Another year, another NYE. I was just discussing previous New Year’s Eves with Him Indoors and we were listing off some of our favourite escapades. It gives us a good excuse to stay quietly at home this year – “I couldn’t possibly top 1999, so why bother?”
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When the two old enemies embraced this week in London, many fans were wondering if the decades-long feud was finally and fully laid to rest. Would there be a Pink Floyd reunion? A new tour? A new album? Realistically, isn’t it much too late for that now? More to the point – as many were quick to remark – the band could hardly reunite since Richard Wright had died in 2008.
I would describe my current state – physical and emotional – as extremely fragile. There’s a good reason for this*, but what’s tipping me over the edge at this particular moment is the image of Pig and Sow looking coyly adoring in a promo pic for the most saccharine pop group since Wham.
Cute fan-made video to accompany what I regard as the best lyrics I’ve ever heard.
All we want is a headrush
All we want is to get out of our skin for a while
We have nothing to lose because we don’t have anything
Anything we want anyway…
We used to hate people
Now we just make fun of them
It’s more effective that way
We don’t live
We just scratch on day to day
With nothing but matchbooks and sarcasm in our pockets
And all we are waiting for is for something worth waiting for
Let’s admit America gets the celebrities we deserve
Let’s stop saying “Don’t quote me” because if no one quotes you
You probably haven’t said a thing worth saying
A little note on this one: additional to my obsession to meet Raymond Watts, I developed this mad idea that I absolutely HAD to meet Mary Mary if it was the very last thing I ever did in my life. It took me two years from thinking I’d quite like to have a chat to actually sitting down and talking with him, but … it really was one of the greatest moments of my life to sit there, nose-to-nose with my indie idol, chatting happily and animatedly. While we never met again, other people in the room remarked on how well we’d got on with each other, and I came away with one of my favourite ever interviews.
With their explosive blend of metal riffs and drum and bass grooves, Apollo 440’s rise to fame has been as meteoric as the name suggests. The funky, jazz-inspired Krupa and chart-busting Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Dub (from Van Halen’s Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love) have set a blueprint for their fast-developing sound. Finding an increased audience with the Lost In Space theme, @440’s star is in the ascendant. Incredibly, their trademark ragga-style vocals come courtesy of none other than industrial legend Mary Mary.
“I suppose the rumours are true,” Mary grins, as he reveals all about his days as vocalist for psychedelic punkers Gaye Bykers On Acid. He reveals that the speculation of huge, acid-fuelled frenzies stems from when a certain alternative celebrity handed out 250 tabs of acid to the band.
Ian: We were handing it out to the crowd, and we did take quite a lot of it ourselves. It’s something you get over, though.
He smiles, accounting for his current sober appearance.
Born Ian Garfield Hoxley, Mary hails from Leicester, but has spent years in various bands in Liverpool, Camden and Chicago. Mary has an extraordinary reputation. Not only as a versatile and talented vocalist, but as of The World’s Nicest Bloke. Former bandmates, roadies, producers and friends all chorus their affection for the tiny, affable, gregarious Kurt Cobain lookalike. In fact, so widespread was his acclaim that we simply had to find out what all the fuss was about. We weren’t disappointed.
After endless telephone calls to the Epic Press office (thanks guys!), I am finally led to a tiny room at Subterrania, where my favourite singer and one of the hottest bands on the planet are playing tonight. A man in an Afghan coat introduces himself as Simon. He in turn introduces me to the band. I promise to Mary that I am not going to neglect Apollo 440 (and miss this one?) and decide to start at the beginning.
Ian: After GBOA, one night we went to see Henry Rollins play in Highbury, when Paul Raven from Killing Joke came up to me and handed me £200. Cash. He said, “I really want you to be on the team. Get a plane and come to Chicago.” So I spent it. A couple of days later, he called and said, “I was serious about you coming out here. Get the next flight out.” I told him that I’d spent it, but a royalty cheque came through, so I ended up in Chicago. Martin Atkins (Killing Joke / Ministry) was like “Yeah, yeah, come on over”, so suddenly I’m surrounded by people like Andrew Weiss from Rollins Band, En Esch from KMFDM and it’s like, great, I’m in a band with loads of complete nutters.
Whatever the rumours regarding the acronym KMFDM are, there’s certainly no denying that KMFDM write the catchiest, funkiest, coolest, most enjoyable industrial music in the world. Every song bounces along with glorious aplomb, filled with wry humour and scream-along choruses – not to mention bucketloads of raw funk. EN ESCH explains how…
En Esch: KMFDM have been doing records since ’84 but been putting out records since ’85 or ’86. Coincidentally I moved from Frankfurt to Hamburg and moved into an apartment where Sascha moved out so we found ourselves. Back then, I was a drummer, he was a bass player. We did some p-funk shows and jammed along, in a very George Clinton vibe. The rhythm would go on and on in a funky disco feeling, the groove doesn’t stop, and it was in 1985, the first time we had a little drum machine.
We ran into Raymond Watts, who had a small studio setup in Hamburg. He had the first sampler and he would sing a little, and Sascha would sing a little. Raymond decided to move on – he never felt too much involved, like he should be a permanent member and stuff. Sascha and I went on stage, just the two of us – sampler, keyboard and sequencer. In 1989, Gunter joined us, who was called Svet Am on earlier records – they are the same person.
Raymond Watts wasn’t just my favourite rock star; he’d worked with all my other favourite rock stars at some point or other. I was pretty obsessed with the idea of meeting with him, and it turned out a friend of mine knew him pretty well so we got to hang out at his studio for half an hour or so. It just didn’t help that, a few minutes before the interview, our mutual friend told him, “Oh, she’s pretty obsessed with you, you know” – or that I happened to be really sick that day. However, we met a few times since at gigs and he seemed to like me well enough, as in, he’d stop and chat. I even spent New Year’s 1999 at his party, and slept on his guitarist’s sofa, though my fascination dissipated after the first meeting because I basically got to ask every question I wanted to know the answer to, and could just be a regular fan. Very nice guy, though.
Raymond Watts is the founder member and voice behind KMFDM‘s most memorable songs; the sole full-time member of formidable industrial act Pig and occasional drinking buddy of Foetus man Jim Thirlwell. The king of the catchy chorus and star of deep-voiced crooning – come in, Mr Watts, you have some explaining to do…
There is what looks like a steer skull on the wall. Underneath it hangs a huge neon cross, and the walls opposite are filled with images – logos, pop art and the face of one particular individual. The same man is featured in the videos playing on the screen in front of us – some live, some promo – all featuring a certain trademark blend of heavy dance-metal, leather, black cowboy hats and tightrope-walking between Ministry cool and Jim Morrison style aggressive sensuality. One side of the room is thick soundproofed glass – this is a proper recording studio – and there are musical instruments and samplers littered around the room. Fidgeting with the buttons on a mixing desk at one end of the room, is Raymond Watts.
“I hope you’re going to edit this, because I’m frightfully waffly,” suggests Raymond, possibly the only man to use the word “frightfully” outside of an Ealing comedy. Yet it’s hard to say who’s the more nervous – the tall, compact, muscular man sitting as far away from me as it’s possible to be without actually being in the next room – or the petrified ‘flu-ridden writer trying to find out more and sneeze less.
Raymond isn’t a cartoon character, unlike most of his peers. He looks nothing like his photographs – which portray him as an intimidating version of the Diet Coke man; or his videos, in which he plays the leather-clad lizard king like he was born for the part. In fact, in real life he looks disturbingly like the guy I go out drinking with on a Friday night. Raymond is fifteen years older than me, but has better skin than I do. He doesn’t loom threateningly. He doesn’t lay bare his soul; attempt seduction, suicide or both; take us through his twelve-step rehabilitation plan he’s worked out with his therapist or threaten to walk out because I asked a question about his previous band. In fact, he’s a very normal, pleasant sort of person. For someone who’s spent most of his life in a band, that’s bizarre…