#musicmonday : Skinny Puppy – Worlock (Rhys Fulber Eye of the Beholder Mix)

Too busy playing Dishonored to think about blogging today (who knew blinking could be so much fun!), so I’ll leave you with this classic track by Skinny Puppy. I figured I should bring it up because my friend Shannon reminded me of Melody Maker‘s assertion that Puppy had the power to manipulate mood. This powerful reworking by Front Line Assembly’s Rhys Fulber appeared on the Remix Dystemper album (1998), and it really brings out the heart-rendingly evocative melancholy of the song, framed in a funky little groove.  Continue reading

How to interview

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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

5 fundamentally flawed albums you need to own

Girl Talk by Gwazda Paris 2007 via Wikipedia

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You may have noticed that we don’t give marks out of 10 here, partly because it renders reviews pointless (you just read the number, not the words) and partly because it’s not fair on the recording itself.  The issue is one and the same: without the context of pointing out exactly what makes it a “good” or “bad” album, you’re doing a disservice to the band, to the listener and to the reviewer. I know why I like something, but if I don’t tell you why I like it, you’re not going to know if you’ll like it too. I could give a metal album 10/10 but if you just plain hate heavy metal, you’re not going to get past the first five minutes. Sure, you save two or three minutes reading the review if you can just get a score, but you waste – what? – an hour? A whole hour of your time struggling through something you were never going to enjoy in the first place because I gave it 10/10 and that means that obviously it must be perfect. I don’t want to waste your time or your money: I’d rather just give a few details about the listening experience and let you make up your own mind.

More problematic still is the 7/10 album. Why is an album less than 10? Because it’s mediocre? Well, that’s unforgiveable, isn’t it? Given the choice between a record that’s been branded “10/10″ and one that has not, you’re not going to bother with the latter, are you? Life’s too short – might as well reserve it for the best. But what about the ones that fail to be “the best” – not because they are boring, but because there’s one big problem marring an otherwise awe-inspiring album? Such as:  Continue reading

The Age of Clank: Why Genres are Important

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A few weeks ago, Chris Razor wrote about clank – a new genre title he’d coined, and I was grateful, because I’d been trying to think of a word for it for ages. I was getting fed up of saying “experimental electronica”, because that makes it sound like it sounds more like this and it doesn’t. Instead, it sounds like this.

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The life and death of a genre

cybergoth

There were always old punks lurking at the local, or skulking in the nightclub, and we thought they were OK. Punk was old and dead, and the few wrinkly remainders trying to hit on women or men half their ages were smiled at like old WWII veterans. They might be a little out-of-place, perhaps a little embarrassing, but we wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for them, so there was a reverence there. We respected our elders. Nearly 20 years later, I see how young people today regard my own clubbing years. On Buzzfeed, a meme is going viral where fans are taking some footage of some terribly earnest-looking industrial fans dancing and overdubbing the music with ever more ridiculous novelty hits, with even more mischief to be found on Reddit. These fans are a laughing stock – and rightly so, because they are ridiculous.

What turns it from pathetic to outright upsetting is how little resemblance either the people or the music bears to the genre I loved with such a passion. It’s painful watching something you love die. Even when I was young, the old guard complained that Nine Inch Nails weren’t “real industrial”, and we smiled because things have to evolve and grow. But now there’s no trace of anything that ever made us love it in the first place. It hasn’t just evolved, it’s an entirely separate species, and it needs to be put out of its misery. Continue reading

Line-ups that make (or break) the band

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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.

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Ohgr

I’ve got a headache, so today’s update will be brief. My pal Damin just bought the new Ohgr CD, and reckons it’s pretty good. Skinny Puppy’s Nivek Ogre released an album (Welt) at the turn of the millennium. That was pretty good, too. Ohgr is a co-project with Ruby’s Mark Walk, and was originally supposed to feature Al Jourgensen, though he only ever contributed one track, which ended up as Ministry’s The Fall. In spite of all that, the music was far from the derivative “industrial” drivel peddled at the time and felt fresh and innovative. If you were into that sort of music at that sort of time, you might have heard Cracker – a twitchy and ridiculously infectious pop song that was wholly unexpected after the brutal noise of Puppy’s The Process. It even has a rap bit. One that works.

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Memory Lane: Download

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.

This is actually two pieces cut together; my recent recollections of a week back in June ’96, plus an earlier telephone interview I’ve edited in after finding it in the attic (which answers my own question of why I didn’t bother to interview them when we met.)

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CK: It’s very electronic, it’s very improvised and very experimental. I expect each evening to be different and spontaneous. I don’t know how well I’m answering your question …

Thousands of miles away in Vancouver, cEvin Key is on the telephone. I ask the man born Kevin William Crompton what the hell influences their weird noises.

CK: I don’t know. I know it sounds weird, but we don’t work like that. The thing is that we’ve been doing this for so long with Skinny Puppy that Download came about as a result of having too much pressure build up during that record. It was a lot of fun just to make a record with friends – and not doing it just to please a record company or whatever. Download was created as a stress release, which is somewhat how Skinny Puppy was formed. We just sort of found ourselves with a band. It wasn’t a case of being influenced. That is the antithesis of this album. The influences came from having original people to do it with. Mark Skybey is always doing totally different stuff, and Genesis (P Orridge) was great to collaborate with, and Philth – who’s more of a techno artist … Dwayne was always frustrated that we weren’t able to explore more of their ideas in Skinny Puppy, so Download was a special thing for us. We were getting a lot out of it, so it was good.

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Last impressions: Skinny Puppy – The Process

I really felt the urge to listen to this lately after picking up the excellent Greater Wrong of the Right DVD. The Process was released in 1995. It was an album rooted in chaos – it took three producers to complete, was recorded amidst environmental and personal disaster, and ended up with one member dead and the other two at loggerheads. One one listen I was hooked, and after hearing their other records, I thought this was the best thing Puppy had ever done. Weirdly, the biggest mental connection I get is actually Pink Floyd’s underrated Momentary Lapse of Reason. Yes, thematically and instrumentally, it’s industrial, but the sense of epic scale and underlying composition is pure Pink Floyd.

Jahya is one of the most arresting opening tracks I’ve ever heard. It starts off with industrial techno pops and crackles, little noises, and then introduces Ogre’s unearthly incantations, a pretty synth piano hook, a crescendo of fierce guitar riffing, more noise and samples, some clanging synthetic beats …

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Death. “Spiky, black, hard-edged”, the voice says, before the most monstrous metal riff kicks in over a messy, chaotic wall of techno beats and bleeps, Ogre grunting over the top, some gloriously clashing keyboard sample over the top, then randomly pulling into a catchy chorus. You know Public Enemy vs Anthrax, Bring The Noise? Yeah, like that, but louder.

Candle has always been one of my favourites off this album, and it’s still absolutely gorgeous. What I really notice this time around is the head-bending dubby sub-bass – it’s not really that deep, and that’s what makes it so oppressive – it makes you feel like you’re drowning in it. Pretty acoustic guitars vie with metal riffs for attention, but what’s really spectacular is the synth pads – I’m thinking it’s like Front Line Assembly’s better stuff, but Dwayne Goettel could come up with the goods pretty regularly – tracks like Warlock and Smothered Hope, for instance. The vocals somewhere between singing and shouting are a hallmark of Ogre’s changing style; this was the point where he stopped squeaking like a demented hamster and running it through a ton of effects. It sounds all the better for it. Everything about this track sounds fresh and modern, even 15 years on.

Hardset Head is Skinny Puppy trying to see if those amps really do go up to eleven. The first 50 seconds sound awesome, but once the chorus kicks in, it is the point where the three producers it took to complete the album becomes apparent: it’s just a complete mess.

Cult is a sweet, rather moving rock ballad, Ogre’s slightly off-key vocals stopping it becoming too saccharine – like someone singing on the verge of tears after too much whiskey.

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