Hyperbole: Beefs and love, again and again

EARLIER this year, for reasons too complicated to go into here, I had reason to be looking for kids from an estate in Preston who made their own music.

It turned out that the supposedly uncommunicative and hard-to-reach youth on this particular estate were absolutely into communicating with the outside world, but you’d only know about it if you looked on MySpace.

Although broadly ‘urban’ in origin, the music they’re coming up with ranges from grime and dubstep to 4×4 bassline and straightforward hip hop. In the comments for each profile, it’s all about barz, beefs, merking and endz and a lot of the time I don’t have a fucking clue what they’re on about, to be honest – though I have a pretty good idea – but one name seems to crop up time and again ..

Read the rest of this piece at the new home of Expletive Undeleted here.

Feature: Overpaid, oversexed and over here

THE first time Charles Gettis came to the UK was as a private in the 91st Airborne Division of the US Army. His first sight of the country came through the early morning November mists covering the vast open spaces of the Greenham Common airbase near Newbury, Berkshire as he stepped out of the belly of a huge USAAF cargo plane onto the tarmac below.

Now long discharged from the army, the 26-year-old Gettis has returned to the UK in an altogether different role, in the guise of his turntablist alter-ego, Deejay Punk-Roc. He’s one of a small group of American DJs who have set up home here to take advantage of the burgeoning club scene which grew up in the wake of the acid house explosion of 1988.

Gettis, working in a series of dead-end jobs after he left the military, found his options severely limited in his home town of Brooklyn. The story goes that Andrew Erskine, the head of Merseyside independent label Airdog, somehow heard Punk-Roc’s self-produced My Beatbox, visited him in Brooklyn and persuaded him that he could make a splash in the UK by promoting his music on the back of his not-inconsiderable DJing skills. He didn’t have to ask twice.

Based in Toxteth, Liverpool since January, Gettis’s gamble has paid off in a big way. He’s been pleasantly surprised by the speed and scale of his success. His debut album Chickeneye was released to almost unanimously positive reviews last month, while he returned to the States to support the Prodigy on a two-week tour.

On his return to the UK, he played a couple of gigs, including one at NY Sushi in Sheffield, before jetting off the a festival in Holland. Next week he releases Far Out, another single from the album. A trip to Japan is scheduled for the autumn. It’s non-stop.

“For some people, what’s happening to me now might be a dream come true, but not for me – cause I never even dreamed it in the first place,” says Gettis as he relaxes in his hotel room after the Sheffield date. “I’ve been making music for as long time, but it was never made to be pressed up and sold to the public. I thought that music was something that other people made and I bought.”

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Interview: Amp Fiddler

JOSEPH ‘Amp’ Fiddler has a theory that conversations are the dynamic for change in our lives and I’m with him all the way.

How true this is when you’re speaking over the phone, I’m not so sure. Surely you need to be close enough to be able to see the whites of their eyes to really have a chance to know what’s going on in someone’s head?

It’s a shame not to meet the guy in person. Fiddler cuts a striking figure. Tall  – well over six feet when you take into account his hair, which fluctuates between dreads and an impressive afro – distinguished, and a snappy dresser to boot, Amp resembles nothing so much as a latterday funky Malcolm X, stepping out to an afterhours jazz den in his wraparound shades, polo neck and leather raincoat.

But he’s in France, midway through a lengthy European tour, relaxing before tonight’s gig and I’m in the UK, midway through production day, not relaxing before the magazine goes to press. We’ll have to try our best.

Thinking about it, it’s unlikely I’d be able to see the whites of Fiddler’s eyes anyway  one, he’s on tour so they’re probably a little red around the edges (“we’ve been having a lot of fun,” he drawls) and two, he’s rarely seen without sunglasses, even indoors.

Fiddler, however, has been in this game a lot longer than I have and he fields my questions like the seasoned pro he is, his rich, melifluous  if, occasionally, a little croaky  voice booming over the line from Lyon.

The tour is going well. A native of Detroit, Michigan, he “most definitely enjoys the European way of life” and only wishes the weather was a little better, “but it’s okay. I been having a great time.”

Roughly half of the people in his audiences have already heard his astonishingly assured debut solo album, Waltz Of A Ghetto Fly he estimates (well, he actually recorded his debut for a major label at the start of the Nineties, but it wasn’t a happy or rewarding experience); the other half haven’t but, “our show is very dynamic, so if people don’t get it by the middle of the show, they definitely get it by the end. But,” he adds with a chuckle, “most of them get it in the beginning.”

Old enough to say “record” when he means “CD”, young enough to know who Dizzee Rascal is (he recently bought Rascal’s album for his son Dorian), Fiddler is also polite enough not to mention it when I get the titles of his songs wrong or interrupt him, mid sentence. He doesn’t let things bother him. He’s playing a long game. He turned 46 last week but isn’t unduly perturbed: “The older the fiddle, the better the tune.”

Read the rest of this piece at the new home of Expletive Undeleted here.

Hip Replacement: Metal Box by Public Image Ltd (Virgin)

metalbox

HAVING just bought the 4 Men With Beards reissue of Metal Box from Piccadilly for an eye-watering 36 quid, I’m struck by a fortuitous piece of weird symmetry when I get home from town after the usual interminable endurance test that is the number 86 bus.

I’ve got the volume on the telly turned down and got as far into the album as Careering – which, pressed on thick 180-gram vinyl, still sounds enormous and magnificent and out there – when John Lydon’s Country Life butter ad comes on (part of a deal for which he reputedly earned a cool five million). Sound and vision somehow match up perfectly.

“It’s all about great butter,” boasts the strapline at the end of the ad.

I wonder if Lydon can even remember when it was all about great music?

Read the rest of this piece at the new home of Expletive Undeleted here.

Hyperbole: Punk is dead but music is free

WHERE are the old punks on Twitter? There are more 30-something DJs tweeting their brains out than you could shake a shitty stick at, but the generation of stay-up-forever party animals before them don’t seem to have caught the bug in quite the same way.

They’re all over Facebook, MySpace and most other online social media platforms you’d care to mention, from the well-meaning and informative but occasionally holier-than-thou Southern Records forum to the irreverent and endlessly diverting website born out of the legendary Kill Your Pet Puppy fanzine. But very few have made it onto Twitter.

Of course, Boy George tweets. He was, and remains, as punk as fuck. Ditto Alternative Tentacles, clearly, and the Gang of Four too. Okay, and Justin Broadrick. And ACR. I also have my suspicions about the not-so-secret pasts of people like Graeme Park and Luke Solomon. But where is Viv Albertine? The Shend from the Cravats? Jimmy Pursey? Pauline Murray? Cal from Discharge? Mensi? Are you out there?

Apparently not. They’ve probably got better stuff to do. Which is a shame, because I think Cal from Discharge would be able to do wonderful things with 140 characters – although they’d probably all be capitals, exclamation marks and downward smiley-faces :(

@Cal_from_Discharge AIN’T NO FEEBLE BASTARD, AIN’T NO FUCKING SCAPEGOAT!!! Also, thinking about what to have for tea 1 day ago

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Feature: The Band on the Wall, reborn

THERE are plenty of venues in Manchester that are bigger than the Band on the Wall, and there may even be a few with a higher profile – but none of them can boast the same kind of musical pedigree.

A tavern, pub and venue which, in one form or another has been entertaining successive generations of Mancunians for the best part of 200 years, singing, dancing, drinking and carousing are part of the very fabric of the Band on the Wall.

Indeed, the interior of the newly-refurbished and expanded venue, situated on Swan Street in the city centre, was for much of its life darkly lacquered with nicotine stains, spilled drinks, more than a little shoe-leather and the sweat from the brows of a thousand dancers, lovingly reapplied over the course of decades.

For some, this only enhanced the gritty authenticity of the venue. For others, attracted by a uniquely visionary and diverse live music programme, it was a case of holding your nose and tiptoeing around the Band on the Wall’s flooded nether regions. Either way, the building’s deficiencies were beginning to get in the way of the entertainment it offered and it finally closed its doors in 2005, with a promise to return bigger and better at some undefined point in the future.

Four years later, the gleaming venue is preparing to open its doors once again ..

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Interview: Steve Albini

ANOTHER reprint from the annals of GRUNT magazine, this time an interview with legendary guitar-botherer, microphone enthusiast and In Utero, Surfer Rosa and Pod engineer Steve Albini.

After Big Black imploded at the height of their dark, angry power, Albini got together with a couple of the guys from the brilliant Scratch Acid and created a band with a name inspired by their favourite cartoon character.

Steve ‘Weave’ Hawkins put them on in Leeds and the Brag editorial board (Mark, Marie, Doug and me) bugged him into letting us interview the band at their contentious Poly gig.

We were all major Big Black fans and we were all appalled by the name of the new band, even though the music they made was pretty fantastic, with Albini’s big, mad old guitar sound placed front and centre. We had to walk through a picket to get into the venue. Great gig. A bit of a strange night though ..

Read the rest of this piece at the new home of Expletive Undeleted here.