Wed 17th August 2005
A band that describe themselves as Sunn 0))) covering The Get-Up Kids could hardly fail to impress us here at ninehertz, especially when followed up with some impressive live outings and a striking debut album, 'Disko', on Dry Run Recordings. It's clearly time for our intrepid reporter Mike to find out more. Answering the questions: singer Matt Dixon.
How did the album come about? What's it like compared to the tracks available online and on your split with Among The Missing?
The tracks that were on MySpace ('Sunriders' and 'Zemanova') until recently were seriously old. Zemanova, which we re-recorded for the album, was the first song we had written as a band. Red Stars Parade existed in name before that with our old drummer Martin, but it is essentially a new band with Kev, both in the way the songs sound and how we actually come up with them. The tunes on our album are pretty much the songs we play at gigs and now we have recently added another song off the album called 'The World's Greatest Tiger Trainer' to the set having never played it since we recorded it back in April 2004. Some of us had even forgotton how it went, so we rehearsed it a few times and whacked it in. It's kinda funny - in a sad-case way - people think it's a new tune but really we just blagged it as it's more a case of us just being a bunch of disorganised loners.
We recorded our album with Dave Chang at Philia studios in the very well-to-do Henley on Thames. Having recorded our demo with him it was reassuring to be in an environment that was remotely familiar. That said, when I first went into record my vocals I was bricking it and wasn't holding up too good. I had to get every one to fuck off while I discussed methods of coping with the pressure of making an album someone had to fork out for (which basically resulted in me having to get a wee bit pissed). Recording with Dave was a very beneficial experience. As an engineer, he was pretty much spot on; at times he was really quite militant and brutally honest. It was honesty, I reckon, that was definitely the vehicle to getting everything recorded with in the time-frame Dry Run Recordings had budgeted for. If something was shit or not good as it could be, you were told so. This was productive as there was no messing around really, the pressure helped with the discipline but it would have been nice to have had say, a month to do it rather that two weeks. However, it seemed ridiculous that we were even recording an album in the first place as we were writing songs for it in our basement and generally pissing off everyone around us!
Recording our 7" split with Among The Missing (on Christmas Eve Records) was a very different experience. The track was recorded, mixed and mastered in a day. This - as I'm sure is the case with many other bands recording on a limited budget- was again, a speedy recording session. The approach was very simple. The band recorded live until we had a take that we were happy with, then Charlie (our guitarist) added a few additional tracks to thicken up the sound a bit and then I ruined the lot with some ill-advised rapping. I then had to re-record the all my vocals back at my nan's studio and e-mail them to Terry Wogan, who then gave them the okay and they finally ended up back in the studio the same day and were used just in time. Yet again it would have been cool to have had more time during the mixing process to tweak a few bits here and there but overall we're very pleased with it. Many thanks to Shaun Lowe at Prism Studios for that.
Disko was recorded with each of us laying down our parts seperately, with Charlie layering numerous tracks of guitar and toying with a few effects here and there. The album has a really clear top end to it and has a lot of depth to the sound. The vinyl is far more bassy and it a lot less compressed sounding than the album. It'll be exciting when we get the chance to make another full-length record as we could get or songs sounding somewhere in between the two - the fattest low end like we got with Shaun and the clarity we got with Dave.
How long ago did you form?
The band first formed under the name 'The Lotus Division' and we were fucking shit. The only thing that made us cool was that we went to Bretton Hall College, which was an arts college based in Wakefield. While we were there we formed due to the total lack of heavy bands at the uni. There was a music course, but it was saturated with people mainly churning out generic, light-weight funk. Not good. To be fair, there were a lot of people there with a lot of talent but it was just so dull a lot of the time.
We wanted to rock so, as you do, formed a band and rehearsed in our basement, for six months and got a set together. Our first gig, was at a place called McDermott's. The gig was total bollocks. Charlie and myself were pissed and I could barely remember any of my vocals really and had absolutely none for the last song we played. So I basically just screamed randomly at the few people who could be bothered to watch and a couple of my friends who were just laughing at us. Our drummer at the time, Martin, was obsessed hitting the kit as hard as he physically could. For a heavy band, I kinda understood his mentality,but when your kit has to be held in place with what is quite literally a small brick wall and you destroy cymbals in a couple of months from new, it's time to start asking whether you're overdoing it a bit. The early gigs were a bit shambolic really, but a good laugh. Anyway, over time we changed our name and eventually our drummer.
Dave Jones from Leeds band Humanfly, a band who rock in a very satisfactory manner rehearsed and did a one-off gig with us at the Packhorse in Leeds to help us out. That show was fucking mint. Dave brought a shit load of energy to our set. We hadn't noticed before, but with our old tunes sounding twice as good as they had done, we felt inspired. We found Kev and started practicing again. In a nutshell we wrote songs, gigged, threw out the old ones that weren't as good and repeated the process.
The first I'd heard of you was when you toured with Bumsnogger a few years ago...
Ha! That tour was fuckin ace, and bollock-solidifyingly cold too! When we toured with Bumsnogger, we were in the later stages of making the album. The tour was ridiculous. On the first night of meeting, it was decided that we'd go out for some drinks to break the ice. I lost my memory from being a lightweight on jagermeister. Woke up the next day as we were leaving to go on tour and spent the rest of the tour recovering. Good lads, Bumsnogger, good gigs and it was cool to meet and play in front of people in Scotland even if was so cold I wanted to cry.
What do you hope to do in the next few years with the band?
Do more gigs, play new places (I'd like to go to Russia), get more equipment to be able to experiment with recording and generally do what we do better and allow things to run their course.
Leeds is sometimes seen as a little bit insular by the rest of the country, even the county, what would you say to this?
Well, I don't really think I'm the most qualified person to answer this question. However, to contradict myself totally I remember speaking to one of the dudes from The Art of Burning Water when we played with them in London and he basically said that when he played at the Bassment in Leeds, it sucked. Apparently there wasn't any real promotion and they had a pretty dead gig and a bit of a shit time. He was a sound bloke too. Another story similar to this was when Unsane played at the Cockpit a while ago. Matt, our bassist, told me that again, there was next to no promotion from the venue. Now Unsane are a fully rocking band, and if they'd been put on by one of the decent promoters that exist in Leeds then there would have been shit loads of people down to check them out. As a result there was, so I'm told, about 40-50 people there. Pretty shit huh? A lot of bitchiness exists, but it's best to ignore it as I'm fed up with shit-stirring in general, plus there are a lot of people are doing good things in Leeds.
Matt, your bassist is in Executive Distraction Task, is that an extension of his musical tastes? Does he see it as a side-project, or as a fully functioning second band?
I can't give the exact answer to this, but as far as I know Matt considers EDT to be a proper band that he would try to dedicate as much time to as us. Us lot and EDT played with Red Right Hand among others in June at The Fenton in Leeds. This gig was pretty damn good really put on by a friend of mine. The Fenton has been getting some good shows on recently. Paul Priest among others puts on shows under with Raw Nerve.This isn't a comprehensive representation of all music but it's better for heavy gigs.
Your style of music might not appeal to everyone within the metal/hardcore scene, who do you find gives you the best feedback?
I dunno really. It really doesn't seem to matter what kind of a crowd we play in front of really, whenever we've played a gig in the last year or so regardles to whether it's a heavy gig or not we get mixed feedback. Honestly, there are shows where a lot of the audience have turned up to see a certain type of music and some have seen us and though we were shit and other have been very impressed. Our music may not appeal to everyone but to be honest, I really don't give that much of a shit anymore, You shouldn't have to go out of your way to keep everyone satisfied but that doesn't mean that I like to alienate an audience. If people are enjoying themselves for whatever reason I want them to get involved.
Another thing that makes gigs cool, for me at least, is getting the music tight, so when we play live we can open up the possibilities for the unpredictable, within reason. Having said that, at the last gig we played, during the first band this forty year old bird who was completely fucked out of her head got her tits out. During our set we did the waltz for a bit and then i accidently ended up head-butting her- so yeah, a bit unpredictable. Basically, we get mixed responses from people with regards to our band and that suits me fine.
Apart from bands of a similar genre, what kind of music do you all listen to? Do you share tastes?
We do to varying degrees share musical tastes, that not all being heavy. But yeah, I'd say we do all like checking out all sorts of music and own CDs that the other guys in the band would consider to be dubious at best. Charlie's a massive fan of The Cure, and introduced me to a lot of cool music, and when we first started hanging out shared a lot of musical tastes. However he's been into heavy music since he was about 13. I believe our mate Rob lent him a Metallica record and he loved it and as a result loved metal and wanted to do a band. Matt was always an indie kid who got into heavy bands through indie and punk music. Kev has loved heavy music from a young age and I can confirm is partial to a bit of Paul Simon every now and then. I enjoy loads of stuff that sometimes gets me cussed but fuck it. I'm a sucker for emotional songs unless it's Celine Dion. However I used to love Beverly Craven for my sins. But I don't think any one of us can deny the quality of Daniel Bedingfield's debut album.
Apart from Among The Missing, what bands would you recommend we keep an eye out for?
Humanfly are doing pretty well for themselves. They've had some really decent gigs recently and I hope things will pick up for them here on in. i mention this, remembering how shitly they were treated when they were due to play with Mastodon. They recently played with Clutch in Manchester and Charlie told me it was totally fat. Good on them.
I'm not really Mr. finger-on-the-pulse or anything to be honest but Eiger were fucking good when we played with them at the Fenton and I believe that they are putting an album of atmospheric tunes together themselves, so keep a look out for that.
Snowblood are great, some very subtle business going on in their tunes before the emotionally destructive waves of intensity come in through full distortion and harsh screams etc. Decent stuff.
Breather Resist simply reminded me of just how tight and devastating a musical unit can be. They were fucking brilliant, I can't be bothered to try and write some overblown lyrical appreciation of their music just simply put: Buy their music, Charmer is as thoughtful as it is brutal. Do it, do it!
Your lyrics seem, at times, to be a little "stream of conciousness", like the repetitions at the end of "Zemanova". Have they got a direct meaning, or are they simply abstract?
When you realise that they're all about my obsession with kebab massaging and Brian Conley's smile, the smoke of mystery will be cleared. Ho ho. When I write lyrics I just try and come up with something that fits the atmosphere of the song. I may not necessarily have a deep and meaningful connection with the words I have on a page in everything that i write but now and then I'll use a more personal source for some lines. With the album I wasn't particularly fussed with how direct the lyrics were or whether they could instantly be taken on a literal level. As long as I was was satisfied with the overall feel of them and if in the song at particular points they generated a cool image for your minds to take in.
In some tunes that i really like, the music and words can and have set up a really specific atmospheres and then just in the same sense as a dischordant note can stamp a totally different emotional quality to a song, a few words can have a similar effect. I know some people consider words without direct meaning to be a cop-out and alienating, but I'd just tell them to chill out. I really do think that as long as I know why I wrote what i did in a song and if someone can get something out of it then there's just as much value it in.
Having said this quite a few themes in the album are quite direct and do have a purpose behind them lyrically. 'El retardo''s lyrics are simply a comment on the total arrogance, vanity and condescending attitudes people can carry with them. Zemanova is quite abstract, I'll admit, but i definitely thinks the words carry the right atmosphere with them. I always get a sense of urgency when I sing/scream them. When I wrote lyrics to that tune I was trying to get across the feelings I had when I wanted to be in big rock band as a teenager and all the shit about the "tear down the list of our saviours, our dreams,the reason you made us, you're the one big reason to live" was about sometimes how desperate you can feel from simply loving the bands that have inspired you over the years and feeling they're so much better than me, i'll never do anything like that etc. There are are other ways in the way these words can be percieved and i like that. At the end of Zemanova the "insidious" lines are just an image of when things are destined to become very shit for you you'd rather they came a hell of a lot quicker so you can deal with the bullshit and get on with things than slowly yourself get fucked up bit by bit by something totally out of your control. How eloquently put. I hope that kinda helps you. If not, oh well, I'm shit.
All the pictures are taken from the excellent Punkshots band photography website here which is well worth a look.