Featured in this issue…

The Kooks TB, tantrums and tonsilitis

“We’re a pop band who writes pop songs and we have attitude and we’re people. We’re not plastic; we’re not trying to be celebrities. I think with our music, the stuff that we’re writing at the moment, there’s a lot of stuff we’re trying to talk about…”

The Magic Numbers Bowled Over

“It was kind of surreal that we had to wait that long for things to come together,” he remembers, before protesting, “but what were we meant to do, grab our little sisters at 11 years old and force them, like ‘come on sis, play the fuckin’ bass, man’?

Larrikin Love Amorous Rock ‘n’ Roll

Larrikin Love are like feral creatures let loose for the day. Clash meets the band in Brighton, amidst their tour supporting The Kooks. After chasing some fat seagulls in the park, they climb up drainpipes on the Brighton Pavilion and make up dance routines on the spot.

Andrew Weatherall Long in the sabre tooth

Weatherall cut his melodic teeth in the hedonism of the exploding acid house scene. Mainly in the psychedelic fairyland of Madchester.

Albert Hammond Jr Yours to Stroke

“Hearing Buddy Holly for the first time really was a life changing experience. One day I hated music and the next, I just fell in love with it.”

The Byrds Flying high once more

In the decade that spanned The Byrds’ existence, the band found themselves protagonists of folk-rock, psychedelic-rock, jazz-rock and – after discovering and drafting in Gram Parsons – country rock.

Smokey Robinson Motown’s main Miracle

It’s no small feat to be dubbed “America’s greatest living poet” by Bob Dylan, hardly an outside contender for the title himself, but then Smokey Robinson is truly a songwriter that has united his country in song – all 4000 of them!

Album Spotlight

The KLF – Chill Out

The truth has always been stranger than the fiction that surrounds Bill Drumond and Jimmy Cauty.

Personality Clash

The Longcut Vs Mogwai

It was a case of North versus South as our two acts clashed in curiousity

Regulars
Album Reviews

As the well of inspiration began to dry, redemption came in the form of reality TV. Even more surprisingly, creative juices really began to flow again with the help of obscure Japanese electro-punk. As Preston explains, it’s never straightforward for The Ordinary Boys.

Cast your mind back to Clash Issue 8 – we are in the studio with The Ordinary Boys, hearing exclusive tracks from their new album ‘Brassbound’. As the follow up to their debut ‘Over The Counter-Culture’ it sounded fuller, more mature and more expensive, but the reception that day was at odds with the public’s lukewarm reaction upon release. Over a year later, reborn and rejuvenated, Preston reflects on that recording’s apathy as a reaction to original drummer Charlie Stanley’s dismissal and the introduction of new blood (Simon Goldring) into the fold. Their dismay, however, would not last. “After ‘Brassbound’ I was prepared to literally give the whole thing up. I was like, ‘Fuck that, I’m just gonna back to an office job’,” says Preston. “It was all getting a bit stressful and depressing. Then you think, ‘Fuckin’ hell, we’ve got the best job. This is fuckin’ great!” We had this work ethic towards being in a band, but it shouldn’t be like that, it should be the best years of your life. When I’m all washed up and 18 stone with sick in my beard I’m gonna be thinking, ‘Fuckin’ hell, that was the best time ever!’”

Inspired to take some more risks within their band structure to keep things fresh, Preston’s next move would shock everyone yet prove the masterstroke that saved their career. “I did Big Brother. They phoned me up, “Do you wanna do it?” I was like, “Yeah, alright then”,” he laughs. “You come out of that and people fuckin’ wanna hear what you’ve got to say again. We all sat down and it was fuckin’ exciting again. We went into the studio and went, ‘We’ve done one fuckin’ ridiculous massive risk and it’s paid off alright, let’s do the album we’ve always wanted to make’. So we’ve done it.”

‘Ten Easy Steps To Everything You Ever Wanted’ is the result of the band’s most high-profile year. Its central theme is, unsurprisingly, fame and its trappings, which isn’t a new obsession to Preston, but is certainly one now seen from another angle. “I was always writing from the outside about this celebrity world where people don’t even fuckin’ work for a living,” he enthuses. “And now I’ve managed to scale the walls and I find myself in the middle of this bizarre world that I’ve always been deconstructing, and I can send a story from the frontlines.”

Write about what you know, that’s what songwriters are advised, and it’s certainly put to good use on ‘Ten Easy Steps…’ The lead single, ‘Lonely At The Top’ stems from the feeling around ‘Brassbound’ that the Boys wanted everyone to like them and then the realisation that was never going to happen. “I’d much rather the people who think we’re great think we’re fuckin’ great,” Preston candidly admits, “and the people who don’t like us I literally couldn’t fuckin’ care if they just all fucked off to be honest. It doesn’t stress me out anymore.”

This carefree attitude is apparent in the sound of the new album – recorded in “proper rock ‘n’ roll debauchery and fuckin’ anarchy” – as guitarist William Brown indulges the band in his love of Japanese electronic bands such as the frenetic Plus-Tech Squeeze Box. When it came to choosing a producer to capture this new vigour, their surprising choice, Grime DJ/producer Plastician, was down to a shared love of such bleepy Eastern delights. “He sent us this demo and it sounded really good,” Preston remembers. “We just thought, ‘No one else is working. We’ve got all these songs, let’s let this kid have a try.’ And it was brilliant.”

Augmented with an electronic edge, the all-new Ordinary Boys are the same but different; programmed synths, an array of exotic instruments and a polished pop sensibility all serve to enrich the “expansive sandwich” of sounds they’ve worked hard to build. “It sounds like quite a rude record in terms of its arrogance,” states Preston. “‘Brassbound’ was so timid and humble and I’m not humble at all – I’m a right wanker when it comes to stuff like that.”

After ‘Brassbound’ I was prepared to literally give the whole thing up.

Admitting that ‘Brassbound’ was affected by a bout of depression and the overuse of drugs, Preston is noticeably eloquent when describing his new music. Emboldened by his recent marriage, encouraged by his progression as a songwriter and proud of the efforts of his bandmates, it would seem everything appears to be, well, Ordinary again. No wonder there’s a song on the new album called ‘We’ve Got The Best Job Ever’! “I just feel like disgustingly almost hippyish in a way that I would have hated how I felt now a year ago,” he says. “Seeing myself now I would be like, ‘You fuckin’ hippy cunt!’ I would have hated it, but I think you see… not your own mortality, but just the fact that everything is just waiting to expire so you might as well enjoy it when it’s good.”

He continues: “I do certainly feel like someone’s waiting to pull the rug from underneath me and it’s all gonna come crashing down, so for that reason it makes me enjoy even more the fact that right now I can do gigs and people will show up.”

The enduring glory of The Ordinary Boys continues unabated.

Since its 60’s revival, there has been an air of mystique about folk music. I’m sure some people even believed that the aloof figurehead of our parents’ generation, Bob Dylan, had died from a genius tragedy like a plane crash or an overdose, putting him in God’s VIP room, swapping stories with Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon.

There’s no way we can picture him as part of the late Seventies’ Dark Age of folk when it seemed a pastime for medieval wizards and warlocks. The Eighties fared better with Thatcherism’s political backdrop of miner strikes and civil unrest. Billy Bragg became a working class hero and Simple Minds wrote ‘The Belfast Child’.

All throughout this time and for most of the last few hundred years, the traditional folk song has continued to be distributed the old-fashioned way. Players travel from town to town singing and teaching songs for a pie, a pint and a bed for the night.

King Creosote

Popularity of living legend Bert Jansch and older artists that didn’t impact folk the first time round in the Sixties like Vashti Bunyan, Nick Drake and John Martyn has grown. Like so much great art, the missing audience is only found in death.

And where’s Dylan in all this? Well he’s been rejuvenated for an iPod advert. This it seems is a sign of our times – digi-folk for the pop generation.

In this interactive, multi player, online, self-publicising Twenty-first century, a quiet revolution is evolving. A shy march, headed by a one-man, music-making, second coming, calling himself King Creosote is afoot. Like the first folk revival spearhead, he’s aloof, hard to pin down, doesn’t have a mobile phone and has a prolific catalogue of thirty plus albums, amounting to over five hundred songs!

Clash caught up with KC, the head honcho of the Fence Collective, a man who’s managed to buck the music merry-go-round to create his own DIY music factory. He’s chosen to spend his energy actually making music and not chasing big deals or promoting and touring. “Your first record is a pick of what you wrote up to that point, then you’re so busy promoting that record that you end up fulfilling that ‘hard second album’ legacy,” he says about being a signed artist. “Maybe some bands see twelve songs as the next pot of cash.” But not KC, he prefers a more modest, tea drinking approach, free from industry constraints.

The early Fence Collective really was various bands made up of friends and relatives. “To the outside world we looked like a label,” explains KC. “We then started getting people coming out the woodwork to contact us.” KC’s approachable ‘have a go’ attitude seemed to rub off, and before he knew it “all these shy people started contacting us saying they’d been recording for a year or whatever. They didn’t think they’d written anything good, they just wanted us to have a wee listen,” he says in his soft Fife accent.

That stuff turned out to be really good; the talent behind them just “didn’t have any confidence… not themselves,” he adds, “but that in Scotland there wasn’t anything to help promote that kind of thing!” he rationalises.

Recently folk music has created an establishment in the shape of the stuffy BBC’s Radio 2 Folk Awards. But… as with all good music from reggae to punk cutting against the grain, KC and his Fence Collective are bucking the establishment to ignore the rules. “It seems with this New Folk tag, everything is in there. Like Photech… and The Earlies from Manchester. They’re into Prog! It’s almost like people are using the folk banner to embrace anything that they’re a bit lazy to describe”

You can have a good night out without being online all night

A humble KC is not surprisingly uncomfortable with a label that ironically bastardises its title. “I’ve always said that folk songs are something that in three-hundred years will still make perfect sense and be strong enough to sing without any instrumentation.” He means the themes are universal. They’re either tragic or funny, about lost love or getting drunk… “I love the funny ones!” he says. “My songs will not be sung in five years’ time, they’re not songs that will be taken forward and be taught to peoples grandkids. In that way I feel a little bit of a charlatan to be described as a folk singer.”

So excusing transient and trendy titles such as Nu-Folk or Folk-tronica, who comprises the resurgent charge of folk influenced forms bandying about laptops and microchips then?

Well for argument’s sake, let’s keep these bloody titles and agree that these names help define any music brought to the table for a last hearty meal with friends before we all have to fully embrace that we’re inevitably gonna be eating online with virtual friends before the decade is out.

Phelan Sheppard – ‘Harps Old Master’

Keiron Phelan and David Sheppards’s wide-ranging musical journeys have intertwined since they were teenagers. This latest offering is their pinnacle – a lush, expansive, emotional journey of instrumental melancholy.

King Creosote – ‘KC Rules OK’

Described by the man as “a sort of Best Of… even though no-one knows the songs,” it’s a unique voice that has been heard all year from Bestival to the Greenman fields in spite of what he says. Look for other Fence offerings from The Lone Pigeon, Northern Alliance and James Yorkson and the Athletes.

Imitation Electric Piano – ‘Blow It Up, Burn It Down, Kick It ‘Till It Bleeds’

Headed by Brighton-based ex-Stereolab bassist, Simon Johns, Imitation Electric Piano polish late Sixties psychedelia and early Seventies prog to a lush electric sheen.

Tunng – ‘Comments Of The Inner Chorus’

These new faces are the darlings of the scene; check out their cover of Bloc Party’s ‘Pioneers’ on the recent Folk Off compilation if you need proof. This latest record mixes pop, folk and electronica, although lead man Mike Lindsay says, “we just make our music without thinking about Nu-Folk”. They epitomize the open book approach to categorising the scene.

Larrikin Love are like feral creatures let loose for the day. Clash meets the band in Brighton, amidst their tour supporting The Kooks. After chasing some fat seagulls in the park, they climb up drainpipes on the Brighton Pavilion and make up dance routines on the spot.

In the short walk to the pub, a ticket tout is yelling at some Chinese tourists for “spare tickets for the Kooks!” This is at three in the afternoon. We sit down outside the pub, and a kind looking lady with silver hair approaches one of the band, with hesitation. “Are you The Kooks?” she asks mildly. And after a short pause Larrikin Love unanimously reply, “Yes!” grinning and giggling sheepishly. She gasps, and runs back into her house. She returns a minute later with a notepad and pen; “Can I have your autographs please?”

The band have no qualms whatsoever in fooling this innocent woman and immediately huddle to remember the names of the members. Not being able to remember the last one, Edward signs the pad ‘New Kook’, explaining a member had left, and he was his new replacement. The lady was content enough, and began to babble on about the possibility of her son coming to the show tonight and apologetically explaining she couldn’t buy a ticket on her £40 a week salary.

“I wish he could be there,” she croons.

“Well,” says Edward, “I’m not saying it’s his fault, but he should have done more to get tickets.”

“He’s only 15!”

“Ahh,” Edward shrugs his shoulders. “So naïve.”

The silver-haired lady waddles off with her fake signatures and the band roll into the pub, Edward laughing whole-heartedly that he managed to get a Kooks lyric into the conversation.

Front man Edward is wildly unfocused in an interview situation. He transforms from a fun-loving, rowdy, and mischievous scruff-ball into a bored-looking schoolboy that has to fulfil a chore. His mousy roots pushing through his bright red hair, he fiddles with the ashtray, nervously rips up paper, and changes the subject countless times. He is hard work. But so effusive and – given the right questions – very talkative.

“My favourite drink is champagne,” he says first off. “Do you like pink champagne?” asks guitarist Micko.

Originally we were a 4-piece fighting team before music. We’d go out and kick the scum out of Twickenham.

“I don’t like pink champagne, only normal champagne,” says Edward. A debate [the first of many] has erupted. “I love it, but it gives me heartburn,” says drummer Coz. “If I drink a lot of it, it makes me like, drunk,” says Edward sarcastically. The band really act like a bunch of old school friends. Daring each other to do stupid things and teasing each other. As the conversation turns to cocktails, Edward reveals his favourite, ‘Nymph’s Piss’: “It’s champagne, vodka, meduri and lychee juice in a Martini glass. It’s great.” “Let’s get it now!” someone exclaims, and giving a disapproving look, Edward calmly explains that a tiny pub in the middle of Brighton will not have lychee juice at the bar.

When the band met, they all lived in or around Twickenham. But only Micko is actually from the town, which has been a subject of some drastic transformations of late; “They put a Starbucks there! I know it’s horrible,” Micko says. “It’s horrible! And there’s a Café Nero. It’s ruining my town, man.” A few of the members met through various martial arts sports, in a centre in Twickenham. “Originally we were like a 4-piece fighting team before music,” says Edward. Micko and Coz did karate, and achieved brown-white and brown belt respectively. Edward did Judo. “We’d go out and kick the scum out of Twickenham.” So they have something to fall back on if all else fails.

On record Larrikin Love are a helter-skelter melting pot of influences and sounds. Something you might expect to find in an enchanted forest – music made by gifted pixies and elves. And then there is Edward’s voice, which just about holds the insane shit together. Larrikin Love resonate energy and fun. Rag-doll get-up, laugh a lot, smoke occasionally, look exactly as you’d expect. Furiously protective of their music.

“We personally believe we haven’t got a British sound,” says Edward. “We are aiming for so much more, on a much bigger scale. People will learn that over the next couple of albums, but as it stands now, people really do think that we have this quintessentially English sound. And it’s not something that we are trying to not have, but…” “We just don‚t,” Miko steps in. “It’s something we don’t really want,” agrees Edward. “Can you name me a band that doesn’t have a British sound?” Micko bursts, “Asian Dub Foundation.”

“It was an accident that I was born British anyway,” says Edward bitterly. So who would you rather be? “Either American or Greek. Greece is my favourite country. I love Greek food, I like the people, I like the sea, I like the warmth, I like the cats, I like the stray dogs and I like Athens. I want to move there when I have enough money,” he says with such determination. The same determination he must have invested into the jaw-dropping debut album.

Before we finish chatting, it has been announced that two hours before the gig is supposed to begin, it has been cancelled due to an illness within The Kooks. The tout is still shouting to buy tickets, ironically, whilst Larrikin Love prepare to make the trip back to London.

Phil Collins’ demonically leering expression of the cover of ‘No Jacket Required’. Mick Hucknall’s ginger frightwig looming ominously over a pneumatic blonde’s dirty pillows. The Style Council’s wretch-inducing sartorial faux pas: brogues-minus-socks. Yes, honky experiments with the dreaded ‘plastic soul’ can leave you with cold-sweat images so nightmarish that you may be lured into removing your penis with a rusty bread knife. However, Hot Chip – despite looking like the kind of MySpace-afflicted weeds who were a little miffed when Morrissey started banging-on about his fit-to-burst testicles – are salvation from this whitey nightmare. What was that about the meek inheriting the earth?

You may not expect this wily bunch, straight outta the harsh quagmire of the Putney badlands, to be the true possessors of the funk. However, Hot Chip – who’ve dabbled in the murky waters of slap-bass, Nintendo-fuelled 2-step and songs called ‘Sexual Chocolate’ – are not about to pander to your wanky preconceptions. The frail melodies and biting-wit of debut album ‘Coming On Strong’ won many fans (including the DFA, who wrangled their signature), yet also left style mag sub-editors creaming their Silas kecks and salivating over a supposed ‘iwonic!’ fantasy. “The music press was trying to work out half the time whether we lived in Hoxton or not,” smiles Alexis, “or whether it was too clever for its own good. Just cos you have a few thoughts in your music, or cos you like wearing a colourful jumper or something, you get grouped in with something so awful. If you make a record that has a sense of humour in some of the songs, like we did on our first record, people just decide you’re a novelty band.”

We’re trying to be something that displays how we feel about things, and it’s bound to feel quite light-hearted at times as well as being pretty fucking depressed at other times.

This hilariously misguided suspicion of Hot Chip as some sort of bedsit-bound students, with their botoxed-to-fuck arched eyebrows, did little to taint the music. Their delicate, yet by no means flimsy, approach – taking in everything from lo-fi biscuit-tin soul and blu-tacked electronics to scratchy melancholia and “the interesting syncopation and the rhythms of 2-step” – always had eyes beyond Nathan Barley and Brick Lane trustafarians. “Good pop music is something to be proud of,” Alexis notes. “We listen to pop music, we listen to avant-garde music – we listen to Terry Riley and Teddy Riley, the R&B producer. A few years ago all those Rodney Jerkins productions on Destiny’s Child and stuff, that was my favourite pop music around – it was sticking two fingers up to all these people that said ‘there isn’t any soul music anymore’”. This bracing and decidedly unpretentious stance means the band’s interest in “classic disco” and Kraftwerk could be pasted-together with a passion for songs “as good as ‘Dilemma’ by Nelly” without seeming clumsy. “Maybe none of the experimental stuff comes into the recordings in such an obvious way as for Hot Chip to write a lengthy, 35-minute exploratory piece of music, but we try and pack those things into 3 minutes – a lot of crazy solos and free jazz elements into pop songs.”

It was when thoughts turned to their second album and how these wonky ingredients could manifest themselves in “a pop masterpiece of a record” that dreaded ‘creative differences’ arrived. They were beckoned across the sea by the DFA – the uber-lords to ex-public school kids who wear only limited-run imported Levis, and who, in James Murphy, boast the bastion of the most underwhelming facial hair known to mankind. Though a deal with the DFA’s label was struck, their attempts to produce the record fell depressingly flat. “We thought ‘we’re going to make these songs all-together, rather than just me and Joe – record a five-piece live band’,” Alexis says. “The DFA guys wanted to produce… we thought they’d be the right people to capture all those qualities of our live show, not mess around with it and just give it a really good bottom-end. We went over to begin working with them and only had a week of preliminary sessions… we soon realised they wanted to do the same things that me and Joe already do on our records. We came back from that a little shaken-up, it didn’t really seem to work well at all, and some of the band were quite demoralised by that.”

This wasn’t helped by some tragic-comedy Stateside tour events that, suitably for Hot Chip, were so bizarre as to be beyond the bargain bin of rock & roll cliché. “Felix has a chronic illness that can flare-up and get quite nasty, he was in a lot of pain and had to wait for a good five days before he could even fly back to England. So we were at a disadvantage from really early on,” bemoans Alexis. “Then there was a big snowstorm that stopped us getting to Portland, and we played a sold-out show in New York where the monitors kept breaking. We had a funny moment on the last date of the tour in Miami where we had 2 gigs to do on the same day. We came to do the first gig but left half of our equipment at soundcheck at the second venue, and our tour manager had to drive off and try and get it in time for us to play. We got caught going over the water when the drawbridge went up to allow a boat to come through, and we were stuck waiting for half an hour while our equipment is sitting in an empty venue… pretty embarrassing really. We had to play for ten minutes of a 45-minute set to a confused set of people standing on a beach.”

The experience – akin to some lo-fi, bespectacled take on ‘Behind The Music’ – left the deflated bunch to flee back to their roots; the place ‘where the magic happens’, otherwise known as the bedroom. Far from the world of 128-track jumbo-studios with liquid Nazi-crack flowing through the mixing desks and sado-masochistic goblins on-hand 24/7, they’d returned to a site of duvet covers, malfunctioning laptops and soiled mattresses. Ultimately, though, “retaining the homemade feel of the first record” helped them go all Derek Acorah and re-channel some spirit. “We started to say, ‘well, what’s wrong with the way that we record our music already, is there a need to change it?’” mulls Alexis. “I think we felt a bit of pressure to record live because the general public were saying, ‘Oh, you’re so good live, but your first album’s a bit of disappointment… it’s comparatively slow and quiet’. But I actually wanted to make the record sound like that and I wanted this record to sound different from our live show, so we ended up recording in precisely the same way – just Joe and myself, recording each thing very quickly and layering and layering all the tracks.”

The result is potentially chart-shagging pop nail-bomb, ‘The Warning’. It’s a record that could make the case of Last of the Summer Wine – even those consigned to the grave – dance like Michael Sembello, and beyond-parody faux-gangster Dave Courtney weep into his nut-brown ale. From ‘Over And Over’ – the tectonic flange-disco which has eaten your local indie-shithole alive for the past few months – to the downbeat robo-soul of new single ‘Boy From School’, through to the Paul McCartney-sampling pile-up of ‘Careful’ and ‘Look After Me’ – “a hybrid of a modern R&B song with an old song” – it’s a decidedly schizophrenic, yet somehow cohesive, listen. Both audacious and unpretentious, optimistic yet reflective, it deserves to re-unite the great unwashed and give hope to the disparate hoards. Alexis, however, it far more pensive over its impact.

If you make a record that has a sense of humour in some of the songs, people just decide you’re a novelty band.

“I like it, but only from a distance,” he says. “To my ears, it’s probably the most pop statement we’ve made. The songs like ‘Colours’ and ‘Boy From School’ seem quite emotionally and lyrically transparent and warm. I think at this weird moment in time Hot Chip manage to do lots of different styles of pop songs next to each other to make up an album.” Much of this can be cited to the conflicting, yet ultimately constructive, interests at work between Alexis and Joe. “I’m much more into long-playing albums, whereas Joe listens to 12” singles, or old compilations of things like Phil Spector where it’s hit-after-hit. Sometimes he wants to make the greatest party record, or the craziest-sounding rhythm, and I might be feeling like singing an incredibly sad song. Sometimes these tensions are good things and they make for a better song, and sometimes your moods are just so at-odds with each other. It’s a high-pressure situation to be in. Looking back it might seem odd that we were really thinking ‘can we actually make another record?’ But if you really rely on clicking with someone then when it doesn’t work it can feel awful.”

While hardly some red-top-friendly Pete N’ Carl-esque backstab-athon, the success of Alexis and Joe’s partnership and that of ‘The Warning’ relies on a certain degree of tension, and what those with shit-eating grins might refer to as ‘happy accidents’. It’s an album of floor-fillers with bleary, morning-after tears in their eyes and of neutron sex-bombs with broken limbs. “We’re trying to be something that displays how we feel about things, and it’s bound to feel quite light-hearted at times as well as being pretty fucking depressed at other times… maybe you feel both of those things on the same day or in the same song.” These sentiments paste ‘The Warning’s’ pop-nuggets into a consistent whole. “With people’s music, not only is there going to be stylistic traits but you’re kind of grounded by your voice. The Beach Boys were doing something completely different with the range of instruments that they had, and Kraftwerk never sound as clinical or cold as some electronic music can, but they’re always going to sound like themselves when they play their music. I always end up singing in this sort of weird girl’s voice, maybe that’s what keeps it obvious whose band it is – a band with different ambitions are grounded by who they really are, their characters come through in their lyrics and their kind of naivety.”

While ‘The Warning’ may not take the band to the commercially dizzy heights of morally-dubious pied-piper of R&B R. Kelly – “He’s a peculiar, quite frightening man judging by the stories you hear about him, but when his music works, it’s really good” – it certainly deserves to. If Clash wasn’t the shrewd voice of reason we’d drop some poster-friendly soundbites like ‘soundtrack of the summer, kids!’, but instead we’ll proclaim Hot Chip the genuine article; soul men in the true sense of the word. “I try to sing things that I actually feel, and not pretending anything, and that should be in anyone’s music,” proclaims Alexis. “That’s all people really want from a listening experience, they want to connect with someone or they want to feel something different from what they felt before. We all like going to great shows and listening to records that you get so excited about you want to hear over and over again.” Consider it mission complete. Fo’ shizzle.

Ollie Jones is a tough guy to pin down. But since the man known as Skream is currently the exploding dubstep scene’s hottest property, that’s no big surprise. With a punishing schedule of international DJ gigs and a weekly radio show on leading London pirate Rinse FM to fit around promotion for his self-titled debut album, the 20-year-old from Croydon is in major demand. But after a month of missed phone calls and frantic emails, Clash finally tracked down the master to discover what makes him tick…

2006 is the year dubstep blew up – and not before time. Emerging from the post-2step, post-jungle sonic landscape of south London at the turn of the millennium, a darker variant of garage began to take shape in the studios of Menta, El-B and Horsepower Productions, championed by DJs like Hatcha at the long-running FWD night and fed to hungry vinyl buyers through Big Apple Records in Croydon. Stripping the garage template down to little more than bass, drums and dubwise effects, a select group of producers spent the next half-decade honing their styles with little interference from the outside world – until recently. The past 12 months has seen an explosion of interest, triggered by the scene’s first bona-fide crossover anthem – Skream’s ‘Midnight Request Line’.

Suddenly those producers who’d kept the faith through dubstep’s years in the wilderness – among them Kode9, Benga, Loefah and Digital Mystikz – found the eyes of the world upon them. Meanwhile Skream – only just out of his teens – faced the daunting task of following up the scene’s best-known tune. “I definitely felt pressure. It’s hard when a scene’s blowing up,” he admits. But if he felt intimidated, it certainly didn’t show, with two awesome ‘Skreamizm’ doublepacks earlier this year only serving to cement his untouchable rep. Now his debut album is upon us – and it’s every bit as dazzling as expected. “It’s been there since before I knew I was doing it really,” he says. “It’s been in my head for a couple of years. It was hard to decide on the final tracks, you know, thinking about how other people are going to react to them. I think that’s the internet’s fault – in the old days you didn’t get much feedback, but now you know you’ve got people listening all over the world.”

Growing up in Croydon, Ollie’s big brother Hijack – a veteran jungle DJ with legendary south London crew Internatty, alongside Grooverider and Bailey – switched him on to jungle at an early age. He reveals: “My earliest musical memory is going into my brother’s room when I was really young. I didn’t have clue what I was doing but I turned on all the amps and blasted out a jungle tune – I was a bit freaked out. But my biggest influence in terms of wanting to make tunes was Arthur Smith – AKA Artwork/Menta/Bobby Blanco – he’s a fucking badboy! There were so many tunes you didn’t realise he’d done, then you found out it was him. I met him through my brother, who worked at Big Apple. Arthur had his studios above the shop, and I used to go and sit and listen to his tunes. I heard ‘Sounds Of The Future’ from the start, before it came out, and that was THE tune. That was first big crossover tune for breakbeat garage, darker garage.” The Big Apple/Croydon hub was clearly vital for the dubstep scene, and particularly for Skream. He agrees: “If it wasn’t for Big Apple being in Croydon, then I might not even be making dubstep. But it’s not so much where it is; it’s the people that are around. It could be anywhere – it’s just a mad coincidence that so many people were on it round here.”

Most dubstep tracks are made with clubs in mind, and indeed the best way to appreciate the sheer physicality and bass weight of the sound is through a chest-rattling sound system. So it’s not too surprising that the ‘Skream!’ album – “all written at my mum’s house on my PC” – is one of only a handful of dubstep full-lengths to date. But what is surprising is just how well it works as a home-listening experience. While instrumental club anthems like ‘Midnight Request Line’ and ‘Stagger’ are present and correct, there are also vocal collaborations with Warrior Queen and JME, and live instrumentation adds a new dimension to ‘Rutten’ and ‘Summer Dreams’. “The Warrior Queen tune [‘Check It’] was written with her in mind,” he explains. “It was mad – I wrote it thinking of her vocals, and then a week later I got an email from her management saying she wanted to do something. As for the JME tune [‘Tapped’] – I think it’s easier to get to the youth with an MC, and JME is lyrically one the best MCs there is. He talks sense, he doesn’t just bang on about guns.”

There are so many strong tunes about right now and it’s great that dubstep is finally blowing up.

Skream’s work rate shows no sign slowing down any time soon. He says: “The next ‘Skreamizm’ record is done – lots of bangers – after the album I want to drop some anthems again, want to follow it up strong. And in the new year I’m going to start a label – no idea what the name will be yet though, I’m still waiting for a sign on that! I want to push new producers along with my stuff. There are so many strong tunes about right now and it’s great that dubstep is finally blowing up. Things are fucking amazing – it’s what I’ve always wanted.”

Seriously, what the fuck happened? The grubby hordes representing the indie mediocrity looked dead and buried. Then complacency set in, and a new shower of bastards arrived. ‘Nu-rave’ dicks dressing like deprived estate kids in 1987? Look, put the 2 Unlimited live-in-Utrecht bootleg down, and step away from the fluorescent shell suit. There’s a suave new gang in town, bringing edge, wit and – egads! – fun back to the proceedings.

Breaking-up can be hard to do. Bands in crisis often face separate tourbuses, periods in shock-therapy and communicating through lawyers, before the fabled – cough – ‘creative differences’ spiel rears its ugly head. While hardly Metallica’s ‘Some Kind Of Monster’, the disintegration of Vincent Vincent & The Villains’ initial line-up proved difficult to swallow. “There were a conflict of interests, because one of the members had another band,” mulls Vincent. “We all drifted apart – we were moving in different directions and eventually a rift got wider. It wasn’t a very productive situation to be in, so that had to come to an end, as much as we didn’t want to face up to it at the time.” Fortunately, they didn’t sack it off for a spell in Primark. Vincent (guitar/vocals), and fellow original member Alex (drums) promptly hooked-up with Tom (guitars) and Will (bass), who were unabashed fans of the group. “We thought it was a shame there wouldn’t be The Villains anymore, so it was great for us to come in and help realise a lot of those songs,” says Tom. “I never allowed myself time to wallow in misery. We had all these songs and a load of gigs that were coming up – big gigs,” adds Vincent. “We felt like we’d just come so far. You just have to put your head down and be really bullish and just drive through it. Speaking personally, this band is my dream, and I wouldn’t have let anything get in the way of that.”

Rather than roping-in some mulleted muso tossers from the back of Guitar Mania, bringing-in friends allowed Tom and Will to “gel really quickly” into the dynamic of the band, and help build what Vincent describes as a “tighter, harder sound” where “the musicianship has jumped a few notches”. Their now fully-realised songs feature taut rockabilly rhythms and grimy rock and roll riffs, twitchy late-70’s new wave and bleary-eyed rinky-dink pop. They’re certainly the only band that could make you think of Roy Orbison, The Zombies, Vic Goddard and Lonnie Donegan within the space of the same song. Understandably, this has distanced them from their Doherty-bumming, Clash-aping London contemporaries. “It’s not really any of our concern,” Tom affirms. “There’s lots of good bands out there, but we’re not thinking about fitting-into a scene or being part of anything. It’s convenient for journalists and for younger fans, ‘cos they want to feel part of something – part of a movement. It’s quite dangerous for a band to be a part of that, particularly if something catastrophic happens to one of the bands”. Vincent pipes up in agreement. “It’s a gamble. You network to know other bands and then you get involved quicker… you climb up the ladder but it’s slippery. We tried to consciously avoid it, and as a result we don’t have the baggage that goes with it.”

Some of London’s indie shitterati have been quick to scoff at the band’s strong sense of music, flair and style, labelling them as some kind of Mark Lamarr-esque, oily-haired 50’s throwbacks. “We get the quiff thing, ’50s quiff,” smiles Tom. “There’s grease – there’s lots of that – but we ain’t got quiffs!” “I think we just dress smart,” adds Vincent. “I wear some ’50s clothes, but we all just dress smartly and it goes together – we don’t consciously go for a specific look.” This statement proves more admirable when considering The Villains have recently put pen-to-paper with uberlords of evil, EMI. “There hasn’t been any push to change the way we are. If we’d been really malleable or styled… it’s so much easier for a band like that to just get shaped,” Alex affirms.

Commendably, the band have managed to uphold a cottage industry aesthetic, deliberating over their artwork, videos and photoshoots, and rallying friends to help out. “We’ve got a good unit in that everything is done amongst the band, like a self-sufficient unit,” Vincent notes. “I like that sort of handmade, honest approach – it’s not really glossy or slick. It’s quite ramshackle! I don’t want us to sound glossy or slick either… our music and our style and everything else is honest, it comes from the heart and isn’t sorted out beforehand – everything is a natural progression. It’s a good position to be in when you’re in control of all those elements.”

This band is my dream, and I wouldn’t have let anything get in the way of that.

Vincent & co. can currently be found “paying their dues” on a hard slog across Britain, promoting future chart-shagger ‘Johnny Two Bands’ [as featured on Clash’s ‘Ones To Watch Vol.1 CD], which details their earlier intra-band turmoil. Undoubtedly in their element live, the band have a rickety theatricality about them, throwing crooked shapes and Vincent channelling the spirit of “singers like Screaming Jay Hawkins or Richard Hell”. Alex keenly recognises this. “A live performance is theatrical, by the very nature of being up there on a stage. You’ve got a bit of responsibility – whether you choose to take it up or not – that you’re performing.” “It’s not enough to go and play,” concurs Vincent. “The songs – as brilliant as they are and everything – you have to put everything into them, and when you’re really going for it that’s when it comes out of you naturally. We all really enjoy pulling silly poses and making odd voices, it’s part of us getting carried away… there’s no pyrotechnics!” While a Motley Crue-style dramatic bonanza may be some years away from the grot holes of Swindon and Bournemouth, there’s no excuse for not investigating this mini-spectacular.

Perhaps a clue to the band’s future may be found in the single’s b-side, ‘7” Record’. A homage to the only plastic, 7” object your mum doesn’t take to bed, Vincent describes it as being “about when I used to buy old rock and roll 7”s and be really excited about it. I like the idea that someone might get that same experience from buying our record, playing it again and again and dancing round their room. It’s fulfilling some kind of prophecy!” Despite the suspicious sci-fi undertones in his statement, his words ring-true. Prepare to be dazzled by the classiest mob around.

“We’re a pop band who writes pop songs and we have attitude and we’re people. We’re not plastic; we’re not trying to be celebrities. I think with our music, the stuff that we’re writing at the moment, there’s a lot of stuff we’re trying to talk about… We’re living in a society which is gonna fuckin’ fall someday and everyone is just deluded into this hypnotic world of ‘I’m gonna be unhappy all my life so one day I’ll be happy. I’ll go to work and be unhappy so that when I get home I can do this.’ There’s some serious stuff going on, man. It’s about time things changed.”

So says Luke Pritchard, all beatific smiles, one fair afternoon on the streets of North London. It is summer 2005 and on the strength of some demos passed our way, Clash is here to profile The Kooks as our Ones To Watch.

Fast forward a year and a half and it appears our predictions were right – The Kooks are the nation’s favourite indie popsters, with over a million sales of their debut album ‘Inside In/Inside Out’ to prove it.

And it all played out this year, since the album’s release in January, which surely for the band makes it a year to remember. You’d think.

“My memory is just unbelievable,” Luke admits now – all the more reason for Clash to chart the rise and rise of our Band of the Year.

We’ve had a really up and down year and lots of doubts. Lots of highs but so many doubts and moments of guilt.

JANUARY 2006

• Album released

With a string of tours behind them (including recent support slots for The Subways), it was finally time for The Kooks to unleash upon the world their debut offering. ‘Inside In/Inside Out’ was a sprightly fun debut, but steeped in mature influences and an enigmatic depth to their combined abilities. Every song sounded like a potential single, and with their image – they just LOOK like a band – they just couldn’t fail. As it hit the shops, Luke confesses, the band found themselves at the mercy of the Great British fickle public. “When the album came out,” he says, “I didn’t really have any fears; I didn’t have any kind of expectations. We didn’t make it so that it would chart high, but I definitely wanted it to. I just wanted to see it connect and go to gigs and to see people enjoying what we’d done I suppose.” And how did they think it would fare? “Putting out the record, you have no real control once you put it out because you’ve just done it and then it’s out. You have no way of knowing. You’re giving all your music out; you don’t own it anymore.”

It would be an exaggeration to say that all eyes were on The Kooks – that fate fell on a certain Sheffield four piece, who released their debut the same day. “It was massive news that week that the Arctic Monkeys album was coming out,” Luke recalls. “Everybody was talking about it and everyone was going, ‘It’s gonna be the biggest thing ever’, so of course we were aware of it. I went out and bought it!” he laughs.

FEBRUARY 2006

• 1-14 UK tour, • 18-21 German tour, • 25-5 March Tokyo gigs

With the first wave of post-release mania in full flight, the band took off for a two-week jaunt around Blighty, eventually returning home on Valentine’s Day – Luke never received any cards; “I’m lonely,” he laughs. A great success, although fans of the band may have noticed the absence of original bassist Max Rafferty, replaced on this tour by the towering Peter Denton. Illness was blamed for Max’s no-show.

Two weeks later, Clash was invited down to an East London studio where the band were recording b-sides for forthcoming single ‘Naïve’, eventually contributing slide guitar to blues jam ‘I Love That Girl’ (“I don’t think the song would have happened without you,” Luke mockingly laughs). Crammed into the tiny room, uber-friendly drummer’s drummer Paul Garred and the effervescent guitarist Hugh Harris bounce around to their own playback, nodding complimentary at Peter’s impressive bass lines. “It was a bit weird because it was hard for us that,” remembers Luke. “It was the first time that we had recorded without Max, and so we all really didn’t know what we were going to do,” he says uncomfortably, touching again on a story that was yet to unfold.

The next day brought a change of scene as they found themselves bound for the land of the rising sun and their very first visit to Tokyo. The journey was the beginning of a two-day bender to celebrate Luke’s 21st birthday, and upon their arrival, instead of sightseeing and the expected culture drinking, they were treated to 8 hours of interviews daily. “By the fourth day I was just fucked,” Luke sighs. “I thought I was going insane.” Screaming fans were a common occurrence, much to the boys’ delight, but it was the city’s dark subculture that left the biggest impression on Luke. “I was looking through this girl’s magazine – it looked like what in England would be Marie Claire – and it’s got cartoons of women being raped and crying while they’re being fucked. You’re just like, ‘oh my God’. Really fucking insane.”

MARCH 2006

• 13 TV appearance, • 15-17 SXSW, Texas, • 18-29 UK tour, • 30 Radio & TV appearances

“I’d been to America when I was a kid but not with the band,” says Luke, recalling the momentous occasion when The Kooks landed on US soil. The occasion was the South By South West festival in Austin, Texas, a mainly industry event for A&R types to do some work amidst the plethora of barbecues and free booze on offer under the Texan sun. Their gigs there included an acoustic gig in a community centre outside of town to roughly 12 people (including 3 Clash staff, their manager and their sound man) and a packed bar on the city’s main strip on the Friday night. Luke describes the festival as “horrible”. He explains: “You can imagine that it used to be amazing. I went there expecting to see some proper Blues. I had this whole vision in my head of going into a bar and seeing some dude playing slide guitar, but it just wasn’t like that. All the American bands were just really cheesy Country – that I saw anyway.”

Unlike many of the other Brit bands who were using SXSW as a springboard to Stateside success, The Kooks’ visit was decidedly more casual. “It was actually the complete opposite,” Luke says, referring to how bands are instructed to perform well for the baying industry mob, “because we hadn’t got a record deal in America. Our album hadn’t come out. It’s one of those really delicious moments for us, because in the US they were literally like, ‘We’re just not interested… Don’t wanna put it out… Don’t give a fuck about it’ – this is Virgin US. And then of course we became successful in England and they were like, ‘We wanna do it’, but we went with a different EMI company – Astralwerks – who were actually passionate about it, so it worked out quite nicely really.” He continues: “Our managers just said to us, ‘Listen, we’re going over there to have a bit of experience of playing in America. Just have fun. We’re not going there to get a record deal, we’re not going there to impress anyone.’ It was just to go because we’ve been offered really.”

It could all have been so different, however, if circumstances on the Saturday night had played against them. Hooking up with Clash on the last night of the event to go and see Plan B, The Duke Spirit and The Mystery Jets, The Kooks intended to end their trip in style – namely drinking the bar dry. It was a reunion of sorts for old friends as Clash, The Kooks and The Mystery Jets partied into the night, eventually spilling out onto the sidewalk at closing time. Still game for the night to continue, Luke and Clash scaled the height of the Jets’ equipment trailer – handily parked at the front door – to dance on its roof. Minutes later we find ourselves dragged down and thrown against the wall by two overtly clichéd Southern meathead cops. We never realised our dancing was THAT bad! “Show me your ID,” one drawls, grabbing the passports of the easy bait. Mystery Jet Kai leaps to our defence: “That’s our van, officer. They’ve not broken the law.” “What do you know about the law?” one barks, inches from Kai’s face, then spits on the ground. “Ew,” exclaims an inebriated Luke, “you can get TB from that shit.” “You’ll get TB in jail if you don’t shut up!” the cop yells, as we begin to face our destinies – life in a Texan prison. “Man, how pissed off would you have been if I’d got you chucked in jail?” Luke laughs now. “We’d still be there, getting bummed every night! We’d be fucking Class-A meat!” Fortunately for us, Jets singer Blaine Harrison and their management defused the situation and rescued us from a lifetime of squealing like pigs.

APRIL 2006

• 1 Amsterdam festival, • 2 TV appearance, • 10-24 European tour, • 30 Dublin Castle with Ian Brown

For two weeks in April, The Kooks travelled across mainland Europe, basking in the spring sunshine and playing their little hearts out to the latest Kooks konverts. “I love touring,” Luke enthuses. “For us it rekindles your reason for being here. Because when you go to Europe we go to places where barely anyone knows us and it’s completely new territory and it’s really exciting. It’s totally different and the whole way of life is completely different. The whole way of touring is much more friendly over there. The first time we toured France was amazing.” But it was in the neighbouring Belgium where the four really hit the big time. “We have this thing there where we’re kind of seen almost like a boy band, I think. Every gig we play we just have girls – and I mean like young, fit girls!” he laughs. “We’re like REALLY doing well in Belgium. We are seriously quite a big band.”

He goes on: “Last time we went there we did this TMF gig, it was like an awards ceremony. I felt like we were in The Beatles, it was fucking insane. We were being chased by all these screaming fans. There’s nothing quite like it really. They love all the songs… and they give you letters! I had this two-page letter given to me once by this girl, and it was so sad. She was like, ‘I listened to your whole album and I realised that you’re very sad and someone’s really hurt you. I just want you to know that you should be happy’. I was almost in tears, man. It’s fucking mental. It’s kind of nuts because I find the words on the album quite personal so when somebody says that it’s really fucked up. I actually felt quite weird about it. But it’s amazing.”

MAY 2006

• 1-19 UK & Ireland tour, • 20 Brighton Great Escape, • 26 Save The Children photo shoot

Four months after its release, it is announced that ‘Inside In/Inside Out’ has achieved Gold status, which basically means that loads of people and their Granny had bought it. Usually this would call for a celebration, but in a band like The Kooks, where it’s unusual to see them without a beer clutched in their paws, the event passed fairly humbly. “We probably just had a beer,” Luke suggests, adding nonchalantly: “We had a big party when it was Platinum.”

This is nothing to be sniffed at, however. Reaching Platinum, or even Gold, is a feat that is becoming rarer in these days of transient acts where hype and image ultimately overshadows sales figures. This achievement is more than just a plaque on the wall, and its importance is not lost on Luke. “It’s just really cool,” he begins. “It’s good because you feel like you’re an important band because people are actually buying your record and it’s sort of entering your world really. There’s nothing like it. You’re selling 100,000 and you just start realising that there must be so many people that have your CD and are listening to it.”

JUNE 2006

• 4 TV appearance, • 7 TV appearance, • 8 TV appearance, • 9 TV appearance, • 10-12 Isle of Wight festival, • 13 AOL session, • 19 Barcelona festival, • 20 Radio session, • 23-24 German festivals, • 25 TV appearance in Holland, • 20 Belgian festival

Glancing at The Kooks’ diary for 2006, it gets noticeably busier as the year progresses – June is where it seems as if every day is on the move or working. As the festival season kicks off, the band find themselves in demand at every open-air event and suffering the inescapable promos that go with it. They have strict times and guidelines and are ushered from here to there and back again so as to adhere to the day’s timetable. Not that it fazes Luke. “I like just being told what I’m doing next,” he offers, “which is kind of different to the other guys, I suppose. It depends how you feel, but usually I like the idea of Tony [The Kooks’ trusty tour manager] just going, ‘Right we’re doing this’ and I’m just like, ‘Wicked’. It depends though, because sometimes you make plans and something changes and it gets a bit annoying. But I see it as what we do is totally a 24-hour thing.”

So do they cope with the pressure to keep up? “I don’t think we really have any pressure,” Luke initially answers, before continuing: “I tell you what, recently it’s got a lot harder. I got really ill two weeks ago. I went to Los Angeles to interview Debbie Harry. I’d been in New York for a few days and got so mashed. Then I went from New York to LA, but it was horrific – my plane got cancelled. All this shit happened, I got there and got fucking ill. I had a fever and tonsillitis. I had to do this Debbie Harry thing then I had to fly back. I did like six flights in seven days. All this bollocks happened and I got back and I’ve never been so ill in my life. I came back on tour for two days and then the third day I had to cancel the show. Then realising the responsibility of that was that there was so many people on our tour now. Like, forget about the support bands – although obviously I care – but aside from all their crew and them, we now have like a whole fucking truck following us with our PA. We have so many people on tour so you just feel this massive responsibility of, like, if I get a bit sick and I can’t sing then all these people are affected by what I do. So that’s pretty horrible. I didn’t get into a band to have responsibilities – ever. I want to be free. I think we’re all just adjusting to changing so that we do what we want but we also don’t fuck up the way things are.”

Taking this opportunity to discuss changes, the subject of Max’s absence is broached. For a while he had returned to the fold, but for the most it would seem his seat had been permanently filled by Denton. At first Luke is reticent on the matter, gradually revealing that Max first left the group back in February after massive rows between the two of them. “I haven’t really talked to any journalists about it because it’s personal and it’s not really fair on him,” he starts, obviously still scarred by his friend’s decision. “We were very strong creatively together, we talked,” he explains. “We lived together for two years and were really close, we talked a lot about the band and the direction and all that. What happened was, on one tour there were loads of problems and loads of stress and we were all doing probably far too much bad things than we should have done, and it all got really mixed up. We started fighting, Max and me, because we were in the room together. Massive rows about absolutely nothing. So one day he literally just left, and left me a message saying, ‘I love you but I just can’t fucking do this at the moment and need some time’. We didn’t really know what to do. We cancelled a few shows, I think, and then came back with him to finish the tour. Then we all decided, look we’ve all had enough, you need some time off, and then we did it. Then he rung me up and was like, ‘Listen man, I really think that you should carry on without me because I can’t really handle this’. So we got Peter in, and he just fit in really well. He’s a really cool guy, an amazing musician. We carried on and it just went on for ages and he just stayed home for ages, so it’s been really hard. Then he came back and then wanted to leave again. That’s all I can say about it really. We all miss him. We miss the old Max.”

JULY 2006

• 1 French festival, • 3 TV appearance, • 8 T in the Park, Scotland, • 9 Oxegen, Ireland, • 14 German festival, • 20 Swiss festival, • 22 Benicassim, Spain, • 30 Clash Club acoustic performance

What we do is pretty exhausting, but we could be doing manual labour. It’s pretty simple, pretty easy; it’s just fun.

It’s the height of summer and The Kooks have joined the travelling circus of bands that trawl from one festival to another. It’s a great experience, says Luke, but a case of the same old faces everywhere you look. “There are certain people it’s good to meet,” he says. “It’s always awkward with bands, I think, because a lot of bands are quite insular. I mean we are to a certain degree because you have your little bubble. I find I’m so judgmental, I have these whole judgements on bands before I meet them – I’m a bit of a dick like that. We had a wicked summer. We must have done like 30 festivals.”

A highlight? The exemplary Big Daddy of European fests: Benicassim in Spain. “That was amazing. There was a swimming pool backstage!” Luke proclaims. “We played at 12 o’ clock at night, between Morrissey and Franz Ferdinand, and we’re just like, ‘We’re not worthy! We’ve done so little, how can we be playing here? So we were on at like the perfect time and we just fucking had an amazing gig. What you had at the festival was this structure going up on each side where people could stand, and you could see people, girls dancing and everything. It was just fucking surreal. You get these moments that are totally cinematic and it’s very cool.”

Back in London a couple of weeks later and we are enduring the hottest summer to date. Clash has staged the first of our Sunday Sessions all-day party at Camden’s Lock Tavern and, after a day of musical celebration with DJ sets from The Duke Spirit, Drew from Babyshambles and Edith Bowman, the night climaxed with an acoustic solo performance from Luke. Perched upon the tiny makeshift stage upstairs, he peered out to a double-capacity crowd, some of which had queued for eight hours to witness the unique happening. With the crowd squeezed in right in front of Luke’s face it was, in his own words, “absolute mayhem”. He went on to play, to the gathered congregation’s delight, mostly new songs that he’d recently written and decided to test-drive, but threw in a couple more well known numbers. “One of the new ones has become a song we play every night now, which I think is probably the best pop song we have ever written – very simple with a Smiths-y vibe breakdown in the middle,” he says. “I’m hoping to maybe do a solo record as well because I feel like I want to,” he reveals. “You know Stiff Records? My dad was very good friends with Dave Robinson and Jake Riviera, the guys who set it up, and it’s their 20th anniversary this year. My friend works for this company that are starting it again this year. I was talking to him about doing a solo release. We’re doing an EP hopefully with Larrikin Love and some other bands and hopefully put that out on Stiff.”

At the culmination of his set, with the whole place hungry for more, the Clash DJs slipped ‘Naïve’ on to the decks, the one song everybody wanted to hear but that Luke refused to play. The result? An explosion of sheer joy. “It was a great fucking moment!” Luke beams. “It was one of the first moments when I realised that we’re quite a big band, because you just don’t think about it.”

AUGUST 2006

• 1 Belgian TV show, • 3 Portuguese festival, • 5 German festival, • 11-13 Japanese festival, • 18-24 Seaside tour, UK, • 25-27 Carling Reading/Leeds festival, • 29 Rolling Stones support

“I can’t really remember whose idea it was,” Luke says, regarding the Seaside tour undertaken in August, which saw them visiting sea-front towns around England’s coasts. The result of a refusal to play the same old venues in the same old towns, the band jumped at the idea of heading somewhere a bit different, where the crowds would be glad to see them, and make a bit of an event out of it. “We did our own festival in Skegness,” he grins. “Two thousand people turned up in the middle of nowhere, and I’m not even joking, we played out the back of a lorry. The security guards – this was so funny – they were all paid in beer and were all off their heads. We were sitting in the dressing room and the guys are coming in offering me coke and cheap speed and I was like, ‘No thank you, very much’. And we got on stage and we’re playing and the crowd are going fucking nuts, but the security guards aren’t even looking – they’re looking at us going, ‘Yeah! Come on!’ In-fucking-sane. No one ever plays in Skegness, probably for a good reason!”

A bit of a change in scene, then, to go from the back of a lorry to the grand stage at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium – all at the behest of The Rolling Stones. Having been invited to fill the support slot, the lifelong Stones fans naturally accepted (they were in fact offered the whole tour but politely declined as it conflicted with their own tour). “The night was hilarious,” Luke remembers. “I spent the entire night with Mick Jagger’s daughter and not realising that she was Mick Jagger’s daughter. I was trying to chat her up, not realising that she was 15!” he cracks up. “Keith Richards was playing this song off ‘Some Girls’, and I was going, ‘I really like this tune, it’s amazing’ and she’s like, [flatly] ‘Yeah it’s good’. And I was going, ‘So are you a massive Stones fan? It must be wicked to be here?’ And she was going, ‘Yeah yeah yeah’, and all night I was talking to her about the Stones, like talking talking talking, and at the end I said something really stupid like, ‘Do you know this tune?’ And she just went, ‘Well look, I probably do because I’m Mick Jagger’s daughter!’” he guffaws. “I was just like, ‘Oh my God!’”

SEPTEMBER 2006

• 1 Belgian awards TV show, • 5 Italian festival, • 6-7 French TV, • 10-19 Holiday, • 23 Radio appearance, • 26-19 October UK tour

With September comes the only actual mention of any holiday time in The Kooks’ exhaustive schedule. “You know what?” Luke points out. “The problem with touring is that when you have a holiday, you don’t really have a holiday. When you stop, your body just really gets in a pickle. I find that I really miss touring straightaway. It’s really funny, it’s like it gets to the evening and you feel like you should be at a show. Your brain can’t shut off. What we do is pretty exhausting, but we could be doing manual labour. It’s pretty simple, pretty easy; it’s just fun.”

Also that month, and somewhat to be expected, one fraction of the music media decided to fabricate their own rivalry between two bands, pitching The Kooks up against Razorlight – two bands each with a vocal front man, unafraid to say what’s on their mind. “Rivalry?” Luke scoffs. “It really did piss me off actually, only because I just think that I thought we’d got to the point where we didn’t have to do that to sell records anymore. I think that one of the most detracting things about music is that you don’t have to compete and that it’s art and art isn’t judged by merit as it’s personal.”

Clearly agitated by the whole affair, he continues: “Personally I hate that shit. I wouldn’t care if someone slagged off our music. If I read somewhere, and people have done it, where they say our music’s bad, I don’t really mind, but I just thought it was a bit strange. But you know what? I’ve said my fair share of things about people and been misquoted in lots of them so I understand.”

The success story that is The Kooks in 2006 was made official in September when it was announced that sales of ‘Inside In/Inside Out’ had exceeded a million. Thus The Kooks find themselves in the position of one of the year’s biggest selling bands and with the honour of having their album in the homes of over a million people with very good, if not exceptional taste. “I think it means that next time round there’s gonna be a lot of people looking,” Luke ponders cautiously. “But we’ve got no fear. We’re not the kind of band who do things because people expect them. I think we are essentially a pop band so essentially we are going to be making pleasing music, but I think it gives us much more freedom. I have a lot of faith in us now and a lot more belief because the way we’ve done things has worked.”

“And it’s not just selling a million records,” he goes on, “it’s selling a million records to people that when we play something they know all the songs. It’s not just off the back of a single. I really feel like people who get the album really get into it, and that’s a really important thing for us. Really it’s just a great fucking feeling; you feel like an important band.”

OCTOBER 2006

• 19 UK tour ends, • 21-29 US tour

It’s a dull as dishwater grey Wednesday in Birmingham and the rain is lashing down. The ennui of autumn is all too apparent in the hunched bodies that snake through the city, wrapped up in thick layers of woollen protection. In a tiny studio in an industrial estate outside the city centre, The Kooks have gathered to meet Clash once again, and is the setting for our intimate interview with Luke. Their escalating success has still not changed them: Hugh and Paul still frolicking away, the latter more concerned with the day’s football action, while Peter looks every bit comfortable in his role as new boy.

They play tonight as part of their ongoing tour, which started later than planned due to Luke’s sudden bout of tonsillitis. He claims to be 100% recovered and ready for action, as tonight’s show will confirm.

For now, we are looking further ahead, to the final months of the year and the onset of 2007.

“Do you know how fucking nuts it’s going in America?” Luke asks, looming over the table between us. I’ve only just asked him about the forthcoming American tour, but it seems I’ve lit a fuse. “It’s fucking mental! ‘Eddie’s Gun’ is number 5 in the student airplay charts. All the press is going wicked.”

As it appears, the intention for the immediate future is to begin to capitalise on this surge of interest from across the Atlantic. “It’s funny how you get misquoted or misinterpreted,” Luke says, “because when people asked me about the US I was always like, ‘I don’t want to think about the US’, because every band that becomes successful in England goes, ‘Right, we’re going to be fucking huge in America. Let’s go and take over’, and I always saw it like, who the fuck are we to do that? But now I feel like people are into it, and now that I feel like that I feel like, ‘Yeah man!’ I mean, I don’t want to go over there and break our backs for no point just because we have this whole American dream. The reason why it would be amazing is because I think once you get into America you become a ‘world’ band, you know what I mean? It’s something I’d really love but I don’t want it to change us.”

With time off for Christmas, the band are looking to secure some valuable time together at home in Brighton away from all the hustle and bustle of life on the road. “We’re just gonna have a month or two just to totally forget about everything and go back to how we started; have a rehearsal room where we can go when we want – no pressure, nothing, take our time with our songs. We have so much material that we need to spend time with so we’ll just have fun,” Luke says.

But, more pressingly, what is he going to buy his band mates for Christmas? “Nothing,” he laughs. “No, I will. I don’t know; I might have to get them something nice. I’m so skint though, which is just unbelievable when you’ve just been talking about selling a million records. I just looked in my fucking bank and I’ve literally got 20 quid. But it’s a myth; I always thought, oh whatever, people just say that, but it is true man, it takes so long to get your money. So this Christmas I’m gonna have to try and get some cash together to get people presents!” (The Luke Pritchard Christmas Fund is not a registered charity, but do please feel free to donate).

By next February, Luke estimates, they will be ready to head back into the studio to start the recording of their second album, the much-awaited follow-up to ‘Inside In/Inside Out’. But he’s not making too many plans for it just yet. “I like to think of things spontaneously but yeah I’ve got a few ideas,” he begins. “To be honest, with everything with Max it’s been quite up in the air and there’s been a lot of hard things going on. On the first record we had a really clear focus on what we were trying to achieve – I did anyway. I really wanted to make a really honest, soulful pop record where every song was its own song and not preachy, you know what I mean? I think on the next one probably the same sentiment, but I’ve got to think about it.”

He’s on a roll: “The new songs that I’ve been writing are a lot more rootsy actually, which is kind of strange. My own songs, I’ve been writing a lot of folk. It’s weird because I forget how all the old songs were when they started, which is probably quite similar in a way – just acoustic guitar and then they change. But taking from the one we’ve just written though I think it will be more of the same really. I don’t think we’re gonna try and reinvent the wheel. I think we’re gonna probably experiment more with sounds. With the first one, when we went in we had no idea what we were doing and we were just gonna play and if ideas come we’d do them. I think as soon as you start thinking too far ahead it kind of mixes your head up and you have too many things.”

And so we face the final curtain of 2006. We’ve seen bands come and go, we’ve made new friends, said goodbye to old ones, and got on board the roller-coaster ride of a few bands who’ve made this year an extra special experience. The Kooks are no exception to this. Their trajectory from January to October has been an impressive and well-deserved achievement and for that we honour them. It’s been a pleasure for us, but has it been everything they thought it would be? “It’s been everything I thought it would be and more and less,” Luke confesses. “We’ve had a really up and down year and lots of doubts. Lots of highs but so many doubts and moments of guilt. I think what’s really nice for us is to come from being, I feel, a really unrespected band to being respected. I really felt like – and I don’t know if we’re respected now – but I feel like we’re respected now, whereas when we started I felt almost completely disrespected by people. We’d do interviews and people were just chucking in things about my ex-girlfriend or about going to stage school and all that kind of stuff, which I felt was really fucking rude. And then overcoming that really just because of the tunes. So yeah, I think that’s what the year has been for us – overcoming all that and making our mark.”

That change that Luke was hankering after last year? It’s within his grasp. The Kooks are out in the street and you’d better watch out: 2007 is going to be a hell of a year.

In the decade that spanned The Byrds’ existence, the band found themselves protagonists of folk-rock, psychedelic-rock, jazz-rock and – after discovering and drafting in Gram Parsons – country rock.

The original five piece – Roger McGuinn (singer/guitarist), David Crosby (singer/guitarist), Gene Clark (singer), Chris Hillman (bass) and Michael Clarke (drums) – found fame as jingly-jangly interpreters of Dylan cast-offs, mixing his lyrics with the guitar pop of The Beatles.

Through the Swinging Sixties they dominated the American charts, offering classic singles ‘Mr Tambourine Man’, ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ and ‘Eight Miles High’ into the public’s consciousness forever.

But as Gene Clark flew the nest, followed by David Crosby (to join up with Stills and Nash) and various line-up changes, their star gradually lost its shine and by 1973, with only McGuinn as the sole original member, The Byrds called it a day.

It’s now 15 years since The Byrds were inducted into the US Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and in that time the deaths of Clark and Clarke prevent any proper reunion, but their enduring appeal has continued unabated, with a 5-disc (four CDs and one DVD) set, ‘There Is A Season’, now released in recognition of their achievements.

Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman were both on hand to empty the Byrd box of memories…

Is it true that the core of The Byrds – Gene, Roger, David – came together in the course of one night?

Roger: Well, no it was over a week or so I think. Gene Clark approached me at the Troubadour to write some songs with him, and we were writing songs, then it was within a day or so that David Crosby came in. Gene and I were singing one of the songs we’d written and David started this uninvited harmony; he started singing harmony and it sounded great! Then he mentioned that he knew somebody who had a recording studio that we could use free. So that was the kicker. That was what got him in the band!

Chris, how did you come to join The Byrds?

Chris: I was asked to join the band to play the bass, having worked with Jim Dickson who was our manager and our producer along with Terry Melcher. He had worked with me in a bluegrass band – I was a mandolin player – and thought of me when they needed a bass player, because David Crosby was originally the bass player and didn’t want to be the bass player, so they asked me, and that’s how it happened.

The early Byrds material was heavily indebted to The Beatles. How would you describe their impact on your life?

Roger: It was the big turning point for me. I was working for Bobby Darin in the Brill Building as a songwriter in New York when The Beatles came out. My job was to listen to the radio and emulate the songs that were on the radio. I started messing around with those sounds and I started mixing up the folk songs with The Beatles at that point; that was probably late ’63.

So how did it feel later when The Beatles called The Byrds their favourite American group?

Roger: It was such an amazing feeling. It made me feel great, especially when your favourite band in the world tells the world that you’re their favourite band, that’s just an incredible thing.

Gene Clark, the band’s dominant songwriter, opted to leave the band in 1966. How did you think the band would cope with his absence?

Chris: I thought that we would survive okay, but Gene was such a strong presence on stage and as a songwriter, but unfortunately if someone is having emotional problems – or whatever problems he was having at the time – it certainly isn’t gonna help the band move forward. At the time, I tried to talk him out of leaving but he was pretty insistent upon it; he wasn’t comfortable. We did manage, I think, to go on and make some pretty darn good records after he left.

Do you think that Gene is now finally getting the recognition he deserves for being the prime force in the early Byrds?

Chris: Well it is starting to happen now. They put so much emphasis on Gram Parsons, but really Gram’s lyrical and songwriting output wasn’t anywhere near Gene’s. And the length of Gene’s career, even amidst all the chaos in his life and hardships that he’s endured by choice, Gene was still actively creating some wonderful songs right up until he died.

Your breakthrough hit was a cover of ‘Mr Tambourine Man’. How did your relationship with Bob Dylan begin and how did it continue?

Roger: Well, he was like an older brother to us. He is a year older than I am. He was already established as an artist when The Byrds were getting together, so he always took an older-brotherly approach to us. That’s the relationship it’s been all these years. He’s still like my big brother! (Laughs)

What were his reactions to your versions?

Roger: He liked it. He came with [Dylan’s notorious friend] Bobby Neuwirth to our rehearsal studio when we were playing a couple of his songs and one of them, after it was over, he said, “What was that?” And I said, “That was one of your songs.” He didn’t recognise it because we’d rearranged it so much. It was ‘All I Really Want To Do’ and we’d taken it out of a 3/4 time and put it into a Beatle beat, so it was totally different. He liked it. Bobby Neuwirth said you could dance to it. I think they recognised that it was crossing Bob over from folk music to rock ‘n’ roll.

The signature sound of course came from the “jingly jangly” Rickenbacker 12-string guitars. When did you happen upon this instrument?

Roger: I got it from A Hard Day’s Night, the movie. George was playing one. We went to see A Hard Day’s Night to take notes on the instruments The Beatles were playing because they were such an influence. We noticed that Ringo had Ludwig drums, John had a little Rickenbacker, Paul was playing a Hofner violin style bass, and then George had a Gretsch for the most part. But then he came out with a Rickenbacker that looked like a six-string guitar, but then he turned the guitar sideways and you could see six other tuning pegs sticking out the back. I went, ‘Ah, that’s a twelve-string!’ I was already a twelve-string player from my folk music days, so I recognised the twelve-string and I thought, ‘I’ve got to get one of these’. So I went down to a guitar store in Hollywood and traded in my acoustic twelve-string for a Rickenbacker.

David Crosby was fired from the group…

Forty years later we have kids that still like to listen to The Byrds. That is pretty amazing.

Roger: Very unfortunately. It wasn’t because of anything in particular, it was his attitude. He just didn’t like us anymore. He didn’t want to work with us. He actually wanted to work with Stephen Stills, so we did him a favour. It wasn’t really about songs.

Some say he was fired for his increasing demands for control. Was there a power struggle in The Byrds?

Roger: Yeah. I was always the leader of The Byrds and he wanted to get more songs done and he was mad at me that he wasn’t getting more songs done. That’s all there was to it. I was trying to be democratic about it and get the best songs on but, you know, there were four guys writing songs. It was hard to get everyone’s songs.

The Byrds’ most serious foray into country began with the arrival of Gram Parsons. How did he first come into your life?

Roger: Chris found him in a bank. He was there getting his money from his inheritance. He had a trust fund and he got a lot of money. It was the equivalent of probably $250,000 of today’s dollars a year. He was pretty rich. He’d have a new car, like a new Mercedes, every couple of months. I’d say, “Where’d you get that?” He’d say, “Oh, I just bought it!” (Laughs) So anyway, Chris brought him over to rehearsals, because we were looking for someone to fill in for Crosby who had just left. I asked Gram if he knew how to play any jazz piano like McCoy Tyner, and he couldn’t do that but he played a little Floyd Kramer style piano. I thought he was talented, so we could work with him. I didn’t know he was gonna be a country guy, but that’s what he turned into, so we went with it.

The resulting album, ‘Sweetheart Of The Rodeo’, sold quite poorly at the time. Were you disappointed?

Roger: Yes, it was disappointing because we loved the music. We had hoped that the audience would accept us, but they didn’t… at that time. Now, of course, it’s the most revered Byrds record of all time. It’s funny, it’s like the ugly duckling – totally rejected when it came out but now it’s a beautiful swan.

Do you feel that a continued partnership could have had great results, as The Byrds did continue in a country vein?

Chris: I don’t know. That’s an interesting question and I’ve never been asked that, but I don’t think so. Gram was given an opportunity that people would have died for. There were so many young singer songwriters around Los Angeles at the time that we hired Gram. He fell into this and it worked for a while. He had an opportunity that most people did not have. He immediately had a job in a well-known band. But he would not have stayed. Gram probably would have left after six months and tried to pursue his own solo thing because that’s what he wanted. If he had had the discipline and the work ethic and focus he probably would have done something pretty amazing

Later, after Chris left, do you regret not changing the name of the group after you were the sole original member left?

Roger: Yeah, I have over the years. You know how Eric Clapton would change band every couple of years and I thought that might have been a good business model. But actually, it’s okay. We kept The Byrds going for a nice long time and now we have this big body of work. Don’t forget we had Clarence White [guitarist from ’68-’73], who was very talented, and was as good as anything we did earlier, it’s just different. So I’m proud of the whole thing and I’m glad it’s all together in this box-set.

The Byrds were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. What do you think the band is remembered for and what is its continuing legacy?

Roger: Its legacy is experimentation and influence. We were the first to put together folk and rock and then country and rock, raga and rock, jazz-rock, the psychedelic thing… we would just experiment like crazy and it was a big influence on people like The Eagles, Tom Petty, REM and now The Thrills.

Chris: I believe we were the only band to ever be inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame that sat together and played together on the night. That was a fitting closure to the band, because we were being celebrated and honoured for that particular moment, the successful years. We ended that by sitting with each other, talking, getting up and playing, all five of us – it was a wonderful moment.

The new box set is proof that there is still a great demand and love for the music of The Byrds. Has the endurance of the music surprised you, especially considering it was only a small part of your life a long time ago?

Roger: It does surprise me in that I remember when I was growing up, the music of my parents didn’t mean anything to me. In fact I totally rejected them, I didn’t want to hear it. And so now forty years later we have kids that still like to listen to The Byrds. That is pretty amazing. I think the essence of it is that it’s based in folk music and folk music has been around for centuries.

Chris: The things people remember, that endures the test of time, is the lyrical and musical performance, and Gene and David and Roger sang very well together. And one of the things Jim Dickson told us to do was: “You want to do something that you can listen to 30, 40 years down the road and never be ashamed of.” What a great bit of wisdom.

BYRD SONGS!

Clash’s recommended Best Byrd Bits

‘Mr Tambourine Man’ (1965)

Classic debut album introduces signature folk-rock sound.

Key track: ‘The Bells Of Rhymney’

‘Younger Than Yesterday’ (1967)

Psychedelic and introspective with country leanings.

Key track: ‘Everybody’s Been Burned’

‘Sweetheart Of The Rodeo’ (1968)

One of country-rock’s most influential albums.

Key track: ‘Hickory Wind’

We may be in an age where budding bedroom-based musicians can bash out a tune in an hour, have it on myspace minutes later and in the charts within a month, but off to the left of the mainstream there are still artists taking an absolute age to get stuff done.

Classical types were the early pacesetters in this respect, but nowadays they have a rival in the Premier League of precious musicians – experimental electronica producers. Cutting-edge classical collective the London Sinfonietta would probably concur, as they recently undertook an ambitious collaborative project with a couple of prominent modern noisemakers: Squarepusher and the Aphex Twin. The avant-garde artists they’ve worked with previously – Steve Reich and the like – seem positively laid-back in comparison.

Still, the project eventually turned out to be something of a triumph, as the Sinfonietta’s new live recording, ‘Warp Works And Twentieth Century Masters’, attests. It’s the collected highlights of several shows the 16-piece ensemble performed during 2003/4, the culmination of a project which often seemed unlikely to even begin.

The story began five years ago, when the Sinfonietta’s then artistic director Gillian Moore put forward an idea to Warp Records boss Steve Bennett. Founded back in 1968, and formed from moonlighting members of illustrious institutions like the Royal Philharmonic and LSO, the Sinfonietta were already Britain’s foremost exponents of experimental modern music.

Journeys through the Twentieth Century avant-garde led them eventually to Warp, home to many of electronica’s biggest names, and egos, over the years. The Sinfonietta were keen to work with two of their most gifted but hermit-like alumni, Tom ‘Squarepusher’ Jenkinson and Aphex, AKA Richard D. James. When Bennett contacted the artists in question, however, they were less than enthused about having their tunes tinkered with.

“Aphex and Squarepusher almost see them as their children,” explains Bennett, “and they think, ‘why would we want somebody else to mess about with our children?’”

A few years and several failed further requests later, Moore eventually persuaded Jenkinson and James along to a meeting, where she massaged their egos, outlined the collective’s philosophy, and, finally, won them over. ‘Warp Works’ would be juxtaposition rather than crossover, she explained, with the Sinfonietta placing the duo’s works alongside those by a respected array of avant-garde composers: Reich, John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen. “We had to reassure them that we weren’t trying to be cool,” says Moore.

James and Jenkinson wouldn’t actually take part in the performances themselves, but were fully involved as the Sinfonietta’s arrangers began to transform their offspring. Some tracks, like Aphex Twin’s Cage-influenced ‘Prepared Piano Pieces’, were already acoustic, but needed James to explain his sound-altering techniques (he’d laid chains across the strings). Most involved reinterpreting electronic tracks, however, which required a little extra imagination to really do them justice.

“It couldn’t be like making classical arrangements of things, that’s not what we’re interested in,” says Moore. “The thing I hate when anything non-classical is arranged for classical musicians is lots of long string chords. We wanted to maintain the energy and drive of the originals, composing all the drum beats into the clarinets and strings, so you got the energy right through the ensemble.”

On 10th March 2003, ‘Warp Works’ finally hit the stage, at London’s Royal Festival Hall, and the Sinfonietta’s long-held vision came to fruition. Under stunning visuals from the similarly forward-looking Sound Intermedia, the assembled players produced a sometimes troubling, often beautiful but always arresting sensual experience.

To the left of the mainstream there are still artists taking an absolute age to get stuff done.

While it may not have been a traditional crossover, the audience dynamic certainly was, as long-time advocates of the avant-garde mixed with Warp’s younger followers. Steve Bennett was among them:

“You’d look down the rows of seats and there’d be a little 20 year old kid with a scruffy haircut and an Aphex Twin T-shirt on, and next to him there’s a 60 year old bloke with a linen suit and a bow tie and everything. I know [the Sinfonietta] were shitting themselves playing in front of a young audience, thinking ‘is this going to go down like a lead balloon?’ but from the first performance, when they did the first Aphex Twin piece, you knew it was going to be a good night.”

More sell-out performances followed, and although those first-night nerves were now long forgotten, Jenkinson still proved adept at throwing in the odd spanner. No matter how successful the collaboration so far, and how near to showtime it may have been, the word ‘compromise’ just isn’t in his dictionary. And it seems he had the final say.

“I think on one of the nights Tom wasn’t happy with one of the arrangements and pulled it ten minutes before the performance,” recalls, somewhat sarcastically, Bennett. “Everybody was really happy about that.”

They smile about it now though. Indeed, Moore – who has since moved on to an influential position at the South Bank Centre – reckons her old collective actually rather admired the Warp artists’ unyielding attitudes. Jenkinson, meanwhile, has expressed an interest in furthering the Sinfonietta link, “creating something from scratch, that’s the dream,” suggests Bennett. Whether the classical community would welcome him into the fold is another matter, though, and not just because of that ‘difficult’ reputation. They can be a little stuffy about outside influences.

“This project with Warp was risky,” admits Moore. “We had huge success and lots of praise for it, but also people criticising, saying ‘aren’t you just cynically trying to get a different audience?’ I view it very differently. Our brief is to break boundaries, to do different things and make new relationships, and we do now have genuine relationships with some of these artists.”

And that, in itself, is quite an achievement. Watch this space.