Introduction

Stiff Little Fingers

This blog has been set up as a way into the book and includes interviews I conducted with a number of artists, musicians, DJs and poets in the last few years. It also features a short film made by an old friend and film maker John Butcher on my life and times. The blog was formed by Richard Proffitt who collaborates with me in the final stages of bringing the whole caboodle together, and whose help has allowed to move on with the writing despite periodic illness.

The interviews presented here were done between early 2013 to late 2014. They present a number of notable people such as Jake Burns from Stiff Little Fingers, Attila Stockbroker and others such as Jackdaw with Crowbar and Jabba’s Cartel home grown from my own local scene in Leamington. I greatly enjoyed making them and on this blog they are set up as sound files for you to listen to at your leisure.

We will be updating this site regularly as it evolves, posting what we find relevant or inspiring so be free to comment as you wish. The site will be interactive with the book so you will be able to go between both formats which will make it easily accessible. We hope you enjoy this experience as much as we did producing it!

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Adam from Jabba’s Cartel

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Work in Progress

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I’ve been looking at the Google analytics for this website recently. I see that we’re getting quite a lot of hits, which is most welcome. But sadly, most people only stay around to look at one or two pages. I have to say, this is a WORK IN PROGRESS, so please don’t expect too much from us at this stage!

There may not be many blog posts to read just yet, and, in fact, the book itself, “The History of Unpopular Music” is not due to be published for another year or so, but I do feel that we already have some interesting content in regards to the interview files (both audio and pdf). So I do hope that visitors at least find there way to the Interviews Page and check them out!

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Uploading the interviews sound files

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The interviews for the History of Unpopular Music form an interesting and unique part of the book. John put a great deal of time and effort into tracking down a number of local and international artists who were kind enough to offer their time, opinions and insights into the world of live music.
The sound files of all of these interviews were my job to edit, optimise and upload to this website. You can find them on the INTERVIEWS PAGE from the main nav-bar. Along with each sound file, we are planning on offering a transcribed version of the interview as a pdf document. To date, we’ve transcribed two of the interviews, but the others are being processed, so you won’t have to wait long to be able to read them all.
You may also notice that beneath each musician or group’s interview are a collection of icons. Click on these to take you to the artists’ other pages on the web; ie. there Facebook, SoundCloud or Twitter pages.

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A History of Unpopular WordPress

WordPress has done it again, has me pulling my hair out in chunks and wishing I’d never been introduced to a computer! Don’t get me wrong; I love that old CMS as much as the next person, but to anyone that’s given substantial time to working with WordPress, they can tell you that it’s not all sweetness and light. There are some very dark moments, such as figuring out how to migrate a site to a new server.

Establishing this blog has been enjoyable and mostly problem free, but in order to migrate the thing to it’s own server (and hence it’s own domain name) I’ve spent many a lonely night in an internet WordPress forum seeking the easiest way to do this. Don’t worry about sending me any tips and tricks: I can happily say that the site is now in it’s rightful abode. Getting it there – I decided – was turning into a mini-nightmare, so at last I decided to do the long-hawl way and I re-created the whole site, re-creating the lists of plugins and all the styling modifications.

So now we can get into the true spirit of this blog and start posting about music, art & culture: all within the context of relating to John’s Book: “A History of Unpopular Music”.

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Awkward Vibe presents Group Rhoda and Johnny Watson at the LAMP

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Midweek at LAMP brought us two solo acts, both electronic, and both with their own appeal in different ways. First on was Johnny Watson aka J Dubulu who uses a laptop to produce a diverse array of sounds in some sort of experimental collision. He certainly whacks you with his inventions and leaves you ready to sup a beer after the event. I feel sure Johnny is trying to create something unusual for audience consumption and as a vehicle for his own fertile imagination. After speaking to Johnny more than once now he likes music as well as poetry and it would be interesting to see what he can come up with in the future, perhaps mixing different forms and maybe using film as well.

All the way from San Francisco is a solo act with the sound of more that one act. She describes her music as “tropical dark wave” and combining an industrial, electronic sound with deep bass and recitative drum beat. On an extensive European tour which encompasses dates from Brighton’s Prince Albert through to mainland European cities such as Prague and Copenhagen, Group Rhoda is a highly mobile and versatile performer using samplers and the latest technology with vocals and she has been compared to New York protopunk band Suicide, but with a feminine twist. But then she is very different to Suicide in other ways and not only because they were a two piece. Suicide were East coast, punk driven and much more confrontational. Whereas Group Rhoda is much more laid back, and reflects a West coast mentality, and more specifically San Franciscan appeal which follows on from the varied experimentalism particular to that city since the 1960s. So the comparison ends with the use of electronica, in many ways Group Rhoda and Suicide are poles apart.

Listening to her music on Soundcloud you can find tracks such as “Fire” and the lengthy, but involving “Out of Time-Out of touch” which shows her ability to bring electronic sounds into a congealed whole taking you on a journey if you are willing to go there, and I enjoy that trek, it’s warm and wide open. So as a form of escapism Group Rhoda is just the ticket and much less dangerous than other material forms of escape. Her rich and, at times swooping voice carries the show and that night the 1974 Sun Ra film “Space is the Place” was projected on either side of the venue wall adding to the night’s magic. So I think she will continue to gain audience appreciation and though she lives in San Fran, I hope there will another European tour in the future and the LAMP can host her talent another time.

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ZEA and SPACE SIREN Gig Review

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ZEA and SPACE SIREN at the Leamington LAMP 14/4/2013

I arrived early at the Lamp on Sunday afternoon as Spring finally, thankfully breaks after a very long and protracted winter. Zea and Space Siren have been on a small tour over from Amsterdam which has taken them from Bristol to Nottingham, Leeds, London and finally winding their way in a Toyota van to Leamington Lamp. I met Arnold de Boer whose solo act Zea is in existence for over a decade and the four band members from Space Siren who are approaching their third year and growing in appeal as time ticks by. Both Zea and Space Siren are part of a vibrant and healthy Amsterdam music scene and to have them play at Lamp shows the venue is already attracting bands and acts of high quality and value.

Two years ago, The Ex and Jackdaw With Crowbar played at Hybrid Arts, Spencer’s Yard, and played two sets which demonstrated how much they have developed since performing together at Bath Place Community Centre in the late 1980s. It was there that I met Arnold their lead singer, who joined the Ex four years ago. On meeting him on Sunday and talking with him about his one man band, his dedicated playing, writing, recording, and experimentation with different sounds and ideas has led to a live show that is thrilling and thought provoking. His box of tricks or sound equipment has become his live show, releasing sonic beats and effects which he manipulates at his fingertips that add to searching and challenging songs and they are preety much bonkers! Very bonkers, but drawing you in to his insanity, bizaare as it all is. Arnold clearly believes in what he’s doing, stands upright, flying his Frysian (Dutch province) flag, but I seriously believe that despite everything his songs mean something to him, have much to contribute and must be heard. With songs like “Song for Electricity”, “Agrarian Daydreams”, and “We’ve got a Crisis”, this man is like a Dutch Billy Bragg pushing for an audience reaction, but mostly just made me laugh, then think afterwards which is always a good sign. He has a new release called “The Beginner” which is distributed in the UK from Norman Records and is well worth a listen. He is touring extensively around Europe soon with Ghanian King Ayisoba and with other musicians such as Germanotta youth and Fire!! Orchestra! So as he said to me typing on his laptop “Sex, Drugs and Email!” Good luck to Arnold and his great leap forwards!

Space Siren followed and made noise bands seem precious again. I like this band. They remind me of Throwing Muses or Lush from the 1990s, but they are more European and reflect their own backyard. As two males and two females, they gel well together engaging the audience in a fury of guitar and rhythm and sounds with enticing vocals and penetrating drum beat. Their lead guitarist runs a recording studio in Amsterdam and their album “Mr. Wagner, please give us a call?” is available on their website. It is worthy of a listen as they are very good indeed! On talking with the band they seemed positive and upbeat about the tour and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see them at the LAMP at some point in the future. Mixing noise effects, swirling melodies and soft, searching vocals they produce a fine live show. They have the creative backing of film maker/jvideo producer of Siebe de Boer, and the video of “Who makes me try?”(on You tube) is a striking introduction to this band who are definitly coming up! Another track “I think I saw an Elephant” hits your frontal lobes, shakes you around a bit, then quietens down with a calming end.

So, it was an enjoyable gig, and both acts, I hope will return to the venue.

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Mixtape Saints, Jabba’s palace and The Beutons at the LAMP

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So to another night at LAMP with three bands on the stage, each with their own musical style, and each with a contribution to make to this growing venue in its early life. Settling in with a portion of spicy chips from the local Chinese, and a sober mind, Mixtape Saints came on first. As a four piece band of young men they have plenty of energy and a bubbling enthusiasm. The lead singer engages very well with the audience, and this was the first gig they play with this line up. They have a compassionate side; one of their songs touches on issues of human suffering, and a solo number from the vocalist with guitar, hit a heart string and was delivered with genuine emotion. As a band the music could be described as “Indie Rock”, but I prefer to think of them as Mixtape Saints doing their music and I feel if they keep at it they will make an impact in the local scene and beyond. They play again in Rugby in the near future and I was pleased to meet two members of the band as they left the venue at the end of the night.

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After a short interval, Jabba’s palace who were reduced to four piece for this night’s performance. They now are a resident band at the Somerville Arms down Campion Terrace every third week in the month, and despite their stream-lining still produced a fine musical show. Adam’s guitar playing with flamenco/classical flourishes mixes very well with solid bass playing and vocals from Carol who communicates well with the audience drawing them into, at times uplifting and inspiring sounds. The percussion from Tom and Greg holds the whole experience together like a firm glue, and even though they were without their keyboardist and dyembe player they still carry you to some other place which is what music can do; to take you away from the humdrum and the mundane into a different and more fulfilling place, even for only a short period of time. Jabba’s are sound, and sound good, long may it continue.

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The Beutons from Perranporth in Cornwall are a very fun band! Three members come from Wrexham and moved to this beautiful area. They are very down to earth, know their music and entertain, creating music that is a crossover from rock ‘n’ roll to ska and back again. They are currently launching their new EP by a national tour, and LAMP was hosting them, in fact putting them up. At three different times the bass player swapped his instrument with the guitarist and they lifted the audience. I like their attitude. Positive with a gleaming smile and aware. Their humour is fine also, with talk of three legged dogs or whatever the gag it was! The Beutons are a working band, and with great licks reminiscent of bands like The Stairs from Liverpool, they will continue to thrill and grow into the decade.

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