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Enter Shikari – Interview 2017

Enter Shikari – Interview 2017

There's a band who have achieved a degree of success only afforded to the very few. A band that did it their way, via sheer hard work, and with a strong and meaningful undercurrent of real character behind them. A band who have never been signed to a traditional record label, and yet have shifted millions over their five album career. A band that have always worn their political hearts on their collective sleeves, way before the current climate saw it become fashionable to do so again.

Blondie – Interview 2017

Blondie – Interview 2017

Back in the late 70s, when I was but a wee lad, I would nip out to the record shop, with my hard earned pocket money, and purchase a 45. A seven inch piece of vinyl that was ubiquitous in those halcyon days, and the main indicator of a band’s popularity. It may be hard to believe, but the only way you could hear new music was via BBC Radio One, or Top of the Pops, the weekly, early evening TV chart show that drew in millions of viewers each and every time. It’s where I discovered the New York five-piece, Blondie, led by this impossibly glamorous yet fun-looking woman, who fronted a band of very cool Beatlesque fashionistas, and made this deliriously intoxicating sound that perfectly placed pop within the new wave movement of the time. Although their UK breakthrough hit, ’Denis’ wasn’t the one that did it for me. Its irritating French (who could understand that!?) and twee puppy love lyrics (“Oh Denis doo-be-do / I’m in love with you, Denis doo-be-do”) simply didn’t cut it with a sprouting young teenager who was looking for a heavier, slightly darker edge in their music. That would come with the following single, and the first release from their masterpiece album, Parallel Lines. ‘Picture This’ may also be on the more tender side of new wave, but Harry’s lyrics and her way of delivery took a hold, as she detailed her love for Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, her partner then, and still her partner now. “I will give you my finest hour / The one I spent watching you shower / I will give you my finest hour, oh yeah”. Indeed. A number 12 hit in the UK, it was followed by ‘Hanging on the Telephone’, a quintessential hit from the era, a harder edged, yet incredibly infectious splice of pop-punk that enthralled UK audiences in particular, a place that was the first to really appreciate the unquestionable quality of Blondie.

The Horrors - Interview - 2017

The Horrors – Interview 2017

“They look awful and sound terrible” is how one wag mischievously put it when The Horrors first reared their mops of black hair for the general public to properly gaze upon. Indeed, is there a more unlikely band to still be a band, since coming out of the mid-noughties indie revivalist period? With their cartoon-goth image and their super-short noise garage songs, many commentators simply dismissed them as fly-by-night operators, given an almighty leg up by both the music and fashion press, before they had paid their dues, as it were. Here today, gone tomorrow. Good for a laugh and a mess about with but, when the serious stuff was happening, you’d quickly reach out for an Arctic Monkeys, or a Bloc Party.

Wolf Alice – Interview 2017

Wolf Alice – Interview 2017

Back in 2010, Wolf Alice were hitting the open mic circuit in search of... something. That elusive pot of gold (metaphorical and otherwise) that all young musicians are striving for, even if the first goal is to find someone - anyone - who likes what you do. Which is very hard to achieve in most open mic situations. It's at that point that confidence can suddenly drain out, and the willpower dissipates.

Jake Bugg – Interview 2017

Jake Bugg – Interview 2017

It feels like he has been around forever but Jake Bugg is still only 23. He's just released his fourth album. He and the world have moved on considerably since he first made his mark with an appearance on the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury Festival in 2011, this after personally submitting a demo to their website. Totally unknown at the time, hardly anyone was actually there to see that performance but Bugg caught the eyes and ears of the Mercury label, who snapped him up and away he went. Today, Bugg is a global phenomenon, hanging out with some of the best Nashville has to offer and, with Leonardo DiCaprio's ex on his arm, the incredulously named Roxy Horner. It's a long way from his Nottingham council estate upbringing.

Mercury Prize 2017

Mercury Prize 2017

Awards. Do we really need or want them? Aren't they just a publicity stunt designed by big labels in order to further their own nests and provide a jolly back slapping night out for the industry? Well, yes and no. The Mercury awards are a little bit different, you see. There is a considerable amount of credibility attached to them. It is, crucially, all about critical responses, rather than sales.

Conceived in 1992, the Mercury Prize is awarded to the best album from Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The shortlist is chosen by an independent panel of musicians, music presenters, music producers, music journalists, festival organisers and other figures in the industry and covers all genres known to man (although metal and all its sub-genres has strangely been missing from all shortlists.). Just to be nominated will almost invariably give a boost to someone's career, although one must capitalise on such things to make that work. Speech Debelle, Gomez and Talvin Singh, anyone? There have been many worthy winners over the years, including such heavyweights as Primal Scream, Suede, Pulp, Portishead, Arctic Monkeys and PJ Harvey. While last year's winner, Skepta, demonstrated the deep vision of the award which has fully embraced urban music over the years.

As always, the winner is impossible to predict. So, here are the runners and riders for this year's prize. If you fancy a flutter, the odds range from about 3-1 for Kate Tempest, to 25-1 for Blossoms.

Youth – Interview – 2017

Youth – Interview 2017

I hadn't heard Youth (real name Martin Glover) speak until I saw him on the amazing Killing Joke documentary, where he imparted gentle homespun wisdom, and anecdotes aplenty in that archetypal 70s/80s cosmic-punk drawl. He sounded stoned. I loved it. Especially when married to his career as a musician and producer. For he is no slacker, but a veritable workaholic it seems. Ever since he answered an ad to be the bassist in Killing Joke back in the late 70s, he's been beavering away at building blocks of music and production with a high level of artistic commitment and commensurate success. As a bassist with Killing Joke (with whom he now plays with again). As a performer/producer with the hit-making Brilliant (with Jimmy Cauty, who later formed The KLF with Bill Drummond). And again with the dance act Blue Pearl. He also set up, with Alex Patterson, Wau! Mr Modo Recordings, and with The Orb co-wrote the ambient house classic 'Little Fluffy Clouds'.

Declan McKenna - Interview – 2017

Declan McKenna – Interview 2017

There's plenty of mileage to be had in analysing the youth of today. More than ever, it seems. Not just for the purposes of marketing and consumer preferences. Sure, reality TV and mainstream pop is (as it has always been) largely dominated by the youth. But, more than ever, they are literally going their own way. They are leaving the rest of us in our tracks. Metaphorically speaking. Look at what happened in the recent European Referendum, and the General Election. The youth (under 25) overwhelmingly voted to stay in Europe, and to enact policies that emphasised socialism; a collectivist vision as opposed to one proposing pure individualism. Hope over fear. The gap between the young and old is startling. In simple terms, it's a deep divide between generations, and values. And there is very little sign that the older have any real understanding of what is really happening with the younger folk. Their world is literally being taken from under their feet.



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