How to interview

Written for Collapse Board

I start to wonder if he’ll ever answer.
“Rome,” he says.
Good, good. That’s a start. OK, get him to elaborate.
“What did you like about it?”
“It was nice,” he says.
Did he really just say that? I wait for him to continue.
He doesn’t.
Well, that’s it. I mean, I’m out of questions. Panic.

A Clam, says ex-Kerrang! man Jason Arnopp in his book How to Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne and Everyone Else, is “the interviewee who opens his mouth to say some words, then shuts it again after saying the minimum required of him“. A 16 year-old fanzine hack, I was faced with a bored, tired Richard Ashcroft who gave only one-word answers to this rookie unprofessional.

“Zere is no reality!”
We both look towards the door. A middle-aged, portly, dark-haired woman has burst into the hotel lounge and made such a declaration, and stands impatiently, waiting for a response. I think she’s Dutch or something. European. Strong accent.
“Pardon?” says Ashcroft.
“Zere is no reality!” she repeats.
Oh, good grief. I’ll just stay quiet and let the obviously more professional one of us explain to her that we’re in the middle of an interview and ask her politely to leave us alone.
I glance over to Ashcroft.
He gets up and walks over to her … and then begins to argue with her that there is a reality and she is obviously quite wrong.
“MY CAR!” she squeaks, pointing at the window. Seconds later, she waddles out at top speed to chase the tow truck down the road.

I suppose you could make it up, but why would you? I somehow convinced Ashcroft to pose for photos in the Mad Hatter’s Teacup Ride down by the seafront – wonderful snaps long since lost – and Nick McCabe gave me a signed 10″ of ‘Gravity Grave’. A great anecdote, fine photos and a great single – but the interview, let’s face it, sucked.  Continue reading

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

Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible and Fried: My Life As a Revolting Cock – Chris Connelly

There’s a photo in the middle of the book from spring 1988 attributed to “unknown”, which I recognise, because I had it on my wall. This would be my cube wall at my first job, which was a shrine to the industrial rock legends of the day – Al, Trent, Ogre … the people in this book. You may remember Chris Connelly – the skinny Scottish self-styled also-ran eternally upstaged by his bandmates – from such freakshows as Ministry, RevCo, Fini Tribe, Pigface, Murder Inc and The Damage Manual. And he’s about to tell you everything.
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30 day song challenge: day 08 – a song that you know all the words to

Sunburn. Chronic hayfever. Having to wear sandals and then getting little stones trapped in the sandals. Any one of the myriad reasons why July is not my favourite month. Plus it’s usually pissing down – I mean, this is England. Cold, wet feet in sandals with a stone in the sole, and hayfever. I’m not quite sure why Chris Connelly hates July so much (as opposed to, say, April), but whenever this month rears its ugly little head, this song just pops its way into my brain and I find myself humming it by the water cooler.

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#trendingtopics – Music Shuffle

From Facebook:
Time for another one of these.
Write down the first 25 random songs that come up on your MP3 player, iPod etc. I used Last.fm set to My Library station.
No cheating!
No editing!

I thought I’d give it a go, using Last.fm, just to see what would happen. I found it interesting because it was forcing me to listen to things that I hadn’t heard in a while or given a particularly fair listen, and playing things out of the context of how I usually hear them. There’s some good songs here …

1. Foetus – Verklemmt

Bit of a no-brainer for me, considering how much I’ve been listening to this lately. I find the video hard-going (made by Alex Winter from Bill & Ted, it’s got literally thousands of cuts), but it’s a great song from the album GASH.

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2. The Kinks – Dead End Street

Ah, I never tire of this song. I used to play it a lot when I was unemployed and starving-broke, living in a miserable bedsit in one of the rougher parts of South London.

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Pigface – Glitch

I don’t have a huge number of music DVDs, but the ones I own are generally great performances that have been polished up a bit in the studio afterwards. That’s as true of, say, Foetus’s ultra-low-budget MALE DVD as it is for Skinny Puppy’s slick The Greater Wrong of the Right. What this messy cacophony does is put them in the same band.

Martin Atkins (Public Image Ltd, Killing Joke) had the bright idea of putting members of Ministry and KMFDM on the stage together. From there it “sort of exploded” and he wound up with a “supergroup” that, in its 20 years of existence, has featured members such as NIN’s Trent Reznor, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wayne from Static-X and Black Francis from The Pixies. (Full list of members here.)

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I replaced this immediately on realising that the old VHS copy I owned was broken. I did this despite recognising that, for the most part, Pigface are f***ing abysmal. Although JG Thirlwell is credited twice (both as ‘Clint Ruin’ and as ‘Jim Thirlwell’), the actual track he did with them (available for download from Amazon) is the worst, most tuneless racket it has ever been my misfortune to hear (and I’ve seen Iron Monkey live). Thankfully it doesn’t actually appear on any of the 31 tracks on offer here, which is why you might be staring mystified at the credits. I couldn’t make out David Yow (The Jesus Lizard) or Lori Barbello (Babes In Toyland) either.

Most of the fun comes from trying to work out who’s who, since the footage between the two halves (Glitch and Son of Glitch) and the “special features” (bonus tracks) were filmed many years – and haircuts – apart. Genesis P-Orridge looks fairly terrifying at the best of times, so you can’t miss him, and KMFDM’s En Esch provides a few unintentional laughs.

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Memory Lane: Cubanate (another one)

This was conducted in 2001. I took over running Cubanate’s website for a bit and did this piece with Marc to give the site some content. It was originally presented in four parts so I’ll split it in half. Marc and I had a lot of the same friends and were both really extravert people, so we found it easy to get along with each other. I was hitting the top of my game in terms of conducting interviews, but oddly it turned out to be the last music interview I ever did. Shame, really, because when I read this back just now, I was just laughing my tail off …

SPARKS, SYNTHS AND SHEEP

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It started with Sparks. Marc was about nine, in that precious short time before punk blew apart our preconceptions about what music was supposed to sound like, and Marc became a Sparks fan. “It was incredibly out there,” he reminisces. “Then it was punk – punk was my first big thing that I was into. I think the roots of what I’ve always been into have come from the music of around that period – punk and disco. It was always punk versus disco.”

Beatles-type parents

“My mother was a professional chorus girl, so she loved big musicals, South Pacific, that kind of thing. The rest of it was all the Sixties stuff. This says all you need to know about my parents: They were definitely Beatles-type parents. I mean, now, I’d come down on the side of the Stones, but I grew up on The Beatles. I like the pompousness of the later albums, I think they got better later on when they started to basically get out of their heads. The early pop stuff, which everyone says is really classic, I think is alright, but nothing special.”

Those formative years were spent in the Middle East, before moving to the South of England. Marc was denied a lost youth, hanging out with the rebel crowd, because he lived in a sleepy village near Haywards Heath in mid-Sussex. He started going down to Brighton to experience his first taste of wild nights on the town. “Down there, there was really quite a cool scene, going to the Top Rank and places like that. Going to some f***ing rough gigs, come to think of it. I mean, there were always stabbings – you wouldn’t believe the amount of violence in those shows then, all the time, things that would create national headlines these days would happen every Saturday. The difficulty when you are isolated, out in the country, is that there’s no real way to meet people who are thinking similarly, because all you have is the village disco.”

In primary school, Marc formed his first band. “At first, none of us could play instruments, so at first we used to put on shows, miming along to records. That was the earliest thing I did.”

A really, really early synthesiser

This encouraged Marc’s fledgling love of performance, which grew as he moved to Leicester, and, later, London. During his teens, however, Marc came into contact for the first time with the one thing that would change his life for ever. “A friend of mine bought a really, really early synthesiser. This would have been about 1981. I was about fifteen or sixteen. Just having a synthesiser and a little, primitive drum machine, immediately made you feel completely special because nobody else had one. It just made you feel good about making music. You could be weird from the word go. You didn’t need to learn how to play chords on the guitar, it was more punk rock than punk, in a way, because anything you did, no matter how s*** it was, at least you sounded different than everybody else.”

West One

“I then got to London, and this is the Eighties, and I said to myself, I want to make it big! I formed a band with a mate and we were doing electro-pop (I suppose is the best way to describe it), very commercial stuff, and then we got signed with a producer called Colin Thurston, who was my idol producer at the time. He produced the early Human League and all the early Duran Duran stuff, so we made an album with him, which was an absolute disaster. But the first inkling I had that I might end up doing what I’m doing was that the guy who gave us our first break offered us a support with Gary Numan. So, we supported Numan in 1987, and it was great. I mean, we didn’t have a record label or anything so that immediately kicked things off. So, we struggled on with that and at some point Bill, the guy I was working with, left, and I took over as lead singer (I was on keyboards before), and we got re-signed in the early Nineties to Music For Nations. We made another album, essentially remaking that first album, which was also a complete f***ing failure. The first thing we did there, moving towards what I’m doing now, is make a couple of dance remixes of those songs which were actually dance hits and scraped into the Top 100 of that scene.”

“So, it was all looking a bit possible, but I realised that something was amiss and by that time I was going down Gossips on a Wednesday to the Hard Club. Techno was becoming a lot harder, and I thought, I can see my way forward here.”

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Memory Lane: Mary Mary

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.

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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.

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Adventures in Music: Last.fm

Pandora always had the sense to see that my taste wasn’t “industrial” or “rock” or “pop”, but “songs with strong hooks and elements of electronica, featuring syncopated rhythms, in predominantly minor keys, with strong vocals and extensive vamping”.

It’s all moot now, though, because Pandora stopped streaming to the UK a couple of years back, which means we just have Last.fm, and Last.fm streams by genre. That means that a fan of NIN must automatically like Stabbing Westward (not really!); that if you like Blur then you have to like Oasis (*shudder*); and heaven forbid you type in Gwen Stefani unless you really want to listen to Fergie (and, let’s face it, most people don’t).

Still, I thought I’d give it another go yesterday on the recommendation of a friend, and installed their ‘scrobbling’ tool, which rummages through your record collection to dig out the stuff you really actually listen to. Wow! Have I really listened to Foetus over 280 times in the past month? OK, then: let’s see what “Foetus Radio” throws up. I read on Twitter that one person hated their Foetus station on Pandora because “it didn’t know which style to pick”. That, my dear, is precisely the point …
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Jarboe – Red
I don’t even know how to begin to classify this, except that I could definitely listen to more. It reminds me a bit of Ruby – or more specifically, of when Silverfish’s Lesley Rankine was singing for Pigface: just abrasively feisty female vocals over searing breakbeats.
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Steroid Maximus – Chaiste
Hooray! Quentin Tarantino wrote a soundtrack! OK, technically it’s JG Thirlwell, but it’s what would happen if QT did write soundtracks.
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The Damage Manual – Sunset Gun

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I saw this lot live once – accomplished my dream of walking up to Jah Wobble and saying, “Mr Wobble: may I shake you by the hand?” (He obliged). They sound exactly what you think ex-Killing Joke members fronted by Chris Connelly would sound like. One of those promising bands where nobody can quite work out why they weren’t enormous.

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Nurse With Wound – Wash The Dust From My Heart
I had a lot of preconceptions about what a seminal goth-industrial band ought to sound like: unfavourable enough to ignore them, at any rate. They’re actually very good – quite mellow and listenable, and not at all what I was expecting. It actually reminds me of dreamy Creation act The Telescopes – that very warm double-bass sound and lazy jazz aesthetic.
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Chris Connelly – July
OMG! I had totally forgotten this album existed! I probably have it in the attic somewhere. I still know all the words. Connelly impersonates David Bowie over a pared-down indie-rock guitar sound. Good song.
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