TRACK REVIEW: Racing Glaciers- Patient Man

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Racing Glaciers

 

 

Patient Man

 

9.5/10

 

Patient Man is available at:

RELEASED:
13th July 2016

GENRES:
Alternative-Rock

ORIGIN:

Macclesfield, U.K.

The album Caught in the Strange can be pre-ordered here:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/caught-in-the-strange/id1124154958?app=itunes&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

RELEASE DATE:
August 5th 2016

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EVERY time a new band arrives to my ears…

it allows me the chance to discover a new part of the world- where the act hail from and the local artists that inspire them. A lot of my time has been focused on London lately. My featured act (who I shall come to soon) is an arresting band that is setting themselves up to become one of the scene’s most intriguing forces. Before then, I wanted to look at musicians in the North West of England; the importance of momentum and people sharing music; Alternative-Rock and its finest players. Let’s consider the North West of England that has, in the past few decades, been overthrown by London (and other areas) when it comes to music hegemony. In the ‘60s, the likes of The Beatles made Liverpool synonymous: Manchester enjoyed an explosion throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. Manchester is still creating a lot of brilliant acts but, to my ears, London is leading the charge for new music. I love discovering a stunning band; my mind has been obsessed with solo artists lately so it is good to refocus my attentions. The North West has shared quite a few treasures across the decades. From Oasis and The Beatles to The Hollies and Echo & the Bunnymen- the list goes on and on. I have been thinking about the reasons why North West England has so many great bands. Perhaps The Beatles and The Hollies started the ball rolling. So many subsequent bands were inspired by them; the legacy and influence hit hard and it has created a sort of chain reaction. What I find, that differs from London, is the community and openness of the people. There is such a warm and supportive vibe (not from everyone) that makes cities like Liverpool and Manchester great places to create music. The rise and proliferation of venues and local radio stations have made it easier and more accessible for young bands. It is the heritage and history that still creates the biggest impact.

Whereas The Beatles inspired Oasis; they have motivated a generation of fresh acts to get together and make music. The same is true of The Smiths and The Stone Roses made a gigantic statement in the ‘80s (The Stone Roses in the ‘90s, too) and I can hear their sounds in many young bands today. Current Manchester crop Whyte Horses, Spring King and Man Made are bands we should keep our eyes out for- Horsebeach, TVAM and PINS should be added alongside them. Perhaps Blossoms are the most notable Manchester bands of the moment- they release their debut album next week. My point remains: the North West should never be overlooked or underestimated. So many of us, me included, put so much stock in London and the music coming from there- at the expense of areas like Manchester and Liverpool. Racing Glaciers were formed in Macclesfield, which is to an extent, not steeped in classic bands and musicians.

Macclesfield is about 40 miles south of Manchester; 44-and-a-bit miles from Liverpool. Racing Glaciers are going to be conquering the world soon enough, but for now, they are happy where they are. The boys have released three E.P.s and gained plaudit and support from some hugely influential stations and figures. Before I carry on, let me introduce the band to you:

Racing Glaciers return with another stellar new single ‘Patient Man’ this July, out just ahead of their debut album ‘Caught In The Strange’, released through Killing Moon on August 5th.

With well over 2million Soundcloud plays on just their first few tracks, Racing Glaciers quickly burst on to the scene with their track ‘First Light’, which featured on the Transformers 4: Age of Extinction movie and won the band widespread support from BBC Radio 1 and BBC 6Music DJ’s including Annie Mac, Huw Stephens, Greg James, Fearne Cotton and Steve Lamacq.

The band have since performed lauded shows at the BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend, Liverpool Sound City, The Great Escape Festival, Secret Garden Party, London Calling in Amsterdam, Berlin Music Week, Y Not Festival, Wakestock and Beacons, as well as a mammoth 35-date headline UK tour late last year.

The new single ‘Patient Man’ is another exciting glimmer of what is to come from Racing Glaciers’ debut album release, ‘Caught In The Strange’, and pulls together all that is great about the 5-piece from Macclesfield, as gloriously cinematic, inventive and essential as we need right now.

Racing Glaciers debut album ‘Caught In The Strange’ is released through Killing Moon on August 5th 2016. ‘Patient Man’ is available from all good digital stores now, or available free – along with the singles ‘Seems Like A Good Time’ and ‘Samadhi (So Far Away’) – with exclusive album pre-orders.

Few bands have achieved as much (in a short time) as Racing Glaciers. Just look at their biography and you can tell how much their music is resonating. Caught in the Strange will arrive soon and its current single, Patient Man, has been lauded and congratulated by reviews and D.J.s. Social media is such a powerful force; many of us are ignorant and ignore the importance of it. When we see a great musician or band come through: how often are we likely to share their songs or promote them? I see artists with thousands of followers and how fee actually get involved and share the music. Even if you ‘like’ a song or retweet a status update: it makes a difference and can reach some very important people. If you follow a band, it stands to reason you will be invested in what they have to say. Why see an update about a great new song and simply let it go by? I feel we are becoming naïve and lazy; too keen to support an artist and be very casual with our patronage. New musicians, more than ever, need backing and kindness from their fans. Racing Glaciers have got where they are for a few reasons. Of course, the music itself is tremendous and fresh: among the most original and urgent I have heard in a long time. I know their fans are very loyal and many have shared the music and proffered their craft- ensured people get buzzing and chatting about the boys. You cannot discount the relevance and importance of Facebook and Twitter. If you are passionate and excited about a musician, then you have an (unwritten and unspoken) obligation to do more than simply listen. If we do not make efforts to promulgate the finest out there; music is going to suffer and many terrific artists are likely to call time. I know of many bands that have called it quits due to lack of relevant support and love.

Racing Glaciers are on a roll now and are enjoying critical acclaim and heady promotional duties. Enjoying some incredible festival slots and making their name knows to the likes of B.B.C. 6 Music: the future looks very rosy for the lads. It always warms my heart when I discover bands that have such plaudit and backing behind them. Racing Glaciers are likely to grow larger and more successful as time elapses. Over the last four years, they have come from modest foundations to become one of this country’s most-talked about propositions.  Of course, the Macclesfield crew is savvy and has not just relied on fan generosity and social media. They have set up their stall wonderfully: social media pages present; music easy to find across SoundCloud, BandCamp and YouTube; they keep themselves busy, no doubt. Aside from the organisation skills and intelligence; the guys’ music redefines Alternative-Rock. I have become somewhat disenchanted by the genre over the last few months. Every time I see a band described as ‘Alternative-Rock’; I approach the task with trepidation and weariness. So often I hear a group and within a few seconds recognise the song: it is simply a retread of another artist. Rock and Alternative are areas that have so much promise and room for maneuver. Pup, Wild Nothing and Chairlift are a trio of bands that mix Indie, Alternative and Rock together: making sure cross-pollination and mobility define their music. My problem is too many bands are rigid and unbending when they create songs. Maybe obsessed by their favourite bands: they are reluctant to do anything inventive, new and unexpected. As a result, Alternative Rock has gained an (unfair) reputation among some critics as being lackluster and tired. It is possible to craft crowd-pleasing, classic-sounding songs and do so with verve, uniqueness, and nuance. Racing Glaciers have suggestions of older acts but, by and large, are completely separate and stand-out; they owe a debt to nobody and have given spark and life to Alternative-Rock. Caught in the Strange is out on Friday and will demonstrate what a proposition they are. Stations and critics are liable to pick the album up and promote it readily; give it great reviews and enjoy people know about it.

Caught in the Strange is the first full-length release from the band. Patient Man is a tremendous single that gets into the heart and has an addictive quality to it. Racing Glacier’s current work is, in my view, their best to date and sees them build on early promise and really strike. The eponymous debut E.P. came out in 2012 and picked up some impassioned reviews and admirers. Songs like South begin with far-off, dreamy vocals and rush off the blocks. “I can tie my shoes/I can wash you too” are words that are hard to forget. Our hero hears a ghost in the house; he is returning to the “burning south”. As you get caught in the pace of the vocal and the beautiful composition- merry, jubilant horn blasts sit with rampant percussion- those lyrics intrigue and compel the senses. It is impossible not to picture scenes and interpret the meaning. Vivid, picturesque and romantic: South is a terrific song that defines the E.P. and the band. Talking About Space begins with more punch and clout (than South) and promises something epic. Before long, calmer, reflective guitars sit with brass and soothe the listener. Perhaps detailing a sweetheart or lonesome heroine: our lead poses questions and wonders whether she could cope on her own. The song’s title gets you thinking about cosmic possibilities although the words seem directly to apply to love. Soft, teasing and nimble at once; energrised, rousing and spirited the next: a song that has plenty of atmosphere, layer and detail. An exceptional band performance makes the track (one of the E.P.’s) finest creations. Little River closes Racing Glaciers and gives us Led Zeppelin III-esque patrol acoustics to start. Seduced by the tumbling beats and feet-moving drive of the song: another song that details romance and desire. Little River seems to be the name given to the girl (a sobriquet perhaps) but could also apply to nature itself- embracing the outside world to the full. Waves crash and the water rushes: the duo are not alone and are surrounded by the natural world. A terrific, singalong track that ends the E.P. with a bold statement.

Ahead of You Forever was released in 2014 and saw the band increase in scope and confidence. The opening (title) track is a lush and evocative piece that is riparian, tender and gorgeous. The acoustic strings open up to proud and noble horns. Expansive, delirious and swooning: there is a gracefulness and emotion to the composition. It is impossible not to get swept up and let your mind wander freely. Reminding me of Pink Floyd in their early days: it has elements of ‘60s-‘70s Psychedelic-Rock. New Country follows on from the opener- without pause at all- and sees the group at their lyrical finest- “Cold winged daughter/shaking in the morning sun”. Our hero has been sitting on his hands too long and coasting: now is the time to get up and do something- “Silver girl. We’re sailing on now”. Like their debut, there is a geographical and physical element to the song. A lot of Racing Glacier’s songs look at places, movement, and relocation. New Country refers to the east; previous songs have alluded to the south- the band is keen to immerse the listener in something physical, otherworldly and personal. The Falls enforces this and sees the lead escaping from home and trouble brewing; embracing a girl who is a “perfect failure”- he, as he admits, is a “freak, I’m a loner”. It is an odd, if balanced, love that is replete with aching vocals and an incredible band performance.

Every release and move see Racing Glaciers grow in confidence and stature. Ahead of You Forever was a progression from Racing Glaciers and contained more memorability, nuance, and colour. The band had started brightly but really hit their stride here: a remarkable E.P. filled with wonderful stories, emotions, and festival-ready songs. Now, in 2016, the boys have released Patient Man: a song that naturally fits into their back catalogue but takes another step forward. It is hard to truly define but (Patient Man) has that extra spark and layer; the performance is tight and brilliant; the vocal more passionate and soulful- Racing Glaciers evolving and progressing another step. This all hangs well for their L.P. which is liable to contain that same brilliance, consistency, and improvement. Existing fans will be pleased to find little has changed with regards their established, solid sound. What has changed is the quality and brilliance. Previous outings have been met with applause; critics and fans are likely to love their latest material and find much to recommend. Bands that build and grow between records are a rarity. You either get groups that start promising and then start to weaken or hit their peak many years down the line. Racing Glaciers sound at their most assured and contented right now. Caught in the Strange is going to be an album that highlights one of the most astonishing and unique bands in the country.

Patient Man is the lead single from Caught in the Strange and is very much business-as-usual for the group. Right from the gates, you are settled and pleased: there is no such thing as a disappointing Racing Glaciers song. Suitable to their name; the initial offerings have glacial strings and a sense of energy. Folk-tinged acoustics give the song beauty and stillness; underlying it, you have plenty of energy and blood-rush. “Look so happy with your hands behind your back” are the first words; not ones you’d expect. Given the compositional nature; one might predict something more romantic and traditional. Those early words get the mind working and imagining; one thinks of someone casually standing or relaxing- further revelation provides something darker (“Where we tied them up”). Maybe sinister or not as one imagines: the song’s subject “looks so good” laying on the table. Many might think of something deathly (somebody still and unmoving) or perhaps something less negative- perhaps with sexual overtones. That is the beauty and fascination of those words: the truth is not instantly revealed which means anyone can guess as to the origins. Racing Glaciers always make you smile with their music with all their songs. I have mentioned Racing Glaciers being Alternative-Rock but here, like many of their songs, there are more suggestions of Folk. Patient Man delineates its words to ensure maximum emotional resonance; the listener has the chance to drink it all in and immerse yourself in the picture. Our hero is patient and is keeping his emotions in check.

Constantly looking for revelation and truth: those lyrics still burn in the brain and get me wondering. Images of bondage or submission are inevitable but the composition and vocal restraint take your thoughts somewhere pure. Before too long, the song kicks up a notch and things get tenser and grittier. Whoever the heroine is; she is being given a bit of short shrift. The little pills she used to take- whether medicinal, hallucinogenic or suppressing- are being prescribed by our man. Maybe words of cruelty or causal annoyance: that initial patience is fading and the story gets more exciting and dark.  Patient Man is the band’s biggest topographical shift. Their previous material has looked at more optimistic and itinerant themes. Here, they transpose their ethics and create something closed-in and nervy; a black drama that looks at a capture-hostage-like situation. The girl/heroine is being let outside (just for an hour) and has been advised not to try anything- maybe she will run and evade the scene. It is at this point you realise the band has subsumed a very unsettling tone into the song. Perhaps not as clear-cut as one would imagine: again, it is impossible not to raise a sly smile. Words are never delivered with forceful malevolence or aggression: there is a playfulness and sense of detachment to be heard. “They don’t understand” are ironic words considering the next verse: the heroine is rolling on the floor as our man considered using a tranquiliser.

Maybe intended for comedy or sarcasm: it is a very tense atmosphere that is offset with a light and (almost romantic) presentation. We get plenty of detail about the shackled girl and the waning patience; no explanation as to the situation and back-story. This leaves the listener to come to their conclusions and speculate. Perhaps the relationship has been going a while and the girl has taken a lot: the lead has reached his tether and been as stoical as he can. One cannot take Patient Man to be a violent and cold song; throughout every stage, you smile at the exaggeration and ludicrous nature of the song- maybe not what the band intended but the fact remains. If there is some brainwashing and conditioning (the girl looking so good doing “what we taught you”) the fascination levels increase and the song becomes more filmic. Rather than attacking strings and funereal organs; we have a loose and relatable composition that will not put the listener off. More than that; Patient Man is the best song I have heard from Racing Glaciers.

The closing moments see the mantra (“They don’t understand”) repeated and becoming more appealing and hypnotic with every cycle. I can see crowds and festival-goers unified, shouting those words: perhaps ignoring the severity and true meanings behind the words. As hooked as I was by the sentence; the ‘we’ part of “what we taught you” gets into the mind. Who are these other people? Again, you feel like a gang or cult is being ascribed- such an unusual basis for a song but something that you cannot forget. Vocals get layered, choral and rousing; the composition remains light but adds plenty of emotion and story- the song reaches its peak and you are caught in an odd Stockholm Syndrome. From disquieting and unusual beginnings: by the end, you are on the hero’s side and submitted to the catchiness and sway of the song. No matter what your impressions of the song’s origins- something troubled and dark; more oblique and fictional- Patient Man is the most complete and authoritative song from the Macclesfield band. Differing from their early work- that looks at escape, romance, and nature- we have something left-field and against-the-grain. If that reflects the direction of the album (might be a red herring) it will be interesting to see.

I started this review by looking at bands of North West England and how Alternative-Rock is on shaky ground. If you link the two together- consider the classic bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s- there is no real evidence to suggest a huge about-face will occur. London might have the critical ear (and lead the charge of new artists) but the North West has always been a vital, historical part of the U.K. It is not just Manchester and Liverpool that is throwing terrific artists our way. Macclesfield, as we have seen, has quite a few; Wigan is pretty fertile with regards great music- the same can be said for Lancaster. Rock and Alternative are two of my favourite genres and feature heavily in my record collection. Lately, I have been more interested in Electronic music and Pop; getting more involved with Folk and Grunge. It is those culpable, tepid bands that have caused this abandonment. So many new acts are fans of Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, and Oasis; they do not make any effort to differentiate themselves and just duplicate their idols. Worse than that, there are so many groups that are plain boring, formulaic and stuffy. Those that stick in the mind and campaign for years are those that have their own mind and way of working. You do not need to be defined and one-dimensional when playing Alternative-Rock. Lyrically, musically and vocally; there are so many options and possibilities. Viola Beach are probably the best example of what I am trying to say.

The Warrington band gained a reputation throughout 2015 and started to get some great gigs under their belt. Not consciously influenced by anyone- they count The Coral and Hooton Tennis Club among their favourites- they were taken from us far too soon. After playing Where’s the Music? Festival in Sweden; the boys were involved in a fatal car crash. It was a tragic event for two different reasons. For one, they were a young band that were enjoying life and working hard to make a name for themselves. In another sense, you should hear the music they left behind. Their debut album (a collection of songs they were planning to release in the future) shows the group had a huge future ahead. Their basis was Rock but they incorporated Pop and Indie into the pot to produce something affirmative, happy and visceral. So few bands possess their sense of optimism and wonder- few argue we may never see their like again. What Viola Beach left behind was a very clear message to their contemporaries: you can get into people’s hearts readily by taking time to work on your music and create something new. The imperious, riff-obsessed bands- concerned with introversion and woe-is-me songs- should take note and learn from the Warrington heroes.

I shall step away from such sad remembrance, but Viola Beach’s memory will live on and inspire. Racing Glaciers remind me a lot of Viola Beach. The way they approach music and connect with fans- both happy-go-lucky bands that connect with the audience- it is the quality and originality of the music that defines them both. Patient Man is a stunning song that shows just what their album will provide. The band market is such a varied and unpredictable thing. There are some wonderful acts playing but there are many more that are not worthy of any attention. Discovering the ones that are genuinely interesting is a hard task. What sets Racing Glaciers aside from their peers is a combination of work-rate, identity, and personality. The boys are tirelessly pounding and never stop grafting. They do not sit back and let fans promote them alone; they do not have P.R. companies hyping them and creating false ideals. The band is the real deal and is determined to get their music across as many stations and towns as they can. Racing Glacier’s music has a blend of positivity and reflection; there are classic and contemporary shades. It is the boys’ personalities and love of music that supersedes it all and shines brightest. One of those groups you just know will remain in music for many years to come. They have clear passion and zeal that is infectious and joyful. Like Viola Beach (last mention) the boys want to produce sounds that make people thoughtful and happy. Patient Man has serious edges and a sense of introspection but plenty of energy and excitement. Their L.P. will expand on that and showcase a very rare force in British music. If you are like me (my apologies) you want your Rock bands new and imaginative; you cannot go wrong investing time in Racing Glaciers. Music is looking for bands that can step up and have the potential to last and inspire a new generation. The guys from Macclesfield…

ARE easily capable of that.

 

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Follow Racing Glaciers

 

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/RacingGlaciers/?fref=ts

Twitter:

@RacingGlaciers

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/racing_glaciers/

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmwv-UoVXXMFcPWJRnx8Hvw

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Music:

 

TRACK REVIEW: Trickster Guru (Ft. AWAY)- Problem Child

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Trickster Guru (ft. AWAY)

 

 

Problem Child

 

9.6/10

 

Problem Child is available via:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-8uvOB1X9M

RELEASED:

1st April, 2016

GENRES:

Blues; Alternative; Pop

ORIGIN:

Los Angeles, U.S.A.

__________________________

FEW greater pleasures exist than discovering musicians…

that put you in a better frame of mind. Before I talk about influences, cross-genre sounds and collaborations: it is worth exploring the medicinal and psychological effects of music. I know I keep saying it but the truth rings loud: we all require something uplifting and positive right now. The world gets shakier and less sure every week- such insanity and horror unfurling before our eyes.  Whether that atrocity is on our doorstep or not; it has a profound effect on the psyche; naturally, everyone will be affected some way. In response to that, we can react one of two ways: either find something positive to help us get through; that or crumble and let it get on top of us. The former is a preferable option and one we should be pursuing. Music is a mystical and soul-nourishing force that is capable of some wonderful things. It doesn’t matter if you are a musician or a music listener: the result and motivation is the same. I, myself, have been rather downbeat and hunting for anything that can help balm the wounds- music is helping a great deal. Artists that arrive and put the smile on faces; cause something positive and redemptive in the bones: that is what we are looking for. It doesn’t matter what genre you play (more on that later) or where you come from- if your songs can transport listeners somewhere safe and hopeful; you have a great chance of holding their attention for many years. The music industry is such a fickle and unpredictable place: is it enough to simply create happiness and escapism in the listener? Well, not really, but my point is this: it is an essential and much-needed starting block. My featured artist is someone who can bring soothe the mind but goes a lot further.

Trickster Guru has been around long enough to know what it takes to succeed and remain. Before I talk about him- and raise some new points- it is worth introducing him to you:

“Trickster Guru is the alternative rock and electronic project of singer songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Christopher Caplan.  Trickster Guru’s debut EP “Problem Child”, beautifully fuses vintage rock and soul with the excitement and innovation of modern electronic synth. Like a poignant conduit between the past and present, “Problem Child” draws influence from rock anthem greats such as The Doors and Jeff Buckley as well as modern electronic artists such as Flume and Skrillex.  The added synths and beats from alternative electronic co-producer AWAY, allows Trickster Guru to ingeniously create a sound of passion, culture and indulgence.

Although Trickster Guru began as a two-piece garage rock band in 2013, the band sadly broke up before self-releasing their debut EP “Black and White” in early 2014 after a near fatal car accident in the desert. This experience inspired the first single off the new EP “Feel the Spirit.” one of their tracks to be featured on NPR’s KCRW. Between creatively addictive yet divergent hooks, “Feel the Spirit” reflects the spiritual seeking and psychedelic culture of Los Angeles while addressing, through its narrative, the heart-breaking realism of the city.

The “Problem Child” EP features mastery from Nick Stratton, Jason Aguja, and Dylan Fenley. Trickster Guru reveals ‘the new EP was a way of coming to terms with my past – artistically, emotionally and spiritually.”  This is ideally demonstrated with the stunning accompanying music video shot in Astoria Oregon, which pulls inspirations from the surreal, gritty and realistic style of David Lynch, and also features the talented musician and model Lindsay Perry. Buzzbands LA praised “Problem Child” as ‘a collection of bluesy pop and unrestrained rockers that display substantial range yet are not always what they seem’.

Following the “Problem Child” EP release show at “It’s a School Night”, and recent performances at The Satallite, The Study and KCRW’s Summer Nights, Trickster Guru continues to organically gain media attention and radio play including Buzzbands, KCSN and KXLU. Trickster Guru’s unique understanding of technology intersecting with music via augmented reality, shows an honorable dedication to the future of music, of which he hopes to create his own pathway and musical culture.”

 

Cross-genres and influences. Two subjects that are important when it comes to your music. Trickster Guru (is an artist) that uses different sounds to create something awesome and new. We get some vintage, old-style shades of Blues and Rock. Tied together with modern Electronica: artists from The Doors and Flume come together; a union few would ever imagine. Problem Child (E.P.) brings the past and present together and does so in an extraordinary way. Those who adore everyone from The Doors to Jeff Buckley will raise a smile: those who prefer the harder, more direct music of Skrillex will not be disappointed. Fusing disparate sounds is quite a risky venture. Many artists resist the temptation altogether: getting it wrong can be quite damaging and embarrassing. Those who do it (and do it well) should be applauded. It is not unoriginal or lazy experimenting and unifying old and new: it can make music more layered, fascinating and appealing. Trickster Guru has grown up around a range of artists and learnt from them; integrating their essence into something unique and fresh. Of course, there is more to the man than genre-joining. The music itself is a festival for the ears. Our man has had quite a tumultuous and difficult road to success. Having formed the two-piece band in 2013 (Trickster Guru), a near-fatal collision almost ended his musical dreams- the fact he has rebuilt and continues to strive is a testament to his fortitude and defiance. The music (of Trickster’) reflects the dichotomy of L.A. life. On the one hand, you have that fantastical dreaminess and beauty: the gorgeous voices, multi-cultural neighbourhoods and wonderful sights. On the other side, there is the realism of the city: the heartache, loneliness, and harshness that can be found. I guess that is the same with any major city (London is a perfect example) but few are able to portray that balance and contrast through music.

Photo: Rory Kramer

Problem Child brings city experiences with personal insight and recollections; topics of love, life, and survival. The way these subjects and emotions are represented is through bold sonic invention and a direct, to-the-soul delivery. Rock and Blues are soldered with myriad strands: songs that have mystery and depth; plenty of nuance when you listen hard enough. Problem Child’s title cut brings AWAY to the bosom. The combination of talents makes the song a wonderful song that cannot be forgotten in a hurry. Collaborations, like cross-pollination to an extent, can be a risky endeavor. It takes two (or more) special, intuitive voices to succeed: if they are mismatched or an ill fit; the ensuing work is going to suffer.  Problem Child does not suffer any such fate. The mingling of Trickster Guru and AWAY creates alchemy, for sure. Let’s hope they work together in the future, but until then, it is important we encourage more collaborations in music. Bands hardly ever join forces with anyone: it would be great to see a group bring another singer/artist in for a few songs. Solo artists are more open but often feel they need to keep their music to/by/about them. If there are any other cooks in the mix: perhaps listeners will ignore them. Whatever the psychology; musicians need to be more adventurous and take chances once in a while. Some of the finest music I have heard in the past year has arrived when artists get together- take that gamble and create something sensational.

Trickster Guru has had quite a long and busy career so far. If we are assessing Problem Child; it is worth looking back and seeing how he has progressed. Black and White is a song that starts with Reggae groove and slinks into life. “Stray cats in the night” and indecision are assessed. The early sentiments lead me to look at relationship break-ups and miscommunication. The song has a great quiet-loud dynamic and the delineation is superb- atmospheric and highly unexpected. Trickster Guru is in command and makes the song sound completely essential and urgent. Sparse, funky guitars give the track a real kick and coolness. Messiah is a contrasting song that begins with scratchy riffs and Blues elements. Another funky and insatiable introduction: it leads to a fast-paced and emotive vocal from Trickster Guru. The entire E.P. (Black and White) is defined by its uplifting, Funk-cum-Blues tracks that get the feet tapping. Indiana Speedway Bomber takes things (briefly) into Country territory but is imbued with that rushing, hectic mood. It is a song that looks at the bombing of a small town- an evocative narrative that brings you right into the song. Feel the Spirit looks at the contrasts of L.A. The heady nightlife and dancing “on a Saturday night” is brought into view. There is drug-addled regrets and hedonism; the beauty and scenic views- the differences and diversions the city has to offer.

That is just a sprinkling of Trickster Guru’s work and is worth checking out. Every track and E.P. has such quality, consistency, and style. Whether spirited Blues songs or something more reflective: you cannot help fall in love with the music and what is being sung. Our hero looks at a variety of topics- from love and life to L.A. and its people- and is not an artist that stays on one topic- always keen to remain nimble, mobile and flexible. The Problem Child E.P. takes his back catalogue on and adds extra layers and urgency to the fold. The latest material is the finest from the America. He is at his rawest, most committed and compelling now. While the subject matter embraces new concerns; the compositions will be familiar with existing fans. It would be great to see an L.P. from Trickster Guru in the future as he is one of the busiest and prolific musicians around. Problem Child’s title track is the most arresting and instant song I have heard from Trickster Guru. A sensational track that flows with life, imagination, and passion- a wonderful revelation from a stunning artist.

Problem Child opens with spritzing, jagged electronics that convey different emotions. You get impressions of a drive down a highway; arguments and tension: all this comes to fruition from a few simple notes. Setting the scene and painting images early on: the listener is free to imagine and dive inside the song. The introduction, like a lot of Trickster Guru’s work, is filled with originality and momentum. The lo-fi, repetitive electronic buzz pervades and takes you into the world of the Los Angeles man. In the song’s video- at this stage in proceedings- we see an abandoned car at the side of the road. A woman falls from the driver’s side and starts to crawl across the tarmac. That image sets the tones for the opening notes. There is a degree of panic and unpredictability early on. Wordless vocals from our hero; a cooing, wordless utterance of beauty: Trickster Guru and AWAY melt their tones- AWAY provides the synths./electronics and beats- and get the song underway. Rather than go straight in with lyrics and get to the heart of the matter: Trickster Guru builds the song and ensures he does not reveal too much too soon. That two-handed vocal beginning is beautiful and odd at the same time- you start to imagine different scenarios and possibilities; it is both oblique and direct. When our hero steps to the microphone, he is looking at his sweetheart. His girl is free and wild; different from everyone else and somewhat a rebel- the car crash scenario in the video would suggest she is a loose cannon and danger-seeking girl. Her “spirit is alive”; she is special and divine: someone who is causing shivers and excitement in his bones.

Backing the vocal is subtle string-work and romantic notes. We get a blend of impassioned shiver and edgy, hard-minded drive. These contrasts add to the overall effect which is quite stunning. Despite Problem Child being one of the more soulful and reflective songs- calmer and more seductive than previous Trickster Guru numbers- it is one of the finest. Even in the early moments, you are transfixed and hooked. Our man is a problem child and seems to need the girl. Whether the song is from a first-person perspective I am not sure. Maybe he is flipping things and speaking from the girl’s point-of-view. One suspects it is autobiographical and our hero is holding onto someone that is giving his life meaning. The beats get heavy and the composition rousing and graceful. A woman who is free-spirited, beautiful and life-affirming: you get impressions of who is being attested and what she means to him. “Born to be wild/Oh the problem child” springs out of nowhere and is a mantra that gets straight into the brain. Propelled by insatiable electronics and a hardened spine: the composition explodes into life and creates a real sense of drama and occasion. It is at this point you stop still and let the words flow over you. From the soul-flecked, smooth beginnings: Problem Child takes a turn and instantly changes the mood. If you follow the video; you see our hero in a car with the heroine. She has a coquettish look and playful façade; the two are alone and you sense an imminent coming together (no pun intended). I still wonder as to who is the problem child; who the song is portraying. From the video, one would assume the girl is the flighty, problem: someone who needs grounding and stability. Hearing the song on its own merit: I get the view the hero is the one who requires saving and redemption. Whatever your viewpoint; you cannot escape the claustrophobia and nerviness that is brought into the track. Just when you need a breath and chance for quiet; the song starts to calm. Piano notes roll and romance replaces uncertainty. That dynamic shift and change of projection: it catches you and resonates for sure. Most artists are fairly simple-minded and predictable when it comes to compositions. There are musicians that push the envelope but a lot of new musicians do not cause that much surprise. Trickster Guru makes sure his compositions are alive, varied and hard to predict.

Problem Child is a mini-epic that changes course and seems like a three-part suite. From the early professions and love-filled decelerations; we move into self-revelation and contextualisation. Our hero has some stories to tell and seems to be letting honesty come out. “I can tell you lots of stories about the hippies and the war/I can give you the feeling that you’ve been here before” are lines that are fascinating and unusual. From that revelation, one imagines an older storyteller: someone who has lived a life and seen a lot. Problem Child, once more, changes your mind and seems to be less personal and direct than one first thought. Maybe the song is about a variety of people; those lines might be fantastical and a bit of a red herring. Tease and contradictions are paired together. Our man can create and reveal the Garden of Eden; he will make it rotten to the core. Heaven’s gates will be flung open; only to have them slammed shut. His girl is being promised wonderful things to have them stolen and replaced with harshness. The song title becomes more defined and relevant with every new line. Who knows what is causing this rebellion and cold attitude. “Sweet ecstasy” (a name or term used to describe his love) is a much-needed anchor and reality check. Despite the wars and negativity: he has someone that calms his soul and gives meaning to life. Maybe I am misreading but one assumes that fact. Just as you get immersed in the open, soul-baring side; the song shifts once more. That exhilarating, near-violent electronic contortion comes back to provide relief, sexuality, and anger. Problem Child brings Blues and Soul together with Electronica and Dub-Step without losing focus or authority. Trickster Guru has always been masterful when splicing genres: here, he is at the top of his game and has created one of his greatest songs. If you follow the video; all sorts of peril and violence is unfolding. Our man is being strangled by a priest and evading holy men. The heroine follows him- they are at a beach as two priests are converging and attacking our man- with a gun in hand. Those images are a pertinent and perfect representation of a song that runs thick with drama and heartache.

The final minute finds the song at its hardest and most primal. The stridulating, vibrating electronics slice, smack and swagger their way through. Grungy, dirty undertones mix with a clean and clinical side: the resultant collaboration takes the song to a new level. Distorted, salacious guitars fuse and add yet another genre (Grunge; Blues-Rock perhaps) to the spectrum. The wild one, the problem child: our hero cannot catch a break and is walking a road he should not be. You sense a desire to change and redeem himself. That’s what makes the song’s video ironic. Perhaps unholy and abandoning ecumenical corners: he is stalked by men of God before being strangled- a very odd and David Lynch-esque story. All along, one feels Trickster Guru does not want to be problematic and troublesome: he just needs the right person to give him guidance and meaning. His heroine provides that ballast and love: maybe it has come too late; he cannot change his ways and is stuck in a rut. By the final notes, the tale has been told and one wonders how things turned out. In the video, the vengeful priest is shot (by the heroine) and the duo has a chance to flee. Problem Child caused a lot of thought in me: just what it meant and its origins. A fascinating song that hits the senses and gets right into the soul. The composition is epic, diverse and changeable. So many different shades and colours come together. At once, calmed and introverted; it grows to exhilarating, electric heights- a filmic number that one will not forget. The lyrics intrigue while the vocal amazes and shines throughout. You need a few listens to get the full effect of the song; it reveals itself and its intricacies across time- the definition of a nuanced track. A superb accomplishment from one of the U.S.’s, and the world’s, most promising musicians. Kudos goes to AWAY whose percussion and electronic contributions add so much life, drama and brilliance to the song. A great partnership I hope will be seen in the future.

Trickster Guru might be a new name to British ears but that should all change. L.A. and the U.S. has, once more, provided an intriguing future star. I get sent a lot of American review subjects and am never disappointed. Like the U.K.; there is a fantastic scene and so many different types of acts- musicians that deserve more attention than they have. It is tough breaking out of ‘local’ circles and making an impact on a national/international level. Trickster Guru is making a mark in the U.S.- his new E.P. has picked up some very impressive reviews- so it cannot be too long until his music is spread across the nation. There are too many pointless Pop artists and overrated artists that get undeserved acclaim and success. Those genuine and talented often have to fight harder and struggle for focus. I hope that injustice is righted in the coming years. Until a solution is arrived at: what of the likes of Trickster Guru? He seems to be keeping busy with music and would be nice to see him come overseas; come to the U.K. and play some shows here. Unfortunately, financial strains and logistical considerations must all be considered. If Trickster Guru can source funds and times: British crowds would certainly welcome the problem child in. I opened by discussing experimenting with genres and collaboration; the vitality of music (as a positive tool) and how underrated it is in general. This year has been incredible for music in general. Whether artist are reacting to the world at large- the heartaches and pains- I am not sure. One thing is pretty clear: 2016 has been a very rosy and prolific year for music. Let’s hope this parlays into 2017 and keeps the ball rolling.

Problem Child is an E.P. already well-loved among critics in L.A. and the U.S. Trickster Guru has been on the radar for years and has created (perhaps) his most assured, compelling and complete work- there will be debate among fans. The title track brims and bristles; it is instant but has a slow-burning quality. Too many musicians still come across one-dimensional, predictable and safe. There is some justification for that, I guess. The industry is a tough and unpredictable place. Critics and labels demand something instant and popular: music that fits in with mainstream consensus and tastes. Those who push against these sensibilities face an unsure future but create the greatest music. Trickster Guru might not have huge pressure from label bosses and press (just yet): there is an expectation to evolve and inspire- he has not let us down just yet. Problem Child’s early wave of effusiveness is very apt and deserved. A modern artist who gives us something familiar and direct; unexpected, individual and stunning- essentially, something for everyone. Trickster Guru has battled adversity and obstacles and grown stronger. Airplay and local attention has put the music to the people. This is just the start of things. Whether Trickster Guru thinks about reassembling a band- or keen to keep solo- there are possibilities and options before him. Make sure you grab hold of Problem Child and experience its wonder and revelations. The title track, for me, defines what makes Trickster Guru a singular artist. You get flavours of older acts (I have mentioned The Doors, for one) and new acts like Flume. Whilst those suggestions are a base: they augment sounds that could only stem from the young American. It is hard to truly unravel and explain the feeling one gets: the best thing to do is experience it for yourself. Our hero might have had an unsure and uneven last few years; that will all change. It only takes a few minutes (of Problem Child) to realise Trickster Guru’s future is…

GOLDEN and safe.

 

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Follow Trickster

 

Official:

http://trickster.guru/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/TricksterGuru/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/tricksterguru

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/tricksterguru

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/tricksterguru/

INTERVIEW: Carly Wilford

INTERVIEW:

 

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Carly Wilford

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THERE are few people in the music world that have such a profound effect on me in terms of my life plan and desires. Carly Wilford is someone I have been watching for a while; admiring the progression of her career. Starting from humble beginnings: she has grown into one of the most influential and hard-working people in music. Whether running/support her projects SISTER and I Am Music; D.J.-ing around the world or promoting great musicians- she never seems to have a day off! This year has been an especially busy one for the Carly. Keen to chat and learn more about her; I have been lucky enough to get an insight into one of Britain’s most important musical figures.

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Hi Carly. How has your week been? What are you working on at the moment?

It’s been great you know. I’m currently in Prague for Beats Evolution Conference. I’m moderating panels here, it’s the first ever Drum & Bass conference so I feel really blessed to have been part of it. I have completely fallen in love with this city.

I can’t believe you got to interview/hang with Big Narstie a few days ago! That must have been a very special and incredible experience? What is he like in the flesh?

What a guy. I tell you what, it’s the first time in any interview that I have been genuinely lost for words. He’s a dude. Super-funny but also really sharp. He’s an amazing businessman and I love the fact he’s killing it right now. 

Your enthusiasm and passion for music (and artists) is boundless. Where did that deep love of music begin? Was there a particular moment you knew music was going to be your career path?

Music has always played a really important part in my life. I was a dancer from a really young age so music naturally becomes part of you. Growing up we were surrounded by it. From jumping around in the front room with my mum and sisters to Phil Collins; to driving in the back of my dad’s car with the roof down to The Pogues. It brought our family together. My grandad played the piano & me and my sisters used to stand around and sing. It’s always played such a pivotal part in the decisions that I have made. Music speaks when words can’t. My main move to working in the industry happened when I realised its power. I was at a real turning point in my life and had decided to walk away from everything. I had always wanted to be a presenter and was told I should decide a field to focus on. Music was my heart beat so my decision was made.

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You have interviewed a whole range of artists and actors; musicians and talent; played around the world and travelled the world. This year has seen you particularly busy. Which moments from this year stand out as especially memorable?

It has been the most incredible year. Playing Glastonbury was really special. I have the best crew of people in my life right now and sharing four crazy days with them is something I will never forget. 

I also spent some time in L.A. at the beginning of the year. We were there for The Grammys so found ourselves in some ridiculous situations. Talking to Calvin Harris about S.G. Lewis at The Weeknd’s party in The Hills was awesome as I have been really close to S.G. and his journey. Ending up at a party that turned into a jam; watching Seal harmonising with Nicole Scherzinger as Quincey Jones, Gerard Butler, Wesley Snipes; Manny Norte, Bashy and Lucy Lu danced and watched on was also crazy.

What does the rest of 2016 have in store for you?

Who knows. My life and plans seem to change every day. I am really excited about my D.J. sets right now and everything that is happening with SISTER. We have found a unique lane that no one else seems to be in and it’s really starting to fly.

Part of my ‘job’ (reviewing and sniffing out the freshest new music) is discovering the best artists and talent out there. You are in a position where you connect with musicians/D.J.s on a daily basis. Any hot tips or emerging stars you feel people should seek out?

It’s such a ground-breaking time for new musicians. They are in the driving seat of their futures and there are so many platforms to help the world to hear them when they are ready. It’s all about Jorja Smith. Check out Blue Lights. The end. Haha. I have a really good feeling about Anne-Marie. She’s toured with Rudimental for a long time and she knows who she is as an artist. The pop world needs a role model like her and the doorway is wide open. I saw Nadia Rose at The Great Escape this year and she slayed it. I love Liv Dawson: check out her song Tapestry. I really rate Bibi Bourelly, Will Heard and Wolfie. It’s also going to be a big year for Jarreau Vandal, Mella Dee; Kojey Radical and 808INK.

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I Am Music is one of your babies: intending to help find the new generation and create a legacy. What compelled you to start it and who have been your proudest discoveries?

I was fed up with what I was reading in the press and the way a lot of it tore people apart. I realised it was tough for new artists to break the scene as physical sales of music were plummeting and the streaming world hadn’t quite found its feet. I decided to start a platform that highlighted the artists I believed had something special and tell the world about them. This soon became more of a consultancy and management platform. Sitting with artists helping them to understand who they were and the best path to take. I manage Josh Barry who is currently on tour with Gorgon City; have worked with Bloom Twins, Tom Prior; S.G. Lewis (who I mentioned earlier) and Longy, to name just a few.

SISTER– “Global rave material”- sees you join forces with Shan McGinley on Dash Radio. For those who have not heard of SISTER: what can new listeners expect to find?

SISTER bridges the gap between the U.K. & U.S. Electronic music scenes. We release an hour-long show once a month. It’s really bassy, forward thinking and brings together the very best of the music we have discovered. After spending time in the U.S., I realised that their radio was very different to the U.K. I also watched the size of the E.D.M. crowds and knew at some point those fans would want to discover a different sound. Shan and I worked together for a long time on I Am Music. He is one of the only people who matches my relentless work-rate and vision to shake things up. We send emails and reply to one another as most of the word is sleeping. 

The way you work and your tireless approach really astounds me. You have been championed by the likes of Zane Lowe and ranked as one of the most influential female D.J.s/musical entrepreneurs in the country. How does this make you feel? Have there been any particular people that have helped you get this far? Any heroes or heroines that you take guidance from?

You just made me blush. Haha. I really respect anyone who has had a vision and gone out there and created it. Meeting Skrillex changed my life. Not only is he one of the nicest guys in music he has built his career from nothing- even when people have tried to stop him. I have a lot of respect for Annie Mac as she has kept complete authenticity and integrity even though she has taken on more shows at the B.B.C. I am really lucky that I am surrounded by so many pioneering musicians and creatives- they inspire me daily. 

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Sigourney Standley (Siggy Smalls) is another human that bowls me with her verve and talent. You two are very close and work together. How did you two meet, and what is it like travelling around with her? You both D.J. together but are there any plans to work more together in the future? Maybe a business venture or musical enterprise?

Siggy Smalls. What a legend. I met her when I was on Rinse F.M. She was down in the studio at a party one evening; we got talking and just clicked. She’s one of the most down-to-earth yet talented and beautiful people I have ever met. We have a lot of fun, some hilarious memories and cause quite a lot of mayhem together (follow me on Snapchat). When you travel so much it’s important that you are on a level with the people around you. We party hard but can also chill out and not say a word  to one another. The back to back D.J. thing is something that happened by accident. We were on a yacht in Barcelona recently for a D.J. competition that Mazda were running. We weren’t part of the competition but I had a U.S.B. with my tunes on in my bag and asked the organisers if we could jump on the decks for a laugh. It was hilarious and we kinda smashed it so decided to start doing more sets together. It seems to be becoming a thing so let’s see what happens from here… 

You travel around the U.K./world but London is your base. What is it about the city that draws so many musicians/artists in?

London is so important not only for music but fashion, the arts, food, and culture. So many new musical genres have been born in its streets. Its heritage, the people and the history of the music scene are carved into its gritty pavements. There are so many different scenes in London that collide. Look at the Grime scene right now. I’ve watched it rise, fall and now completely take-off since living in the city. I think a lot of music is born out of people’s struggle. It’s not an easy city to live in so people have to be real and I think that makes the music really authentic. A lot of us don’t do it for the money so we take risks; try things that other people might be afraid to and collaborate with one another which is key.

 

Knowing how demanding your work-life is; how do you unwind and decompress?

Spending time with my family is really important. They love me no matter what madness is going on in my life and they help to keep my feet on the floor. Making sure I stay connected with myself is essential too. Walking through London at night, going to Hyde Park, turning my phone off; running a deep bath with candles and a book and getting a good night’s sleep. When you are jumping across time zones, it becomes one of your most precious commodities. I also meditate but only once a month. 

There will be many young men and women who want to follow in your footsteps; live up to your example. What advice would you give them? Where is the best place to start in terms of contacts and experience? 
 
Discover who you are. It sounds so simple but so many people don’t know who they are or try to follow someone else’s dream. Do the things you love and get rid of anything in your life that makes you unhappy. Realise that your thoughts create your world and you can achieve anything even if you’re not sure of the process to make it happen. Take small steps and big chances. Don’t be afraid to fall along the way, they can sometimes be your biggest lessons. Whatever industry you decide to work in, learn about the scene then find a way to align yourself with the people that matter. Offer your time, energy and support. Doors might be closed in your face but there will be ones that are half open that you can kick down.  
 
On that note; given how many people follow you and connect with your work; what would you say to them? What is it like receiving that kind of love and support from people- many of whom would never have met you in person before?
 
It’s amazing and I love meeting people in real life. Sometimes you forget that those social media stats and video views are actually people. If you ever see me wherever we are in the world, come and say hi, let’s grab a drink and rave.
 
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can choose any song and I’ll play it here.
 
Dusky – Ingrid is a Hybrid. Had it on repeat for months. Can’t wait for their album. 
 
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 Follow Carly Wilford:

Image may contain: 1 person

Official:

https://carlywilford.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/ItsCarlyWilford/?fref=ts

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/CarlyWilford

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/carlywilford/?hl=en

I Am Music:

http://www.iammusic.tv/

SISTER:

https://twitter.com/ItsSISTER

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/user/ItsCarlyWilford

SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/carlywilford

 

INTERVIEW: Maxdmyz

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Maxdmyz

 

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TO be quite honest: Maxdmyz were a new force to me…

until very recently. After a few seconds of their music: the effect takes hold and you are dragged into their world. Sometimes thrilling and strange; dirty and raw the next- safe and settled before you know it. The five-piece are playing across London (a date in France thrown in there) across the next few weeks- I heartily recommend you check them out. Their live shows are chaotic and frantic- as the interview unveils- but the experience is one of ecstasy, revelation and visceral thrill. In fact, the guys seem to be non-stop touring at the moment: bringing their stunning brand of Metal to the masses. Maxdmyz incorporate Alternative, Progressive edges to their music; a combination of emotions and decades- one of the freshest and most exciting groups around London. With suggestions of an E.P. later in the year; I was keen to catch up with the group for a quick chat.

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Hey guys. Hope you are well. Can you introduce yourselves to us, please?

Twister: We’re a five-piece Alt/Prog-Metal band from London, England – I’m the singer; we’ve got Jay on drums; Vortex on keys; A’Zedd on bass and Roger on guitar.

How did you all come together in the first place?

Jay: Over time really – just finding people whose playing we liked and offering them a spot in the band.

Which bands/musicians were influential when helping to sculpt your sound/direction?

Roger: A huge range really – from Danzig, Pantera and the Beatles to the Doors and Amon Amarth.

You are based in London and the South-East. What is the Metal scene like where you are? Do you get opportunities to play?

Vortex: Loads of opportunities to play – but for next much money – there are a huge number of bands, even Metal ones, and so many different and competing potential calls on people’s money and time. Having said that, most of the gigs we play are worth playing – and the richness and creativity of the bands is amazing – so much talent.

Photo: Radek Nowicki (https://www.facebook.com/rnstarlight?fref=ts)

I know the band does have some tour dates coming up across London and U.K. What is it like touring with Maxdmyz? Give us a window into that chaos.

A’Zedd: You must be a telepath – how did you know it’s chaos? The best way to describe it pandemonium, confusion; boredom, ecstasy; joy and frustration – all in equal measure.

Are there any downsides that come with touring?

Jay: For me no actually – I love playing and touring and everything that goes with it. It can obviously be knackering and stuff but who cares – I can sleep when I die.

Metal is a genre that struggles to transcend to the mainstream. What do you think Metal scene is like now? Is it more underground or has chance to break into the mainstream?

Twister: It depends what you mean by Ketal – there are so many sub-genres. I think you’ll get bands like ‘Maiden and AC/DC, who, if not mainstream, have reached a mass audience, although some may argue with their being defined as metal of course. Or, you’ll get great bands, like Nile and Origin, who are out of this world, but who aren’t going to make it to the ‘Radio 1 playlist anytime soon and will never have anything but a relatively-small fan base. However, the cultural impact of Metal has been immense, in music and elsewhere. I think in Maxdmyz we successfully produce music that appeals across the board – it’s got hooks and grooves, but also elements of Death, Thrash and Classic Rock – as well as occasionally something a little more experimental.

 

 

You have a new E.P. How’s that coming along? What can you tell us about that?

Vortex: It’s all gone very well so far- with the E.P. pretty much at the mixing and production stage. It’s the first release we’ve written and recorded with the band in its current form – so we’re all very excited. Ays Kura, who’s a well-known performer and producer on the UK Metal scene, is working with us – as he’s done before – we can’t wait to hear the final results as he always done something very special. The working title is Alchemical Metal, and it’ll be out on Renegade Records in October, we hope.

I always like to uncover something from every band; something you wouldn’t have told any other interviewer. Can you reveal a secret/unheard-of nugget about the band or the music?

A’Zedd: That’s a tough one; and we do so many of these interviews that it’s difficult to think of anything – but Twister did tell me the other day that he only writes lyrics on trains, planes or in the bath.

For being great interviewees; you can select any song (other than your own) and I’ll play it here…

Manifesto’ by Die Kur (Ays’s band).

 

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Follow Maxdmyz

 

Official:

www.maxdmyz.uk

Facebook:

www.facebook.com/maxdmyz

YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/user/maxdmyzofficial/

BandCamp:

www.maxdmyz.bandcamp.com

Twitter:

www.twitter.com/maxdmyz

Instagram:

www.instagram.com/maxdmyz

 

TRACK REVIEW: Greer- Deal with the Devil

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Greer 

 

 

Deal with the Devil

 

9.5/10

 

 

Deal with the Devil is available at:

https://soundcloud.com/greer-wilson/deal-with-the-devil

RELEASED:
13th July 2016

GENRES:

Pop; R&B

ORIGIN:

Boston, U.S.A.

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IT is great to discover a solo artist that comes…

out of nowhere really. I feel this year is going to be defined by bands and their music. In terms of the underground, there is a remarkable blend of solo singers: each with their own course and sense of style. In relation to the mainstream; the balance is different: the bands are stealing focus and producing some of the best music around. Before I come to my featured artist; I wanted to look at musicians from Boston (where he hails); the young solo artists breaking through; looking at the elements that are overlooked when it comes to music. In the U.S., we often get distracted by New York or Californian- a point I have raised before- and obsess ourselves with what’s coming from there. It is understandable; as both areas are bound with great music and a busy, cosmopolitan scene. Push your imagination further, and America provides so much more. I have had the pleasure of going to various states (online) and discovering some terrific music. Boston is a city that has always produced solid and inspiring artists. From Pixies and Aerosmith; The Dresden Dolls to Blake Babies: Boston is a vibrant and captivating musical arena. In terms of modern Boston acts; Palehound are worth investigating further. Ellen Kempner’s project; the music provided is gentle and finger-picked; a dreamy and emotional sound that has resonated with critics. The Ballroom Thieves and Dutch ReBelle are two diverse, and stunning, acts that are putting Boston on the map. ReBelle’s Hip-Hop, beat-laden jams are getting recognition from the likes of M.T.V. The Drax and Funeral Advantage (all acts picked up by Boston.com) tell you how much quality and passion is coming from the city.

Animal Talk, Bent Shapes, and Bearstronaut, between them, provide clean, uplifting and intriguing songs: a trio of groups that have the potential to transcend into the mainstream and reach across the world. My point is how variegated and applaud-worthy the Boston scene is. That is just the tip of the iceberg really. I know there are local bars and venues that play host to some truly awesome musicians- those that never reach the consciousness of the media. The British press is a little lackluster when it comes to exposing the best America has to offer. I am never entirely sure whether there is a reason behind this: perhaps it is too daunting getting to grips with everything in the U.S. I have always mooted the idea of a music site that compartmentalises musicians by region and genre. Everyone would be able to hone in on a city/country and go even deeper- discover all the artists that play in a particular city.  That way, if you wanted to find all the acts coming from Boston, you would click and have a comprehensive list. Having heard Greer Wilson: I am keen to dig deeper and see more of what Boston has to offer up. Greer is a 19-year-old musician that has seemingly exploded onto the scene with a bang. In spite of the fact he has a few songs to his name; there are signs to suggest he might be one of the big-hitters in years to come. What marks him out is the freshness and unexpectedness of his music. Not replicating other bands and artists: he is a unique talent that is already getting attention from the local press. Greer’s looks will likely get teenage girls swooning and incapacitated: his music will get everyone similarly entranced. Having sung since the age of eight; that passion and commitment feeds into the songs. Greer is a young man that has his sights set and is making big strides. Love Me Less and Deal with the Devil are twin tracks that are being shared and celebrated on social media. Each track has its distinct influence and make-up but both prove the same thing: the Boston artist is someone with a very special talent.

We in the media place a lot of emphasise the importance of age when considering brand-new talent. The young the artist, the more vacillating and sweating the reviewer becomes. I feel too much pressure is placed on shoulders right from the off. Yes, there is something impressive about someone so young getting into music; releasing music and achieving a degree of recognition and acclaim. If we are too pressurising and expect too much; there is that fear (that artist) will burn-out and not be able to live up to the hype. In the mainstream (in the U.K.) everyone from Billie Marten and Dua Lipa have overcome the hurdles of youth. Marten is barely in her teens- think she is 16 still- and balances school work with music. Her majestic voice and ethereal, soul-baring songs suggest she is going to be a huge star very soon- already, the nation’s biggest radio stations are proffering her music. Dua Lipa, whose music is sexier and more Pop-based, is filled with confidence and sassiness. She takes influence from the likes of Rhianna but is very much her own woman- an incredible artist and down-to-Earth human. My general point is we should celebrate the great young artists but not put too much on their shoulders. It is scary getting into music and especially so for those in their teens/early-20s. Greer is in his teens still but shows a lot of maturity and direction from the off. Not your average Pop star who sings shallow songs and lyrics written by a host of producers: a proper singer who is unique and exceptional.

What hits me about Greer is the unique D.N.A. that springs from his music. Fresh, compelling beats; sweet, Soul-tinged vocals and thoughtful lyrics mean the music really leaps out at you. Too many artists distort their vocals or bury it in the composition. Others copycat others or seem somewhat generic. Greer lets the vocal take charge and is tricky to compete with other singers. Sure, he would have grown up around a variety of musicians- from his parents’ collection perhaps- but is not content to duplicate them. His songs dig deep into the heart and come from a very real place; love and relations are put under the microscope but given a new spin. Not resigned to let the vocal and lyrics say everything: so much colour, emotion and physicality is put into the music. The entire effect is quite amazing. You get drawn into this wonderful world and brought directly into Greer’s world. Deal with the Devil is a song that is garnering attention in the U.S. but could well make its way to the U.K. I know stations and fans here would love getting to grips with a singular, exceptional track like this.

The past few months have been very busy for Greer Wilson. He has released three songs- Blow Your Mind; Deal with the Devil; Love Me Less– and there is a lot of variation between the tracks. Blow Your Mind has racing, juddering electronics and an urgent vocal. It is a song as intense and powerful as the title suggests. It is very much a song that has its eyes on the Pop charts and mainstream radio. Confident, committed vocals back a perfect summer song that stays inside the head. It is fresh and vibrant; sizzling and upbeat: the perfect Pop number for new followers of Greer. Love Me Less (like Deal with the Devil) are harder, tougher songs that bring in new elements. Less Pop-based with more R&B/Soul elements: the composition is more varied and prescient. Blow Your Mind focused on the lyrics and the sheer energy of the song. The new singles place more emphasis on the complete package. The vocal is given more chance to breathe and grow; the composition brings in beats, lovely little details whilst the lyrics are a dichotomy. Blow Your Mind was a perfect introduction and way to gain instant recognition. Keen not to repeat himself; Greer has shown a more adult, bold approach now. Love Me Less is a song that urgencies a certain lack of commitment. Wanting to vibe and connect with a girl, if not commit to a relationship, there is a casualness and looseness to the song. Yeah, we can have a good time but that does not mean we need to be joined at the hip.

There is nothing callous or shallow. The song is a paen to good times and just having a blast. You can sense that mood in the track and it sweeps you up and creates smiles and memorability. Deal with the Devil was a track I was motivated to investigate due to its layers and depths. The composition alone is so busy whilst the vocal is the most direct and pure of Greer’s career. Even over the course of three tracks, you can hear a development and evolution from the young American. A couple of years ago; the E.P., The Sounds introduced Greer to the world. More in coming with Blow Your Mind (than his two new songs); it ensured tongues were wagging and attentions were captured. Again, the songs were more Pop-focused and chart-seeking. The production values were strong but feel they have improved now- more polished and complete. Greer has grown as a singer and seems distinct and soulful: he has more variation and moods; greater nuance too. This rate of change will surely see a new record reveal itself in the coming months? Greer has a range of songs at his disposal and I know the creative juices will keep flowing. Being 19 still: there is a lot of years ahead; you can see him getting bigger and better. As it stands, he is one of the most complete and hungry young artists around.

It has been a matter of days since Deal with the Devil dropped and already there has been heat and love put its way. The title leaves you in little doubt as to the emotions and story that influenced its creation. Clearly not emanating from a happy place: it recalls a rather duplicitous and deceitful sweetheart; someone who has been dishonest and hurtful. The Americans social media numbers are quite modest at the moment but that is going to change. When Deal with the Devil gains plaudit and attention: he will find himself adored around the globe. The opening notes of the track have sighing, edgy electronics creating a very unsettled mood. At once, you are planted in a tense and dangerous scenario. Those electronic warps and pulses get the hairs on end and the listener curious. Many might expect something direct and heavy from the off: Greer ensures there is a build-up and instancy blend; so many emotions in the first seconds. Our hero starts out giving some backstory and setting the scene. His subject has her heart set and is getting ready; there is something in the air and the night is just getting started. Maybe trusting his instincts and hopeful: the initial lyrics suggest a date is starting and the two have high hopes at least. Wilson’s vocal has deepness to it but remains composed and restrained. He does not explode out the gates or come across too insincerely. Letting the electronics and finger clicks create a perfect backdrop: Deal with the Devil seems to be a narrative from the girl’s point of view. Maybe recalling a personal relationship; perhaps one a friend had: the song starts to get hotter and more accusatory. Mind erasing and a sense of recklessness are portrayed. The duo is stepping into the night with different objectives. The heroine has no angels by her side: she is leading the hero astray and setting him up for a fall.

Greer’s voice raises the stakes and has a degree of anxiety lingering- ensuring the song’s words are given appropriate weight. As the song progresses; I find myself feeling sympathetic towards Greer. It is impossible to hear Deal with the Devil and not think about personal issues: this song must have emanated from an experience in his life. The chorus comes in big and those beats come up front. Tribal and bellicose; sexy and hip-snaking: a sound that projects images of the girl in your mind. You can see the smirk on her face; the red dress gleaming in the night; drink in hand- a femme fatale that has led many men to the rocks. Few artists put as much attention and thought into the chorus as Greer. Most Pop stars would simply throw everything into the mix and assume numbers and volume compensate for emotion and intelligence. Deal with the Devil’s beats tumble and patter: a wonderful sound that has its own gravity and appeal. Look away from the composition and the lyrics keep resounding. The song’s heroine has few morals and is contented to play games and throw men aside- our hero is the latest victim. “I’ve got you sinning now” the girl exclaims: following a bad path and dancing to his tune. Maybe (Greer) was reluctant to become involved but seemed helpless to her charms. Being taken down to the underground; going deep into the fires- the deal has been signed and there is no turning back. Each new utterance makes me wonder just who inspired the song and whether Greer is the affected party. He could be working from a point of fiction but the sheer conviction of the vocal suggests otherwise. Still scarred and affected by the relationship: it has made a deep impact in his soul.

The final minute finds the chorus swinging back in to reinforce the messages and underlying feelings, Every time the chorus comes in its gains new significance and quotability. While you will sing along with it; you know there is a hurt and anger being revealed. Greer is not just speaking from a personal viewpoint: this is a message to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. It is hard to listen to Deal with the Devil and not take something away from it. On the surface, it might seem like a pretty regular Pop-cum-R&B numbers. Look closely, and it is a lot more detailed and complex than that. Greer Wilson may be young but he has been making music for a while now. Every element of the song seems inconsistent with expectation. Maybe it is the maturity- perhaps the subversion of Pop tropes- but the song has a richness and depth to it. That might just be my interpretation but you need to listen to the song. It has summery vibes but at its heart looks at alluring girls who deceive men and toy with their hearts. This is a subject that has been portrayed in music a lot but Greer gives it his own edge and brings new life to the theme. The Boston musician is lauded in his hometown and is likely to be a bigger name in years to come. I am always sceptical when approaching musicians and the acclaim they get- some reviewers do get carried away. When it comes to Greer Wilson; the celebration and attention is more than justified.

Greer is among a sea of young artists that are all vying for critical acclaim and progression. So many seem to crumble under the weight of things and find it hard to compete. It is sad discovering a musician only to find they are daunted and buried in the music scene. Challenging to promote and safeguard every great artist that comes through- we must make the scene less pressurised and safer. I am not sure how we would go about it but too much talent is being wasted and quitting too soon. Maybe it is the sheer numbers that make that solution impossible. I am uncertain but do know a great artist when I see one. He is a young Bostonian that is making waves in the city and is someone who could crack the U.S. in general. He has the smouldering looks and grown-up, authoritative music to back it all up. If you look past the looks; a very credible and distinguished musician can be found. His subject matter might tread familiar, well-worn ground- the issues of bad love and self-discovery- but the subjects are covered with fresh insight and different angles. That is part of the challenge I guess. Love and relations are always going to be a commodity musicians stick with: how do you go about giving a fresh lick of paint to that milieu? It is a challenge but fortunately Greer straddles that hurdle and sticks in the imagination. From the first notes (of his tracks) he engages the listener and ensures they are hooked. I opened by looking at the great acts coming from Boston; the brilliant young artists that are emerging and the vitality of original music. Greer Wilson is in a city that has a great reputation and solid legacy. The press and musical community is supportive and big; there are plenty of venues and areas he could gig- chance for his songs to be heard by all sorts of people. I know Greer has a lot of love for Massachusetts but can see him emigrating to California in the future. He seems like a young man that would be enticed by the sea, sun and busy cities; his music sounds Californian, in an odd way. I think of Boston and look at harder, more Rock-based sounds. Greer’s smoother, more Pop/Soul-focused songs have a sunshine vibe to them but a rich emotional core and sensitivity.

Greer has only released a handful of singles- Blow Your Mind was a confident early step- and seems like there is a lot more work left in him. I can see his songs going together in an E.P. Each of his songs has a consistency and thread running through them. Maybe an E.P. would be out before the end of the year? There is a lot of food for thought from someone who is getting exposure and spotlight placed on him. Like I mentioned up-top; there is no need to put strain and too much weight on the young artists emerging. I like Greer’s way of working and the music he has created. There is modesty to him and a maturity. At the moment, he is content to get the music out and let the audience feedback; get his face out there and ensure (his songs) are heard far and wide. In the U.S., Greer is gathering steam and is liable to be a big star there very soon. Little is known about him in the U.K. but that will all change. We have many, similar artists like him here and there is a definite demand. London is an obvious place he could come play. There are so many different venues that would house him and put him on. Maybe he has other views and wants to stay homebound for now. Tracks like Deal with the Devil have radio appeal but more credibility than that. Sure, they could rule the airwaves and speak with the Pop-hungry core (young girls and teenagers) but there is enough depth to connect with older listeners and those who prefer their music edgier and less predictable. I have suggested an E.P. might be forthcoming but in reality, Greer has a golden opportunity ahead of him. His music is garnering a lot of traction and that leave various roads ahead. Maybe he goes touring and takes in the U.S. as much as possible. Perhaps he capitalises on the focus and does more promotion or interviews. He might be looking back at the studio and eager to lay down some more songs. Whichever route he takes, it will be exciting to see. Few young musicians are so instant and loveable as Greer Wilson.

I urge those reading to study Greer and listen to the music out there. This year keeps getting stronger and better for music. Every day seems to reveal a stunning new album or piece of news. In the next month, albums from Dinosaur Jr., Wild Beasts, and Blossoms are emerging. In September, Jamie T. unveils his new one. De La Soul are back as are DJ Shadow and The Avalanches. Such a strange and busy year already: the same can be applied for new musicians in the underground. Last year, there were some definite highlights but not enough. Conversely, 2016 has been much more prosperous and quality-laden. Greer is working tirelessly to ensure he is a young man you do not forget in a hurry. That will be difficult after you immerse yourself in Deal with the Devil.

NOT regret it.

 

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INTERVIEW: Nick J. Townsend of WEAK13

INTERVIEW:

 

 

Nick J. Townsend of WEAK13

 

 

WEAK13 were founded in 1999 from the shared consensus of…

making a real impact on the scene. Adrift from the predictable, songs-by-numbers approach of many Metal contemporaries: the Kidderminster-based three-man crew is a Grunge-Metal-cum-Industrial-Punk outfit caused fevered chatting and hugely impressive reviews. Hardly surprising when you hear the music and the ethos the band abides by. There is a truthfulness and reality to their music not hidden behind rhetoric and fakery: they are a trio that gives it to you straight; insure their music gets right into the bones. Their album They Live showcased what immense talents we have in our midst. With low-tuned guitars and unorthodox performances; intelligent lyrics and insatiable, brother-bound performances: these guys will be headlining major festivals in no time to come. Fascinated to learn more about the bands lead vocalist and guitarist Nick J. Townsend set-aside some time to chat further…

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Hi. For those unfamiliar with your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?

Nick J. Townsend: To put it simply; WEAK13 are three men from the birthplace of Heavy Metal attempting to repair the damage in the music scene; remove the greedy talentless elitist artists; expose the blatant brainwashing and corruption displayed in modern mainstream media; prevent the dumbing down of the population encouraged by the entertainment industry and write the best Rock tunes. My name is Nick J. Townsend; I am the vocalist and guitarist; Wesley Smith plays bass and Neel Parmar is the drummer.

You chaps are based out of Kidderminster. The Black Country and West Midlands has always had a reputation for great Metal bands. What is the scene like these days up there?

The band began in a 13-letter town called Kidderminster; I was born there. Now WEAK13 is based in and around the home of Metal and the nerve centre of the creative county. In our opinion; the best original bands and songwriters are located here. The mainstream music industry, which is currently content with manufacturing and promoting watered-down versions of talented artists and real songs, is trying it’s hardest to pretend the area doesn’t even exist. The scene here is full of strong underground bands; the majority is self-governed and growing in popularity despite the wall imposed by the national and international music press that is heavily influenced by elitist control. Music journalists are programmed to ignore artists and bands, not from The Capital; dismiss artists from poorer areas in order to protect the fragile reputations of the over publicised mainstream artists whose roles appear to (be to) dumb down the population with mundane mediocre drivel. I believe that more than answers your question.

The band has undergone some shifts and changes over the years. Do you think the line-up you have now is the most solid and satisfied WEAK13 have been?

Yes for sure. The past few years have been the most important too. We spent three years writing and recording the first professional WEAK13 studio album They Live with engineer John Stewart from Birmingham band Eight Great Fears; he taught us how to home in on our strengths and we’ve become much better musicians and songwriters. The three of us have shown the fans how committed we are to the music; we’ve always tried to be ourselves; Neel and Wesley are two of the best musicians I’ve worked with and they take their craft very serious. I think all bands have to go through shifts and changes; we’ve just tried to adapt to whatever comes our direction. The They Live album is getting so many good reviews; a lot of folks notice one particular change and that’s that the overall sound of the band live and on record is more professional than ever before; songs such as Closure and Here Come the Drones have opened up a lot of critics’ eyes.

What types of bands and albums were influential to the band members growing up?

Speaking personally, I’d have to credit bands like Mudhoney; Nirvana, The Kinks; Gruntruck, Alice In Chains and Soundgarden- but the three of us all have very different music tastes. The Jimi Hendrix live album Hendrix in the West is one of the most powerful performances ever captured on a record

Your songs look at deep subjects- passing away and survival- whilst your guitars employ dark, low tunings. What were the reasons behind these dynamics?

In the early 1990s, there was a revival for unusual guitar tunings: lyrics were deep, music became less predictable and the songwriter was reborn. Before that we had the ‘80s Glam, Shred-Cock-Rock years filled with bands whose guitarists seemed to be just worn out technical players coated in make-up; selling guitar tuition videos despite having little or in some cases no actual ability to write songs that kids could relate to or identify with. When the Seattle scene exploded the music industry completely changed overnight; I remember it well. At the time, I was a bored teenager watching M.T.V.; it was obvious that the only music reaching out to my generation came from these strange looking new bands with meaningful lyrics; songs which didn’t insult your intelligence and imagery that opened your mind to new possibilities. This wave of new bands also had some characteristics that mirrored the iconic music heroes of the late-‘60s and the early-1970s. WEAK13 is pretty much a modern-day equivalent of that school of thought: there are traces of influence from the greats of the early 1990s encoded in our music; we’re not part of the current fairy tale state-controlled music scene; we’re writing about dark subjects that make a lot more sense right now to teenagers and adults. Unlike the majority of mainstream artists; we’re not writing songs about whoever’s got the biggest bottom.

 

 

I know you guys are hunting for label management at the moment? To any labels reading: what defines and distinguishes you guys from the pack?

That’s not entirely correct: I wouldn’t call it a hunt. Since the band has self-financed its own professional debut studio album with the help of loved ones and slaving all hours of the day; we’ve not actually spent much time searching for a label. We’ve instead just concentrated on our fans and further spreading the name of the band in new territories. We are still open to considering offers for sure but about four years ago we didn’t have much faith in the idea of some magical handout from a big label saving the day. Instead, we’ve worked hard ourselves with support from our good friends; made a seriously good album; created our own music videos; concentrated on the music and made sure we had a lot of fun during the process too. What distinguishes WEAK13 from the pack I’d say is that we aren’t lazy. The They Live album demonstrates what the band is capable of musically and we’ve even been told that it intimidates a lot of bands. Everyone that’s bought the They Live album seems very impressed. Songs like Ashes in Autumn have really surprised the critics as we’ve shown how versatile we can be as a band and also how we can handle delicate subjects too in a tasteful manner.

 

 

Tracks like Joke are defined by their political edges and humour. Given what is happening in the world right now, from terrorism to political upheaval, how does that resonate with the group? Is it inspiring new material?

Yes; it is inspiring to an extent but rather than us jump on any sugar-coated narrative, created by the mainstream news media. We conduct our own research first and attempt to send out an informative message of hope via the hard truths in our song lyrics. We tend to use satire rather than fearmongering. Currently, we’re writing and recording a lot of new material and investigating the subject of crisis actors; a disturbing topic and visible in abundance during mainstream news stories. There’s a lot of dark humour in the WEAK13 music video Joke and it’s a pretty sarcastic look at the world of politics; in it, we explore and make fun of political sex scandals, media sensationalism, the selfie culture and the illusion of democracy. I got the idea for the music video after watching a T.V. news channel feed which showed a reporter explaining how heads of state were using Nelson Mandela’s funeral as a photo opportunity; it was a ridiculous, disrespectful and selfish opportunity to generate media attention from the funeral of a public figure and overshadow it with the ‘Selfie’ buzz-word. I thought to myself: “If someone assassinated a president then those around would probably be more concerned with a selfie opportunity rather than care about what was taking place”. I then contacted some filmmakers close to my heart (Fifty Seven Studios in England) and we began working on producing the music video to Joke.

On that front: can we expect any E.P./album before 2016 is through?

Probably not. We spent three years making a strong 11-track record and I think it would be a rushed effort if we attempted to release another record before the end of 2016. What is more likely is the band producing and releasing a series of music videos that represent some of the tunes from the They Live album- whilst we work on recording the follow-up. We expect to make the next album bigger in scope. It’ll take as long as it takes to complete. The material we’ve got all ready for the next album in our opinion is very intense and has the potential to wake a lot of people up.

I see you are launching a new behind-the-scenes reality show. Is it going to be a Keeping Up with the Kardashians-type thing or a bit more raucous?

I have never watched an episode of the Kardashians’ fake reality T.V. exploits; maybe if they changed the show title to A Day in the Life of Some C**ts it would be more representational? No, ours is likely to be a polar opposite in regards to content; I’m assuming that the show about this self-appointed Royal Family of America documents their staged lives integrated with all the predictable farces which occur within the media that people have been programmed to believe are factual events. We’re just producing a small and simple series about three underdog musicians making music the hard way; without the support of the mainstream music industry. This is purely for the fans and supporters of WEAK13 but if anyone else enjoys it then that’s a bonus.

For being good interview sports; choose any song you like (apart from one of yours; I’ll feature one in the interview) and I’ll play it here.

Well; we are big supporters of underground music and independent artists so I’ll choose the song Kamikaze by the Dudley-based band, Buzzard. Their music video is on YouTube and it’s kinda like hearing a young version of Motörhead- I’m looking forward to seeing this band grow.

 

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FEATURE: The July Round-Up

The debut from Manchester-born, London-based Shura (her mother is Russian; Shura trailed for Manchester City as a youth) is a record of self-discovery and examination. After record labels came calling in 2014, her music was wetting the appetites of executives listening to her songs on YouTube, Shura suffered a panic attack. The resultant hospitalisation and fear (she was dying) has compelled the creation of Nothing’s Real. The album cover sees the heroine staring meaningfully: half her face is beautiful and natural; the other, black-and-white and metaphysical. These contrasts and dichotomy; that mix of outwardly confident and inwardly reserved define the album.

Nothing’s Real title cut crackles; introducing child-like echoes and a cacophony of sounds (and distortions). Frenzied and hypnotic; a disturbed, psychotropic dream that is oddly soothing. Happy to stay in the moment and let it envelop you: the song fades with whistles and a distant cry. Without warning, it knocks the cobwebs away with synthesisers and ‘80s Pop blasts- the likes of Madonna come to mind. Shura unleashes a stone-cold gem: her voice is commanding an alluring; the words intriguing and rich. Everything is fake and intangible; the heroine is unable to connect with herself; there are nerves around the chest and anxiety lurking. Nothing’s Real is one of those tracks that paints dark shades whilst wrapped around bright, punchy compositions and graceful vocals. An addictive song that sees its author at her most confused and open.

What’s It Gonna Be? documents two lovers separated by the miles (“I don’t want to be that girl”): the nature of commitment and jealousy come to the fore. Not willing to give her man up; make a big deal of this: an ultimatum is thrown down. A sassy and energetic song that rushes and dances; Shura opens her heart in technicolour, glorious fashion. If the title track recalled a hard encountered with a doctor- there was no medical basis in Shura’s panic attacks; idiopathic or imagined?- Touch’s longing and so-near-yet-so-far imagining is equally affecting and hard-hitting. If Kidz ‘n’ Stuff exposes Shura at her most downbeat (“Maybe I knew right from the start and that’s exactly how I broke us down”); her sublime delivery keeps the song engaging and utterly fascinating. The naivety of adult relationships is prescient- Shura wearing a cap backwards; riding the last train with shrapnel in her pocket. Indecision, by contrast, is a proud, woman-like declaration: “You’ve got my love, boy”.

Holding on to the good and looking back at a relationship that should have lasted the distance: What Happened to Us? is another revelatory and soul-baring song- “I’m no child but I don’t feel grown up” is among the album’s most mature lines. Before Tongue Tied we get a little interstitial: a child voice that bridges the album’s half-way point (a similar one opened the L.P.). Tongue Tied is lustrous, kitten-like and in-control: ghosts of Like A Prayer-era Madonna come out here. 2Shy bravely blends fragility and hesitation whilst swansong White Light is a delirious and screw-the-world anthem that shows Shura at her absolute apogee.

Whether a young girl walking through London streets and piecing together broken hearts; longing for passion or introverted; she is always fascinating, unique and beguiling.  Shura co-produced most of the album and shows more fortitude, talent and depth than most of her peers. Nothing’s Real not only introduces a wonderful young artist the scene: it ranks among 2016’s most memorable albums.

 

London’s Michael Kiwanuka took breaths away when he arrived in music in 2012. His debut, Home Again, contained vintage Soul and a sense of naturalness and ease- he was not trying to fit into moulds or please marketing men. Combining artists like Bill Withers, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye: the album was lauded for its warmth, contrasts and wisdom. Perhaps some urgency and direction were lacking. That album was produced by Paul Butler (of Indie-Rock band The Bees in his Isle of Wight basement studio) and gained Kiwanuka plaudits and fans.

Four years can do a lot for a musician. Rethinking, adaption, and consideration go into Love & Hate. If its title seems vague and well-worn; the same cannot be said of its content. Maybe Kiwanuka seemed slight and scattershot on his debut, not really sure who he was and what he wanted to say, but there is intention and urgency on the follow-up. Gone is the nervous and hesitant artist: in his stead is a leader and bold voice; a musician that knows what he wants to say and does it magnificently. Most musicians that open an album with a just-over-twelve-minute track would open themselves up for ridicule and raised eyebrows. Such is the assuredness and instinct of our hero that he turns in a transcendent and otherworldly opener- replete with wordless vocals; Progressive-Rock build and symphonic gracefulness.

Never pretentious or boring: Kiwanuka sets the scene and introduces us to a brave, bold new world: an album that is astonishing from the first track. “I can’t stand myself” is a proclamation backed by squalling guitars and gospel choir; the song reigns itself in and unveils an astonishing, confessional vocal. Black Man in a White World turns that recrimination outwards. Assessing discrimination and imbalance in our modern world: not only does the song address social issues; it draws people in with its hypnotising chorus and determined vocal performance.

I get the feeling something is wrong” is languidly (and with elongation) portrayed in Place I Belong. Kiwanuka looks around him and the people leaving: his voice deep, expressive and majestic. One of the most focused and intense songs on the album; you cannot help but fall for the chocolate-rich vocals and choral builds; soul and passion drips from the speakers in a sermon of lost relations and identity. The title track scores wordless, mellifluous vocal chorusing with a Marvin Gaye-nodding number that hopes for no more “pain” ,”shame and misery”. Transcendent, ethereal and awe-inspiring- our hero will not be taken down and defeated. One More Night finds our hero finding and improving himself; no more lies and indiscretions- it is a call-for-action and self-improvement. A lot of the album addresses faith and spirituality and does so with startling beauty and profoundness. Searching for “miles and miles”; someone to walk with him: the guitars crunch, the keys are simple and direct- the vocal could cause jealous sighs from Otis Redding; such is its power and prowess.

Michael Kiwanuka has expanded his lyrical and thematic grasp and in the process, created a near-masterpiece. Love & Hate is a huge leap from his debut; few musicians have produced such a turnaround. Not that Home Again was a meagre or average thing. Here is a musician that seems reborn and simply unstoppable. In a year that has produced some transformative and life-affirming albums: Kiwanuka might have just unveiled one to best them all.

 

Formed in New York in 2011; the Anglo-American band’s eponymous album was greeted with muted reviews. Part of the issue (with their debut) was a calculated move towards being cool and mainstream. Vocals that sat uneasily between The Libertines and The Strokes; songs that strayed close to the aforementioned (The Smiths register too): the lack of personality was a concern.

With the mixed reception in mind; the band has retooled and taken stock. Opener Troublemaker explodes from the speakers in a riot of riffs, beats, and sweat- a conscious move to bring the noise early and hard. Some debut-era issues remain; the vocals are struggling for identity whilst the choruses are too generic to define them as Drowners originals. That said- and with the opening track in mind- there is plenty of fun, swagger, and confidence to compensate. Human Remains nods to ‘80s Pop and ranks among the album’s finest offerings. Light and breezy from the start: it is impossible not to sway and be moved (literally) by the song. Disco ball reflections fall on a freckled face; a brief romance is unfolding; lead singer Matthew Hitt watches his girl from across the room- his words and expressions are heartfelt and vulnerable.

Songs like Trust the Tension are the clearest expressions of Drowners’ improvement. Here, they manage to be sensitive and thought-provoking whilst retaining cool, credibility and, most importantly, their own sound. Tight performances and anthemic choruses rule the album: On Desire is designed for the festival crowds and sunny evenings- arms aloft and beers in hand. Another Go is all chugging guitars and primeval drive; evocations of Is This It ‘Strokes come to mind- a summer jam that is guaranteed to fill the airwaves in the coming months.

Yes, the boys have created a much-improved sophomore album. True, they need to dispense with The Libertines-cum-The Strokes desires as it could well be another critical sticking point. Don’t Be Like That (the album’s closer) could have come further up the pack: the track order is not as considered and balanced as it should be- the record is a little too bottom-heavy if anything. These niggles aside and you have a worthy album from a band continuing to grow, learn and evolve. On Desire provides plenty of joy, quality, and nuance: what more could you want? Let’s hope, by album three, the rough edges have been smoothed. If that is the case; they could establish themselves as one of the finest guitar bands around.

Following the recent release of their highly anticipated sophomore album On Desire; Drowners are in the midst of an exciting year.  The quartet will kick off their string of shows on 10th October in Glasgow; taking their electrifying set through Manchester, Leicester; Liverpool, Newcastle; Leeds, Birmingham, and London- culminating in a show in Cardiff’s S.W.N. Festival on 22nd October. Following that, they move on to Europe for a selection of dates. Having toured with Arctic Monkeys and Foals; played festivals such as Coachella: the quartet’s imitable show has been finely crafted and is always unmissable.

Photo credit: Amanda Demme

The score to Captain Fantastic features all-new compositions by American composer, musician, and producer Alex Somers- who first rose to prominence in 2009 via his highly acclaimed ambient album collaboration Riceboy Sleeps. Somers has since gone on to tour with Jónsi and produced his debut album Go, with further production work for Julianna Barwick, Sin Fang, and the last two Sigur Rós records, Valtari and Kveikur.  Jónsi is featured on several tracks and the music sounds like seminal Sigur Rós, sweeping, lush orchestral soundscapes.  The film itself stars Viggo Mortensen and premiered at Sundance to great reviews.

Part of the film’s acclaim/success must come down to its soundtrack. A New Beginning, the current single from Captain Fantastic, is awash with lush strings and evocative soundscapes. The song bristles, yawns and awakens the senses. An instrumental that puts you in mind of a beautiful dawn: the perfect way to set the scene. Church is a stately and tender song consisting of sporadic notes and echo: a spectral number that puts the listener somewhere safe, empty and inspiring- the imagination cannot help run wild. Campfire and Funeral Pyre continue the themes of gentility and beauty- the former is especially stirring and evocative- whilst Funeral Pyre contains distorted vocals and a ghostly wail; a song that could easily sit on a Sigur Rós album.

In fact, it is the influence of Sigur Rós and Jónsi that makes the soundtrack so familiar and instance. Tracks like She Slit Her Wrists– whilst the title is alarming- juxtaposes gracefulness and danger; juddering electronics and heart-rending strings. At times, the album does lose a bit of individuality and nuance; especially towards the middle: songs like Dream remind you how much wonder and reflection can be discovered.

Keepsakes is, perhaps, the soundtrack’s pivotal score: an orchestral, emotional moment that takes the breath away. Little details and shades entwine; so primal on the one hand; gorgeous and child-like on the other. Anyone who hears the song and does not become affected and changed is clearly not listening hard enough. There are some numbers (Goodbye and Disappear especially) that are too slight and homogenised to really stand out in their own right. Those niggles aside and you have a soundtrack that gets inside the head and takes the listener somewhere magical.

You do not need to be a fan of Alex Sommers, Jónsi or Sigur Rós to appreciate the myriad themes, ideas, and emotions contained within the album. In a hectic time filled with danger and unpredictability: we need to embrace something warm, nourishing and escapist. For that reason, Captain Fantastic’s score is the perfect answer. Switch off the nerves and clasp something colourful and breath-taking to the bosom. Alex Somers, who is the boyfriend of Jónsi; he lives in Iceland, has marked himself out as one of the film world’s most accomplished and unique composers. Let’s hope we hear much more from him very soon!

Guilty was recorded in January 2015 during her month-long residency at Somerset House, Recording in Progress, in which audiences were given the opportunity to see Harvey at work with her band and producers in a purpose-built studio. The Hope Six Demolition Project (her ninth studio album) has picked up emphatic reviews and proves the 46-year-old, Dorset-born musician has lost none of her step and power.

Guilty was released on Wednesday and was not included on the album. Producer Flood explained how the song felt outside of (the rest of the material). Harvey, Flood and John Parish (co—producer) decided to omit it. The track is propelled by bellicose percussion and a determined vocal. “What’s he doing with that stick?” is a mantra that gets into the brain.

Which one is guilty?” is the rejoinder that gets the listener curious. Whether looking at global inequality or the nature of justice- drone strikes by the U.S. compelled the song- the imagery is unforgettable.

Performed in a lower register to previous albums/songs: Guilty is a haunting and powerful song that is a perfect companion to The Hope Six’. If “Power to the predator/The Grim Reaper/Grainy little suspects running for shelter” leaves little doubt: the same could be said for PJ Harvey- an artist who is still capable of inspiring others and remaining essential. A rare talent who can write political songs (take note, Muse!) and sound credible and compelling.

PJ Harvey tours Europe in October; she plays in the U.K. at the end of the month: a chance to hear her in the natural environment; up-close and personal. For those who adored The Hope Six Demolition Project: Guilty is an essential and potent mandate- from one of the most fascinating musicians of our generation.

 

It seems like Australian songwriter Courtney Barnett came out of nowhere. The music world was not expecting anything as urgent, unique and invigorating as Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (her debut; released in March 2015). Of course, Barnett has been making music for years. From performing in Rapid Transit- between 2010-’11- to appearing on various works- including How to Carve a Carrot Into a Rose (a combined package of her first and second E.P.s)- it was not a surprise, perhaps.

Sometimes I Sit and Think’ was the culmination of a year’s writing- Barnett presented the songs to her band a week before recording; in order to capture the live feel- the vocals for the album are the first time Barnett sang them out loud. Surreal and funny one moment; down-to-earth the next: her debut captured the hearts (and attentions) of the world’s press.

The video for Elevator Operator (directed by Sunny Leunig)- the album’s opener- has just been released and shows all her skills in one place. Thudding percussion and prehensile drive soundtrack a song of everyday simplicity and relatability. Its hero, Oliver Paul, drops Vegemite down his shirt; he dreads work- “Feeling sick at the sight of his computer“- and represents the modern-day, consumer dread- those who live to work; no fun to be had.

Descriptive, evocative lyrics- “A tortoise shell necklace between her breasts”; garnishing a lady looking Oliver up and down with a “Botox frown“- create smiles and sighs. A wonderfully rich songwriter: the track is part-anthemic singalong; part-suburban poetry. Barnett’s catchy coda- “Don’t jump little boy/don’t jump off that roof”- is sympathetic and earnest- to a man simply idling; on the roof to get perspective.

Elevator Operator encapsulates Courtney Barnett at her finest. That loveable, unfettered voice; a tight band performance: lyrics that build pictures, mini-dramas, and witty vignettes. Barnett visits London next week- playing Somerset House on Thursday; Lattitude two days later- make sure you see her. For anyone claiming Rock music is dead (or dying): listen to Exhibit A and think again!

Los Angeles’ Jillian Rose Banks (A.K.A. Banks) released her debut album Goddess back in 2014. Upon arrival, the positive reviews stacked up; impressed by her take on Fiona Apple-esque raw revelations and FKA twigs-like minimalist R&B (albeit more restrained and grounded). Although her shots at ballads were largely forgettable: the diverse range of sounds and moods across Goddess saw the album climb to number 12 in the U.S. charts.

If the confessional style of Lorde and Lykke Li bleed into the lyrics; the likes of Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu could be detected in the vocals- an inimitable fusion of vulnerable and empowered. Maybe a little formulaic and generic at times: the dramatic, emphatic Beggin for Thread; Brain’s cut-and-putdown; the long-distance relationship stress of Waiting Game– plenty of promise and personality.

Banks’ sophomore album is released later this year and its title cut, Fuck With Myself, shows a different side to the 28-year-old. Instead of mimicking the times and fitting into the vanguard: the opening seconds to the song are instantly memorable. Nervy, glitchy electronics and tense beats see the heroine in confident mood (“I got two diamonds and a feather/Gimme three reasons why we ain’t together”). Banks’ voice switches between barely-there purr and bespoke vocal intonations- recalling Kate Bush during her Never for Ever peak. The song’s anti-hero has caused hurt and seems to be plunging the depths (“I caught you fishing through the fodder”); Banks is giving him an imperious dressing-down.

More dramatic, individual and compelling than anything on Goddess: Fuck With Myself still recalls shades of Aaliyah and FKA twigs at times. Instead of replicating these influences, they are employed as a point d’appui. An enchanting glimpse into her sophomore album: the young American’s sighs, whispers and proclamations are as sensual as they are alarming. The song’s accompanying video, in its twisted, Chris Cunningham-meets-Bjork dark quirk, perfectly backs the track’s marriage of coarse confessionals and empowered mandates. Banks is back and she is a woman on a mission!