It’s really nice to get to speak to Scott, his songs have helped me recently with my own depression battle and Mastersystem album came out at a really dark period in my life, I instinctively and instantly connected to it without necessarily understanding why. Mastersystem are much more than the sum of their parts. They are a breath of fresh air. I’m quietly confident it’ll make my top ten albums of the year. Any less of my waffle and more questions!
I suppose the obvious question to ask is how did this project come about?
Well, it was brought to myself and Grant by Justin Lockey two summers ago while we were opening up for Editors in Berlin. It was one of those things where you have a lot of conversations like that with fellow musicians where you like we should do something together. The thing I realised is that if you have that conversation with Justin then he’s gonna make it happen! He’s a bit of a workaholic and he’s got about 5 different things on the go at any one time. So a few months later at the start of 2017, I got a bunch of tracks and I absolutely loved them. It was like here’s a bunch of instrumentals, go make them into songs in your own time, there’s no rush. I was still in the midst of a Frightened Rabbit tour so I gave it a couple more months then I began writing and it came together pretty quickly after that.
So aye it’s been a swift project, which is kinda the best way to do a sideproject really. That’s the kind of ethos of it really, let’s not overthink this, it’s big dumb guitar tracks and I took the same approach with the lyrics. Somethings with other songs I can spend months to perfect them lyrically. What I did essentially over a couple of months I took a total of about a week to put the lyrics together, I tried to do it quickly, kinda off the cuff gut instinct approach and it seemed to fit.
I’m quite blown away by the power and heaviness of the album. It feels like an escape from other projects, yet with a pleasing familiarity. Is this a deliberate approach to the sound? How would you compare Mastersystem to other projects?
Yeah, it gives it a good reason to exist because it’s really quite different from what we usually do. Also, I didn’t play any guitar on this record so I was listening to someone else’s song and I really enjoyed that detachment where I could just be the vocalist.
Can you tell us a bit about the recording and writing process? Did you get together to write and record or was it more of a studio project?
Well the ‘demos’ that I got where to my ears pretty fully formed, they had some rough drums on them which Grant re-did, but that was the last thing. It was like making an album in reverse as Grant was the last thing to go on it. We were all available at different times, I went down to Doncaster for two sessions, for a total of 6 days recording. Some of those tracks it was pretty much the first time I sang them, so it was that kind of spontaneity as opposed to overthinking things.
It’s interesting it’s definitely changed my thoughts towards writing and recording, maybe that kind of ‘off the cuffness’ is something that keeps the music exciting and alive rather than studiously picking through a track to try and perfect it. I know Justin has the same process in Editors. With Grant over the years, we’ve kind of tamed him a lot. We’ve brought in a lot of electronic sounds in the studio and the way that we used to play when we started out, where it was just thrashing about he’s not been able to do much of that in recent years as the sound has calmed down a lot. He loved getting back into that animal style drumming.
It was a proper release for us as well, a between album project so it’s really good pallet cleanser, which will probably affect how we approach the next Frightened Rabbit album, it’s exciting.
Where did the name come from? Is it Sega related?!
Well yeah, it is, but it’s one word! So far we’ve not had any angry emails from Sega saying cease and desist. The thing is there is a certain amount of regression to what we were all listening to in high school, so it takes us back to what we were listening to early Pumpkins, Weezer, Dinosaur Jr. and all the Seattle grunge stuff, that’s where the heart of the record lies but we wanted to bring it forward, certainly lyrically I wanted to have that kind of teenage angst but with adult problems in the lyrics.
Approaching the vocals for this I was almost able to get into a different sort of character there’s a lot of heart and soft feeling in Frighten Rabbit songs and I think this is more aggressive. You wouldn’t really know it listening to it but I was thinking of some of my favourite vocalists and performers like early Idlewild; Roddy Woomble, Iggy Pop and Nick Cave. Where there’s that aggression, swagger and confidence which I don’t really do a lot of in the other band, so there’s definitely a lot of lyrics that wouldn’t make it into a Frightened Rabbit song but I felt able to put it into those songs because the tone is so different.
Lyrically Dance Music seems quite dark, introspective and unafraid to use foul language to get a point across. I’m quite curious as this year I’ve been battling depression and find myself looking deeper into lyrics (particularly Frightened Rabbit, Twilight Sad albums) to find comfort. Is this a deliberate attempt to look at accepting one’s inner demons and behaviour?
Yeah, it’s something I’ve been battling for a while, I guess the thing is before I realised what was going on I was sort of relishing in it, it becomes such an integral part of my character and I was like well I right these sad songs and it helps me creatively and then it gets to the point where like ‘No!! Fuck that!’, this is no way to live and these songs definitely came from a point where I probably started writing in earnest at the end of the Frightened Rabbit tour cycle and when you’re cast back into normal life and you have to try to find a way to fit in again and it’s a really difficult place to be, so a lot of this album is about questioning where about I’m supposed to be? What’s the fucking point? How do I reshape myself as an adult after this fairly careful and catered for existence? That’s what a lot of this record refers to, that kind dumped back down to earth, yeah I’ve got to sort my shit out now.
What can we expect on setlists? All Mastersystem material or will other songs creep in?
Last night was the first show on the tour and everyone seemed pretty psyched about it. We just played the album from start to finish then fucked off (laughs). To me, I think if we’d stuck in a couple of Frightened Rabbit tunes in would sort of devalue the whole process. We also played with different setlist orders but it works better how we put it together for the album. I’ve also got to put in a bit more chat in-between songs so that people don’t feel like they’re only just getting into it and then it’s over. Last night we managed about 50 minutes which is pretty good going for a 35-minute album!
It’s exciting it’s completely a different experience for all of us, just thrash out this album, no encores when were done were done and then have a chat with people afterwards. I’d never played this venue before a couple of months ago but I’m back twice in two months is pretty great, I love it here!
Is this a one-off or will there be more to come from Mastersystem?
That’s all up in the air, I mean we put out this record because it was quick and all the release schedule was sort of a surprise, we wanted to keep it under wraps until it was almost out. So we’re kind of seeing if there’s any appetite for it elsewhere in the world, maybe there could be a US tour or something like that and yeah if people want to see us again later in the year then we could do that, but at the moment there are no plans. We’ve all got day jobs to be getting on with as well so we don’t want to impinge too much on that.
But hopefully not the last (of Mastersystem), knowing James and Justin they could have another bunch of tracks ready by the end of the year we could just stick to the same set of rules it’s just fucking guitar music lets not add any bells ‘n’ whistles and we could put it together really quickly so yeah, I don’t think it’ll be the last you’ll hear of us and hopefully not the last album either!
The Wildhearts – Ginger Wildheart talks to us about Britrock Must Be Destroyed tour and questions from fans!
Feature by Graeme J. Baty
Back in 1994, I saved up my pocket money and I bought a tape after hearing a crazy song on (probably) the Radio 1 Rock show. That song was Suckerpunch and the Tape was Earth Vs The Wildhearts. I think I played that bugger to death! Many years later I still love that album and the band. Local legends they are!!
It’s always great to see The Wildhearts and side-projects in any form. However, this tour is something of a different beast! The classic lineup is back in action and ready to tour the UK in May. Britrock Must Be Destroyed Tour brings not only the Wildhearts but other 90s favourites Reef, Terrorvision and now Dodgy have now been added to the bill. Something for everyone!
Graeme caught up with Ginger Wildheart for a chat about the tour and other things, with some help from the lovely folk at All About The Wildhearts Facebook group!
How did the whole Britrock Must Be Destroyed tour come about?
Our manager, Andy Farrow, invented it. He’s a canny businessman so he thought up an idea that none of the bands would have. It’s a killer bill, and The Wildhearts needed no more prompting than to just be asked.
Will the tour feature full Wildhearts sets? What material will be performing? Just older 90s stuff or a mix from all periods?
On this tour we will only play the songs that make the audience sing and dance. We want to win the prize for best crowd of the tour, and I’m pretty confident it’s in the bag.
Which band (other than yourselves) are you really looking forward to seeing?
All of them, it’s going to be a great evening of music.
What is the last gig you went to as a punter?
I don’t get a chance to go to half the gigs I’d like to, or I have some days off and don’t hear that one of my favourite bands just played my town. The last gig I went to was Sparks, which I took my little boy to. I want him to see all my favourite bands, while they’re going, to have something to compare current music to, for purposes of quality insurance.
What album or band are you currently listening to and just can’t get enough of?
I play music every day, usually all day. In the car and at home, my world is never silent.
The last CD I really became obsessed with was the latest Fratellis album ‘In Your Own Sweet Time’, which is fucking astounding. I had to start listening to the last Scaramanga Six album ‘Chronicle’ again to ween myself off that one.
The last vinyl album that blew me away is the last Bokassa album ‘Divide & Conquer’, which is just a relentless riff fest of magnificent proportions.
I also play a lot of older music, and right now I am listening to ‘Mock Tudor’ by Richard Thompson. A spectacular collection of songs, as are most of his albums.
I often look to your Twitter posts and feel inspired. It’s great to see a real person with passions and battles of their own. For the last 6 months or so I’ve battled severe depression and have found being open and honest is a great help personally and for those around me. You often touch on your own mental health issues. I find music is a huge lifeline when times are bad, what keeps you going and what advice can you give to those of us who struggle?
I use music as my medication. I also try to eat healthily and exercise, but I also drink, so that can be a bit of a grudge match.
I try to stay busy too, as isolation will put me straight back into my own head.
And as long as I have a guitar around I can write my feelings into song. Writing songs has saved my life countless times, and continues to do so.
Do you find your illness affects how you write and perform music?
I think it makes me more prolific, as I have plenty of emotional information to work with most of the time. Writing as much as I do can be a drain on some, if you’re my manager or a casual fan, but you have to understand that I have to do this. I don’t write music just to sell it, I often write to help myself through a bad patch. That’s when I find myself at my most prolific.
Lee Foster asks… Can you turn up CJs guitar?!
If he had to stand next to Danny’s bass cab he’d fucking turn up too.
Andrew Holmes asks a few questions… Are you surprised that you have a very loyal following after all these years?
I’m very, very honoured. I’m not surprised because I never stopped working, making music and playing live, and that was always a sign of a career musician as far as I was ever concerned. Full-timers don’t get proper jobs, we make this work. I treat my supporters with respect too, so while I feel very lucky and I don’t feel surprised.
After the new album is released next year, is the intention to tour the hell out of it and its a success will there be more albums in future?
For The Wildhearts? I hope to record a new album every year.
Any plans to record ‘Stop us if You’ve Heard This One Before” Volume 2?
Nah, I don’t think so. I mean who knows, right? Maybe someday we’ll discuss it and thinks it a great idea, but for now the plan is to get ourselves back on the map, and we need fresh, new music to do that.
How are songwriting duties tackled for the new album? All Ginger or are the others involved too?
Everyone is contributing. Obviously I’m contributing more than the others, but that’s just because I’m a workaholic and I shit songs out every day. I can’t expect anyone else to maintain that kind of pace.
Scott Turnbull asks… What colour packet should cheese and onion crisps come in?
Steve Clark asks… Is it harder to come up with cracking tunes after all these years of knocking them out, or do they still flow out?
They still come thick and fast.
I dunno how, but I don’t run out of inspiration, and if I’m inspired by something then it sounds like music in my head. It’s a very fortunate curse to have.
Steve Dodd asks… Is it awkward at festivals when you’re on the same bill as bands/band members you have bad blood with?
I’m not sure I have bad blood with any band members anymore. I sometimes can’t be around extreme drinking and threatening behaviour, being a father, but my concern always comes from a place of love. I have people who don’t speak to me anymore because their partner doesn’t get along with me, and that’s just loyalty, I get it.
But there’s no musician I wouldn’t walk up to and say hello.
Lewis Sellers asks… Will SG5 ever be resurrected?
I honestly don’t think so. It’s something I did at the time, and I enjoyed it, but it was an age thing. Wanting to wear funny gear and blow things up. I’m very much more basic these days.
Niall O’Conner asks… The new album you’re starting work on will be the first full album recorded by what most fans consider to be the ‘classic lineup’. Any pressure? Or is it exciting?
No pressure at all, the songs are already written, for the most part. And we’ve rehearsed them, and they sound fucking great.
There is only excitement. I honestly can’t wait to see what our album sounds like with these four elements. It’s a supergroup of extreme people, perfect for times as confusing as these.
The tour arrives in Newcastle on the 20th May 2018 at the Newcastle O2 Academy!!
Brian Cook from Russian Circles talks to us about upcoming UK gigs and more
GJB had a chat with Brian Cook from Russian Circles ahead of their tour. They have managed to squeeze in a couple of UK dates. Catch them in Leeds 15th May and London 16th May 2018.
Guidance still feels really fresh, exciting and new to me. Writing is I realise it’s nearly two years since it was released. Do the songs still feel new to you? What is your favourite song to perform from that record?
We recorded Guidance back in December of 2015, so most of the material is over two-and-a-half years old for us at this point. But most of last year was spent on the road with Mastodon where we were playing four songs spanning our whole catalog, so we didn’t touch upon much from the new record. It’s a bit surreal because the record now feels pretty old, but given the circumstances we haven’t exhausted ourselves on it yet. I still enjoy playing all the songs off the record, though “Afrika” is probably my favorite.
The Mastodon tour last year, seemed like a great pairing style-wise, how were you received? How does it feel to finally get out and play full sets again?
We went into the tour with some trepidation. We’re all Mastodon fans, and we’re all admirers of how they’ve charted their own musical path and rejected a lot of metal conventions, but we’re wary of the more mainstream rock world. We’ve garnered a cool grassroots fanbase and there was some concern about drawing in new people. That might sound elitist, but one rotten apple that stirs up trouble in the crowd can ruin a whole show. And there’s always a little uncertainty when you open for a bigger band because there’s no guarantee another band’s audience is going to appreciate what you’re doing. I don’t want to have to police crowds or deal with knucklehead behaviour. We’re comfortable and content with our current size, and we’re happy that folks that come to our show tend to be respectful both to us and to other attendees. So we viewed the tour as a gamble, but we also wanted to try something different, so we went for it. Fortunately, there is a strong cerebral component to Mastodon and that translates into a fanbase that has an actual appreciation for the music instead of just a bunch of dudes looking for a soundtrack for pushing each other around. We were fortunate to go over well with their crowd, but it feels good to play to our audience again.
You have limited stops in the UK this time around but I’m really excited to see you in Leeds again, the Brudenell show in 2015 was one of my favourite gigs of all time! How do you find UK audiences compared to home and any plans to tour here more extensively?
The UK feels pretty similar to the US in terms of audiences. There’s a bigger disparity between UK crowds and European crowds. I think a lot of that stems from nightlife culture. UK venues feel a lot like US venues in that they have a nightclub feel to them, so people tend to be in more of a party headspace. European venues tend to feel more like dedicated performance spaces or art centers, so the vibe feels a little more like a cultural event. I like the vibe of both. I like people letting their hair down and having a good time, but I also like shows being treated as these art-focused communal events. This will be our fifth trip across the Atlantic on this record, so it’ll likely be our last tour over there for awhile.
Any plans to record a follow up to Guidance once touring is complete? Can you give us an insight into your songwriting process? Are the songs born in the studio or do you get together and write as beforehand?
We meant to get started on the new album last spring but all the support tours put the writing process on hold. Since we all live in different corners of the US, we can’t just meet up a couple of times a week to jam. We have to block out weeks of time where we all convene in Chicago to work. We’ll come up with song bits and pieces individually in the meantime, but they don’t really come together until we’re all in one room. So hopefully this summer we can start threading together all the riffs and arrangement ideas and get something together to record in the fall.
Any Festival plans for this year?
Just the ones we’re doing on this upcoming tour… Dunk!, Freakvalley, a few more.
What is the last gig you went to as a punter?
It was either Kikagaku Moyo or Grails and Daniel Higgs. Or maybe it was this local Seattle d-beat band called Fucked & Bound. I just moved back to Seattle from NYC a few weeks before this tour started and I went to a bunch of shows in that time. Can’t keep the timeline straight though.
What album or band are you currently listening to and just can’t get enough of?
It’s a toss up between Can and Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street. The Can obsession has been a continuous exponential growth over the last decade-and-a-half, and now i’m finally delving into the late era albums where Czukay relinquished bass duties. Exile just gets better with every listen and sounds good in every environment, so it’s my current default album when I can’t decide what else to listen to.
Russian Circles UK tour 2018
Russian Circles play Leeds Stylus on 15th May 2018. They’re bringing Brutus with them too! Which should prove amazing, I’m really looking forward to their set. Here’s a teaser. Make sure you get down early!
Neil Ainger talks to Desert Storm about Sentinels LP and tour plans
I first saw Desert Storm live in Trillians, Newcastle with Karma to Burn and Druganaut in 2012, and then again with a similar line-up at The Cluny in 2014. You’ve shared stages with countless other great names in metal now. Who’s been your favourite to play with so far?
Ryan – They were cool shows for sure, Karma To Burn are always fun. We’ve had cool shows with Orange Goblin, Honky, Corrosion of Conformity and Weedeater to name a few.
Your fifth album Sentinels is released on March 16th, your first release on APF records. Having been playing the hell out of it this past week I’d have to say this is your best, heaviest and most assured record to date. What can you tell us about the writing and record process and everything that went into making it?
Chris B – We set out with the intentions of creating a more consistent sounding, consolidated body of work. Lyrically the album touches upon more personal issues and subjects closer to us. Lyrics like this help people relate a bit more I think, as perhaps some of the issues they are dealing with too.
Ryan – Musically the album was written the same way we have always worked. Starting around a guitar riff myself of Chris has conjured up and if the rest of the band are enjoying it, we end up jamming it and adding more ideas until we have some kind of structure. Whilst the music is being rehearsed Matt will sit writing lyrics and contemplating vocal melodies….these will all be laid down last.
As for recording most of the record was recorded with Jamie Dodd (Orange Goblin) in Hackney London at Flesh and Bone Studios, except Journeys End! We wrote this after and really wanted it on the album, but recorded that in Oxfordshire at Wordworm studios (where Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath sometimes records) with Steve ‘Geezer’ Watkins.
Opening track Journey’s End and the accompanying video touch on addiction, mental health and suicide. Are these issues important to you as a band?
Chris B – I think mental health is an issue that we all resonate with as a band and something that needs to be recognised.
Ryan – It was a way of creating awareness, which is very important. Many people suffer from issues such as depression, anxiety, paranoia etc, including some of us personally. It’s important people can relate and seek help if required.
It’s no surprise that the new record sounds as brilliant as it does considering it was recorded and mixed by Jamie Dodd. Given his work with Orange Goblin, he must really understand what it is you’re aiming for?
Chris B – It was a really fun process working with Jamie Dodd, as he challenges to push ourselves of be more creative with our production, without being too intrusive.
Ryan – Yeah Jamie was great. It’s always nice when you work with an engineer that is also willing to suggest ideas to help bring some tracks to life.
The tour for the record has begun. You’re off around Europe and have more dates back in the UK in July and August. What can fans expect from the live shows?
Ryan – Yes, currently in Czech Republic whilst we do this interview! The tour has been great and the new material is going down very well! Selling a lot of the new record too! Everyone can expect very loud riffs and lots of the new tracks in the set, as well as old stuff!
Another big UK support tour announced very soon for June as well. Keep your eyes peeled!
I had a chat with Matthew Marcantonio from Demob Happy talk about their new LP ‘Holy Doom’ and upcoming UK tour.
Your new album Holy Doom is out in March. Can you tell us a bit about where it was recorded?
“We recorded it in Echo Zoo Studios in Eastbourne, near Brighton. It’s like an old retirement town. Something like 99% of the people there are over 80 years old and then you’ve got this really great studio in the middle of it all tucked away.
We recorded it all in all in about 3 weeks. We did it in two ten-day chunks. We did ten days in Echo Zoo doing drums and bass. Then we did the second half at Ian Davenport’s studio in Oxford.”
Loads of touring coming for Demob Happy?
“We’re doing a UK tour in April and we’re doing a support run in Europe with Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes in March.”
Those tend to be quite wild shows,will you live up that wild reputation?
“Well we have a different sound to them and when you’re doing support shows you don’t wanna be that band who outdo the headline act, it’s more about going and winning people over. Frank Carter’s fans are great we did some shows with them in Ireland and we had a great reception.”
Is this the biggest Newcastle show to date? What’s it like coming back here?
“We haven’t done anything in Newcastle for a while, so we’re looking forward to coming back up. It’s definitely our biggest headline tour that we’ve done so far. It’ll be great, fingers crossed people will come down, we’re having a really good reception and people seem excited.”
What was the motivation behind the move to Brighton?
“Well at the time when we left Newcastle in 2010 we all moved down to Brighton for University. I think, primarily we came down to Brighton to get the band up and running and to the next level. At that time in Newcastle, there was a lot of metal bands and acoustic singer/songwriters, folky type stuff and we were doing bluesy rock music. So there was no one really that we could play with, we could never find a good bill to be on. So it was a combination of that and Uni, it’s just the way it happened really. Well, you have to be close to London in order to make things happen. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it works and when you’re a DIY band like ourselves you have to come down and make connections. But it’s nice to see that Newcastle has a lot of awesome rock bands coming out and getting started, bands like Pale White are doing really well.”
Holy Doom has a quite dark and suggestive title, listening to it it’s quite heavy in parts and yet mellow in others. Is there a theme behind the record?
“We never set out for it to be this way, it seems like when we were writing the lyrics that everything was sort of viewed with a sense of duality. That’s what the title Holy Doom represents, It’s that balance between good and bad, the light and the dark. It’s a concept that’s been on my mind over the last couple of years. So really the songs just seemed to reflect that. We were looking for a title and that seemed to make sense. It wasn’t really something we set out to do, it happened naturally. I mean we like concept albums, 70s concept albums when an album is more than the sum of its parts. So any chance to do that I’d take.
Probably the heaviest stuff we’ve done is on there ‘Spinning Out’ and some of the softest stuff we’ve ever done. It was just finding that balance between things and build on what we did with the first album.”
Have the lineup changes made a difference in the sound?
“Everything that is written is still the same 3 people who wrote the first time around. It was pretty liberating in a way, we feel like we can do more now. The live sound is still energetic and raucous.”
Demob Happy bring Holy Doom tour to Newcastle on the 9th April 2018
6 Nottingham – Rock City 7 Manchester – Deaf Institute 8 Glasgow – Broadcast 9 Newcastle – Northumbria Institute 10 Birmingham – The Flapper 12 Norwich – Waterfront 13 London – Borderline 14 Brighton – The Haunt 15 Bristol – The Louisiana