I’m Scared of Vinyl


Posted in Interviews by Catriona on December 3, 2009

Here’s an interview that I did with the Stereophonics AGES ago (i.e. October 2007). I’m trying to delete everything from my old laptop, and thought I’d rescue this one from the dreaded Recycling Bin…

Death, Will and Wardrobes

The Stereophonics get serious…

It is a grey October afternoon and the Stereophonics are sitting in a hotel room. The Welsh trio have just released their new album Pull the Pin, after taking a bit of a break for the last two years. The Stereophonics are no strangers to Ireland as they have frequently played here over the eight intensive years between 1997 and 2005, which saw them release five albums, score twenty Top 20 hits, rack up multimillion sales and tour the world. Kelly Jones said that “headlining Slane Castle was probably the biggest and the best, most ridiculous gig of all time, although I quite like playing in bars like Whelans, and shit like that, small places”

Their new album was recorded in only ten days, quite an achievement when you consider that the band have no regular rehearsal times. Kelly Jones, the singer, says “It’s quite hard to rehearse when you’re in a band. You’re always doing gigs and always travelling round and you really only have time to rehearse just before a show. The songs are written on the road or written at home and they’re inspired by where I’m at or what I’m going through in my life. Nine times out of ten it’s about something I’ve experienced first hand.” The bassist, Richard Jones adds, “It’s an immense amount of time hanging about doing nothing, really, being in a band.” Kelly agrees: “You have a lot of time to think… sitting on a plane…sitting in a hotel room”

It is at this point that the interview begins to disintegrate. All three band members have now veered into a level of surreal conversation, presumably occasioned by too much time sitting in yet another hotel room. The surroundings are a bit depressing actually. Richard looks around appraisingly. “I think it’s the dark wood” he comments. Javier Weyler, the drummer, begins on the difficulties of spending so much time away from home “it’s the stuff you miss, your wardrobe, your own bed”. Richard sits up. “Do you have a wardrobe?” he asks Javier. “Yeah” he replies, nonchalantly. “I built mine” he adds, with the air of one presenting a winning hand at cards. “Do you want to build one for me?” asks Kelly. “I’ve just got a slidey door with a rail behind it” he adds glumly.

When I mention that I prefer to just throw my clothes on the floor, Richard looks slightly shocked and promptly starts talking about ironing. “I never seem to iron anything. I’ve got a big pile of clothes in the washroom and I never iron them.” Kelly Jones asks me whether I iron bedsheets.

“No” I reply, slightly bemused.

“That’s what I said” he replies. “My mother came round my house the other day and she brought me an ironing board and an iron, just for the craic (“My mum did that” interjects Javier) and I came back in and my mother was ironing my bedsheets and I was like ‘What the fuck are you doing?’. Then, when I saw them on the bed after she did them they actually looked pretty good.”

“I can’t iron” announces Richard. “When you get a crease and you can’t get round it, it’s like..(energetically mimes ironing creased clothing) ‘you bastard THING!’, so I just leave it to my maid.” They all smirk, knowingly. “It’s called his wife.” Kelly Jones tells me.

The interview has, by now, descended into the realms of the ridiculous. It progresses into a heated debate as to what celebrities the Stereophonics want to see. “I’m working my way around” says Kelly. “Ideally we’ll see them before they’re dead” says Richard. “Yeah” agrees Javier. “Well we have seen a few after the date. We went to Elvis’s house” says Kelly. “He was dead” interjects Richard, helpfully. “Jim Morrisson. He was dead too. Oscar Wilde. Dead…. Marx’s grave… Lenin…Lennon….”

When asked whether they get any particular kick at of looking at gravestones, Kelly replies “Yeah. Some are lovely.” He then asks Richard what will be engraved on his gravestone. “I’m not having one” he replies. “No fucking room. My ashes are going to be put into petrol and then distributed over a couple of vehicles and just blown up into wherever” I tell him that he’s not being very environmentally friendly. “He likes his cars” says Javier. “Anyway, I’m dead now, why would I fucking care?” asks Richard. “I don’t want to get buried” volunteers Javier. “Good job, or the worms will have you” Kelly Jones dourly replies.

“I want to have a Tibetan burial” announces Richard, changing his former plan. “which is basically when you get taken up to the top of a mountain, get chopped up into pieces, then fed to the birds” “Fuck that” says Javier, indignantly. “Yeah. What the fuck is that all about?” rejoins Kelly, before announcing that he has recently made a will. I tell him that that’s not very rock and roll. “No, trust me, it is, otherwise it all goes to the government…. There’s not a lot of rock and roll that goes on in rock and roll” Kelly tells me, in a jaded manner. This is contradicted, immediately, by Richard “there’s a lot of rock ‘n’roll going on in rock ‘n’ roll- that’s why you die, and the reality is that you have to leave a will behind so that some fucking bastard in a suit doesn’t take your house.” Wise words indeed.

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Mail Order Messiahs

Posted in Interviews by Catriona on November 5, 2009

Another interview that was originally done for http://www.inkywrists.ie during the HWCH festival:

We caught up with Mail Order Messiahs to have a quick chat about the release of their long-awaited debut album, “Plain”.

So tell us about the new album

We brought it out on our own label, it’s called Ambulance Chaser records, because that’s how we thought we’d have to fund the album, by fake lawsuits! We got a small grant from North Tipperary Arts Council towards the cost of it which was really good.

So do you both live in Dublin now?

Mike: No – this is the whole nature of how we work, the whole reason why our music sounds the way it does. We post each other the songs as they’re being written. We were originally living in Galway, in the same place, and we were in a standard indie-rock band, but we sort of got tired of it.

Dar: So we bought a computer and learnt how to use it…

Mike: well Dar did…

Dar: Then Mike decided that he’d get certified how to use it, so he came here [Trinity] and he learnt how to use a computer also, then we started to send mixes across the country to each other and then we realized that it was a really good way of pushing each other, because we were kind of in a competition to out-wow each other with each rip of an envelope, so that’s pretty much why the songs sound as they do.

It took us a long time to find out what sort of sound we wanted – how electronic, how acoustic, how many vocals, who was going to sing what –  so it was about 2005 when it began to gather pace.Then we brought in Jimmy Eadie and we got him to mix it. We’d gotten as far as we could, so we needed a fresh pair of ears to say ‘I think you should do this’. So we spent about six months on and off with him –like a day a week here and there – and he did great work. It was like an apprenticeship for both of us as well.

Have you been doing any touring recently?

Mike: We did a tour in July and August… until I got mumps. Pre-that, we did a tour – we played Whelans, Mullingar, Galway, a good few places, we hit the main spots. That went well, that was our first kind of proper national tour. We’re hoping to do another one soon.

Dar: The music world is a bit different now – even back in 2005 you could have hit the road and got almost an instant collegiate following in different cities around the country. Now, you seem to have to build it up a lot slower, a lot more work. The good thing about it is that we’re developing the live sound each time we go out, so it’s going to get bigger. But I think it’s always going to be just the two of us – I don’t think we could work with anyone else.

What instruments do each of you play?

Mike: We both play pretty much everything – it depends…

Dar: Mike is an amazing guitarist. If he’d sold his soul he’d probably be a big guitar player in some rock band, but I’ve completely wrecked his chances. Oh well.

Mike: Live, it’s just a laptop, then Dar sings and plays synths on a few songs, then I play guitar and sing pretty much the backing most of the time, and play synth on one song, which is usually a bit hairy.

Dar: No, Mike plays the synths very well, he’s downplaying it. If I wasn’t here it would be the big story. But tonight there’s no synths, we’re very relaxed.

Do either of you play drums live, or do you rely on a drum machine instead?

No, we use Ableton Live– there’s various loops that we can mess about with live, but we usually keep it simple. We have to have reliability – the more complicated you make the setup, the more angry the sound engineer gets and you need to always have the sound engineer on your side. So if you can present them with a left and a right, theoretically you’re going to get a good sound every night. And to get our ideas across to the people, we’ve got to have a good sound every time.

At the minute, we’re a low maintenance band – we’re in the position where we can just turn up and play. Whereas if we had a full band we’d be really restricted in what we could do. In terms of touring, we can just turn up with a laptop and our stuff and play – it’s very compact.

What’s been your best gig to date?

Mike: I think the first gig we ever did in the Roisin Dubh was really good, but that was with a few other bands. We played the Roisin again in August, that was the first time we’d been back since it was changed. We’re kind of a Galway band, I suppose…

Dar: Oh, I’d definitely say that. I want to keep saying that until we get the freedom of the city.

Mike: They don’t claim us though. But we are – when we started we were both in NUIG so we consider ourselves a Galway band so that gig was a kind of homecoming, I suppose. We played Dolan’s Warehouse in Limerick and that was really nice as well – it’s a beautiful venue and the sound was fantastic.

Dar: It’s kind of funny because we judge our best gigs by the technical performance that we deliver rather than audience interaction, crowd participation or crowd presence, so the gigs that Mike has mentioned would be the ones that would have technically the best mix of sound and the best sound on stage. Whether the people enjoyed it or not…it’s hard to say.

We reckon Mail Order Messiahs were just being modest – their album “Plain” is pretty fantastic and very original. You can download their song “Buddy” here.

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Posted in Interviews by Catriona on October 30, 2009

An interview with Subplots in West Coast Coffee, shortly before their gig in Andrew’s Lane…

So how did Subplots form?

For many years we were drummerless playing really bad music in my parents’ front room. Then we formed a band called Envelope, did that for a couple of years, then our drummer decided to leave and we were threatened by a lawsuit thing to change our name, so it was a good opportunity to get somwbody else involved, change the name and Mick came into the fray.

We robbed Mick. We kind of half-stole him from another band [the Star Department], though he’s still in the other band…

So what happened with the lawsuit? Was there another band called Envelope?

Yes, well there was a band called Envelopes and they’re just greedy, they want all the envelope-related names there is. We thought we’d be safe if we put a full stop after ‘envelope’. But we weren’t safe at all, so we had to change our name.

What was your best ever gig?

Our album launch was really good, that was a good laugh. We did a nice little gig in the Odessa, they have an old Georgian room up on the fourth floor, you can get 60 or 70 people in there, that was really fun. We set up weirdly that night too, so we were all in a line, that was fun as well.

If you could have a famous person join your band, who would you pick?

Dougal from Father Ted, to play the triangle.

Or, ideally, we’d like to get a second guitarist, Steven Seagal. But there’d have to be a strict rule to enforce his ponytail at all times. And he’d have to play shirtless at all times as well.

So what are you up to in the next few months?

We’re leaving for New York tomorrow morning to do CMJ, so we’re at the airport for about half seven…. I don’t think we’ve even thought past CMJ to be honest, it’s going to be the end of a chapter I guess, because we’ve been dealing with the first album. It’s been pretty mental for the past year, because it been like ‘get the album done, release the album’ and then we found out literally three or four weeks later that we were playing the CMJ. I think we’re probably going to start recording when we come back. We’re going to work on changing the live set a bit, we’re going to try to involve lighting a bit more, make it a bit different, that’s our goal for next year. We were also talking about releasing some songs online before releasing the second album, but it’s just an idea. We’ll see what happens.

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Jack White

Posted in Interviews by Catriona on October 25, 2009

Jack White paid a very low-key visit to Dublin last week, to give a talk at the University Philosophical Society. For those of you who weren’t lucky enough to see it, which is probably most people – since the talk was on a Sunday and there was a handful of seats – here’s the transcript of the full interview.

Jack White speaking at Trinity College, Dublin. 18/10/09.

Upon receiving the honorary patrons medal:

Well I’ve been patronized in a lot of different ways, but this is the nicest.

Did you have literary heroes?

I had a lot: Shakespeare was probably the first one that was out of childhood years that spoke to me in a different sort of way and opened up a new life. Everything else was sort of children’s stories until then. It’s funny what you said [about Oscar Wilde], because there’s a quote from Oscar Wilde in the airport when we walked in this morning, saying that the only thing he had to declare was his genius at Customs.

And who did you have on your wall poster-wise as a kid?

Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare.

What was it like filming It Might Get Loud with Jimmy Page and The Edge?

It was a pretty incredible experience to work with those two guys. I liked that there was no real idea what the movie was about: it was two sentences that said ‘this is about guitars and guitar players, let’s talk to each other and see what happens.’ Some people have a huge five page summary of what they think something is going to be about: a movie, or a video, or a project or an album or whatever, and it seems to get less and less interesting as you read. And when the door is open to be creative and let things happen in the moment, that interests me, so that was incredible and of course they’re just incredible musicians.

Was Jimmy Page the first to launch into a song?

He was the first to pick up a guitar and start playing. At the time it was striking because we were caught off guard thinking ‘I didn’t expect that to happen so soon, so it was a pretty funny moment.

Did you get performance anxiety in front of Page?

I was reading in the last couple of days about the philosophy of anxiety, and it’s such an interesting notion to me, because the word seems to mean about 16 different things to me. Sometimes I think it means nervousness – I don’t really have much nervousness, I’ve always wondered why I don’t have more and maybe it’s to do with anxiety being synonymous with the word dread – I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately too, because the definition which I have of anxiety in my brain is energy which can be turned to something good, sort of like kinetic energy. (more…)

Miracle Bell

Posted in Interviews by Catriona on October 17, 2009

A quick chat with Miracle Bell in Filmbase on Friday afternoon of the HWCH festival:

So how did the band get together?

We were all friends in school. Three of us jammed together for years throughout school and stuff and we only started to take it seriously a few years ago when John my cousin joined on guitar. We’ve been playing with John for about three and half years.

Any plans for an album?

We’re working on that. We were away for three months in Monastrevin in the middle of nowhere – we wanted to get away from everyone. We rented a huge house down there and set up a studio, and then we wrote the album over the three months. We’re recording it next week, in the Nutshed, down in Clara in Co Offaly.

So what was it like living in a house together in the middle of nowhere for three months?

It wasn’t too bad…. it was actually deadly. We got up first thing in the morning and the first thing you did was start writing or work on an idea you had, so we didn’t have time to get on each other’s nerves.

Any touring?

The dates are all in April, the album’s not going to be released until then so all our tour dates are after that. The launch is in Whelans, so we’ve just got a few scattered gigs until then so we can road test the new stuff.

Best gig?

Our last single launch was in Crawdaddy and that was brilliant, the place was packed. Or else YSI, did you ever hear of that? It’s this Transition Year student convention thing. Basically it’s just three or four hundred screaming 15 and 16 year olds, mainly girls, who just go mental when they hear loud music. The teachers are telling them to sit down and they’re up on the chairs and jumping around. It was in some four star hotel somewhere.

So you were chased by a load of fifteen year olds?

Yeah, it was pretty good, we were signing autographs!

Who else are you going to see this weekend?

The Villagers, they’re from our neck of the woods, from Clane. We’ll watch the Yes Cadets too, and we’ll probably wander around just seeing bands.

You can download a free Miracle Bells track, ‘Into the Trees’ from their website by clicking here.

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It’s Michael Jackson time… Navi comes to Dublin

Posted in Interviews by Catriona on October 4, 2009

Now that poor old Jacko’s dead, everyone wants him more than ever. Navi, his arch-impersonator, will shortly be descending upon Dublin…

A quick trawl through the internet will give you a sense of just how big a following Navi has. Much like the M&S ads, Navi is not just any Michael Jackson tribute act, but appears to have been unanimously crowned with the title of “The World’s No.1 Michael Jackson Impersonator.” Navi is no lightweight; he takes his job seriously, even to the extent of having spent years having plastic surgery to keep up with the deceased superstar’s ever-mutating facial features. As a result, Navi bears an uncanny resemblance to the real Michael Jackson and was formerly employed to act as his decoy, which led to him being invited to Neverland, a privilege normally reserved for the under-12’s.

Many blogs speculate about the extent to which Michael Jackson used his decoys, and as with everything in Jackson’s life, the boundary between illusion and reality was blurred to a considerable extent. Navi’s remarkable physical similarity to Jackson has led to him repeatedly being mistaken for the real thing, such as the publicity stunt in Trafalgar Square, London, last year, when Navi attracted a full-scale mob during a promotional event to mark the re-release of Thriller. Navi and a team of dancers had been briefed to give an impromptu performance of “Thriller”, but the publicity stunt went ahead with difficulty due to the size of the crowd attempting to see “Michael Jackson”.

A favourite amongst the hard-core Jackson fans, Navi is one of the longest running tribute acts in the business, with a career spanning over two decades, and has been invited to perform in front of the man he mimics on several occasions, most notably as the opening act at Jackson’s birthday party in L.A. in 2003, when his performance was applauded by Michael Jackson himself. With a track record like this, it’s no wonder that Navi performs over 150 shows a year, and has played in 54 countries to date, and counting.

It’s easy to see why Navi has created such a lucrative business out of imitating one of pop’s most legendary icons: as well as looking remarkably like his hero, his vocal abilities combined with his choreography are near perfect, achieving an impressive resemblance to the real thing. Navi’s vocal’s are spot-on; it is surprisingly easy to mistake Navi’s version of a song for the real thing. His dancing is similarly accomplished, and even won praise from the real King of Pop, who called him an “amazing dancer” and asked him how often he practised.

Tribute acts are frequently undervalued, and it is all-too-tempting to dismiss them as merely living off the backs of better-known artists. Navi, however, showcases the potential of this art form, and has received worldwide acclaim for his prowess in providing a studied, accurate imitation of the groundbreaking work of a now-deceased legend. Consider Navi’s achievements in relation to the average musician – the number of tours, the elaborate performances, and the level of respect he has won in his respective field – on all these counts he has far outstripped many entertainers. Due to his status as an impersonator, Navi’s actual achievements tend to be overlooked because of the imitative nature of his work, but the degree to which Navi has pushed the art of the tribute act is extraordinary.

Perhaps Navi takes his job a little too seriously, as some parts of his online biography appear to be more of a testament to his extreme obsession with Michael Jackson rather than his success as an impersonator, such as the information that he was inside the courthouse during Jackson’s infamous trial back in 2005. Still, it all emphasises the curious role of the impersonator, whose real craft lies in their ability to imitate rather than innovate and whose personal success is wholly dependent on the career path of another. It’s hard to tell the effect that Michael Jackson’s death must have had on Navi, now that the man that he has religiously followed for two decades is no longer alive. One thing’s for sure: the demand for Navi’s performances is certainly higher than ever.

Jenna Toro

Posted in Interviews by Catriona on September 18, 2009

I’ve somehow found myself editing the Ents Magazine for Trinity College Student’s Union, which basically involves writing numerous biographies of  bands composed entirely of information pulled from the internet. It’s always unpleasant having to write about bands in such a second-hand manner, because all personality really goes out the window, and you’re left with something that amounts to very little more that a jumped-up Wikipedia entry. Still, having said that, I’m still going to post them anyway…

So here you go, a piece on Jenna Toro, who’ll be coming to play at Trinity very shortly.

Judging from her performance at Oxegen, Jenna Toro is certainly one to watch. The 21 year old from Killiney has just written and recorded her debut album, which features her debut single Electric City. “My songs are autobiographical and writing them is like therapy for me,” Jenna explains. “I write to express myself and to sort out my own problems. It’s to benefit me, my life, and it’s for my own well-being. It’s how I deal with problems.”

Jenna has been writing music since her early teens, after her parents were advised by her school that they should get her involved in a social outlet to give her overactive mind a break. “I was reading all the time – I still go through three books a week – and I was too concentrated on my school work,” Jenna says. “Then I started doing piano lessons and the music developed from there.”

Jenna started learning the piano at the tender age of four, and by her teens she was working with the same producer as The Corrs. “This is all I’ve ever wanted to do” says Jenna. “When I was 13, I started recording demos. I used to get the Hot Press yearbook and write out envelopes to every person.” It’s not surprising that before long she was working with one of Ireland’s top managers and, and recording with legendary producer Billy Farrell.

Jenna’s lucky to have such strong support from her parents, who were so convinced of her commitment to music that they agreed to support her decision if she wanted to drop out of her degree. “I went to college for a few years and they said: “If you don’t want to go to college, don’t,” she explains. Although Jenna loved studying International Business and Languages in DIT – “I’m real kind of academic, I’m a bit of a loser,” she says with dry humour – she has taken two years out to focus on the launch of her debt album.

“Singing with the band really gives the songs a whole new life and I’m so looking forward to getting on stage,” she enthuses.

Oxegen was one of her first experiences playing live. Due to a lucky accident of timing and weather she found herself in front of a massive audience. “The Saw Doctors were finishing on the main stage,” Jenna remembers. “I went into the tent where I was playing and there were about 200 people there. The loads of people came in from The Saw Doctors and then it started to pour rain, so the place was packed, it was brilliant.”

Despite the fact that Jenna’s career is still at such a fledgling stage, she has already garnered glowing reviews from music critics for her sensitive songs as well as for her looks. Jenna believes taking a very personal approach to writing music. “It’s better if you are in it,” she says of her songwriting method. “If you are experiencing something and you go to write it, and you do something else and you don’t finished it that say, you have a problem. I’ve written before about things that are maybe painful to write about and then you have to go back and finish them and it’s very painful to go back.”

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The Von Bondies

Posted in Interviews by Catriona on May 18, 2009

I did an interview with Jason from the Von Bondies two weeks ago, before their gig in the Academy on the 6th. Here’s the piece that was in TN2:

After a five year break, a new record deal and another dramatic line-up change, the Von Bondies are back, with the album Love, Hate and Then There’s You. Jason Stollsteimer, lead singer and driving force behind the band spends quite a bit of time in Ireland, since he’s going out with Donna McCabe from the former Dublin band The Dagger Lees, which explains why the Von Bondies are playing seven dates here and only four in the UK. Stollsteimer, who spends three months a year in Dublin and is a regular at Anseo on Camden St, is full of praise for the Irish music scene, citing Fight Like Apes, Ham Sandwich, Republic of Loose and The Frames as his favourite Irish bands. The band are probably best known for their hit “C’mon, C’mon” (of the Lifestyle Sports ad fame), while Stollsteimer’s biggest personal moment in the media spotlight was when he was involved in the now-infamous punch-up with Jack White outside a Detroit club, which culminated in pictures of his battered face appearing all over the Internet and ended in the White Stripes frontman having to attend anger management classes.

Strangely enough, neither the altercation or “C’mon C’mon” were mentioned in the interview, since I walked in on a particularly animated conversation between Stollsteimer and the publicist about the eccentric habits of a dog that he and his ex-wife rescued.

“He used to crawl on top of me, and he was a big 65, 70 pound dog, and would sit on top of me and lick me while I was sleeping, and I’d wake up happy because I’d think it wasn’t a dog. But the dog would hug me like a human being. It had been so badly abused that it was obsessed with being close. It always spooned. It never curled up in a dog position. He had separation anxiety….My ex took him. That’s the only thing I miss about my ex-marriage, the only thing… About two years ago I got a divorce, but I started dating her when I was about 16 so I dated her for 13 years on and off. I’m not a very good rock star. I never really hoed around or any of that shit.”

When asked if he’d ever been attracted to any of the girls in the band – and the girls do change around suspiciously frequently – Stollsteimer replied: “No, I’d never touch those. Out of nine girls that have been in the band, no. I’m probably more attracted to my drummer. After being on tour with girls, there’s no difference. I think girls are actually messier than guys, on tour. At home they might be cleaner. Some girls. But some are just nasty. The girls now are clean… they know not to mess up mine or Don’s bedroom. We all share beds, that’s true, we all do share beds.”

Stollsteimer’s not afraid to elaborate on the Von Bondie’s slightly unusual sleeping habits: “Don, um, I think he runs in his sleep. I put pillows between us. He does too – I don’t want to misquote – he puts pillows between us too because I sit up with my eyes open when I sleep sometimes and that’s scary. And I talk out loud, like really full, fluent sentences. They don’t make any sense, but they’re like ‘Man, I don’t think so. Man, I really don’t think so.’ And my eyes will be open and I’ll be totally asleep. I’ve a lot of issues.”

Issues or not, he seems to have a supportive family: “My grandma comes to my shows. My grandma’s eighty. My grandma and grandpa come to every show in Michigan. They just came to one two weeks ago. I think they’re deaf. At least, I think I’ve made them deaf. I always point them out to the audience. At our last show in Detroit, our bass player was signing this really big boned guy, huge guy, like Buddha, and she signed his left breast and I signed the right one, and my grandma was standing there, my eighty year old grandma whose probably only seen my grandpa naked in her entire life and she signed his belly with a really large “Barb”. Can you picture your grandma being at a concert at one in the morning doing that?”

One of the most interesting things about the Von Bondies is the calibre of their support acts. The band seem to have a knack of identifying new bands on the brink of global success: “We took Kasabian on their first tour, The Kills, The Datsuns on their first tour, Franz Ferdinand on theirs…it was the NME tour, it was us and The Rapture who were headlining and Franz Ferdinand was the first of four. And by the end of the tour they were the biggest band. We all knew they were going to be. It was obvious they were going to be… Even Kasabian, we took them on their first month of touring. They’d never played live in front of audiences outside of their home town. We have open minded fans and a lot of press come to see us because we put on a good live show, but our opening bands always end up being huge. I don’t know what that says about us. That we have good taste? That’s the only nice thing I can think of that would relate to that. But Fight Like Apes were the most fun to hang out with, because they were like kids. Like little monkeys on stage.”

Stollsteimer also mentions the problems with his former record label, which caused the five year delay to the album. The breaking point came when it was suggested that the band work with one of Paris Hilton’s songwriters, an idea which predictably proved distasteful to Stollsteimer: “Nobody will ever hear any of those songs. Every song on the record we wrote. I never physically finished a recording of one of those songs. It’s bad.… Like David Gray or some shit. Seriously, that’s what it sounds like. David Gray writes good songs, it’s just not what I do. Nothing wrong with what David Gray does, my mom likes that kind of stuff…. And I was going through a divorce so I couldn’t fight. I was so tired from fighting in the divorce that I didn’t want to fight with the label. So eventually I just told the label ‘Fuck you, I won’t back my record.’ I feel so good right now, though, it’s like I got rid of everything at once. I’ve no credit debt, no nothing. I can go anywhere I want and I have nothing to prove to anybody because I pay for everything, so I don’t care what anybody else thinks.”

Vicarious Bliss at Trinity Ball

Posted in Interviews by Catriona on March 27, 2009

Vicarious Bliss is no stranger to Dublin, since his appearance at the Trinity Ball will be the third time that he’s played here since September. His two previous appearances at Transmission, in the Button Factory, drew crowds of people to hear his legendary DJ sets. Since he’s signed to the famous Ed Banger Records, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he’s French, but Vicarious Bliss, aka Andy Gardiner, is actually from Manchester, although he’s pretty acclimatised to the French electro scene by now, having moved to Paris in the Nineties. Ironically enough, it was when he was back in London in 2003, that he met Pedro Winter, better known as Busy P, and soon after became part of the Ed Banger crew.

Having released the “Theme from Vicarious Bliss” E.P. several years ago, Vicarious Bliss is currently working on finishing his own album, according to his MySpace profile. The “Theme from Vicarious Bliss” E.P. marked the beginning of Vicarious Bliss’s breakthrough as a DJ of note, with Justice contributing a remix of the track. The “Theme from Vicarious Bliss” draws on numerous influences, from punk to rock, and also incorporates elements of hip-hop and metal to produce a song that veers into a chorus that is a cheeky take on a theme tune that could almost belong to a Nineties TV soap or cartoon. Due to the number of remixes, though, it’s quite hard to track down the original version of the song, although you can currently find it posted on YouTube. As well as this, Vicarious Bliss has also remixed songs for the likes of Ladytron, N*E*R*D, Human League, Mystery Jets, Kid Loco, Cazals, Teenage Bad Girl and Sebastian Tellier, while his own productions have been remixed by Justice, Busy P, Dave Clarke, Lifelike Goes to Disco and Paul Woolford.

France has long been the home of electro and house since the emergence of Daft Punk, and Paris is a base for a significant proportion of the most prominent artists and DJs in this genre. The tight knit group of musicians who are signed to the prestigious Ed Banger Records are a pretty elite bunch, including artists such as SebastiAn, Justice, Uffie, Mr Oizo and the aforementioned label founder, Pedro Winter. The current status of Paris as the hub of new wave electro and pop is partly thanks to Winter, who, as well as managing Daft Punk for twelve years, set up Ed Banger in 2002 as a division of Headbangers Entertainment. Speaking of Busy P in a recent interview, Vicarious Bliss said: “He’s one of the only people I know that actually truly deserves the credit he receives. All of it. He’s just so interested in the real aspects of making and, obviously, selling music. He has a total respect/understanding for & of musicianship, showmanship, marketing, packaging and whatever else that generally fits together to get stuff out coherently. His attention to detail is amazing.”

It’s not surprising then, that Ed Banger have represented some of the most memorable electro artists around, as can be seen from their compilation albums, which rival the Kitsuné Maison compilations for their exciting remixes and innovative sounds. The other major French label of note is Record Makers, which has an eclectic mix of notable artists, representing, amongst others, Sebastien Tellier and Kavinsky. Vicarious Bliss has also worked with another Record Makers group, I Love UFO’s, when he produced their debut album Wish, back in 2005.

With his only working rule in the studio being “if you can’t hum it, bin it”, his DJ sets like his productions consist of no rules, mashed up, electro psychedelia, girly harmonies and plenty of dirty moog. Playlisted by the likes of Erol Alkan, 2 Many DJs and Mark Moore, he DJs regularly at such highly regarded international clubs such as Fabric London, Nitsa Barcelona, Glasgow Arches, Volar Hong Kong while running his own Soiree night in Paris.

Working to a tightly packed schedule, Vicarious Bliss is here, there and everywhere, jetting between Europe and Asia to play sets. His partying habits are also legendary: during one of his Dublin visits, he played at the Button Factory, before taking over the decks at an impromptu rave in a house somewhere near South Circular Road. After playing there for most of the night, he didn’t let the impending daylight stop him, instead bringing a group of people back to the Arlington Hotel, where he attempted to persuade the two extremely suspicious receptionists to allow everyone back into his room for some early morning drinks. When this didn’t work, he then offered to pay for seven rooms, in order to allow everyone back into the hotel, but to no avail. The party, therefore ended sometime around 7.30am on Dame Street, but still, Vicarious Bliss certainly knows how to keep a night going, so it’s well worth watching out for him at this year’s Trinity Ball – you never know what might happen.

*I originally wrote this piece for the Trinity Ball Guide 2009

Peter Bjorn and John

Posted in Interviews by Catriona on March 8, 2009

I can truly say that Peter Bjorn and John know how to party. I have the hangover from hell after running into them backstage at the Button Factory last night. After managing to collar them for an impromptu interview, they headed out to hit the drinking establishments of Dublin. Four hours later, as I tried to leave the Button Factory (it was Saturday, so I stayed around for Transmisson), I ran into them coming BACK IN, considerably the worse for wear. They practically dragged me back to the bar, where they somehow managed to extract free Guinness from the unmanned side bar. It all got a bit blurry after that, but the interview with Peter Moren, preserved on my ever-reliable voice recorder, is thankfully crystal clear…

So how do you feel the gig went?

I think it was really interesting, it was funny – a lot of weird things happened that didn’t happen in the other places, so that was fun… like climbing up the amps and some weird guitar solos and Nicolai guesting and not knowing the song.

You’ve got a new album, Living Thing, coming out very soon?

Yeah, and we’re doing seven of the new songs in the set, so it’s kind of weird for everyone who doesn’t know it, but that’s how it is, because we want to play it and we need to practise, but people seem to like it pretty much.

The last album you did was an instrumental album, Seaside Rock, which was released quite recently. Were you working on songs forLiving Thing at the same time, or did you just take some time out to do the instrumental album?

We had been touring for Writer’s Block, our breakthrough album, the third album, and we toured forever, because it was released in different territories one after the other, so it took such a long time. Seaside Rockwas recorded in 2007 in-between tours, like a tour break, but we started on the new album in January 2008. It was kind of an intense touring period and our first [album] with a budget and proper studios. We used to do everything in our spare time and as a more of a hobby, so it’s great to do this as a living now, it’s amazing.

What was it like after “Young Folks” got so big? It must have been quite a change for you, suddenly getting so famous.

Yeah, it was a really big change. We’d put out two records before that and we’d played some gigs in Sweden and Norway, and all had jobs. I went on and off to university for ten years and never became anything. But it’s hard to concentrate on other jobs when you’re always thinking about music. So, obviously after Young Folks took off it’s been a big change, as now we live off the band, it’s our jobs. We didn’t expect that really, because we’re a bit older. We never wanted to be rock stars, we just wanted to make great music, and that’s what we’re doing.

What did you work as before the band became a full-time job?

All kinds of things. We were working quite a lot in schools, substitute teaching, teaching small kids music, or trying to – it didn’t work very well, I’m afraid. I also worked a lot in second hand bookstores, which was kind of nice, and as I said, on and off at university. At the time the record started to break through I was studying information science to become a librarian, but I didn’t finish that, obviously! (laughs)

Do you feel like your new album has progressed from Writer’s Block?

Yeah, it’s a huge difference. I think it’s our best album, I mean we always think that way with our songs, but we were able to pay more attention to the details and talk it through and make it properly, so to speak, a bit more expensive. It’s funny, because in a way it’s our most accessible record, the most “pop”, and it’s less like indie-rock, it’s more like classic pop or synth-pop or whatever. A lot of influences are from when we grew up in the Eighties, the things that were on the radio then, so it’s kind of more luxurious, more like champagne and less like beer. But at the same time, we achieved that by experimenting a lot, we didn’t take the expected routes, we kind of played on bottles and knives and matchboxes and all kinds of stuff, instead of a drum kit. The guitars and the piano are played in a more percussive way too, it’s more rhythmical. So it took quite a lot of talking and figuring out how to do it. Because we want to surprise ourselves, and that’s not really about the songs, because the songs are classic pop songs, it always has been, so they can be played in any kind of way. So it’s more about how you put space around them. It’s a blue, kind of cold, melancholic album in a way, but it’s also very melodic and has all kinds of influences.

I noticed that with Seaside Rock – you were really innovative with the arrangements and your choice of instruments.

That was really important for this new album too, just to let loose in the studio and play around. And in that one [Seaside Rock], we played on a lot of instruments we can’t play –like violins and saxophones – we can’t really play them, but we played them anyway, so it was kind of like children in an orchestra. So with this one, we went even further and played stuff that isn’t instruments. It’s funny, we’re more naive and childish now than when we started, even though we’re older as people, so it’s kind of interesting.

How do you write the songs – is it a collaboration between all of you or does one person do most of the writing?

We all write separately to begin with, so we sit at home with a guitar or a keyboard and write songs. Then we make demos for each other, and then we arrange and produce it together. It’s very democratic, almost painfully democratic. It’s three bosses, there’s not one who has more to say.

What have been your influences for this latest album?

We listen to a lot of different music. For me, somewhere in the background are classic pop songs from all ages. But for this new album we listened to a lot of hip-hop and old synth, African and Brazilian music, rockabilly and even some funk, so it all goes into the mix. It’s like this show now, it’s like a musical history, that goes from the Forties and Fifties to the present, we go through everything.

What are your plans for the next few months?

We’re going home tomorrow, we’re doing some more promo in Swedenand then we’re going to New York the next Sunday. We’re playing at the SXSW festival in Austin and then we’re going to do some more dates inEurope. And then another American tour, it’s never-ending, but I think we’re coming back here in the fall, hopefully.