Interview: Necessary

Tony Wilson by Steffen Oftedal

This was how I discovered Necessary, via an interview at The Quietus: Necessary had given away their second album, Galgeberg/Gimle, for free, which was fortuitous for my ears, if not for their wallets. It was one of the best pieces of music I heard that year.

I’m not sure which words persuaded me to click on the link: “heavy breaks, turntablism, bass music, hauntological synth work, drum and bass, hip hop, chopped and screwed rap, industrial, choral and funk” … “combined in surprising, provocative and unsettling ways.” Maybe it was the occult chanting, the Persian singer, the Ligeti reference, grime, hip-hop, black metal and doom. Perhaps it was the Spanish civil war samples, the Chilean rapping, dub, goth, world music, or the “Post-Dictatorial Troll-Hop”.

I think it’s necessary for you just to hear it.

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Interview: Buke And Gase

Buke and Gase picture from Facebook

[I have two windows open: in one, my questions for Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez of Buke & Gase. In the other window, I have the Creation Kit, and I’m building a castle for Skyrim. I’m determined not to use fan-made resources, crafting purely from what shipped with the game. I tell myself it looks more authentic that way, but that’s untrue. It’s because by setting myself limits, blocked creatively into a corner, I have to think my way out. I have to snap those little lego-blocks together in ever more inventive ways, which pushes and stretches me. I can’t rely on things built by other people to let me coast along: either I imagine it, or it doesn’t exist.]

There’s no such thing as a buke. Arone Dyer invented it out of an old baritone ukelele and bits of whatever else they had lying around – I think it had bits of old car in it at some point – because they imagined it and wanted it to exist. Arone needed something lighter than a guitar, but I’m baffled by the ukelele: it’s just not something I associate with indie rock.

Aron: Actually there are a lot more ukeleles in indie rock than Gase’s. We don’t necessarily like ukeleles at all – we wanted to make a small experimental electric guitar and made one from parts of a ukelele. It is now a Buke.

The gass is a guitar-bass hybrid, similarly concocted by Aron Sanchez because he just didn’t want to be just another bass player. Hence, Buke and Gass – or Buke & Gase, as they call themselves for obvious reasons. Just the two of them, with just the two instruments plus their voices and whatever percussion they can strap to their feet. They make a hell of a racket for such a tiny band, but it’s a glorious noise. It’s indie rock, stretched and pushed until it makes something new. Descriptions are amusingly inept – they’re not “folk metal” or “chamber punk”, but I’ll give them “asymmetric congruencies of melodic discordance”. They pretty much sound like this.


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This Man Is F***ing Outrageous: A Martin Atkins Interview

martin atkins image from kickstarter

Written for Collapse Board

Martin Atkins is a man on a mission. He’s looking to break a world record, and he’s pulling out all the stops to do it. In just six days, his Kickstarter campaign has received 36% of its funding target. He’s unstoppable – and his mission is most unusual.

He’s trying to break the record for the most appearances of the word “f***” in a book.

Martin’s previous publication, Tour:Smart, was hailed as “the ultimate touring manual” by Mojo and “the Holy Grail” by Kraze. As the former drummer for NIN, Ministry and PiL as well as the founder of the band Pigface and label Invisible Records, he had little difficulty pulling together people to contribute to his guides for musicians. Henry Rollins, Chris Connelly and numerous “industry” types chipped into the first, and for his sequel, he asked … me. Continue reading

ORE interview with Bethesda’s Megan and Erik

The following article appeared in the January 2008 issue of the Oblivion’s Real Estate newsletter (a game modding site). Princess Stomper interviews Megan Sawyer and Erik J. Caponi from Bethesda.

Something’s very wrong here. Computer game designers, by all rights, ought to be socially inept nerds – the hellish spawn of Comic Book Guy and Napoleon Dynamite. They surely shouldn’t be like environment artist Megan “Ghostgirl” Sawyer – pretty in a cute, funky sort of way, with a penchant for cool toys and loud music. They certainly shouldn’t be like writer Erik “DoctorSpooky” Caponi – strikingly handsome, with “Vin Diesel’s haircut” and a rock band goatee. He has the highest quality-to-quantity ratio of almost any poster on the Official Forums. Oh yeah, and he makes quests. We’ll start with him.

Erik: I came on pretty late in Oblivion’s development. I got the chance to work on a few of the Settlement Quests as well as various late-stage writing and design tasks. I was one third of the design team for Knights of the Nine and was responsible for a few of the quests as well as the final battle against Umaril’s minions and the battle with his spirit in the sky over Cyrodiil. On Shivering Isles, I was responsible for Retaking The Fringe and Symbols of Office as well as a lot of freeform design. I was also the designer on a couple of the downloadable content packs. Primarily what I do around here is known as “Freeform Gameplay”. I started with it on Shivering Isles and it’s now my full time role on Fallout. What it means is that I’m responsible for gameplay content that isn’t related to quests. This can take the form of incidental dialog, NPC behavior, scripted scenes, town dialog, world encounters, lore, conversation systems, as well as any one of a million different things that might not be tied directly to a particular quest.  Continue reading

ORE interview with Bethesda’s Gstaff

Matt at Arcane University

Matt at Arcane University


The following article appeared in the November 2007 issue of the Oblivion’s Real Estate newsletter (a game modding site). It was my first interview of any kind – and my first piece of journalistic writing – since 2001, and long before I was invited to moderate Beth’s forum. The questions were compiled from responses in an open forum thread, and there were many ‘hug’ requests in the thread which saw their way into the final interview.

It was all going horribly wrong for Bethesda. After effortlessly acquiring the “love brand” status other companies spend millions trying to manufacture, they’d grown too quickly to keep pace with their legion of adoring fans and were increasingly seen as an Aloof, Faceless Corporation that Didn’t Care. The forums were horrible, the DLCs a PR nightmare, and “we modders” were demanding – needing – to feel appreciated and supported. To be hugged a little bit.

Enter stage-right 27 year-old “GStaff”, chief fanwrangler for the past six months. The blog’s up, there’s a free DLC, the forums are friendlier than ever, but we still don’t really know who our CM really is. So, GStaff agreed to take questions from the ORE floor, starting with a proper introduction.  Continue reading

Death In Vegas interview 1997

I did this interview for my fanzine in 1997, though looking at the text it’s probably a co-write between Claire and me – we’d take turns to type them up while splitting a bottle of Jack, each editing the other’s words. 

If you haven’t seen Death In Vegas or haven’t got a copy of their album then you must be deaf, braindead or a Bon Jovi fan and we send you our deepest sympathy. They are without doubt one of the best and freshest dance outfits around.

Masterminded by Richard Fearless and Steve Hellier, Death in Vegas began over four years ago and have their first album, Dead Elvis, out on Conrete. The singles – Twist and Shout (a cover of The Beat’s 80s single) and Rekkit both went down a storm and they now enjoy a nice slice of radio airplay. This year they have toured with The Chemical Brothers as well as performing at Glastonbury and the Brighton Essential Music Festival. We managed to catch up with Steve at the Southend stop of the Chemicals’ tour and ask him a few questions.

We decided to subject Steve to a game of Wiggly Worms, where different coloured tailed worms bob up and down in a big plastic apple and you have to pick them out. The questions, which were colour co-ordinated with the worms’ tails, were hastily thought up over a cup of tea in a beautifully greasy Southend cafe. Right: let’s begin.  Continue reading

What are record labels good for, anyway?

Written for Collapse Board

For about as long as record labels have been signing artists, there’s been a conflict between label and band; commerce and conscience.

Labels, so we’re told, are greedy exploitative bastards trying to line their pockets with the blood and sweat of the unwary musician. Labels will force you to abandon your creative dreams and dance to their puppet-strings. Labels will explain that they’re providing a service, investing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars and incalculable resources of connections and expertise. After all, since the 70s, bands have been perfectly able to press and distribute their own music, so why sign to a label at all?

The obvious answer would be that it demonstrates that someone else has had enough confidence in your band to invest in it. It’s one thing to have someone say, “I like your band”, but when someone says, “I like your band enough to bet $x on your future success”, it says something else entirely. Especially if that person has the type of reputation where their investment is a signal to others that your band is worth paying attention to. After all, once a label signs two or more good acts, it’s common for fans to look through the rest of the roster to see what else they might enjoy. Critics will be sent other similar bands on the label’s books in addition to the album they asked for. The advantage for the band is the benefit of association.

Where the relationship between artist and label breaks down is usually when the band feels that they’re not getting enough of a service for the money they’re effectively paying the label. In a traditional indie deal, the label might take 50%, but in return pay for all recording costs, handle all publicity and distribution and promotion, and offer an advance (loan) to cover touring costs. If your record is a huge success, this can leave you both happy, but if the record fails to recoup its cost the band can frequently end up owing the label money. Add to that the digital era where the download-to-purchase ratio is a thousand-to-one, and the musical climate is one in which budgets are tight and generosity is scarce. It’s no longer unusual for a label to expect the band to pay for their own mastering or even advertising costs, which would lead the artist to question, “If I’m paying for all this, then what the hell are you doing?”

Collapse Board invited three labels – Brassland, New York’s rising stars whose acts include The National and Buke & Gass; Armalyte Industries, home to K-Nitrate and Haloblack; and tenzenmen, the “Australasian DIY specialists” hosting 8 Eye Spy and Ourself Beside Me – to justify themselves before the court of you. Let’s start by asking them why on earth they ever thought setting up a record label would be a good idea … Continue reading

Who makes the rules for music?

Written for Collapse Board

“…there must be room for some sort of experimentation in how music is written? Of course there is, but those who subvert the rules must understand them in the first place – why they’re there, how they work, and only the people who have a complete mastery of music can bend or break those rules” – Princess Stomper

“Who set these apparently rigid rules for what’s a great song and what isn’t? Where are they? Who wrote them?” – Darragh Murray

As with any of these things, they evolved naturally. Most of what we think of as pop and rock music is descended from blues and jazz, and mutated somewhere along the way into the common 32-bar form and verse-chorus form. In either case, the crucial elements are the verses and the chorus.

Pop songs typically begin with an introduction – a unique section that leads the listener into the song. The verse is the poetic stanza that follows. Some songs include a pre-chorus or transitional bridge, which often uses subdominant transitional harmonies. These can add variety when the verse and chorus have the same harmonic structure. You then get your chorus – the bit that repeats at least once musically and lyrically – and this is the most identifiable part of the song, where you normally get the main hook.

Connecting the chorus to the next part of the song is, of course, the bridge. It’s something different from the verse and the chorus and unlike those doesn’t need any lyrics. The bridge can either precede or replace the next verse. (If the latter, you then get the chorus again). The bridge is intended to surprise the listener, who is expecting the chorus, and the chorus will often be repeated to stress its finality when it is at last heard.

The middle eight is an eight-bar sequence that can appear mid-way through a song after the second chorus. The structure of that song might be intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-middle eight-chorus-chorus-outro. Alternatively (or additionally) you might get a solo of the guitar or sax variety, and any song indulgent enough to include one will plonk one anywhere it bloody well likes. Lastly, the outro might include vocal ad-libbing, which is where pop divas play Look How Much I Can Sing. Umbrella has the pattern intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-middle 8-chorus-outro:

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Reinspired’s first birthday: What inspired you today?

On 29 March 2010, I did something I hadn’t done for a long time. I took a chance on buying an album I hadn’t heard and fell in love with it instantly. Three tracks in, I knew that it was going to have a significant impact on me, and the following day, I started this blog to write about it. Two people inspired me that day: the one who made the album in question, and the one whose blog gave me the idea for this one.

One year later, and a great many people have inspired me. Some have entertained, some have made me think, and many have achieved both at the same time. I thought it would be fun to catch up with those people and ask them what had inspired them today.

Let’s start with Everett True. Though we’d intermittently emailed each other in the intervening years, the last time I’d seen him was when he was still writing for Melody Maker, back in the mid-1990s. In the meantime, he’d edited various magazines included Plan B and relocated to Australia, where he now ran two blogs of which the latter – Music That I Like – I was an avid reader. Everett’s blog was a direct inspiration for this one, and it was a pleasure to catch up with him again this year, when again he inspired a creative outburst without really intending to. He now edits Collapse Board, an aggregate blog of various mostly Australian-based music critics, and performs in two bands. I dropped him an email to ask him what inspired him today.

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Everett True: The Accidental Interview

Everett True is a music critic at Collapse Board. He has written for both NME and Melody Maker, The Times and the Guardian, edited Vox, Careless Talk Costs Lives and Plan B magazines, and written several books. He contributes to Bust and Something Awful, and fronts bands The Deadnotes and The Thin Kids. He’s the most genuine fan of music I’ve ever met.

No interview was planned or requested: this is an anecdote, published with permission.

Everett True - photo from thegeneralist.co.uk

Thirty minutes early, drenched and fearing stray mascara has damaged my new handbag, I nip into the toilets at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and reapply my face. I muse that Everett True would probably approve of the army-boots-and-dress combo I’ve worn for the past twenty years, inspired by the bands he wrote about. After fifteen minutes of staring at conceptual bulls*** (and one nice sculpture), I phone, unintentionally interrupting him. I read Wicked and wait. Ten minutes later, I recognise the unassuming middle-aged man looking for me. He looks less like Jim Broadbent than I remember.

“My friend told me that I’m the most self-obsessed and least self-aware person she’s ever met,” Everett tells me as we walk towards the South Bank, “And she’s dated lead singers.”
I bark a hysterical laugh. It’s funny because it’s not True.
“Having kids gives you perspective,” he says, “Makes you self-aware.”
I tell him it’s not so much lack of perspective, in my case, as an almost pathological lack of inhibition.
“Having children gives you inhibition. There are things I couldn’t say any more because … people would get upset.”

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