Monday, 31 August 2020
Missing In Action
August has been quiet on I Don't Hear A Single, but it hasn't been quiet for I Don't Hear A Single. The month is usually a quiet time for releases and Festival heavy. So the plan was originally to do the second stage of the plans then. However Covid changed all that.
The first stage was put on hold because the world had stopped, rightly so and I still sense that it's starting again a bit too quickly. But it did make sense to start to get underway with things that could now be started. Gigs and Travel are gone, but distribution is getting nearer to normality and so that's were the efforts have been made.
You'll see the announcements as the month progresses, they are exciting but still limited. However, I feel that now is the time to get this place kicking again as the Reviews are backing up. So, from tomorrow, September will mean catching up. There'll be tons of reviews in the month, some may be a bit shorter or grouped, we'll see, but for now IDHAS will continue as normal, just with more stuff.
There'll be a new Audio Extravaganza this week and two great interviews are in progress. I'll also be returning properly to Social Media. I'm sure you've missed the rattling cages, although I'm still avoiding Forum Groups as I just got tired of the in fighting and nonsense. I'll keep you in suspense about the new developments, but promise to tell you all as soon as we are ready.
Until then, get your lugholes ready for some great albums from the new and under appreciated.
Wednesday, 26 August 2020
Ian Rushbury Interviews : Anton Barbeau
“I'm the guy who sells four albums every twelve years, right?” Anton Barbeau talks about “success”, the mainstream, krautrock and the gaps in his Todd Rundgren album collection to Ian Rushbury.
Double albums, eh? Tricky little blighters. You’ve been waiting around since “Quadrophenia” for one to arrive and then two come at once. Just when you thought that everyone was veering away from the epic grandeur of the two-album set, both Spygenius and everybody’s favourite pop-psychedelic troubadour, Anton Barbeau, have released one.
Sadly, neither have sleeves designed by Roger Dean, which is a bit of a shame. IDHAS caught up with the King of Air Miles, Anton Barbeau, to find out why the world needs a krautrock infused, pop-rock-psychedelia concept album about travelling (and music), loaded with avian references.
“Manbird” is a good, old fashioned, lavish and sprawling, concept album. But what’s the concept?
"It’s about leaving the nest and trying to find myself in the big scary world and trying to find out what it all is. In the past years, I’ve done loads of travelling and I've been in a permanent state of jet lag for months at a time - always living with a suitcase at hand.
My life has been divided between living in Europe and coming back to California, so it’s looking back at a life of travelling or being afraid to move at all. I think there’s also a theme of music as well,and how music has been essential to me, from the very beginning. I was born a Beatles baby, so that’s always been there, and that plays out in a couple of songs."
And the bird references?
"The bird theme was really convenient as everywhere I go, there are birds – I’m on a farm right now, and I can hear flickers and scrub jays and vultures, bluebirds and hawks and quail. In Berlin there were wood pigeons and crows and magpies."
Recording this album in multiple locations, as far flung as California, Berlin and Oxford, how the hell do you keep track of what you’re working on?
Everything goes onto one hard drive (laughs). At the moment, I have two laptops and everything then gets consolidated onto another computer. I've been making records this way for a while. I've sometimes done the jet lag thing, where the first thing you want to do after you land, is get all the stuff that you've recorded in California on the Berlin drive and I've gone the wrong way. I don't know how I manage to keep it all together, but somehow, I do."
It's 2020 and no one can concentrate for more than thirty seconds at a time any more. Why on earth have you released a double album?
"I knew that this album was going to have a theme to it and that it was going to be a concept thing, because it was inspired by the film “Lady Bird” (a coming-of-age-in-Catholic-school story set in Sacramento, Barbeau’s home town), so I already knew what the timbre of it was going to be.
When I started working on it, I knew that it couldn't be contained in a small space - it felt like it wanted to tell a story. The way I work is that most of the time, I don't know what it is I'm doing until I’m some way down the line, then I can start to see what the themes are.
But in this case, those themes were obvious from the outset and it just made sense that it was going to spread out. There was a moment where I thought, “oh no, it's going to be a triple album!”
The people who pre-ordered the record and helped us fund it in the first place, are going to get a third disc of stuff, but that isn’t as developed as the other two, so the triple album idea was nipped in the bud."
Like some of your recent albums, this record was crowdfunded. This must mean that reaching out directly to your fanbase has been successful?
"Yeah - it’s funny, as the word successful is shocking in relation to anything I do. I'm the guy who sells four albums every twelve years, right? When I was doing a campaign with Pledge Music, I met up with one of the guys who was helping me with my campaign at the time.
He said, “you're one of our most successful artists” and I replied, “what do you mean? How dare you!” He meant that I had run two or three successful campaigns, so by Pledge Music standards, I was successful. I was really taken aback at hearing the word ‘successful’ applied to me and my career."
So, you’re a fan of this method of funding for albums?
"As far as crowdfunding goes, it's been something that I've been able to make work, but it’s also something that I hate doing. Artists who do it, all try to put on a happy face and make it look like it’s an enjoyable thing to go through.
In the case of “Manbird”, we put the campaign together ourselves. We didn't use an outside company like Kickstarter or Pledge, we just set up a website ourselves and that was really enjoyable. A nice organic way to do it. It was from the heart and without any of the icky, behind the scenes stuff. We were setting out our own terms and it was really quite fun this time. Very gratifying. Very satisfying."
It's a great looking package.
"Much credit has to go to (graphic artist) Julia VBH - she’s really pulled it together. We collaborate, but she does much of the work. She did a beautiful job with this. I spent forty minutes the other day just looking at the lyric sheet and poster. It's my own record and I'm still fascinated with it. I wanted it to be something that people will spend time with - especially as it’s a double album, but I was surprised at how wonderful it turned out to be."
The front cover has more than a whiff of an early seventies, prog rock album on the Vertigo label…
That's what we thought, too - it feels very early seventies. There are a lot of things coming together in this record - a lot of things crisscrossed. None of it was planned - you grab this element and that element and you put them together and something new happens. The photo of the canal on the cover was taken two minutes from where I live in Berlin. I'm on that bridge every day, taking pictures of the same canal."
Am I wrong in thinking that the first CD is almost “mainstream”, with much of the weird stuff occurring on disc two?
"I think there's some conscious effort in that direction. Is it mainstream? I don't mind that word. I'll never be mainstream. I always think I'm the next Beatles, but apparently, I'm not! There's still enough weird variety from me on the first disc - it’s still enough of a bumpy ride. I's such a big record that even I can’t say, “here’s my intention at this point, here's what happens in the middle.”
I don't have that vision, but definitely side two is meant to be a ‘B’ side. If you picture the whole thing as a single - two songs on a piece of vinyl - the ‘A’ side is the pop hit and the other track is the weird ‘B’ side. It's not a linear story, I couldn’t write it down on a piece of paper or do bullet points. It's all over the place, time wise."
And stylistically – talk me through the country-romanesque curio, “Cowboy John Meets Greensleeves”, please…
The “Cowboy John” part is the entirety of the first song I ever wrote as an eight-year-old - my first attempt at creating original music and lyrics. I would sit and play it on the piano for hours. And “Greensleeves”, is… “Greensleeves.” I don't think I wrote that... That's an early childhood memory that got grafted on."
Apart from that pre-teenage magnum opus, you haven’t re-recorded any of your previous material for this record, like you did for “Natural Causes”?
"Everything on “Manbird” was written for this record. There have been a few recent records – “Natural Causes” and “Kenny Versus Thrust” in particular, plus the “Antronica” stuff, which are meant to be, either an introduction to my work for newcomers, or a reintroduction to my work to people who may have dropped off to sleep after album twenty-three, or whatever.
There, I’m taking certain songs and giving them a new life, or what I hope is a more definitive presentation. “Natural Causes” is a record that I’m really pleased with. I'm happy with the remakes on that album and it's a very complete album in its own right, even if the songs aren't all original. It’s one of my favourite albums that I’ve done. I think it has a lovely sound to it – Popol Vuh meets pop music!"
Talking about Popol Vuh, there seems to be a little bit of krautrock in “Manbird.” “Beak” and “Beak II” both have a motorik feel. Ever thought of doing a krautrock themed record?
"I have thought about it – I’ve got a few krautrock tracks which are coming out on a pair of Fruits de Mer compilations. They’re not particularly long tracks and I think if you’re going to do it properly, like a forty-minute piece, you really have to commit to it. I can do it on my own, but when you get a bunch of people together to play something like that, it’s a whole different thing altogether. You want that almost spiritual experience.
I did a track called “In a Boat on the Sea”, for an album called “Drug Free” a few years ago. It was at the end of the recording of the album and I wanted to get a bunch of people into the studio, just for the experience of recording live. We ended up doing this really beautiful, krauty track."
Aside from the Germanic influences, do I detect a bit of Todd Rundgren creeping into your work every now and then?
"I'm a fan, but I couldn't say he's a real influence. because I don't know his stuff that well. It's funny because Michael Urbano and Larry Tagg play on this record and they’ve both played with Todd, so there is a connection.
In recent years, I've been digging out stuff by him and starting to get more and more into it and paying more attention. I saw him live once and it was an amazing gig - one of those, "oh right, you're that guy" gigs. But for some reason, I can't claim myself as a bona fide Todd Rundgren fan, but I probably will by next week!"
You do realise that admitting to a lack of knowledge of Todd Rundgren and recording a radically reworked version of Big Star’s “September Gurls” in 2017 for your “Heaven is in Your Mind” EP, will result in death threats from hard-core powerpop fans?
"I can’t even remember how my version of “September Gurls” goes! I'll have to dig it out again. I don't think it was a conscious decision along the lines of, “I'm going to move this song over in another direction - I'll show them!", but I certainly have no patience for rigid thinking in any genre.
I understand that, because the song is so good, that you don't want to dishonour a song that you really care about. When I was younger, I probably would, but we're all running out of time now - life is short and life is precious.
That track came out on Fruits De Mer which is a pretty psychedelic label, so the audience is already pretty freaked out and expecting something unusual. I know Ken Stringfellow and Jody Stephens liked my version of "I'm in Love with a Girl", but I'm not sure if they’ve heard "September Gurls".
And so, we leave Mr Barbeau to brush up on the Todd Rundgren back catalogue and check his front garden for aggrieved, knife wielding powerpop afficionados. “Manbird” is another in a long line of paisley-hued pop rock records that bounces around the musical spectrum like a kangaroo with ADHD. But this time, there’s double the amount of it.
It might not be as linear as that concept album about the deaf, dumb and blind chap, or the one about the lamb lying down in Broadstairs, but it’s well worth the time and effort. Get your headphones and make yourself, comfy, you’re in for a fascinating ride… just watch out for the birds.
You can pre-order Manbird and listen to and buy other Anton delights here.
Miracle Glass Company - MGC 2
Edinburgh Trio follow up 2016's splendid debut album MGC 1 with MGC 2 offering an easily remembered labelling for those of a certain age like myself. This album does feel a little different to the debut. It's not a massive shift, the great parts are still present and correct.
There was always a versatility to a trio were all three sing and the marvellous Big Beat on the debut revealed how versatile the band could be, The shift here is in the direction, the UK 70s Pop Rock and Glam Influence are still easily spotted, but MGC 2 in general steps more into America.
If it was not for lockdown, I suspect that these set of 10 fine offerings would have been honed into a blazing live set. We have to wait and see for that, but the shift is noticeable. Album Two ventures into more Classic Rock territory, Southern Rock at times, Blues Rock at others. Previously you thought the band might morph into early Queen, now it sounds more like Free.
I've Been Waiting could be the slow one on a Bad Company Swansong album, but this calmer song isn't representative of what you'll here. There's some real Flared Trousers Power Trio Plank Spanking on Professional Noise.
The two trailing singles, Mary Mary and BB2 are present and the latter still sounds like the cracking slice of Glam Rock Boogie that it is. Sea Of Cortez is fine Laurel Canyon laid back Rock and is complemented by the closer, Morning Sun which again sounds very Californian.
Those Glam Rock riffs are still around, Rogue is great Pop Rock, almost Status Quo 1974. Sweet Spot should be on Rak, so Chinn and Chapman it is. There's so much here to like and I don't hear many more around doing this type of Rock and certainly not as well.
You can buy and listen to the album here.
The Bitter Springs - The Odd Shower
Whilst we await the re-release of the wonderful (Suburban Crimes Of) Every Happiness next month, I've been remiss in not covering the current album The Odd Shower and The Bitter Springs deserve as much attention as anyone will give them.
Wrongly lobbed in with the Punks, there isn't a hint of a Safety Pin in what they do. In Simon Rivers, we have one of the greatest lyricists around as well as the Vic Goddard connection. Rivers has more in common with Jarvis Cocker or Edwyn Collins.
Although varied, their music is far closer to the mainstream than you think, although when they go off script, they get off script they get even better. Angry All The Time is close to seven minutes in length and if you imagine The Fall going Psych, you'd not be a million miles away from the vibe.
Rivers is at his best when he's writing about the banal, every day life observations that are delivered with a biting wit. Best example here is the splendid Men Behaving Badly, but there are more and contrast that with the lounge lizard of The Odd Shadow. Cold Semen Rain is also beautifully mellow.
Not as commercial, but my favourite song here is the magnificent Addison Brothers that includes some fine Goddard keyboards. Girls In F.I.T.S. is prime time Cocker and Life Goes On Forever goes all Brit Pop to fine effect.
There is so much here amongst these 15 Songs, it's more a Now That's What I Call Songwriting Volume 1. Rivers can't do mediocre, every song brings something different and compelling. This is Indie Rock without the repetition. The Odd Shower is an absolute gem of an album.
You can listen to and buy the album here. You can find out more about the band here.
Monday, 24 August 2020
Captain Wilberforce - When The Dust Just Won't Settle
Simon Bristoll's Captain Wilberforce must have been banging his head against the nearest brick wall withThat She Knows, because it may be the all those Neil Finn comparisons. If only 10% of those Finn fans bought his back cat, he would be retiring to Whitby,
Where you can see the previous Finn comparisons, I've made them myself, there was always far more to Captain Wilberforce and here they prove it. The songwriting is still as spot on, but When The Dust Just Won't Settle feels far more like a band album and that has fleshed out those songs.
The album also feels more in your face. The hooks are still plentiful, but the vocals and riffs shout out far more. This is most pronounced on the two opening songs which fairly rock, but it is also further evident in the production.
Sad Machine is all rock riff and programmed drums, but The Last Dance Is Over is most reflective of the bigger sound. These two fine introductions lead to more expected vibes. It is certainly ok to reference Neil Finn on I Think That She Knows because it may be the best Crowded House song that they didn't perform on.
Silence Echoes is splendidly moody and melancholic and When It Rains has a wonderful 60's Flute feel, sounding very Graham Gouldman. Take Me Home is a wonderful Beach Boys cum Beatles harmonic closer.
There's more than enough here to satisfy long term fans. The album stretches into new, less familiar, territory and it is that that works best. There may not be a Rock album in CAPTAIN Wilberforce but the diversions in that direction add to the joy.
You can listen to and buy the album here. You can read Ian Rushbury's IDHAS Interview with Simon here. You can also buy the CD from Kool Kat in the States here.
The Young Wait - Notes From A Recent Past
Notes From A Recent Past is the type of album that I haven't played in over two decades and that's no disrespect intended towards The Young Wait because this is a corker of an album, a cracking listen. It's simply the genre and its relations wot did it guv.
There came to pass a time when everyone wanted to be the Allman Brothers and that mixed with the likes of Southern Rock's return and the The Black Crowes, Wilco and Americana Rock. This led to a sort of loose American Rock that showed people could play and even sing, but what they came up with was just so dull. Jams are for Scones.
Don't get me wrong, it was the masses who joined the parade that were the problem, they grew their hair and doubled the length of their songs and they were away. The best could still captivate, certainly Tom Petty and Wilco until it all got a bit wanky, but most were just tedious.
So this brand of American Rock has been saved, not by an American, but by a quartet from San Sebastian. 12 songs in 45 minutes, on the ace Lucinda Records, that capture how this sound should always have been. I notice that all the reviews online seem to be Spanish, so hopefully this will kick off the English writing world.
The album is so good that it is so good that it's hard to pick out one particular song. The p[laying and arrangements are so tight and beautifully played and all the songs have a certain feel, but none are the same. Simple Things Rocks like a good 'un and Cabo Shamo fairly rattles along in a Blues Rock vein.
Only Fate Knew What's Done is instrumentally in Crazy Horse territory, beautifully so. The album is at its best though when it concentrates on the good ole boy Rawk, The Young Wait are so good at it. Never Sleep 'til Regret and Absolute Boy, which is top notch Petty, are the best examples, but the whole album is so damn good.
Here's hoping that the rest of the world pick up on this superb album. There's no justice in the world if they don't. You can listen to and buy the album here.
Love Sport - And Justice For All
And Justice For All is the Helsinki quartet's second full length album and whilst essentially being Indie Rock, there's plenty of variety here to revel in. Teemu Tanner's vocal sound is very Gaz Coombes, but Love Sport are no Supergrass. This is a really intelligent offering.
With a killer rhythm section and Guitar Riffs that crunch and border on Prog at times, there is a hell of a lot to like here. The vibe may veer towards the likes of Pavement, but that aforementioned guitar crunch makes this far more than that.
When the band let loose, there is some wonderful Rock licks, particularly on Wash. Yet this is an album very much built on riffs, any solos provide icing on the cake. Keying Cars meanders splendidly with a Peter Hook type Bass Run and Wrong Kind Of Evil is great Brit Pop.
The Biggest Liar jingles and jangles at pace in a Glasgow manner. The closer, Giant Hoof is corking indie, but the stand out is the joyous, Life's A Joke which has so much in its 3 minutes, driving rhythm, singalong chorus and a closing heightened guitar close.
You can listen to and buy the album here.
Tuesday, 11 August 2020
Mick Dillingham Interviews - Alain Pire
The Alain Pire Experience are a tremendous three piece combo from Belgium making captivating and engaging psychedelic music of dazzling clarity and purpose that both charms and amazes with equal measure. Not only is Pire a talented melodic songwriter with a perfectly suited voice, he’s also a fine guitarist of some note.
It is obvious from the very first play of any of the three studio albums released so far that that his knowledge of psychedelia is both intimate and extensive. So much so you could almost believe he holds a PhD in British Psychedelic Music…oh hold on, he actually does, as you will see later.
Despite all this vital stuff, his music is authentic to himself more that anything else and that is what makes it so special. Each album is a multilayered adventure in everything you love about psychedelic music and more. Overflowing with clever invention and surprises, it is music from and for the heart and the mind, that is both uncannily familiar and yet totally fresh and new.
Lets see what Alain has to tell us shall we?
“I was born in 1953 and one of my earliest memories about music happened when I was five. In 1958, the Universal Exhibition took place in Brussels, with the Atomium and many futuristic buildings. I was lucky enough to go there three times with my Grandfather.
I remember clearly that on one occasion, we stopped by the Swiss Pavilion, which was probably not the most psychedelic of all, but there I saw a band playing, probably Oberbayern crap music. I managed to go behind the stage and looked at the drummer in awe. I said to myself, “This is what I want to do“
Some years later, my parents bought me a little fanfare snare drum and I began to play along to music that I heard on the radio. A bit later on, I used to go down the cellar with a small electrophone, my snare and some empty glass bottles that I used as cymbals. It seems that I was possessed by rhythms and music.
In the late Fifties, I had uncles who listened to music like Paul Anka or Buddy Holly so I immersed myself into that. And then in the early 60s, I had neighbours who listened to what we call “Yé Yé” music in French, which consisted mainly of American or British covers sung in French. They also listened to the Shadows and Hank Marvin impressed me a lot with his guitar sound.
But the real start came with the British Invasion of 63-64. I became, like many others, a huge fan of The Beatles, The Stones and The Animals. The distorted guitar of Satisfaction just blew my mind. Then the Yardbirds with stuff like Heart Full of Soul or For Your Love. After that Cream came along, I was so fascinated by Clapton’s playing, in interaction with Bruce and Baker, it was just wow!
At the time, I was like a sponge. Every week, we went to the record store to discover the new releases and it was just amazing to see the amount of good music that was released in a short period of time. My parents weren’t rich so I used to work in a gas station at weekends to make some money in order to buy …records of course. And the most influential record that I bought at the time was Sgt Pepper. I became completely fascinated and obsessed by the creativity that was sweating from that album."
"I managed to make enough money at the Gas Station to buy an old drum kit. Then I really started to learn how to play. I had a friend, André Lohest, who was an accomplished drummer at the time and I often went to his attic to see him play or rehearse with his band. I also took a few drumming lessons at the music school to improve my snare drum technique.
I was dreaming of a Ludwig drum kit, like Ringo and I managed to buy a second hand one – a dream come true. I began to play in ballrooms shortly after. It was a decent way to make some money while still being a student. It helped me buy my first car, an old Citroën 2 CV.
But, playing five or six hours in a row turned into a real drag after a while, not to mention unloading and loading drums into the car. I quickly came to the conclusion that I needed to learn a new instrument. As girls seemed to be more interested in guitar players than drummers, my choice was obvious. I began to learn guitar around the age of eighteen and very soon, it became my instrument of choice.
My first electric kit was an old Fender Stratocaster and an AC30 Vox amp. I never had any guitar lessons, only learnt by ear, except for the basic chords that I found in a small book. Improvising was an obvious choice, so I began to dabble on the guitar neck to find what were the right notes in a certain key and then transposed it to the other keys. I don’t pretend that I invented anything on guitar, but I’ve always been keen to try to play like myself and not be a copycat.”
Were you in any bands in those early days worth mentioning here?
“Absolutely not ! I’m a slowly maturing person and it took me years, if not decades, to really find what I wanted to do musically speaking, according to my musical knowledge and taste.”
What were the first songs you wrote?
“I don’t remember the first ones, I have a recollection of song that I did with a friend in the early Eighties, but it was more Synth based. Then I played in a four piece band named Such a Noise, which was more rock influenced. I wrote some songs, one in particular named On The Riverside, which was inspired by The Allman Brothers’ Whipping Post. I recorded three albums with them and we toured rather extensively, doing opening for acts like Deep Purple and Ten Years After.”
When did you first start getting into psychedelic music?
“When I was sixteen, I used to listen to Revolver, Sgt Pepper, SF Sorrow, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Are You Experienced, Axis Bold as Love, Space Ritual etc. I’ve always been a huge fan of Dark Star by the Grateful Dead and I had the chance to see them at Wembley in 72. I also dug krautrock a lot, Amon Duul, Guru Guru, Tangerine Dream, Faust, Can and Klaus Schulze.
The idea of making psych music myself slowly emerged in the early Nineties, when people began to look in the rear-view mirror. A wave of Neo-Psych came along, with bands like The Stone Roses, Asteroid N°4, The Dukes of Stratosphear, Spacemen 3, Primal Scream, and Spiritualized.
I formed a band named Michel Drucker Experience. We sang in French, but we had some decent psychedelic songs here and there.
In the late 90s, when I found a renewed interest into psychedelia, I was struck, as a musician, by the amount of creativity that took place between the end of 1965 to early 1968. I really wanted to understand how and why that musical style came to the fore.
I already had a Master Degree in Communication and I remembered one of my teachers, Pol Gossiaux, who was an anthropologist. I had really appreciated his lessons so one evening, I phoned to him, asking if he would agree to be my supervisor for a PhD about psychedelia. I really expected him to hang up the phone but surprisingly, he said, “Come next week to my office with a list of books that you plan to read”. It was very exciting to say the least.
I started that long process in 1999 and finally got my PhD in 2009. I read tons of books about the Hippie movement, the Counterculture, the music scene both in California and in England and the drug culture, the effect of hallucinogenic drugs on creativity.
I interviewed quite a lot of people such as Steve Howe, because he played in Tomorrow before joining Yes, Arthur Brown, Phil May, Dick Taylor, Brian Godding from the Blossom Toes. Joe Boyd, the producer of the early Floyd and Jenny Spires who was one of Syd Barrett’s former girlfriends.
I met John Hoppy Hopkins, who was a counterculture activist back in the 60s and we became really close and he helped me lot. Barry Miles was another 60s activist and biographer of Paul McCartney, he kindly wrote the foreword of my subsequent book."
"After some years, I realised that if I wanted to cover both US and UK psych it would take me too much time, so I focused on the UK psychedelia, which I found interesting enough to fill more than 900 pages. It was divided in three main sections: The history of British Counterculture. The history of Psychedelic drugs and their effects and an analysis of 109 songs.
It’s very hard to define what exactly is Psychedelic Music. To simplify, it has to contain some elements of “strangeness”, either in sounds or in the song structure. It also has the potential to modify the listener’s level of consciousness, at least for the best ones.
I like two kinds of psych songs, the pop ones and the more improvisational ones …such as Cambridge for the pop side and Turn on, Tune in, Drop out for the more free form type of psych.
I could not do my thesis and be serious about music making at the same time, because I also had a full-time teaching job. So, after my PhD was over, I released a book with an edited version of the Thesis for French Editor Camion Blanc named “Anthropologie du Rock Psychédélique Britannique”.
Shortly after, they asked me to translate into French, one of the Syd Barrett’s biography named Dark Globe. It was released in 2011, but it had drained my energy, so I promised myself not to write a book again and to concentrate on writing music only. So then finally comes the Alain Pire Experience, which will most probably be my last band and the most fulfilling one for sure.
I met the two other members of APEx a bit by chance. I have a guitar player friend named Jean Pierre Froidebise and in 2013 he had a gig in Verviers, at the Spirit of 66, a renowned Belgian club. But two weeks before the show he broke an ankle and therefore couldn’t hold his guitar for more than two or three songs, so I played a few numbers while he was singing.
The rhythm section was Marcus Weymaere on drums and René Stock on bass. I was really impressed by the way they interacted together so after the show I told them, “Well guys, I really like the way you’re playing together, I have an idea about a band, give me your phone number, I’ll call you next week”
That’s how it started. They were not into psychedelia at all, so I had to make them listen to some songs that I liked, in order to set the right direction for the band”
So then in 2014 we have the first album, Cambridge.
“Every time I had two or three songs ready, I would call Marcus and René – and still do it the same way now – then they learned the structure on the spot. I always did and still do. three or four takes of each song and then keep the best one for additional vocals, guitars, effects etc. I have an old Roland VS2480 which allows me to record 16 tracks simultaneously, so it’s pretty straightforward to record a whole drum kit, a bass and a guitar.
Afterwards, I export all the tracks and import them into Reason, a multitrack software that I’ve been using for years. At that stage, I add everything that’s required for the song to be complete, like other guitars, all the vocal parts, some keyboards if needed. I like vintage sounds, so I’m keen to use Mellotron, Hammond or Farfisa sounds.
I really wanted to pay tribute to that magical period and the first song that I wrote was Cambridge. It was inspired by Strawberry Fields Forever for the music and by a trip that I made to Cambridge for the lyrics. I’m lucky enough to have my own recording facility at home, so I record most of the stuff myself.
But for Cambridge, I also needed string arrangements, so I contacted my pal, Didier Dessers, who is very strong in reproducing vintage sounds and for creating song arrangements. For most of my songs, I record them at home, but do the mix at Didier’s studio.
Lyrics always come after all the audio is ready. My main sources of inspiration come from psychedelic drugs experiences. But sometimes, I start with a sentence that sounds good and I build up on it though I’m hardly Bruce Springsteen nor Bob Dylan.
At first I wanted to set up a three piece band in the Cream fashion, because I had always been fascinated by songs like Crossroads captured live. I think that the interaction between musicians was incredible. Therefore, I recorded some songs that I put on the first version of the Cambridge album that were more rock than psychedelic.
Maybe I also made a compromise because René and Marcus were coming from a more bluesy background, so I was cautious not to hurt their taste. I soon realised that there was a dichotomy in this album so, after the first batch of 300 sold, I wrote two new songs, Your Elephants Are Everywhere and Things Behind the Sun and I replaced the four rock songs with the new ones.
Retrospectively, I made the right choice, because at the time, the project was still fresh and I didn’t have a clear view on the best musical direction to take to fulfil my needs and dreams. But finally, the official Cambridge album was released with eight tracks, and I’m still really proud of it.”
2017 saw the release of your second album Songs From The 13th Floor
“We had some decent airplay with the Cambridge album, so we began to perform gigs as a band. But I wanted to increase our repertoire, so then I started writing songs for the 2nd album, which has a name inspired by Roky Erickson’s band.
On the writing side, I think that it was a step further. By now my two mates knew what I wanted to do, so I didn’t have to convince them anymore about the musical direction. They play with other bands anyway, so here, it’s Psych only and they know it.
The album, like always, is a blend of Pop tunes and more experimental ones, and it’s maybe more personal, with the exception of Lazin’ In The Afternoon which was inspired by ELO’s 10538 Overture. We still perform most of the 13th Floor songs on stage.”
And two years later we come to your most recent studio album Apex.
“You know, I will turn 67 next October, so I feel a certain sense of urgency, I tend to write faster nowadays, because otherwise, I’m quite a lazy fellow. I’m rather proud of the first track I Saw The Light Today, we open every show with this one. I really like the last two songs as well, Into The Deep and Lost On A Cloud.
The lyrics of Into the Deep are more mythological, I really saw pictures of men getting down into the Abyss … strange influence. I called an old keyboard player friend, Jean-Luc Manderlier, he used to play with Magma back in the day and I knew that he would perfectly understand what I wanted for the keyboard parts.
It’s the first album to include a cover song, one that I really like from George Harrison, Only A Northern Song. I also really dig Have Some Fun, which is a nice Pop tune for me, but unfortunately, the video clip that I started to do about that song was never finished by the guy who were supposed to edit it.”
Would you say you had different influences for each album? Faves at the time that you wanted to echo?
“I think, but I may be wrong, that the influences tended to fade with the time passing, I try to write new songs in the Alain Pire Experience’s flavour nowadays. For example, on the Apex album, only the last two numbers can be clearly identified as Pink Floyd influenced, but again with my own blueprint. On Cambridge, I had several influences, like Cream, or The Beatles, but not only them, because Pink Floyd was never far away.”
I think its fair to say this is retro psych rather than neo psych, though due to the excellent songs, it is fresh and vital. You never really do pastiches of old songs as such, it's original sounding. As if you picked up from where they left off in 69 and ran with it from there.
“Oh thanks. I’m a deep lover of melodies. I think that a song should always contain a melody that touches the listener. I’m always the first one to be touched when I write new material, well at least when it’s good, because I trash a lot of bits that are not interesting enough.
It’s true that I tend to put myself in the late Sixties’ fashion, because this is the period with which I feel a very strong chemistry. I’m not into pastiche, because I want to be totally sincere with what I do and for the first time in my life, I feel really congruent with what I’m doing right now.
I once came across an interview of Jordi Savall, the Spanish Viola de Gamba master. He devoted his life to celebrate Renaissance Music and nobody has anything to say against that. So modestly, I want to pay homage to the period that had the deepest influence on me.
It’s also true that listening to songs that I really like have an influence on the way I’m writing music. For example, I’m a big fan The Temples’ first two albums, I listened to them a lot and even if I don’t have the voice of James Bagshaw, I like the way that they structure their songs, clever song writing, so it inevitably has an influence on me.
I also listened a lot to All Them Witches’ album Dying Surfer Meets his Master and I think that their song El Centro inspired me to write When the Moon Is The Rise, a song that I really love.”
Which is your favourite of the three albums so far? Personally, I think I like all three equally.
“Well, like you, I think that I like the three of them. There are songs that I prefer on each of them, but like I said earlier, I’m so happy to do this music right now that it’s simply a blessing to be able to do it. I’m really happy to have sold lots of albums in the UK and on Bandcamp, I also have many American purchasers, so for an obscure French speaking Belgian guitar player, that’s not too bad.”
So your latest release is a live album.
“I LOVE playing live, it’s a total different approach from studio work even though it’s not always easy to reproduce the sound of the studio on stage, because there are only the three of us. So on some songs we use backing loops that Marcus triggers.
For songs such as Cambridge, Lazin’ In The Afternoon or Your Elephants Are Everywhere, it’s mandatory. On the other side, we have numbers like Drifting South or On The Moon in which we can really improvise and perform a very different version from the original one.
The Psych scene in Belgium is almost nonexistent, so we tend to play in small venues over here with some people considering us as aliens. But when we played at the Fruits de Mer festival in Cardigan for example, we immediately felt the connection with the audience and that was very rewarding to me.”
So how did the Fruits de Mer connection come about?
“I sent Keith Jones an email early 2010 because I really liked a cover of 2000 Light Years from Home by the Spanish band Stay that had been released on Fruits de Mer. When I started the band I wrote again to Keith and he asked me to include Your Elephants on a sampler CD for the 13th Dream of Dr. Sardonicus Festival goodie bag. Then two or three years later, Keith and Pete Kald asked me if we would be ok to play at the festival… we said YES of course
Even though it’s very far for us, almost a whole day drive to reach Cardigan by car with the equipment, it was worth it. Firstly for the warm audience and then because both years were recorded and I finally released a double live vinyl album, which was totally unexpected!”
Whats coming next ?
“Well, I’ve started writing new material for the next album, but it’s still at a very early stage. I want it to be as good as possible, because it’s possible that this will be my last one… On stage, we are often playing as if it was our last day on Earth. So I don’t know how much time this will last … we’ll see.”
You can listen to and buy Alain's albums here.
The Orange Peels - Square Cubed
Square is one of the great debut albums. There are other strong debut albums and you'd expect there to be. The first album is usually finely honed, the songs have been toured and rehearsed and readied for the studio recording. However, few remain a band's best album, experience and playing proficiency develop the songwriting and performance. Those early Beatles are still an enthralling listen, but are they Revolver?
Square may be The Orange Peels best album. That's not to denigrate what has come after in a marvellous career. The following albums have been great, indeed wonderful, but are they better than Square? Equal in some cases maybe, but Square is just outstanding. Bear in mind that 1996 - 1997 was a really competitive time for Pop Rock. There are so many fine albums as the genre was revived, probably in reaction to all the gloom and angst of Grunge.
Many great albums yes, but no one did it as well as this lot. I admire Allen Clapp so much. He doesn't play the "How you guys doing" card, preferring not to knock about in Facebook Groups or give his opinion on everything, no matter how irrelevant. He just concentrates on releasing great band albums and being involved with other talented artists on his wonderful Mystery Lawn Music adventures.
This extended version of Square tells the story of that album. It was intended to be his second solo album after his 1994 Allen Clapp And His Orchestra debut. As time went on, that project led to the band unexpected morphing into The Orange Peels. It wasn't planned, but thank goodness it happened. Three Record Labels and Two producers later, the album hit the streets in 1997.
Hence what you have here. The original release is remastered and sounds glorious. Also added are some alternate mixes, but it is the other additions that make this set so worthwhile. There is the original 1996 California Version to compare the final release to and Nine original demos, eight of which are 4 Track and reveal a different basic beauty of the songs. Added to this a cracking live KZSU performance of Number One.
The album has been available on Vinyl and CD, but are sold out. You can find a few online at retail price if you search them out quickly. Hopefully both or either format may get reissued. In the meantime, the album is available to download on Bandcamp. I've chosen my three favourite songs here, but you may prefer others, so do got to Bandcamp and listen. Those who haven't heard it are in for a treat, those who have will get a reminder of how superb it is.
You can listen to and buy the album here.
The Daylight Titans - Suspirate
Austin Texas Quartet The Daylight Titans unleash a great Pop Rock album that spits out at times. No chance of 10 samey samey songs here. The split vocals also help the variety on what is largely an American sounding College Indie Rock.
Andy Smith takes the lead vocal on the majority of the songs, seven in total and his plummy voice works beautifully with some great rhythm and lead guitar accompaniment. Most notably on the excellent Wonderboy when Smith's big Voice even sounds a little bit Johnny Cash.
In comparison, Drummer, David Mider's three lead vocals are more Michael Stipe like and his songs veer more towards a UK Mid 80's Indie or even earlier New Wave. Seven Acre Wood even drifts into Psych Pop in the chorus.
(What Ever Happened To) Jennifer picks up the pace considerably, more IRS than anything and that pace continues on Now You Wonder Why, a sing along that fairly races by. So long Aloha, Farewell is a jaunty closer teasing towards an Americana Rock vibe.
Out Of Round is a fantastic opener. A Mider vocal on a song that isn't really representative of the rest of the album. Very Indie, the song shouts out and has everything even some great additional vocal calls. A great start to a great album.
Suspirate rocks and certainly not subtle, more fist waving really. It is splendidly played and intelligently put together and you do sense that The Daylight Titans will be some live act. Until those going out days return, console yourself with this fine fine album.
You can listen to and buy the album here.
Sunday, 9 August 2020
The Vapour Trails - Golden Sunshine
Aberdeen's The Vapour Trails serve up their second album after an outstanding 2019 debut album. You can read the IDHAS Review of that album here and I notice that more recent reviews of the band have labelled them as Psych Rockers.
I honestly believe that there's a fair bit of lazy reviewing occurring, something I notice far more often sadly, because this lot are far more than that. True, the two openers, Golden Sunshine and Dr Barnes are in Psych territory, but most of the rest of the album is a Gold Plated Indie Guitar affair, more Jangle than anything else. Far be it from me to suggest that an album gets reviewed after listening to the first two songs, because we all know that most are cut and pastes of PR Reviews.
There are diversions into all kinds of areas here, but essentially all of it is Guitar Pop of the highest order. Think Glasgow Sound, C86 and definitely Jangle, wonderful Jangle that drifts the odd time into Byrds and Petty Territory.
There's a great Power Pop offering with Why Wonder Why and a slight New York Sidewalk Sleaze on Strange which erupts into a Brit Pop chorus. Lonely Man has a real Merseybeat, almost Hollies, feel whilst This May Be The Time is great mid 70's Pop Rock.
I'm not sure if The One That Got Away reminds me of Stephen Bishop or a Teenage Fanclub slowie until a mini Harrison like solo. Different Girl is a cracking jaunty jangling joy, aided by a fine accompanying vocal from Nicki Welch,
There is so much to like here. Golden Sunshine is Top Notch and Highly Recommended. Remember it's not Psych Rock it is Indie Guitar Pop. The album is also another triumph for Detroit's magnificent Futureman Records.
You can listen to and buy the album here.
Green Seagull - Cloud Cover
We are fortunate to be in a time of great variety in the UK in record labels that cover new Sixties orientated Psychedelic Pop and Rock. Essentially coming out of Kent and Bristol, I can't recall a time as prolific for a long long while.
John Blaney's Megadodo label gets lost sometimes in this scene and that's sad because the label has been a long time supporter of the genre and in Green Seagull, the London based quartet, they have who are one of the best bands in this current explosion.
Cloud Cover is the band's second album and the band master what they do. This is essentially Pop Rock reminiscent of the second half of the second half of the Sixties with liberal dollops of Psych that rarely over shadow the melodic.
Largely Green Seagull inhabit a Fifth Dimension world, songs hook you in an all so gentle way with captivating harmonies and some wonderful organ runs. They can break out, but prefer you to stay in this confined, almost hippy, space that just captivates you.
Their sound isn't rigid. Dead And Gone is splendidly twee and Paper Cut is almost a shuffle. Made To Be Loved gives an indication of what they do best and is probably the standout inclusion, but a song like In The Morning Time edges into Village Preservation Kinks.
Simeon |Brown is wonderfully Toytown and Belladonna shows off those Organ licks to the fulkl extent. Cloud Cover really is a tip top album. Tune In and Chill Out, you deserve to be delighted and certainly will be by this album.
You can listen to and buy the album here. You can find out more about Megadodo here.
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