for another very satisfying if not explosive avenue to the album, its scenery a bloom of shapely guitar invention and flavoursome rhythmic wile, before Stairs to Nowhere brings Big Cat Love to a rousing close. A big boned mesh of seventies hard rock and garage punk with unsurprising but enjoyable animated energy and passion, the track makes for an eventful conclusion to a fascinating triumph. Boundaries are not worried and originality arguably left alone for the main by Smash Fashion on their album but they still present a proposition which incites pleasure and the rocker in us all and that is more than enough for us.

Big Cat Love is available via Electricpudding Recordings now!



RingMaster 09/05/2014

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Candy Says – Not Kings


Not Kings, the debut album from UK electro-tinged pop collective Candy Says, is a bit of a puzzler but a mesmeric mystery you cannot help being entranced by. Minimalistic and lo-fi whilst wrapped in flourishes of melodic charm and seductive harmonies, the release tantalises and enthrals from start to finish but you end up wondering why the attraction does not spark a fire in the passions as successfully as it does in the imagination. Usually both go hand in hand and certainly at times the band offer a fuse which is just irresistible but the ebbing and flowing of the album seems to escape a constant supply of that rich reaction. Nevertheless Not Kings is an absorbing flight of sound and adventure which increases its temptation with every venture.

Candy Says is the project of lead vocalist/guitarist Juju Sophie and keyboardist/vocalist Ben Walker, a duo from Oxford who sparked strong attention with a pair of sold out cassette singles via Cool For Cats last year. Recorded entirely in the garage of lead vocalist Juju Sophie’s bungalow, Not Kings confirms all the promise of and buzz around the band and even without setting a blaze inside, gives potent evidence of the real potential of the pair.

The title track gets things in motion with an initial coaxing of handclaps and restrained electro caressing. It is a welcoming start but one a4253926693_2which is pale until the sirenesque tones of Juju Sophie lay their warm glances and bewitching charm over ears and imagination respectively. Like a hint to the album as a whole, the song laps over ears like a gentle sea, its aural waves coming and going in strength and relish to offer a persistent suasion which captures thoughts with ease. There are no climactic moments or startling textures to the track just an on-going inviting glaze of synth and vocals aligned to magnetic surges of guitar. It makes for an intriguing proposition with plenty to spark an appetite for the release, a taste soon reinforced by the delightful Favourite Flavour. As the first its touch is reserved and tender without raising a temperature but like a summer breeze the song swarms around and engages the senses with perpetual ease and warmth. The backing tones of Walker add another texture to the golden voice of Juju Sophie whilst musically the song brings potent adventure to instantly lift the profile of the album.

The following C’est Pas Comme Ca is a provocative folk tinged slice of balladry pop with a sixties voice to its seductive temptation which continues the strong and varied start to the album. There is drama and evocative emotion to its absorbing sounds and harmonies whilst the vocals which already guarantee a seductive embrace to the album make no exception here or in the next up Lord’s Mistake. The fourth track is the first major peak of the release; its funk bred stroking of guitar immediate contagious bait which is enhanced by the vocals and the eager dance of the keys. Like a mix of The Mouth Of Ghosts, Tom Tom Club, and Propaganda, the song is a glorious vivacious stroll with more colour and richly exciting hues than the previous trio of songs put together.

Hummingbird graces ears and air next, its pungent beats and fluid keys a potent canvas for the vocals of the band members to contrast and unite in a poetic painting which smooches and flirts with the imagination. There is an additional celestial tone to the ambience of the song which adds to the vivid incitement of the imagination, as most of the tracks achieve, but like its predecessor the croon also works as potently on the passions.

Both the resourceful dance bred Dreamers and the similarly sculpted Melt Into The Sun provide a pleasing presence to immerse within but neither explore the emotions beyond mere satisfaction either even with their superbly crafted and intricate weaves of synths and harmonies whilst Chad straight after unveils a captivating atmosphere of melodic reflection over a rich evocative palette but again that earlier mentioned spark which certainly is burning feverishly in the likes of Favourite Flavour and Lord’s Mistake merely smoulders.

The simultaneously melancholic and vivacious Dead On Arrival brings the release back to an irresistible peak; its sultry climate and emotional elegance an invigorating infection upon the woven scenery of flowing keys and vociferous and alternately mellow vocals, Juju Sophie once more revealing the quality and depth of her voice.

A wonderfully dark and seductive tempting wraps the following Understand The Night, its noir kissed Parisian shadows under street lamp spotlights another enthralling premise to bask in and investigate. It is impossible to resist, leaving a lingering call from the album which the inviting but underwhelming Cool Sensation cannot match. To be fair the song shimmers and lures like a summer soaked lake, its surface a refreshing glow but its depths lack the potency to take the listener into deeper waters of pleasure, an issue the closing Camilla has no problem with. The best track on the album with ease, it makes a gentle offering initially though the vocals have a greater power and passion to them than previously found on the album. It is a striking and lip licking entrance which only deepens its potency with the restrained but wholly infectious almost anthemic stroll of the chorus. The track goes from strength to strength the more it courts ears and thoughts, harmonies and keys alone smouldering kindling to the respectfully flaming heart and expression of the outstanding encounter.

If the album was full of songs like the last it would be a certain classic, but it has enough to make itself a tremendously appealing treat which sounds better the more you venture within it. As we said at the start, the passions might not be set ablaze by Candy Says but the imagination is happily fired up which can only lead to a solid recommendation for Not Kings.

Not Kings is available now digitally, on cd, and on vinyl @ http://candysays.bandcamp.com/album/not-kings



RingMaster 09/05/2014

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