The Stranglers Interview

The Stranglers Interview

I recently had the chance to sit down and talk to Baz Warne, guitarist and co-lead vocalist of legendary punk band The Stranglers, to chat about their upcoming UK tour and the possibility of some new music.

 

So you have a pretty big UK tour starting in March, are you looking forward to that?

Always, always do, yeah. It’s the first thing we do of the year now. We sort of hit on to the idea of touring in March about ten years ago, and we tour this time of the year every year now. You would think it would tend to get a bit old now, but it doesn’t. There is still a great buzz, people still come to the gigs, they still sell out, and we are down here, rehearsing, playing the songs we love, and it is exciting. We have over forty years’ worth of songs to pick through, which is always great fun, [I] love it.

Several dates on the tour are already sold out, with still 6 weeks to go before the tour actually starts, how does this make you feel as a band?

It’s amazing. We get the figures sent through to us, and when you see that it’s amazing. I mean it really is a privilege to get to do what we do, we consider it a privilege to still be able to make a living and be appreciated for what we do, even after all this time.

Is there anywhere you are looking forward to playing in particular?

Well I personally really like playing in Scotland. We usually start in Scotland, last year or the year before we finished the tour there, but I absolutely love playing Glasgow. There is something about it, it is a proper rock ‘n’ roll town. So many great albums and bands come from there, so I always look forward to it. I like to play Newcastle, being a Sunderland lad, my family come, my children and my mates and things, and I get to take the piss, what with football and everything, bit of Newcastle/Sunderland banter. To be honest I love playing them all, but you always have ones that have more significance to you as a person.

So 2017 is the 40th Anniversary of  both your debut album Rattus Norvegicus as well as second album No More Heroes, should fans expect to hear plenty from those albums on this tour?

Yeah, always. Not necessarily for nostalgic reasons, just that they are still fantastic songs. Those albums were recorded pretty much together, so [No More Heroes] was released only six months later. There are gems on both that we will be playing, as well as some stuff that we haven’t played in thirty-odd years. With as many song as we have you can never please everyone, but we try, and during the first three or four gigs we iron the wrinkles out, and you soon get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Because while something might work fine in rehearsals, once you get in front of 3000 mad Glaswegians, will it still work? So that is always interesting. I always have two mental folders, the please everyone, and the please your f****** self one. I mean some of that stuff is pretty obscure, which doesn’t mean it is good, but you want stuff that is both interesting to play, and please your audiences, without becoming too self-indulgent. Although that does happen sometimes. It’s a fine line, a balancing act.

 

With such a large back catalogue, are there ever any disagreements when it comes to the set list?

Not really, I mean if one person really, really wants to play a particular song we’ll take a look at it, but not all of us live in the UK now, so a lot of planning has to go into this, I mean we do what we do, we play together and then go our separate ways again. We keep in touch mainly via email, and those have been flying about since September, so by that process alone, we have it all pretty much agreed well in advance. Although there are a couple of times where you are like ‘God do we really have to play this one? Does everyone feel the same way I do?’ or ‘We haven’t played this one in years, shall we have a go?’ Its things like that which make the first two or three weeks of rehearsals so exciting really, its great fun.

Is there anything new we will be hearing on this tour?

Probably not to be honest, but we never say never. There are a lot of new ideas flying about. We used to road test songs on tour before we recorded them, and when we stay here down in the West Country we rent a cottage that has amps and guitars, so we can go back on an evening with a glass of wine and see what comes out, and in fact we have done that the past couple of nights, so whether or not any of it will be in good enough shape to play in March is another thing, but there should definitely be something new coming to light this year.

So a follow up to [2012 album] Giants is definitely on the cards?

Well we have no deadlines, no time constraints on us at the minute, such is the nature of the business, but I would say this band definitely has at least one last great album in it. At least one, you never know.

 

The Stranglers embark on their UK tour on the 7th of March, starting at the Engine Shed in Lincoln.

 

P Money ‘Live & Direct’ – Album Review

P Money ‘Live & Direct’ – Album Review

 

After being in the grime scene for almost a decade, and producing over 15 mixtapes, EPs and singles, P Money has finally released his first full length album, Live & Direct. With appearances from Boy Better Know members Wiley, JME and Solo 45, in addition to grime powerhouse Stormzy, this record has some big names featured, and yet P Money still manages to shine through, showcasing his abilities in both production and vocal performance.

On this record, P Money really shows his vocal prowess, experimenting with different forms of delivery, displaying a steely, driving style on Fake Fans and title track Gunfingers that is reminiscent of Wiley and Skepta, whereas tracks such as Conspiracy Don have a more relaxed flow, in a style similar to that employed by P Money’s contemporary KSI.

The piano led introduction of opening track Intro complements the brutally honest lyrics, which document P Money’s childhood and teenage years, causing the listener to have an instant emotional investment in this record, something that carries on throughout. The mixed, raw emotions he is quite clearly trying to convey are particularly poignant on The Credits and interlude Carter which features a short segment of a phone call with his infant daughter.

In contrast to this, tracks Gunfingers and Keepin’ it Real display aggressive masculinity and machismo, and P Money’s no nonsense lyrics, coupled with some glorious production by Skepta and himself respectively, make these the highlights of the album, with JME’s verse on Gunfingers being a real standout moment on the record. Third track Welcome to England is sheer South London fury, with featured artist Solo 45’s snarling delivery making this track sound like the trap-inspired soundtrack of a mass brawl.

Track Contagious has a more R&B influenced sound, perhaps due to the gentle, soothing vocals of Rubylee; with elements of dubstep also making their way in there. The drastic change in tone makes the track feel somewhat out of place, and feels like it was shoehorned in to the album to appeal to the less initiated, when all it really manages is to be another lacklustre piece of filler.

Similarly, transatlantic trap tune Don’t Holla at Me doesn’t quite convince, seeming a little juvenile at times in terms of lyrical content. However The Credits takes a more minimalistic, almost experimental approach with the beat, having the heated, passionate lyrics at the forefront, paying tribute to all the artists who helped him get to where he is today.

While several tracks are less than stellar, mostly due to having a bit much going on and therefore seeming a bit messy, P Money’s achingly honest autobiographical lyrics and varied production, combined with the clear passion of his vocals make for an intriguing listen. However it is the more direct (and safe) grime tracks on this album that really impress. Despite having some big names accompanying him on his first album, P Money shows he has something interesting enough to still be heard.

7/10

A Guide to the Venues of Huddersfield

A Guide to the Venues of Huddersfield

Unbeknownst to many a fresher, Huddersfield is actually home to several great little music venues, that often fly under the radar of many a music aficionado. As many of you will know, Huddersfield is ideally located fairly close to Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield, all great cities for live music, however you don’t always have to travel to get your gig fix. Here are some live music venues in Huddersfield that any fan of live music needs to check out.

Wood Street

Wood Street is a delightfully quirky little bar and craft beer shop situated on, you guessed it, Wood Street in the town centre. In addition to its astronomical collection of beer, Wood Street also plays host to numerous live acts of varying descriptions, from folk musicians to reggae artists, everyone is welcome at Wood Street. Certainly a good spot if you are wanting to discover new music, or have a taste for something a little more obscure. Make sure to check out the open mic night on a Thursday, you will not be disappointed.

Look out for: Boo Sutcliffe Band, Rattle & Thud: Battle of the Bands, Taj Abbott

 

Otso

A vibrant, interesting venue situated under the railway arches, Otso (Previously called Little Buddha Bar) is one to explore, with numerous events featured throughout the week. The genres of music you will find here are numerous, but with a large focus on drum & bass, dub and reggae as well as various other fantastic sounds for you to experience, you will never get bored at Otso. This is a great place to discover some fairly underground artists, as well as meet some great people in the incredibly welcoming and friendly atmosphere it provides.

Look out for: DJ Woody, Sawfinger, Philfee

 

Holmfirth Picturedrome

The biggest venue in the Huddersfield area with a capacity of 650, The Picturedrome still feels fairly intimate and welcoming, something which many people agree on, as it placed 2nd in NME’s Britain’s Best Small Venue competition back in 2014. It is a popular venue with some acts, with The Stranglers, Wilko Johnson and The Darkness playing with some frequency. As well as putting on some great acts, The Picturedrome also hosts film nights, and is one of the main venues for the Holmfirth Film Festival. Keep an eye on their events page, some of the acts are certainly worth the short bus ride out there.

Look out for: The Skids, Peter Hook & The Light, Skindred

 

Small Seeds

Formerly known as Bar 1:22, Small Seeds has been a staple of the local music scene for many years, showcasing a variety of acts, with everything from indie, funk and soul, right up to world brass and Balkan folk music. In addition to playing host to local bands, the venue has attracted artists from all over the globe, giving it a really inclusive, welcoming atmosphere, and showing Huddersfield a wider range of music than ever before. Small Seeds also hosts an acoustic club on a Tuesday night which is well worth a visit.

Look out for: Nu Popes, Dana Ali Band, Klonk!

 

The Parish

The Parish is a great little venue that has played host to some fantastic acts, such as While She Sleeps, Sonic Boom Six and Modern Baseball. Despite the relatively small size of The Venue (which is situated in an outbuilding that is actually called ‘The Venue’), it has booked many artists that could attract a crowd much bigger than the 200 person capacity of The Parish, but they come back for the same reasons we do: the guarantee of an intimate show with a great atmosphere. Watch out for acoustic nights featuring local musicians as well as jazz evenings and poetry slam events, all which prove very entertaining. The Parish also features many local bands who are often worth checking out: you never know, you may find your new favourite band.

Look out for: Counterparts/Expire, The Mouse Outfit, Krokodil

Marsden Jazz Festival – Review

Marsden Jazz Festival – Review

It is a cold yet clear Saturday afternoon in the relatively large, yet undeniably quaint village of Marsden. Nestled comfortably in the Colne Valley area of Huddersfield, this delightful community is usually filled with the standard hustle and bustle of a typical West Yorkshire village; but not today. Instead of the usual sights, a tractor gently ambling down the road and families taking in the beauty of rural life, rather we are met by the wondrous experience of three brass bands battling it out right on the main street, surrounded by a crowd of such diversity it is staggering, from small children clad in parkas and wellies, to elderly farmers in tweed jackets and flat caps, But that is Marsden Jazz Festival for you.

The festival was originally conceived by Mikron Theatre Company founder, Mike Lucas as a way to make use of the newly refurbished Mechanic’s Hall. Since then it has become a resounding success, today being a testament to that. Everywhere you look, there is a performance of some description, or a stall selling their wares, which today ranges from homemade jams and chutneys to records, right through to photo frames and blackboards crafted from repurposed wood.

After perusing the various stalls, the Greenhead College Big Band came within earshot. Having been drawn closer by the sound of some great swing classics, witnessing these talented youngsters blast through a set featuring such names as Duke Ellington and Nina Simone was incredibly fun and entertaining, and the amassed crowds seemed to think so too, with thunderous applause meeting the band at the end of every tune.

Following such timeless classics, it was time for something a little more off the wall, and Spilt Milk sounded just the thing. Supposedly a jazz trio with hip hop and drum & bass influences, we were instead met with smooth jazz, featuring some rather frantic bass playing. Having forced our way into the very packed Riverhead Tap, it was a little too much to be both uncomfortable and disappointed. However the mesmerising bossa nova and smooth jazz blend exhibited by the fabulous Lee Jones Duo more than made up for it, with Tim France holding down the low end while Lee Jones showed us what a true virtuoso he is.

Meandering through Marsden, the unmistakeable sound of gypsy jazz catches our attention, and after navigating the crowds to the Peel One tapas bar from which those elegant and complex rhythms were emanating, we were met with the incredible Samuel C Lees Gypsy Jazz Trio. While they had an amazing sound, the experience was somewhat tainted by the fact they remained entirely unseen, due to the sheer size of the audience rammed into this tiny tapas bar.

There is one band however, who today absolutely stole the show. And that was The Black Sheikhs. Bringing that great jazz swagger, the entire five piece seemed timelessly cool, with Lead vocalist Lord Acton dressed in a tuxedo, complete with tails and spats on his brogues and Clarinetist Diane Hammond adorned in a dress that wouldn’t have looked out of place in 1925. They captivate the audience with their jazz renditions of well-known pop and rock tunes, doing everything from Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’ to Motorhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’. A small group of children dance away to the former, before it turns into what can only be described as a mosh pit, before finally devolving into UFC under 6’s. Following a spot at Glastonbury earlier this eccentric troupe are certainly on the up.

All the captivating sights, sounds and smells of this wonderfully eclectic festival really shows how much a small village in the middle of West Yorkshire can achieve, by allowing such creativity to flow through this small, yet strong community, and inviting the rest of the world to join in.

Slam Dunk Festival – The Review

Slam Dunk Festival – The Review

As I queue up to collect my wristband outside Leeds Art Gallery on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I can barely contain my excitement. I am in one of my favourite cities in the north of England, well away from the mundane repetitiveness that comes with working on a weekend, about to see as many great bands as I possibly can. I stand in the line, going over my day plan for who I want to see, and where they are all playing.

As I head through into the festival, me and the group of friends I am with part ways. Three of them go off to see pop punk tinged alt-rockers Moose Blood, while the other member of our group goes off to see Bethan Leadley for some reason. I however, have a different plan. I start off towards Leeds Beckett SU, which is housing the Impericon Stage this year, and the first band of the day, is The One Hundred. In terms of genre, this band are so hard to pin down, mixing elements of rap, electronica, punk and metalcore to create an incredibly unique sound. As I make my way through to the stage, I notice that the room is much fuller than I had anticipated, with well over 400 people in attendance, far more than you would expect for a relatively small, unsigned band from London at 13.30 in the afternoon.

I first saw this band supporting Hacktivist (who we will talk about later) at the tiny venue that is Sheffield Corporation, and they are just as electrifying as they were then. They open with ‘Downfall’ and then go into fan favourite ‘Breed’, which gets the pits going and everybody jumping. Their set is only 7 songs long, but they put everything they have into it, with vocalist Jacob Field displaying his expert showmanship all while going through every vocal style imaginable (bar Mongolian throat singing, which he can probably do) without ever missing a beat.

7/10

I walk out of Leeds Beckett SU and head towards the Atlas Stage, hoping for more of the quality of performance I have just seen from The One Hundred, and I was not disappointed. By the time I get to the stage, I have missed the first two songs of The Word Alive’s set, however I was not missing out too much, as they launched into ‘Trapped’ off latest album Dark Matter. Telle Smith’s vocals have certainly improved in the last couple of years, and on record they really do not do themselves justice, because live they are INSANE. Smith broke his back and fractured several of his ribs in November last year, but as he leaps around on stage the thought doesn’t even cross my mind. The delivery of his clean vocals is quite astounding, as is his stage presence, which is absolutely riveting.

7.5/10

As the crowds disperse, I realise I have no bands planned for the next hour or so, and one of my group suggests we go and see Astroid Boys, a Welsh Rap Collective from Cardiff, who are playing on the Uprawr Stage, which is being held in an underground car park.You know that scene in Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift where that guy who isn’t Paul Walker or Vin Diesel (So you don’t really care, let’s be honest) drives down into that underground car park and everyone is dancing and revving their Supras and Evos? throw in a few hundred pissed up northerners, some MDMA and a lot of strobe lights and it was kinda like that. But without the cars. Astroid Boys start their set, their blend of grime and rap mixed with a bit of hardcore goes down a treat, one minute you are skanking with the best of them, next you are throwing down in the pits. Tracks ‘Dusted’ and ‘Minging’ are played as a bit of fan service after much chanting and clapping, and they go down a treat, followed by another fan favourite ‘Taylor Swift’. Astroid Boys entire shtick is chaotic music with very few boundaries, and that is exactly how the entire experience can be described. And it was one of the most entertaining performances I have ever witnessed, be sure to check them out if you can.

7.5/10

After a slight break from it all, we headed over to see what would turn out to be the best performance of the festival: Northlane. Some bands are best suited to record, others to playing live. And then there are some you think would be better on record, then you see them live and they hit you like a juggernaut and completely melt your face and destroy your eardrums. Northlane are one of those bands. I entered the stage with some trepidation, as I had preferred their work while former vocalist Adrian Fitipaldes was a member, and while new vocalist Marcus Bridge had the voice of an angel, His unclean vocals were no match for the raw power possessed by Fitipaldes, at least on record. As I settled in for an enjoyable yet fairly tame performance, I was immediately (and pleasantly) proven wrong. They open with my favourite track, ‘Dispossession’ and I am immediately on board. Marcus Bridge’ unclean vocals have come on leaps and bounds, and I instantly forget all preconceptions and enjoy the ride. Their live performance injects new life into tracks ‘Rot’ and ‘Obelisk’ while ‘Quantum Flux’ has all the crushing power it does on record. Certainly the best band of the day, and I will not hesitate to go see them again.

9/10

Next on our list is Hacktivist, a band I hold near and dear. Their curious blend of djent and grime gets everyone moving as they open with ‘Hate’ before going into the slightly more melodic ‘False Idols’. Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari makes an appearance on ‘Taken’ while guitarist Timfy James’ former bandmate Jamie Graham takes to the stage during ‘Deceive and Defy’, which certainly gives the set some colour, however over all I am slightly disappointed. While Hacktivist are a great band, this time around, there seems to be something missing. Jay Hurley is not in time on occasion and Timfy seems to forget that Rou doesn’t come into the song until the second chorus. This really took me out of the performance, and these small yet noticeable mistakes slightly tarnish it. A good set, but could be a lot better.

6.5/10

We stick around for Cancer Bats, who deliver their own brand of hardcore punk in spectacular fashion, with ‘Hail Destroyer’ and their strange mashup of ‘Sabotage’ by the Beastie Boys and ‘Children of the Grave’ by Black Sabbath being the highlights of the set. Liam Cormier is his usual crazy self and jumps and leaps around like a man possessed, and his banterous remarks between songs are always sure to induce at least a mild chuckle. His impression of a Yorkshire accent was both hilarious and dreadful, and it all added to the show. Despite being a bit older than most of the bands we see, they prove they are just as young and crazy at heart, if not more so.

8/10

We make our final pilgrimage back to the Atlas Stage to see the headliners: Of Mice & Men. This is the band we had been waiting for. They open with ‘Bones Exposed’ which no doubt will cause many sore necks in the morning, as will next track ‘Feels Like Forever’. Sadly, the band are plagued by sound issues, the speakers cutting out constantly. But they power through it, and when the issues are eventually resolved, they absolutely tear the place down. Old fan faves ‘Second & Sebring’ and ‘The Depths’ go down as you would imagine, with thunderous applause and the sound of several thousand people singing along. Vocalist Austin Carlisle goes from intimidating presence to smiley singer in seconds, showing that as well as a fantastic vocalist and lyricist, he has the showmanship to go with it.

8/10

Lonely the Brave – Rattlesnakes Single Review

Lonely the Brave – Rattlesnakes Single Review

Cambridge stadium rockers Lonely the Brave have just dropped their new single Rattlesnakes, off forthcoming album Things Will Matter. This is their sophomore album following their monumental debut The Day’s War, one of my favourite albums of 2014. And if this single is anything to go by, Things Will Matter will be just as good.

The song starts off with a simple yet catchy guitar riff, followed by David Jakes haunting vocals. His peculiar voice is incredibly distinctive and makes them stand out from the numerous stadium-esque alternative Rock bands that seem to be all around us. There is almost certainly an Eddie Vedder influence on his style, an amazing vocalist in his own right.

The vocals seem quite quiet in the mix, although this may be intentional as during live shows Jakes is at the back near the drummer, as he has reservations about being a typical ‘frontman’. This could have influenced how the track was mixed, which although not displeasing is certainly unusual in most circumstances (unless you are in a Lo Fi band).

The riff at the end of each chorus and in the bridge has a very Biffy Clyro vibe, which is unsurprising as they are essentially their southern counterparts in many ways. Both bands being influenced by genres such as Math Rock and Grunge while putting a more radio friendly spin on it. The track builds up to a powerful crescendo, before fading out, leaving you wanting more. It clocks in at a short and sweet 3 mins 28 secs, a bit shorter than most tracks on their debut, but no worse off for it.

With that catchy riff and a soaring voice such as the one David Jakes is in possession of, you can not go too far wrong when belting out catchy radio friendly tracks such as this. The simplicity and honesty of this band, coupled with their ability to write a great hook are what make this band one to watch in the future.

7.5/10

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dark Neccesities Single Review

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dark Neccesities Single Review

As soon as I heard there was a new RHCP single out, I am pretty sure I let out a squeal of delight. I was introduced to Red Hot Chili Peppers at a young age and have loved them ever since. When Stadium Arcadium came out I was hooked, when I found out I’m With You was coming out, I pre-ordered it straight away. Well, I doubt that will be happening with new album Getaway, if their new single is anything to go off.

The track starts out with this melancholy bass line that sounds promising, not in the slightest reminiscent of that sweet funk we have come to expect from Flea, but it had me interested: were we returning to some of the slightly darker themes of Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik? Was this a resurgence of that stripped down back to basics sound of Californication? Or was it something new?  some quiet guitar triplets come in, all good so far, then the piano started. When it comes to RHCP, not historically great. They have always seemed to work best as one guitarist, one drummer, Anthony Kiedis beautiful vocals and the almighty Flea.

Then the piano fades and Flea shows us that his funk roots are still there with a catchy bass line that gets you back into the swing of things, only to have it all come crashing down with more piano and now some strings as well. Anthony Kiedis comes in with his beautiful lilting vocal, although even he does not live up to his potential on this track. Flea’s bass work on this is completely fine, but it is mostly drowned out by the additional instrumentation. Josh Klinghoffer’s guitar work is probably the best thing about this track, with the verse and chorus being very reminiscent of his predecessor John Frusciante’s style of minimalist riffing, and he churns out a half decent solo in the last minute of the track, but whatever it is he is playing in the bridge, it is plain annoying.

Overall I found this track fairly disappointing. The track seems crowded, with the strings and piano feeling out of place and unnecessary. Kiedis is a fantastic vocalist, but there just seems to be something lacking in this song, While I’m With You certainly had its flaws, his vocals were never called into question on that album. The arrangement seems very haphazard and lacks any of the great elements that set RHCP apart other than Flea. It honestly sounds like what The Script would come up with if you asked them to write a Red Hot Chili Peppers track. Hopefully the album will have something else that will pique my interest.

4.5/10