Thursday, 28 October 2010

Hipsters Unite zine

So I (aided by the most excellent Charles Rawcliffe Esq.) made a zine called 'Hipsters Unite!'- it's going to be stocked in Piccadilly Records and on the Superstar Destroyer Big Cartel, and features interviews with Daniel Land, Tripwires and Team Ghost, as well as a couple of album reviews, articles and a kind of 'introducing' feature. As it turns out, printing costs weren't as much as expected, so the next issue will be bigger and better. Think of this one as the 'beta', if you like, but do pick up a copy!

If you live in Manchester, head to Piccadilly Records from this Saturday, or....
The SSD Big Cartel is here:

Monday, 25 October 2010


This is just plain lovely- SVIIB's drummer proposing onstage...

Steven Wilson Q&A


After the premiere for tour film slash road movie Insurgentes, Steven Wilson stuck around to answer questions from the audience. I was there, so, for the curious, here’s a snippet of the more interesting bits (I should add, I’ve paraphrased the questions, as some were quite rambling):

Audience Member: Do you have plans to tour the album?

Steven Wilson: The simple answer is yes. The original plan was to do some shows to promote it, but I always said that after the second record there’d be enough of a repertoire, and that record is already well underway…

AM: In the film you touched upon the pros and cons of the internet age- you’ve been active on Facebook and Twitter in the last few days to promote this, so has your view changed since the film, or is this just the new model for promotion?

SW: Most people start making music to share it with as many people as possible… [which makes] these things necessary. To a certain extent I’ve embraced these things over the last few months… [but] the internet removes the enigma around an artist… reality is not what pop and rock music is about, at least not the great bands… most people wouldn’t recognise Radiohead or Tool if they walked down the street, but you could find out about their personal lives… it’s difficult, for example, to think of Ozzy Osbourne as anything other than a cuddly buffoon.

He then went on to warn of the danger of listening to press in the internet age, saying that a negative review on a blog could just be “some kid listening to Metallica in a basement in Colorado”.

AM: How did the movie come about?

SW: It grew fairly organically, as I’ve worked with Laisse [Hoile, the director] since about 2002… he wanted to make a film, and if you think the music industry is hard to break into then the film industry is a hundred times harder… I decided to take a road trip to record the album, and asked Laisse to come along.

When asked about his reverence for what he calls the ‘Golden Age’ of recorded music, he responds “I think I would have sold more records in the 70s” with a smile, before continuing,  “that was the last generation where it was possible to make music in the old-fashioned way.” He admits, “I wouldn’t have the faintest clue about how to get started in today’s industry”.

AM: Why would you do this project right now when it might be seen as self-aggrandizing?

SW: It just seemed like a whole lot of fun using the medium of film…. The thing is I talk a lot about music, and I’m very passionate about it, which I think can make me seem arrogant… I’m not rich, I’m not a celebrity- I’ve just carved out my own little corner… there aren’t any films about musicians working at my level- working musicians.

AM: How do you see your future career? I heard that you want to move to engineering and mixing as your prime focus.

SW: I don’t suppose I’ll ever be able to stop making records. The idea of the album is unfashionable now, what with iPods and shuffle, but it’s what I like doing… maybe I’ll stop touring though.

AM: Why is Mexico featured so prominently in the film?

SW: It’s just darker. I’ve never really connected with the US, but I really connected with Mexico… the island of the dolls- that place is fucked up. If it’d have been in the UK or Us, every death metal band would have filmed a video there, but I think we were the first to film it… obviously, Lasse’s camera loved it.

AM: There are artists or musicians trying anything to get people to buy a physical album (for example Katy Perry scenting her records); what techniques would you use to stop downloading?

SW: How low would I go? [laughs] You can’t stop people. What I do is try and raise the debate. The problem is the youngest generation who’ve only heard MP3s… they don’t even know what a CD sounds like.

Steven is quick to point out the current vinyl resurgence though; “with human beings, every action has an opposite reaction”, before extolling the virtues of surround sound:

“MP3s are a victory of convenience over quality. Surround sound is very inconvenient, but it makes the sound three-dimensional; of course you have to have the equipment and sit in the right place, and not all rooms can accommodate it, but…”

He also accepted that most would not be bothered with the new technology, let alone the existing physical medium; “I once had a girlfriend who put the speakers for her stereo on top of each other because it ‘looked better’.”

AM: Do you see CDs or Vinyl as better placed to survive in today’s market? Surely, as an engineer you must concede that CDs are a higher quality delivery medium? Or does the ‘organic’ ascetic of the LP trump the CD?

SW: It has everything to do with mastering. There’s good mastering and there’s bad mastering. A lot of people think they know about it, but… purely from an ascetic point of view, you can’t beat a beautiful vinyl. CDs are halfway between art and technology… with the more recent Porcupine Tree releases, we’ve been focusing on packaging, which seems to work in terms of CD sales.

That last one was mine. I should have seen the ‘mastering’ point and pre-empted it, if I wanted to get a straight answer. Better still, I should have asked ‘what do you love about music?’ but then again if I had we’d probably still be there.

Sleepy Sun- Keeping Santa Cruz Weird...

This was published in the last print issue of HV, but I thought I'd put it up here...

On the eve of their set at the Edinburgh Fringe, HV managed to get Sleepy Sun’s frontman, Bret Constantino to take a break from his busy day and have a chat. An hour was then pleasantly passed talking about everything from downloading, “I wrote papers about it in college,” to life lessons, “it’s basically about prevailing over what you’re faced with,” to rather controversial vinyl fanboyisms- “CDs will soon be obsolete- they don’t last anyway! Ten or fifteen listens and they’re scratched.” Sleepy Sun, touring their recent ATP-released Fever record, are going from strength to strength, playing a string of European festival dates before returning to the States to play at ATP in New York. 

“We’re having the time of our lives!” is the answer I get to my first question, which is encouraging in a role where you often hear mainly doom-and-gloom from emerging artists; apparently, life on the road suits this band- “every job or lifestyle has highs or lows- we face the same problems as everybody else, just on a different canvas… we don’t have a ‘home’ to go back to, but it’s quite liberating to have no anchor.” Bret elaborated, “you get to see a lot of the world, and it’s a good experience. Hopefully it’ll be the fuel for the new record…”

Pre-empting my next question, he was eager to talk of their plans for the follow-up to Fever- “we’re pretty much touring ‘til the end of the year… but we’re already marking off time for it.” A well-earned rest then? “we do our fair share of partying. There are certain legs of the tour where we are more exhausted than others.” I asked whether that been the best part of the tour, and he explained that it was different for different members of the band, but for him, “meeting people is one of the best things about touring” and reflected that “being in comfortable and uncomfortable situations builds character.”

Sleepy Sun’s sound spawns instant associations as well as questions; what influenced them more- their environment, or bands like The Grateful Dead and guitar players like Hendrix and Santana? Turns out that it’s a mixture, as these things often are; Bret was more than happy to tell me about how his early life and the band’s formation had influenced their music: “I grew up in a very small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada- rural environments are a huge influence on me obviously, recreating that peaceful and serene… vibration, I guess.” Unlike the other band members though, music wasn’t his focus until rather more recently- “I’ve always been into music, but I was a late bloomer. I didn’t start playing until college in Santa Cruz when I met the band. The environment there is special” Special? “well, there’s a famous bumper sticker that says ‘Keep Santa Cruz Weird’- it’s that kind of atmosphere.”

Lyrically, Fever lurches between the oblique and enigmatic to the simple refrains of a song like ‘Oh Boy’- so was there a consistent theme to the lyrics on the album? “Spirituality is a common theme. The lyrics are directly inspired by the melodies- I try and create some rhetoric out of them, describe what I’m hearing or what the music makes me feel. There’s ambiguity; the listener can derive different meanings. Spiritual experience, relationships, fear and the feeling of being overwhelmed, states of consciousness, love and things larger than I can possibly imagine; these will always find their way into songs.”

Bret talked of their slightly unconventional approach to the songwriting, where the instrumentals weren’t all planned out in advance, and left to await the vocals- indeed, from the construction of various tracks on the album, it’s clear that each cut’s genesis was different to that of the last. “They take form in a lot of different ways, from a concept or from a guitar riff or a drum rhythm pattern, and then we feed off each other; we try not to define roles. The drummer can pick up a guitar or vice versa. [That way] everyone’s got their own essence in different parts… that’s where we get the dynamic.

This seems obvious when you look at the desert-at-night quasi-prog of ‘Desert God’; with its fluid transitions and repeats upon themes and motifs, the song develops in a conspicuously natural, organic fashion. “Oh yeah, that song took different forms- it kept evolving and didn’t take definite shape until the day we recorded it.” Was I right there in suggesting an element of progressive rock to the band’s sound, I wondered? Lavishing praise on Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon opus, Bret said of ‘Money’- “I dig singles… but I’m attracted to the concept of having an overall theme or a sense of continuity- telling a story.” Did this affect individual songs on the album at all? “Yeah, each song should be a journey where the listener experiences transformation.”

Though Sleepy Sun has apparently only been a serious band for “two or three years”, they have already had some clear career highs and Bret obliged with a couple of stories. “When we played Primavera was the first. It was a beautiful setting, and we got to see Neil Young and Sonic Youth later… everyone was smiling and having a great time. We also performed with a children’s choir at SXSW this year- there was just an ecstatic sense of joy in performing.”

Bret isn’t sitting on the fence over downloading; Sleepy Sun gave away their debut, Embrace, free “for about a year” before ATP picked it up. He explained, “we just wanted people to hear it and react to it… that ended up working really well for us.” When it comes to downloading others’ music, he’s no less candid- “I download music, but if I really like it, I’ll go out and buy it.” He added that he couldn’t afford to buy all the albums “his ears demanded”, but shrugged “If I had the money, I’d pump lots of it into the industry by buying records, but it’s better to go to a show and buy a t-shirt or a poster anyway.”

He’s similarly black and white about what makes a great band- “mak[ing] a connection with the audience… you have to try and reach them in some way.” Winning them over in the first place is important, Bret says, because if they aren’t receptive then you can’t connect at all; but how do you do that? “The fact that we believe in our music can be very convincing. People can tell right off the bat if it’s a genuine expression, real or fabricated. We just try and conjure positive energy and entertain.” So, clearly the band have learned their Stagecraft 101 well, but I had to ask- is there any life or career advice he would give to his younger self that he’s learned along the way? “Uhm, life is much simple than sometimes it’s made out to be… sometimes you need to breathe and forget the extraneous distractions.”

With that, we were out of time. Time for the Closing Question: what does Bret love about music?

“Wow, ok. Let me think a sec… I love that it can be anything- everyone hears everything differently. Nothing is the same from person to person. Listening to music with people is fascinating- you can learn a lot about a person that way.”

The final word- how should I convince my friends to listen to his band?

“We’re nice people!”

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

ITC in Quotes

Ollie Russian: 
- "bloggers would have been rock critics in another era"
- "mentality of exhaustion" in modern industry
- "blogs are the new John Peel or Lamacq"
- "a PR can sit there all day and send you a hundred tracks, but if you don't like it, you won't post it"
- "the way a PR wins over a young blogger is with guestlist or a free t-shirt"

Sean Adams:
- "It's only the most agreeable things that rise to the top"
- "transatlantic lust" of US Blogs re: British bands... 

Jay Taylor:
- [something falls from ceiling] "who threw that?"
- [of the panel] "does anyone think we look like a ZZ top tribute band?"

Guy Garvey:
- [of pay to play] "I think it's so out of order, so cruel. It's pretying on the hopes and aspirations of young people."

Chris Long:
- "I'm going to ask Guy whether he'd pay to play." [Guy Garvey:] "Right now?"

I won't do Nick Mason or Rob Dickins quotes, as they've already been extensively discussed. I'd recommend the CMU's coverage of the latter, and well, pretty much fucking everybody's coverage of the former.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

In The City roundup...

Ok, so I've three days of seminar work to catch up on in the two days available, a radio show to plan, a zine to cost out, reviews to write, an album to record, a podcast to do and a gig to go to, so you'll excuse the lack of posts as in-depth as my Day One roundup. Hopefully when I have time, I'll post all of my tweet-reviews of the ITC Live, and get some of my top quotes from the panels (Nick Mason and the founders of both and Mfow were inspirational...).

Thursday, 14 October 2010

ITC Day One

Alright, I'm reviewing for High Voltage, so I won't bang on about the live stuff here (why write the same thing twice?); instead, I'm going to write a short thought on each panel, do my day in quotes, and reviews of the evening's music from my Twitter feed. (Oh, look how down with the 'kids' he is....)

Quotes of the day (sorry if I misattribute any, I'm short sighted): 

Musician's Union: Pay to play? Ok
Chris Long: "I'm going to ask Guy [Garvey] whether he'd pay to play."
Guy Garvey: "Right now?"

Jay Taylor: "Except for Helienne [Lindvall], don't you think this panel looks like a ZZ Top covers band?"

To be honest, this panel kind of missed the point to my mind, and got bogged down in a lot of technicalities, particularly the issue of tour support. Somebody (I think Horace Trubridge) argued that since many bands have to pay for a tour support slot, a local band under a pay to play deal with a few friends might make more on the night. 

The thing with this of course is that pay to play usually doesn't offer good tour support slots, and more often you're playing to a room of quite unduly tribal fans of four bands of completely different genres. More than that, to give a local example, the costs are quite huge to the band- to play Academy Unsigned at Club Academy or Academy 3, a band has to front £250. That is fucking obscene, and everybody knows that gig will not get you anywhere. 

I was surprised to hear Jay mention a semi- pay to play deal at Ruby Lounge (required ticket sales, without fronting cash), for I don't remember any pressure when I played there a couple of years back. Anyway, the panel was made by MM's Cath Aubergine getting up and finally saying what everybody was thinking: pay to play is a bloody outrage and you're safer in the hands of decent independent promoters (here she singled out Dan and Hannah from Pull Yourself Together). Right on!

Afterwards, I ended up having an interesting conversation with Tom Hingley (Inspiral Carpets) about the music business, where I'm pretty sure I recieved a Marxist Interpretation... so maybe that history degree is useful after all?

Blogging the USA

A much less controversial panel, this one seemed more at pointing out the rather obvious- blogs are important, do pitch music to them, do treat them with some respect. There was appropriate mention of the fact that there's the much-maligned 'basement blogger', and then there is the blogger who strives towards something approaching Proper Music Journalism; of which categories, I presume to be in the latter. I think this panel was more aimed at the few remaining people (they must exist somewhere in the industry) who are clueless about blogs.

Would have liked to stay for the Q&A, but had to run over to work at the Keynotes, so...

"Bloggers would have been rock critics in another era" - Ryan Schreiber

"blogs are modern fanzines" - Ollie Russian

"it's only the most agreeable things that rise to the top" - Sean Adams goes on the offensive after arriving late...

"a free t-shirt or guestlist is how the PR gets a hold of the young blogger" - Ollie Russian

Right, so after that was a drinks reception and then the excellent Upside Down: The Creation Records Story film. Afterwards I caught Mark Gardener for just long enough to say "Drive Blind is one of my favourite songs", and get a sideways compliment about people my age still listening to that stuff. 

Whilst working the door, I overheard somebody say "no students know what they are talking about". Ok, so I am oft-quoted as saying "students are useless", but let's just remember that those of us who do know what we are talking about will save what's left of the industry, thank you very much.

Tweet Reviews

On my way to The Steals, a bunch of chavs tried to get us to give them our sandwiches. When that failed, they tried to mug us. We told them to fuck off. It was weird.

The Steals: "The Steals are like first album Verve meets the Cocteau Twins. This is a Good Thing."

Team Ghost: "Nat, you never told me that Team Ghost would be FUCKIN RAD live!"

Still Corners: "Still Corners bashing out motorik beats... Cool, but not as intense as The Secret Machines."

The highlight of the day though was at the bus stop, where some dude told me he'd seen an ace band opening for Maps & Atlases earlier that week, and for the first time I was able to casually go, "oh really? It's funny, because they are on my label..." (smarm added for emphasis)

God I am a douche.

Twitter: @hipsters_unite

Tuesday, 12 October 2010


So it's been a fun weekend of picture-making and photo taking. Anybody who's interested in the label I started with Anderson, Jake and Tom would probably do well to mosey on over to to check out the press shots of Dune taken over the weekend.

It's In The City tomorrow and I'm really looking forward to seeing the Creation Records film. This weekend: BMS photoshoot. Phew...

Monday, 11 October 2010

My In The City Itinerary

Right, so I'm volunteering at ITC this week, and after the panels are over running out to review for High Voltage. I've got a rough idea of what I want to see, and I've detailed it below, along with a short reason for seeing each band in parentheses. I've not listed venues or times, because c'mon people, if you're at one of these things you must have an event planner, right?

Advances in Mathematics (because post-rock is awesome, and these guys post-rock better than most rock),
Patterns (because electro-indie is so fucking boring, and these guys are well ahead of the indie rock curve),
Mazes (because 'Bowie Knives' is one of the best songs I've heard all year),
The Steals (because every band that Daniel Land touches turns to gold),
Team Ghost (if you don't know why Team Ghost are awesome, then try leaving the house occasionally),
Still Corners (because 'Endless Summer' reminds me of 'Just Like Honey' by the Jesus and Mary Chain)

Brown Brogues (because they have a still from Moonraker on their Myspace),
For a Minor Reflection (because post-rock that's well produced and heavy as the Deftones has to be a winner),
Flood of Red (because I feel bad about panning their first album, and suspect I might have made a bad call),
Japanese Voyeurs (because all rock coming out of Leeds is shit hot right now),
Pulled Apart by Horses (because I want tinnitus on Friday morning),
From the Kites of San Quentin (because they may well be the best band in Manchester, and I've still not seen them live)

Easter (because any band I can't find info about on the internet piques my curiosity),
Mojo Fury (because they are heavy),
D/R/U/G/S (because by this point I will be exhausted and drunk and this will soundtrack it perfectly),
Yuck (because I love grunge),
Dutch Uncles (because I accidentally donated £125 to the band- thanks UMSU),
Kisses (because it's like dance meets shoegaze, and I'm not going to lie to you- I am a shoegazer)

Ok, so reading that back I do sound incredibly childish, but never mind. Very fucking excited. 
Peace and elbow grease

Saturday, 9 October 2010

The Dude Abides...

I want this on a t-shirt. (Yes I did make this myself...)

Friday, 8 October 2010


Rightio, so my review of Dan Land's excellent riverrun side project should be going up on HV soon, as well as a review of Casino Zone's new EP. I'm a bit busy with In The City and that stuff to have any real inspiration on here, so bear with me. In the meantime, you should check this out: and get on the Wave. 

There are 5000 free downloads of the track (or so I hear) available, and it's fucking awesome. Space rockin', hand clappin', heavy riffin' goodness. gotta love it. 

What else? Oh yeah, Dune, a band on our label (Superstar Destroyer Records) will be supporting Maps & Atlases at this HV show at Deaf: I'm going, and you should too. 

Think that's all. In the meantime, check out the SSD page here:


Monday, 4 October 2010

Casino Zone - Rabbi Claughton EP

So I got passed this EP a week or so ago when Casino Zone played at Fresher's Fair. I think it's fucking awesome, really riding that vibe of early Crocketts aggression and shit. It's damn cool, and I'll review it in either HV or on here in the next couple of days but in the meantime listen for yourselves: