Casting reflections and dispersing shadows: talking Johnny Wore Black with band founder Jay

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  2014 has been a big and flavoursome year for British melodic and alternative rock, and in no small part thanks to UK band Johnny Wore Black. The brainchild of London based songwriter/producer and stuntman (Les Miserables, The Dark Knight Rises, Fast and Furious 6, Fury ) Jay, the project on the back of a host of attention grabbing singles and videos over the past eighteen months or so, has released two acclaimed and enthralling albums this year. Walking Underwater Pt 1 and 2, the second released barely two week ago, encounters which and immerses ears and imagination in an evocative embrace, thought provoking propositions which infuse passionate creative roars with poetic melodies and fiery textures. Both albums reinforce the emerging stature and recognition of Johnny Wore Black as one of Europe’s most exciting and innovative songwriters and rock artists. With the kind sharing of Jay’s time, we delved into the heart of the man, band, and particularly the fresh majesty of Walking Underwater Pt 2.

Hi Jay, thanks for sharing time to speak with us.

My pleasure…thank you for listening.

You have just released second album, Walking Underwater Pt 2; how were feelings as the unveiling swiftly approached?

It’s always a strange time around release, in a way exciting and in a way a test of patience as in reality it’s about waiting to see how the product is received. As an artist, the reviews are important to gauge how good a job you have done!

Are there different emotions and expectations this time around after the acclaim and success of Walking Underwater Pt 1 earlier this year?

Walking Underwater Pt.1 was an opening, a beginning if you like so it will be interesting to see how Walking Underwater Pt.2 is received and how the journey develops in other people’s jwbnew1-hires2eyes and ears. It’s important to make music for yourself first and yet in reality, once released its journey becomes a public experience. My expectations are for people to enjoy it and find the right environment to use the music.

How should people look at the two releases, as two parts of one whole entity or the new release as an evolution and unique exploration from the themes and narrative fuelling the first album?

It is a new release of course, and yet a journey too. Honestly people will make of it what they want. Personally there is a journey there, a cleansing and an exorcism of past demons…to make way for new ones maybe?!

Before we look deeper in to the new album, can we ask about your history musically and other aspects before Johnny Wore Black?

Childhood poems then set to music when learning to play the Spanish guitar, pretending it was electric! Onwards, days in studios as birthday presents from my dad when I was fifteen and sixteen. Johnny Wore Black is the conclusion of life experience, being a singer songwriter, being in bands, and generally loving music.

What was the spark bringing the band to life?

The spark was a need to express my songs in a new way, to attempt to get closer to the music that turns me on and lights my fire!

The band name inescapably brings thoughts of Johnny Cash, is there a meaning behind the title?

I like the analogy of why Johnny Cash wore black, to identify with those less fortunate than himself. My dad called me Johnny and my grandmother Evelyn bought me a black suit, which I wore at my Dads funeral when I was seventeen. So, you see, life and all its shards of dark and light.

What would you say are your major inspirations?

A Perfect Circle, Karnivool, Tool, Depeche Mode, Metallica, Stone Sour, Johnny Cash…to name but a few.

jwb walkingunderwaterpt2Because of the success and potency of your first album anticipation and expectations of Part 2 are probably over demanding. Has this added any pressure for its creation?

In a way yes, but to be honest most of the pressure is self-inflicted. My goal is to make great music, who can say when that has happened? Really, I see it as a never ending journey.

With the close proximity to the release of the two albums, it is easy to assume both sets of songs or certainly many over both albums have been bred from around the same time. What is the time frame in that area and if they were written around the same period how did you decide which song went on which release?

I tried to put together songs that felt good together in order to create the story. There are songs here spanning a ten year period, hence why they needed to be cleared in order to move on.

Did you learn anything on Part 1 which you took into its successor to help its emergence or give it something different recording wise?

The process included working with guitarist James Coppolaro and drummer Simon Hutchby whilst David Ellefson and I also collaborated in more depth than before so that was a rewarding experience.

Listening to Part 2 we felt there was even greater personal intimacy to certain tracks than on the last; how close are the seeds of your songs to your life and experiences?

Some songs are closer personally than others but it’s interesting which songs individuals feel are intimate.

The album as you mentioned again sees you collaborating with David Ellefson, of course of Megadeth, in writing and playing. How did you guys meet and when did the link up musically begin?

We met backstage at Download in the UK some years ago. We started chatting music and immediately kind of bonded. I then began sending David songs in progress and he agreed to play on the first Johnny Wore Black single, All The Rage.

When you come to songwriting together, is it an even contribution or does David look towards the rhythmic side more?

It does vary per track. So far, on some David has sent riff ideas, like Firefly and on Gift of Desperation he sent a lyric, which I then developed. Writing is a very fluid process with no rules.jwbnew2-3-lo-res

There often seems to be a different kind of spark to songs you too have created together, not bigger or lesser than on other tracks, just strikingly different. What would you put that down to?

I suppose that’s just two minds rather than being the dominant decision maker however I’d be interested to ask you that question back and see what you feel is strikingly different about those tunes?

Tell us about the new album; is there a specific underlying theme to its lyrical explorations?

Each track has a different theme so really would need to answer this on a track-by-track basis. My lyrics explore people, the world and our continued need to understand.

How did the recording go; was it an all meet up situation or more technology driven coming together of the band for the album?

Some of the album was musicians in a studio, old skool style, and some via Skype and Dropbox. This was an international project via the USA, UK, Canada and Croatia.

Walking Underwater Pt 2 also features Croatian singer Sara Renar on the track Shine On and Loretta Heywood on a cover of her own track Winter in July. How did those guest appearances come about, especially with Loretta. Was she instantly open to you taking on her song?

Sara and I met on the set of Game of Thrones in Croatia some years back. We stayed in touch and I have followed her musical career. She has a unique quality to her voice I felt complimented Shine On, on the album. She was happy to contribute once she heard the song, and recorded her parts in a studio in Split, Croatia.

Now Walking Underwater Pt 2 is out there wooing the world, what is next in store for Johnny Wore Black, alter ego ha-ha, and band?

There is work to do, releasing singles and creating more music videos. We are having discussions about hitting the stage and seeking to break the back of the USA. Oh and by the way, another album is due next year, totally new material and bigger than Texas!

jwbnew2-hiresA big thank you for chatting with us again, any last thoughts you would like to share?

Just that I am truly grateful for your time and interest in Johnny Wore Black and thank you for providing a platform to help spread the gospel according to Johnny Wore Black.

And lastly I cannot go without asking about the film samples which graced the first album. Can you tell us about them and why you did not use them for the new release too?

The first ones were from a documentary my late father directed back in 1967 called The London Nobody Knows. The samples fitted the music, the songs and were a tribute to him. I will say, we are currently in discussion about producing The London Nobody Knows Revisited to mark its anniversary. I liked the idea of samples a-la-Floyd to be part of Walking Underwater Pt2 but decided to just focus on the songs.

Read the review of Walking Underwater Pt2 @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/johnny-wore-black-walking-underwater-pt-2/

http://www.johnnyworeblack.com

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 05/12/2014

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Snack Family – Pokie Eye EP

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It is not often you get a real tingle in the ‘loins’ as a band tempts the ears for the first time, but there is no doubting the lustful response UK rockers Snack Family inspired with their deliciously warped Pokie Eye EP. Casting a sound which could be described as gothic blues but fits better the description of The Birthday Party in its early days meeting Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers in a sultry and unhinged embrace with The Fat Dukes Of Fuck and Melvins, the release is a unique and rebellious slice of rock ‘n’ roll derangement and inescapably addictive.

Hailing from London and formed in 2011, the trio of Andrew Plummer (baritone guitar/ vocals), James Allsopp (saxophone/key), and Tom Greenhalgh (drums) swiftly and understandably drew references of Nick Cave, Captain Beefheart, and Morphine with their startling invention, as well as an eagerly growing attention. Debut release, the Belly EP lit new fires earlier this year which Pokie Eye inflames again with its own rich tonic of Southern bred creative dementia. Recorded with Ben Lamdin at Fish Market Studio, London and wrapped in the striking artwork of conceptual artist Drew Millward (Gallows, Pulled Apart By Horses, Oceanside), Pokie Eye is a wake-up call for the imagination, psyche, and sonic insanity.

Lupine Kiss is first, swinging in on groove infected keys and mischievous beats all lit by jazzy flames of brass. It is an immediate trap soon developing a hazy seduction and virulent toxicity as a thick tang infiltrates grooves and the highly evocative sax temptation. The song soon nudges thoughts of films like The Monster Club and From Dusk Till Dawn, it casting the imagination in a jazz fuelled, liquor soaked nightclub dwelt by the most salacious dangers and evil seductions possible. The song swerves tantalisingly with its melodic curves whilst the crispy high-hat sound is simply tantalising persuasion amidst the devilment of the rhythms. Leading it all like a devious bartender is the gruff crazily alluring tones of Plummer, his delivery as fascinating and irresistible as the creative loco around him.

The track is a riveting enslavement soon emulated in its own wholly distinct nature by Plastic Factory, a cover of the Captain Beefheart classic. Within seconds the song is strolling with sf_pokie_eye_frontbulging beats and flirtatious sax temptation but wrapped in a sinister and darkly enticing air, its fiery rock ‘n’ roll tempered by the prowling stance of the song and the heavy basslines courting the gravelly vocals. It is a blaze of aural salaciousness, especially from Allsopp’s sax which when really inflamed reminds big time of the kind of brilliant discord cloaked revelry Essential Logic conjured back in the seventies.

No Reason is a journey into the darkest and menacing corners of the mind and Snack Family’s invention, the song a slow swarming croon of a proposition embracing the heavy smoky Cash like tones of Plummer. It is stuff of your darkest dreams, a brilliant noir drenched, jazz bred smoulder of primal seducing and imagination. Keys resonate as indefinable sounds simply colour the drama, the track enthralling and immersive but most of all just brilliant, though it is soon surpassed by the closing revelry of Pokie Eye Poke Ya. The final song is psychotic manna, from the first flirtation of sax soon joined by a contagion of rhythms which in turn ignite a Cajun kissed jangle of strings and vocal rampancy, the track is simply sensational. Percussion and beats are as psychotic as the sounds dancing with lost inhibitions around them, a mix recalling again Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers but also Dutch band De Staat. It is rock ‘n’ roll devilment, a lunacy as controlled and resourceful as it is manic, and easily one of, if not the best song heard this year.

Pokie Eye is a must for all those with a taste for the references offered here or anything from blues rock, psychobilly…well simply rock ‘n’ roll of any slightly off kilter colour and ingenuity. Snack Family just might be our new favourite band and we suggest they may be yours too.

The Pokie Eye EP is available from December 6th via Limited Noise @ http://snackfamily.bandcamp.com/album/pokie-eye and through iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc.

http://snackfamily.co.uk

http://www.youtube.com/snackfamilymusic

RingMaster 05/12/2104

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Sleep of Monsters – Produces Reason

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pic: Niklas Kapanen / Nakkertton Photography

With dark beauty and compelling drama oozing from every note and syllable, Produces Reason is one of those creative emprises which almost deviously seduce ears and imagination. It is a proposition stocked to the rim with rapturous melodies and harmonies but of often within a frame of predatory rhythms and voracious intensity which intimidate as they entrance. Released by Finnish metallers Sleep of Monsters, the album is gothic rock in its most accessible and fiercely inventive incitement. Already available and greedily devoured in the band’s homeland, the album recently had its worldwide release through Svart Records and it is fair to say that already passions are submitting and appetites becoming greedy for album and its creators.

To be honest it is no surprise, Produces Reason is a riveting collection of individual dark dances united in the creative theatre cast by the Helsinki band. Equally there is maybe no shock due to Sleep of Monsters being the brainchild of ex- Babylon Whores vocalist Ike Vil. Other than his startlingly distinctive tones there is no real similarity between the two bands though, the former a raw and voracious death rock confrontation and Sleep Of Monsters a blazing seduction of melodic grandeur and tenacious gothic temptation, but experience and adventure never loses its potency. Alongside Vil, the band sees the equally skilled invention of guitarists Sami Hassinen (formerly of Blake) and Uula Korhonen, bassist Mäihä, drummer Pätkä Rantala (who played on HIM’s acclaimed debut album), and Janne Immonen on keys. It is a creative powerhouse but to that there are also The Furies, a trio of vocal sirens going under the names Hanna Wendelin, Nelli Saarikoski, and Tarja Leskinen, who soar across and spice songs with a part angelic part devilish seduction. As evidenced by the Pekka Laine (LAB, 45 Degree Woman) produced album, it is a combination blurring lines between the darkest romances and the brightest emotional consumptions in enthralling songs which have little problem igniting the imagination.

Produces Reason begins with the brief ethereal harmonic lure of Holy Holy Holy, thirty five seconds where The Furies seduce ears and thoughts into the arms of the album and the following Nihil Nihil Nihil. A mesmeric guitar sculpted melody opens up the song before the bulging sinews of rhythms and imposing riffs join its coaxing. As ears swiftly come to realise, every moment is just that in a passage of a song, a breath in a continual evolution which here sees a mellow yet fiery stroll with infectious arms surrounding the impressing tones of Vil. At its darkest twists and especially the chorus, Sisters Of Mercy come to mind and in its most charming mellower moments the song is simply fresh and spicy ingenuity. With pungent beats and the haunting harmonies of the ladies as potent as the fiery guitar endeavour and lead vocals, the track is an immense start to the release swiftly matched by Abomination Street.10689922_618393148275006_5434782575254450074_n

The third track is another unafraid to show its sinews but also explores a flavoursome eighties synth pop adventure, keys and vocals combining at numerous points to brings thoughts of Blancmange to mind. The accompanying press release describes the album as bulging with “radio-friendly” songs and as much as that term annoys, it is easy to see where they are coming from with this and its predecessor alone. Every moment is an anthemic and ridiculously catchy proposal yet not to the detriment of venomous shadows, dark places and thoughts explored as swiftly shown again by Murder She Wrote. There is a Victoriana air of danger and dankness to the opening bass resonance, the suggestiveness soon joined by the expressive tones and narrative of Vil within the emotional embrace of darkly dramatic keys. As the song expands and grows so does the tension and sinister theatre of the track, as well as noir lit adventure in the imagination. It is a glorious proposal, guitars adding mesmeric flames whilst vocals croon with depth and elegance.

The tense atmosphere of Christsonday comes next, its classic metal colouring a rich flame within the gothic breath of the song. Again, and it is fair to say it pleasingly toys with most songs, there is an eighties tinge to essences within the imposing and descriptive ambience of the track. It provides a canvas for thoughts to colour and an aural painting for ears to immerse in, before making way for the sweltering heat of Our Savage God. Striding resourcefully within a sultry climate with contagious enterprise, the track is irresistibly sensational. Think Chris Isaak and Helldorado meets Pete Wylie and equipped with one of the most ridiculously catchy and inescapable choruses possible, the track puts its head above the rest of the peaks filling the album.

Horses Of The Sun grips body and mind next, its opening tribal coaxing as shamanic as it is satanic, The Furies’ enticing aligned to an intimidating rhythmic baiting as menacing as it is hypnotic. The song evolves from here into an intensive impassioned croon with vocals and keys a prominent seduction, the track like a merger of Walker Brothers and Poets of the Fall as it unveils another beauteous aspect to the landscape of the album.

The engrossing adventure and drama of Through A Mirror Darkly is next, the song infusing Eastern mystique in a fiery melodic flight with has a loud whisper of The Mission to it. Its triumph is followed by the fascinating melodic and vocal evocation of Cobwebs Of Your Mind, another song also recalling elements of Wayne Hussey and co. It should be stated though that for all the references offered every song emerges as something unique to Sleep of Monsters, just they come with excitingly familiar whispers.

The album closes with the magnetic smouldering of Magick Without Tears, a track which ebbs and flows like waves lapping the senses, every strong wash of sound and emotions bringing thick resonance and virulent drama. Produces Reason does have an additional bonus track not on its Finnish release, the song being I Am The Night Color Me Black which continues keeping the appetite contented though it has yet to convince as successfully as the other songs on the album.

Babylon Whores was an underrated and for many an undiscovered confrontation but it is hard to imagine Sleep Of Monsters slipping under the broadest radar, especially after releasing easily one of the year’s best debuts in the transfixing shape of Produces Reason.

Produces Reason is available now via Svart Records @ http://svartrecords.com/shoppe/home/2735-sleep-of-monsters-produces-reason-cd.html

www.sleepofmonsters.com

RingMaster 05/12/2014

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The Deathtrip – Deep Drone Master

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Deep Drone Master is a fascination proposition whose tracks either has ears and emotions in rapture or certainly seriously contemplating what they have undergone and wanting more. That is how it ignited our personal reactions; at times the debut album from The Deathtrip sparking lustful ardour and in other moments simply has thoughts and emotions deliberating eagerly, with occasionally undecided results, the undeniably impressive provocations. Ultimately though the Svart Records released ravaging is an inescapable lure emerging as one of the more compelling black metal encounters heard recent times and very easy to recommend to all genre fans.

The Deathtrip goes right back to 2003, its seeds sown with British guitarist Host and his early compositions. Raw in atmosphere and sound with a badgering heart of hypnotic and repetitious structures, perfectly evidenced upon the album, Host’s sounds came to the attention of Aldrahn (Dødheimsgard /Thorns) who offered any assistance to the project, subsequently becoming the vocalist and chief lyricist. An early demo led to Snorre Ruch of Thorns showing interest in helping on a full-length album which he eventually produced. Recorded, re-recorded, and mixed over several years, with bassist Jon Wesseltoft and drummer Storm completing the line-up for the recording, Deep Drone Master finally had its worldwide unleashing via Svart a few weeks back and it is easy to feel it will be leaving lingering scars for black metal to exalt over.

The album’s Intro is a sinister cinematic incitement, danger leering from the shadows as life goes on seemingly unaware. Its portentous suggestiveness is soon lost in the tsunami of caustic riffs and battering rhythms which descend on the senses through Flag of Betrayal, their ferocity bound in spicy sonic acidity. It is fiercely alluring entrance, building further threat and fury as the distinctive tones of Aldrahn roar and brawl with ears. First listen suggested a clash between his bear like delivery and the scorched sonic and dour melodic flow of the sounds but it was a conflict soon winning thoughts and igniting tracks to greater effect. The unrelenting tempest of the track is a gripping onslaught but it is the acidic drone which most ignites the passions, a serpentine seduction which makes certain tracks elevate far above others, as shown by the next up Dynamic Underworld. As potent and impressive as its predecessor was, it instantly has ears and imagination lost in rapturous bliss as the guitar of Host winds a searing tendril of melodic causticity around the senses. Its nags ears with a glazed expression; mesmerising as it expels a monotonous seduction to irresistible effect. Around it this though the song has plenty to flirt with too, slow footed beats thumping with predatory intent as Aldrahn expels the narrative with mischief and drama whilst bass and further guitar enterprise roam with merciless persuasion. The song is exceptional; the best on the album and for personal tastes the moment the album truly taps into the psyche.

Both Sewer Heart and Cocoons seize attention with voracious onslaughts, the first almost scavenging emotions with its furnace of erosive sonic designs again bound in coarse textures and gutturally rasping vocals. Its successor is similar in many ways, its core a barbarous incessant torrent of malicious intent and creative fury but arguably even darker and hungrier than the previous aural ravishment. Both tracks have a swing to their bleak landscapes and enthralling repetition driven grooves which, without matching the pure toxic manna of Dynamic Underworld, keep imagination and emotions intrigued and hungry. Something Making Me has no problem with either, its rhythmic rampancy and sonic teasing perfectly aligned to a tangy groove which simply worms under the skin. The track is another which simply festers in dark majesty and relentless persuasion, almost insidious in its addictiveness and infectious fluidity which sees even the vocals of Aldrahn develop a bruising swagger to match the insatiable magnetism of Host’s invention.

Cosmic Verdict taps another vein of lustful submission, the unfaltering drone of its sonic grooving a venomous temptress in a maelstrom of spite, so much so that even when it relents and lets the heavier savage terrain of the song have its moment, it is still a lingering seducing that ears are impatient to have back scorching their flesh. Its tempestuous alchemy is followed by the rapacious climate of Something Growing in the Trees, the sublimely evil and deliciously toxic song a crawling beast fingering ears and psyche with salacious predation as a flavoursome southern twang veins its corrosive haunting.

From the corrosive turbulence and fury of A Foot In Each Hell, a track impressing without leaving a deep mark though it has moments which spark extra satisfaction to be fair, the album closes with Syndebukken. The final track is an evolving adventure of sonic niggling and atmospheric exploration, its body cavernous and soul Cimmerian, but as everywhere with plenty of enthralling discordant sculpted expressive under an emotionally brooding ambience.

That pretty much sums up Deep Drone Master, a nightmarish emprise which can devour the light of the soul or inflame primal cravings, very often at the same time. Despite certain aspects of the album spellbinding the passions far more than others, The Deathtrip and first album makes for one seriously exciting black metal corruption which can only be heartily recommended.

Deep Drone Master is available now via Svart Records @ http://svartrecords.com/shoppe/home/2739-the-deathtrip-deep-drone-master-cd.html

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Deathtrip/1454994818117379

RingMaster 05/12/2014

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Hearts Of Red – Two Hearts EP

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What can we tell you about UK alternative rock band Hearts Of Red? Well they come from Bristol and consist of vocalist Grace Bickerton, guitarists Josh Weller and Matthew Ward, and bassist Pierre Muslimani. The rest is to be discovered about this brand new band, with plenty bound to be asked about them once their debut release, the Two Hearts EP which comes out in the near future, and from the trio of songs Pierre kindly sent over for perusal, we can say it is going to be an introduction to excite.

The three songs are loaded with potential and accomplished invention, a potent spring board for the band to leap ahead from. Their sound sits somewhere between Karn8 and Hitchcock Blonde, two bands no longer with us but leaving a gap which Hearts Of Red fill nicely with their more hard rock seeded and raucously appealing sound.

Again track order is unknown but we will start with easily the best song on the upcoming release. You Are The One drips drama and attitude from its first breath and note, an immediate hook as intimidating as it is seductive. As rhythms and riffs prowl the senses Grace croons with magnetic resourcefulness, her tones mischievous and alluring, and finding their strongest potency when she roars as the song hits its impressive crescendo of a chorus. Her delivery is enjoyably varied and as mentioned cheeky, something always good to hear whilst around her attention gripping sounds flirt and entice with energy and low key but open adventure.

Easily a choice of lead single for us, the song is backed up by Motivation and Two Hearts, neither quite matching their predecessor’s might but each adding another piece of the emerging creative jigsaw within the band. The first of the pair explores a bluesy breeding from the start, raw riffs and jabbing beats again As good as stalking vocals and listener with a predatory gait wrapped in melodic enterprise. Adding another colour to the songwriting and sound of the band, the track is a real grower, emerging as a tasty teaser but just lacking the spark and unique character of You Are The One, the same which can be said of Two Hearts. Nevertheless both leave ears and appetite hungry to know and hear more. The third of the three tracks has a musty air to its sonic persuasion, a fuzzy lilt in tone which lies well with the sharper vocals of Grace and the rapier like beats. With the bass tempting of Pierre a strong dark lure and the enterprise of Josh and Matthew inventive and unpredictable, the song is a more than solid proposition just missing a snarl or boldness to step out of the box as found in the outstanding You Are The One.

The Two Hearts EP suggests that Hearts Of Red have the chance of a rather rosy future if they realise the promise fuelling their opening shots in their upcoming debut. Keep a close eye is our suggestion. For more information check the band out @ https://www.facebook.com/HeartsOfRedUK

RingMaster 05/12/2014

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

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