NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO JACK PITT AND WESLEY BROWN (JACKALS, MIDNIGHT PARASITE, SONIC ORDER)

I’ve known Jack and Wes since the first DIY punk show I saw in Norwich. The two were and are singing in Jackals, and as of late Wes is vocalist and Jack bassist in Norwich metal-punkers Midnight Parasite. Jack was vocalist of Sonic Order, organises a fair few Norwich punk shows, and has done a lot of writing about and photographing punk. Wes paints, draws and collages, and has created art for many bands and flyers. I met with them in The Owl Sanctuary and we had a long chat about a number of topics. This is the extended edition of the interview.

NMG: What’s the state of Jackals at the moment, and what’s the plan after the next record?

Jack: What’s the state of it?

NMG: That wasn’t intended to be-

Wes: Should we fully disclose it?

J: Yeah, fuck it.

NMG: You don’t have to fully disclose it.

J: We actually all hate each other.

W: Yeah I fucking hate them all. (chuckling) We’ve had a few line-up changes. People’s priorities have changed a bit, some don’t want to be in bands anymore…

J: I think the biggest thing is people moving to London, it makes it hard to practice.

W: Yeah, Sam has to travel from London… people obviously still enjoy it, but maybe touring’s something people don’t wanna do as much. We’re writing stuff for a new LP, and it’s a banger.

J: We haven’t recorded anything for about two years now. I think by the time we’ve recorded it will have been three years. It’s a long time. But even before the last 7”, we were practicing less than we used to anyway… it’s not been a bad thing because we’ve been able to spend more time on the songs, but it is frustrating when you want to get on with it. We’ll do the LP next year and play some gigs, and that’ll probably be it. Call it a day.

W: At the end of the day, it’s been since 2010, hasn’t it, so it’s a long time in anyone’s life.

Dave Gooch

J: It’s one of those things where it’s the level of commitment and effort to keep it going, it’s difficult to maintain when you’re not doing anything and can’t practice very often. Sam’s doing other bands, we’ve got other bands and those function more easily, so with Jackals we wanna go out in a good way, play some last gigs, have fun and leave it on a good note rather than letting it fizzle out entirely.

W: I’m not scratching the walls doing nothing because we have Midnight. We’ve got our own things, we wanna carry on doing bands.

NMG: Who’s in Midnight Parasite, how did it get started?

J: Neither of us were in that at the start. Pete, who drums, and Kyle, who plays guitar met on the internet somehow, because they both wanted to start a band. They practiced with each other maybe four or five times. I didn’t know Kyle at the time, but Pete asked me if I knew anyone in Norwich who wanted to play bass for it, so I just said I’ll do it, because I just figured it’d be a good way to practice bass. But the more we do, the more we go on, the more happy I am with the music. We started practicing last year around Christmas, wrote five or six songs. We didn’t need anyone to do vocals at that point because we were just writing. When it got to the point where we had to start looking I mentioned to Wes that we needed someone to do vocals if he’d be up for it, and that’s pretty much it. It didn’t happen by default, but he was the only person locally who we thought ‘oh yeah, that’d make sense’ about.

W: ‘Oh he likes the stuff’, you know what I mean? It’s sort of a niche band.

NMG: So Midnight Parasite just released a demo, and people seem to like it. What’s the plan next? More shows, more releases?

J: We’ve got loads of songs that we’re writing, the good thing about it is we’ve been able to practice almost every week since we started, so it’s quite productive. We’ve got a lot of things we’re working on, and we’re gonna record… next year? We’ll see where we are in a few months and let that decide what we do. Probably a seven inch or something, or record five, six, seven songs and figure out what we want to do with them.

W: It’s good as well because Pete seems to have been like… working on it for the last 25 years? He comes in with riffs he’d written on his acoustic guitar or something. Everyone’s coming to the table with something. You’ve [Jack] written some songs, Kyle has, Pete has… I haven’t, but…

J: It’s a good thing, everyone’s having their own ideas, we put it together, and it’s a bit different to what it started out as, but we’ve constantly got stuff going on.

NMG: Jack – what’s going on with Sonic Order at the moment? You recorded a new 7” a while back?

J: Yeah, we’re just waiting for it to come out. Nothing really interesting in terms of the reason why it’s been held up. It’s coming out on two labels, one’s from Zagreb, called Doomtown, these guys Carlo and Mihael, both people I’ve known for a while. And there’s another guy, Skunk, from Norway, who runs a label called Byllepest. It’ll be out next year.

NMG: So more shows to go with that?

J: Well, Jack, the guitar player, lives in Canada now. He moved out there six months ago?

W: He came back recently and stuff, but he’s in Toronto, or a little bit out of Toronto.

J: So he’s there. But the thing is, we weren’t really a band for long enough to make a big deal out of splitting up or anything. We’re gonna see – if he stays out there, then that’ll be it. But he comes back to England on and off, so there’s always the option we could play gigs when he’s back, do a tour here and there.

NMG: Is the name Sonic Order an Omegas reference?

J: I think it was. It was one of those things where we were just looking at song names because we couldn’t think of anything good. We had a couple of ideas of our own that weren’t very good… at all.

NMG: I don’t think I’d ever heard the Omegas until I listened to their song Sonic Order because I saw it online and went, ‘ah!’

J: Yeah, it wasn’t a tribute or whatever. I think they’re really good, but it was just us looking at song names and choosing one. A pretty lazy way to do it, for when you can’t think of anything cool. I will say that pretty much all the good band names have been taken now, there’s nothing left. You just have to stick with something that doesn’t sound awful. Just put a couple of words together and hope it’s not embarrassing.

W: It sort of varies how successful that can be sometimes. I always think of the Simpsons, the B Sharps bit. When I have to explain that my band’s called Jackals or Midnight Parasite, I just sort of say ‘it was funny at the time’. Six years later you’re fucked.

NMG: It’s a lot nicer than saying you’re in a band called Shower Boys. That was an in-joke for us, because we were gonna do a joke band, but then I started writing serious songs…

J: If you can’t think of a cool band name just think of something you’re not embarrassed to tell someone. If you can get that far I think that’s a start. If you’ve got a real cool band name, that’s good, but…

W: Just put Dis- in front of it, you’re sorted.

NMG: Yeah. Dishower Boys, that’d be totally normal. So with the different bands you’ve been in, how does the creative process differ?

J: Jackals has changed, really, from what it used to be. Now Sam’s writing a lot of the stuff at home.

W: He’s got Garageband on his phone and he just… does it on the toilet at work.

J: He’ll do the riffs at home and then fit the drums around it… whenever he’s got five minutes. He’ll bring that to us, and at practice we’ll kind of put it all together, add the bass, the drums. The songs often change as we do this. I write lots of lyrics for songs, and once we’ve got a finished track I’ll look through the different ideas I had and work out which one fits which song. That’s pretty much Jackals innit.

NMG: You mentioned Midnight Parasite, that that’s three different people writing songs and putting them together.

J: It started off that Kyle wrote them all, the first three or four songs Kyle had written and demoed himself, with drums and everything. As it’s gone on, I’ve been suggesting things, or he’ll have a riff and we’ll work from there, change things. Because we practice a lot it’s easier, because it’s all fresh in your mind and you can change it. And Wes has got the lyrics once we’re fairly set on a structure.

W: And as it goes on it gets easier to tell someone oh, I think you should tweak that.

J: Usually with Jackals it’s like telling Sam to keep stuff simple… I was talking to him the other day and he said he liked bands that will just repeat two riffs for a whole song, so he likes that, but he finds it hard to do that himself. So sometimes he needs to be told, just keep playing that bit, because it sounds good like that.

W: With every band I’ve been in, the creative process always feels roughly the same.

NMG: I suppose it differs depending on the genre, and who’s involved.

J: For me if I’m in a band I want to have say in how it sounds… but as a vocalist you have less involvement in the structure of the songs. With Midnight Parasite it’s the first time I’ve played bass in a band, and I’ve been contributing more of my own ideas from the start. You get an idea for a song and you can take it to someone more musically minded, and they add in stuff you might not think of and you can then learn through that. I usually write stuff that’s very simple and then tweak it with others. With the effect I play the bass through it’s sort of… grumbling… I could be playing anything really…

NMG: Now, the big questions. How do you think current events – Brexit, Trump’s political ascendency – is going to affect DIY punk, not just in terms of the music, but it terms of the organisation, the logistics, the distribution.

J: First of all, I’ve talked to people about this already, and I’ve found it really irritating and infuriating, how in the aftermath of it people had that detached approach of saying ‘oh at least we’ll get some good music out of it’.

NMG: Oh yeah, I’m not trying to say that, that it’s this wonderful thing. I think it will change the landscape a bit.

J: I think for a lot of politically aware punk bands, this is a worrying development, in terms of the rise of the far right, but if that’s the only thing someone gets annoyed about, America having a bad president, I wouldn’t really wanna hear that person’s opinion on politics. The only bands I think will gain political mileage out of Trump is bands like NOFX. Ultimately in terms of these developments it’s best to see them as indicative of a worrying shift. The political landscape has changed, but it’s a development of the way the world’s been going, and the way the world’s been for a long time. People are exploiting things which were already there.

NMG: I’m interested in the way punk reacts to the far right, but I feel like the Brexit thing is going to change the distribution of punk, the way records can be traded and sold.

J: It’s gonna be more expensive. But it’s still pretty open in terms of what could actually happen. There’s a lot of ways it could go, but the terms on which it’s going to happen and what the long term effects are going to be is uncertain. Maybe some have a better idea than me, but I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. Ultimately as much as I have massive reservations about the EU, for bands, the idea that you can tour mainland Europe without any sort of hassle, just go out and do it, might be in danger. I’d hesitate to call it the end of open borders, since they were only open under certain circumstances for certain people.

W: In terms of the far right, I’ve seen a lot of people who think that what they do in the punk scene exists only in the punk scene, and don’t really see it in the grand scheme of things. They’re aping the right. I’ve had to turn down artwork requests for some bands because I don’t think they’ve understood the implications of what they’ve asked me to do. It opens doors for certain people to come in. I’m seeing people at shows who I’ve seen on social media with swastikas in their houses. And with Brexit and Trump and all this other stuff; now the fascists are feeling quite bold. Often when people object, the PC thought police thing gets brought up a lot, and all the social justice warrior fucking crap. But basically, I don’t want to be around people who are alright with nationalism and racism. That’s what it boils down to.

J: With the far right, you give them space to occupy, and they’ll occupy more. I think what we do culturally matters and can have an impact, and the current political situation makes the need for uncompromisingly anti-fascist music and culture all the more vital. There are people in the US and the UK and around the world in bands that have a large degree of social capital and influence on other people. For people to not use that in a positive way, I find that very frustrating. The difference between bands I’m ambivalent about and bands that I’m excited by is whether they use that scene credibility, or whatever they’ve got, for good; to encourage people to think about things and take action. 

NMG: Well that sort of leads into the last question. If there are any truly effective ways, how can DIY performers, groups, promoters, scenes and such resist against the far right?

J: It’s a really old discussion I think; since punk’s existed people have been asking how, as a subculture or a counter-culture, it can have an effect on the wider world. As I said, I genuinely believe it can, especially when people are able use the power that punk gives them to do positive things and put things on the agenda. For example at Static Shock Weekend, Strutter were absolutely raging but between songs made it explicit that one of their songs is about white privilege. Their singer’s in a cool band that people like, in fact three or four bands that people really do listen to, and is using that platform to challenge people. Punk can sometimes, if it’s done well, be an escape for marginalised people, so if you can use your own ability within the scene to make it a more inclusive place and elevate marginalised voices that’s also an important thing.

NMG: In the past few years it seems like punk’s become better for that. There seems to be more discussion about it.

J: It’s one of those things where for all the bad, there’s really genuine people using it in a really good way.

NMG: When G.L.O.S.S. initially came out that was exciting because it seemed to draw a lot of people into not just the music but also the idea that it can be radical.

J: I think the biggest thing for punk right now, as far as its vitality goes, is in the expansion of the range of voices that you can hear. Not to say that there’s not a long way to go, as for some people women in punk is still seen as an anomaly, but in a lot of scenes there are so many women that are just destroying the idea that punk is for and by men. Before the Static Shock aftershow at the Unicorn there was a fundraiser for a Decolonise Fest, and these things are happening everywhere, not just in London. If marginalised people are able to find power and a voice for themselves through punk, that’s a good thing in itself, beyond debates about the effect punk has in an activist sense. There’s bands like Haram, for example.

NMG: The New York scene is very interesting because of the different languages in use – Haram singing in Arabic, La Misma in Portuguese, Nomad in Japanese.

J: Punk’s always been an international thing. I think that’s one of the reasons it’s so vital, it brings together people from very different backgrounds.

NMG: There is this internationalism in punk now, the way the New York and London and Barcelona scenes connect together and share ideas and members. But also just the way you can go to a DIY gig in Britain and see like, a Malaysian grindcore band being supported by local bands, that’s something special in itself.

J: It’s always been the case that punk’s had that international thing, and while the world is becoming a more fragmented place in some ways, in terms of ease of travel it has got smaller maybe, so it’s still viable for people to do this.

NMG: It’s not as time consuming to keep up with internationally now – there’s less writing letters, making cassettes, mailorder and the like than there was in say the 80s.

James Rollo

W: Even though it is all there at the click of a button, you still have to do it… even if the means are there, it’s still an effort, and it’s still worth doing. If you really want to find out some bands, maybe message somebody, get a tape off them… so some of those elements are still there. But there’s no point romanticising the 80s and saying oh, now it’s not like that, so it’s not genuine.

J: I can understand where that comes from, but at the same time I think with anyone who’s actively involved in punk now, you really do get those moments that are actively utopian. It’s less necessary for certain people, and people’s experiences of these kind of things vary, but where it’s done right I think punk can be a very unifying experience, where you can break barriers. You can look at the bigger picture and ask how does punk effect the real world, but if it gives people an experience of escape, that’s good in itself and if it gives people experience in organising, that’s something they can then use in the wider world to make tangible differences. Like building DIY spaces, it shows you a new way of working with people different to the one you’re taught about. You can show someone a DIY space where everyone works together and contributes to make it happen, purely because they realise the value of it, and use it to show them that collective organisation can work, that people can organise and make something happen. There’s elements of conflict or whatever too, of course, but there’s a lot of positive examples.

NMG: Well that’s about everything. Any inspirational words for the kids?

J: Oh shit.

NMG: You can just say no.

W: ‘Smash to fuck the fucking system’.

J: That’s not actually the lyrics though…

W: It is! He’s not doing it but it is the lyrics!

NMG: Oh. Discharge. Right.

J: On the recording he said ‘it’s a messed up fucked up fucking system’ which is bad, and then they realised that ‘smash to fuck the fucking system’ is much better. I guess the lesson to be learned from that is review your previous work, and that you can build on your previous mistakes.

W: Demo a lot.

J: Punk’s a learning experience…

W: Punk’s about… refining what you’ve done under a microscope until it’s devoid of any originality.

J: And you hate your own work. Nah. It’s about learning, getting better.

W: I hope that was alright mate!

The bands:

https://jackalshc.bandcamp.com/

https://midnightparasite.bandcamp.com/releases

https://sonicorder.bandcamp.com/

Jack’s photos:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/69364653@N03/

Wes’ art:

http://getinthefuckingvan.tumblr.com/

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, a shorter version was originally published in No More Gigs issue 11, December 2015]

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NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO JACK PITT AND WESLEY BROWN (JACKALS, MIDNIGHT PARASITE, SONIC ORDER)

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO RESTORATIONS

Restorations are a band from Philadelphia, whose style is tough to pin down. Their roots are in punk, but their sound draws not just from punk but indie, classic rock, folk, post-hardcore, and more. Since forming they’ve released three full lengths, and received plenty of critical acclaim. We sent them some questions after their show in Norwich in July, but a number of things delayed the interview from being completed until late December, when we got some answers from Jon Loudon.

First off, who does what in Restorations, and has anyone in the group got any other projects?

Jon – Guitar/main vocals
Dave – Lead guitar/backup vocals
Ben – Guitar/backup vocals/keyboards
Jeff – Drums
Dan – Bass/backup vocals

Dave performs solo as Manhattan Side Project. Jeff also drums for Ma Jolie and Belgrade. Ben occasionally plays keyboards in Palmas. Dan was previously in Dirty Tactics, Highlites, and The Riot Before.

How did the band form?

Our old bands had run out of steam and we were looking to do a low-key local project in our downtime. Thanks to the internet, we’re now a full-time touring band.

How and why would you say the band’s sound has changed, as you’ve moved from record to record? A lot of elements present on the first EP are still there in the third record, but there’s also been a gradual evolution.

Originally, we didn’t really have any clear direction, just a few main influences. Over time, we’ve found what actually works from that combination and started trying new things with the formula. Trying to make this one continual thought over a couple of albums.

How do the lyrics get written? What influences them, in terms of other writers, and events or stories that inspire them?

Though most of the band is collaborative, I do all of the lyric writing. I do lots of quick/short lyric writing over the course of the album-writing process and then start to put them together thematically as I notice patterns coming together.

These songs are mainly about the experiences of watching the city you were born in change over time.

Other lyric writers that I love are Bill Callahan, John K. Samson, Mark Kozelek, and John Darnielle.

What’s ‘Civil Inattention’ about exactly? Or to put it differently, what caused it to be written?

That song is about the commute to work at an early hour and the time a guy OD’d in front of my old house.

What’s it like playing in Philadelphia right now? There seems to be a lot of cool stuff going on out there.

Philly’s wonderful at the moment. It’s a very supportive and social scene. Seems like everybody’s got a project at the moment and everyone’s pitching in to make sure they don’t blow it. Great energy all around.

And how was playing Norwich? Watching you sure was good.

Norwich was one of our favorite shows from that tour. Just a great room and the staff and crowd were all exactly what you want from a punk show. One of the more positive experiences we’ve had overseas for sure. It’s a surreal experience rolling into a town for the first time and it feels like home.

Finally, what has the band got planned for the future?

We did a good 5 months of touring since LP3 came out. Time to chill out, take 5, and go back to the practice space for a bit and work on #4.

 [Interview conducted by Ned Samuel over summer and autumn 2015, originally published in No More Gigs issue 10, March 2016]

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO RESTORATIONS

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD

Recently, Andrew Jackson Jihad played the Owl Sanctuary and it was brilliant. After the show, Ned and myself got talking to Sean Bonnette and gave him a copy of issue 6, asking him if he’d be interested in doing an interview with us. A few days later, I emailed the SideOne Dummy press agent and organised an interview. Ned and I thought up some questions for Sean and I sent them off. Here is the product. The image was taken from AJJ’s facebook.

Firstly, I’d like to say that I’m a huge fan, and that your gig at the Owl Sanctuary was awesome. What would you say is the difference between playing a small, intimate venue like that, compared to a larger venue?

Hey! Thanks! On a technical level I would say that sound is a big difference. In smaller clubs it’s a challenge to be dynamic, to go from a whisper to a cacophony. Banter is funner and easier in smaller rooms. I enjoy both experiences.

How did Andrew Jackson Jihad start?

Ben and I worked together at a coffee shop around the time he got an upright bass from his dad and I started getting confident about my songs.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Wherever I find it and more importantly wherever it finds me. I find some of my favorite influences outside of music; skateboarders like Rodney Mullen and Ari Shiffrin, visual artists like Suzanne Falk and Wayne White, authors like Haruki Murakami and Kurt Vonnegut. I’ve become more observant of the processes of others over the past couple years. Thematically I am inspired by childhood, mental health, violence, faith, etc…

Given that your lyrics are so emotive, there must have been times when fans have told you how much they have been affected by them. Have any of these stories ever stuck with you, or changed the way you see your own songs? If so, what was it?

All of the stories stick with me, but out of respect I’d rather not divulge any of them.

What have you found the reception of the new album (Christmas Island) to be, and why did you choose to expand the band?

I feel like it went over really well! I think it really helped people understand us. We expanded the band for the knife man tours to do justice to some of the electric songs, and we kept rolling with it because it’s very very fun and Preston, Deacon and Mark are brilliant.

Given that Knife Man seems to have the overarching concept of fear and Can’t Maintain deals largely with depression, would you say that Christmas Island has a single concept? If so, what is it?

Grief.

You often write songs that are very explicitly personal, but you also sometimes write songs that seem to be written in the persona of someone prone to extreme, senseless violence, like “Getting Naked and Playing with Guns” and “Bad Bad Things”. Where do these songs come from? What inspires them, what do they represent?
I wrote Bad Bad Things when I was really happy, no clue why. “Getting Naked” was an empathy experiment, for in real life I am the neighbor kid.

With songs like “Temple Grandin”, “Do, Re, And Me” and “Angel Of Death”, Christmas Island seems to be a lot more surreal than previous albums. Did the larger band offer more creative freedom, or were they just the lyrics that came to you?

The larger band does offer more creative freedom, but they’re not the source of the surrealism. The lyrics come out the way they come out, the less control I have over it, the better. My favorite state to write in is one of feverish abandon; control relinquished, mind clear, without any awareness or care of what anyone will think about the songs.

The song “Linda Ronstadt” seems particularly emotive and personal. Would you say that the song deals with stoicism in the face of depression, and was it inspired by your personal reaction to a piece of art?

That song is the truest one I’ve ever written, and you nailed it. It’s about the stoicism breaking down and giving way to validation.

ajj

Did Randy’s House [as Referenced in the song “Randy’s House”] actually burn down? Is he doing okay now?

Yes and yes!

How did the European tour go? What made you choose to do a separate solo tour in Europe, then meet up with the band for the UK?

Mainly it was for the dynamics. I love playing solo every once in a while, it gives me a chance to do whatever I want with complete autonomy. I like not having to adhere to a set list every couple tours. It was perfect to do the solo tour before the UK run because I got to “center my chi” and immediately reconnect with AJJ with a clear head and a hunger for volume.

What are your plans for the future? Got any tours and releases lined up?

We have a mess of US festivals this summer, in September the almighty Smith Street Band is bringing us and the Sidekicks to Australia, then I’m hoping to record a new album around the beginning of next year.

Finally, can you think of any new bands that really stand out and that you think we should check out?

I’d recommend Rozwell Kid, they’re possibly the most flawless rock band I’ve ever heard. R. Ariel is awesome, she rides vibes really hard and touches on many unspeakable emotions. Hard Girls, as I’m sure you just saw at the Owl Sanctuary, are incredible. Dogbreth and Diners are a sweet pair of sister bands, really beautiful pop music.

Thanks for doing this!

Thanks for having me!!

[interview conducted by Karl Howarth, with questions contributed by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 7 in a slightly different form, July 2015]

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO ANDREW JACKSON JIHAD

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO HARD GIRLS

I caught up with Mike, guitarist of the hard-to-describe post-punk/indie group Hard Girls after they played with Andrew Jackson Jihad at the Owl Sanctuary. Also worth noting is Hard Girls have also collaborated with Jesse Michaels of Operation Ivy and Common Rider in NMG favourites Classics of Love, and Ned and Mike were both fucked when the interview was recorded. Here’s the interview in all its drunken glory, with some of the ums, ers and ahs, as well as my intermittent howls of laughter, taken out. The image was taken from Hard Girls’ Facebook page.

Okay, so, um, we’re rolling. So I guess first of all, who’s in Hard Girls, and when did they start?

My name’s Mike, I play guitar, I sing on some of the songs, Morgan plays bass, he sings on some of the songs, and Max plays drums. We started in 2006, 2007? Around there. Max and Morgan were in one band in San Jose, and I was in a different one, we shared a practice space.

Were some of you in Shinobu?

Yeah, I’m in Shinobu!

Oh! I just remember like old Asian Man [Records] catalogues and thought ‘hey! Shinobu!’ [I don’t remember what purpose this sentence served] Yeah, it’s good stuff.

Oh cool, thanks man. Yeah Shinobu and Max and Morgan’s old band shared a practice space together, then pretty much everybody but us left and we started this band.

That’s fair enough. Do you have any other side things, I dunno like, you’ve got Classics of Love, and Shinobu’s still going.

Yeah uh Max and Morgan play in a band called Marathon States with, uh, [he was prompted by a woman sat at the merch desk] Jason Thinh from Short Round, and I played on Jeff Rosenstock’s solo record –

Oh yeah, that was really good!

Oh cool!

Uh, We Cool?

Yeah, exactly!

I know what it’s called, it’s just got a question mark so I had to be like, [questioningly] we cool?

Oh yeah… [questioningly] we cool?

Yeah, I’m just having a crisis of confidence right now.

Haha, that’s alright, me too. I always have it! [unintelligible talking]

Yeah, it’s a constant state, isn’t it.

Yeah, uh, and then, pretty much everyone who recorded on that, also recorded on Dan Adriano’s new record. So, we’re getting back in… we basically leave here in a couple more days, then we fly out to the states, then Hard Girls is doing a US tour, then right afterwards I’m flyinf out to do a tour with Jeff Rosenstock and Dan Adriano. So that kind of covers the gamit of it.

Okay. I guess it’s kind of a generic question, but what are the influences for Hard Girls?

Um… Max and Morgan are very much into metal music. We were all initially very into punk music, that was like, what brought us all together, pretty much. The things that we really agree on are Guided by Voices, Television, Wire, the Weakerthans, and then after that, it’s just kind of like, what everybody is into, sort of.

hard girls

Fair enough. How’s touring? Are you touring England, or Europe, or?

Just the UK right now… it’s been since the third, so we did the London show on the third, we’ve been travelling around then the last show is on the twentieth in Dublin. Fly back and we go straight out, drive to Dallas and start the next tour, pretty much, so it’s like, we have a day off then we drive for three days to start our US tour.

[I was faintly terrified at this point] That’s pretty intense… Um… you’ve made some comments about UK food… I don’t entirely blame you, what are you making of the, uh, cuisine?

Well. Fish and chips are what I order normally in America, and I have no problem finding them here, which is kind of-

Yeah, it’s the place to be, really. You love fish, you love chips…

Yeah, I fuckin’ love both of them! It goes together well, and then uh, but like, Max and Morgan are more adventurous than me, they find stuff everywhere, and we’ve gone to a lot of grocery stores too, just ending up in like, a Tesco or wherever getting salad and bread, just basic sort of stuff. But otherwise like, kebab, Indian food, chip shops, we’ve kind of had it all, it’s every night.

That’s the dream. Touring around with good bands, and eating lots of takeways…

Yeah! It’s great! It’s good! Awesome!

Are you planning to do any more recordings? Er…

Yeah, uh-

Are you, er, ah… Sorry I’m interrupting.

Yeah, me too!

Let’s scratch that from the record, pretend it never happened. What are your plans for the future?

We’re doing that next tour, we get back, then, probably in January, February, recording the next album. Get back, tour… I have one more tour then we spend a couple of months working on it.

Okay, cool. Great. Are you on any label, or?

The last one was on Asian Man,

Fuckin’ Asian Man! Ah! Sorry.

They’re like hometown heroes!

I’ve never met Mike Park and I just feel like I’m friends with him.

He’s amazing!

He is amazing!

He’s totally amazing. He’s the best! He’s a fucking weirdo, he’s an amazing weirdo! He’s one of the best people I know.

Is it okay to record you and [write down] that you called him a weirdo?

No please!

Then I will!

I insist you take note of it. He’s amazing. He’s both his public persona* and his private persona at the same time, and they’re not different at all, but they’re entirely different in some ways. He’s great. Asian Man is like our home, kind of.

I used to really want to be signed to Asian Man… now I’m in a powerviolence band, and I don’t think that will happen, but anyway. How’d you end up touring with Andrew Jackson Jihad?

Shinobu played with them like, close to ten years ago. So I’ve known Sean and Ben for almost a decade at this point. They played at the practice space that we used to share in San Jose, between Shinobu and Pteradon [Max and Morgan’s aforementioned old band] probably six, seven years ago… Probably more than that actually, probably seven or eight years ago. So we’ve known them for a long time, we’re kind of just like, old friends, Phoenix and San Jose have similar music scenes, and they’re also on Asian Man, and we all kind of like agree on… what music should like? Kinda.

Fair enough. Do you have any last… ‘any last words’ sounds like I’m about to shoot you. Do you have anything to say to the kids?

… Not really.

Hahaha! Yeah they’re a bunch of arseholes, alright, well um, thanks a lot for doing this!

Cool man, yeah! Thank you.

* Mike Park’s public persona, for the uninitiated, is that of a joyous man, nice and enthusiastic to the extent of being slightly bizarre. How is someone supposed to be so lovely? In this economy?

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 7 in a slightly different form, July 2015]

NO MORE GIGS SPEAKS TO HARD GIRLS

No More Gigs speaks to Ray Gun

Ray Gun are a band from Margate in Thanet, who play indie rock which takes a lot of influence from punk and riot grrrl. They started quite recently and released their first EP, MAY THE BRIDGES I BURN LIGHT YOUR WAY, on Sexx Tapes. Ned Samuel speaks to them, and they give collective answers, in the manner of a sort of indie hive mind.

Who’s in Ray Gun?

Eoin, Harry, Jess, Paula.

How and when did the band get started?

We started playing together about 6 months ago. We met at the Tom Thumb, a small DIY venue Jess and Eo run in Margate. We bonded over the bar and the byo vinyl night.

What does the band draw on musically and lyrically? What’s the process for writing songs?

We are all in to quite different things musically, but some favourites are Big Black, Le Tigre, Shellac, Crass, Son House, Todd Rundgren, Bikini Kill, Pixies and PJ Harvey. Lyrically Jess is a bit of a magpie. She likes happening upon a sentence or a couple of words and then building the lyrics for a song around it. “I’m There Right Now” started with a line from David Lynch’s “Lost Highway”. Another song started from a piece of chalk graffiti on the beach, another from the “Riot Grrrl Manifesto”, another from a Point Horror book.

Our writing process is fairly evenly weighted and very collaborative. One of us will bring a riff to a rehearsal and then we’ll all contribute to it.

Are you Thanet natives, or did you move into the area recently?

Harry is a native, Paula moved down for Uni about four years ago. Jess and Eo moved down about two and a half years ago.

With more bands and venues appearing in Thanet, would you say there’s a local scene appearing? Or has that still not happened?

There’s definitely a local scene, with great bands emerging from it. But we need more! More spaces for people to play, more people picking up instruments.

What’s next for Ray Gun? Any plans for shows, touring, new releases?

We are writing this from the car, on route to play in Camden tonight. We are doing some more recording in June, supporting the lovely Fever Dream in July and playing our first festival – Forgotten Fields – in August. There’s whispers of a vinyl release … Fingers crossed!

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 6 in a slightly different form, June 2015]

No More Gigs speaks to Ray Gun

No More Gigs speaks to The Number Ones

Irish power-pop punks The Number Ones have been gigging about for some time now, and have released an EP and an LP on Static Shock (and Deranged in the US) that have attracted a fair bit of attention, due, in all probability, to their capacity for writing absolute bangers. NMG’s Ned Samuel spoke to the band’s guitarist and vocalist Sean Goucher to learn about the band and what they’re up to at the moment. Photo by Cáit Fahey.

First off, who is in Number Ones, and what other bands are they in?

The Number Ones are Eddie, Cian, Conor and Seán. Eddie is in Strong Boys and The Pacifics, Cian is in Cian Nugent and The Cosmos and Cryboys, Conor is in Cian Nugent and The Cosmos and from this summer The Paul Collins Beat and I am in The Pacifics also.

That’s quite a diverse range of sounds – psychedelia, rhythm and blues, hardcore punk. What was it that drew you all to the sound The Number Ones play?

We’ve never really given that much thought and I can’t speak for the others, but it feels like we’re into a lot of the same music and are just playing whatever comes naturally. We have similar interests; eating chips and drinking Guinie until we’re laughing at the grass so the sound of the music just feels like an extension of that fun.

That sounds like a pretty good musical formula, to be honest. Although you’re a punk band – I think – you cover the Byrds live, which got me all excited when I saw it. I fucking love the Byrds, but even so, it’s a bold move in the punk and hardcore scene –  do you ever get any backlash? Would you say you draw on them in your own songs?

In the UK most of our gigs are to a punk and hardcore crowd and we’ve only ever had good experiences, including a memorable gig with Boston Strangler down The Lughole at which Cian wore very small denim shorts. We’ve covered that song on and off since our very first gig and really have never had any sort of backlash – more so the opposite, it seems to reel people because it maybe stands out a bit. I grew up listening to The Byrds and The Turtles at home so it probably does seep into our songs. There’s a few tracks with 12 string on the LP which is probably the most obvious Byrds influence on there.

I didn’t know that. I heard at Static Shock Weekend you were working on a new record; what’s it going to be like? Any changes happening? 

I suppose the biggest change is that all members of the band are brining in songs now. The first LP is comprised of tracks by Eddie and myself both together and separately with contributions from everyone on the arrangements or little tweaks. The songs Cian and Conor have are really great so it’s definitely raising the bar for Eddie and me which is exciting.

Cool! When’s that coming out?

All going well it should be out later on in 2015.

Nice. Recently you got a good review in Pitchfork, which is huge, and not a site that focuses on punk. Any thoughts on that? It doesn’t happen to that many punk bands.

It’s always nice to get good reviews, regardless of where they’re from. But it is just one person’s point of view, in this instance appearing somewhere that carries a little more gravitas. We’ve been able to get gigs a little bit easier since it came out, especially in the US, so it has been useful in that sense. The album was previewed on the site too which caught people’s attention. I’m a big fan of the Shake Appeal column on the site too, I’ve found some good new music through that.

What’s the process of writing lyrics for the Number Ones? You seem to cover similar ground to the Undertones, lots of stuff about boys being in love with girls. Is it autobiographical, fictional, or both?

There’s a mix of approaches, usually whoever has written the song will come in with the main chunk of lyrics and a few bits might get tweaked slightly as we play around with it. They’re a mixture of autobiographical and observational, Eddie has a few songs about people he knew growing up and I think they’re the most interesting lyrically. Sometimes a title will come first, for I Wish I Was Lonely Cian challenged Eddie to write a song with that title.

Featured image

I was actually wondering about that song; was the name taken from the Hannah Jane Walker show?

I had to Google Hannah Jane Walker – so no!

Finally, what are the Number Ones’ plans for the rest of 2015?
Conor is away on tour for a few more weeks but once he gets back we are going to begin recording what we hope will become our second LP. I’ve been collecting some old 60s mics over the last while and Cian got a new cassette 6 track recently so we’re going to try record ourselves in our new practise space which is exciting. We’re playing a handful of gigs in Madrid and London in June with two bands I really like; The King Khan & BBQ Show and Reigning Sound, and hopefully we’ll be out playing and flogging the new LP later on in the year.

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 5 in a slightly different form, April 2015]

No More Gigs speaks to The Number Ones

No More Gigs speaks to Joe Briggs

Joe Briggs (not to be confused with the lead singer of The Briggs) has been writing in about punk for some years now, thinking about what it is, reviewing individual releases, brilliantly taking the piss and most recently writing fiction. Ned Samuel asks him what it’s all about.
You can find Joe’s work on somedaysthethundergetsyou.blogspot.com, isthispunkrock.tumblr.com, and in his zine Brutalist Shimmy. He also does a podcast with his friend Tommy called Full Throttle Lazy, and has collaborated with cartoonist Mitch Clem on Nothing Nice to Say. 

First things first, how did you get into punk, and what keeps you interested?

I got into punk in a fairly boring way. Through bands like Blink-182 and The Offspring. I heard those bands and I liked them a lot so I started looking for more stuff that was like that, stuff on the same label, stuff they mentioned as being influences, following up on the punk bangers on the Tony Hawk soundtracks. I started getting classic punk albums, Fat Wreck, Epitaph stuff and what-not. If there was one classically epiphanic moment it was getting a copy of Punk-O-Rama 6 from the local independent record shop (which sold only CDs, being 2001/2002) and hearing True Believers by the Bouncing Souls and thinking “Yes. This is it.” When I was 16/17 I found a punk webforum that opened up a whole world of stuff in every direction, Oi!, folk-punk, pop-punk, gruffpunk. I got massively into 80s hardcore, Bad Brains, The Dicks, C.I.A.. There’s a great Stewart Lee article where he talks about how the internet has destroyed many notions of canon so you stop getting into things slowly, in the accepted way or order, you just get into whatever. So alongside real classics like Black Flag, I was downloading Nunfuckers demos on Soulseek and all sorts of obscure shit, scouring Kill From the Heart’s 80s hardcore archive for bands that dropped one single and then disintegrated, F, Jackshit, stuff like that. The internet meant it also wasn’t a steady progress towards rawer harder stuff. I was also big into Plan-It-X folk-punk (thanks to AM! and Reinventing Axl Rose, a massive album for me and I know a lot of other people, another thing, like True Believers, that kind of laid a rough path in its lyrics as a sort of better way to go) spending a year blasting no-fi nihilistic Johnny Hobo songs about suicide and drugs I was cool enough to do. After that I spent a solid year or so burning Screeching Weasel’s discography into my skull along with plenty of other ramonescore pop-punk. From there it gets even messier, the final Paintbox album blew my mind and led me deep into Japanese hardcore and punk, Los Crudos got me into hispanophone stuff, New Bomb Turks into garage, I thought Charles Bronson’s Discocrappy was wild, blogs introduced me a million things. I’ve never really hung with just one kind of punk.

I think this desire to always find new shit is some weird compulsion, like a musical version of Sarah Winchester and her Mystery House, basically I don’t want to become static. Because you bump into the people you hung out with when you were 13 and they’re still blasting Blink-182, Linkin Park, Papa Roach, Sum 41, you realise that they, just like the people from 40 years ago still just listening to Pink Floyd, found one thing and never moved on, never developed in that respect, they turned into exactly what I really did not want to be when I was that age. So that compulsion is probably part of what keeps me invested in this culture, but mainly it’s just such an impossibly important part of my life in so many respects now, friends, relationships, philosophies. I’ve known so many great people through it, had amazing experiences. I have no idea who I would be without punk rock. The thing about True Believers, is that ultimately it’s a song about a journey undertaken, but one, if not completed, then with many miles on the clock. So when you here it at 15 you’re not actually relating to what the song’s singing about, you’re engaging with it in the hope that you can achieve it. As a teenager you don’t really have shit-all life experience most of the time, so a song that promises something ahead, that resonates with lived-in struggles can really fucking grab you. At the same age I used to listen to those late Johnny Cash albums a lot, things loaded down with a shit-ton of history, and really feel them, really feel the pain and years in them, even though my life was entirely removed from everything on there. There’s a grasping for epicness, or for a part of a bigger picture, definitely for belonging, that comes with the time when you first start to define yourself. And that belonging doesn’t come easy. A few months ago, shortly after Static Shock Weekend, True Believers bounced up on shuffle and I listened to it for the first time in probably a couple of years and had another holy shit moment, no longer feeling a pang of alienated wish-fulfilment, but realising that this dumb kinda bro-y pop-punk actually did speak honestly to a lot of stuff I’d been through, that I was part of. The hope living in this silly song tucked in the middle of a five quid label sampler from half my lifetime ago had coalesced into a shabby sort of reality, the promise, unspoken in so many punk songs of my youth: GIVE THIS PUNK SHIT EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT AND YOU’LL BE ALRIGHT, that promise realised. I’ve actually become the wanker that can say hello to twenty people at a show, can have a long conversation with someone about my favourite Italian hardcore records. I’ve made it this far. I’m not gonna back out. Punk rock is what I’ve got. It’ll never be a religion but it might just be a faith. And faith requires work, engagement, struggle. So I can’t get out of it now. Plus I just got this Porno Cassettes 7″ and Your Face, A Fucking Disgrace downright kills. Another reason to stick with it for another day.

I get what you’re saying about True Believers – which is a banger.
Getting into your writing that taught me a lot about bands outside the ‘it’s on Epitaph/Fat Wreck/Tony Hawk’ or ‘they’re in a book on punk’ canon. What are your influences as a writer on music? Sometimes it seems to draw on stuff outside music journalism, like modernist fiction.

Lester Bangs’ James Taylor Marked for Death and Ellen Willis’s Beginning to See the Light are probably my two favourite pieces of music writing (those two writers and Simon Reynolds are so good they’re the sort of people you can’t read too much cos I’d just get annoyed with myself for not coming close) and there are loads of fantastic music writers around today who also are constantly fascinating/enlightening/intimidatingly good in their writing: Jes Skolnik, Ayeesha A. Siddiqi, Maura Johnston, Bryony Beynon, Ann Powers, Maria Sherman, Zachary Lipez, Sam LeFebvre, Gary Suarez, Todd Taylor, Jia Tolentino, Jenn Pelly and more, but I don’t think anyone can become a good writer if they’re only looking at one type of writing. I don’t think any of those writers just read music journalism, I think someone would be a pretty bad writer (and also go fucking nuts) if they did. If you’re only inspired by one thing you’re probably gonna end-up as a pale copy of that thing, a victim of second-artist syndrome. This is particularly true in writing. In music, especially in punk, there are worship bands that turn their slavish dedication to one sound into a warped monastic virtue, Disaster sound like they didn’t know there were bands that were not Discharge when they recorded War Cry and I love War Cry so much I was drunkenly contemplating stealing an earthenware jar that had I.C.I. printed on it from a fancy pub last night.

But in writing I think you really need to read as widely as possible. I love good criticism of any form. TV writers like Jacob Clifton, Pilot Viruet, Grant Nebel, Emily Nussbaum, Sonia Saraiya film writers like Pauline Kael, Kier La Janesse, Sarah Horrocks, Sean Witzke, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, comic critics, game critics, even if I’m not into something or I know nothing about, I love reading some lay it out and dissect it with expertise and passion and talent.
Most of my reading though is fiction with a bit of poetry and occasionally some theory mixed in. I’m not sure how much a lot of these writers influence me specifically but I’m sure there are bits and pieces of a lot of them, sometimes I might deliberately try and rip something off, a certain bit of phrasing, a technique or two, but I think generally its a slippery collage of various attitudes and rhythms (I think rhythm is probably the main thing I think about in my writing). So some of my favourites are JMG Le Clezio, John Berger, Richard Stark, Dambudzo Marechera’s Black Sunlight, Toni Morrison’s Jazz, Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree, Aaron Cometbus, William Burroughs’s Red Night Trilogy, Kathy Acker, George V. Higgins, James Joyce, Bob Hicok, Terry Pratchett, Zora Neale Thursten’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hal Duncan, Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Ian McDonald, China Mieville, Thomas Pynchon, Laszlo Krasznahorkai, Warren Ellis, Alan Moore, the Hernandez brothers, Garth Ennis’s Hitman, Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, William T. Vollman’s You Bright and Risen Angels, Lucius Shepherd’s Life During Wartime, Jeff Noon’s The Needle in the Groove, David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, John Brunner, Will Christopher Baer’s Phineas Poe Trilogy, Primo Levi, Yukio Mishima, Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps, Harry Crews, Samuel Delaney, Steve Aylett’s Accomplice Quartet. Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Velimir Khlebnikov, Daniil Khaarms, Jorge-Luis Borges, Roberto Bolano, Nalo Hopkinson. Qiu Miaojin, John Hawkes’s The Beetle Leg, Edward Whittemore’s Jerusalem Quartet, Alasdair Gray’s Lanark, James Lee Burke, Mark Richard, Fernando Pessoa, Iain Sinclair, Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire, Samuel Beckett’s Company and a bunch more. I always try and read from lots of different literary traditions, in different genres, styles, from different countries, continents. Although a lot of the time I do just fuck it off and read a bunch of Warhammer 40K tie-in novels.

I really like the notion of craft being more important than art though. Repetition and drive being more than inspiration. Those pulp writers like Michael Moorcock or Theodore Sturgeon or Donald Westlake who just cranked stuff out. Films makers like Takashi Miike, Sam Fuller, Johnnie To, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, where each film is a part of what they can do, another section of their palette, not putting everything into one massive thing, the great stuff arriving just as another slice in their oeuvre, not with the blaring fanfare of masterpiece. The idea of making art for your dinner as much as writing for your muse is what I really get down with. I think New Bomb Turks’ Born Toulouse Lautrec probably has a greater single influence on my writing philosophy than anything else. “All work is honorable/Yet art is just a job/Let me spend my paycheck on a beer/No heroes, no leaders, no artists, no gods/I’m a worker, you’re a worker/Wouldn’t you like to be a worker too?”

Also, inevitably, I think a lot of direct spurs to writing are from bad writing. Many of the things I’ve written (there’s a great Stephen King quote about how realising that some published writers are shit is really important for developing as a writer) have been out of spite. Nothing pisses me off more than a positive review of an album I like which entirely misses what I think the point of why the album is good. There’s a lot of terrible writing out there, and I have a certain list of words or clichés that I always try to avoid when writing: musical recipes, ‘the bastard lovechild of’, the word ‘honest’ being used as a synonym for ‘I agree with the politics on show’, the word ‘poetic’ used to describe lyrics. The one that’s been pissing me off lately is the phrase ‘step forward’ as if music is some kind of linear progression to one point of bland critical consensus.

And then obviously, all the other shit that happens to you. Other interests, friends, twitter, work, TV, the news. It’s impossible to put everything into everything, but something goes into everything and everything goes into something.

You recently contributed a short story to punkPunk! which is an anthology of short fiction based around (perhaps obviously) punk. How did the writing process differ from music journalism? Are you drawing on the same writers? And also, what’s it about?

With criticism you’ve always got something to latch on to, for things to revolve around, no matter how digressive you get, with fiction that doesn’t really exist, you’re freer, which is cool but also scarier. I’d be drawing on the same writers and things that inspire me but some more than others. George V. Higgins doesn’t really come into play so much if you’re writing music criticism, because his novels are 90% dialogue, but in fiction he’s someone who I think is essential to have in the back of your mind. I wrote fiction first. A few short stories, several abortive attempts at novels, the first of which when I was 14 or so which was an inevitably embarrassingly terrible bildungsroman inspired equally by Rancid songs and American Pie where the barely-veiled version of me was supposed to get laid at the end of the story. Thankfully it is lost in a dead computer. The furthest I got into any novel was 35000 words or so into a post-apocalyptic thing which did have some nice stuff in it I think but didn’t really hang together at all and was pretty structurally sexist in a lot of ways. I’ve cannibalised bits from that that I thought were worth saving into other stuff. I really started writing music criticism out of frustration that albums I liked and bands I loved weren’t being written about it the way I felt they deserved to be written about. Then the Is This Punk Rock? blog basically began as a joke that got out of hand and I ended up writing 150,000 on it. I did get kind of disillusioned with writing fiction for a while mainly cos I just decided that real shit was more important, knowing real people and having genuine experiences seemed more worthwhile than flattening encounters into caricatures, stuffing the tough entanglement of life into plots and paragraphs just felt trite. I realised that in some ways I’d been using it as a crutch to distract from the fact that I was not in a great place in my life in a lot of ways. I still feel that in some ways. I want to get back into to writing more fiction, but hopefully I’m better situated to craft something that doesn’t ring as false as a lot of the stuff I penned felt.

The punkPunk! thing happened cos I’d already started kinda thinking of that as a good descriptor for my writing and I googled it to see if anyone else had thought of it and I found the call for submissions so I punched up one of my older pieces and the guy liked it. The story’s kind of just a punk rock vignette, not much really happens. It’s inspired by a bunch of things people have said to me that have stuck with me all spliced together, a couple of situations I’ve been in. A weird thing is that there’s one part of the story, about people singing along to Doug Mulray’s fakepunk classic I’m a Punk, which was not based on my personal experience, but a few months after I submitted the story and it got accepted, I was in a bar after a show where that happened and I felt like I was living in a Goosebumps story about a magic typewriter. Maybe I really should’ve persevered with that terrible novel at 14.

Alright, to wrap up, let’s pretend you sang in a classic 80s hardcore band. ‘So finally, Joe, what do you have to say to the kids?’

I can’t think of much that wouldn’t be incredibly patronising, so I guess just: try not to act like a prick, don’t be too hard on yourself when you inevitably end up acting like a prick. And up the punx, whatever that means for you.

[interview conducted by Ned Samuel, originally published in No More Gigs issue 5 in a slightly different form, April 2015]

No More Gigs speaks to Joe Briggs