Songs in the Key of Fife events…

I have some book launch events if you fancy coming along to one… There will be a talk, readings, LIVE music and usually whisky as well!

The ‘Cambo’ one in the East Neuk of Fife on 21st September 2013 https://www.facebook.com/events/1386750738206730/ should be particularly special with music from King Creosote, James Yorkston, Withered Hand, Gummi Bako and others – see you there!

There will be more book events in the future, but there’s a few to be getting on with… Cheeeers!

xxx

 

Songs in the Key of Fife…

In August 2013, I launched my first book… ‘Songs in the Key of Fife’!

It’s all about the musicians I’ve grown up with and played music with over the years. Basically it’s eight biographies in one book and goes into a fair amount of detail on each subject – Een, Gordon and Kenny Anderson, Johnny Lynch, Steve Mason, John MacLean, KT Tunstall and James Yorkston. There’s also a massive chapter on the wider-reaching Fence collective and a whole heap more…

The entire process of researching, writing, editing and finalising the book took over 2 years and has been a total labour of love – please feel free to buy a copy from my publisher http://www.birlinn.co.uk/Songs-in-the-Key-of-Fife.html or at a good book shop NOW! I may get to write another one if you do…

 

 

I’m really pleased with the cover artwork and the photo section in the middle of the book looks great… Hopefully the words are OK too!

Help ma boab… I’m an author now.

Vic xxx

 

 

http://www.birlinn.co.uk/Songs-in-the-Key-of-Fife.html

SXSW 2012 here I come, y’all…

The big daddy of all music festivals is upon us once more… SXSW is by far the largest, craziest and most overwhelming music conference on the planet and I’m going back once again. This will be my 10th time in a row and, as you can probably tell, I can hardly control by fan-boy excitement… Yeehaw!

Over the years I’ve broadcast from the festival on BBC Radio 1, Radio Scotland and 6Music. Last year I was lucky enough to bring a film crew for an ‘Artworks’ Documentary on BBC 2 TV, as we tried to document the Scottish presence at the event and tell a few stories. I’ve also written about it for various publications over the years too. I know the event and Austin pretty well now, and stay with Peej, Farah & Dune from Dear Scotland when there.

It’s impossible to bring you every sight, sound and flavour as there are simply too many to absorb within such a small space of time… Over 2000 acts officially turn up and play, whereas the number is closer to 2500 or 3000 unofficially. Everthing happens simultaneously over 5 days, believe it or not! The ‘showcases’ take place at night in a ridiculous assortment of venues scattered throughout Austin – whose motto is ‘Keep Austin Weird’ by the way – but during the day there’s an inordinate amount of barbecues and parties, which are probably even more fun.

2 things you’ll hear about SXSW these days…

Firstly, that it’s far too big and corporate now and the the bands appearing don’t get paid enough. These are extremely good points, and since I first visited in 2003 it has grown beyond belief. The sheer amount of sponsors financing the event has also increased massively too. Maybe it is too big now… I’m not sure. I’ll tell you when I return. It’s certainly just as exciting to me as it ever was and I don’t see bands, labels, broadcasters, journalists, bloggers or punters holding back from going in large numbers. The whole ‘corporatisation’ of music does worry me, but it’s seems like a steam-roller you can’t stop. Until people start buying music again, this is what we get… Someone has to foot the bill when it comes to finacing art and culture. When it comes to paying bands however, I’m in full agreement. If you’ve travelled from far and wide, which most bands have; then it’s only right they should be helped to reimburse at least some of the expenses incurred. Maybe some of that huge revenue SXSW collects could be redistributed amongst the bands, especially the unsigned bands.

Secondly, that it’s awesome! This is true in my eyes… obviously. The city is so easy to navigate; the people are extremely friendly and helpful; the weather is beautful, warm and sunny for the most part; the barbecue and Tex-Mex food is spectacular; the margaritas and beer go down easy… and most importantly, the music is always of an extremely high quality. You can see indie, rock, metal, punk, hardcore, hip-hop, dubstep, electronica, folk, country, blues, singer-songwriters …and an amalgamation of the aformentioned, if you so desire. It’s utterly exhilarating! Not only that, but all the venues are within walking distance and you get to sleep in a bed at night, rather than in a smelly tent. Maybe SXSW is better for the music lover than the musician – this I should ponder – but AS a music lover, you can immerse yourself in your favourite new, classic and never-heard-before artists all in one place.

This year, I’m writing 2 articles for the Sunday Herald and the PRS for Music Magazine. I’m also hosting the 2 Scottish gigs. This one’s on Wednesday 14th and night:

And this one’s on Friday 16th, during the day:

The whole venture to Texas is extremely expensive for the artists, the industry and the media alike. It’s not something I take lightly either. I lose money going to SXSW each year, but I love it sooooo much so I make the pilgrimage. It helps me keep ‘ahead of the curve’ for what that’s worth. I get to see a collection of the greatest bands on the planet; in the company of thousands of amiable, like-minded souls; in an incredibly surreal ‘bohemian-redneck’ setting! Every year I discover huge swathes of new music, champion new Scottish music and make useful alliances with other music-lovers across the globe. Despite its short-falls, and there are many; I still haven’t been to anything quite like it anywhere before or since.

If you’re heading out there, come along to the Scottish shows and say hello. I’ll be the sweaty, excitable guy jumping on and off stage introducing the bands and befriending the crowd…

Here’s to beer, barbecue and bands at SXSW 2012…

Hopefully I’ll see Nardwuar again this year too!

20 Questions for Die Hard…

Every now and again, an artist arrives out of the blue with an extraordinary piece of work – almost perfect and complete. For me, Glasgow band Die Hard‘s album is one of the most ambitious, inspiring and downright psychedelic records you’ll hear all year. It’s available now on white vinyl and download… and I’m pretty certain it will blow your mind!

Die Hard are also the first to answer 20 questions for this site. This will be an ongoing series where I will attempt to quiz people I like for your interest and delectation… Enjoy!

1 – What is Halleluwah Hits? Label? Shop? Art Collective? All of them?

I guess the Idea of being an art collective has never been in our minds. Halleluwah began as a shop operating out of ‘Che Camille’ – it was a fashion/art community – which was based way up high on Buchanan Street. We (Die Hard) had decided to start a record shop there. We were buying in really limited edition stuff from sweet labels we loved, some of them from the other side of the world. While doing that we met this man named Syd. He had just moved back to Glasgow, after having lived in London for 20 odd years. He had a history of working in the music industry and he wanted to do something in the city. He loved what we were doing with the shop and asked us to help him run a label. We pondered this for a few months, wondering if we had the time. He assured us it would be mostly on A&R duty and helping with creative decisions. So when we met Dam Mantle we decided we had to make it a reality.

2 – Why name it after a Can song? Big Fans? Favourite LP?

There’s no real reason behind it. It’s an amazing song and the groove is sweet.

3 – What’s the ethos behind HH?

Syd would say keeping it pure; releasing records when we find something that fits our ideology. In a more simple term; making cross genre, high quality pop. There may only be one or two releases a year just now, Syd only puts his hard-earned into something he loves.

4 – How did you initially hook up with Dam Mantle? Will there more DM releases?

Dam Mantle handed in a demo, this was back when went by another name. We really liked it, we would stick it on up in the shop, quite a bit. We asked him to do a mix for the shop, it was blinding.  We went to see him play live & we agreed to put out the record pretty much as soon as he came off stage.

5 – Who is in this shadowy band – Die Hard? When did you start making music? Are you the same people who run HH?

We help run HH from time to time but Syd has his finger on the dial. We’ve been recording since we were 18, in various forms but the songs for Die Hard just came about over the last year.

6 – What’s the line-up in terms of instrumentation? Is there a lot of technology involved?
Well, there are three of us in this band; we play the main beef of the tracks live, to get the feel etc. After that we play with various machines to add the textures you hear on the record.

7 – Is it all self-recorded and produced? Are you bedroom boffins?

Yeah it is. We’ve worked with producers before, in previous bands. However, having our hands on the controls, being able to mix the picture and spending your own time creating, cleaning the painting & it feels natural. It’s one of those closed systems for us, seeing the song at the start and moulding it as it grows, right to the end

8 – How do you go around making one of these tracks? Are they hinged around samples?

We’ll record the foundation live, as much as possible with mostly with a guide vocal in there.  Then we run things through an array of samplers & effects, then back out live to be recorded again. Sometimes we’ll sample it again. Some of it sounds really deep-under and murky, but that’s been our intention.

9 – It’s a psychedelic & experimental sound – who are influences to you? (Animal Collective? Flaming Lips? Avalanches? Beta Band? Spiritualised?)

That’s cool because those bands that have a strong identity. However it’s hard to name bands. We feel real strong about visuals and movies. Something like Total Recall was a big influence on us growing up. A lot of John Carpenter films play though the Die Hard house (we live together, you see).

10 – The album has an orchestral edge as well – do you have live strings?

Yeah, we got some girls from RSAMD to play some strings.  It was a different experience because they were all used to reading scores. It was a challenge to communicate the ideas across, so we had to hit out with adjectives & whistle all the melodies. This culminated in one of us in front of them with a plastic beater, acting like Michael Kayman.

11 – Tell me about the lyrics on the record? There are some disturbing images on there… what are you writing about?

There’s a lot of darkness in the songs but it’s laced with black humour and hope. If people listen hard, they will find a lot of hidden messages in the tracks that have double meanings. We always talk about how the world is full of opposites intertwined – good and bad all the time

12 – Will you be playing LIVE at some point? Can you pull off the layered and complex sound on the album?

Most definitely! We want to create a feeling where you can see the music. A lot weird films get played at home and we’re always making videos, so we are looking at this with visuals at the forefront of our thoughts. Something quite intense!  ‘You Made Me Realise’ holocaust section in the Barras was intense. Turned round and the people to each side of me looked like they were standing at the mouth of a black hole. We’re investigating somewhere interesting to hold a show, real soon.

13 – Is this more an art project than a band? Are they one and the same thing?

It’s definitely more of a band; we’re a group/gang/family. A good example of it all being for the cause, is something we were doing last year. We had a booze run in Glasgow (dial a booze type) – we recorded through the night and ran out when we had an order. We’d jump on our bikes, deliver & save parties from death then end up joining in later on. It was sweet; it helped us make the album. We ended up on the front page of the Evening Times so ended up having to give it up. It was great though, midnight pirate stuff.

14 – How do feel you fit into the current Glasgow scene? Do you know any other bands?

Fox Gut Daata makes some amazing electronic music & recently formed Cru Servers with his brother. The latter, if you are into a bit o real dark gear. LovePact on Speed are amazing. Once these girls release something you will go ape for them. Cry Parrot consistently put on great gigs too.

15 – When’s the record out? What formats can people get it on?

Die hard LP drops on 27th Feb on HQ mp3 and committed to 12″ heavyweight pure virgin white vinyl. For the locals just pop round the corner to Avalanche or Love music and you’ll find us there. We also just heard Warp (Bleep), Rough Trade, Norman and a few more amazing indie record shops around the UK are taking it in… Which is sweet!

16 – Are there any plans for more releases on HH from other artists?

Yeah, no doubt. Syd’s got his pockets and they are not always full, but he has some good tips from us. Right now HH operates one record at a time, so full effort goes into each release but there might be a new release in the summer.

17 – What are Die Hard’s plans for the rest of the year after the album is released?

Recording the next EP/album, soundtracking one of two things for our friends and generally having a real ballin’ time.

18 – Why on earth did you name the band after a Bruce Willis film? Are you big Brucey fans? Are you sending him a copy of the album?

Die Hard works in our ethos and means a number of things, as a phrase. We wanted a name that has 5 different layers & this one has 8.

19 – Animal, Mineral or Vegetable?

Got to be Jack Nicholson.

20 – How much is that doggy in the window?
If you are shopping for a dog, but dislike the sound of barking, a possible solution is a basenji dog. It’s a breed of dog that doesn’t bark, instead it makes a yodel like sound. It’s pretty cool.

OK, not strictly 20 questions (there were more tangents I know…) but there you have it!

Thanks very much to Die Hard.

35 Scottish Artists to Watch in 2012…

It’s that time of year again, so here goes…

Last year I made a list of 50 artists to investigate over the course of the oncoming year. It did seem a little excessive, so this year I’ve streamlined to… ahem… 35! Ach well…

You may have heard some of them on my BBC shows recently. If not, you will do in session or in recorded form over the next 12 months. Most should have releases out and will be playing a venue near you soon, so check them out live, online or a local record shop soon. From beats, bass and bleeps to strums, riffs and twangs; acoustic, electric and electronic – therein lies a treasure trove of interesting music, right on your doorstep.

In alphabetical order:

Asteroids
Birdhead
Blank Canvas
Brown Bear and the bandits
Chris Devotion & the Expectations
Cleavers
Die Hard
Discopolis
Django Django
Eugene Twist
Happy Particles
Hector Bizerk
Holy Mountain
Homework
Jack Townes
John Knox Sex Club
Lady North
Lenzie Moss
Miaoux Miaoux
Monoganon
Muscles of Joy
Olympic Swimmers
Part Wind Part Wolf
Paws
Pronto Mama
Rudi Zygadlo
Salo
Slimes
Snowgoose
The Imagineers
The Machine Room
The Mirror Trap
The Mouse That Ate The Cat
Vasquez
Vukovi

I’ve tipped some of the aforementioned list before (some in 2011 actually, but hey!) and many others in years gone by. Sometimes you can be too far ahead of the curve – 2012 might actually be their year… So stand up Unicorn Kid, Three Blind Wolves, French Wives, Tango in the Attic, Fatherson, Profisee, American Men, Bear Bones, Midnight Lion, Hostage, Bwani Junction, S-Type and Wounded Knee – I salute you all too! (With that lot, I’m almost at 50 again… ho hum…)

Not all of these guys will become household names or celebrities, but that’s never been my aim as a radio DJ, tipster, and music pundit. I’m a fan and if an artist is interesting, different and outstanding in this day and age then they’re worth checking out, regardless of whether they breakthrough to the mainstream or not!

My Monthly Night at Electric Circus…

In October 2011, with the help of the illustrious John Paul Mason I started a new monthly night at Electric Circus in Edinburgh. Simply entitled ‘Vic Galloway Presents…’ the idea was to inject a little ‘New Music’ action into the capital’s occasionally stagnant and predictable pre-club night-life. It was nothing particularly inventive – just 3 bands and me in a venue. For the first 2 months however, they put a bloody great photo of my face on the promo poster… Jeez! I asked them to take it away and for December, and they duly did. Thanks! There’s nothing more disconcerting than seeing your own ugly mug emblazoned across pub and kebab shop walls in your home town. People were texting me photos of it and ridiculing me in public. Oh, and my hair has like, y’know, like… totally changed since then, yeah?!

(Told you it was bad. Imagine seeing THAT all over town…)

Sadly, Edinburgh has a bad reputation for live music, and unenthusiastic or lazy crowds in particular. I’ve always hated that, having based myself here most of my adult life and loved it, but have seen enough to know it does warrant some truth. I  know there are some great venues nowadays. I always enjoy gigs at Henry’s Cellar Bar, Sneaky Pete’s, Cabaret Voltaire, The Wee Red Bar, The Bongo Club, Nobles and The Liquid Room but since JP works at Electric Circus and it’s a fine, wee place in itself, that was the venue of choice. I’d DJ-ed there plenty of times and always enjoyed the decor, bar and karaoke rooms in the past… not that I sing Karaoke, but I do admire the black and neon aesthetics in the back rooms! Also, the sound-system had improved massively thanks to the help of oustanding resident sound-man, Joe!

Can we get folk through the door to sample something new? Will ‘da kidz’ give a monkey’s bawbag if there isn’t some cool brand or blog attached? I’m just a mad music fan and want to spread the word… Is that enough? Maybe in Glasgow but probably not in Edinburgh. We’ll see… The nights have varied attendence-wise so far, but the vibe and atmosphere have always been amazing, I’m delighted to say. JP and I are trying to theme the monthly gigs so there’s some kind of musical connection between all the acts on the bill. Basically, if you like one band, then you’ll hopefully like them all… or that’s the premise. I then DJ relevant records between the bands and introduce them onstage. Oh, and it’s all done on a Thursday (school night) between 7pm and 10pm so you can get the bus or train home and get to your beddie-byes…

(Not that bloody photo again…)

Anyway, the bands we book are the kind of artists I play on a weekly basis on my BBC Radio Scotland show. I’ve always felt that a couple of spot radio plays or a LIVE session is great, but if I can also offer them a gig in a nice wee venue with some other interesting bands then that might be even better.It all fits together with my monthly pieces for the Sunday Herald newspaper too. Maybe with a little extra boost, some of these relatively unknown bands will cross over to a wider audience! Ach well, you do your best…

First up in October there was Bwani Junction, Miniature Dinosaurs and Blank Canvas playing on a relatively straight-ahead indie-pop, post-punk line-up. In November we went for something more experimental and loop-orientated with Remember Remember (who provided me with my Album of 2011), Adam Stafford & Jonnie Common. But it was December’s acoustic, Christmas extravaganza that has been the biggest success so far… 

(Ahhh, that’s a better poster…)

It was an astounding bill of Owl John (Scott Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit), James Yorkston, Neil Pennycook of Meursault and a collaboration between Jill O’Sullivan of Sparrow & the Workshop and Jenny Reeve of Strike the Colours to open up proceedings. I’m a lucky guy to be able to ask talented folks like this to show up… but when they actually do I’m always blown away! As you can imagine it was a blinder of a night. JP and I kept our Santa hats on throughout too!

(Oh no, it’s back again…)

Well, I trust 2012 is going to be another belter of a year for music and I want to add to that in some way. The weekly radio shows continue as ever, and the gigs will keep rolling on a monthly Thursday night with a collection of bands JP and I love. We’ll ask as reasonable a door price as we can afford so I sincerely hope you can make it down one night, or even make it a date in your diary each month. You may not know every name on the bill, or recognise every genre or style we try out, but they will all have the VG seal of approval. Oh Yes!

The next one is on Thursday 26th of January and has a nasty, noisy, punky, grungey, mathy connection between 3 truly awesome bands – United Fruit, Paws and Vasquez. All are well worth the meagre ticket money of course, and a boss night out will most definitely be had by all. Do you need any further arm-twisting? See you there and onwards into 2012.

And by the way… Happy New Year!

Favourite 50 Albums of 2011…

Contrary to what many might think… 2011 wasn’t ALL about homogenised, manufactured pop and doom ‘n’ gloom for the music industry. It was in fact a glorious year for music across all genres, if you’re willing to seek it out. As ever, I was trawling though it trying to find some real gems and playing tracks all year on BBC Radio Scotland. Here’s a list of 50 of my favourites…

Over 50% of the artists therein are from Scotland or have a strong Scottish connection, the rest are international. Hopefully this list will enlighten and inspire you to make a purchase and support some true artists out there. Some you’ll know, some you won’t but all are worth your investigation and your time.

Album of the year:

Then, in no particular order:

There are many more that didn’t quite fit into the fifty, but are worth checking out… Try Zoey Van Goey, Song of Return, Deadboy Robotics, Black International, Monoganon, Indian Red Lopez, Nils Frahm, Wild Flag, Cass McCombs, Mastodon, Bon Iver, Blanck Mass and Metronomy for size.

Honorary mentions should go to Dananananaykroyd who made a great 2nd album but split up (aaaaw!) and RM Hubbert, Kid Canaveral & Admiral Fallow who re-released their excellent debuts in 2011.

Best gig of 2011…

As you can probably imagine, I attend a massive amount of live shows and festivals over a 12 month period and see a load of great, and not so great bands, play in a myriad of different settings. Some gigs are soulful and impassioned events with artists showcasing their innate talent and offering up a unique performance never to be seen again… whereas some are soulless affairs with career rockers hawking their latest wares, in the vain chance of making an articulated lorry-load of cash by fleecing their loyal fanbase.

There seem to be many variables at work in order to make a truly awesome gig. You need a talented artist for a start. A dedicated, enthusiastic audience is also near essential. A worthy PA system usually helps. And an impressive or unusual setting adds to the vibe, wherever possible. If you get a combination of all of these, you’re laughing, and most probably dancing and cheering too.

I tend to prefer smaller venues nowadays. Much as I enjoy large festivals and the occasional spectacle set in an enormo-dome, give me a sweaty club, local community centre or back-room in a pub any day. I like seeing bands when they’re hungry and have everything to prove; when they have total and utter belief in what they’re doing, and will not be swayed by public opinion or indifference. If, over time, you watch bands scale the dizzy heights of mass popularity and STILL keep that naive innocence and self-determination, it’s a rare, beautiful and heart-warming thing. Many artists get tired, staid and blasé about their art after they get that initial vindication from audiences and the media.

This year I’ve seen some inspirational shows in Scotland across Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Stirling and further flung fields such as Ullapool. I’ve also witnessed bands tread the boards in London and Cardiff, and even had the pleasure of attending many festivals across the UK, Scandinavia and the USA. It’s hard to beat my annual pilgrimage to Austin, Texas and the awe-inspiring SXSW ‘South by South West’ for atmosphere and sheer quantity of quality bands, and therefore extremely tough to whittle down a single show as my favourite.

But after all that, and being a contrary bastard, I’ve not singled out a single show or even something particularly intimate… but a festival! A bit of a cop-out I know, but hey… I have to be truthful and boundlessly enthuse about my absolute favourite live experience of the year. Was it the raucous sing-along of T in the Park? The DIY diversity of the Fence Records Homegame? My debut visits to the excellent SWN or Iceland Airwaves festivals? Erm, no… it was the Slottsfjell festival in Tunsberg, Norway.

Not the largest, hippest or most glamorous of the summer’s weekenders, but what an absolute blast it was… Over the 3 days, I managed to see a somewhat eclectic selection including Mogwai, Deerhunter, Mudhoney, Grinderman, Cerebral Ballzy, Biffy Clyro, Anthrax, Erasure, The Go! Team and Norwegian Punks, Honningbarna. YAAAAS… total madness!

It may not be win any prizes for being the most cutting-edge, chin-stroking, post-glitch-step line-up of all time, but when you’re with the most wonderful of company (old friends and new) in the most stunning of settings (Slottsfjell apparently means Castle-Hill and is slap bang in the centre of the charming town of Tunsberg, next to the fjord!) alongside the most relaxed (but fun-loving) crowd, and under a blazing sun… it makes for a rockin’ good time!

OK, for those on a tight budget or unable to take much time off work, it may not seem like the most obvious or easy choice for letting your hair down. However, if you fancy an alternative city-break with some high-octane rock’n’roll entertainment and only a very small amount of mud on your shoes… you’re more than likely to have a most enjoyable time at Slottsfjell.

Flights go from the UK to Torp airport, which is really nearby; the Norwegians are incredibly affable and friendly; the scenery is gorgeous and the festival organisation second to none. Stage times rarely if ever clash, security is never overbearing (if visible at all) and the PA systems impeccable on the whole. The bars and eateries serve up good, tasty locally sourced booze and grub at admittedly pricey rates (for us, not the Norwegians!) and there’s that blessed opportunity to get back to a B&B, Hotel, Hostel or civilised campsite at the end of the day.

To me it’s about the right size at the 10,000-12,000 mark, where an atmosphere can be created but where you never feel part of the herd. You’re always fairly close to the acts and the music happens over a selection of only 4 stages of differing size. This means you can easily walk between stages and not continue to catch the undeniably annoying ‘Thank you… Good night!’ at the end of every set. There’s even a separate night event with DJ’s, should you want to keep dancing and quaffing ale into the wee small hours. And to top it all off… there were no neds! That’s right, NO NEDS ANYWHERE!

This was actually my second time at Slottsfjell as I’d been the previous year in DJ mode, spinning retro 50’s and 60’s dancefloor fillers with my pal Craig Jamieson in our Modern Lovers guise. We were both back again to drop the ‘platters that matter’, but on this occasion our entourage of friends and fellow UK journalists, promoters, bloggers and general musos helped us get the party started. We took to the decks with Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai as special guest, and had a total laugh!

As if that weren’t enough, I was lucky enough to stay on an island about 30 minutes along the aforementioned fjord in a comfy, wee ex-army billet with barbecue and beer always at hand. At the start and end of each day, my friends and I took a boat to and from the festival!!

All in all, it was most definitely my best gig and favourite weekend of 2011.

All photos courtesy of Carina Jirsch

Sex Pistols… Bodies… Let’s get lyrical!

Something on Bodies by Sex Pistols for Let’s Get Lyrical.

I immersed myself in pop music from a very young age and began by buying records by Adam & the Ants and Madness from 8 years old onwards. However, I was almost immediately drawn to the darker side of ‘pop’. When a friend brought back the infamous ‘Never Mind the Bollocks… Here’s the Sex Pistols’ album on cassette one day from school, I was simultaneously astonished, repulsed and smitten. Although the low-slung melodies and the noisy guitars were thrilling, it was the sneering vocalist and the subjects about which he sang that really connected.

To that point, the only lyrics I has really paid any attention to were those about pirates and Native American Indians, courtesy of Mr Ant, and the kitchen-sink dramas of Madness. Everything else seemed to be cliched, sentimental odes to this thing called ‘love’, which I certainly hadn’t discovered yet. With Johnny Rotten, here was a young, skinny, ginger oik who was taking on the whole world with words. The monarchy, the government and all manner of social stigmas were put to the sword in 3 minute songs. It was empowering and very scary. Sex Pistols moved me then, and still do today. I realised song lyrics could be about anything, and could carry real weight.

As my mother was a staunch Catholic and to an extent had indoctrinated my brother and I, the high (or low) point on the album was the song ‘Bodies’, a self-loathing, guilt-ridden account of abortion, screamed by Johnny at ear-blistering volume. Full of swearing, this was the most shocking thing I had ever heard at the age of 10, and still remains one of the most visceral and frightening lyrical outbursts in the history of song-writing in my opinion. It is genuinely revolting and paints such a grotesque picture, you’re utterly disorientated by the end of it. In a strange way, somehow the song is laced with black humour as well. When he shouts ‘Mummy, Ugh!’ at the end of the song, it’s both upsetting and hilarious. In other words… mind-blowing!

I was too young to have experienced Punk Rock at the time, being 5 years old in 1977, but I took to it immediately from the age of 10 onwards. Through various bands’ lyrics and interviews, I discovered and was turned onto a world of literature, theatre, philosophy and art. Many criticised it as a destructive and nihilistic force in music and culture, but it had the opposite effect on me. Sex Pistols, and songs like ‘Bodies’ opened a door for me to express myself in a non-cliched, anti-establishment way and to question everything. This HAS to be a good thing for any young person.

Read the full lyrics of ‘Bodies‘.

Hero Worship… Adam Ant!

Photo courtesy of Gerard McNamara

 

Here’s a Hero Worship piece for The Skinny Magazine on Adam Ant… yes indeed!

Critics, tastemakers and elitists may simply turn their noses up at my figure of worship in this piece, casting him off as nothing but a novelty, pop act from the New Romantic 1980s. Naturally, I beg to differ.

Adam Ant (born Stuart Goddard) may well be the reason I’m involved in this whole music malarkey, 30 years after listening to his music for the first time in 1981. Much like other young boys discovering their own minds, tastes and views on the world, I was smitten immediately. He was the first pop-star that made me imagine the endless possibilities of music, art, performance, fashion and sex.

Here was a man dressed as a pirate in Native American Indian make-up, fronting a band with 2  Burundi drummers and heavily distorted guitars, yodelling ‘A new royal family, a wild nobility – we are the family’ – what’s not to like? This was, and still is, some of the most exciting pop music ever made.

Compare that to the dreary landfill mediocrity of Take That, the faceless R’n’B of Ne-Yo or the banal euro-disco of Lady Gaga. They either have catchy tunes and look terrible, or look great and sound terrible. They all lack any sense of real insurrection, humour or wit in their lyrics and outlook. None of them come close to Mr Ant.

A spark lit the touch-paper and so began my journey into the obscure worlds of punk, post-punk, indie, glam, reggae, hip-hop, electronica and everything in between. A journey that continues today of course…

His massive pop stardom is well documented, and even the uninitiated will no doubt be familiar with Ant Music, Stand & Deliver, Prince Charming and the other massive hits. But the REAL story begins years before.

Having witnessed the Sex Pistols play live at St. Martin’s Art College in London in 1975 supporting his own band of the time Bazooka Joe, Goddard had an epiphany and transformed himself into Adam Ant. He threw himself into the heart of the London punk scene, taking to the stage dressed in Japanese kabuki make-up, leather, PVC and a kilt (nodding to his Scottish ancestry). He was initially managed by Jordan – the Vivienne Westwood model and iconoclast – and became a cult figure in those caustic times.

His lyrics were confrontational, explicit and often seditious, but all delivered with a knowing wink and a tongue in cheek. Search out Catholic Day – a distasteful take on the slaying of JFK; Whip in my Valise – an ode to bondage and sexual punishment; Animals & Men which name-checks the Italian Futurists of the early 20th Century; or Plastic Surgery about, well, you guessed it.

These early singles and the Dirk Wears White Sox LP are unique examples of real art-rock and sound surprisingly fresh and obtuse to this day – every bit as odd and angular as XTC or Devo .

As he built underground momentum and hinted at breakthrough success; infamous prankster, pseudo-svengali and friend Malcolm Mclaren stole his ‘Ants’ from him and put together Bow Wow Wow. Incensed, Adam combined forces with Marco Pirroni and formed a dynamic songwriting duo, intent on taking the pop charts by storm in the most glamorous and outrageous ways possible.

They succeeded, making three of the greatest pop albums ever in Kings of the Wild Frontier,Prince Charming and Friend or Foe. These pompous, excessive and lovingly crafted collections won outright the hearts and minds of kids across the UK, giving teenagers a pure-pop-sugar-hit whilst also introducing them to the earlier, darker works.

Have I mentioned that Adam Ant was also voted the ‘World’s Sexiest Man’ by MTV viewers in the USA? Well yes, he was highly sexually charged and extremely attractive… to both sexes. All in all, he was the ultimate pop-star and is still adored wherever he appears, despite mental-health troubles and tabloid scaremongering.

Nowadays, like many others, Adam Ant is on the comeback trail. However, rather than piggy-backing on some hackneyed, 80s nightmare nostalgia-trip, he has recruited a young band who he’s named The Good, The Mad and the Lovely Posse. They play all those inspired punk anthems, b-sides and subversive hits, while Adam looks fit and healthy once again. Apparently the incredulously titled new album Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar in Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter is ready to go too.
I saw him live recently and was astonished at how good he sounded. My own girlfriend was quaking at the knees, repeatedly proclaiming him as an older, sexier Johnny Depp… dressed as a pirate naturally! The gig was outstanding.

So put away your Joy Division box-sets, your Bob Dylan bootlegs, and your Velvet Underground out-takes for now, because I’m controversially worshipping at this altar. As the man himself sang… ‘Ridicule is nothing to be scared of’!