The Mystery Jets have been earning critical hosannas ever since they sprang out of the illustrious Eel Pie Island with their biscuit-tin-bashing rock. Despite largely being so god damn young – three members are 20, one 21 and one ‘slightly older’ – the band has existed in one form or another for more than a decade. So, needless to say, they have a barrel-full of road stories and tales of starting out practising in a boat shed all with lead singer Blaine’s dad Henry in tow.

Clash joins the jubilant lads in an Italian eaterie an hour before they are due on stage. Blaine and Kai have been arguing about whether it is better to have mulled wine or smoke sheeshas on tour. “It’s all about absinthe,” declares Kai. “It’s a real artist’s drink of choice. If you overdose, it’s a pretty rock and roll way to die! It’s way more cool than heroin, everyone dies of heroin – who dies of absinthe?” In as comical a restaurant as this, where the wine is served in shot glasses, Kai continues to tell us about how the Bloomsbury set of writers used to get drunk like dogs before midday and write masterpieces in the afternoon. They are good company to have a drink with. You drink and they talk – about music and evolving into a band in, according to Blaine, “bloody suburban” Twickenham.

“It’s beyond anything I could have imagined.”

Drummer Kapil passionately describes the staring match he had on the bus in Twickenham earlier that day. “He was watching me…he was about twelve years old,” he says in his thick Wembley twang, “and I was like, ‘I was like you when I was young’,” then, with genuine outrage, he recalls how the hoodlum raised his hoodie down to his nose and made a screwface. “He was literally twelve! You don’t do that when you’re twelve,” and adds in an American drawl, “I’ll slap you upside your head boy!” Bassist Kai jumps in, “In Kensal Rise, you wouldn’t even do that,” he says. “Gun out, bang. Oh yeah, we don’t mess around with looking. It’s dead or alive.” He then accuses Blaine of being a ‘rude boy’ and claims that he mugs and bullies the others all the time. Blaine smiles, and looks on quietly to the increasingly lairy discussion. He is saving his voice for the performance – he has a sore throat. To soothe it he orders some hot water and the mother of all medicine – some beer.

Coming out of Twickenham is something the Mystery Jets are proud of. Eel Pie has been exposed as the forgotten music sanctuary of the 60s and 70s that played host to gigs from The Who and the Rolling Stones amongst others. But even earlier than that, the island was a holiday destination to Victorian English society. Kai says, “Recently I read that going back about 150 years, it used to be like the poor man’s holiday, rather than travelling to the sea, they’d go to Eel Pie!” and mocks a Victorian gentleman saying ‘isn’t this nice?’ “And then a dead body floats past…” he continues. Kapil then mysteriously reveals “They never had dead bodies in the 1800s,” and Kai, shocked, responds, “Course they did! Your mother dies, you’re not gonna spend £200 on a funeral, you’re gonna push it in the Thames. Do you know what I mean? When you can spend all that money drinking.” Cruises used to take scores of leisurely Victorians around the Island. Kai then describes how Henry saw a huge, violent bird with horns dive into the water and swallow a whole eel without chewing on the island. And Blaine adds, “You know what? A friend of ours, but this is sort of hush hush, saw a crocodile [in Eel Pie]. About a metre long, it was a pet crocodile that someone had obviously got for Christmas – you can get crocodiles from Harrods – he saw it in the moonlight. It came along and sat on the bank, kind of flicked its tail and went back away.” No wonder an island as mythical as this spawned an outfit like the Mystery Jets.

At the end of the dinner, when Blaine is still worried about how to coax his throat into action for the gig, Henry tells him he has some Lemsip in his pocket. The towering presence of the silver-haired guitarist and Mellotron player is vital to the band dynamics. When the Harrison boys moved to Eel Pie, Blaine, Kai and Will aged seven and eight were guided through the island’s history. Henry oversaw the impressionable youngster’s early attempts at song-writing and exposed them to his record collection of Pink Floyd and Mozart. Will describes the first instruments he and Blaine played, “Blaine had this plastic electric guitar, and it came with this tiny battery-powered amp, and we started playing around. And we didn’t have a drum kit, so we played on pans and pots instead.” Ten years later, The Mystery Jets have emerged with ‘Making Dens’, an album of complex and ambitious music incorporating demonic chanting on ‘Zoo Time’ and ‘weird percussion’ all over.

Henry, who harboured dreams of emulating his musical heroes, gives hope to failed musicians everywhere, originally he played in a band in the 60s. “It was Beatles-style music,” he recalls. Playing a mixture of covers and original material, “we lasted for about two years and then we actually split up when I left school. So it never developed beyond that. I always felt frustrated by that, I wanted to go further and it never quite worked out.” This is his self-confessed Second Coming. The crowd at the sold out gig venue later raucously shout ‘Henry! Henry!’ Jerry Springer-style whilst he takes a minute to blow kisses to them, and giving them the thumbs up before he walks off stage. The dream of being in a band may have taken years to realise, but he says it is living up to it – “It’s beyond anything I could have imagined.”

Titles these days are transitory; heroes come and go and stars rise and fall, such is the cut-throat pace of the entertainment and media industry. Over time, Alexis Korner’s celebrity may have slipped into the background, but that’s just the way he would have wanted it. For Alexis, music was everything, he lived and breathed it, and anything that came with it was merely trivial. You may not have heard of him, but in his 40-year career he was directly responsible for kick-starting a whole new musical movement AND the formation of the classic bands it spawned. It’s about time, I’d say, for a re-appraisal of the man quite rightly accorded the lasting honour: “the Godfather of British blues”.

Alexis Korner spent the first decade of his life with his family, an affluent Turkish/Greek/Austrian union, in France, before finally moving to London in 1940. “The story goes,” says Alexis’ son Damian, “that they got out of France on the last boat that was leaving from Calais to Dover. Apparently the Stukas were dive-bombing the boat as it went into Dover!” Wartime London was a bewildering place to be transplanted into as a boy, and the young loner initially found it difficult adjusting. But it was also an exciting place to be; the soldiers coming and going from the city – some American – brought to the city music from around the world and saw the beginning of the underground speakeasy clubs – all of which was soaked up by the impressionable youth.

By 1949, Alexis had joined the Chris Barber band. Barber, a lifelong proponent of trad-jazz, was one of the big band leaders of the time, even though jazz to some was still viewed as a forbidden genre. “When my father’s father caught my father playing Boogie Woogie on the piano, he shut the piano up, locked it up and said it was never to be played again,” laughs Damian, “and that’s a fact.” It was in this band that he met Cyril Davies, a similar blues enthusiast, and by 1956 the pair had combined to follow their true calling: the blues. The duo played frequently at their new venture, the London Blues and Barrelhouse Club, to which they also invited seminal blues artists from across the Atlantic. “There was adoration,” says Damian of the visitors’ reception from the Brits, “because they’d heard all of these people on vinyl but never had a hope of being able to see them. Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee; they were literally like gods to the British blues fans.” Their hosts, while they would stay here, would be the Korners in their family home.

Blues Incorporated, Alexis and Cyril’s group, were the house band at their new residency at the Marquee in London from 1962, and aside from its core members, saw a revolving cast of musicians including Charlie Watts on drums and Jack Bruce on bass. The club was hugely popular and was the nucleus of the early 60’s blues explosion; queues would reach around the block and, as Damian remembers: “the only way I could get round [the club] was by crawling on the floor through people’s legs.” Among the crowd and enamoured with this Anglicised interpretation of American blues were devotees who would soon pick up the baton passed on by Korner and co, with a helping hand from the man himself. “Someone like Mick Jagger would come along to a gig, he’d come along to a few gigs, and then he’d ask if he can get up on stage and sing,” remembers Damian. “Dad would say, “With pleasure”. Anybody could have a go. If they weren’t any good of course, they wouldn’t stay very long. If they had potential, they would stay and Dad would offer them a gig and try and help them on their way.” As the like-minded bonded, so Jagger, Watts, Keith Richards and Brian Jones – who all contributed on stage at one time – went their own way as The Rolling Stones. Watts’ replacement, Ginger Baker would later leave with Jack Bruce to become Cream with Eric Clapton.

After Cyril Davies left in ’63 over the band’s direction – he wanted to remain authentic acoustic blues while Korner had turned electric – Alexis continued Blues Incorporated as the fledgling London blues bands – the Stones, the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – gathered momentum. Although neglected his own chart success, Alexis was never bitter. “He never did it for that reason,” Damian states. “He played the music he loved to play. Stardom to him was something that was irrelevant. As long as he could earn a living playing the music he loved, that was all that mattered to him.”

With regular work and thus a regular income his main priority, he jumped at the chance to become the house band – with friends Danny Thompson and Terry Cox – on kids TV show The 5 O’clock Club. An odd choice of employer, Damian explains his father’s acceptance. “Money! You have to do some things for money and it was perfect for him,” he says, adding that the impressive wages received meant that the band could sustain healthy family lives as well as afford to play more extracurricular gigs.

Expanding his media portfolio, in 1965 Alexis became a BBC radio DJ with his own show, R&B with Alexis Korner, with all his friends – including the Stones and the Spencer Davis Group – dropping by for live performances. “He had a wonderful voice, a love of music and a wealth of knowledge to impart to the audience,” Damian says fondly, “and a way of making the audience feel like he was talking to them alone. All he did was play the music he loved and talk about the music he loved. And hey, to earn a living doing that? No wonder he was a relaxed and happy individual. Through all that trouble and strife he’d come through the other side and he was starting to earn money.”

Another visitor to the studio was Jimi Hendrix, who was pushing the boundaries of blues further than anyone knew possible. The pair became firm friends – you can hear Alexis playing slide on Jimi’s ‘BBC Sessions’ album; some cuts taken from Alexis’ own show!

Although his next band, Free At Last would not last long, the name at least in part would – Alexis bequeathed the name to a young bass player friend. “Andy Fraser was the boyfriend of my sister, and it was her who was responsible for getting Free to my dad,” recalls Damian. “He got them their first BBC session – with him, of course – and we’ve got that still on tape.” Alexis mentored and managed Free until they signed to Island Records and forged their own place in history.

By now Alexis was touring as Duo with a young singer from Birmingham he’d encountered by the name of Robert Plant. “I would love to come up with some glorious story that they met at so and so’s and intended to take over the world, but they didn’t,” Damian laughs. “They met and they liked each other.” It was witnessing those two on stage when Jimmy Page (having jammed with Korner on-stage himself) knew he’d found his musical soul mate. Led Zeppelin would further extol the blues across the globe well into the Seventies and beyond.

Alexis in the early Seventies had been embraced further afield himself, and found his band touring extensively in Europe; his fluent French and German endearing him with the blues enthusiasts in those countries. “Did you know he was tax exempt in Germany?” Damian asks. “Because they loved him so much and wanted him to tour they said that he could keep all of his earnings. That’s amazing, but also – don’t laugh – later in life he went to Texas and he came back, the Senator for Texas had made him an Honorary Rear Admiral of the Texas Navy. Now, no offence, but Texas is land-locked!” He laughs. “But it was a lovely gesture!”

These and other jobs (including playing with ex-Small Face Steve Marriott on a BB King album) fulfilled Alexis’ passion, but his next endeavour, although his heart wasn’t 100% in it, was ironically his most commercially successful. Music producers Mickie Most and John Cameron had approached Alexis with a proposal to lead a big band. Alexis, having paid his dues, happily formed CCS content in the knowledge that all he had to do was front the outfit. “Dad had been bandleader for bands ad infinitum with all of the hassle that goes with it,” Damian says, “and the chance of doing a big band for the hell of it and not having to do anything but sing was so attractive to Dad he said, ‘Why not?’ He had no problems with doing it. He enjoyed it immensely while it lasted and was happy when it finished.” The band’s recording of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ was the theme tune to Top of the Pops for many years after.

Stardom to him was something that was irrelevant

The ill-fated Snape, formed with members of King Crimson, followed next, but as Damian explains, disbanded because of nightly drinking competitions which saw each member neck two bottles of Jack Daniels before performing. It was on these tours that Alexis chose to bring along young Damian. “I arrived back home at the age of 12 with the DT’s [Delirium tremens – alcohol withdrawal] and as you can imagine my mother wasn’t too happy,” he recalls. “I really enjoyed it, but I could see why the band had to stop. It was even getting too much for me and Dad of course, by that time, was in such a state that there was no way he could look after me. He just had to hope that I looked after myself.” An intriguing relationship; Damian goes on to further detail his rapport with his father. “His method of fatherhood was friendship,” he says. “We were allowed to have spliffs in the house; we were allowed to smoke dope in the house but we weren’t allowed to smoke cigarettes. All that Dad said was, “You’ve got to learn to roll your own because I’m not rolling them for you.” Dad was VERY free, very easy, very liberal, and my mother was left to pick up the pieces,” he chuckles.

Damian’s own interest in music developed as he ditched his football aspirations to be a studio engineer. His first job? Alexis’ 1974 album ‘Get Off My Cloud’. Appearing on the album was old friends Steve Marriott and Keith Richards, whose band had just lost second guitarist Mick Taylor. Rumours abound that Keith had asked his old mentor to replace him. “Total truth to the rumour,” confirms Damian. “They asked if he’d take over and he refused because it would have been too big. Dad had been Mick’s bandleader. There were various reasons for which also career-wise it wouldn’t have been a good move for Dad to join the Stones at that point in time. Financially it would have been, but not career-wise. It would have stopped everything else, he would have been a tool of the Rolling Stones and Dad was never anybody’s tool. So that in itself made it impossible, but Dad was extraordinarily complimented that they asked him.”

It was in the early Eighties that Alexis was diagnosed with lung cancer. Fresh from his latest supergroup with Charlie Watts and Jack Bruce, Rocket 88, he’d had problems with severe headaches and he’d lost the feeling in the last two fingers of his left hand. Checking into hospital he received the dreadful news. He remained in hospital before and after the operation until his health declined. “I would go by with rough mixes every night on my way home, sit and play them to him and we’d sit out on the balcony and have a spliff and a chat and try keep things as normal as possible,” Damian says. Alexis eventually died in January 1984.

On the eve of the release of ‘Kornerstoned’, an exhaustive anthology of familiar and unreleased material, Damian reveals that this is just the beginning of a planned batch of releases, officially sanctioned by the Korner family for the very first time. The renewed interest in Alexis has uncovered affections again and raised awareness in Alexis’ inestimable contributions to music and his irreplaceable character. “He stands for the growth of music,” says Damian, reviewing his father’s lasting legacy. “Everybody that met him felt rewarded by meeting him; they either learnt something about themselves or about him, but they always left with a good feeling. Also, when he died I lost one of my best friends. It’s a great hole in my life that is never fillable. So to be able to say that he was important to his family, he was important to the people that knew him and was important to a whole movement of music, I’m honoured. What can I say? Talk about a lucky draw. To say anything else I think would be puerile.”

Sounding more like an ageing Las Vegas crooner than a cult indie hero, Adam Green’s latest album ‘Jacket Full Of Danger’ sees the singer sink further into psychedelic pop and confirms his ability as an original and talented song writer. When asked if his Vegas style was intentional, Green is surprisingly defensive: “I don’t know, I like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett but Vegas is where they get old. I like them because they are from New York and that’s where I’m from.” Nobody is suggesting Green is at the end of his career. The 24-year-old has accomplished a lot since he started writing songs at the age of twelve. Once a member of New York’s indie cult heroes Moldy Peaches, Green left to pursue a solo career and ‘Jacket Full Of Danger’ is his third lone release.

Solo artists aren’t exactly in short supply with the likes of James Blunt, Daniel Powter and Jack Johnson currently flooding the market. “I don’t really consider them to be solo artists, I consider them to be more like corporations. They’re not really very artistic. I try to write songs in the most artful way and I try to make them entertaining as well. I want to make the most exciting music I can.” ‘Jacket Full Of Danger’ is very eclectic as a result. It wanders from Jim Morrison style psychedelic wailing to comical swing crooning and jazz like the single ‘Nat King Cole’, which evokes a feeling of old style New York clubs and decadent late nights.

Although Green himself is rooted in the alternative indie scene, some of his tunes verge on pure accessible pop. “I think that was the whole thing the whole time. There’s always people in the mainstream coming from a counter-cultural place. Like Nirvana or even Notorious BIG. They’re not coming from a popular place but they became very popular. And that’s kind of the idea.” Green says he grew up listening not to indie music particularly but to psychedelic music by artists like The Incredible String Band but was also influenced by kraut rock and punk rock bands like Minor Threat, Bad Dreams and The Minute Men. These influences have all contributed to his current sound. “I think growing up I wasn’t into the indie scene. I just listened to it because it was there. I wasn’t very impressed with it. I wanted it to be something different. I’m not into boring music and it’s really prevalent, I see it all the time.”

For someone so indifferent to the indie scene, it is ironic that most of his fans are indie kids, including The Strokes who had Green supporting them on tour. “I don’t really know where I come from. I don’t feel part of the indie scene, even with Moldy Peaches. I guess I just come from an ‘Adam’ place musically. I’m sort of in-between.” It’s not a bad place to be.

Especially if it means the kind of success the other in-betweeners or crossover artists Green cites as his main inspiration. “A lot of my favourite music is Motown. It’s concise, it’s melodic, and it’s composed well. The singing is great and the emotion is there. And it’s groovy as hell.” He doesn’t confine his music tastes to older artists however. Continuing his infatuation with pop, Green lists the Sugababes among his current favourites along with 50 Cent. “His album ‘Window Shopping’ has got a narcotic feel and I’ve always been attracted to narcotics.”

Green’s attraction to narcotics can be found on his previous albums as well as ‘JfoD’ with songs such as ‘Crackhouse Blues’ and now ‘Drugs’. Although Green has had some success with these albums, it’s not been without criticism. His last release was met with heavy criticism especially when it came to the drug songs and he was accused of being deliberately vulgar and pretentious.

“It pisses me off when people critique my records and it’s like you would have no idea how to do this. My last record got really bad reviews in the UK, but it’s taken me twelve years of practising songwriting to get me here.”

This could be the source of Green’s defensive reaction to Las Vegas earlier on; there is an inescapable insecurity in his tone about how the new album will be received. If there was any doubt, he goes on to say that his label in the US (Rough Trade) have folded.

Compared to the Kaiser Chiefs, I’m like Bob fucking Dylan.

When Green took ‘Jacket Full Of Danger’ round to other labels, it didn’t even occur to him that he would have problems getting his album put out in the States. “I just thought it was beyond the accomplishment that you needed to have to be put on a record label. I didn’t even worry about it when I found out Rough Trade had folded. This is the record of my career and I’ve sold hundreds of thousands of records and I’m only 24 years old. I thought for sure I would get a deal. It’s not like I’m an old guy or something, singing songs at the end of his career. But to them I’m like a psycho or the devil for not wanting to make corporate rock.”

Green resolved to put the record out himself in the States, which must leave a person bitter when you see MOR, low risk corporate rockers getting all the money and accolades. “I go through periods where I feel like I don’t get much respect for my ability, you know what I mean? It’s like compared to the Kaiser Chiefs, I’m like Bob fucking Dylan or something.” It’s difficult to disagree when you think about the effort Green has put into ‘JfoD’ with its full string bands and compositions and the sheer self belief that only solo artists seem to possess. It is the only way to get through the kind of adversity he has faced from the music industry. But why carry on battling?

“I don’t know. I hear songs in my head and the important thing is to get them down on tape. It’s not my choice what occurs to me. You don’t get a lot of choices in the world; you just get what occurs to you. And what occurs to me is to make records. It’s as plain as anything else that’s happening, like trees or nature.”

8pm on a sultry Thursday evening, the opening night of Barcelona’s Primavera Sound festival, and the city’s finest south-side hotels are crawling with pop stars. The bloke from Beirut (band, not place) is in the lift, Billy Bragg is looking a little bewildered in the lobby, and pretty much everyone else seems to be sporting one of the more sought-after wristbands.

Significantly absent, though, are the chaps we’re here to meet. Parisian pop-dance juggernauts Justice are on stage in a few hours and were due to leave for the site a few minutes ago, but no-one seems overly sure of their current coordinates. Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Auge are a little nervous about this gig, apparently, it being only their fourth ever live show, much of which has been hastily thrown together in order to showcase their symbolically-titled debut album, ‘†.’ But surely they haven’t done a runner…

Having boosted the profits of various English, French and Spanish mobile networks, we eventually discover that Justice are indeed in the hotel, and on heading up to the room then mooching around outside for a while, we’re greeted by Xavier. Well, perhaps ‘greeted’ isn’t the right word, as it swiftly becomes apparent that, having only flown in a few hours ago, he was blissfully unaware of our presence here and we’ve disturbed his pre-gig preparations, i.e. a lengthy kip. He sends us packing.

Half an hour later, though, and de Rosnay’s colleague emerges into the plush hotel café, looking equally as groggy but rather more agreeable. Auge is all but unmissable: tall, black-clad, shaggy of hair and lush of moustache, he looks like a Seventies playboy but, like his partner, is really a Parisian graphic designer who stumbled into the dance music business almost by accident.

Auge had been in a rock band originally – “Instrumental,” he says, “somewhere between Fugazi and Blonde Redhead” – and met de Rosnay at a party, after spitting beer all over a young lady’s head. “It wasn’t as bad as it sounds,” he says, “I was trying to drink and laugh at the same time.” Undaunted, they decided to make music together.

Hooking up in de Rosnay’s bedroom, their first tune was a “really bad song,” which eventually found its way onto a long-forgotten compilation. The second was a remix of an obscure tune by a reasonably obscure indie band: Simian’s ‘Never Be Alone.’ It did rather better. In fact, it’s been just about the biggest tune of the new millennia, thus far, and Auge still can’t quite fathom how they managed to create a classic so early on. Was it fate? Alchemy?

“It was all about luck,” he says, bolting down his first espresso of the evening. “It’s crazy for us, because at the time we only had a few synthesizers and a sampler – we just used the chorus because we didn’t have enough space on the sampler for everything. It was for a contest, launched by college radio, but we lost, because the Simian guys didn’t like the song. Then we met Pedro.”

Pedro ‘Busy P’ Winter is the chap we’d been trying to phone earlier in the evening, a vital part of the Justice story and, indeed, of French dance music in general. He’s been Daft Punk’s manager since their mid Nineties glory days and runs the Ed Banger label, as featured in these pages last month. Pedro met Justice at a cheese party (no spitting this time), heard their Simian remix and promptly stuck it out. DJ Hell’s label, International DeeJay Gigolos, then did likewise, and it was soon soundtracking Europe’s trendier nightspots. “It was a really slow process,” says Auge, “but every month we heard something new about the track, a new release or something.”

More remix work rolled in, for Britney Spears, Franz Ferdinand and NERD. Meanwhile they got started on a proper Justice single but, still rocking those day jobs, the magic didn’t come quite so easily this time. “I think we just needed a deadline,” he says. “But we decided to do something different.”

The eventual track, ‘Waters Of Nazareth’, shocked a few folks. A dirty bomb of grinding bass and beats, it was surprisingly bereft of catchy vocals but still proved a resounding success with the crossover crowd; Erol Alkan, 2manyDJs and the like. For Auge and de Rosnay the moment had finally come to hang up their drawing boards and throw themselves into the music business full time. That was 2005. Two years on, they’ve finally finished their album.

Still, it’s worth the wait. Many will have wondered whether Justice were actually capable of cranking out a decent long-player, given their sparse output so far, but that lack of back catalogue has actually helped give the record a more cohesive feel. Where many DJ-led albums are ragbag selections of tried-and-tested dancefloor tracks, Auge and de Rosnay locked themselves away in the studio for 18 months. Indeed, they even made the tracks in sequence, more or less.

“We tried to make something that was an experience,” explains Auge. “We wanted to do a kind of disco opera of a record, something with an introduction and an outro. We had a story in mind, and we were doing diagrams to find the right order for the tracks. It helped us get new ideas, because we wanted something fluent that you can listen to, not just an album of club bangers.”

One club banger that doesn’t appear is ‘Never Be Alone’, interestingly. The track finally reached a peak last year when, re-released as ‘We Are Your Friends’, it found itself all over daytime radio, three years on. Then came the thoroughly entertaining new video, which won an MTV Award and forced an irate Kanye West to gatecrash the stage and complain that his stupidly expensive effort, ‘Touch The Sky’, didn’t. Ed Banger subsequently slipped out some mocked-up sleeve artwork featuring a cartoon Kanye, the phrase ‘Always Be Alone’, and a tiny penis, jizzing on him.

After all those shenanigans, then, fans of ‘We Are Your Friends’ might be a little bemused that Justice’s signature tune isn’t on their record. They don’t really care. “It was too old and it wasn’t fitting with the other tracks,” says Auge. “We still play it, but for us it’s still just a remix.”

The last track Justice completed for the album, ‘The Party’, featuring Ed Banger labelmate Uffie, was finished two hours before their deadline, after which they immediately got cracking on creating the live show. Culled almost entirely from the album, it’s “a bit less ravey” than their old DJ sets, and the chaps are clearly still a bit nervy about it all. Hence we let Gaspard get back to Justice’s preferred pre-show warm-up method – napping – and take a quick spin over to the site.

We wanted something fluent that you can listen to, not just an album of club bangers.

Primavera Sound is one of the more interesting festivals, if you happen to be passing next year. Originally staged on the side of a mountain it now takes place at Barcelona’s answer to the Millennium Dome, the Parc del Fòrum. The latter was built for the 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures, a £4 billion, 141 day event which attracted delegates like Mikael Gorbachev and Salman Rushdie, and a whole lot of criticism. The Parc has been more or less redundant ever since. Thank heaven for alternative dance/rock then, as it’s certainly busy this weekend.

A varied crowd are here too – hundreds of media folk from across Europe, and punters from pretty much everywhere, including the requisite pissed-up English blokes. Much of the interest clearly lies with tonight’s headliners, The White Stripes, who fill up the Parc’s enormous main arena at around one am, with every precarious vantage point full to bursting. Justice will be playing directly opposite them on the dance stage. It isn’t ideal.

Half an hour to go and Pedro isn’t looking too concerned, despite his two charges not having arrived as yet, but then he’s probably used to it. They finally emerge with a few minutes to spare, at which point a huge, faintly psychopathic and possibly colour-blind security guard throws everyone else out of the backstage area, regardless of how sexy their wristbands are. Whatever Auge and de Rosnay are doing behind those laptops, we’re not privileged to see.

He does us all a favour, in truth, as you really need to see this new Justice show from the front. Dominating the stage is that trademark biblical cross, standing proud amid an enormous bank of amplifiers, which Auge and de Rosnay are perched behind. Yes, the chaps may look a bit like The Mighty Boosh, from a distance, but they certainly make an impressive noise. “The word that comes to mind is chunky,” says Phillipa, a Barcelona-based English TEFL type, jigging around to our left. “If this were a chocolate bar, it’d be a Yorkie. With little honeycomb bits.”

The new single, ‘D.A.N.C.E’, is a definite highlight, it being a return to catchy choruses, and the set barrels along for a thumpingly entertaining hour. The only downside, in fact, is the double dose of ‘Never Be Alone’ they belt out late on, first mashed with some Klaxons then brought back for the encore. The audience, of course, lap it up, but you can’t help thinking they’d love to ditch the bloody tune sometime soon.

Afterwards, Pedro pulls rank on the bewildered security chap and we finally meet up with Xavier, who, despite what seemed an ecstatic audience reaction, isn’t best pleased:

“Tonight was a bit weird,” he sighs. “They were a bit cold, the people. It was packed but not crazy. I think we have to work again on the live show. It’s hard to see what’s not working.”

Well, that’s true, but rest assured he’ll throw every ounce of energy into finding out, as Justice clearly have a perfectionist streak that borders on the pathological. You won’t be seeing much new material from them in the near future as they concentrate on getting the live set honed, and even some intriguingly high-profile remixes are being put on hold. “We’re not sure we’ll have time to finish them,” says de Rosnay, “so I don’t want to say what they are.”

Their longer-term dreams will also have to stay shelved for a bit longer. Having remixed Britney Spears a few years back and been hugely impressed with her vocal talents, they’d be willing to give her comeback a helping hand. She’ll also have to wait, but “we’d love to,” says Xavier. “We definitely want to produce a pop artiste. At some point.”

It’s dawn when the Justice posse finally leave the site. As Auge loiters outside and wonders what to do next he’s mobbed by a cosmopolitan array of punters – mostly blokes, curiously – who queue excitedly for photos and autographs and generally give the impression that Justice stole the show.

If only his partner was around to witness it. De Rosnay, unfortunately, is already back at the hotel, hunkering down for another bleary-eyed session of obsessive tinkering. But then again, why change a winning formula?

Phoenix are engaged with heavy rehearsals at the moment, gearing up for some live dates to showcase their beefy new record. According to lead singer Thomas, who has been listening to ‘white voodoo’ for inspiration, the drumming on this one is robotic. “We wanted this hybrid thing,” he says. Looks like it will make some interesting listening…

The Parisian four are fresh outta Berlin, having recorded their third LP in a factory building in a very secluded part of town. They chose it for its isolation precisely – “That’s what we liked – being there, just having to face the day and having to, in a short period of time, make a whole record,” says Thomas Mars, of their up-and-go strategy. They left for Berlin trawling only their instruments and a head-full of ideas. No songs were planned. “We loved the idea of putting ourselves in a dangerous position!”

For ‘It’s Never Been Like That’, they have, indeed, done it differently. They abandoned their safe haven of a studio that they’ve used up until now in their home town of Versailles; “we were tired of going there all the time,” says Thomas, although he admits, that the reassuring studio in their basement will always be their ‘original space’. This is where the band as adolescents first started playing music at the age of ten. This time they chose a building that was owned by the East German radio state as their studio. “With no special comforts, no temptation of having a normal life. It was like if someone would close and lock the doors and leave us behind.”

Phoenix sprang to life as a band with a short tour of France performing Prince and Hank Williams covers. “It was more to practice basically. We played in front of a lot of drunk people and people who didn’t know us. And didn’t care about us.” And up until recently, the French audience were still alien to Phoenix. “I think it’s changed,” says Thomas, hopefully, “we don’t have to explain all the time what kind of music we’re doing, and they are more familiar with us. Before we were taken as a foreign band for the French people, now I think they know that we’re a French band.”

Thomas recalls being unappreciated teenagers, with posters of Teenage Fanclub in their bedrooms, on the gig circuit. But, still beat the boredom of Versailles, which can only drive people to start making babies or search for means to escape the city. They escaped. But until they did, playing music was a nice diversion, he remembers the thrill of being able to produce anything that ‘sounded like a record’ was enough to know that he never wanted to do anything else. “I think we were all destroying any other thing that wouldn’t lead us to do music.”

As soon as they turned 18 an involuntary commitment to the French government actually gave them a free ticket to Paris. They had to enter university; “I remember we had to choose the subject to go to Paris,” he says, “I chose the most boring thing which was math and economy. But it was only to go to Paris. Because if you do something interesting like French Literature or History or anything, you would have to stay in Versailles. That was part of the French law – so we didn’t choose them!” Though, a month later the boys dropped out of university and invested all their time into making music.

That’s what we liked – being there, just having to face the day and having to, in a short period of time, make a whole record

Phoenix’s first LP ‘United’ hatched a surprise hit with ‘Too Young’ after Sofia Coppola chose it to star in her now cult film ‘Lost In Translation’. Although the boys had already met one of the Coppola clan in the shape of Sofia’s brother Roman, who had directed a lot of their videos. The upcoming Coppola film Marie Antoinette features Phoenix playing as an 18th century band entertaining the queen. Thomas wrote a piece of 18th century-style classical music for the film in only a day, and declared proudly “I sing in it too.”

Thomas never wrote his music in French and describes with glee his fascination for bands such as The Velvet Underground and The Stooges. Yet he refused to idolise any particular artist for fear of creating something that wasn’t unique – “It was very clear from the beginning that we wouldn’t suffer from the French tradition of copying American classics, American bands.” France was invaded by a movement called ‘ye-ye pop’ in the 1960s. French crooners copied American classics by translating famous songs such as Elvis or Sinatra. “In fact we didn’t have any culture in French, it was just stolen from the Americans. Some of them [the songs] are very well adapted but still there is a lack of creation – people are more famous for being interpreters than songwriters. We needed more people involved in the creation of songs more than puppets.” Phoenix have injected creativity into their motherland that is different from anything their other modern compatriots – Daft Punk and Air – have done to date. Not to mention everywhere else.

Perched on the rickety steps of a disused garage in Austin are Nine Black Alps. The Manchester purveyors of intricate grunge-infused slabs of bombastic sonic measures are doing South By South West as part of their ongoing US tour, a country that has firmly embraced their raging tones. They’ve briefly escaped their label’s showcase party across the street to fill Clash in on why things have been so unusually quiet from their camp and how that’s all set to change shortly…

You’ve just shattered the eardrums of everyone at the Island Records party, which is a shame for the other bands that have to follow you! Do you know the other bands well?

Sam: I don’t know them at all. I didn’t know half of them were signed to Island. Last year we did it and recognised a few more of the bands. We played with Dogs.

James: I think we’re totally out of touch with what’s happening in British music. Either we don’t care or we don’t actually get home enough to keep up with it.

Martin: McFly and Sugababes are on Island but I don’t understand why they’re not playing here; it would be much more entertaining rather than crappy guitar bands!

You’ve been in the States now for quite a bit – what’s happening?

Sam: We’re over here for two months to promote the album. Before we were in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and LA. Now we’re just going across the bottom, up the other side and back down up to the West Coast.

Travelling the States must be a hard slog?

Sam: Sleeping is a major problem, but no it’s ace, it’s a dream come true.

Have you had good crowds at your shows here?

Sam: Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. It’s always so different. In each city you never really know what to expect. It’s good to play anywhere. It doesn’t really matter whether anybody’s there or not or whether anybody’s heard of you or anything; it’s just good to play because that’s what bands are supposed to do.

Do you have the same sort of people coming to see you here as you would back home?

Martin: No, people are a lot older over here because all the cool clubs are over-21s and stuff, whereas in England we’ve got loads of kiddie fans. It’s weird playing to an older audience – they’ve got a bit more musical experience and they’re a bit more critical as well.

Sam: So we need to get the kids back in and get some mosh pits!

We’ve not heard much from you in the UK since your debut, ‘Everything Is’, was released last year, but now you have an EP coming out – is this a precursor to a new album?

Sam: It was just because the album has just been released in America, even though it’s been out for about a year in England. It was just something to release at home just prove that we still exist, to maintain a press profile.

David: A lot of the tracks on it were on the vinyl singles, so a lot of people were asking for it on CD because – it seems stupid to me – but some people don’t have record players, so people hadn’t actually heard them. So we’ve made this collection of songs.

Sam: There’s one new one, but the rest are all older.

I think we’re totally out of touch with what’s happening in British music. Either we don’t care or we don’t actually get home enough

So tell us about your plans for the new album.

Sam: Hopefully we’ll be starting in the summer. We’ll try and get something out this year, definitely. It depends on how long things take. Things always take longer than you expect. It kind of depends what happens in America as well. If we become as big as Elvis or something then we’ll stay over here for a bit longer.

Do you have any ideas for the new album that you can give us a clue about?

Sam: No, just got lots of songs but no real idea. It’s just more songs basically. There’s no real desire to try and do something else. We can only really do one thing with varying shades of it, so there’s just more songs and we’ll pick our favourites.

What can we expect from Nine Black Alps when you return to the UK? How is the new material sounding?

Sam: We can play seven songs so far. One is kinda poppy… they’re all kinda slower I think, kinda heavier…

Martin: They’re much bigger, heavier and slower, but they wouldn’t be out of place on the first album as well. I think they have progressed though; they’re more intricate and complex.

Sam: I think it’s just developed slightly, it’s kinda got a bit more intellectual. They’re still poppy, but they’re probably not as instantly likeable or catchy. They’re less fragmented; they’re more like proper songs.

So what brought on the change?

Sam: Just getting older I think.

David: I think it’s more that you get the opportunity to do it full time, it helps you concentrate more on your work.

Sam: Yeah, the first album, I liked writing melodies and chord structures and things and I had to write some words for it so I just put down any words that came into my head. And now you have to spend your entire life answering up to that. Some people are like, “Are you really suicidal?” And it’s like, “No, of course not”. It’s just whatever comes out you put down. I still do that but I’m definitely trying to think more about words to make sure they’re not embarrassing, because there are a few lines on the first album which I am ashamed of. I just want to make an album that I can actually live with.

“They call me Dr John, known as the Night Tripper” growls the good doctor amid a hazy maelstrom of hoodoo blues, the perfect introduction to his debut solo album. A psychedelic swirl of blues, jazz and black magic, it represented a culmination of influences from a lifetime of paying his dues in the musical hotbed of New Orleans, all of which shaped him into one of music’s most colourful and prodigious talents. Thirty-five years later, with another solo record about to drop in quick succession to his last, Clash caught up with the only doctor for whom music is the best medicine.

Although born Malcolm John Rebennack Jr in 1940, he would forever be known simply as Mac to his friends. Mac grew up in New Orleans, one of the oldest and most historic cities in the US; its culture rich with the flavour of its French, Spanish and African American heritage. His earliest memories, he tells Clash, is of being surrounded by music everywhere. “People would gather round a piano everywhere in my neighbourhood,” he drawls, his Southern purr not diminished any over the years, “they’d have a crawfish bowl, a shrimp bowl, a crab bowl or some kind of food.” He continues: “My Aunt Dottie Mae and my Uncle Johnny used to have jam sessions with some real famous musicians. My daddy was selling records. I just was really, truly surrounded with music everywhere. My sister sang with a band when I was a little kid, like ten years old. She was a great singer and piano player. My mother played good piano. My aunt taught me how to play the piano and I started getting guitar lessons from some great guitar teachers.”

His biggest influence at that time was the eminent boogie-woogie pianist Pete Johnson, best remembered for his work with Big Joe Turner. “I wanted to be him as a little bitty kid,” Mac admits. “I didn’t know nuttin’ about anything.” From the wealth of local talent he had rich pickings for more influences. “I loved the way of Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, James Booker, Toots Washington… I could list piano players forever who I loved locally. Eddie Bo, Huey Smith, the list goes on and on. There was just a million guys and I loved them all.” There could be no substitute however for the city itself, a unique inspiration and institution where music is celebrated for its ubiquity. “I think everything is connected to everything in New Orleans,” he explains. “You can’t separate the church music from the Mardi Gras music, you can’t separate that from the funeral music; everything is connected. There’s something beautiful about that.”

By the age of 16, under the direction of guitar teacher Walter ‘Papoose’ Nelson, Mac had turned professional and was in and out of studios earning himself a reputation as an adept session musician, while also writing songs and auditioning fellow musicians. Disaster struck when, defending a bandmate in a barroom brawl, his left index finger was almost shot off. “I had my finger in this big-ass cast, right? I knew my guitar days wasn’t workin’ right at the time because I couldn’t play guitar with this big cast.” In the meantime, a friend got him a gig playing bass, but his fingers would bleed onto the strings, and bass strings were expensive, so he supplemented that gig with another on drums – but that meant carrying a kit around! “It was a pain in the ass for a while,” he remembers, “and then James Booker taught me how to play Hammond B-3 organ, and that changed everything for the better.”

With drugs so redolent in the scene, Mac fell victim to a heroin addiction before he was 20, and then to the vice squad in 1963 when DA Jim (“Back and to the left”) Garrison put his foot down on the city’s club culture. Mac was sent down for two years and, upon release, was forbidden to return home, so instead moved to LA. The Sixties were beginning to swing and California was the place to be if you played music. Mac found himself in demand for the likes of Sonny and Cher but remains humble of his employers and his role. “Recording sessions was like a job we did that paid a little mo’ money than what we made playin’ the gigs. I put more energy and effort into it in one way, but as a musician, at recording sessions I tried to contribute, this is what I was taught to do by the old-timers. When I got in, you try to contribute what you think will make the record better.”

Ensconced in the confines of the studio, Mac paid no attention to the creative boom that was happening around him in and the sonic adventures of that brightest of decades. For him, it was all the same. “Listen, when I came up in New Orleans we was taught to don’t look at music by separating. It was all music and you played it all good. You try to make it true to that music, but don’t look at it like ‘this is country and western’ or ‘this is gospel’ or ‘this is jazz’ or ‘this is blues’ or whatever the names would have been; you’re just playing good. And I still look at music like that. I think it’s stupid the way that people separates everything; there’s something beautiful about just viewing music as a thing of itself that’s just really cool when you just enjoy, you know?”

Whenever the opportunity presented itself, Mac would steal studio time to cut his own tracks – the majority of his debut album ‘Gris-Gris’ was formed at the expense of Sonny and Cher! At this point, Mac had an idea to get a deal for his singer friend Ronnie Barron; he wanted to call him Dr John, but Ronnie’s manager didn’t like the idea, so Mac appropriated the moniker and set about reinventing himself. The inspiration behind this new character was a Dr John Montaine, a 19th Century Bambarra prince who lived in New Orleans and was a hoodoo practitioner. What emerged in 1968 was a psychedelic medicine man whose swampy soul and spicy gumbo funk found favour with the love generation and opened gris-gris (or hoodoo) music to a wider audience. Gris-gris itself is traditional spells or charms, a common spiritual belief in New Orleans, and haunts the grooves of Dr John’s music. “Gris-gris in New Orleans was kind of a part of the culture just the same was everything else was,” he says of this influence. “It’s just, like all the different things that makes New Orleans whatever musically it is, you can’t separate them.”

Faced with this unique talent on record, Atlantic label boss Ahmet Ertegun almost refused to release ‘Gris Gris’. “He was pissed off to get this record and he said, “What is this boogaloo shit you’re giving me on a record?” And he was really aggravated,” he reveals. “And I never thought it would come out, to be quite frank, so when it did, all of a sudden I had to shift all my gears around.”

Stardom beckoned, and albums ‘Babylon’, ‘Remedies’ and ‘Sun, Moon And Herbs’ followed, the latter featuring new friends Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger. But the Doctor found his greatest success (not least as the inspiration for Muppet band leader Dr Teeth) with ’73’s ‘Right Place Wrong Time’, taken from the album ‘In The Right Place’. This loose and funky track, arranged and produced by fellow New Orleans genius Allen Toussaint, received a helping hand from, among others, Bob Dylan. “Yeah, everybody around the recording studio, I’d ask them, “You got a line for this?” Cos I’d been playing this song with the music on it but I didn’t have the words all together,” he admits. “A lot of people gave me lines for it. Bette Midler gave me a line.”

Further confirmation of his status came when he was invited by The Band to appear at their farewell concert, The Last Waltz, in 1976, where he performed his live favourite ‘Such A Night’.

I think it’s stupid the way that people separates everything; there’s something beautiful about just viewing music as a thing of itself that’s just really cool when you just enjoy.

Continuing to work, Dr John also suffered bouts of depression, checking himself into psychiatric hospitals, and finally kicking drugs after a spell in rehab in 1989. From here his career took a major surge after high profile endorsements came from the unlikeliest of fans. Paul Weller, accompanied by Noel Gallagher, covered his ‘I Walk On Gilded Splinters’ on his ‘Stanley Road’ album, and eventually recorded with the man himself on Mac’s 1998 return to form, ‘Anutha Zone’, which also boasted collaborations with Spiritualized and Supergrass. An ongoing friendship with Jools Holland has also bore some impressive material. “All of them guys that I came up with as a kid like Pete Johnson,” Mac says of Jools, “he’s just got all of them guys in his playing and I love all of that.”

Understandably, recent events in New Orleans have deeply moved Dr John. The devastation by Hurricane Katrina sweeping across the Southern states saw thousands of people killed or left homeless or destitute, not helped by the lack of help or support by the American Government in its immediate aftermath. Dr John seethes with anger at the thought of this. “I was watching the TV,” he says, remembering the night of the gig he played out in the suburbs as it passed through, “and I haven’t stopped being pissed off since then.” Already a proud demonstrator for the Clean Water Bill and a participant in the Wetlands Project (the area’s movement for clean drinking water), he leapt at the opportunity to use his profile to let his voice be heard. “We ran in the studio and we cut something,” he says of the record that became ‘Sippiana Hericane’, “it was an angry record and I’m still angry.” Fuelled by outrage and sympathy, the album became his most passionate ode to his hometown and is driven by the emotion of his band, The Lower 911, who – all but one – had their homes wiped out overnight. “I can’t find nuttin’ good,” he scowls on the situation. “It’s like so long now and all these politicians’ pockets are all money, and I get very upset.”

Presently we find Dr John paying tribute again on his excellent new album, but this time to musical hero Johnny Mercer. His new album, ‘Mercernary’ is a collection of his interpretations of the classic American singer/songwriter’s songbook, and follows a similar project from 2000’s ‘Duke Elegant’ in which he doffed his cap to Duke Ellington. “Johnny Mercer,” he says, explaining his choice of inspiration, “I look at it like I’m a guy like him except I don’t have the kinda songs to write like him. I mean I just don’t do what he does, but I relate to being a song hustler and a guy that had to just use all kinds of tactics to survive in this racket. He was good at that.” The end result is a fitting tribute to two exemplary talents: Dr John’s unique stamp of ‘N’Awlins fonk’ transforms a well-loved canon of songs into a fresh and modern collection that begs re-discovery.

Dr John will be 66 this year, but retirement is still a long way off. He’ll be swirling some hoodoo rhythms in a town near you soon (and having witnessed his show twice now I can only urge you to experience it) as he tours the UK in May. So with such a huge legacy and a career revered by many, who would he most like to see make a record of Dr John interpretations? “Listen,” he says, matter-of-factly, “I don’t give a damn. You know what I think? Music, if somebody feels something, roll with it. If somebody ASKS them to do it, don’t roll with it. That’s my thing.”

Their story is complex, a tangled web of solid bonds and friendships that survived adversity. Their journey would have killed lesser men, a rocky road fraught with despair and depression, sickness and solitude, and all played out in the media spotlight.

They are four men whose histories are all too familiar, but for whom the future is unwritten. Let me introduce to you the band you’ve known for all these years…

DIRTY

PRETTY

THINGS

There’s something different about Carl Barât lately. As he strides into the East London studio where Clash is holed up, flanked by his brothers-in-arms and oozing charm, it is immediately clear that this is not the same man we knew 18 months ago.

Rewind a little and we find ourselves at the start of 2005, Carl’s annus horribilis. The previous summer, his urchin soul mate Pete Doherty parted ways from the good ship Libertines on account of his ongoing drug use. While hordes of teenage mini-Pete’s devoured the music rags for the erratic one’s next move, the burden was left quite heavily on Carl’s shoulders to fulfil the obligations that lay ahead of the band in the wake of their second and eponymous album.

Drafting in friend and ex-Damn Personal Anthony Rossamando, The Libertines toured the remainder of their schedule until finally Carl called time on the band he’d fought so hard to succeed. Subsequently, what little we saw of him – popping up at one-off shows with The Chavs (his guerrilla supergroup with Tim Burgess) or DJing at his club – without any news of progress and constantly overshadowed by his erstwhile partner’s media soap opera, Carl appeared enigmatically happy in the sidelines. By all intents and purposes, to his fans he was a broken man.

Today, however he is what can only be described as, well, chirpy. As we sit down to talk in the studio canteen, Carl and Anthony each order a £5 sandwich. When it arrives they are far too eager to talk to notice that the flimsiest of fillings shoved between two lame slices laid before them could never warrant such a hefty price tag.

Let’s go back to the final days of The Libertines and where your head was at just before you decided to call it a day. What were your intentions – did you want a break or did you intend to move on?

Carl: I wanted to carry on, as I always had intended to do before certain things happened to stop me doing what I wanted to do. I wanted to have a break but I didn’t get one.

All eyes must have been on you at that time. Did you feel any pressure that they were waiting for something to happen?

Carl: Endless pressure. The Libertines was all about pressure at the end. It was too much for me. It was more about pressure than music.

Adding to the mountain of torment he was already facing, Carl had went public with the health problem that had plagued him for some months now; he had discovered a tumour behind his ear and, in 2005, underwent surgery to have it removed and spent several weeks in recovery.

It certainly couldn’t have helped when you fell ill last year; it would have just piled on top.

I was putting the work in, keeping up commitments and playing Libertines all around the world and I was still the bad guy. It was a pretty fucking hard time really.

Carl: Well, I dunno, I suppose in due course, in hindsight, that was the closest we got to having a rest.

Anthony: And you had an operation in your rest time anyway.

Carl: Yeah, but it’s not really a proper rest though, is it?

How did you find out about the tumour?

Carl: My ear went. My hearing just started going, not completely, but mostly. Then I went to the doctors who said that there was something in there that was growing, and that was that. I put it off for ages and then I finally went down and he said “If you’d put it off a week longer then you’d have a paralysed face”. That’d look dodgy, wouldn’t it? It eats through your facial nerves.

Hope surfaced with the news that Carl had inked a solo deal with Vertigo Records and slowly details leaked on who would be joining him on these further adventures… Gary Powell, Libertines drummer extraordinaire, and Anthony Rossamando both signed up for the job, while Didz Hammond waved goodbye to his Cooper Temple Clause compadres to join his new best friend on bass duties.

How long after you’d decided to split the band did you think about getting the other two back together?

Carl: Anthony was there all along. I didn’t decide to split the band, I decided that Pete wasn’t on the same page anymore, which was very sad. I didn’t want to split the band, but without Pete, yeah, the truth of the matter was that the band wasn’t The Libertines. So it wouldn’t be fair on Pete to call it that. He wasn’t interested in getting better; he was interested in carrying on with the band who’d accepted his behaviour. Whereas his behaviour, for me, detracted from the music and what I was there for. So rather than get better he went in another band, so there wasn’t much alternative really. I had to let nature take its course and it’s actually happened quite organically with Stanley [Anthony]. We were obviously of the same mindset and wanted the same things.

Did you sign to Vertigo as a solo artist or with the band?

Carl: Yeah, I couldn’t really be on Rough Trade anymore. I signed solo, because I didn’t really have a band together then but I knew that I wanted to put records out and I knew that under the current circumstances it would be beyond the conflict of interest to be on the same label. As much as I love Rough Trade and wouldn’t want to backstab them, I just felt at the time that I was being completely shadowed by Pete’s shenanigans really. It was like I was putting the work in, keeping up commitments and playing Libertines all around the world and I was still the bad guy. I wasn’t getting any help or attention after all the fucking hard work and I was getting shit for kicking Pete out of the band, which wasn’t the case. It was a pretty fucking hard time really.

When you signed the deal did you have any new material written or a stockpile of old stuff?

Carl: I had nothing. I had no band, never wanted to be a solo singer and no songs. That’s a pretty unusual deal if you think about it.

When it came to writing new material you must have been used to writing with Pete. Were you excited about writing on your own?

Carl: I’ve always had no confidence as a writer. I was petrified about writing solo. But when I listen to The Libertines and think about what I did write… There’s a lot of people coming up to me saying, “Everyone says you didn’t write anything on the album”, which is kind of hurtful and confusing, and I end up thinking, ‘Didn’t I?’ So, listening to it, I found out that that was absolute balls. Anyway, I don’t want to dwell on that because I don’t want to instigate some new fight or let it rear its ugly head again… But anyway, listening to what I had done and then with a lot of support from friends and stuff, after a long writer’s block I just thought, ‘Fuck it’. Then eventually, very timidly, I played the two songs I’d written to Stanley and Didz. I must have written them in the space of a couple of weeks, or like a week actually. I just went bang and they were there, except for the arranging and that. But yeah, the boys liked them and friends liked them and I didn’t know if they were just shitting me because they felt sorry for me.

Which brings us to the reason we are congregated here today: ‘Waterloo To Anywhere’, the debut album from Dirty Pretty Things, is about to be unleashed into the wild. The four Things first decamped to LA with a handful of ideas to be nurtured under the watchful eyes of producer Dave Sardy then returned to the UK to complete proceedings in Glasgow with Tony Doogan. The resulting long-player is a bold and urgent blast of defiance; a typically volatile wall of razor sharp guitars and drum rolls tighter than a gnat’s chuff, with Carl kicking off the past’s shackles with sneering disdain. Immediately we’re struck by the snarling sea-shanty shards of opener ‘Deadwood’ where he spits “All the years that rolled by you said were so good, but now I know that you were a coward”. And you may have heard the instantly loveable first single, ‘Bang Bang You’re Dead’, which at first is joyous in its bouncy Kinks-ish pop manner, but scratch the surface and it’s darker than you’d imagined: “I gave you a Midas touch, oh you turned round and scratched out my heart” Carl sings to a former friend. Yes, there’s a definite air of spite to matters here.

Are there any underlying themes or mood in the album? It appears to be rather angry.

Carl: Well maybe. It’s just photographs along the way since last September; that’s what the album is really. So it doesn’t really look to the past; I know everyone’s gonna try and make that association. It starts off, like ‘Bang Bang…’ is trying to get away from the past. It just deals with what we went through; there’s a lot of pressure… Yeah, I suppose there is a bit of anger knocking about but, to answer your question, not at Pete, if you were about to ask. Just, you know, angry at The Libertines.

Why did you choose Sardy and Doogan as producers?

Anthony: Sardy kinda chose us I guess. Once we had about half an hour’s worth of stuff, we played when he came down to our practise space, and he was like, (claps hands) “Let’s start recording the record!” Sardy came to a Paris gig that we did and we just talked to him for a bit and he seemed pretty down to Earth and we got a little bit of information on what he had done before. He was like, “OK I wanna do the record” and a week later we were just talking like, “OK Sardy’s doing it”. We didn’t even really sit around and have a meeting or anything.

Carl: I didn’t even know about producers myself. I knew he’d done loads of stuff, but I said, well, he’s a Yank so he might lose our sense of Englishness and that. But then I don’t know how he did that latest Oasis album. He didn’t do it on that, did he?

Anthony: He didn’t make them sound any different than they usually sound, I think that was the kinda thing that certified it. Some producers really put their fuckin’ stamp or their sound on a band. It’s like, ‘I’m gonna put you through my machine of what I make a band sound like’. Whereas Sardy, I really like The Walkmen stuff that he did; all the bands that he’s worked with, they all sound like that particular band.

The first track on the album ‘Deadwood’ sees you singing “What will you do when they forget your name?” Were you singing to anyone in particular? It sounds like quite a bitter tune.

Carl: It’s like a lot of that record, innit? It’s quite self-explanatory.

People will expect you to sing about the obvious.

Carl: It would be difficult not to. My feelings as they were, the obvious is there, but I’m not pointing any fucking fingers or digging up any dirt; not digging up any deadwood. We talk about digging OUT the deadwood, not bringing it up, you know what I mean?

Did you consciously try not to write about the obvious?

Carl: I refuse to write the obvious because I knew damn well even if I put it in writing I’d spend the next year talking about that instead of the fucking music, so once again the curse of The Libertines has got me again! And I don’t want that shit, you know?

How easily did the lyrics come to you once you’d started to write?

Carl: The Sardy sessions, the lyrics suffered a little.

Because you were in LA?

Carl: Yeah, that’s it. But the Doogan lyrics, they mean a lot more. I’m not saying the first lyrics are shit by any means, some of them are great. But I’d found my footing more by the second half, had got more confidence together and realised that it was all or nothing. But having said that, don’t write in your magazine “Carl thinks the first half’s shit”!

Anthony: Sardy’s got people everywhere!

A little later and I’m joined by the other half of the Things. They don’t order over-expensive sandwiches; instead opting for picking at the remains of Carl’s smoky bacon crisps. Didz introduces himself to Clash; “I’m Didz, I’m from Reading, I’m a Cancer”. Gary is rubbing his forehead to soothe the ailments reaped from the night before’s goings on: an early night and too much sleep. He is suffering from deprivation of rock ‘n’ roll behaviour. They go on to expound on the bipolar methods of recording…

Were you writing a lot in the studio? Did most of the music come through jamming?

Gary: The second half of the session that we did with Tony Doogan in Glasgow, that was done in the studio and that was about six songs. The first half of the session we did in LA, we had material that we’d been working with. But when we went to Glasgow…

Didz: We only had like the vaguest ideas.

Gary: There wasn’t even bare bones of anything.

Didz: We did kinda want it to be like that though, because we were very aware that the songs were written and although we shuffled them around with Dave a little bit, they were pretty much there. So we kinda wanted the second half to be a little bit more experimental and see-where-you-go and kinda conscious of doing something a bit different. But at the same time, make sure that the album will be intact, not a night and day kinda thing. We didn’t want that.

It’s two polar opposite places to go though.

Didz: We went to LA because we didn’t really trust ourselves in London.

Too many distractions?

Didz: Yeah. So, clever kids, we went to LA, (laughs) where there aren’t any! So then we went to Glasgow, not as a result of that, but it was just kind of luck y that there were barely any distractions.

I did think that on a couple of songs the vocals sound quite low in the mix with the guitars higher, ‘Deadwood’ would be one example.

Didz: We kind of had to approve stuff on the run, and it was like by the time we said yes or no it was a bit too late. But then, and I don’t know how everyone else feels; we haven’t discussed it, but I’m kind of OK with that because it’s honest; it captures the circumstances really. It’s not ideal but.

Gary: We don’t want it to be too professionally polished. I mean, we do actually put the ‘semi’ into semi-professional.

We were discussing earlier that the album sounded quite angry. Did you guys recognise that when you were playing and maybe play a bit harder and faster?

Gary: At some points, yeah. It’s all very quite organic. I mean, you have to kind of lend yourself in whichever general direction the music’s going. And so if you listen to the music from an emotional standpoint, and it feels like it is actually lending itself to being slightly more aggressive, slightly more staccato, then you’ve gotta have a go at it really. And luckily for us, that’s kind of the vein that we all like to play in anyway. Everything we do ends up being kind of angry and aggressive.

Didz: Well there is that kind of ‘angry young man’ to all of us. We’re all kind of frustrated with some amount of things really.

Gary: Women!

There are quite a few rhythm changes in some songs. Did you enjoy that opportunity, Gary, to break away and try some stuff?

Gary: Yeah. A lot of my stuff got watered down unfortunately, so I wasn’t actually able to play as much as I would have wanted. But with respect to the fact that everybody was trying to push us towards an international market and trying to make everything a little bit more palatable for us; I just wanted to fucking play! (Laughs) But that’s fair enough. We all had to kind of compromise to a certain degree, which I don’t really mind. From my own standpoint, when I think about it afterwards, the album won’t sound anything like the live shows, because everything that got whipped out from me I’ll just put it back in for live shows. So it’ll end up sounding a lot more exciting to a certain degree.

The best way to represent Dirty Pretty Things on record, it seems, is to capture the essence of the group’s unit – it’s Dirty Pretty Things, NOT Carl Barât and Dirty Pretty Things. As such, each Thing plays a key role in making ‘Waterloo To Anywhere’ a storming debut, and Carl has the humility to let them share centre-stage. Another album highlight, ‘The Enemy’ in fact stemmed from seeds sown by Mr Hammond; it’s his voice you hear on the song’s hauntingly ominous introduction.

Was that a song that you brought to the mix?

Didz: Yeah, I kind of had that little start bit…

Were you trying to push for a whole song?

Didz: No, not really. (Laughs) I said to Carl, “I’ve got this little bit. Let’s see if we can work it up into something’. And ‘The Enemy’ is what came out of it really. I think that was the first one where we collaborated on it from the beginning really, whereas the others… Up until that point, Carl had kind of written ‘Bang Bang…’ and ‘Deadwood’ and a bit of ‘The Gentry Cove’ and a bit of ‘Gin And Milk’ and then we came to it later. Whereas this was started by me and then he wrote it from there and we put the rest of us together, Gary’s beat being a particular landmark indication of where we should go with it.

Earlier, Carl opened up a little to reveal the song’s esoteric theme that was expertly juxtaposed with the contagious bounce that propels it to mass sing-a-long status.

In ‘The Enemy’, you sing “The enemy as I know it is right inside my head”. Can you elucidate on that at all?

The Libertines was all about pressure at the end. It was too much for me.

Carl: It’s pretty easy. I’m just saying that most problems you make yourself, nine times out of ten. And then you’re your own worst enemy. It’s about depression really – you’ve got to keep that enemy happy.

‘You Fucking Love It’ is apparently inspired by the seedier side of life that you’ve experienced?

Carl: Yeah possibly. Me and Pete used to live in a brothel. It’s more about… the idea came from the cards you see in phone boxes. When you’re a kid you collect them. And it’s the line between the humour and the sadness but the quintessential British-ism as well I kind of allude to. Every culture’s got its own failure, hasn’t it? Over in Japan there’s those little girl clubs that they go to.

When you’ve written a great song are you aware that you’ve written a hit?

Carl: I guess it’s exciting to know that, but so long as it’s got that energy and repetitivity. I just want songs to strike people, I want them to mean something to people, so if they’re a hit then I guess they’re more striking. But you wouldn’t want just hits, would you? They’ve just got to mean something to people really, so people care about them. I’d like our songs to be of use to someone. But if it’s a vessel for people going mental on the dancefloor, if that’s what you call a hit then fair do’s, I’d love that.

If you were out and someone played one of your songs would you dance or just sit and listen?

Carl: I’d rather hide really, because I know everyone would be staring at me and I don’t like that… or if I was particularly drunk. I want to look at the DJ and go ‘Ugh!’

Anthony: I’ve been out with Carl before and like our presence is known at the disco or whatever and the DJ’s like, ‘Oh man, yeah’, like it’s the cleverest thing in the world to throw on a Libertines track because the guy’s in the band is there.

There’s some horns at the start of ‘Bang Bang You’re Dead’…

Anthony: We didn’t actually expect that to make it into the track, did we?

Carl: No.

Anthony: We always just did a kind of bunch of like not-taking-it-too-serious tracks with Sardy. Like, once we got the tracks done it was kinda like ‘Let’s do some shit and see what might be good’. Then we got the mix back and he’d put the trumpets right at the beginning of the song and we were like, ‘Hmm, good!’ Who are these? [Looks up at MTV]

That’s Girls Aloud.

Anthony: Is it? They’ve grown up.

Carl: Do you think they’re fit?

Anthony: I can’t tell. The blonde one.

Carl: Is that Cheryl Tweedy? She’s the racist who slapped that woman?

Anthony: I like the blonde one.

Carl: We did Top of the Pops once, the first time we ever did it – The Libertines…

Anthony: They’re really experienced. They’ve got a great dance routine, don’t they?

Carl: …and I remember the ginger one, she came by and she swaggered by in these leather trousers and we were just sitting there… In fact every time we did Top of the Pops they did it as well! Anyway, she swaggered past and me and Pete were like, ‘Ooh’, and she gave us a look like [haughty pout]. Then two minutes later I heard this guy shouting at her and then she came back crying! (Laughs) And we were just like ‘Ha ha ha’, because she got told she wasn’t allowed to wear what she was wearing.

Maybe it was a Libertines/Girls Aloud package deal.

Carl: Maybe. Probably.

Anthony: [Still staring at screen] Jesus!

It is a predominantly angry album, but the last song finishes with some laughs, it kind of redeems hope.

Carl: Yeah, it finishes on a big knees-up, doesn’t it? I think that overcomes it really. Maybe we’ll make that go on to the next album… if we ever get to make one!

Do you have any plans for a second? Do you have anything written already?

Carl: I’ve got a new song actually. I’ve not even told Stan about it.

Anthony: Huh?

Carl: I’ll tell you about it later. I’ve got a bit of a curse about talking about songs, because I never write them after that; I feel like it’s done.

Dirty Pretty Things is the name of a recent film, and I know that you’re a bit of a film fan…

Carl: Yeah, but I haven’t seen it.

Did you just like the name and nick it?

Carl: I didn’t nick it, because we were doing a club night before…

So they nicked it?

Carl: I don’t think there was any nicking! You’re always trying to find a villain aren’t you, you press types!

No, I would have just had a word with them for you; sorted them out.

Carl: I think their film is probably a bit bigger than our band at the minute.

You studied acting, Carl. Do you have any ambitions to go into acting?

Carl: I wouldn’t mind meeting Audrey Tautou! Yeah I’d like to act one day, but I’m losing my confidence on a day to day basis regarding acting. I’d have to go and practice or something for a little while but I haven’t got time… unless anyone’s got any offers of course!

When last Clash encountered Dirty Pretty Things it was thousands of miles away in the weeklong music and booze fest that is South By South West in Austin, Texas. Acoustic renditions of ‘Deadwood’ and ‘Bang Bang…’ at MTV2’s secret morning broadcast from the city’s park were worlds apart from their proper gig in the Eternal club downtown at midnight. Packed to the hilt with a leering mob that was wondering just who was going to follow The Flaming Lips, the club eventually – although briefly – rocked full tilt to the raucous clatter of the Things firing on all cylinders, until the plugs were pulled by officious representatives from the local law enforcement.

Didz: We don’t really know why that was, but looking back it was quite funny! (Laughs) I felt that at the time, but everyone else seemed very angry so I played it down a bit.

Gary: I called a cop a “fucking cunt”.

Didz: Yup.

Gary: All I did was ask him why we got shut down and he was very rude to me, so I said “You’re a fucking cunt”… And then ran away very quickly.

Didz: You ran down the street singing; you were singing anti-racist songs.

Gary: I was singing ‘America Is The New Soviet Union’. And there was a shit load of Police around who didn’t take very kindly to that either!

Didz: Anthony got arrested for the idiot’s act of drinking on the street – and he’s the real American in the band!

Did you get home okay? The weather afterwards was atrocious!

Didz: It took me two days to get home.

It took Clash two days as well.

Didz: Maybe you were on the same flight as me?

No, we had to get a six-hour bus ride from Austin to Dallas and missed the London flight.

Didz: I managed to get a flight to that and then couldn’t get out for like a day. We stayed at the hotel but they [the airline] wouldn’t pay for it, but they gave us a, what was it? A “distressed passenger” rate.

So did we! We managed to make the most of it though; we went to the mall in Dallas the next morning.

Didz: We went to TGI’s then we got some drinks and I managed to befriend the guys from Transgressive on the plane, so we were kind of all together. Then we all got in a car with a very stoned girl who nearly killed us all by going over the central reservation very narrowly missing the signpost. And then I left my phone in her car, which is incriminating, when there was actually no criminal act to be incriminated for…

On the subject of travel, talk ventures south of the border to Mexico, where the ‘Bang Bang…’ video finds our heroes kicking up a storm in the land of burritos.

So was the video shot in Mexico, the ‘Bang Bang… ’ video?

Anthony: Yeah, in Mexico City.

Carl: What shop?

Anthony: The video was shot in Mexico.

Carl: Oh, I thought you said “video shop”. I was thinking, ‘Bang Bang Videos’? (Laughs)

Did you like it out there?

Carl: Yeah, it’s a different world really isn’t it? I said to the Japanese the other day in an interview it’s the opposite of Japan. They just looked absolutely blank… [To Anthony] Just like you’re doing now!

Anthony: No, yeah, it is.

Carl: There’s a bit of a Wild West going on there, isn’t it?

Anthony: The Police are so corrupt they’ll just kidnap a westerner off the street…

Carl: Like that film Man On Fire.

Anthony: There’s some pretty dodgy bits in Mexico City. You don’t wanna get caught with anything because they’ll just take all your money, and getting out of a Mexican jail is nearly impossible unless you’ve got serious diplomatic connections.

Are you speaking from experience here?

Anthony: Yeah, well a long time ago, my first experience we went to Tijuana, and one of our companions decided he’d just have a piss on the street. Next thing we know, four cops locked us up, searched all our pockets and then decided we could either go to jail or give them, like, $800, or whatever we exactly had amongst us that they’d already checked. And that was it. And you have NO choice; you have to give them money. It’s kinda scary.

Carl: I was there once, and we was up all night and we were in the van on our way to the next gig or something. It was like 8 in the morning or something. The cops pulled us over and they were talking to the driver for ages and then basically he came back and said “It’s $100 or they have to take you all in!” And then I bought a driving licence there! I can’t drive; there’s no test out there anyway! I blagged one. I went to the office, like you do here, and just queued up – my mate organised it – and I got a licence!

Anthony: Money goes a long way down there!

Does that mean that you could drive here?

Carl: Well technically it does, but I lost it on a ferry.

Anthony: Trying to drive it!

Carl: I could drive here for a year, but I could only hire cars because no insurance company would cover me without a licence. But I mean you can change an international licence on this agency on the Internet and blah blah blah blah.

And finally, it’s over to the rhythm section and the dichotomy of life as Dirty Pretty Things in the public arena after the notoriety of their former lives. “We’re quite conscious that we can’t rest on any Libertines laurels and we have to prove ourselves as a band,” says Didz. “It’s not Libertines Part 2 and to a certain extent we have to prove to people that’s the case, so we’re ready, willing and able to do that.”

You’re throwing a couple of Libertines songs into the set though, right?

Gary: We are playing a few. We’ll be playing ‘Death On The Stairs’, ‘I Get Along’ and maybe a few others, but not in addition to the ones that we’re already doing; we may take something else out and put something else in its place.

Didz: We are conscious that people would really want to hear them, but we’ve kinda did it…

Right, you don’t want to leave them disappointed but at the same time you don’t really want to spoil them.

Didz: Exactly, this is the quandary that we are in. Not to moan about it and be like a whiney rock ‘n’ roll bastard…

Gary: Those songs are part of our history so we should kind of to a degree be allowed to play them if we wanted but, you know, our future is the material that we’re playing as Dirty Pretty Things. So we should be in a position whereby we play just all of that stuff.

Didz: I mean, it’s a real band and it’s a fucking good band. On a level it’s a shame that we have to go to great efforts to step out of that shadow, but at the same time what about the people that are interested already? So it’s kind of like a beast with two backs.

All through the Libertines career, Carl would always stay very attached with the fans and they always stayed very dedicated. Is that something that you will continue?

Gary: Yeah that is definitely something that has continued. We’re not the type of band that will turn up at the venue, cloaked in our sunglasses, run to the dressing room, sit in the dressing room, play the show, dive back in the dressing room, have a few drinks with our rock star friends and then dive onto a tour bus and run away. That’s just kind of lame and boring. There has to be some kind of mystique, I’m guessing, with respect to bands, i.e. there are certain people they want to maintain a kind of mystique with reference to their heroes and so forth, and make up their own minds and assumptions with reference to what people are like. But we are individuals as well and we like to hang out. So whenever we have the opportunity to hang out, say before a show to check out the supporting acts, after the show, meeting new people, taking them out for drinks, mugging them, taking their wallets, their purses, a bit of Rohypnol involved… It’s a good night.

Didz: Essentially the dopier you can make people, the more money you can take from them.

Gary: Essentially we’re all having fun together so why shouldn’t we do anything else than just still have fun together?

So that’s what is different with Carl Barât lately: he’s having fun again. He is a man fully in control again of his own destiny and, bolstered by the camaraderie of his trusted allies, has found a new confidence and identity in the ranks of the last gang in town. It’s there in their cocky swagger, it’s there in their private jokes and it’s there in the intimate embrace for the photos. Mostly it’s there in the imposing sight of four men in black; an impenetrable dark wall. “Well we are a bit of a gang,” Didz confesses, “we feel like brothers really.” Quite scary brothers too, Clash adds. “Don’t be scared… just be careful!” Didz warns, knowing all too well that there’s still plenty time for heroes.

“I find a lot of freedom in computer music,” says Detroit’s electronic wunderkind Tadd Mullinix. And he means it. For the past five years, this multi-talented, multi-tasking producer has stubbornly refused to be confined to any single niche. But although he’s equally at home making jacked-up house and techno dancefloor weapons as James T Cotton, widescreen, delicate electronica under his birth name, and even tearing ragga-fied jungle as SK-1, it’s his experiments with electronic hip-hop as Dabrye which have earned him the most attention. With his latest album ‘Two/Three’, featuring a hefty selection of guest MCs, being hailed as major new stepping-stone in the evolution of his sound, I caught up with the workaholic 27-year-old to find out more.

Born in Rochester, Michigan, and growing up in the metro Detroit area, it was hip-hop that first captured Mullinix’s attention as a schoolkid. He says: “I was big on skateboarding in high school, and still am. So when I first started buying music it was stuff like the DOC, Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy and Wu-Tang Clan. But we were also listening to stuff we heard via the rave scene, like Plastikman, Aphex Twin, Jeff Mills and Robert Hood. Jeff had been DJing on the radio in Detroit, as The Wizard, and I was listening to that while I was growing up.”

After experimenting with bands in high school, Mullinix quickly graduated to solo computer-based production. And a move to Ann Arbor in 2000 led to the start of long collaborations with both Todd Osborne and the Ghostly International label. He explains: “I moved to Ann Arbor from the metro Detroit area to get a job with Todd Osborne at his record store, called Dubplate Pressure. We traded ideas and software, and started the Rewind label for our Soundmurderer and SK-1 jungle material. And it was at Todd’s store that I met Sam Valenti of Ghostly, who said he was interested in some of my music. I gave him a cassette, which had some house on, which became the James T Cotton project. But the stuff on the flipside caught his attention too. It was kind of a hodgepodge – it had stuff that would be on the Tadd Mullinix album ‘Winking Makes A Face’, and things that would be on the first Dabrye album. So the first James T Cotton, Tadd Mullinix and Dabrye material all actually came from the same demo. New things are coming out for the other pseudonyms this year too – I’m always working on stuff simultaneously.”

The debut Dabrye album, ‘One/Three’, made quiet ripples when Ghostly unveiled it as one of their earliest releases in 2001. A second album, ‘Instrmntl’, dropped on Scott ‘Prefuse 73’ Herren’s Eastern Developments label a year later, and the ripples of interest built to a tsunami of hype by the time Motorola began using ‘Hyped-Up Plus Tax’ from ‘One/Three’ in their ‘Hello Moto’ ad campaign. With its unique beats, seemingly hewn from little more than buzzes, sine waves and white noise, sounding like hip-hop reinterpreted by aliens and beamed back from the future, for many this is the quintessential Dabrye track.

What sets Dabrye apart from the legions of other whiteboy electronica-meets-hip-hop wannabes is a natural ear for the nuances of a beat, the subtle shifts of timing and quantisation that make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. His rhythms have the neck-popping late snares, shifted hi hats and deep off-beat kicks of the very best modern hip-hop. What’s all the more impressive is that he crafts these beats using not the hip-hop producers’ usual tools of choice – the Akai MPC series or Emu SP-1200 sampling drum machines – but AST, an obsolete piece of tracker software. He explains: “AST was shareware for the Soundblaster AWE64 Gold card – a really popular card, nothing really specialised – and I still use it now. I have a lot of outboard gear now too, but I still fall back on AST for the Dabrye stuff.”

Dabrye’s heavily electronic take on hip-hop production didn’t go unnoticed by Detroit’s most revered producer, James Yancey, AKA Jay Dee and J Dilla, who tragically died earlier this year, aged just 32, after a long battle with lupus. But in 2003 Dabrye fulfilled one of his greatest ambitions by collaborating with his hero on ‘Game Over’, the closing track on ‘Two/Three’. He says: “Jay definitely gave me a lot of confidence about having vocalists on the album. I wasn’t sure how I would break into the hip-hop realm, but he was very supportive of what I was trying to do. Working with him on ‘Game Over’ was the best endorsement I could ever ask for. He’s definitely my favourite producer of all time, and it was so tragic when he passed.”

I find a lot of freedom in computer music.

Featuring a stellar list of indie hip-hop MCs including MF Doom, Waajeed, Beans, Wildchild and Kadence, ‘Two/Three’ is a major step forward in the Dabrye sound. The raw electronic edge is still there, but there is a breathtaking range of sounds on display, from treated jazz samples, to overloaded analogue squeals, to sweet string pads. And it’s clear Dabrye has taken to recording vocals like a duck to water. He explains: “I felt like it was just intuitive to take the next step and work with MCs. It’s something I always wanted to do.”

So what does the future hold for the Dabrye project? “I’d love to be able to produce for anyone I like, whether that’s underground acts to more mainstream acts like Busta Rhymes or something! ‘One/Three’ and ‘Instrmntl’ served as a resume for the MCs of the world – because back then I wasn’t in touch with any MCs at all. So maybe ‘Two/Three’ will serve as a resume to attract some of the other MCs I’d like to work with in the future.”

There’s a lineage that can be traced throughout the history of electronically composed music. It starts with mid 20th century pioneers Karl Heinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis and Tod Dockstader and flows through melodic revolutionaries like Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and Eric Satie. Moving onto modern day Detroit techno geniuses like Derrick May and the Underground Resistance team and British legends like Autechre, the Skam Records label, B12, and Boards of Canada. However, this electronic bloodline would undoubtedly remain conspicuously incomplete without arguably the finest and most influential modern day electronic composer to come from these shores, Richard D James, AKA Aphex Twin.

Earliest Aphex Twin releases have become timeless classics and recent work is now gaining the appreciation it truly deserves. This man needs no discography outlined. You know the classics already. We’re talking ‘Selected Ambient Works Vol.1’, ‘Analogue Bubblebath’, ‘Didgeridoo’, ‘Windowlicker’, ‘Drukqs’, and his famous remix album ‘26 Mixes For Cash’. And that’s only skimming the surface of this ultimate back catalogue of a genuine virtuoso. James has spent 15 years turning isolated moments of extreme imagination into a consistent output of magical musical and technical experimentation. His unswerving circuit-bending hunger to try what’s new and visit sonic outposts yet unchartered remains unparalleled.

In 2005, under his AFX moniker, Richard D James released an immediately sought after collection of music through his imprint Rephlex that he shares with friend and business partner Grant Wilson-Claridge. Entitled the Analord series, these 41 tracks spread across 11 special pieces of vinyl were accompanied by an extremely limited embossed presentation binder and only sold to true fans through the Rephlex website. Despite being vinyl only, each of the 12 releases sold well into five figures, some selling as much as 25,000 units. Dedicated followers and music geeks alike went crazy for them. This work has now been presented in the form of one carefully selected CD album to give a newer, wider audience a chance to feel the layered analogue warmth and glistening acidic beauty of a legend’s latest ideas. On hearing this news I jumped to the notoriously difficult task of locating Richard and securing an interview.

Richard D James does not really do interviews. To meet him face to face is a rare occurrence, one that no doubt has to be earned through the building of trust. He does not like to speak on the phone, and insists on the very few interviews he will do to be conducted by e-mail. Oh, and you only get one shot at it. No revisiting questions, if your first lot are inappropriate in his mind, or just plain shit, he will ignore, playfully ridicule or will basically lie. In his own words he is “an irritating, lying, ginger kid from Cornwall who should have been locked up in a youth detention centre but just managed to escape and blag it into music.” To those that are close to him he is actually highly intelligent, decent and funny, however to those that are not, well, he just doesn’t care. And he doesn’t care what gets printed about himself.

Days spent researching, trawling forums, and speaking to those who do know him told me not to even bother asking about the played out subjects. Yes, he owns a converted bank, yes he also owns a tank (a Daimler Ferret armoured scout car), and yes, also a Russian submarine. He does indeed have over 100 hours of unreleased music to his name and has manipulated his own samplers, synths and software for his own use for years. He has been paid ridiculous amounts for ad campaigns and musical jobs, and likewise has also turned down some of the biggest names in pop. These subjects are all well documented. He has also recently moved to the Scottish countryside and at the time of interview was expecting a baby, who has by now been born, so tracking him down alone was going to be hard enough.

I sent off 40 hopeful questions, mainly focused on his music and designed to hopefully strike the right chords. He didn’t answer them all but I’m told what I got back was a lot better than most…

You said a few years ago that you believe most artists make their best music before they are recognised. Do you still feel this is the case?
No, I think generally speaking immediately after they have been recognised.

Was this the case with you?
I kept on releasing stuff that I’d made before I was signed and I still do at times now. But I’ve got so much material left from before I was signed and I just don’t know what to do with it all. It’s a lot of effort getting it together and I usually will always prefer to just make new stuff, so I never get around to it. I don’t want to give it to anyone else to do either; it’s got to be me.

You’ve said before that your own most innovative music shall remain unreleased, is this still the case and if so why?
Sometimes I love making music that I can’t hear anywhere else. I love filling the gaps that other people leave, even if it’s really subtle. That’s what buzzes me up. I like having time to develop the gaps. If I were to release some of that kind of stuff people would copy it, I would hear it and it would put me off developing it further. This has happened to me a lot. I wish I hadn’t released certain tracks because I wanted to do more like them but was put off by the copies. I feel like it’s been taken away from me.

Do you have a particular period where you feel your output that has been available to fans has been at its most prolific?
Yes there definitely were mad periods but I’m pretty much doing music most of the time, I’m obsessed.

Do you look back fondly on the times of ‘Didgeridoo’, ‘Analogue Bubblebath’ and ‘Selected Ambient Works’?
Yes I still really like all my old stuff.

Some people have said that your last full artist album ‘Drukqs’ was a contract breaker with Warp?
Rubbish, I spent longer working on that than anything else.

Would you say you are more self-critical or more self-congratulatory?
Good question. I think to be good at anything you have to be your most brutal critic but at the same time you can’t be too hard on yourself.

You said before that you’d like to gatecrash the British Top 10, is this still the case?
I don’t think I did but I withdrew ‘Windowlicker’ from sale for a short time as it was going to be number 1 or 2. Cowardly is one way of looking at it but I just didn’t want it happening.

What do you think of the charts, and the marketed band culture of now?
The only good thing is the production of hip-hop tracks, but I can’t complain, I’m not going in there and twatting producers out of the way at the moment anyway.

What do you think of people giving music away free now – do you still think there should be no copyright on art?
Yes I do. It’s easy for me to say because I’ve got enough money to live on but I do believe it’s not the artists that benefit from it most anyway.

Are you protective of your own music when it comes to people borrowing or blatantly copying sections?
No, I don’t care now. It’s flattering. I used to get angry but now I just try and listen to the stuff that’s copying me from someone else’s perspective and someone else only cares if its a good track or not. But it’s difficult sometimes when it’s so blatant. It’s a bit like trying not to move when you’re being tickled. The funniest feedback loop is when people make plug-ins that try to emulate what I do and then I end up using them – thanks!

You say you often change your set-up and the way you do things, what did you change and get into for the Analord series?
Most of it was sequenced on an MC4 and other analogue sequencers.

What machines are your favourites for creating those acid sounds?
Most of the Analord series wasn’t made on too much of my stuff, that’s to come later…

Who has been the collaborator you’ve most enjoyed working with?
Just mates. I like doing tracks with Captain Voafose.

Do you have a passion for other current music? How do you choose to digest it if you do, do you go out and listen to it live?
Completely, but mainly just at home on my own.

What environment, situation, or head state gets you going most for listening to your own music?
On my own with a spliff.

Do you still listen to the electro-acoustic revolutionaries like Xenakis, Parmigianni and Dockstader?
Yes all three of those were/are totally on track.

Would you like to leave their kind of legacy for future generations?
I’m not going to die.

Do you still push your mind and body in the same ways now as you did in your days of sleep deprivation?
I’m on 6 hours a night at the moment.

What difference does this make to your music?
Working at night is better because you don’t get interrupted.

I read that you were affected by Synaesthesia (when one sensation is represented by another, i.e. hearing music is represented in sight through colour). Does this still happen, and what happens to you when it does?
Well recently I’ve been getting REALLY strong sensations of smell with certain sounds I’m making. It’s fucking weird but I love it. I don’t even know if there’s a name for that…

Is there anything in music you haven’t done but wish you had, or hope you will?
I’d like to design a machine for Korg or Yamaha. There are loads of other things but I don’t like talking about things before I’ve done them. It takes the excitement away to do it then.

And outside music?
No, apart from to maybe form a community somewhere in the middle of nowhere. There’s still time yet I suppose.

What do you feel about city life versus country life?
Well I would find it hard to live in the country without the Internet, if the net existed like it does now when I was a kid I might not have left for so long.

Does it affect you in terms of making music?
Necessity is the mother of invention.

What are the latest innovations in music that you’d like to explore further?
Umm, surround porn?

What’s your word for today?
Avril Lasagne.

And for 2006?
Pissflaps.