Tag Archives: rock

FEATURE: Kurt Vile

KURT VILE

KURT Vile is no mug.

The Philadelphian singer, songwriter, producer, and purveyor of delectably laid-back indie-folk tunes has been a guest in our country a smattering of times, but he’s got his audience pretty well sussed.

“I think Australians, in general, really feel music,” he says. “It’s a record nerd, gut-level or emotional thing; maybe an obsessive thing, which is very similar to the way I am. But there’s also a ball-busting, bullshit artist type of thing they can tap into, and [they] can have a good laugh. I feel they are really serious about music but also they can just bullshit and bust balls; they’re both equal. You know how to fuck with somebody to show that you love them. I feel a lot of Australians have those kinds of humour and emotions, you know?”

The 36 year-old will tour Australia solo for the first time in February and March, leaving his band The Violators at home. Successful previous sojourns and a recent surge in popularity here mean the idea of playing venues and shows the size of Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Taronga Zoo and Golden Plains Festival doesn’t faze him.

“I’ve been to Australia enough – this will be the fourth time coming up – to feel like it won’t make a difference,” he says. “I’ll be zoning out; kind of in my comfort zone. I’m sort of comfortable over there because, I don’t know, I’m just used to it over there. With The Violators we try to mix it up with keyboards and stuff like that, but [this time] I’ll just be by myself and my acoustic. I’m sure I’ll bring a banjo. Maybe one day I’ll have more of band with more instruments than a four-piece. I like to just go out, zone out, and not try to recreate the record.”

After leaving The War on Drugs, which he founded with long-term friend Adam Granduciel, and releasing his debut record in 2008, Vile has released six solo records and a collection of EPs of top-drawer folk, rock and psychedelia, with each record marking a musical and thematic progression from the last.

“I’m usually most proud of my newest album,” he says. “But that wears off once I start working on a new record. I look back and am proud of them all, but I would say maybe most of all ‘Smoke Ring for My Halo’; all those songs have a similar melancholia in the lyrics – there was a good theme going on there. The next few records obviously had themes going on too, but there is an interesting melancholic tone to ‘Smoke Ring for My Halo’; I can go back and listen to that one. There’s something about it. I wouldn’t say I’m most proud of it, but it’s some kind of statement.”

Not keen to rest on his laurels, and despite 2015’s ‘b’lieve I’m goin down’ not having been played in Australia yet, the hard-working Vile has already started on its follow-up.

“I’ve been in and out of the studio throughout this touring cycle because I feel like the last two records, in particular, took so long out of the touring cycle,” he says. “I don’t want to just get lost in this dark, black cocoon world in the studio. So I’ve been going in and out of the studio between touring for that reason. I probably have about half of the songs for the next record in some form. I think [fans] will recognise the sound; it’s not like it’s a drastically different record, but there’s always evolution. I think there’s a steady American roots thing going on in my music, and I don’t mean that it’s going to come out like ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ or something too country, but it’ll be some kind of roots scenario. I’ve always been into country and have been getting more into it lately. I read Jerry Lee Lewis’s biography – ‘Hellfire’ by Nick Tosches and George Jones’ autobiography. Since then I’ve basically been out of control reading about nerdy music things; especially Nick Tosches. I guess I’ve been a bit obsessed since my record came out.”

With talk of music nerdiness and an obvious knowledge of music history and lineage, Vile could be assumed to be a hardcore musicologist and collector. The truth is more interesting, however.

“I prefer to not have too many obscure records,” he says. “I have old country, blues and soul records. The stuff I get into is usually popular at one time or another. These days, if I go to the record store the records I want only cost two dollars or something anyways; ‘Country’s Greatest Hits’ or something. I usually space out and don’t even know what comes out in a particular year, but my buddy Luke Roberts put out a record which was great. Heron Oblivion’s record was great. I’ve had my head in the clouds listening to a lot of old music.”

Despite constant touring and having critically-acclaimed albums on his resume, the amiable Vile keeps his feet on the ground. As recently as 2009 he was working in a brewery while recording his third album.

“The constants are my two little daughters and my wife,” he says. “We just moved to a bigger house. It’s not a mansion, although it feels like it because I’ve never had any room my whole life. We’re also keeping our little house so I can go back to my roots and record there. So my everyday life lately has been carting things between these two houses and driving around. I’m pretty comfortable driving around in general, listening to music and zoning out. I’ve also done some little side projects. I did some songs with Courtney Barnett when I was in Australia last time; I’m not sure when they’ll come out or anything. I recorded in Nashville with a bunch of legendary old dudes. I’ve been in the studio with the Violators and I’ve been getting my home studio together, so I’ve kind of got my hands on a lot of different things and it’s all coming along.”

With 2017 mere days away, February comes quickly for Kurt Vile fans.

“The Violators are playing New Year’s at the Fillmore in Philadelphia, and a couple more shows in New York and Boston,” he says. “We have one more tour around Florida late January, then that lines me up to go solo and see you guys.”

Kurt Vile plays Taronga Zoo on Friday 3rd March and QPAC on Thursday 9th March

For Scenestr

Record review: Stonefield – As Above, So Below (2016, LP)

stonefield as above so below

Okay, before I begin, let me say this: our very existence is on a knife-edge and everyone dies alone. In a world of uncertainty we have to grab hold of whatever takes the edge off the grim reality on the front pages. The country’s going to hell in a Hanson-shaped handcart, so the time for plunging worried fingernails into the small certainties that make life worth living is upon us. One of those certainties is the ability of a good rock band to soothe the soul and free the mind, and the four Findlay sisters of Stonefield have been a good – hell, great – rock band on the national scene for close to six years. This release, their second full-length along with a couple of EPs, is a work of maturity and drive that expands on their instantly-riffy, ’70s-soaked psych-rock sound and pulls in other influences from the wider rock realm to make quite the gut-kicker. The sludgy, Sabbath-esque ‘Sister’ and organ-driven ‘Dream’ let you know they haven’t gone soft since their 2013 debut, while ‘Love’, ‘Eyes’, and ‘Higher’ (what’s with all the one-word titles, guys?) sound like they will be monstrous on stage. There’s a lingering feeling this is much more of a ‘band’ album than previous Stonefield records. Rather than four talented individuals ripping into their instruments, it has a cohesion most likely forged by constant touring at home and abroad, including dates with Fleetwood Mac. Country Victoria can be proud of the Findlays, and the rest of us can take heart from the knowledge that while just about everything is slipping through our fingers, some things remain steadfast.

For The Brag

Richie Ramone: 1, 2, 3, 4…

richie ramone

THE Ramones kickstarted punk, inspired a generation of kids to pick up guitars, and shook the rock establishment to its core.

Now, forty years after the New York band sang about beating on the brat with a baseball bat, drummer Richie Ramone is keeping their spirit alive with his own blistering punk-rock shows. Ramone touches down in Australia in late April for a run of east coast gigs with promises to play rock ‘n’ roll as loud as it should be.

“I’ll play some of the material from my last record and the one coming out.” Richie says. “Also songs I played with the Ramones back in the day, then I’ll play some Ramones classics. It’s a really good set, you know? It’s a complete Ramones set. In 2013 I played ANZ Stadium with Aerosmith. I had a good time and it’s beautiful over there. I’m really looking forward to this trip.”

In 1983, the then-unknown 26 year-old joined the legendary band just after the release of ‘Subterranean Jungle’, the quartet’s seventh studio album.

“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Richie says. “Somebody told me they were auditioning drummers, they gave them my name and that’s how it worked. I didn’t know them beforehand, and they called me and I just did the audition like any other audition. It was an amazing thing that I ended up in one of the greatest bands of all time. Right away we hit it off. Joey took me under his wing.”

His song-writing and vocals provided a much-needed new dimension to the band, and Richie went on to appear in over 500 shows. Singer Joey Ramone is quoted as saying Richie “saved the band” when he joined.

“The last two or three records, the last two especially, before ‘Too Tough to Die’ were probably not great records,” Richie says. “When you get a new person in the band, it changes the blood and energises the band. ‘Too Tough to Die’ came out in 1983 and did that. They accepted [my songs]. A good song is a good song, you know? Johnny didn’t want me to have more than one or two songs if he didn’t make the numbers, but they accepted it.”

Dysfunction was allegedly rife within the Ramones, including constant tension between guitarist Johnny and singer Joey, mental illness, drug abuse, and betrayal.

“All of it was exaggerated,” Richie says. “They were one of the most professional bands. We worked, you know? But it’s also like a family that’s together a lot; there’s weird shit going on. But when it came time to play a show, we were all together; we made sure of that. But they wanted to break up many times, I think, but I don’t know what caused them to stop [in the end].”

Since departing the band in 1987, Richie has had an eclectic career in music, including composing classical suites and releasing his debut solo album, ‘Entitled’, in 2013. A follow-up is in the works and is set for release this year.

“I’m my own artist now,” he says. “I have the last name and the Ramones taught me a lot. They gave me direction and taught me about how to respect the fans, and I carry that with me, but I’m my own artist, not the Ramones. I can’t be the Ramones. [The new album] is a fucking really great record and I’m really excited about it. I’ve got a Depeche Mode song [‘Enjoy the Silence’] on there, which I really like. I’ll be playing one or two songs from it when I get out there. I don’t like playing a lot of new songs when I’m on tour, so it’ll be only one or two.”

The death of drummer Tommy Ramone in 2014 meant that no founding members of the Ramones are still around, but the spirit of the band is as strong as ever, helped by the ubiquitous Ramones T-shirt and logo.

“There are a lot of new fans,” Richie says. “The thing I see is parents bringing their kids. There’s a fourth generation Ramones thing happening now. Parents want to introduce their kids to good rock ‘n’ roll. There’s tons of fans all over; we’ve got people coming to shows from 65 to 16. But it works. And they’re all wearing the T-shirt [laughs].”

Richie Ramone plays:

Thursday 28th April 2016
Great Northern Hotel – Byron Bay NSW

Friday 29th April 2016
Wooly Mammoth – Brisbane QLD

Saturday 30th April 2016
Social Club – Sydney NSW

Sunday 1st May 2016
Cherry Rock, Melbourne VIC

For Scenestr

Record review: Violent Soho – Waco (2016, LP)

violent soho waco

Possible reactions to the news Violent Soho have called their new album after a Texan town famous for a religious cult siege include (a) Oh FFS, they’re going for the American market, it’s going to be too polished, (b) Please don’t let them be turning into U2, or simply (c) Hell fuck yeah, a new Violent Soho album. Thankfully a first listen reveals the band to be the same Mansfield scruffs they have always been, and most certainly not prepared to switch from XXXX to Budweiser just yet. After the all-conquering success of 2013’s Hungry Ghost, the quartet must have wondered whether sticking with the tried-and-trusted alt-rock formula or trying something different was the right move, and it’s the former policy that has won out here. Shout-along anthems (‘Viceroy’, ‘Like Soda’, ‘Holy Cave’), drug references (‘How to Taste’) and huge grunge-y riffs (just about everything else) are the ingredients long-term fans know and love, while there are changes of pace in slow-burning closer ‘Low’ and Foos-esque ‘Evergreen’. It took eight months for singer-guitarist Luke Boerdam to write the 11 tracks here, and he has kept his subject matter as close-to-home as always: boredom, drinking and smoking with friends, and the expectations of modern life are tackled with honesty and heart. It’s been a long, hard road for Violent Soho to get where they are today, but if Hungry Ghost was their breakthrough, Waco will be the album that cements their place as one of Australia’s best rock bands.


For The Brag

Glen Matlock: Tough Cookie

matlock phantom slick

What do you get if you cross a Sex Pistol, David Bowie’s guitarist, and a drumming Stray Cat?

The result is Matlock, Phantom & Slick: a trio of legendary musicians set to serve equal portions of anarchy, glam and rockabilly on their upcoming Australia tour.

The band – Glen Matlock on bass and vocals, Earl Slick on guitar, and Slim Jim Phantom on drums – has been a going concern for around two years, and while former Sex Pistol Matlock is keen to talk about a range of subjects, the band’s live playlist is another matter.

“I’m not going to tell you,” he laughs. “It’s a bit like telling the punchline of a joke too soon. Not that it’s a joke, but you’ve got to have some surprises. But, there are certain songs [to be expected]; if I went to see the sadly-deceased David Bowie and he hadn’t done ‘Heroes’, I’d be going home disappointed. So we all know there are certain songs people expect to hear, and I’m sure you can work out which ones they might be. We do songs from all of our careers. That’s fair enough, innit?”

Refreshingly humble for a co-writer of what is often considered one of the most influential rock albums of all time in Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, Matlock is keener to talk about the future than his illustrious, if short-lived, punk past.

“We’ve actually got an album in the can of mainly my material,” he says. “We did it about a year ago and have been talking to people about getting it out. We went to a studio in Upstate New York with this guy Mario McNulty who engineered the Bowie album before the one that’s just come out. It’s cracking stuff and I’m proud of it. We do a cover version of ‘Montage Terrace (In Blue)’ by Scott Walker, believe it or not, and Jim plays kettle drums on it. You’ll have to hear it to understand where we’re coming from. It’s hard to describe your own music. The record business is quite different now; everybody is chasing the latest 17 year-old they think are going to be the new Beatles, but invariably aren’t.”

A big fan of Australia, Matlock is looking forward to making his fifth appearance Down Under.

“The first [visit] was in the eighties and the America’s Cup was on in Perth,” he says. “I remember when the sailing started in Fremantle, the boats were so far in the distance you couldn’t see anything, so that was a bit of a washout. That was in ’85, I think. I came back with the Pistols in ’96 for four weeks, then I’ve been over playing with Robert Gordon at the Byron Bay Blues Festival. Then I was there about two or three years ago with a guy called Gary Twinn, who had a band called Supernaut. His mum and dad were Ten Pound Poms. Also I have some relations there; my cousin lives in Melbourne and my ex-wife lives in Sydney. All good reasons for coming, and the weather’s a bit better over there.”

Having individually played parts in many historic moments in rock history, Matlock, Slick and Phantom have direct playing connections to both the recently-departed Bowie and Lemmy Kilminster: a possible hint to that live playlist.

“I knew both of them,” Matlock says. “I was fortunate to meet Bowie quite a few times and I got on really well with him. I met him in ’79 and then in New York in the early eighties and he was fantastic; really magnanimous and interested in people. He sought other people’s opinions and listened to what you had to say and took it on board. But he was a laugh as well, you know? Lemmy – I’ve known him for years. He used to knock around with all the punks not long after he’d left Hawkwind and was trying to get Motörhead together. The last time I played in the States with the Pistols at the Whisky a Go Go he came backstage to say hi and everybody had a lot of time for him. We’re just that generation now where people are shuffling off their mortal coil. I suppose they’re the ones who survived all the immediate excess of being rock stars, but it has ultimately taken its toll.”

While all four founding members of the Sex Pistols are very much alive and kicking, hope remains for another reunion tour.

“[There’s nothing] I know of as yet, but never say never,” Matlock says. “It’s the beginning of 40 years of punk this year, but also 40 years of the Sex Pistols, if you want to hang it on something. It’s down to John [Lydon’s] whims quite a bit, but I know my bank manager would be happy.”

Matlock was famously dumped from the Sex Pistols in 1977 in favour of the chronically-untalented Sid Vicious. Claims by manager Malcolm McLaren the reason was “for liking the Beatles” have been repeatedly refuted over the years.

“That was bollocks for a start,” he says. “It was just something McLaren said. I left because John could be really hard work. When you’re 19 going on 20, you don’t always see the wood for the trees. When we reformed in ’96 I felt vindicated, because of all the people in the world they could have asked, they asked me again, so they possibly came round to my way of thinking a little bit more.”

When it is suggested he might not have been given fair dues for his song-writing contributions to the Sex Pistols, Matlock shrugs it off with characteristic humility and humour.

“I think I’ve managed to claw a bit of that back now,” he says. “I think people have [recognised] my contribution to the band. But I don’t wake up in the morning thinking about how I used to be in the Sex Pistols; there are lots of things to do in life. The phone always rings with interesting projects and invitations to go and do this, that and the other. The only time I think about the past is when [journalists] ask me about it, you know what I mean? So neh neh neh neh neh [laughs].”

Dubbed the ‘Men of No Shame Tour’, the upcoming run of shows will see the band perform seven times along the east coast, with a pre-show Q&A session giving the audience a chance to verbally prod their hosts.

“I would rather have called it the ‘Tough Cookies Tour’ because that’s what we are,” Matlock says. “[The Q&A] is something the promoter dreamed up, but I’m used to it. I’ve done similar things at the Edinburgh Festival; playing acoustic shows, telling stories and inviting questions. That was during the show, but before the show will be a bit different, because you’re usually worried about where you left your eye-liner, you know? I’m a big boy and I can deal with it.”

For The Beat and The Brag

Record review: Hinds – Leave Me Alone (2016, LP)

hinds leave me alone

Cool your boots, 2016; I’m still working through the impossible amount of tuneage your predecessor tried compressing into my earholes. Is there a way we can start the year around, say, March? Just kick back a bit and write January and February off as a hangover? No, I thought not, you heartless swine. Things Madrid quartet Hinds gives zero fucks about, not including releasing their debut album in the first week of January, are (a) wearing their hearts on their sleeves, (b) displaying their goofy demeanour, and (c) learning to play their instruments properly. In other words: they have exactly the right ingredients for an album which is infectious, fun and fresh. Lo-fi garage pop is the order of the day, centred on the alternating vocals of founding members Carlotta Cosials and Ana Perrote, who tend towards singing about the joys and pitfalls of trying to maintain relationships amid a sea of insecurity, misguided declarations of love, and heavy partying. ‘Warts’ is an early highlight; it’s perhaps the best example of the group’s ability to mix scrappy guitar melodies and loose, dual vocals, whereas the breezy jangle-twang of ‘San Diego’ takes it up all a notch. With an approach to playing that’s as much about writing great pop tunes as it is having a good time, Hinds are not only clapping their hands and enjoying the wild abandon of the moment; they’re digging their heels in for the future. Here’s to you, 2016. Let’s do this.

For Beat

Live review: AC/DC + The Hives + Kingswood – Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre – 12/11/15

AC/DC brisbane 2015

IT’S been a long five years since the AC/DC train rolled through Australia on the Black Ice tour, so it’s not surprising that seemingly every rock fan in Brisbane has descended on QSAC, armed to the teeth and ready for battle with flashing devil horns and the blackest of black T-shirts, ready to see if the Rock or Bust show can top that triumphant memory.

The great thing about AC/DC shows up to now is that fans know exactly what they’re going to get: two-ish hours of straight-up, world class rock ‘n’ roll with duckwalks and inflatable cartoon groupies thrown in for good measure. This time, though, something is different: rhythm linchpin Malcolm Young and long-serving drummer Phil Rudd are no longer with the band; the former now suffers from dementia and the latter found himself under house arrest. Replacing them are Malcolm’s nephew Stevie Young on guitar and drumming veteran Chris Slade; both have served time with the band previously. So, are the new/old boys up to the task?

Kingswood are the first to step up and warm the audience’s eardrums, and they do so with hard-rocking aplomb. Opening with ‘She’s My Baby’, the Melbourne quartet immediately sound massive, and as the cool-as-funk synths of ‘I Can Feel That You Don’t Love Me’ slice the dusk air, it feels like they’re making this look and sound easy. Frontman Fergus Linacre’s towering vocals during closer ‘Ohio’ sound right at home in a stadium.

Everyone’s favourite Swedish garage rockers are next, and it’s great to see that after 20 years in the business, the Hives are still throwing themselves around stages with as much hyperactivity as they did after breaking big in the early 2000s. With his trademark high kicks, microphone swinging and crowd baiting, frontman ‘Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist covers several kilometres around the stage, issuing unintelligible demands and declaring his love for Brisbane. ‘Walk Idiot Walk’, ‘Die Alright’, ‘Tick Tick Boom’ and the “song about me being an asshole”, ‘Main Offender’, still sound great, and by the time they’re finished with ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’, the air is thick with anticipation and the smell of a thousand upturned rum and cokes.

After the traditional animated opening, this time featuring an asteroid Angus, AC/DC kick into the title track from Rock or Bust, and any concerns over the absence of certain tried-and-trusted band members fade. Immediately sounding, and more importantly, feeling, like the AC/DC we know and love, the band is tight and heavy. Slade is a powerhouse behind the kit and Stevie Young plays as closely to his uncle’s sound as probably anybody could.

‘Shoot to Thrill’ is followed by ‘Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be’ and ‘Back in Black’, at which stage, despite singer Brian Johnson’s top form and bassist Cliff Williams’s solid display as ever, it becomes the Angus Young show for the rest of the gig. He is basically the frontman of AC/DC after all, and whether he’s duckwalking, pointing to the audience, shredding like a maniac or throwing himself around the floor like a child having a seizure, the six-string legend has thousands of people eating out of his hand at every move.

Newer track ‘Play Ball’ sits perfectly among the Back In Black-era songs, ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ earns the first of many boob flashes of the evening, ‘Thunderstruck’ receives an earth-shaking response and ‘High Voltage’ sees Brian Johnson calling Malcolm Young’s name and hearing it yelled back at him in glorious harmony. It’s after ‘Have a Drink on Me’ and ‘TNT’ that inflatable Rosie makes an appearance, which leads into an extended, fiery version of ‘Let There Be Rock’ and an encore of ‘Highway to Hell’ and ‘For Those About To Rock (We Salute You), complete with trademark cannon salute and fireworks.

It seemed difficult to imagine how AC/DC could have topped the spectacle of the Black Ice tour, but with Rock or Bust, they’ve done it. To think of what they’ve accomplished having lost a founding guitarist and established drummer is remarkable, and this show is the evidence. Whether there will be another tour is hard to call, but if tonight’s gig was anything to go by, Angus and the boys can do just about anything they want to.

SETLIST

Rock or Bust
Shoot to Thrill
Hell Ain’t A Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Play Ball
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Thunderstruck
High Voltage
Rock ‘n’ Roll Train
Hells Bells
Baptism by Fire
You Shook Me All Night Long
Sin City
Shot Down in Flames
Have a Drink on Me
TNT
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock

Encore:
Highway to Hell
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

For Music Feeds

Record review: Buried in Verona – Vultures Above, Lions Below (2015, LP)

buried in verona

It’s been just over a year since the release of their fourth album, but Sydney metalcore mainstays Buried In Verona aren’t wasting time with a follow-up. With a new guitarist, drummer and bassist on board, a settling-in period could be expected, but reinvigorated singer and founding member Brett Anderson is keen to grab the bull by the horns, with largely positive results. Much is softer than what has gone before, including unmistakable pop-rock elements in ‘Hurricane’, but the harder tracks are still there in ‘Pathways’, ‘Dig Me Out’ and the brutal pairing of ‘Vultures Above’ and ‘Lions Below’. Elsewhere, soaring single ‘Can’t Be Unsaid’ is a highlight, as Anderson works through his demons and displays an increasingly impressive range. A band that stays still is a band that gets left behind, but, with Vultures Above, Lions Below, Buried in Verona are making sure that doesn’t happen to them.

For Heavy

Record review: The Frowning Clouds – Legalize Everything (2014, LP)

the frowning clouds

Let’s get this straight from the off – legalizing everything probably isn’t a good idea, and it’s safe to say Geelong retro garage-rockers The Frowning Clouds know that. That aside, this is a band with some serious pop-writing chops, as this third album from the quintet shows. Plenty of sixties-inspired jangly pop with more than a few welcome psych-rock touches is the modus operandi that long-term fans of the band will recognise, although there are a few neat new tricks slotted into a series of two to three-minute tracks to keep things interesting. Indeed, it’s the lack of extended King Gizzard-esque psych-rock wig-outs that make Legalize Everything bounce along so nicely, although at no point does the mood get beyond incredibly laid-back. Opener ‘Carrier Drone’ sets the tone with a chilled and distorted chorus of “take me, take me anywhere you want”, while ‘Sun Particle Mind Body Experience’ carries on the relaxed vibe with some shiny guitar moments. Tracks like ‘Move It’ and ‘No Blues’ display an intriguing diversity to the band’s sound that points to a more eclectic future, while space-rock instrumental ‘Radio Telescope’ sounds like a group of guys making ear-searing noise just for the sheer pleasure of it. All in all, it’s this mix of elements that combine to make an album that’s catchy, crackly and a whole lot of fun.

Best track: Sun Particle Mind Body Experience
If you like this, you’ll like these: The Kinks, The Small Faces, The Byrds
In a word: Swingin’

For Beat

Slash: “We ended up doing 17 tracks in six days”

slash

In 2001, former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash collapsed at a soundcheck, woke up in hospital and was given between six days to six weeks to live.

A pivotal point in the hard-drinkin’, heavy-druggin’ Los Angeles native’s life, it marked a turning point that saw the legendary axeman get sober and eventually begin writing and releasing records of his own.

“I’ve gone through a lot of different stuff,” he says. “I was comfortable with a lot as far as when Guns N’ Roses was happening, but there’s been a lot of stuff I’ve had to go through to get to the point of where I’m at now on my own; it was very hard. Maybe there were periods there when I probably had question marks in brackets around whatever I was doing, but I never really stop and specifically think about stuff like that. I just like doing what I do. It seems insane to people that I don’t have a specific motivation now other than just liking music. I like playing live, I like writing, I like touring and everything that goes with it. Making records and going out in front of audiences; this is what I picked up a guitar for.”

World On Fire is Slash’s third solo album, and the second on which the 49 year-old has worked with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators.

“It’s exciting; we finished it in May,” he says. “We’ve been doing this for five years now. It started off as nothing; I didn’t have any plans for this. It was just really a band that I’d put together to support my first solo record, but it turned out to be such a great bunch of guys that I decided to work with them to make the next record following that, which was Apocalyptic Love. Basically at that point it had already turned into a band and was one of those sort of magical combinations of people that I didn’t see coming, but turned out to be really great.”

Produced by Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette, World On Fire is 17 tracks of typically Slash-esque hard rock, with plenty of big riffs and solos, and was recorded in double-quick time.

“Usually it’s one or two songs a day,” Slash says. “But with this record we ended up doing 17 tracks in six days. It was good. I write the stuff on the road, here and there, and then I work it up with Brent [Fitz, drums] and Todd [Kerns, bass] and start getting a real musical arrangement together. I then send it out to Myles so he can start getting some ideas. They’re with me the whole time on the road when most of these ideas come in the first place, so they’ve heard most of it before. We’ve jammed in soundchecks and dressing rooms or whatever, so most of the initial ideas they’ve heard. I grew up in a very rock and roll environment, musically, and guitar solos are a very important part of rock and roll songs. They’re just a really exciting part of a good rock song.”

An upcoming slot on the Soundwave 2015 bill will give Slash and co. a chance to play the new material to Australian audiences for the first time.

“I’m excited about it,” he says. “We did it in 2011 or 2012 – I can’t remember exactly. We did the tour and there was Slayer and a bunch of cool bands on the bill. It was a lot of fun, and was one of the coolest sort of moving tours that I’ve ever done. We are really looking forward to it. Everything [on the album] is basically all recorded live. We don’t write songs with the intention of them being live songs, but when we go in to record it, we just play the songs live so much it just comes out that way. Everything on the record more or less comes from a live setting, so it should all translate great live, you know? We’re on tour now with Aerosmith in the States and then we start a world tour in November. It’ll basically run all the way through next year.”

Despite Gene Simmons recently claiming rock music is dead, Slash is quick to come to its defence.

“I’ve been hearing that same exact quote since the seventies,” he says. “But anyway, I think rock music as a medium will never ever die or anything like that, but it’s going through a hard time. The way that the business has become is predominantly, if not a hundred percent, corporate at this point. When it comes to record companies and radio and all that kind of stuff, rock music doesn’t really have much of a place in it. But that’s what I love about what’s going on right now – there’s this really great underbelly of very genuine, spirited rock and roll happening. It’s starting to get that sense of rebellion back, which is really great. I think that’s important, and I think it should be ‘us against them’, you know? I sort of like the way that things are going and I don’t see rock being dead at all. I see it in Europe and a lot just recently in America. I can’t speak on behalf of Australia, but I do know certain bands over there who have that same attitude.”

With more than his fair share of hard-living and dark times behind him, and his new band line-up set in stone, the only question remains is whether one of rock’s great survivors is willing to drop the solo moniker and give his bandmates equal billing.

“I’m not going to,” he laughs. “Never.”

WORLD ON FIRE BY SLASH FEAT. MYLES KENNEDY AND THE CONSPIRATORS IS OUT SEP 15.

For Beat and The Brag

Record review: Kingswood – Microscopic Wars (2014, LP)

kingswood microscopic wars

As recently as February, Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner felt the need to include the words “that rock ‘n’ roll, it just won’t go away” in an award acceptance speech, as a gesture of defiance in support of a so-called waning form of music. If rock and roll is indeed fading away, thankfully nobody has told Kingswood, who seem intent on embarking on a one-band mission to put it back where it belongs. Anyone who has had their ears assaulted by the Melbourne quartet on one of their many jaunts up and down the east coast over the last couple of years knows that they are one of the hottest rock bands in Australia right now, but until now they’ve been a white hot rock band without a debut album. Now it’s here, and it’s a lot more varied than you might expect, with the scorching big-noise numbers ‘Ohio’ and ‘Sucker Punch’ being bookended by the desert blues of ‘So Long’ and jaunty ‘Piece By Piece’. Single ‘ICFTYDLM’ packs an altogether groovier punch than perhaps anything the band has done before; it’s as if a sleazy lounge band has been allowed to throw in some songwriting ideas for a few minutes, and it works beautifully. Inevitable Led Zeppelin comparisons will ensue, but whether you label this album good old fashioned rock and roll, straight-up guitar-rock or whatever, in the end Microscopic Wars is simply a ballsy and brilliant piece of work. The future of rock and roll, it seems, is in excellent hands. (Dew Process)

For mX

Record review: Doctopus – Wobbegong (2014, LP)

doctopus wobbegong

Shortly before his death in 1982, gonzo music journalist Lester Bangs played down the importance of using sophisticated recording techniques by claiming that the best records are made and played on garbage equipment. By that standard, lo-fi slacker-rockers Doctopus must have made one of the records of the year, because their second album is so heroically sloppy it should be served with a napkin and wet wipes. Not that the Perth trio would be the types to give a damn; it’s just good to be pre-warned when dealing with such a gloriously unfocussed piece of work. As their name suggests, the band have a minor preoccupation with marine life, as on the mostly nonsensical title track, which finds bassist/vocalist Stephen Bellair bawling “I wanna live underwater” repeatedly before switching to “I wanna live in a spaceship with you,” in move that’s more indecision than evolution. Naming a track ‘Stadium Rock’ and making it five minutes of squalling, rampaging feedback manically laughs in the face of everything that hair-metal stood for, and the eight-minute tuneless ballad that is closer ‘Chronic Reprise’ kills any chance of clarity and finishes off the record. If you’re looking for an overall idea or a general concept, you won’t find it here. Instead, it’s the utter lack of direction, whatever-goes attitude and general overall mess of sound that is most appealing about this seven-track effort. Musicians take note: this is how to stuff up an album good and proper. Lester would be proud. (Independent)

For mX

Kram of Spiderbait: “We always feel that our shows are special gigs”

kram

SPIDERBAIT are hitting the road for their first national tour in ten years and an appearance at Splendour, and drummer/singer Kram is taking it all in his stride.

“We just turn up,” he says. “That’s our way to get pumped up. We don’t really prepare that much; we do some rehearsing and stuff, but my whole philosophy is that our music is very spontaneous. We don’t think about it too much; we save ourselves for the show and we don’t get there too early. We’ve been playing together for over 20 years, so whenever we walk onto the stage we feel each other’s dynamic through the songs we play, including the new ones in the set. Then we just let it happen; we let it all come out and let the audience’s energy, our energy and the music’s energy create a melting pot that you can stir for yourself and have a great time. That’s kind of the way I like to do it and how we operate. That’s why I think our shows are very exciting, because you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen.”

While their self-titled comeback album was released in November last year, it’s been a bit of a wait for the accompanying tour.

“It was basically difficult for us because of some family stuff,” Kram says. “We did a couple of festivals in Victoria and we were originally going to do Big Day Out, but that unfortunately folded as we couldn’t reach an agreement with them. It’s a shame that the show has reached its demise; we have a lot of great memories of that festival. So, we decided we would put it off and start it at Splendour In The Grass, which we’re playing this month, then we’ll do the national tour after that.”

Having just returned from Brazil and with film score work in the pipeline, Kram is as busy as ever, but the chance to get Spiderbait back on the road was an enticing offer.

“Everyone was up for it, absolutely,” he says. “The guys at Secret Sounds, who do Splendour In The Grass, were really keen on doing it. It was probably more their idea, in a way. We were like ‘yeah, that sounds good’ because we hadn’t toured for a long time; it’s just not something that we do very much any more. Once they put forward the idea and the dates were set up, we thought it was really cool. We’re looking forward to it; it should be good. We love playing live. We always feel that our shows are special gigs and we love that. We love the energy the crowd gives us and we’re very grateful to our fans for wanting to see us.”

SPIDERBAIT PLAY SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS JULY 25 AND THE HI-FI AUG 9.

For Scenestr

Record review: Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin (2014, LP)

bob mould beauty and ruin

Fans of Hüsker Dü tend to favour either the tracks on which guitarist Bob Mould or drummer Grant Hart sang; the former taking a more brutal approach at the mic and the latter being a more melodic soul. It’s been 26 years since the Hüskers broke up in acrimony and 25 since Mould’s debut solo record, but 2012’s Silver Age saw Mould triumphantly return to the rush of angry alt-rock riffage Hüsker fans loved him most for, and it’s in this vein Beauty & Ruin continues for the 53 year-old. Not that you’d think it after listening to sludgy opener ‘Low Season’; the longest track here at four minutes. With that out of his system, it’s straight into the two and three-minute blasts of rock ferocity, with ‘I Don’t Know You Anymore’ and ‘The War’ being particular stand-outs. ‘Forgiveness’ eases off enough for a mid-album catching of breath, and isn’t unlike some of REM’s earlier work, while ‘Tomorrow Morning’ is Candy Apple Grey-era Hüsker Dü rebooted for the 21st century. It’s refreshing to see and hear a rock musician still doing it better than many bands he inspired, and as Hüsker Dü’s classic Zen Arcade came out 30 years ago this month, maybe it’s time for a re-evaluation of Bob Mould’s standing in the annals of rock. On Beauty & Ruin, he’s a musical force of nature; just like he’s always been. Green Day et. al: this is how it’s done. (Merge)

Dan Cavanagh of Anathema: “We’re not into lyrics about elves and we’re not into playing the fucking flute”

Anathema band

IT ONLY TAKES one four-letter word to get Anathema multi-instrumentalist and song-writer Dan Cavanagh fired up. Prog.

“I have no idea what it is, I don’t care about it and I don’t consider our band to be in it,” he says, when asked if the genre is in good shape globally. “It really is journalistic spiel to say we are a progressive band, you know what I mean? I do not consider us a progressive rock band; never have. In terms of where it is globally, I don’t care and I don’t even fucking know. If you’re talking about Pink Floyd, Kate Bush or Radiohead; that’s something I consider us to be closer to. If they’re a bit prog-rock, then I’ll take that, but we’re not into lyrics about elves and we’re not into playing the fucking flute. We’re not about time signatures and time changes and solos and what prog-rock seems to be known for; it’s got nothing to do with us. But I’m not knocking it! It’s just not for me. Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Kate Bush are for me.”

Luckily the 41 year-old Englishman is in more of a mood to talk about the (not prog) rockers’ tenth studio album Distant Satellites, and why it had the working title of Kid AC/DC.

“We’re all fans of Radiohead and AC/DC,” he says. “One thing I noticed was those bands strip back their music; it’s not over-layered, particularly on Kid A, which is a real difference from OK Computer. AC/DC do the same thing with rock and roll. Their music isn’t layered with strings and piano; it’s stripped-back, edgy rock and roll, which is great. We were tired of over-laying. Our previous albums are good, but we tended to just throw things on. This time we took a more mature and considered approach by not doing that. Both I and the producer independently came to that conclusion before we talked about it, but we were making an album that’s considerably more rock-edged than Kid A, so we called it Kid AC/DC.”

The album contains tracks called ‘The Lost Song’ in three parts; the result of a minor catastrophe that Cavanagh turned to his advantage.

“In about 2008, I recorded a riff which I considered to be a very good one for us,” he says. “I was very excited about it. A few weeks later it had actually disappeared off the recording and I couldn’t find it. I tried really hard to find other demos, and if it ever turns up I’ll be amazed and interested. Then I started trying and failing to remember that riff and these songs were written. So what I was doing was trying to write a song with a time signature and chord progression that may have been like the one that was lost. All three songs came from that. It drove me crazy, but John [Douglas, drums] said to tell myself the song was crap, and it’ll be okay.”

Along with Norwegian producer Christer-André Cederberg, the band were able to call on The Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson for additional duties.

“He was involved for just four days, but he made a difference,” Cavanagh says. “He mixed two songs on the album and two B-sides. All the production, writing and recording was already done before we asked him, and the reason we asked him was that Christer had taken ill and needed some time in the hospital for an operation. He couldn’t mix all the songs in time, so we asked Steven to help, and he did a great job as he always does.”

Almost unbelievably for a band that has existed since 1990, their three-date August tour will be the six-piece’s first trip to Australia. Does Cavanagh know why that’s been the case?

“Maybe because it’s so far away. It’s only just recently that we’ve got a really strong manager in place. We haven’t had a strong manager kind of ever, and it’s one of the reasons we’ve underachieved. We’re not going to underachieve any more, but maybe it’s just part of our story, I don’t know.”

ANATHEMA PLAY:
Thursday, August 21 – The HiFi Bar, Brisbane
Friday, August 22 – The Metro Theatre, Sydney
Saturday, August 23 – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne

DISTANT SATELLITES BY ANATHEMA IS OUT NOW.

For The Brag