Taped crusader: my cluttered collection of cassettes

I’ve had a pile of cassette tapes gathering dust for maybe 15 years. I figured it was time to go through them. Sorting through some old belongings, I discovered an old walkman that still worked. Bingo! What would be on these dusty old tanglers? I was mostly hoping to find a phone interview I did with Nivek Ogre, or a face-to-face with Fear Factory, neither of which saw the light of day thanks to a mishap in a house move. They must have been in the other pile of tapes, which got damaged. Nope. On this one, I found …

TAPE 1

It’s in a Smashing Pumpkins sleeve, but is actually a bootleg of Ministry in 1994. I went through a brief phase of picking up dodgy tapes – cassettes and videos – from the Camden Market. The bloke on the stall claimed to be mates with Killing Joke, and said they let him onto the stage to stand at the side to get the best footage. I never bought one of his Killing Joke tapes, but I did walk away with Skinny Puppy’s 1986 Ain’t It Dead Yet and NIN in Dallas, 1990. I’m guessing this is from that market stall.

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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

Timewaster Letters: Golden Wonder

I decided to collect together some of my more mischievous moments and April Fool’s gags and put them here, since I think they’re more appropriate to this blog than any other.

Back when the internet was a less formal place – my work email signature was “I never drink water – fish f*** in it” – I had this email exchange with a representative from Golden Wonder. To any Americans reading, Golden Wonder are a British manufacturer of tasty savoury treats. We call them crisps, you call them potato chips, and Nik Naks are little knobbly wheaty bites. I dimly recall that Tazos were little collectible plastic shapes. I found these email printouts when doing my house clearout.

Subject: Oi! Where’s me prize?
Date: 17 October 1997 09:42

Dear Golden Wonder

Please could I have a million pounds? You see, I have never had much luck with promotional packets of crisps and a million pounds would really come in handy now the festive season is upon us.

I’ve never even won a Tazo. Or a pop-up dinosaur. Every day, I buy a packet of crisps in the forlorn hope of maybe just a Luke Skywalker plastic chip to cheer me through the day. But, alas, there is none.

So, if it is possible, I would like to win a million pounds. Or maybe just a tenner. Hell, a fiver. A Tazo?

Luke Skywalker?

A Nik Nak?

Anyway, thanks.

(Princess).

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From: kissme@golden-wonder.co.uk
To: (Princess)
Date: Fri, 07 Nov 1997 11:14
Subject: Oi! Where’s me prize?

(Princess), thanks for your e-mail, I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to reply. We’re really disappointed that you haven’t won a prize yet.

I can’t send the million to you, but if you send me your address, I’ll give you a voucher to buy lots more Nik Naks. More Nik Naks, more chances to win the million.

Regards

Liz

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I wrote back with my address and she sent me a £1 voucher, with which I bought a multipack of Nik Naks. Still didn’t bloody win it, though. 😀

Memory Lane: Martin Atkins

Note: these interviews were conducted when I was 17-19 years old and running a music fanzine, so if they seem rather amateurish, it’s because they were. The italics are notes added 10-15 years after the event.

So I actually found the legendarily terrible interview with Martin Atkins from ’96. You know what? It wasn’t so bad. OK, so on an embarrassment scale of one to nine million, it’s up there, but it explains why he didn’t seem to recall it when we met again a year or two later.
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Skip to the 3:50 mark – Never Trust A John
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An electro-punk band with a taste in political incorrectness, and a colour-blind living legend with a clothes peg in his hair. Freaked out? We certainly were.

Evil Mothers are a great band in the same way that bands like In Aura and Soul Coughing are great bands. Interviews with great bands are simple: put them and a sizeable quantity of alcohol in a room, ask a load of ridiculous questions and roll the tape. With a bit of luck, you’ll manage to catch the tube the next morning.

Then there are legends.

Martin Atkins fits nicely in that category, having spent the best part of two decades making nearly every record in my collection. Remember PiL’s classic This Is Not A Love Song? Atkins co-wrote that when he was in the band. Ever seen Nine Inch Nails’ Head Like A Hole video? He’s the other drummer. Listened to Ruby’s Salt Peter in the past 48 hours? Martin co-wrote Carondolet, one of the best tracks on the album. Apart from that, he’s been working with Ministry, Killing Joke, Chris Connelly, Skinny Puppy, and the band we’re here to see – Evil Mothers. On top of that, Atkins started Invisible Records and Pigface.

So it is perhaps understandable that we were more than a little nervous. Therefore, in addition to the usual trip to the pub on the way to the gig, we went to the off-licence on the way to the pub. Which was rather an unfortunate choice of action under the circumstances.

(Offering Martin a six-pack): Would you like a beer?

MA: I haven’t had a drink in three years.

Bugger.

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Best Concerts Ever: Smashing Pumpkins and Filter

This is right next to the Foetus one in the same issue – it has to be said, 1996 was one of the best years ever for live shows. If I was effusively enthusiastic about the Foetus one, this was the type of concert to completely take you out of your skull. Rarely, I was stone cold sober, but the performance itself made us quite forget our lack of beer …

SMASHING PUMPKINS/FILTER

14 May 1996, Wembley Arena

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Filter playing live somewhere

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I have dreams of concerts like this. The line-up was hardly to be sniffed at, but to be honest, we were only really there to see Filter. Yeah, I like the Pumpkins, but they’re just a better-than-average Alternative Rock Band, right …?

“Felcher?” asks Filter’s Richard Patrick, gazing bemused at the slideshow backdrop that has been craftily switched by the mischievous lighting crew. The red banner is hastily swapped back to “Filter”. Richard laughs, and introduces the next song. Filter’s Richard and Brian are undaunted by the size of Wembley Arena – this is probably due to their spell as members of Nine Inch Nails – and look right at home in the rapidly-filling venue. Blasting through the killer tracks off their spellbinding debut LP (Short Bus), they blind us with It’s Over, Dose, Under, and all the usual suspects, plus the ever-present Hey Man, Nice Shot (sorry guys – it’s most definitely your Creep).

Richard prowls the stage with his characteristic feline charisma, and whilst his singing voice shows the telling signs of end-of-tour strain, he can scream with the best of them. Continue reading

Best Concerts Ever: Foetus

I found my review of Foetus from 1996. Yes, it’s horrifyingly pretentious – but I was an overexcited teenager and all that. Of course, I was completely unaware of any connection between Foetus and either Nick Cave or Cop Shoot Cop, if the references seem a little off. Alas, before you ask, I wasn’t in the front row …

FOETUS/OTIS/LEECH WOMAN

24 Sep 1996, London Astoria 2

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From the live MALE DVD; the lyrics are allegorical.

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YYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Talk about one hell of an impressive bill. Actually, I think I will.

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Pop Psychology: Part 3

<< Part Two: The Classic Band (Cardiacs)

In addition to my note in part 1 about Jerry being upset that day, I should add a further comment: I mention him a fair bit in this blog, but that’s because I owe him a great deal. We’ve never agreed much on music, but he taught me well: don’t lie. Don’t ever lie. Even if it gets you sacked (which it did); even if you get death threats (which I did); even if you lose friends, or have to resign rather than face saying yet again how much it sucks. There’s a bias, sure: after eight bad albums, you’ll pan the ninth because you’re so worn down. If the tenth is great, you’ll gush because of the contrast – but don’t say it’s good if it’s not, or your opinion is nothing. His opinion is worthy because he’s honest, even when he’s wrong. More people could learn from him …

THE JOURNALIST – EVERETT TRUE

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Everett True is the Acting Editor of Melody Maker. His career began as a fanzine writer in 1982. He ran the fanzine with Alan McGee, but acrimoniously split with McGee when the Creation boss wanted him to edit an issue featuring True’s most hated – The Smiths. True started his own fanzine, and then talked the NME into hiring him as a journalist. He worked there until the end of the 1980s, when he was sacked by former fanzine colleague James Brown for what Everett describes as his own journalistic incompetence. He got better, and went on to become a staff writer at Melody Maker. Pretty soon, he was the most famous music journalist in Britain, and entered what he describes as the highlight of his life:

ET: I always used to write in my fanzine that I felt that music journalists don’t give a s*** about music. It was the most disappointing day of my life when I got to the NME and found out it was true. Sure, they cared, but not as much as I did. Mind you, I was pretty fanatical at the time.

Then I got to Melody Maker, and I can’t ever imagine having a better job: going to America, hanging out with really famous and really cool people, going to see any show I wanted – f***ing brilliant shows – and I had a beautiful teenage girlfriend. I can’t imagine how life could have been any better. I suppose I could have had money, but who cares about money when you’re having a good time?

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Pop Psychology: Part 2 (Cardiacs)

<< Part One: The Publicists (Revolution PR)

THE CLASSIC BAND – CARDIACS

Tim Smith has been a Cardiac for 20 years. That’s 20 years of incalculably influential experimental jazz-tinged punk pop. Almost every band in Britain can be linked back to Cardiacs through around three degrees of separation. The band – Tim, Jim, Bob and John – all have various side-projects, including other bands, production credits and advertising jingles. The Cardiacs fan base is a legion of dedicated nutcases who will follow the band around the country. Their reward is the fact that Tim manages to make time to maintain good friendships with every single one of them – and we are talking a very large number of people here …

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Tim: I personally have never had any expectations about anything ever … so … um. I saw that comet that’s been hanging about for the first time yesterday – Hale Bopp or whatever – I was thrilled, it actually looked like a real comet. Cardiac-wise, I personally have passed any ambition or expectations inasmuch as we still record and play any old stuff which we think is OK. We like to think that no rules surround music so … if we think a noise sounds good to us, then so be it. Music is a really great big thing, which should not be boxed in by people, whatever the f***ness, who think it is just a trinket to decorate a style or way of life, etc.

Music is wonderful and should be rejoiced as being such. But going back to your question about expections … the answer is … it has and it hasn’t. It has, inasmuch as we still do it (and some other bands do something similar inasmuch as the being-out-thereness is concerned). And it hasn’t, as far as, the people that dig this kind of s*** are still few and far between purely for the reason that it is an ignored art form, blah blah.

Did you choose the style you play or did it just happen?

Tim: It just happened and still does for some reason.

How has being in a band affected you in terms of how you treat people and are treated?

Tim: Doing what we do – I do – I forget to keep answering personally – OK – what I think – my mind is stupidly open to anything now. I will look at a door knob and see the art/design/thought and heartache that has gone into that work. Continue reading

Pop Psychology: Part 1

After an interview in ’96 with Martin Atkins so disastrous that he walked out, I was losing credibility. I needed to recover – fast – so hit upon the idea of writing the sort of “feature” that you’d find in a proper magazine. I was fascinated by the difference between expectations of how the music industry worked, and the reality, and whether personal misery in return for music success was an inevitable trade. I’m not sure whether my experiment was successful in terms of generating solid conclusions, but I started being offered freelance work after that, so in that sense it worked.

This is the abridged version. The original piece had a rather obvious preamble showing how “success” changes people, and highlighting the difference between public personas and the real person behind them. I interviewed a band starting out – Ojo, who never really got anywhere – and Three Colours Red, a band who were in the charts at that time. Their answers were brief and not particularly insightful so I won’t include them here. However, the answers from The Publicists (Revolution Promotions); The Journalist (Everett True); and The Classic Band (Cardiacs) – were very interesting so I’ve uploaded them here.

Everett – or Jerry, as I knew him – was in an agitated state when I saw him at Melody Maker HQ that day. I think it’s actually the day he found out he hadn’t been given the editor’s job – a critical mistake, if you’ll pardon the pun, since the 70 year-old magazine didn’t survive long after that. Tim from Cardiacs’ contribution deserves a special mention since I’d handed him a list of questions to which he responded in the form of a lengthy handwritten letter, including all the “umms” and “ahhs”! Mark and Fred from Revolution were friends with whom I’d lay informal bets on the following week’s chart positions over a beer on Sunday evenings. I probably spent more time in their office than I did my own bedsit.

THE PUBLICISTS – MARK AND FRED OF REVOLUTION PROMOTIONS

Mark: It’s very rare that a band gets to make their third album. If you want to make money in music, you might as well put your money on the 2:15 at Chelmsford. The odds are up there with the lottery.

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Revolution’s hit band Mansun, with one of the cleverest videos ever made

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