All set to release her debut album in 2009, Beth Jeans Houghton slipped under the radar through no fault of her own.
Although, as she is keen to point out, by waiting another couple of years the singer has undergone a formative experience. The resulting record ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’ is actually all the better for it, with Houghton joined by her collective The Hooves Of Destiny.
All set for release in early 2012, lead single ‘Lilliputt’ saw Beth Jeans Houghton compared to the likes of Laura Marling, Nico and Gwen Stefani but it’s obvious upon meeting her that there’s much more to Houghton than these comparisons.
Sitting with Hooves of Destiny member Blazey, Beth Jeans Houghton chats to ClashMusic about her literary tastes and the inspirational effect of the written word.
Who’s your favourite author and why?
Beth: Richard Brautigan! He wrote ‘In Watermelon Sugar’ and ‘Trout Fishing in America’ – he’s a very psychedelic writer and in ‘In Watermelon Sugar’ he talks about tigers and tigers coming and eating families but you almost think that it’s a metaphor and that it’s a true story but he’s telling it in a really twisted way. I really love him! Also, Patti Smith: all of her lyrics and her books. ‘Just Kids’ is one of my favourite books.
Blazey: I’ve got back into Hunter S. Thompson. I read ‘Fear and Loathing’ years ago when I first saw the film, he has such a journalistic way.
Beth: He’s amazing. I want to release music forever or I’ll kill myself and I said I was joking but with Hunter S. Thompson, he got to an age when he was in pain and he couldn’t write any more – then he was just bored and he killed himself which is sad but at the same time, I can understand that. If I couldn’t release music, I would get so bored that I probably wouldn’t kill myself for the sake of my loved ones, but if it was me on my own, I would probably just pop it. It’s strange how it has such a physical effect.
Did ‘In Watermelon Sugar’ influence the cover artwork for your recent single, ‘Lilliputt’?
Beth: Ah right, no. To be honest, the ‘Lilliput’ cover is because the record cover is a naked girl with a tiger’s head, I was just thinking along those lines; I’ve always been into people with animal heads. It doesn’t really mean anything; I think it’s nice to have someone with small tits on the cover because women bare their breasts in the media and they’re fake and huge, you know what I mean? As if that’s the set way to look but for some reason, that offends people more than Rihanna with her arse out.
Are you reading anything at the moment?
Beth: I’ve started Neil Young’s biography; Shakey, a few times but I left it on a plane twice. So I’m starting that, I love Neil Young so that should be good. I always go back to Just Kids; I find it very difficult to read so I always go back to the ones I know I love already because I have a short attention span.
Blazey: I’ve just finished a book that had a different title in the US, called something like ‘The Case for Working with Your Hands (Why Office Work Is Bad for You)’.
Beth: I also started reading a book by Swami Ishwarananda, who I visited earlier this year; it’s all about religious figures and spirituality but also it’s all about happiness and how the way forward is love, and when someone’s nasty to you, it’s coming from a place inside. I feel a lot calmer in myself now I don’t take offence from people and especially in realising that I don’t have to spend time with nasty people.
Do you think that in the same way people say that CDs will eventually be phased out, books will too?
Beth: It’s like with Polaroids; do you think they ever thought that Polaroids would ever phase out? I mean there could be one book company left that’s going under and some obscure person could buy that and then just sell all the books for a lot of money. I don’t think that there will ever be no books, I hope. I wonder how many people actually physically buy books nowadays.
Do you think literature is timeless?
Beth:Yes, well some literature is but then I guess it’s the same with art and music. I mean as long as it’s true and honest to the person who made it then people will always be able to relate to it; whereas technology is not timeless. As long as you’re true to yourself and what you make, it should last. It’s like, I was given a book of poetry by a woman called Sappho who’s a female poet from way before Jesus, she was apparently one of the first lesbians and she was outcast because of that but they found her poetry at the bottom of a mountain from many thousands of years ago and most of the poems were left that were just one sentence but those were just so poignant that it has lasted until now. As long as you’re true to yourself and what you make, it should last.
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Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves Of Destiny are set to release their debut album ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’ on February 6th.
Interview by Aurora Mitchell
Photo Credit: Maxime Sokolinski
The last twelve months has been bonkers. Of course there’s been global and national shifts before but rarely in the last two decades of our culture has music, politics, social behaviour and frustrations found themselves on such shifting ground. We talk to a few characters that have catalysed or reacted to these forces.
THE YOUTH FIND THEIR VOICE AGAIN – UK Uncut
With younger generations facing a certain bleak future of high taxation and low opportunities we witness corporations and fat cats waddling off without paying taxes. Something had to give. Britain’s youth has been naming and shaming all year, mainly via direct action from UK Uncut – an anti-austerity action network. Tim Matthews gives Clash a quick run down on his thoughts:
“It’s been inspiring seeing so many people getting involved in direct actions, and them realizing that taking direct action makes a difference. Our first action against Vodafone was a year ago last October, and the success has surprised me in a kind of way; at the same time there are a lot of people who are angry and frustrated with the way this country is going. Previous tactics perhaps haven’t always been the right ones, so I think we need to find the right tactics basically. You saw the Arab Spring, and the amount of changes was unprecedented. Activists now feel a real urgency to do things and are learning really quickly from one another in terms of what works, how often to apply pressure to power to big corporations, businesses and how they can work together. Now activists around the world are always checking each other’s campaigns out whereas previously things would be kept just under the surface but now people are always talking: ‘I think something happened in such-and-such a country’ and they can see what actions have been done.
I was surprised by how it only took a few people with an idea to make a difference and just to see the people stand up for their rights and it spread like wildfire; I’ve never seen anyone do that. I think it’s just fantastic. I was surprised by whole the government in the UK cracking down on protests, but then still arm the powers in Arab countries that clamp down in the same way. Some things were very surprising and some things just stayed the same.
What’s surprised me in 2011? Well, it’s surprising even though it’s absolutely clear that George Osbourne’s economic policies are going to make the British economy worse, and that they plan to continue with them even though they may push us into a second recession. We need to be calling for a different economic plan, a different way to raise money.”
For more info WWW.UKUNCUT.ORG.UK.
YOUTH RIOT OWN GOAL – The Music Industry Burns, Literally
One of the more devastating ways in which the social unrest unwillingly combined with the music industry was the burning of three million units of records, CDs and other music merch.
The Sony/PIAS storage facility was torched during a raid on the warehouse that also housed a stock of Playstations. What hadn’t been stolen went up in smoke, along with the hopes and dreams of over a hundred independent labels. One such label was Sunday Best – music svengali Sarah Bolshi picks up the pieces: “Most damaging was the loss of historical vinyl, most of which we can’t replace now and a very important part of our catalogue. Not a great time but we have to move forward and put it behind us.”
Others were less morose. Former Creation Records boss Alan McGee had this to say: “I read that the Sony/PIAS building burnt down. I’m probably the only person who thought that was funny. I call that a result. Got rid of all the shit music. And you get paid for it, the stuff you couldn’t sell.”
But Ninja Tunes, who lost 120,000 units are still reeling. Peter Quicke said this: “I can understand anger at a society and a government that is partially corrupt, and unfair and getting more unfair. But burning down this warehouse damaged exactly the sort of businesses that youth rioters would have wanted to work for probably. So it’s a total waste.” Beautifully though, the indie music scene quickly worked together to encourage digital sales via a special ‘Love Music Hate Violence’ album, which is out now.less than revolutionary.
LEFTFIELD INDIE – Metronomy’s Joe Mount Speaks
With british music,” explains Metronomy’s leader and song writer, “it seems at the moment the appetite is strong for things unusual; as soon as someone’s aware of something it becomes centrefield. Record labels will run after things that are similar to something else, and maybe after someone like James Blake there’s maybe more attention being given to potential, like young male musicians.
I’m basically waiting for the next Prince. My predictions are there is going to be a young male artist who is capable of taking on Florence and Adele. A young boy in his bedroom who can dance amazingly well, sing incredibly and make amazing music: the second coming of Prince.
I think part of the reason ‘The English Riviera’ did very well was because when it came to making the album I was trying to do it in a way that was confident and comfortable in what I wanted and what I liked. I feel like there were a bunch of bands who were around when we started playing shows in London who are still around now. I don’t think the music is necessarily the same, but I think everyone’s coming from a similar place with that attitude and instruments.
Elsewhere, it seemed summer came early; News Of The World went crazy; recession; stupid rioters in England, real rioters in Greece; quite a lot of people died; lots of gigs. Socially, the year was full of disappointment. I felt really embarrassed when all the rioting happened. But yeah, it has been absolutely a crazy year.”
NOT-ALBUM ALBUMS – A Mixtape Odyssey
In 2011 something unprecedented happened. It didn’t take place with a march, nor an occupation – it doesn’t even have a specific source. For the past ten years there’s been a growing belief that the Internet has obliterated social structures; that, in the context of music, blogs have democratised the industry. They have transferred power to the consumer. What resulted was a shattered satellite effect whereby individuals would float in the musical cosmos picking up sounds to then reflect them back into the abyss.
What has arisen out of this shambles is organisation, and structure. Like the shift from a Nature State into politics, or from farmer to producer, blogs are becoming increasingly productive, acting as both creator and curator. From 2008 a (then) unknown collective called Odd Future were releasing mixtapes via the Hyperbeast forums. Two years later, blog Cocaine Blunts picked up on them as well as a video featuring one Tyler, The Creator. From this curation, Odd Future and Tyler have become the new school of hip-hop. This is the same year when mixtape sites LiveMixtapes and Dat Piff receive 2.16 and 2.04 million unique users per month, respectively. That’s millions of fans and bloggers all looking out for the next big thing.
This phenomenon could not be illustrated clearer than the ascention of mixtapes, which have become a recognised force, with Death Grips, Clams Casino and DJ Dirty Money gaining a great deal of momentum in 2011 through stunning freebies.
Main Attrakionz manager and Space Age Hustle blogger Stewart had this to say on the matter: “The blog world was so insular and fragmented that a single act earning press coverage for a mixtape was not enough to reach the tipping point of mixtape acceptance in such a fragmented environment.” This is clearly no longer the case. “But now, the mixtape goes live on one of the aggregator sites (Dat Piff or LiveMixtapes), links to streams and downloads are blogged, tweeted, Facebook’d, Tumbl’d, and reviews follow.”
There’s another factor in this phenomena, and that it down to freeganism. Benjamin Gaffin, 4AD staffer and manager of one of 2011 big mixtape successes, Clams Casino, said: “I think there is a very human interest in all things free…We have learned to become a society of instant gratification.”
This movement may be relatively intangible, lurking in the hinterland of our consciousness, but it is nothing less than revolutionary.
A UK BASS HEALTH CHECK – With James Blake
We started 2011 with Blake on our cover and so we felt it apt to get him to round up his thoughts on the waves he rode. “There’s been an embrace in house music, which I’ve really enjoyed, even in the dubstep scene there’s been a lot of crossover with house music, into techno as well. I’m on the side of wanting it to evolve. There’s always times where something hits the perfect moment and it can’t stay there forever just like with dubstep. Then a couple of years later it will turn into something you don’t like. I think music is based in cycles. People complain that pop music isn’t what it was twenty years ago.
Some years pop music will go through phases of being really dance music based, then acoustic, then people will be fed up with that. In terms of breaking barriers, I think people have always been doing it in electronic music, but I think now, because there are so many producers, a lot people have access to the tools in which to write music. So you have all sorts of brains working on it.
There seemed to be a slackening of rules in 2011, and it would be nice if to be associated with that. As much as I try to do things that sound new, that speak to me on a natural level, some of the tracks I’ve made, I’ve tried to just not even think about it, whether I’m breaking rules or whether I shouldn’t. And in those moments, I’ve actually produced my best stuff just by not thinking about the scene.”
WAX POETIC – Vinyl Returns
With vinyl sales seeing an increase for the first time in six years 2011 has been kind to turntable owners. October saw 2010’s total sales of 234,000 already bested thanks to the likes of Bon Iver and PJ Harvey, while pocket-bothering deluxe reissues by Nirvana and Pink Floyd have also proven strong sellers. At the current rate, sales are on course to exceed 300,000 units by the year’s end – the first time since 2005. Starting strong, there was an increase to 168,296 sales in the first half of the year, compared with 108,307 in the same period of 2010.
Further proof of the changing tastes is the average price of a vinyl LP now lowering to around £16.30, while just £7.82 for CD albums and £6.80 for digital albums has become the norm.
“I think the resurgence in vinyl sales comes as a result of an increased desire for a tactile, deluxe and sometimes collectable physical product,” says Warp’s Adam Brooks. “Increasingly labels are also including download codes in their vinyl products to offer extra value. We endeavor to collaborate with our artists and designers to create unique and creative physical releases – Battles’ ‘Ice Cream’ (which came in three limited ‘flavours’) being just one of this year’s examples.”
Despite encouraging figures it’s very doubtful we’ll see vinyl return to its former glory. Official BPI figures state the peak year on record for vinyl was 1975, when fans bought a staggering 91.6m units – that’s a lot of Elton John.
It’s been another stellar year for cultural champions, controversies, and cunts. Join us as we chart the year in a fond remembrance of those whose heads were raised – for better or worse – above the parapet.
Murdoch’s media empire has exerted a debilitating grip on British politics for generations; destroying or stoking careers based on his own agenda. It therefore took serious guts for Labour MP Tom Watson to doggedly pursue News International over phone hacking allegations whilst his peers nervously buried their heads. Red or dead!
011 has been characterised by a remarkable level of political protests around the world. Whether it’s Egypt, Greece, Occupy or Libya, each month has seen the majority making their feelings heard to the ruling minority and whilst you may not agree with their cause it proves that when people come together they still have the ability to make a change. Viva!
Adam Yauch (MCA)
Cancer is all too often regarded as a full stop. Refusing to play the victim role, the Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch (MCA) went ahead with the release of their latest album despite still battling the disease and through their splenetic video output provided a much needed example that cancer, however serious, does not need to define you. Ill communication!
AIM (Association of Independent Music)
The London riots over the summer destroyed much and ruined many lives. Whilst a warehouse in Enfield may have seemed a less emotional victim, its smoldering remains contained the stock of many independent record labels who could ill afford the financial hit. With the likes of Warp, Domino and Beggars impacted AIM’s rallying of donations to help their plight was a moment of calm in a week of chaos. London Calling.
The Universe is utterly bat-shit and equally terrifying, yet physicist Brian Cox somehow manages to make our tenuous insignificance seem wonderfully reassuring. Even when telling us that everything that has ever existed will be one day extinguished, his infectious wonder makes it a thing of celebration rather than a reason to mourn. Dream!
Adele’s staggering success over the past twelve months is made all the more piquant when juxtaposed to the untimely death of Britain’s other great contemporary female artist Amy Winehouse. Destroying all comers with her Brit Awards rendition of ‘Someone Like You’, Adele has gone on to demonstrate that populist isn’t a dirty word. Rolling!
With Greece the latest casualty of the economic crisis, Pulp’s ‘Common People’ seems a relic of a bygone age. His wealthy bird at St Martins’ college won’t be able to afford a Panda Cola by the end of the year let alone a rum and coke. Pulp on the other hand came back with a boom, reuniting for a triumphant comeback that didn’t rely on nostalgia for its angular thrills. Misshapen!
Doctor Who is often dismissed as being a kids TV show. Wrong. A stalwart of British culture for five decades, Doctor Who is often challenging drama presented in a primetime format and with the current incarnation played by Matt Smith it has succeeded in introducing an edgy, darker tone – capturing our nation’s sense of freewheeling adventure. Bit of blue!
Whether you agree with Gervais’ stance on the semantic dilution of mong amongst everyday vernacular or not, you still have to respect his stance towards tabloid vilification and the hypocritical red top habit of barking moral outrage whilst peddling baseless gossip on the very next page. Ragged!
William and Kate
It was so dreamy! The handsome Prince and bashful bride, uniting the Nation beneath an umbrella of love… Or, it gifted us all an extra bank-holiday, which if used judiciously could leverage a ten-day holiday period when coupled on to Easter. Republican? Who told you that? Crown jewels!
David Cameron / Nick Clegg
Eroding the welfare state. Forcing students to assume a yoke of debt before even setting foot in University. Hobbling the BBC and its media output. Go the coalition! But it’s not all bad; they’ve found the cash to propose a national reintroduction of weekly bin collections. A move to placate their Daily Mail reading core? How cynical!
There is something undoubtedly gratifying when Europe successfully exports something so irredeemably crap as David Guetta to the Americans. The only problem is that Guetta’s success over the past twelve months with the risible ‘Nothing But The Beat’ has ricocheted back over the Atlantic in a tsunami of soulless ‘guest-enhanced’ shite. Oeufs Chien!
No Gaddafi? No Bin Laden? Don’t fear; we’ve met our ruthless bastard quota courtesy of James Murdoch – a man who was at the helm of News International’s calamitous response when they were discovered to have hacked individuals’ voicemail in order to generate news print. What a noble profession this is. Hack job!
Yes, there are clear social catalysts which led so many young people to feel disenfranchised and marginalized to a level wherein shanking their hometown seemed like a viable dialogue. But no, it doesn’t excuse the fuckwits abhorrent behavior which was more about stripping JD Sports than protesting over inequalities. Burnt!
What a pickle they’ve got us in. Sat in their drafty offices like a cast of Dickensian characters, our nation’s bean counters inadvertently filled in the wrong column of their leather-bound ledger and financial meltdown ensued. And then we all hate them for it. What a thankless task it must be as a humble banker.
A venereal smear wearing a downloadable haircut, Justin Bieber is the reason why disposable income should be restricted to those over the age of eighteen. Masquerading as a pop star, Bieber is the latest in a long tradition of money-sucking constructs who add nothing to our cultural fabric other than a deep sense of aggregate loathing. Pop tart!
We all get a bit stressed from time to time, but with us it tends to manifest itself in the eating of squirty cream whilst weeping in front of Steel Magnolias. Dior’s John Galliano is evidently too leftfield for this, instead opting to load up on booze before gobbing off anti-Semitic remarks ahead of Paris Fashion Week – losing his job and ending up in Court as a result. How fucking edgy. Hate Couture!
Before Rebecca Black came along with her parent-funded vanity single ‘Friday’, the last day of the week was something to look forward to. But not now. It’s a twenty-four-hour period sound-tracked by a simpering belch of anodyne pop-music perpetrated by a spoilt California kid. Black out!
Where to start? A preening little twat who mistook being a rock star for harvesting chlamydia across London’s scabby social scene, Frankie Cocozza was the X Factor’s latest pariah to be briefly unleashed upon our collective tabloid consciousness. With a singing ability that could charitably described as shite, Cocozza is a ribald argument for mass sterilization. Exit Factor!
A man who helped integrate technology intuitively into our everyday lives dies. That’s sad. The mawkish reaction of Apple fan-boys as they elevate a savvy businessman to the status of beautified saint? Bloody embarrassing. iSad.
Words by Adam Park
Using his angelic voice to fuse a multitude of genres and tones Clash explores a talent too good for this world.
1. A product of the Greenwich Village folkie circuit, Buckley lived modestly, choosing to mix and live amongst the communes and squats where he found what he called “the last real writers, artists, expressionists; people I could relate to, people unafraid of society’s mores and dictates, willing to take a chance.”
2. Buckley has appeared as a guest artist on several other recordings than his own. He can be heard singing ‘Jolly Street’ on the Jazz Passengers album ‘In Love’, doing guitar and back-up vocals on Brenda Kahn’s ‘Faith Salons’, while Patti Smith’s ‘Gone Again’ features Buckley adding “voice” to ‘Beneath The Southern Cross’.
3. An enthusiast for a myriad of musical forms, Buckley was an early champion among American musicians for the work of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the world’s foremost Qawwali singer. Buckley conducted an extensive interview with Nusrat in Interview magazine and wrote the liner notes for the singer’s ‘The Supreme Collection’.
4. Jeff’s debut album ‘Grace’ earned him France’s prestigious Grand Prix International Du Disque from the Académie Charles-Cros in 1995; an award given by a jury of producers, journalists and the president of French Culture. It had previously been given to Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, among other musical luminaries.
5. Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell was another long-time friend of Jeff’s, and was invited by Jeff’s mother Mary Guibert to produce posthumous release ‘Sketches (For My Sweetheart The Drunk)’. Jeff and Chris were big admirers of each other’s work, and Cornell is a respected musician and producer in his own right.
6. His tessitura (comfortable singing range) was between E below middle C, which he often started verses on, and the notes D right above middle C and F# – used in most of his choruses. He also used his high A frequently. A typical lyric tenor tessitura; the same range as Pavarotti.
7. Despite his fondness for covers Buckley was more often excited about current music, claiming the ’60s and ’70s as “shit”. However he was a huge fan of the The Smiths, mentioning live in Chicago that they were the only good thing about 1980s music. Another fan of the trademark quiff.
8. As part of Gary Lucas’ Gods & Monsters, an early version of ‘Mojo Pin’ materialized with Lucas writing guitar parts. Buckley later invited him to record said parts in the studio while making ‘Grace’. “Plainly speaking, it’s a euphemism for a dropper full of smack that you shoot in your arm.”
9. Buckley reluctantly agreed to perform at a tribute concert for his father in April of 1991 at St. Ann’s Church in Brooklyn. “It wasn’t my work, it wasn’t my life. But it bothered me that I hadn’t been to his funeral. I used that show to pay my last respects.”
10. Acclaimed producer Andy Wallace, who worked with Buckley on his full-length debut, recalled the singer’s insatiable musical appetite and eclectic taste. “Buckley had the audio equivalent of a photographic memory… Not only everything from [Charles] Mingus to Sonic Youth, but every verse of ‘Yummy, Yummy, Yummy’.” That’s a broad range.
Words by Sam Walker-Smart
Every DJ has one.
A night when everything that can possibly go wrong does – and it does so in spectacular fashion. ClashMusic brings you DJ Disasters, featuring some of the most respected figures in the dance world reminiscing about those moments when it all went badly wrong.
Next up: DJ Wrongtom.
Best known for his association with Hard-Fi, DJ Wrongtom has built up a unique identity by sifting through crates of house, techno, hip hop and indie rock. A crowd pleasing DJ, his sets have taken him across the globe, playing all manner of venues in the process.
Invited to accompany Hard Fi at Wembley Arena, DJ Wrongtom’s dream set quickly turned into a DJ Disaster…
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Not being known for one specific genre or style means I’ve had my fair share of iffy gigs over the years with many a confused audience, angry indie fans not wanting to hear hip hop, even angrier reggae purists not wanting to hear dancehall, and on one occasion when I was told to “stop playing Prince you poof”, angry homophobes who didn’t want to hear Minneapolis sex-funk. So it’s tough to pinpoint the worst disaster but two recent calamities instantly spring to mind.
The first was about 4 years ago on the last date of a tour with Hard-Fi.
To set the scene I spent a few years on the road with Hard-Fi, warming up for them with pretty much anything I fancied playing, culminating in a 4 deck mix up which led into their live set. These sets were probably the only times I’ve ever actually practiced a mix or pre-planned a set since I started DJing, and aside on going disagreements with the band’s soundman, (and one gig when I got the sudden urge to vomit on stage at Brixton Academy) they all went pretty well. That is until we played Wembley Arena. Yes, the biggest gig of my career and I was sufficiently nervous enough to get the adrenaline pumping.
So the Rumblestrips finish their support slot, I march out on stage, step on the DJ riser to look at a sea of patient faces including Clive Owen, and hit play on the first record. No problems so far, I’m embarking on a slow-mo disco trudge through the likes of Drrrty Haze, The Clash and even a bit of Belle Stars, even the strange detachment of being so far from the audience on my own on that massive stage wasn’t phasing me.
Over the next half hour I managed to get in everything from Miami bass to acid house, Shut Up & Dance to a U2 guitar solo, and it was all building up to my usual crescendo of the Promised Land piano-pella mixed up with LCD Soundsystem drums and a bass line from something else I can’t remember. In it went, the familiar members of the audience raised their hands in the air to the piano chords, people begin to sing along… first verse, all’s well… second verse, still going strong. I mix in some extra handclaps and pull that stupid superstar DJ fist in the air pose as the final chorus comes in when *click*, silence. Dead, unforgiving silence. I’m feverishly flicking switches trying to find out what I’ve done, with the front row hurling abuse in my direction as I stand there under a spotlight in front of 10,000 bemused people.
After what felt like a lifetime, the stage manager sauntered over, told me they had to reboot the mixing desk before the band came on and ushered me off stage, my moment of Wembley glory brought to a premature end and punctuated with an awkward exit, stage left.
I’m not sure what the moral of this tale is, maybe don’t play piano-house mash ups to Clive Owen…
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DJ Wrongtom is set to play a New Year’s Eve party at the Queen of Hoxton – click HERE to buy tickets.
It’s that time of year again. Springing up on music magazines’ sites across the web are the unavoidable barrage of top 10s, top 50s, and top 100 tracks of 2011. Scouring through the numerous lists, you may begin to notice the trend of large Wales-shaped holes. So has Cymru really offered so little to the musical world this year? On the contrary my dears.
2011 has seen a dip in indie and a rise in rock. The Blackout, an alternative post-hardcore rock band are fresh from supporting My Chemical Romance and are embarking on their own 15-date tour in 2012 – some dates of which have already sold out. Tiger Please, five-piece Cardiff rock band have been impressing with their emotional-charged choruses while complex band Kutosis have recently released their debut album, asking 11 filmmakers to create a video for each track. Kids In Glass Houses released their third album in August and Funeral For a Friend reappeared with a tour earlier this year. The raw hardcore of Bastions has been turning heads in 2011, not least due to singer Jamie Burne’s impressive screaming.
Opening the summer in truly great fashion, the 65th Llangollen International Eisteddfod saw over 4000 performers descend on the small Welsh town to perform, compete, and generally spread the notion of peace and love. With acts as diverse as Lulu, Russell Watson and McFly, there’s likely to be an act in the 4000 over the six busy days that you would love.
In August, Green Man festival sprang up in the Brecon Beacons, more popular than ever. With a capacity of just 300 in 2003, the festival has grown considerably since. Dubbed by some to be the Glastonbury festival that was before the fence went up, the three-day event was headlined this year by Laura Marling, Explosions in the Sky and Iron and Wine.
On a slightly smaller scale, a highlight of the Welsh music calendar comes every year in the form of four days of glorious music spread across a variety of small venues in Cardiff. Swn festival, held in October sees both local artists and those from further afield pack out venues in the Welsh capital. The Joy Formidable headlined the weekend with a hugely passionate and energetic set complete with nautical props aplenty and a humungous gong – which if JF’s gig is to go by, no set is complete without. Elsewhere across the festival, Gruff Rhys popped up, as did Charlotte Church, which was an unexpected ‘secret’ appearance from the Welsh classical-gone-pop star.
Welsh music prize
2011 saw the introduction of the Welsh Music Prize. Born from the mind of Radio 1’s Welsh music extraordinaire Huw Stephens, 12 albums were nominated before Super Furry Animals’ frontman Gruff Rhys was announced as the winner in October for his third solo album, Hotel Shampoo.
The artists that missed out on scooping the prize still got some great coverage and exposure. With such a varied and diverse range of artists and genres, the decision must have been a tough one:
Al Lewis – In the Wake – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znH45Jpgffo
Folk and country bilingual singer-songwriter from Pwllheli whose lilting, easy vocals and chiseled jawline have been charming fans all year.
The Blackout – Hope – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3c78rnYFehM
The band’s third album, released in April was fan-funded through a Pledge scheme where fans of a band can financially contribute to the recording and production of an album.
Colorama – Box – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-daXdPE8Y8g
Sunshine folk pop group Colorama provide a psychedelic 60s hazy dreaminess to the shortlist, with a smattering of The Kinks influence thrown in for good measure.
Funeral For a Friend – Welcome Home Armageddon – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AGTxllR0Oc
Back to the days of their post-hardcore happiness, FFaF’s fifth album marks a return to the band’s signature sound.
The Gentle Good – Tethered For the Storm – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tv2DPJNOo6Q
Bilingual folk singer Gareth Bonello plays under a name suiting his music perfectly. The album is folky with a touch of psychedelia, influenced by poetry and Gareth’s life in Cardiff.
The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39afZwY6xI8
This popular Welsh trio’s debut album has been a long time in the making. The Big Roar is a rather sensibly named huge album, with powerful crescendos and driving riffs.
Lleuwen – Tân – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QosafQkW56g
Welsh-born singer Lleuwen Steffan is fluent in Welsh and Breton, choosing to sing in both languages. If you’re a fan of kitchen utensils and ukeleles, this is an album for you.
Manic Street Preachers – Postcards From a Young Man – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=988ndLhOtu4&ob=av2e
Arguably the biggest name on the list, the Manics tenth studio album comes nearly 20 years since their first. Still going strong, the band collaborate with Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch and Guns N’ Roses Duff McKagan.
Stagga – The Warm Air Room – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qewPUz_LhWc
The debut album from dubstep and hip-hop artist, Stagga. Keeping things local, Joe Blow, Skamma and Don Leisure, some of Cardiff’s best MCs feature on The Warm Air Room.
Sweet Baboo – I’m a Dancer/Songs About Sleepin’ – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WnvQfyioQU
Sweet Baboo’s innocent twee with typically deprecating delivery and lyrics are an odd fusion which result in a humorous and calming album.
Y Niwl – Y Niwl – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WnvQfyioQU
You may recognise Y Niwl’s track “Undegpedwar” from Saturday afternoon’s Football Focus, a pretty big boost for the band this year. Y Niwl’s retro, instrumental surf rock is raw and authentic.
Many great Welsh artists that have emerged this year may not have topped charts, broken any records, or have become household names; many of these artists may still be relatively unknown in the grand-musical-scale of things. However, there has been an influx of talent to our green pastures. Wales may have had a lack of major releases during the year, but 2012 will hopefully see the myriad of rather exciting up-and-coming talent break through and be recognised throughout the United Kingdom, not just hiding in our little part of the world.
Words by Rachael Hogg
I’ve always loved detectives stories and ’50s movies; quirky stuff like Sunset Boulevard, which my wife and I always sit down and watch. LA Confidential is the film that got me into film noir, but recently I was talking with Mark Kermode (the BBC’s Film Review host) and I was saying, ‘I absolutely love film noir. What do you think about the new take on it, with Curtis Hanson’s LA Confidential?’ He was like, ‘Mmm, don’t really like that’.
We went and saw Drive; it’s fucking nuts. Charlotte hated the soundtrack, but I loved it. There was this one song that kept playing over and over in these certain scenes, and I loved it so I was looking forward to that kind of scene coming back up so that I could listen to the song again. Charlotte hated it! I could see her squirming in her seat every time it came up. We also saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; I’ve never read the book, but it’s beautifully done. Every single shot was itself like a painting.
If there was a Subways movie, I’d like to think it would be a film noir. Maybe there was some sort of murder? I would want David Fincher to direct it. What he did with Zodiac was amazing. It was so beautifully crafted, such a tastefully done film. The picture was amazing – because it was set in the ’70s, they recreated the ’70s look – a very filtered look. So maybe I’d like to take it back to the ’70s for our movie. Josh is murdered by some fanatic – I don’t want to be murdered: I want to be the one who’s crying into his beer in some dirty rock ‘n’ roll Berlin bar that is always being referenced in the movie. The killer leaves a rose behind – after every show in Germany we find a rose in the middle of the dance floor. And after Josh is murdered there’s a bunch of roses left by his dead body. He kept going out of time during ‘With You’; that was the motive. God, that should be done!”
The Subways’ new single ‘It’s A Party’ is out January 2nd.
One of the defining imprints behind the current indie pop boom, it would be churlish to pin Captured Tracks down amongst the cardigan-clad legions. Sticking to its guns, the Brooklyn label has supported music it dearly loves building up a back catalogue that moves from noise pop to dream pop, with a touch of electronics along the way.
Retaining a love for the physical format, the pop song and a fuzzed up guitar riff Captured Tracks has constructed an identity without allowing themselves to be pigeon-holed.
Believe it or not, but for a good decade or so the shoegaze genre was about as welcome as Richard Dawkins at a nativity play. Recently unveiling their new Shoegaze Archives project – essentially documenting fuzzed up vinyl and cassette releases which have fallen through the cracks – Captured Tracks dodges those oft-hurled retro accusations with the sheer quality of its output.
ClashMusic chats to Captured Tracks founder Mike Sniper about the label’s ethos, their output and its story thus far.
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What led to you forming your own label?
I had a label beforehand, so it was pretty much a natural evolution.
You have an obvious love of the physical format, where does that come from?
Being a record collector my whole life I suppose. I think music should still always exist in a physical format. If people still record full length LP’s than that’s how they should appear. Musicians still work in the pop idiom of the LP, with a beginning and an end, an A-Side and a B-Side, and that’s the optimum experience. I’m not opposed to digital at all, there’s room for both and I think the digital aspect of things can be explored more. No one’s really tried to create a unique digital experience yet because it’s still in it’s infancy.
You began by releasing a flood of seven inches, do you have a love for the classic pop single?
Well, that was for two reasons. One, we didn’t have the power at the time to really anchor an LP. It was a fly by night operation and we weren’t set up to do a good job. Secondly, we weren’t signing artists so one-off singles were fine at the time. I do have a love for the classic pop single. What an A-side is and what a B-side is. I love old Cure and Beatles B-Sides that are exclusive to their releases, weird instros and sometimes goofy songs. It’s a lost art.
Do you want to evolve into an album focussed imprint?
We already are and have been, probably since Wild Nothing ‘Gemini’ and Beach Fossils ‘s/t’ took off. We realize we have the capacity to sell as many if not more LP’s/CD/Digital Albums than any other big indie, and we’ve continued to do that since. We don’t do one off singles at all anymore. All of our 7″s are in promotion of an upcoming LP release from a signed act or a tour support kind of thing. We typically do two 7″s prior to any LP, but we’re an LP label, 100%.
Some bands have gained exposure and then left the label, do you find that frustrating?
Which ones? We have yet to lose an act whose LP I’ve heard and wanted to do. There were some early bands where we did their 7″s and I liked their LP’s but passed on them. The Beets signed to Hardly Art recently and they probably belong on that roster more than ours, musically, so that was an amicable divorce. All of our current artists are signed to multi-LP deals. Dum Dum Girls was a situation where we were on our 4th or 5th release when Sub Pop approached them, we obviously weren’t set up to compete with them at the time.
How did you initially find groups to release on Captured Tracks?
Tarot cards, incense, spirit crystals and I try to summon Aleister Crowley. AKA: We see them play live or we hear a demo we like and ask to hear more.
Is there a release you can point to that you feel demonstrates the label finding its own identity?
I imagine since you gained exposure bands now come to you, is wading through demos time consuming?
We get hours and hours a week. But I like to go through it.
The label has a broad pull but is stereotyped as an indie pop hub, does that reputation get frustrating?
Frustrating isn’t the right word. I can’t help what people say. Music journalists are pigeonholing morons, but that’s nothing new, so why fight it? If they want to call Soft Metals, The Jameses and Jesse Ruins indie pop and look stupid for doing so, be my guest.
Do you have a favourite release from 2011?
No. I don’t like doing year-end lists or favorites because it’s shortsighted. I probably haven’t heard what my favorite release from 2011 yet is because no one is writing about it and it’s hard to find. I hate the end of the year because it’s just regurgitated lists of the same stuff from everyone. That being said, I did like The New Lines and Bronze records that came out this year that got no press whatsoever and I liked the new Future Islands and Real Estate which got a lot of press.
Why take the decision to launch the Shoegaze Archives?
Because every other era of music has been so heavily reissued over the last few years and no one else really was. Plus there was a really widespread and international scene that constantly gets overlooked in favor of the bigger UK bands. Don’t get me wrong, I love MBV, Pale Saints and Slowdive but there’s a whole lot more to it than that.
Are there any acts you would love to re-issue but can’t gain the licensing etc for?
It’s very difficult to gain licensing from the Beggar’s labels. Despite having a lot of friends there, their policy makes it really difficult to reissue their material so that you can gain a modest profit while keeping the price down.
Has licensing in general proved to be problematic?
No, most of what we reissue has been artist-controlled. Cleaners From Venus, Should, deardarkhead, Half String are all artist controlled. Medicine was a bit more difficult but once I found the rightsholder it was easy.
What was your first confrontation with the shoegaze sound?
Probably listening to “Isn’t Anything” around the time it came out? Unless you consider JAMC or Cocteau Twins, who I got into fairly young. I grew up near Philadelphia and wound up seeing a lot of the UK bands live when they came through, like Ride and Lush.
What are your ambitions for 2012?
CRUSH MY ENEMIES.
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Catch up with Captured Tracks at their official website.
Another year passes us, and trends have come and gone. We’ve seen the sublime and the ridiculous and of course people have loved both. The Clash Fashion team put our heads together and came up with our list of 2011 favourites. There’s looking good, and then there’s looking GREAT.
Mount Kimbie – ‘Carbonated’
“Director Tyrone Lebon is one of London’s most talented photographers and film makers. He has worked with Mount Kimbie for a while now and this video feels like a real collaboration, with the music and imagery perfectly holding hands as a cute couple.”
Is Tropical ‘The Greeks’
“I love the play on kids play fighting – the cartoon CGI makes it humorous but also quite disturbing – right up my street.”
Lady Gaga ‘Born This Way’
“A heaving production, our favourite image from Gaga’s collaboration with Nick Knight sees the Lady herself with skeleton facepaint and baby pink hair, blowing bubble gum all the while suited and booted; fabulous.”
Lana Del Ray – Video Games
“Very in tune with our style: lo-fi pop culture luxe, old Vegas meets ’90s VHS grunge skate culture. Slow, sexy, aspirational, like The Virgin Suicide’s Lisbon sisters grew up.”
“I love Rihanna and I love the styling by Mel Ottenberg – she can do no wrong in my book!’
“With just a handful of dates testing the waters for the upcoming ‘Given To The Wild’ album release, the band’s London show made us feel sixteen all over again.”
“Looking resplendent in a tour wardrobe designed by London-based Dutch designer Michael Van Der Ham, Björk also thrilled with a set performed completely by homemade instruments!”
‘Tha Carter IV’ “It took me back to the classic Nas album cover for ‘Illmatic’. I think we all love a small child covered in tattoos too!”
S.C.U.M. ‘Again Into Eyes’
“I’m quite biased as I styled the images (as seen in Clash Issue 63) but I think it’s something quite different to a lot of the stuff out there at the moment.”
Summer Camp ‘Welcome To Condale’
“If you can write about why an album cover is great, while wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with said artwork, you’ve answered your own question; bright colours, retro feel and ultimately a little bit tacky.”
Calvin Klein A/W11
“Calvin’s mens show in January was a delight. I loved the classic-ness of it all: thick crew neck jumpers, tailored trousers, and the nicest puffa-macs. The references all pointed to the American hero, the college football star, the US soldier off-duty. The casting was great and the buzz cuts they all had were minimal genius.”
Givenchy Fall 2011: Mens/Womens
“I WANT EVERYTHING! I WANT EVERYTHING!!! The collection was so good I bought a shirt that cost more than my month’s rent.”
TopShop Unique A/W11
“A grown-up collection of blouses and faux fur was turned on its head and made playful with the abundance of ear-like buns and cute as a button painted noses.”
George Condo x Kanye West for M/M Paris
“I wasn’t really a fan of George Condo’s work until I saw the images painted for Kanye West. Kanye’s obviously a fashion fiend: this collab came shortly after Condo collaborated with American designer Adam Kimmel on his A/W11 collection.”
Richard Nicoll for Fred Perry (Laurel Wreath Collection)
“Screaming with Sixties references, Australian designer Richard Nicoll’s A/W11 collection for the sports label successfully married nostalgia and modernity, with lashings of PVC and soft knits.”
Versace with H&M
“People don’t queue up the night before a shop opens for nothing. With pushing and shoving, the crowds swallowed up all in their sight, while an on-camera bitch slap for one customer over a bomber jacket was exactly the madness Versace would crave on every daily store opening!”
“She looks amazing every time I see her on stage, whether at X Factor in giant shoulder pads or at an awards ceremony in Givenchy Haute Couture.”
“April saw her cameo in the Beastie Boys’ revisited ‘Make Some Noise/Fight For Your Right’ video, which just about sums up how cool Sevigny is. And that goes for her dress sense too.”
“His ghetto pigtails are the perfect inspiration for a long-haired white boy”
“As seen on Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry and Rihanna (in the ‘Who’s That Chick’ video) – wigs, pom-poms and frills: Hatsune Miku’s effect trickles into the mainstream.”
Dip Dye Hair
“There will be those that think you’ve let your roots get low, but for the most part dipping your locks in a pot of colour is the simplest, cheapest and most effective way to tell the world you rock.”
Cars And Motors
“A big trend running through the A/W11 mags and into S/S12 shows (Prada women’s SS/12 hammered it home ‘Greased Lightning’ stylee) was machines, engines, fast cars and speedy roadsters.”
“My favourites were German dude Robin Ahrens (Ford) and Australian beauty Julia Nobis (Premier). The best newcomers for me were Jesse Shannon and Josefien Rodermans, who both walked exclusively for Calvin Klein in the S/S12 shows in New York.”
“Jonathan Marquez is the stunning male model in the biggest campaigns at the moment -Hispanic and Filipino is a damn good mix! He also appeared in Clash 66 wearing a Michael Jackson T-shirt shot by artist Matthew Stone. Also, Joan Smalls: she’s Dominican, stunning and everywhere!”
“Lara Stone’s finest moments this year may have been playing wifey during her husband’s charity swim and fronting one of Vogue’s royal wedding special covers, but Stone remains simply divine.”
“The faces that have cleaned up this year have been Ros Georgiou, Aline Weber, Lara Mullen, Marte Mei Van Haaster, Iselin Steiro.”
Agata Belcen (Fashion Editor, AnOther Magazine)
For more fashion opinions, arguments, comments and conversation, follow @clash_fashion on Twitter.
Clash’s in-house music boffin is Alex Hills, a composer and lecturer in the department of academic studies at London’s Royal Academy of Music. Here, he blindly reviews the compositional merits of four songs.
1. The Clash ‘White Riot’
I like the police siren at the beginning. This couldn’t be much simpler in terms of verses and choruses, but there is just enough variety – the little instrumental middle-eight, which isn’t really a guitar solo, but it makes you think it might be. It stops very quickly, leaving you wanting more, which is great. The school bell at the end is interesting too, a clever juxtaposition with the police siren, and there might be a rather subtle political critique of rioters there.
2. Bob Marley ‘Burnin’ And Lootin’”
It is funny to hear this incredibly loose, lazy reggae beat after the manic four-on-the-floor energy of the first song. There is again something ironic about someone singing so beautifully and calmly about police brutality and “burning and looting tonight”. The song does almost nothing: it barely even has the energy to change chord, but what it does do is really poignant, and genuinely political.
3. Sonic Youth ‘Teenage Riot’
This is very slow moving indeed, and it is a bit hard to work out where it is going. I like the wobbly mess of chorus and reverb at the beginning, though, and the sudden cut to a much rougher-edged sound – while keeping the chords the same – is very effective. Once that happens it takes most of five minutes to get to the next big change, when the vocals drop out, and I lose my concentration a bit. That said, the sound is amazing, and this would be superb live I’m sure.
4. Ice Cube ‘We Had To Tear This Mother Up’
The spoken-word introduction is a bit cheesy, but once things get going this makes sense. This is about the riots in LA after the Rodney King trial. The menace seems quite genuine – “surely someone knows the address of the jury”. The politics here are genuinely edgy, and these riots were motivated by something pretty real – but there is a note of gun worship, homophobia and rape threat here that I’m uncomfortable with. But then I am a privileged white English male.
These are all – obviously – songs about rioting. For better or worse, social depravation leads to really good pop music – far better than when everyone is well-fed and warm (see ‘St.Elmo’s Fire’ from last month!) – and that shows in these songs, which are all excellent. I find the contrast between the sadness, almost resignation, of the reggae and the outright rage of the rap particularly interesting – one seems to evoke empathy, the other fear. These are both powerful things for music to do, but I have a lot more sympathy for the former than the latter, so song two is my winner and the last my loser.
The Winner? Bob Marley – ‘Burnin’ And Lootin’’