Interviews

Bearded’s Guide To… Bristol. An Interview with Matt Loveridge

for Bearded Magazine

Bearded’s Guide To… Bristol. An Interview with Matt Loveridge
Self confessed “weirdo”, Matt Loveridge (Williams), aka MXLX/Fairhorns/Klad Hest/Gnar Hest/Knife Library, is a prolific maker of electronic and experimental music, who strikes a very likeable and healthy balance of exuberance versus cynicism versus self-deprecation. Loveridge has been associated with a number of celebrated Bristol acts outside of his solo work, and is dedicated to his art and respected by his peers, and that’s not weird at all. In truth, he talks a lot of sense.

Bearded: With so many active projects or alter egos, can you explain how the material for each one emerges? Are there distinct root points in the pool of ideas that flag things up as being appropriate for particular personas, or is it a case of working on each branch independently from the beginning?

Matt: After Team Brick “disbanded”, it was a slow and kinda confusing process. I ended up taking each element that I still enjoyed from that and putting it in its own, more focused place, where things had time to expand upon their own merit, rather than being a puzzled jigsaw. So, for every project I’m working on, it’ll be a mixture of the continuation of a certain aspect of the old days and a general aesthetic or reaction. I tend to cycle round projects one by one, and the last thing I did by one thing may feed into the next thing I’ll do. Each project has its own quite strict not-quite dogma to it, and it’s starting to make more sense the more I work on them. It’s interesting to see how everything’s changed in just a year or so since I started everything again, to watch them flesh out and take on their own character in ways I wasn’t expecting; every project has started with this one little seed of an idea/aesthetic/reaction and kind of tumbled forward all in very different directions. Read more . . .

Bearded’s Guide To… Bristol: An Interview with ANTA

for Bearded Magazine

For those who think prog-rock died in 1974, think again. Like every genre or style, it has been re-invented, re-interpreted, fused, abused and confused. Such is art, such is life, and it is no bad thing. In this post-post universe, it’s wise not to fear your post-parallel self; remember that ‘shelving’ and parentheses are organisational tools, and the collective biography of humankind will not be entitled ‘Eats, Shits, & Dies’. Do It Yourself, and be wary of idle journalists telling you what to think. ANTA; the four-piece of Joe Garcia (JG), James King (JK), Stephen Kerrison (SK), and Alex Bertram-Powell (ABP), do Bristol, and themselves, proud with their exquisitely well-measured art. This is not music either to love or to hate, but a beautiful and bruising encounter with highbrow musical journeying, and one that’s available to all – for music is atom-less and cannot be trapped in magazines, or hung on shelves or brackets; music lives in the air and in the mind; free and open, and occasionally transcendent.
Bearded: ANTA are known for a live sound that is visceral and yet brimming with intellect. What is the mission statement for your performances, and what do the all-black ‘uniforms’ signify?

ABP: I don’t think we’ve ever nailed down any concise sort of mission statement, but there’s been a consensus from the start that we should have this larger-than-life sound. Before ANTA was a thing, James, Joe and I all made music together in various configurations and we developed this mutual preference for “big”, both sonically and literally; we all ended up with comically oversized equipment that sounded great as well as horrendously loud. So artistically the mission became to write music that made good use of that presence rather than simply occupying it, like a lot of instrumental rock bands tend to do. Immense music to suit an immense sound. Recently we’ve reached this other consensus that the music we write should possess a sense of enjoyment – it should sound like we’re having loads of horrible fun with it, which we definitely are. Someone once said that we sounded like “drunken gods at a birthday party”, which may sum up our intentions better than I’ve just done.

As for the clothes, we wear black because we do. If and when we try to negotiate a more specific wardrobe we inevitably return to the conclusion that four guys in black is ridiculous enough. Read more . . .

Bearded’s Guide To… Bristol: An interview with Rasha Shaheen of The Liftmen

for Bearded Magazine

The Liftmen are comprised of full time members Neil Smith (vocals/guitar), Rasha Shaheen, and Jamie Whitby-Coles (drums/organ/vocals), though they are often boosted by contributions from guitarist Jesse D. Vernon and electronic wizard SJ Esau. They were formed in an Easton lift over a decade ago; they are now one of Bristol’s best-loved bands, both live and on record. They have been described as many things, and compared to many other bands; and while they do fit under the banners of ‘art-’ and ‘post-’, they have a charm, and balance of content, that’s very much their own. Three albums in to an ever-blossoming career – a recent session on BBC 6 Music’s Marc Riley show attests to this – their most recent effort Luftwaffe Pond (Twisted Nerve) sees The Liftmen at their dark/light, pond referencing, creative best. Bearded spoke the band’s bassist/vocalist.

Bearded: I hope everyone agrees that ponds are special places, but just how deeply does the band/pond connection go? Is it purely metaphorical, an ecosystem thing? Are you trying to highlight environmental issues, or do you just love ponds?

The Liftmen: The love of ponds comes from guitarist/songwriter Neil Smith, who is ultimately the brain behind The Liftmen. Neil has a huge passion for newts and so is interested in building ponds for anyone who is willing to keep newts in them. He recently organised a pond fundraiser at The Attic in Bristol to raise money to restore a pond in St. Werburghs. So I guess it’s a bit of both. The love of all things newts, which includes ponds, and this includes highlighting environmental issues, as they are a rare breed.

B: You play bass and sing in The Liftmen, but you have experience across the board in the music industry, and you teach both Songwriting and Music Business. How important do you think it is for artists today to have many strings to their bow, or can success come from a single strength?

TL: As an artist, I would love to just do music and focus on my songwriting and keep developing those skills, but it didn’t work out for me that way and I had to find methods to earn a living while still being able to make music. All the jobs I choose have had to be flexible in order for me to go on tour and play gigs, hence ending up at a college that allows me to go on tour and at the same time teach what I know. It makes it hard though having so many different heads as it takes a while to adjust from one skill to the next. I always think if I could just focus on one, I would be moving faster as I wouldn’t have to slow down the momentum each time my focus changes.

Now that the internet has opened so many doors for unsigned musicians, it’s useful to have different skills, as you don’t need to depend so much on other parties to allow you to keep being creative. You can just go ahead and make your video, design your poster, curate and promote your show and distribute your music, which is great, but if you can find others to help then I think that’s best. Like I said above this would mean you get to fine tune and develop your craft and produce better quality rather than spreading yourself too thin. Plus spending more time on one project means you get to push further. It does seem though that the more skills you have the more you can help yourself stand out.

The other point is that artists need to ask themselves how commercial they want to be. If you earn a living from a different skill then you can be as creative as you like but finding the time to be creative when having a job is not so easy. It’s a kind of ‘Catch 22’, and it can leave you tired. You end up not having a social life as you choose to be creative and you have to keep your job. If you decide to earn a living through your music, you end up adjusting your work to please other people more than yourself; this is also tough. It’s tough both ways, and it’s tough being a creative. There must be a reason why we do it otherwise we wouldn’t.

B: What do you see as your own main strengths, and do these correlate to where your heart lies?

TL: This is a tricky question to answer. As a constant student I am always feeling the need to improve so it’s tricky to say what strengths I have. My gut answer would say my strengths are what provides me with an income and my heart is doing what I love to do, but that is not necessarily true. If that were the case, my strengths would be organising, teaching, having people skills and being computer literate through music programming, designing and promoting. My heart lies in singing and songwriting. In a way I guess those two lists do correlate as being a creative as you need all the organising, behind the scenes skills to make finished pieces but I guess I would say songwriting is also a strength of mine as I can measure it by the same scale as I get to teach it. They also correlate in that my strengths provide me with an income, which then allows me to pursue my heart’s desires.

B: The Liftmen now have three albums, what are the differences between them?

TL:The first two albums were made as a 4-piece (drums, bass, 2 guitars) . More dreamy instrumentals with intertwined twin guitar features. They were both self-releases and later Twisted Nerve (our label) released an album that was a ‘best of’, in their terms.
Our third album, which became Twisted Nerve’s second album release of ours, was a 3-piece (drums , guitar, bass). Jesse, who was a founder member of the band had moved to Paris, we decided to continue, and the music we created became more proggy, more bass-prominent, more song based. We were progressing as songwriters, creating a new language through the new dynamic, and not necessarily moving in any particular direction but rather our own direction. We now find ourselves writing more psychedelic, lyric based kraut-rock (this is for material not yet released).

B: You’re not a native Bristolian, when did you come to Bristol, and how important has the city been in your development as a musician?

TL: I came to Bristol in 1992 on route to Glastonbury Festival and ended up at Ashton Court Festival where I met real musicians for the first time (I’d lead a very sheltered life before then in N. Wales and Saudi Arabia). It blew me away and I wanted more. I ended up working for Pop God (a record label) and got taught how to play music in the back of a tour bus, while selling merchandise. I left 1994 to go to Cairo but then returned in 1997 and have been here ever since. I went straight into music college and met my first band Mooz, and have been a part of the music scene ever since and it’s definitely what keeps me here. So the answer is Bristol has been extremely important in my development as a musician. The music scene has always been supportive of its musicians with band members playing in other members projects and it’s a healthy place to experiment and be creative.

B: Can you name two records – one from your childhood/teens, one more current – that have helped to shape your own music and/or your life?

TL: My own music has always lived in the alternative experimental scene. This started from actual playing and interacting with other musicians. I didn’t know this was going to be the style of music I was going to create, I met a few girls at my music tech course and we made strange music and I liked it. It didn’t connect with anything that I grew up listening to, except maybe now when I think about it, The Beatles. My dad was a huge fan and didn’t listen to anything else except maybe Frank Sinatra. Growing up in Saudi Arabia as a teen, chart music was the only available music to listen to. At the time I wasn’t aware that anything else existed outside of the charts. The first album that I ever bought was Blondie’s Parallel Lines, and I guess the only way that has influenced me is that it was a female singer who sang with slight punk ethics.

It was only when I moved back to the Bristol in ’97 that I got introduced to artists outside the charts. Musicians like PJ Harvey, Bjork, and Tortoise. My music has been associated to PJ Harvey as I play edgy electric guitar and am a girl, but if I were to choose a second album, it would have to be Bjork’s Homogenic. With this album she opened up doors in my mind I didn’t know existed. She affirmed an inner belief that anything is possible. At the time and still now I think it was daring, tasteful, feminine, and ‘in your face’. I would say that I aspire to those qualities.

B: Who are your favourite Bristol bands/artists? Can you give us some favourite releases or performances from any of these?

TL: Bristol Bands… Let’s see… Albums:

Gravenhurst – Flashlight Seasons (Warp)
This Is The Kit– Wriggle Out The Restless (Disco-Ordination)
Rozi Plain – Joined Sometimes Unjoined (Talitres)

Beautiful quirky simplistic songwriting. Looking at this collection I see that I like singer-songwriter style albums that are produced to a cool breeze.

Live:

Beak> – I have seen them a few times and they just keep getting better. Best performance for me would be at Paleo Festival in Switzerland. Just because it was the last one I saw. It’s essentially the sounds they choose and the kraut rock arrangements and the meat-and-two-veg presentation of it on stage.
Thought Forms – moody and heavy – best performance: NJ ATP Festival, in a bowling alley.
Big Joan – Best band to see live! Saw them at The Simple Things festival 2012 and had a sore neck from all the compulsive head banging that was forced upon me by their music. They have been going for more than ten years now and they are maturing like the finest wine possible, they were great ten years ago and they are at their best now.
Jess Marlowe – (Although she has officially moved to London now.) Her voice and songwriting is right up my street. She last played Bristol at the Folkhouse, 2008. A great set of songs.
Zun Zun Egui – Green Man Festival, 2009.

Rasha’s Plug 58 night, is a must attend event, at Cafe Kino, Stokes Croft, on July 21st, and features Annette Berlin (of Big Joan), Jess Marlowe and Egyptian electronica act Garraya. It promises much, including a DJ set from the host. More details here

Find out more about The Liftmen here

Bearded’s Guide To… Bristol

Dave Artscare. Interviewed for Bearded Magazine

Unassuming in appearance, sporting a regulation cap, T-shirt, combats and trainers, ‘Artscare’ Dave is a true supporter and stalwart of the local music scene in Bristol. Both bearded and spectacled he’s a bit of an enigma, yet beneath the surface he bubbles with welsh lilted enthusiasm, and the force behind Artscare Records sure likes to talk. He admits he’s winging it somewhat when it comes to juggling life as a broadcaster (on the Artscare podcasts, and on BBC Bristol), teacher (of guitar, in schools and prisons), promoter, composer and sound editor (for film and TV), and performer (with his band The Backhand Jags). Yet after years of trying to find his niche, the balancing act is proving easier than it may sound, when armed with a positive attitude and a whole lot of love.

Artscare is not a record label as such, it’s more of a working partner for its signed-up, unsigned bands/artists; working towards their own aims, be they limited edition CD runs, showcase gigs, radio airplay or more standard promotion. The emphasis is on the bands themselves to narrow their expectations and focus on each goal in turn, the Artscare banner offering them some status and protection, but the protection that a family might offer, not the protection of money from the office block mafia. These bands include Rock In Your Pocket, whose Gutterdub album, which is “awesome . . . if you like your heavy riff, rock stuff. It’s well produced, well thought-out and arranged.” There’s Bravo Brave Bats, “check out their EPs”, Langur and We Are Strangers Minds.

Artscare is diverse in its spectrum, gigs include blistering line-ups of local guitar based bands, and acoustic showcases, such as “the biggest one yet”, Patrick Duff at the Arnos Vale cemetery. Pop, electronica, or anything/anyone local, or on tour, that demands attention, can get a look in though too. I get the sense that when it all comes together at these shows, the pride felt is not just for himself, but for the fans that make the effort to come out and show their support.

Success is a hard thing to measure in a ruthless industry that can shovel your own perceived success back down your throat faster than you can swallow. Artscare is successful on the local stage in that it is recognised by its peers, it has its stamp on a number of excellent releases, and it has conjured up opportunity from obscurity. Simon Cowell may have achieved the latter, but his success is empty in comparison. As the rich and reclusive Joni Mitchell sings, “Money makes the trees come down . . . Big money kicks the wide, wide world around.”. . . Yet despite a solid local following Artscare has ambition nonetheless.

“I kind of want to act as a conduit for the Bristol scene . . .to get some national press onside, get bands playing festivals . . .”

Even though Dave is the keenest man in Bristol, for the ‘scene’, and for the success of operation Artscare, it is clear from the start that it is a fruitless exercise trying to keep our interviewee on topic; and so our conversation meanders along through musicology, autobiography (right back to his introverted childhood), and role-reversal. It’s refreshing to break down the traditional structure of the interview, and in doing so I find that I understand just as much about the nature of Artscare through back-story and context, as through our discussions of the “splintered” scenes that make up its arena.

As we wile away the hours I am regaled with stories about a dual life, one of solitary contemplation – and at times depression, alongside one where work in the film industry has led to rubbing shoulders with the stars. Endlessly fascinating are tales of working at Andrew WK’s club in New York, bumping Woody Allen out of a studio slot, and of hailing Sir Christopher Lee a taxicab. It has been a journey of self-discovery as much as anything, and one that will strike a chord with any struggling artist. It seems to have taught Mr Artscare the ability to see the humour in, and the good side of, the music industry, and to revel in the unity of the local scene he is so much a part of. A fine example of this diplomacy is in his views on the teaching of music.

“There’s no set rules. If you’ve got it in you . . . true great music . . . I don’t know if you can really teach it. I think it (music education) is probably a good thing, but when it’s like ‘do it this way’, that’s when I start to veer away.”

As for The Backhand Jags, after the release of a 7” split single (with The Dynamite Pussy Club) the fun-time punk rockers (which Dave fronts as Cletus Thrift) now have more recordings in the bank and are set to release an EP, perhaps even an album, later in the year. For rollicking feel-good guitar based noise, the DPC aside you’d do well to find a South West band that’ll make you smile more.

Other Artscare recommendations for the month are Langur’s gig at The Croft, and their album Deadfacing. There’s also the first album from The Dynamite Pussy Club, The Church of Yeah, which is available to download now, and Dead Wolf Situation, the debut LP from The Hysterical Injury.

Watch The Backhand Jags’ video for ‘Do the Shake’ here.

“DUNGEON SEX” with HYSTERICAL INJURY

Interviewed for Bearded Magazine

Dead Wolf Situation (Crystal Fuzz), the debut LP from Bath/Bristol, sister/brother duo The Hysterical Injury has been a long time coming.

“Imagine driving Penzance to Penzance,” Tom Gardiner says of the process of this realisation.

Tom, who only joined the band in June of last year, is brimming with insightful and often hilarious one-liners that feel essential to the identity of the band. He walks the line between obsession and madness – tapping out a drum beat he’s been practicing, dubbed the “paraquin” – and trying to teach it to his sister – voice of the band – singer/bassist Annie Gardiner, who is headstrong, equally enthusiastic and always ready to expand on a theme . . .

“It’s a bit like . . . where extreme Conservatives meet extreme lefties – the circle becomes one.”

The analogy seems to be an unconscious attempt to express the struggle of fighting for four years to make an album, and at the same time a reference to her lyrical style, where the personal and political often collide. In spite of the long journey – that has featured the release of two EPs, along with two lineup changes – Annie has realized her ambition and is happy; reservedly happy perhaps – as the work is never done – and fortunately “very pleased with its content;” meaning the Unknown Pleasures-like psychosis, the energy of Lightning Bolt (noise rock pioneers, whom the band have supported), and the songs themselves of course. Songs such as ‘Maths’ – available as a free download – which has an accompanying video of multiple Annies, posing as Mary Weiss of The Shangri-Las, singing and dancing over the euphoric, snarling soundtrack. Tom takes the role of TV host Lloyd Thaxton, but is ponytailed like Steven Seagall, because “Steven Seagall is better.”

Influences are a cause for celebration for Annie, but are but “one part of a colour palette.” ‘Rosetta’s Waves’ is inspired by the often ignored gospel/rhythm and blues/jazz/pop artist, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, but ends up being about “how things in music aren’t as they seem.” ‘Cycle One’ is another of the band’s favourites, it’s a classic example of their pop sensibilities, one which Annie describes as both “insulting” and “assaulting.” The album, as a whole, achieves what each individual song does, which is to be both immediate whilst reassuringly unconventional, and yet remain a journey.

Annie finally got the break she was looking for in the form of several grants from The Joe Strummer Foundation, which enabled full studio production of the album – on her terms – achieving what is essentially a live sound, with no overdubs. Being a “bit of a purist”, this pleases Annie to no end. It has led to more work in London and a boost in profile, though what the band have always lacked in terms of a big fanbase they have always made up for in radio play, high profile and hardcore fandom, and hard graft. The siblings both live full musical lives; involving side-projects, session work, teaching and teaching. Admittedly, Annie finds it “hard to switch off” from the music, but she clearly loves what she does; especially, it would seem, playing live with her brother, who is a self described “Aslan” of the drum-kit. “I never shoot early.”

So next up is a small tour of the UK and Ireland, and Annie is typically excited about the acts they will be sharing the bill with, which include London DIY heroine She Makes War, Thought Forms, Lilies On Mars, The Broken Seas, Klad Hest (one of Bristol maverick Matt Loveridge’s many guises) and Hesomagari. Of the many things this eclectic list shows, one is that HI have the potential for very broad appeal indeed. The positive reviews that DWS has received already indicate that it will certainly assist them up several rungs of the ladder, and the songs themselves – especially if witnessed performed live – will worm their way into a wider collective consciousness, leaving the band with new goals to set, and achieve. “It was a long operation, joining at the hip,” says Tom. I can reveal that the operation was a success.

Swimming.

Interviewed for Bearded Magazine

All five members of Swimming are present as I chat to them backstage at their show at the Louisiana, Bristol. They are yet to play and are just hanging out between the two support slots; friendly and forthcoming, they are disappointed at the small turnout.

After our initial exchanges it quickly becomes apparent that the quintet have an obvious spokesperson in singer/guitarist John Sampson; brother Peter is suffering from iPhone addiction but he pipes up whenever his brother stumbles, and throws in a few dry witticisms too, Blake Pearson, Andy Wright and Joff Spittlehouse all chip in when needed, but it is John who is the most lucid. Read more…

Love Inks. 07/09/11

Interviewed for Bearded Magazine

Love Inks are the trio from Texas’ music capital Austin whose brand of minimalist guitar pop has brought the band success at home and in Europe too.
Sherry LeBlanc, their charismatic and insightful singer, took the time to chat to us about the nature of the band, the importance of personal hygiene and the need for a little mystery.

Your debut album E.S.P. has drawn comparisons with The xx, Beach House, Warpaint and Fleetwood Mac. What do you hear in the record other than yourselves?

I think it’s hard as a musician to listen to your music and hear anything other than yourself. It’s comparable to asking someone what celebrity they see when they look in the mirror. We were so involved with these songs from bare bones to recording that it may even be hard for us to have a basic understanding of what they sound like when heard for the first time. However, I’m absolutely wild about all of those bands and very flattered by the comparisons.

You’ve been together a relatively short time as a band. Did your sound come together naturally from the beginning?

We spent hours discussing what sound we were going for before we had our first rehearsal. I believe those discussions helped create a natural understanding and ease when we played for the first time. There’s always going to be some fine-tuning and negotiation but, in general, we had the basic idea down from the get-go. Read more…

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