Chaos ensued in Camden on Sunday as Clash Magazine’s Sunday Sessions returned to the Lock Tavern with a capacity-full crowd stuffed in to see a rousing return from The Thrills.

The day began at lunchtime with the Clash DJs warming up the dining crowd upstairs in the hip Camden boozer, before the stage was christened with the presence of Remi Nicole.

Remi, a former employee of this fine establishment, wowed the crowds with her impassioned tales of young London. Glowing on stage with her pink cardigan, she drew all attention to her caustic lyrics and reality bites, and set the scene perfectly for the hours ahead.

Next up, making their DJ debut, Ninja and Kaori from The Go! Team took to the decks for an hour of blistering disco and dancefloor classics. Must have been beginners’ luck as the two lovely ladies got feet moving and turned in a blinding set to usher in the evening.

The next live performance came from Grand National. The trio, armed with only their acoustic guitars, ran through stripped versions of favourites from ‘Kicking The National Habit’ as well as choice cuts from their B-sides and rarities CD, as well as a specially chosen cover for the day, a sublime reading of Neil Young’s ‘Old Man’.

The Clash DJs filled in for an hour before it was time for the penultimate live act – George Demure and his Demurettes. The electrobilly icon stole the show with his eccentric crooning, and the backing singers held their own in the sweet call-and-response songs that brought adulation from the by now well-juiced crowd.

The action then moved downstairs in preparation for the headliners. It had been over 2 years since The Thrills had played in London, and it was wholly the pleasure of Clash to welcome them back exclusively to reveal their new material live ahead of their third album release in July.
The band were anxious about their appearance, having kept this music to themselves for so long, and of course not having faced a crowd in some time. But such worries disappeared instantly as they picked up their instruments in front of a packed room and heard the cheers to welcome them back.
Punters stood wherever they could to catch sight of the band in action as the pub swelled to capacity – those unlucky enough not to make it in peered in through the windows from the downpour outside, desperate to see their heroes in such a rare and intimate performance.
Their set was predominantly made up of the newer material, testing it out in this live setting, but of course it was peppered with old favourites that was met with total elation.
Lead singer Conor Deasy thanked the crowd and was genuinely touched – as all the band noticeably were – by the night’s reaction, and thanked the audience for being so supportive and patient.

The full set list ran:

‘The Midnight Choir’

‘One Horse Town’

‘This Year’

‘Big Sur’

‘The Irish Keep Gate-Crashing’

‘I Came All This Way’

‘Whatever Happened To Corey Haim?’

‘Nothing Changes Around Here’

‘Santa Cruz’

Chaos ensued in Camden on Sunday as Clash Magazine’s Sunday Sessions returned to the Lock Tavern with a capacity-full crowd stuffed in to see a rousing return from The Thrills.

The day began at lunchtime with the Clash DJs warming up the dining crowd upstairs in the hip Camden boozer, before the stage was christened with the presence of Remi Nicole.

Remi, a former employee of this fine establishment, wowed the crowds with her impassioned tales of young London. Glowing on stage with her pink cardigan, she drew all attention to her caustic lyrics and reality bites, and set the scene perfectly for the hours ahead.

Read all about Remi Nicole in next issue’s Ones To Watch.

Next up, making their DJ debut, Ninja and Kaori from The Go! Team took to the decks for an hour of blistering disco and dancefloor classics. Must have been beginners’ luck as the two lovely ladies got feet moving and turned in a blinding set to usher in the evening.

The next live performance came from Grand National. The trio, armed with only their acoustic guitars, ran through stripped versions of favourites from ‘Kicking The National Habit’ as well as choice cuts from their B-sides and rarities CD, as well as a specially chosen cover for the day, a sublime reading of Neil Young’s ‘Old Man’.

The Clash DJs filled in for an hour before it was time for the penultimate live act – George Demure and his Demurettes. The electrobilly icon stole the show with his eccentric crooning, and the backing singers held their own in the sweet call-and-response songs that brought adulation from the by now well-juiced crowd.

The action then moved downstairs in preparation for the headliners. It had been over 2 years since The Thrills had played in London, and it was wholly the pleasure of Clash to welcome them back exclusively to reveal their new material live ahead of their third album release in July.
The band were anxious about their appearance, having kept this music to themselves for so long, and of course not having faced a crowd in some time. But such worries disappeared instantly as they picked up their instruments in front of a packed room and heard the cheers to welcome them back.
Punters stood wherever they could to catch sight of the band in action as the pub swelled to capacity – those unlucky enough not to make it in peered in through the windows from the downpour outside, desperate to see their heroes in such a rare and intimate performance.
Their set was predominantly made up of the newer material, testing it out in this live setting, but of course it was peppered with old favourites that was met with total elation.
Lead singer Conor Deasy thanked the crowd and was genuinely touched – as all the band noticeably were – by the night’s reaction, and thanked the audience for being so supportive and patient.

The full set list ran:

‘The Midnight Choir’

‘One Horse Town’

‘This Year’

‘Big Sur’

‘The Irish Keep Gate-Crashing’

‘I Came All This Way’

‘Whatever Happened To Corey Haim?’

‘Nothing Changes Around Here’

‘Santa Cruz’

All photos by Emilie Fjola Sandy

Clash Club played host once again to a packed Luminaire in London as the Brighton scoundrels The Kooks topped a sell-out bill and brought the house down with a stripped-down acoustic set of new songs, old favourites and covers.

First up on the evening was Twisted Charm, fresh off the road from their support slot with The Klaxons. Their suitably twisted chunks of madness kicked things off with a bang. Frantic sax lines punctuated a frenzied attack of punk-funk, slapping the face of everyone who had come down thinking this was going to be a sit-down all-acoustic gig. A brilliant, all out onslaught of the senses.

Next up, new Virgin signings and fellow Brightonians, Cat The Dog. Their heavy rocking had all in attendance trapped in their glare, and proceeded to unleash their scuzzy blues until band and audience alike were spent of all juices, and our dancing shoes were well and truly trod on.

Finally, it was time for the headliners. Three quarters of The Kooks – Luke, Hugh and Max – had turned up with only their acoustic guitars to sing for the people. Walking on stage to the sound of The Rolling Stones‘ ‘Jigsaw Puzzle’, the impatient crowd could hardly contain their excitement.

Sound problems blighted the start, while Luke kept the crowd’s attention with a quick cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tangled Up In Blue’. Things quickly improved, and the night got underway with stellar performances of ‘You Don’t Love Me’, ‘Naive’, ‘She Moves In Her Own Way’ being accompanied by all and sundry gathered in the Kilburn club.
Continued shouts of requests from corners of the crowd for their cover of Gnarls Barkley’s ‘Crazy’ went unfulfilled (”We’re not gonna fuckin’ play ‘Crazy’!” Luke retorted, laughing).

Leaving to unanimous adoring whistles and cheers, The Kooks gathered backstage to rave to Clash about how much they had enjoyed the evening.

In early 1967, John Peel started playing tracks from the debut album by a new Californian group called The Doors. With no knowledge of the men responsible and little contemporary US music to compare it to except feet-finding debuts by Love and Jefferson Airplane, this remarkable music was all there was to go on. Nobody had sounded like this before or has done since.

The Doors mixed spaced blues and unfettered jazz improvisation with a riveting sexual voice singing the deepest lyrics yet to grace a rock record, all bathed in a lustrous hallucinogenic sheen. The opiated sonic cocktails created by keyboard-player Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore has sometimes been overshadowed by the tales of late singer Jim Morrison’s booze-fuelled snake-waving and ongoing mystery surrounding his 1971 death. The Doors’ sound is as jawdropping and otherworldly on the new state-of-the-art reissues as it was then. I’m not here to stoke the Morrison myth, more to point out that he was one quarter of a true magic band.

In summer 1965, fellow U.C.L.A. students Morrison and Manzarek collided on L.A.’s Venice Beach and, with a little prodding, Jim sang ‘Moonlight Drive’, one of the songs he’d been concocting in his head on the roof of a nearby abandoned building. As Ray likes to put it, “Maybe there were some angels pulling it all together that day on the beach in Venice, California.”

Angels did overtime as Ray’s group, Rick and the Ravens, morphed into The Doors with Jim joined by jazz-loving drummer John Densmore and Ray’s brothers replaced by guitarist Robby Krieger. Jim took the name from Aldous Huxley’s mescaline romp The Doors Of Perception. Instead of a bassist, Ray played Fender Piano Bass with his left hand while tattooing riffs and solos with his right.

The Doors’ sound seemed unique from the off. It couldn’t have just fallen out of the sky. That’s what I said to Ray Manzarek and he was off, wonderfully animated like he just worked it out. “Maybe it did, man, it’s possible it did just fall out of the sky! Robby Krieger plays flamenco guitar with his fingers as he’s playing rock ‘n’ roll. He’s also playing that wonderful bottleneck guitar that comes out of his jug band days. Here’s the keyboard player who’s out of Chicago with blues roots but he also studied classical music and was a jazz lover. You add that dark, Slavic soul to Robby Krieger’s sliding, snaky, crystalline bottleneck guitar and underneath you put this jazz drummer, who also played in a marching band. On top of that you float a Beat-French symbolist-Southern Gothic poet singing some very, very interesting lyrics. Maybe it did just fall together. How does that sound get made? Y’know, sometimes magic does happen.”

I never thought of Jim as insane but it was there. That’s what made him so great. pour alcohol into that crack and you don’t wanna see what’s gonna come out.

Songs evolved fast, classics appearing early. “At first Jim was writing everything then one day we said, “Hey, we haven’t got enough originals”,” recalls Robby Krieger, taking time out from his Russian Caravan project with ex-Frank Zappa bandleader Arthur Barrow. “Jim says, “Hey, why don’t you guys write some too?” That‘s when I went and wrote ‘Light My Fire’. I’m glad he said that!”

‘Light My Fire’ would not only become The Doors’ first Number One but started their renowned stretching out through telepathic improvisations. Robby: “Up until then The Doors were doing three-chord type songs that were pretty simple like ‘I Looked At You’ or ‘End Of The Night’. I wanted to write something more adventurous. I decided I was going to put every chord I knew into this song and did! There’s about 14 different chords in there. We said, “Let’s do it like Coltrane, A minor to B minor like he did on ‘My Favourite Things’.” As we played it over the next year the solos got longer and longer. It was very organic. I wish I could say we planned it that way but it just came out.”

After rejection by L.A.’s clubs for being ‘too weird’, The Doors ended up playing a dive called the London Fog. “We had to play four, sometimes five sets a night,” recalls Ray. “Night after night for virtually nobody. We got the opportunity to do anything we wanted to fill up four or five hours. So every night we would play ‘The End’, ‘When The Music’s Over’, ‘Light My Fire’ and expand those things. ‘The End’ had originally started off as a two or three minute love song and we just kept playing it while Jim started adding lyrics to it.”

The booking agent for top Sunset Strip club the Whisky A Go Go was impressed enough to make The Doors house band between May and August 1966. Now everything gelled and their career took off.

“There were hundreds of people virtually every night because it was the Mecca of rock ‘n’ roll so we’re playing for a packed audience and our songs are together,” remembers Ray. “It was 1966, the Los Angeles summer of love. All the longhairs had come to Sunset Strip from all over L.A. The freaks. We weren’t even called hippies then. All the freaks had come together. To play for an audience like that aroused all the passion that we possibly had in our bodies.”

‘The End’ gained its Oedipal monologue one August night after Jim ingested 40 times the usual amount of Owsley acid. It slaughtered the crowd and got The Doors fired from the club but convinced Elektra boss Jac Holzman to sign them. They recorded the first album in two weeks with producer Paul Rothchild and engineer Bruce Botnik capturing their sound with crystal clarity. The Doors released their first single ‘Break On Through [To The Other Side]’ in January 1967 but it was the album and ‘Light My Fire’ hitting Number One that bust them out of L.A. clubland and saw Jim ‘neglecting’ to change the word ‘higher’ on The Ed Sullivan Show. The group were soon back in the studio recording more of their set for the incandescent ‘Strange Days’. No difficult second album there.

Meanwhile, after incidents like being arrested onstage for public disorder in Newhaven, Connecticut, Jim not only became a counter-culture figurehead but teen-mag pin-up. His idea of success had been the respect given to Love, the sinister local heroes who wouldn’t tour. Jim’s antidote to sudden stardom lay in the bottle. Or, as Ray Manzarek puts it, “We had to receive Jimbo. Out of the bottle of alcohol and occupying the personality of Jim was a besotted lout known as Jimbo. It was like, ‘What the fuck? Jim? Just how drunk do you intend on getting? Jim? Are you there? Oh my God, it’s not Jim at all! It’s Jimbo.’ That was weird man. Strange days had indeed found us at that point.”

It wasn’t until writing his autobiography, Light My Fire, at the age of 50 that Ray nailed the Jimbo persona. “I began to realise there was a psychotic break here, but interestingly Jim Morrison always thought of himself as a shaman. He talked about the shaman, [uncanny Morrison drawl] “You know the Shaman’s got a crack, Ray. He’s an unusual individual in the tribe but he’s kind of cracked, and out of that crack comes his abilities to say things. As we say about a crazy person, he’s a little cracked.” I never thought of Jim as insane but it was there. That’s what made him so great. That’s what made his poetry and public performances so great. But pour alcohol into that crack and you don’t wanna see what’s gonna come out.”

Jimbo became a raucous buffoon getting his knob out; not funny anymore, especially when recording the next two albums, ‘Waiting For The Sun’ and ‘The Soft Parade’, reaching such a nadir during the latter that the other Doors took over. Starting late 1968, recording lasted nine painful months with Robby writing half the songs. Ray now cacklingly takes the blame for smoothing down the sound with horns and strings but the album was critically mauled and didn’t sell as well as its chart-topping predecessor.

In March 1969, Jim got busted at a riotous gig in Miami. It was alleged he flashed his lizard but the band maintain he didn’t. The trial would hang over for his head for the next 18 months until he got convicted for public profanity and indecent exposure (the appeal was never heard). The Doors went into the studio against all odds but some kind of Dunkirk spirit stirred and, reacting against the sheen of ‘The Soft Parade’, they returned to the basics of rock ‘n’ roll, blues and their own sound to make the astonishingly-successful ‘Morrison Hotel’.

During the trial, Jim was allowed to make The Doors’ only other UK appearance, in September 1970 at the Isle Of Wight Festival (they had previously played two rapturously-received shows at London’s Roundhouse in September 1968). Although they played faves without incident, Jim was lifeless. The Doors saw it as one of their worst gigs.

In late 1970, the Doors started recording again. Rothchild didn’t like their new music and left the group and Botnick creating the timeless masterpiece ‘L.A. Woman’. The title track and ‘Riders On The Storm’ cruised immaculately.

“Yeah it was kind of like driving music,” agrees Ray. “It’s funny you should mention those two songs because they were like a new way of writing. We all just played in the studio and those songs just happened. We were just fooling around playing ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ and suddenly Jim starts coming up with ‘Riders On The Storm’. It just kind of happened spontaneously.”

Album finished, Jim made his last trip to Paris in February 1971 and died mysteriously in early July while Ray and the Doors waited for him to return with new lyrics. “When he said, “I’m going to Paris”, I thought, ‘Excellent, an American in Paris’. Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, Jim Morrison. Carry on the American tradition. Leave the groupies, leave the drinking buddies, go to Paris, refresh yourself and start writing.”

“Jim was writing as fast as he could in Paris, working up some strong ideas. I have a lot of the stuff. Some of it’s very, very good. But there is a sense of despair in there too. It’s like, “Jim? What the fuck man?” This is my buddy from film school. When we put a band together on the beach in Venice he sang the songs to me and I said, “That’s brilliant, let’s get a rock ‘n’ roll band together. We’re going all the way with this thing. The Beatles, the Stones, in between are going to be The Doors!” We got to Madison Square Garden and had the Number One song in America. Yet in the writings in Paris there was this note of despair. It was like, ‘What do you have to despair over?’ And I don’t know the answer. There was something eating at Jim. Some problem on the inside that was unresolved. It caused him to drink, I’m sure, and God knows what he was into in Paris.”

Unfortunately, Jim’s written word material is owned by the family of Pam Courson, his long-time girlfriend who accompanied him to Paris and died herself in 1974.

“I’m gonna do my best to get my hands on what are obviously song lyrics,” declares Ray. “Some day we can put some of those songs together. Unfortunately Pamela Courson’s mother controls Jim Morrison’s poetry. Fuck! Fuck, man! Jim’s probably listening in now saying, ‘Oh Ray, get that stuff back and put it out will you?’”

It was 1966, the Los Angeles summer of love. All the longhairs had come to Sunset Strip from all over L.A. All the freaks had come together. To play for an audience like that aroused all the passion t

In 2003, Ray and Robby formed The Doors Of The 21st Century to carry on The Doors’ spirit live with Cult frontman Ian Astbury singing. John Densmore not only declined but successfully sued with Morrison’s family. Now called Riders On The Storm, the pair have recruited ex-Fuel singer Brett Scallions to tour Europe in June. Last year, I got married to a Doors fanatic called Michelle. The honeymoon was spent in Paris, following Morrison’s trail through the bars to the flat where he died and the cemetery which has become a worldwide mecca for devotees. Riders On The Storm play Paris on July 3, the 36th anniversary of Jim’s death and also my birthday, so the honeymoon continues.

At 68, Ray Manzarek still feels passionately that Doors music has a place in the 21st century, whether its mighty influence on music over the past 40 years or saying something to today’s youth. “That’s what we hope to do, even more than the bands, just the young people walking the street thinking, ‘Where did I come from? Why am I here? What am I doing with my life? I know some day I’m gonna die, where do I go after I die?’ Hopefully we can help you along with those questions: the idea of freedom and if you can find a freedom for yourself in the Doors lyrics and music.”

Robby Krieger is philosophical. “For a while when I was doing my solo stuff I just wanted to get away from The Doors but then over the years I’ve realised that something like that only happens once in a lifetime, so you’ve got to be proud of it. I don’t mind talking about it or even playing those songs. They’re still fun to play. When a lot of kids first hear it they might not know about any of the legend and stuff at all. They might just like how it sounds.”

That sounds rather familiar…

After last year’s ‘Perception’ boxed set, which saw The Doors and Bruce Botnick remix the six studio albums with extras, they are now available separately with the multi-format ‘The Very Best Of The Doors’.

DOOR-OGRAPHY

THE DOORS [January 1967]

One of the all-time great debut albums, ‘The Doors’ declared 1967 well and truly open. After the evocative manifesto of ‘Break On Through [To The Other Side]’, it straddles lascivious blues (‘Back Door Man’), shimmering ballads (‘End Of The Night’, ‘The Crystal Ship’) while ‘Light My Fire’ injects Bach and Coltrane into a Top Ten lust-anthem. ‘The End’’s lysergic ritual is carried to epic, Oedipal lengths. Already stoned immaculate.

STRANGE DAYS [October 1967]

‘Strange Days’ intensified The Doors’ sound with a dream-sequence procession of stone killers, notably Robby’s James Brown-punching ‘Love Me Two Times’, yearning ‘You’re Lost Little Girl’, screamingly epic ‘When The Music’s Over’ and ‘Moonlight Drive’, the song Jim sang on Venice Beach. ‘Horse Latitudes’ married eerie sound effects to one of Jim’s school poems about horses being shunted off Spanish sailing ships.

WAITING FOR THE SUN [July 1968]

The Doors’ difficult third album originally envisaged a side-long poem, ‘The Celebration Of The Lizard’, but only the menacing ‘Not To Touch The Earth’ graduated so The Doors hastily created new songs, some quite flimsy. But the snappy ‘Hello I Love You’ from 1965 provided their second Number One while calls-to-arms ‘The Unknown Soldier’ and ‘Five To One’ reflected the times as ‘Summer’s Almost Gone’ and psych-flamenco ‘Spanish Caravan’ crystallised The Doors’ emotional majesty.

THE SOFT PARADE [July 1969]

The Doors’ even trickier fourth album added strings, horns and, in the mental absence of perma-pissed Morrison, Krieger wrote most of the songs. Not that bad: ‘Shaman’s Blues’ boasts astral interplay, ‘Wild Child’ is a fierce Doors blues and ‘Wishful Sinful’ a strong ballad. ‘Touch Me’ approaches MOR with its moon-in-June croon and the disjointed title track’s attempt at another epic falls a bit flat. Bizarrely, Otis Redding tribute ‘Runnin’ Blue’ hired country pickers for a barn-dance section.

MORRISON HOTEL [February 1970]

With its sleeve taken outside a downtown flophouse, ‘Morrison Hotel’ saw The Doors back to their roots on top form with Jim’s name back in the credits. ‘Roadhouse Blues’ is a rollicking declaration of intent with John Sebastian supplying blues-wailing harmonica on the ultimate bar song. The pounding ‘You Make Me Real’, ethereal blues of ‘The Spy’, social-commenting ‘Peace Frog’ and early songs like the poignant ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Waiting For The Sun’ are just highlights of an album which could still arm-wrestle many of today’s pretenders off the table.

L.A. WOMAN [April 1971]

‘L.A. Woman’ continued the blues path but also displayed The Doors as formidable musicians on top of their game, whether knocking out compact radio hits (‘Love Her Madly’), tough Jimbo struts (‘The Changeling’), smoked blues (‘Cars Hiss By My Window’) or the effortlessly convoluted paranoia-fest of ‘L’America’. But two tracks rule: the title song’s rousing, open-top cruise and ‘Riders On The Storm’, the last song the Doors recorded and a perfect encapsulation of their spine-chilling atmospherics.

A dark room in Mass, Brixton, May 2006, 2.30am. Hundreds of flailing limbs come to rest as Loefah pulls up the dubplate again. Sgt Pokes is laughing on the mic: “We know some of you say there’s too many rewinds at DMZ. But that’s only cos the tunes are so damn big…” Loefah lets his ‘Mud’ tune roll, the tension builds with eerie strings before the bassline drops like a punch in the chest underneath the 79/138bpm halfstep rhythm. The crew crowding the booth are grinning from ear to ear as the dance erupts again…

And they’ve got every right to be smiling. DMZ’s Mala, Coki and Loefah, along with Skream, Kode9, Distance, N-Type, the Plastician and the dozens of other DJs and producers crowding the south London venue have seen their sound – dubstep – grow through two years of indifference, months of steadily building hype and acclaim, to its current position as one of the hottest, most vibrant forms of urban music in the world. And here at DMZ, its spiritual home, it’s all going off.

The story of dubstep is a tale of tireless dedication on behalf of the DJs, producers, labels and fans who have stayed true to their music through good times and bad. The sound was born in 2001 at the FWD>> night at London’s Velvet Rooms, moving to Shoreditch’s Plastic People when the west end venue closed down. Thanks to DJs like Hatcha and Youngsta, the Ammunition stable of labels (including scene leaders Tempa) and the Big Apple record store in Croydon, a new generation of disillusioned music-lovers found the sound they’d been waiting for after drum & bass and UK garage disappeared up a creative cul-de-sac. Adding a hefty dose of dub sound system culture, the emphasis was placed squarely on heavyweight bottom end, sparse, spacious rhythms borrowed from garage, and moody atmospherics. The scene reached a new peak back in January, when Radio 1’s Mary Anne Hobbs – a long-term supporter – devoted her entire show to the ‘Dubstep Wars’, where Skream, Loefah, Digital Mystikz, Vex’D, Kode9, Distance and Hatcha all played exclusive sets on air.

The family of labels pushing the dubstep sound forward is constantly growing. As well as old hands like Tempa, Mike ‘u-ziq’ Paradinas’s Planet Mu label has embraced the sound, with Pinch’s monstrous ‘Qawwali’ taking a minimal, bass-heavy approach and Vex’D’s ‘Search And Destroy’ album exploring next-level beat science. Rephlex has got in on the act too, with its ‘Grime’ compilations – despite the misleading titles, the second volume is pure dubstep, with Kode9, Loefah and Digital Mystikz all showcasing their unique bass-heavy sonic weaponry. Maverick Brixton-based Werk Discs also have a predictably schizophonic take on the sound, with their ‘Grim Dubs’ series and the ‘Grim FM’ compilation, and core labels like Hotflush, Tectonic, Boka and Skull Disco continue to push dubstep into new directions.

At the forefront of the current scene is south London’s DMZ, run by Mala and Coki (AKA Digital Mystikz) and Loefah. Mala explains: “DMZ came about because me, Coki and Loefah were producing music – we’d had a release already on Big Apple Records, but then Big Apple shut down. We had so many beats between us all, and there were no real labels to put it out – this was early 2004 – apart from people like Tempa. When people first started hearing our stuff no one called it anything, distributors didn’t know what to call it or how to sell it, so it was really just a case of us deciding to do it ourselves. We decided to press up some white labels and see if anyone would be interested in taking any, and it just went from there. We sold more than we ever expected, which allowed us to go and do the next one.” Their music didn’t go unnoticed, and as sales snowballed Digital Mystikz were signed up by respected London black music label Soul Jazz, who released a pair of 12”s from Mala and Coki in June.

Joining DMZ on the dubstep frontline is Hyperdub, run by Steve ‘Kode9’ Goodman, who moved to London from his native Glasgow some years ago and is currently writing a book, ‘Sonic Warfare’, “about the rhythmic micropolitics of vibration”. Hyperdub is responsible for one of the most talked-about electronic albums of recent years, the eponymous debut by Burial, as well as the adventurous productions of Kode9 himself and vocalist Spaceape. The label grew out of an influential webzine, as Kode9 – currently working on an album with Spaceape for release after the summer – explains: “When we set up the Hyperdub project in 2000, it was to bring together strains of jungle, 2step, grimey hip-hop, dancehall and microhouse that I had been into. That’s only a thin slice of the music I listen to, but it was a trajectory I was particularly interested in – the mutations of dub methodology across these diverse genres. Back in 2002, I met Kevin Martin (The Bug) via the website, played him our beatless cover version, ‘Sine Of The Dub’, and he started nagging us to release it, so we started up the label.”

Hyperdub’s biggest release to date is Burial’s debut, an album that has had the online dubstep community salivating for months, especially since a superb interview with blogger Martin ‘Blackdown’ Clark revealed that the mysterious, anonymous producer makes all his/her music using only Soundforge, a basic wave editor, on a PC. The track titles (‘Broken Home’, ‘Night Bus’, ‘Pirates’) and the music itself, which weaves ghost-like traces of UK garage and jungle into its dense sonic collage, vividly evoke the feelings of modern city life in an utterly unique way. Kode9 agrees: “The Burial album captures one dimension of the living in a city, and without being superficially happy, it’s a very melancholy record, transforming a lot of the negativity into something quite beautiful. Grime and dubstep both do something similar, in transforming aspects of urban pressure into something constructive, perhaps in quite different but overlapping ways, more or less aggressive, more or less nervous and claustrophobic. That’s not a new move, but cities and the experiences they produce evolve, and grime and dubstep have captured something specific about London this century.”

Dubstep couldn’t have happened anywhere else but London and nowhere is the diversity and passion of the music’s followers more keenly felt than at the DMZ parties in Brixton – first at 3rd Bass, then at Mass. In just over a year, and over seven parties, DMZ has become the world’s biggest dubstep night, with fans jetting in from all over the UK and Europe to attend. Mala explains: “We just put it on because there was a Saturday night free at 3rd Bass back in March 2005. There’s nothing complicated about it – it’s just a room with minimal lighting, a bar where people can go and get their drinks, and a massive sound system. For me that’s what going out to hear music is about – I don’t really need the fancy decoration and all that shit, for me it’s about the sound.”

Photographer Georgina Cook has been documenting the dubstep scene since day one, and has strong views of her own about the DMZ nights. She says: “People tend to reach the parties for the music above all else, whether that’s simply to feel some bass or to spot the latest dubs. People don’t really reach the nights to pull or to pill. The atmosphere is incredible, a room full of people high on sub bass is addictive enough.” Mala agrees: “I don’t think it’s a place to socialise – I’ve never thought DMZ was about that. You can go to a pub for that kind of thing. It’s always been about music first. And I still keep seeing new people coming down. I’m always quite curious as to who these people are and where they’ve come from because it seems to always be changing, but we’ve been really lucky with the people who come down, because they just bring this wicked energy.”

Transforming aspects of urban pressure into something constructive

The dubstep sound is spreading like a virus all over the UK and beyond. Kode9 says: “The best vibe is definitely at DMZ. But North America has been great in the last six months – I’ve played to really excited little scenes growing in New York, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. In the last year I’ve also played in Brazil, France, Holland, Germany and Italy. I’m quite surprised how much the sound has spread this year. In the UK we’ve seen great little vibes in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Bristol, Leeds and so on.”

Mala adds: “People just seem to be really interested in what’s going on. I really do feel that if the music’s heard on a good sound system, so it’s given a fair chance to fall on new ears, the response seems to be really positive. You got to Bristol and they’ve got great nights going on there run by Pinch; he’s been working Bristol up hard. The vibe in Sheffield is deep, and it’s the same in Leeds – the people just bring a wicked energy. It’s definitely positive times for the sound. And I love going to play new places for the first time, that soldier shit where you’re on the front line, and it could go either way.”

Bristol-based Rob Ellis, AKA DJ Pinch, runs the Tectonic label and the Subloaded nights in the city. He says: “Dubstep is bigger here than in most cities but it’s still very much underground. It’s taken two years to get to where we are now – over 500 came to the last Subloaded. I was the first person putting on dubstep nights anywhere outside of London and I do believe there’s a strong affiliation between Bristol and London – mainly due to their being a similar cultural mix of people, and a shared history of music interests.”

One criticism sometimes leveled at the dubstep scene is that it has a tendency to be male dominated. Georgina says: “It was once very male dominated – the sound was almost defined by the fact that it was made by men. You could feel masculinity running through every beat and every dancefloor. Thankfully though, there have always been a few producers who have managed to offer something other then big bad basslines and darkness. In my opinion, the best producers are the ones that balance the darkness with beauty and light. I think this is what has been attracting women. As a result the male/female dancefloor ratio is balancing out and the vibes are friendlier and lighter. In conjunction, there are now female vocals present in ways that transcend the odd distorted sample here and there; Warrior Queen is running things, Arorah is stepping up with 4n4mat, Mala and Skream are making incredible vocal tunes and Stateside there’s a wicked little crew of female DJs.” Kode9 agrees: “Dubstep works as an instrumental sound. But it sounds just as good, if not better with a strong vocal. It adds a whole new dimension to the music, opens up a vast field of potential exploration, and a broader audience.”

So where next for dubstep? As any genre attains critical mass there is a danger of music becoming formulaic, of producers jumping on bandwagons, and for hype to tarnish the atmosphere and stifle innovation – just look at what happened to drum & bass. Kode9 says: “It’s an evolutionary certainty that scenes have innovators and followers, that the process of proliferation is part dilution, part mutation. To a certain extent this evolution is kind of dismally predictable, especially as there are a lot of young people interested in the music who might not have learnt from want went wrong musically in the evolution of jungle. But that historical ignorance allows room for people to be inventive and try things without too much forethought – that’s how you got something as sonically strange as early grime.”

Rob says: “I think there’s a few characteristic wobbles and clap/snare placements that seem to reoccur – though I only really notice the imitation coming from new producers. Everyone has their own style in dubstep – you can pick a Skream, Digital Mystikz, Loefah or Vex’D tune the second it drops – but all the best producers will continue to push and experiment with new sounds.” And Mala adds: “I never really worry about what everyone else is doing. And one thing I don’t like doing is forcing anything – that applies to music, the night, the things we do with our label. Whatever naturally comes next will come.”

“Buddy Holly is the whole reason why I picked up a guitar and got into music in the first place,” pipes Strokes afro-sex god Albert Hammond Jr. “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.”

You can say that again. If it wasn’t for Holly, the skinny tie wearing Albert Hammond Jr. we’ve all come to love and know since the turn of the 21st century may have been famous for something completely different – ROLLERSKATING!

That’s right folks, this Fender wearing, cigarette smoking Strokes star once entertained crowds in their thousands as a championship skater back in his youth. “Ha ha yeah that’s true,” Albert confesses with a hint of embarrassment before he suddenly gets all serious. “I used to train three times a week and it was really hard work. You have to commit a lot of time to get really good at it and I put everything into it at the time.”

Thankfully a major injury setback soon put a stop to all that nonsense and it wasn’t long before Albert stumbled across a certain Julian Casablancas during a spell at an elite boarding school in Switzerland. Six years later, the pair were reunited at New York University Tisch’s School Of Arts and the coolest, most defining US band since Nirvana formed. The rest as they say, is history. Three acclaimed albums later and Albert currently finds himself fronting his own debut solo project, ‘Yours To Keep’.

Formed out of early instrumentals from the New York five-piece’s 2002 tour video ‘In Transit’, Albert’s first solo outing sounds like a cross between The Strokes and The Kinks with ex-Ben Kweller star Josh Lattanzi and drum tech Matt Romano fleshing out the bass and stick duties while the likes of Sean Lennon, Kweller and Casablancas provide the all-star icing on the cake.

As the three-year project gained momentum, Albert found himself struggling to find a window in his 100 mile an hour schedule, often jotting down lyrics during late night hotel bedroom sessions. “It was actually very difficult finding time to record this album because I was so busy with The Strokes,” he explains. “We’d come back after three months of touring and go straight back into the studio. We were just constantly on the go and I never had a moment to myself. Still when we did eventually find the time, it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. We were only in the studio for short periods at a time but it was a blast working with all my friends.”

In a year which has already witnessed fine individual efforts from Thom Yorke, Richard Hawley and James Dean Bradfield, 2007 is shaping to be the year of the solo artist. In Albert’s case, these words couldn’t be any closer to the truth especially after his day band repeatedly refused to include any of his songs on their albums. Still there’s never been any bitterness between either party. If there was, Casablancas’ contribution would have been scribbled out of the all-star guest book a long time ago.

One day I hated music and the next, I just fell in love with it.

Intriguingly though, band mate Romano knows exactly what it’s like to experience the not-so-cool side of the New York five-piece’s slickest member. Five years ago when The Strokes were on the brink of world domination and ‘Is This It’ had your Coldplays, Travis’s and Starsailors shitting in their pants, disaster struck when full time sticksman Fabrizio Moretti fell out of the band’s tour bus in Glasgow and broke his hand.

Romano was eventually drafted in as a last minute replacement and Albert took an instant disliking to his new band mate. “Me and Albert hated each other at first. It was difficult cos I was more or less a stranger to the band when I came to play the drums for them and he was placing his trust and career in me. If I wasn’t playing up to par that’d make him nervous and all his frustrations were projected on to me,” Romano admits. “I was shitting bricks. I had three days to learn the songs, one rehearsal in London and then I was on. It was so nerve wracking at first and I found it difficult especially with all the added pressure. But as I started playing better, he started to warm to me and by the end of the tour we were good friends.”

Albert and Romano continued to bond both on and off stage over the next few years to the point where they both pondered the prospect of putting together their own project. “We always talked about making music after we became really good friends and now five years later here we are,” says The Strokes’ drum tech with an air of satisfaction. “It was a blast making this record with friends cos you rarely get a chance to do that. Making a record with friends is what I’d imagine every musician would like to do.”

With his first solo project in the can, Albert now has to ask himself, when in the hell he’ll be able to go on tour? “Oh we’ll definitely be doing some dates,” promises Albert. “As soon as The Strokes finish their tour in the autumn, we’re gonna take a couple of months off. Then I’m gonna get Josh and Matt together and we’re gonna try and work everything out. Hopefully by this time next year we’ll be well on our way to touring.”

They may think they hit the big time with ‘The Back Room’, but Editors are on the cusp of something far greater as they prepare for the release – and surely the resounding acclaim – of follow-up album ‘An End Has A Start’.

Let’s get straight to the point; this is a genuinely impressive follow-up to the genuinely impressive debut. Produced by current wunderkind Garrett ‘Jacknife’ Lee, the new offering is full of rather beautiful music. Certain tracks pack an instant punch, like the eponymous ‘An End Has A Start’ and the haunting ‘Well Worn Hand’. Other songs, such as urgent-sounding ‘The Racing Rats’, creep up on you after repeated listens.

I catch up with one half of the band in a London hotel over water and peppermint tea. Rock and roll. Tom Smith, lead songwriter, lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and possessor of an impeccable complexion, provides an insight in to the creation process of the new album: “We toured ‘The Back Room’ for what felt like forever, we had two songs left over from the tour (‘Bones” and ‘The Weight Of The World’), nowhere near enough to make an album. We locked ourselves away to make something more textured. We didn’t want to make the same record again. We just went for it – bigger bits bigger, smaller bits smaller.” Avoiding any clichéd conversation about the difficult second album, Russell Leetch, bass guitarist and possessor of a really infectious laugh, describes the different recording processes: “Two weeks in the studio with the debut, two months with this one, using the studio as a tool. The first time we stepped into a studio, with a proper producer, was to record our first album, so we weren’t going to say, ‘we really want strings’ – it was just us playing. And we wanted to push that further with this record.”

We want to be a band that exists and makes a series of records, and maybe makes mistakes but also pushes themselves and does different things.

Working with Jacknife Lee has propelled their creative desires for the album and the guys can’t praise him enough. “I love him,” gushes Tom. “We worked with him for a day about two years ago when we re-recorded ‘Bullet’, so we’d had contact with him, but it was only a day and we didn’t really know him that well”. The band tested the waters further by taking the two new tracks, performed on tour, to Lee. “One of the first things he said to us was, “Whatever you want to do with this record, the sky’s the limit. Anything you can imagine, we’ll have a go at doing.” To hear that, from someone who wants to work with your band…!”

“He really wanted to work with us on this record,” continues Russ, and Tom agrees, with an element of pride and bewilderment. “He thinks we can be one of the great bands, and I don’t know, I hope we can, I think we can.” The band wants to continue working with Lee on future albums, to develop their relationship and their sound.

But what exactly is the Editors’ ‘sound’? “There’s a dark heart to the record. On the surface of it, if you just listen to it once, or just read the lyrics, it’s quite sad, but we like music that has a pulse – that makes you want to move, as well as move you.” Sadness is prevalent throughout the album, but there is an underlying hope within the often stark beats and with Smith’s aching voice. I ask Tom if many other people tell him that his voice makes them want to cry and apparently I’m the first to admit it so directly.

What I mean to say is that Editors’ songs allow you to wallow in sadness – relish it even – if you are feeling low, or provide an uplifting accompaniment to a good mood. This balance, or ambiguity, isn’t easy to achieve. Tom and Russell get what I mean. “Even with the first single from the new album, we wanted to make this glorious, piece of music that was like a wall of sound, like the clouds opening”. The conscious juxtaposition of ethereal sounds and dark, deathly lyrics are a displacement that they explore eagerly: “that contradiction, those two things colliding is what’s always excited us.”

It’s reported that ‘Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors’ wasn’t the initial choice for the first release, and that it was going to be the more radio-friendly title track. “For us to come out with a 5-minute song with a choir at the end – it’s a big lump of a thing to have as your first single!” Tom is keen to avoid a one-trick pony status for Editors, a concern which is all the more prevalent today when guitar bands are, like, everywhere. “The last thing we want anyone to think about us is that we’re a band who are a product of our time, that we were successful in a certain period of time because that’s the way the time was – everyone in tight jeans getting a record deal. Fuck that, we’ve always thought we were more than that. We want to be a band that exists and makes a series of records, and maybe makes mistakes but also pushes themselves and does different things.”

I wonder how the band measures their successes, and ask how much importance they place on chart position. Tom responds diplomatically, but with an element of firm reserve. “Important is the wrong word, but it would be ace to have a Number 1 record. Important is doing the record that we love and going out and playing it to people”. Russ agrees: “It’s more important to keep our fanbase. Obviously some people aren’t going to like our record and that’s fine. I think the majority of our fans discovered us for themselves, and if they liked the depth and beauty of the first record, then they should like this one”.

We’ve spent enough time contemplating the reception of their new material, so we steer the conversation to retrospection. What do the guys see as their biggest achievement so far? “Three nights at Brixton Academy was pretty bonkers,” states Tom, still in a state of disbelief. “We didn’t expect to get there from the first record. And I’m still very proud by our Mercury nomination.” He turns to Russ for confirmation – “Yeah?”

We like music that has a pulse – that makes you want to move, as well as move you.

“Yeah. Also just how lots of people discovered the band. I’m glad that our music gets played on the radio against other pop stuff – I think we’re as far left from the mainstream as we can be, for the type of band that we are”. It is interesting to see which bands end up nestled between Mika and Sugababes on Local Cheesy FM, as such exposure to the pop domain tends to be a double-edged sword for a band who wishes to retain credibility, slippery term though it is. Ross asserts proudly, “‘Smokers’ is going through the [insert London-based mainstream radio station name here] net, and that’s the first time we’ve had that”. “And with a song called ‘Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors’!” Tom chips in gleefully. Russ is keen to avoid musical snobbery, firmly stating, “You can’t be elitist about who your fans are, like ‘we don’t want that sort of people coming to our gigs’ – that’s bollocks. Hopefully the listeners get what we’re about, and it’s not just that we’re played on that radio station hence they should like us.”

So could they name the moment when they felt that they’d hit the big time? “It was really gradual, but maybe May/June last year, when we were doing the festivals and we were high up on bills. 30,000 people watching us as the sun goes down at V – and we’ve got fucking huge lights! That’s like rock ‘n’ roll dream stuff! When you plan your own light show you know you’re getting to be a big band.” A few weeks later, when I watch them at London’s Roundhouse, I spy impressive lights, and I smile at the memory of this conversation.

When Editors perform live, they rely on strong musicianship and stellar songs. There’s no need for excessive witty banter or wacky costumes – just big lights – and the result is an impressive, organic show. After the extensive touring of ‘The Back Room’, they must have strange stories from their travels. “Obviously Japan’s quite alien,” tells Russ, “but other things, like people getting lyrics tattooed, that’s always a bit freaky.” What lyrics? ‘Keep with me’ from ‘Fingers In The Factories’ is one, as is ‘Munich’s line, “people are fragile things”, seen by Editors on the neck of “this big, ex-Chelsea football hooligan”, recounts Tom, following the tale with his favourite phrase, “that’s pretty bonkers”.

So if they weren’t writing music that people wanted to ink onto their body, what would they be doing? I ask them to imagine a career without music. Russ promptly decides “I’d be a surfer”. Tom bursts into laughter as Russ continues: “I’d go live by the sea. Well, I am a Pisces.”

Tom can’t trump that – he’s a Taurus, and neither farmer nor bullfighter appeal – so I ask him if he knows any other Tom Smiths, as I went to school with one. It transpires that he did too. Seeing as we’re comparing them, I admit that my pal is plain old Tom Smith, no Thomas, no middle names – what about him? “Well my parents, because I was a Smith, wanted to separate me even more by giving me two middle names, but no, I haven’t met any more Tom Smiths.” That’s that settled then.

The guys have an afternoon of press chats, radio phone-ins and photo-shoots ahead of them. With time for one more question, I opt for something that would have been more appropriate at the start – what are they sick of being asked in an interview? Tom sets the scene: “I did a 2-week tour of Europe, 8 hours a day of interviews. That got quite hard-going. ‘So, this record’s about death…’ it was pretty draining”. He continues with a particular bugbear. “What journalists do is go ‘everyone compares you to Interpol, you must be so sick of it, but how do you feel about that?’ They kind of reverse it, but still asking the same question: “I know it must annoy you, but…” well don’t ask the question then! Don’t talk about it!”

With that, Tom and Russ rejoin bandmates Chris and Ed at the hotel bar and discuss where to go for lunch. None of them seem fazed by the imminent hype and success, and hopefully it’ll be some time – if at all – before they become jaded musicians. Let’s just hope interviewers stop asking them about death. Or Interpol.

When Clash rang up the Animal Collective for this interview – their manager, Brad, was sounding a little bit stressed as he man-handled a tyre iron trying to change a puncture on their tour bus.

“It’s a bit weird – it wasn’t a blow-out. More like someone put a screw or something in there when it was parked,” explains band member and sound sampler Brian Wietz as Brad hands him the phone. Also known as Geologist (because someone mistakenly thought he’d studied rocks instead of biology) he met his other three band mates, Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Deakin, at high school when he moved to Baltimore from Philadelphia at the age of 14.

“What’s Baltimore like? Well, we were talking to someone in the UK the other week and they compared Baltimore to some place called Coventry,” he says, instantly conjuring up an image of a collaboration between them and The Enemy and The Specials in my mind’s eye. You never know – it might just work…

The foursome, renowned for their experimental music, aren’t really the types to attract tyre slashers, so they must have just gotten unlucky with some Dutch hooligan. Sitting somewhere in the south of the Netherlands, “I don’t really know how pronounce the name of this town”, they’re playing a raft of European festivals to support the imminent release of their eighth album, ‘Strawberry Jam’.

Now there are four of them, so obviously the first question that springs to mind is whether or not they pair up. To tag team wrestle. Or maybe to play ping pong? “Ummm, there’s not really any wrestling action in the band,” is the very chilled out reply in an East Coast drawl. “But if you go through the history, it’s like Josh and Noah were friends, and Dave and I were friends first. And then the two pairs kinda came together. I guess if we were playing table tennis then you’d have to split up Dave and Noah – they both grew up playing it and had bigger brothers to practice against.” Who’d have thought table tennis would garner such a reaction? “I’ve found myself on the same end of the table as Dave a few times and it’s pretty even between the two sides. I’m not the best table tennis player, though I guess. I would not put money on me. I have the least experience when it comes to paddles.”

This September, ‘Strawberry Jam’ will be released on the can’t-do-much-wrong-at-the-moment label Domino Records. As Animal Collective kind of fall into the ‘experimental’ category, and have been allowed to do what they like when they were signed to small time labels Catsup Plate and Fat Cat, it must be hard to make their music with a major breathing down their neck. I ask Brian how much freedom they were allowed for this record. “Total freedom. We always had it in the early days and when our contract was up with Fat Cat and we were looking for another deal, freedom was one of our ‘rules’,” the man known as Geologist says. “Some labels weren’t going to give us total creative reign – some of the majors wanted something like a ‘Feels’ [the last album] part two, and that’s all they wanted to release. That kinda ended the discussion there with them.” So it sounds like they found a perfect place to live then… “Domino is a pretty open minded and adventurous label. That’s what they wanted out of Animal Collective – they’d been following us for a long time and they didn’t want to change anything about how we work, which is pretty cool.”

The Animal Collective sound is very organic, and stems from a wide and varied spectrum of influences. For instance, the lush valleys, forests and farmland in which they were surrounded when they grew up in the Baltimore ’burbs, comes through on their records just as much as the noise of the big bad city of New York, which the foursome use as a base for the band. Interestingly, nearby Philadelphia, which is steeped in musical history, holds no interest for most of them. Apart from Brian who grew up listening to soul on the radio, none of the other band members dig the sounds coming from that city. No longer living in each others’ pockets, the band are now spread out all over the place – Noah Lennox AKA Panda Bear, currently resides in Portugal. Because of this, Animal Collective has become a bit more structured. They can’t sit and jam for hours on end, as they did in their youth, to come up with a song. Dave Portner (Avey Tare) and Noah are the most melodically inclined, and had already written, or at least started, the melodies that appear many of the tracks on ‘Strawberry Jam’ before the four of them got together to record the album.

Not many people can say they’ve played a seal on their record.

Known for taking all kinds of sounds, and sampling and mixing them to eventually appear on their records, the only actual instruments you pretty much hear them playing is guitars, keyboards and drums. A lot of the music comes from noises recorded around their houses or something found on various recordings – in the new album Brian actually uses the sound of a seal to musical effect. “That’s pretty much my favourite sound yet,” he tells me, adding, “Not many people can say they’ve played a seal on their record.”

Their obsession to make ground breaking, provocative music, has led the Animal Collective to be somewhat of a Marmite band; you love ’em or hate ’em. “I just hope that some people will give us some credit for trying and caring about our music and not think that we’re playing some kind of joke on indie rock just because it’s fashionable at the moment,” Brian concludes.

Some people love what they’re doing because they think it’s some kind of ironic take on society, while others hate them for the very same reason. The reality is that the band love making music. Full stop. To them it’s not a question of whether it’s relevant or commenting on what’s going on in the world – they’re just doing exactly what they’ve been doing since they were at school.

And with that, Clash leaves them to get on with the flat tyre. With seven albums down and the new one about to come out – with the full backing of Domino; Animal Collective’s ‘Strawberry Jam’ really won’t be a let down.

The door of the hotel suite opens, and in walks the most iconic woman in music – the inimitable punk goddess with the steely blue eyes and the razor sharp cheekbones.

Even at 62, Deborah Harry is every bit an idol. She deserves the presence of a superstar, but instead is humble yet captivating, quiet yet commanding – the traits that propelled her to international fame as the leading lady of Blondie. Thirty years after the band’s formation and Harry is just as busy as ever – she is in London playing dates with Blondie, but is also here to talk about her new solo album, ‘Necessary Evil’, which finds her just as sultry and subversive as ever.

Your new solo album ‘Necessary Evil’ is great – it sounds quite dark, almost industrial. What kind of mood were you in while making it?

I dunno. Just as it came, you know? I didn’t really have an overview. I was just writing songs that I felt was the best that I could do.

Some are angry, some are sexy – they can be very forceful.

I think that the punk sort of anti-social contrary position or stance really fits me.

Mm-hmm, it’s a little bit more aggressive than the Blondie stuff.

Aggressive – that’s the word I was looking for! Was that an attitude you went in to the recording with?

That’s just the way I am! (Laughs)

Oh dear, should I be scared?

Yeah! (Laughs) I mean, I felt that the Blondie material is so dated and that everyone has this almost childish idea of who I am and what I’m like. They sort of fantasise about who this little blonde thing is and it really doesn’t have a lot to do with me! (Laughs)

So it’s taken you until now to make that statement?

I just had the opportunity to do it and it just presented itself and I felt like, I dunno, it just seemed the right thing to do at the right time. I can’t really proceed with the Blondie thing in the way that I would like to do it, because the corporate world or the buying public sort of feels like it is one thing and it’s sort of frozen and it’s very hard to change that, it’s really hard to make that evolve.

How do you make the distinction when you’re playing live between the solo artist and Blondie?

I clearly am a mature woman, not a teenage little whatever, 27 year old girl, y’know, hopping around. I am definitely a different person. I of course have some of the same things, but you know, I am just an older person with a more full vision of life.

There’s a real punk sound to this album. Is this something that’s always been with you or have you returned to this style after experimenting elsewhere?

I think that the punk sort of anti-social contrary position or stance really fits me. I think I really fit into that. Just doing what I did at the time that I did it was a pretty strong political statement because there weren’t very many girls doing rock music at the time, so that was good for me. I felt comfortable there. I don’t think that I am particularly in your face or aggressive. I try to do things in a way that’s entertaining as well as satirical and strong, you know? A combination of things. I never wanted to be in your face political, [stabs finger in air] that pointing the finger kind of thing. I always wanted to sort of do it like, [sideways sly glance] “Ha!” Which I think is a lot more fun.

What are your earliest memories of music?

God, I’ve been around a while! Oh God, this is gonna really date me; stuff like Peggy Lee and Rosemary Clooney and the Hit Parade kind of stuff from the Fifties.

When did you first discover that you could sing?

I always did that from when I was a little girl. Nobody could shut me up really! (Laughs) I don’t really see myself as being a good enough singer. I don’t think that I’m a really technical singer. I’m an emotional singer and I get my point across, but it’s more from a point of view or a thought process than any technical kind of thing.

You first joined bands when you moved from New Jersey to New York in the mid-60s. What kind of music were you doing then?

Oh I was in a folk-rock group but I was also in a couple of really avant-garde jazz ensembles! (Laughs) God they were just weird! We would get together and make a lot of noise really.

Researching your influences, one of the names that kept cropping up was Janis Joplin. Did you ever get to see her live?

Oh yeah. Yeah, I met her. I was a waitress at [legendary NY club] Max’s Kansas City in the Sixties. Everybody used to come there; that was like THE place to go. She came in one night and I served her a steak, which she ate I think like one bite of. (Laughs) I went to see her at the Anderson Theatre – I think she was still with Big Brother [And The Holding Company]. And I may have seen her one other time when she did her second group. She just had the strength and freedom that was really remarkable at that time, because there weren’t many girls doing it when I was doing it but how many were doing it when she was doing it? It was her and [Jefferson Airplane’s] Grace Slick really.

The emergence of New York Dolls around ’72 at the Mercer Arts Centre introduced a new and more glamorous but less musical scene. Were you aware that this was the beginning of something new?

Well yeah. One of the best things about the Dolls’ scene, and I was really a follower of theirs – I used to go to all their shows as much as I could, because they did a lot of almost weekly dates at the Mercer, which has since crumbled to the ground. But I used to hang around with them and I thought that they were completely wonderful. They were really into Eddie Cochran and Marc Bolan and stuff like that. But the thing that was best about them was that they suggested a bisexuality or a transsexual thing, which I don’t think was really as strong anywhere else.

You met Chris Stein when you joined the band The Stilettoes. You both left together to form your own band. What were your intentions? Was it to fit in with the misfits or were you looking to do something different?

I don’t think we really had a clear intention. I think we were just trying different things out.

Everyone has this almost childish idea of who I am and what I’m like. They sort of fantasise about who this little blonde thing is and it really doesn’t have a lot to do with me!

What were your shared musical tastes?

The thing about downtown was that the music scene was very eclectic – there was not just one particular sound or style of music, it was all different things. So I think that the punk thing sort of actually came later.

Once Blondie were signed, the band had to be marketed, and usually it was at the expense of your sexuality. Did you feel used or ashamed at all that because you were a woman you were being exploited?

Well the sexism of it offended me initially. In fact, the first poster that was printed up from Private Stock, I had on a see-through blouse and I told the photographer to crop it there [draws line across shoulders]. They got hold of the whole negative and they printed it as is. I was extremely offended and I yelled at the president of the record company. I said, “How would you like it if your balls were exposed?” And he was so shocked that anyone would ever say that to him. He was so shocked and so offended, but, you know, that’s exactly how I felt.

You were the first band from that scene to become so internationally famous – firstly in Australia and the UK. When you first came here from New York, how did you find the societies differed?

Well it was much more unified over here, everyone sort of dug it and it seemed like everybody was in on it. Radio was playing the most up to date tracks; everything was sort of really accepted and embraced. In the States, nobody would play any of the younger bands’ music. It was very difficult to be heard really. Record labels were terrified of the ‘punk’ label – that’s probably how the ‘new wave’ title came around, because they had to find another way to market it.

The exciting thing about Blondie was that you were able to still be successful while experimenting with different styles – rock, reggae, hip-hop – how important was that freedom to you?

Oh, I think that that’s just what we did. We were part of that whole, I dunno… New York was a melting pot so all of that music was familiar to us and we just added it in, you know, the flavours of it.

When did you first become aware of hip-hop?

We went to this place, it was a Policeman’s Benevolent, a PAL club, and they ha d a lot of those sort of open venue things, two turntables, and kids would get up and do their thing. It was pretty great. A lot of it was braggadocio and bravado and everything like that, a lot of sexual boasting and stuff, but there was all kinds of subject matter and it seemed very powerful to me. The whole form of it was terrific. Some of our friends like Nile [Rodgers] and Bernard [Edwards] kept using scratching tracks for Chic, they used a lot of that. So one day Chris and I were just laying around in bed and he said, “I think I’m gonna write a rap song called ‘Rapture’”, and I just said, “Okay”.” (Laughs)

When Chris fell ill [in 1983, Stein was diagnosed with a rare and usually fatal genetic disease called Pemphigus] and you made the conscious decision to take a step back and take care of him were you aware of what it might do to your career while not working?

There was a whole meltdown at that period. I think part of the reason Chris got sick was because he was so stressed out. It had a lot to do with business and contentions within the band…

So a break was inevitable.

Yeah, so Chris was the broken straw, so it was really unfortunate. And we were partners really, so I didn’t really… I mean the record company dropped our contract, you know, everything just sort of broke down at that point.

What was the impetus to then start Blondie again at the end of the Nineties?

It wasn’t my idea! (Laughs) Chris wanted to do it. He said that he felt that if he didn’t do it then that it would never get done, that he was of a certain age and that was the bottom line of it. This guy Harry Salisbury came along and made friends with Chris and he was in management and started talking to Chris about it – “This is it, this is your life, this is your legacy, and perhaps you should really consider looking at it. Just look at it.” And so he started looking at it and called me up one day and said, “Uh, what do you think about getting the band together again?” I said, “ABSOLUTELY NOT! NO WAY!” And then he sort of told me all the things that he was thinking about and his point of view and he asked me to think about it, so I did.

Then you had a number one single with ‘Maria’ – that must have been fantastic.

Yeah, it was, it was really great.

Was that a bookend to your career or was it another reason to carry on?

Uh, I guess, I mean it sort of was, to my mind, it had a double-edged thing going on. It was really exciting and great to have a song in the charts again, but it wasn’t the song that I would have chosen to move forward. It was a song that harkened to the past and I really wanted to do a song that was much more futuristic and that would have led us into a new creative episode or a new chapter, and the record company had no inclination to do that. They just wanted to work the catalogue as much as possible, just use the cart that we had. They had no intention of any kind of future creativity or new directions for us, which was the only reason that I got back into it, because I did not want to be in an oldies band and that’s one of my problems with doing Blondie. That’s one of the reasons that I had to do a solo project, because…

You had all these tensions and ideas that you had to get out?

Yeah. I mean the whole reason that you become an artist is to evolve and to grow and to improve and to change, to explore new territory, and that commercialisation and that crib that they want to keep you in – I understand marketing and I understand why – but it’s sort of counter-productive when it comes to trying to be better or to grow.

You recently sang with Lily Allen. Are you aware of the influence that you have on future generations of female singers and musicians?

I think so, yeah. I’ve read things like that. I can only say that I feel the same way about the women that went before me, like Dusty Springfield, The Mamas And The Papas, Diana Ross, all the R&B women… I mean I’ve just been totally involved with them as well. It’s just sort of natural that you hear that stuff and that’s what you learn from. That’s what art really is, it’s just this thing that grows and rolls and just gets built up as layers and layers of crud! (Laughs)

Featured in this issue…

Arctic Monkeys Back Already!

It was hard work being an Arctic Monkey in 2006 – the glare of the world’s press reflected the skyrocketing fame of the fresh-faced foursome as they begrudgingly ascended into infamy as the purveyors of the fastest selling debut album in the known universe.

Arcade Fire The real salvation army

“It’s more counterculture to talk about religion than not to. We’d always rather go against the trend – and it’s also more fun that way!”

Dizzee Rascal The Mercury award winner

Dizzee Rascal, I am told, is not happy. His much-delayed third album ‘Maths & English’ is soon to be released and I am here, at his record label’s west London headquarters, to interview him.

Ryan Adams Goin’ back to the country

Once the roguish alt.country pin-up boy, Ryan Adams transgressed the depths of his dark side in the midst of a creatively fertile spell that would read like fraught pleas for salvation.

UNKLE Waging war on your eardrums

That was then. This is now. Much has changed, but the relevance of UNKLE is ever constant. Perhaps now more than ever…

Wilco Jeff Tweedy has finally found himself.

Tweedy is calm and relaxed, sporting as clean a shaven face as he is ever likely to sport, and, considering it is 10am in the morning, rather chatty.

Andrea Parker The electro heroine

Since she was 18 and now for nearly two decades she has been climbing resolutely up the dance music ladder with a single-mindedness which simply screams integrity.

Album Spotlight

Sly And The Family Stone – There’s A Riot Goin’ On

They were everyday people. America loved them.

Personality Clash

Shuffle Vs X-Press2

2 artists taking part in the TT Remastered project

Regulars
Album Reviews