Archive for the 'interview' Category

21
Apr
10

Decadence, Doomed Youth, and Digital Rights: An Interview with Simon Indelicate

As promised, here is my email interview with Simon Indelicate. As expected, he gives thought-provoking, articulate answers – enough to stimulate many further intellectual debates. He did The Indelicates’ b(r)and proud.

Remember to go over to The Indelicates’ Corporate Records, pay for the privilege of listening to their music, and then if you’re so inclined, participate in their Versions Project, which you can find out more about at their website.

CTRR: This latest album is full of references to decadence, especially that of the 20s and 30s, musically and lyrically. What draws you to the ostentatious display of privilege for songwriting material?

SI: I think it’s fear. The defining feature of the 20s and 30s was really the way that they ended – with thuggish racists taking over whole countries and leading the world to the edge of destruction. Being a floaty intellectual in Weimar Berlin didn’t help at all, being young and drink-sodden didn’t help, reading academic theory didn’t help, romanticism did help but it helped the wrong side – in short, people like me doing things like I do, were utterly ineffectual in halting the advance of the worst thing that ever happened in the world. I find that scary and interesting.

Now I don’t want to say that any of this is fair or accurate – but when you’re at an upper middle class, libdem-voting party in Brighton and someone starts talking about ‘Jewish Power’ being a tangible force in global politics that needs to be challenged or when you see pop singers romanticising their nationality in near wagnerian terms or you see a parade of artificially kooky women neglecting the real world in favour of a silly pseudo-feminine dreamscape made of tits – you think about Unity Mitford and Sally Bowles and those liberal Germans who found Hitler such a fascinating dinner party guest and those German kids who found him boring and irrelevant and you start to wonder…

CTRR: Are there similarities between today’s “doomed youth” and “the young and the damned” of the early 20th century? Are they different? Discuss.

SI: I seem to have got ahead of you there. hmmm. Obviously, calling a song about methadone pretty tosspots in Hoxton ‘anthem for doomed youth’ is heavily irony laden and sarcastic – but this whole album is a more personal thing (when we use ‘I’ on this one, we generally do mean ourselves) and that song is a self-indictment as much as anything else: It’s all very well feeling hard done by because you can’t legitimately rebel against a broadly functioning society without a plausible radical alternative – but, hey, you could be having your cock shot off in Ypres, so cheer up…

I never do though – the lack of legitimacy makes it worse. winking smiley face.

There is a point to be made about the difference between today’s counterculture and it’s antecedents – it’s very easy to drop out now (and as easy to drop back in again with barely a blip on the CV) but you can’t really be Lenny Bruce without being prosecuted for obscenity, you can’t be Allen Ginsberg if bumming is legal, you can’t be Rosa Luxembourg and live. So I don’t trust the revolutionary heroes of the oxbridge dominated presses – there’s never been any risk in it. I suspect that the best minds of our generation are largely unheard behind the cacophony of careerism and networking.

CTRR: Your lyrics and music are socially engaged and espouse critical thinking, but at the same time there’s a strong vein of the romantic and anthemic. Are they both equally necessary for you?

SI: I would hope that we’ve never done romantic without undermining it in some way – it shouldn’t be forgotten that swooning entails a loss of consciousness. But yes, we have to admit to indulging in it a bit – you can’t really help it with music, it just sort of happens.

CTRR: You’ve written songs about specific people like Unity Mitford, Jeff Buckley, Pete Doherty, and now Patty Hearst. What attracts you to a particular public figure when writing a song? Are they generally exemplary of specific issues or did you choose these people for more of their idiosyncratic qualities?

SI: More often than not, songs will develop from a specific thought rather than from a broad set of intents; so, with Jeff Buckley, I was watching some 100 best songwriters of the 90s ever programme and listening to some pundit explain exactly what would have happened if he hadn’t died and it all seemed to have veered into the realm of hokum and soothsaying, because he was good at singing, Jeff Buckley, but ‘what if’ scenarios are reason’s wanks and no one’s more than just a person… hence song. You start narrow and aim broad.

the Patty Hearst one is a little different because it’s really not about her to any great extent. For one thing, it’s factually inaccurate, the SLA never ran guns to savages – that was this bloke in Brighton who I vaguely knew and who used to take guns to Papua New Guinea and then come back to the anarchist club to soak up praise for, essentially, being an arms dealer. It’s a song about a number of specific people like that – of whom Hearst is, as you say, an exemplar.

It is fascinating, the Patty Hearst thing though, especially when you consider that the terrorists we get nowadays are generally from prosperous backgrounds. There’s something about that bored, monied drawl coming out of a tape recorder to attack the ‘fascist insect’ and justify bank robberies. It’s so cool, so appealing and yet there was that innocent woman who got killed…

CTRR: This latest album features a wider palette of musical genres. Did the lyrics influence which genres you used?

SI: sort of. I mean, things like Roses and Be Afraid of Your Parents are about as close as we come to outright pastiche. but a lot of how the album sounds is down to having a long time to record it and being able to ponce about in a studio trying things out and recording ourselves goosestepping down corridors to use as percussion. Most of the arrangement was done on the fly and I think that, as much as anything, is why the genre shifts so much. The first record was done in a big hurry with a bunch of songs that we’d been playing live for two years. This time we had no idea what album we were going to make until we made it.

CTRR: You’ve decided to release a music video for each track on Songs for Swinging Lovers. Would you consider this a branding strategy to augment your already impressive “multidisciplinary” approach to selling music?

SI: The thing about music is that there’s loads of it. It is an abundant resource. The things that music does – provide an atmospheric backdrop, support dancing with rhythm and produce emotions unrelated to the immediate circumstances – are also abundantly available. There are billions of people in the world and millions of them can make music – the idea that any of them are special is pretty hard to support. And yet music continues to have a a market value. This clearly cannot be derived from its intrinsic quality as taste is variable and there are clearly others who can supply the same basic service as the highest valued music. The fact has to be then, that music acquires value from something tangential to itself: in other words, you’re not buying the music, you’re buying the fame. The fame is the whole of the work. Everything every band does is branding- I think you can do good things in that medium. So videos, books, economics lessons in interviews – we’re all about that now – if the brand is the art, then we want to make the best brand we can and we are proud to offer our range of Indelicates Lifestyle Enhancement Products.

I’m partly joking, of course, but I was reading an article the other day suggesting that the corresponding obligation to the right of digital freedom is to produce as much data as you can yourself. People should have free access to data but should feel a duty to contribute original data themselves – I like that idea. Lots of videos feels right.

CTRR: You have been very articulate about your opinions on the shift in the music industry, as well as on opposing the Digital Economy Bill (something I, too, am very much in opposition to, and I watch the proceedings of ACTA with equal frustration). Is this paradoxical conflict between information as capital and information’s immateriality down to a basic issue of incorrect metaphors and language? A way for money-hungry industry/government types to warp reality back into a past state that can’t be applied to current remediations?

SI: Yes, I think you’re right to an extent, there’s a real problem of maps being mistaken for territory in all this – information isn’t capital, it’s an abundant commodity that can be capitalised in the right context: when things get stuck in established categories they can very quickly become obscure. But also, I think, there is a real change in the economic realities that underpin the transfer of digitally encoded information – everything about it that was limited by profit-generating scarcity has become abundant and the only truly scarce resources left for the recording industry to exploit are nostalgia and sentimentality – hence all the handwringing about ‘record store day’ and all other processes that commodify and fetishise what really just amounts to shopping.

The whole business of copy and digital rights will have to be rethought by people who understand it.

CTRR: When I was taking my MA, I had an epiphany (rather belated, perhaps) about the necessity of rhetoric to to help us function in the face of too much information and not enough expertise. In the current climate of “universal” information access and an explosion of DIY art to be made immediately available to a global audience, how important are rhetoric and effective filters?

SI: I don’t have much time for expertise – it tends to be a distorting factor in the weighing up of information, there are no worse arguments than those which take the form ‘this expert says this, so there’ – especially now, in music, where the ability to hear the thing being described is so immediate. In many ways, those who know most about music are the least qualified to predict what a particular individual will enjoy listening to; a film reviewer who attends 5 press screenings a week and doesn’t read children’s books, for example, is entirely unqualified to tell a harry potter fan whether they’ll like the deathly hallows film. In that sense at least, I think people are quite capable of filtering the information themselves, finding particular bloggers who tend to agree with them, listening to albums that artists they like recommend… Expertise comes collaboratively from interaction not from any authority.

Rhetoric though, yes, I think I see what you mean – the assembling of thoughts into memorable phrases can clarify things as people go about the business of filtering their own data. I don’t think it creates opinion, but it probably helps to give it a form that makes it easier to share.

CTRR: Has the Internet merely exposed how much the average person values art?

SI: I think it has exposed the disparity between value and price. I wouldn’t want to live without Paradise Lost – as such, I value it highly, but I’ve never paid more than about £2.50 for a copy of it – that doesn’t necessarily mean I value it any less, just that value is expressed in broader terms than money.

CTRR: Would you ever plan a larger North American tour (including Canada, of course)?

SI: We’ve been planning one forever (we called the first album American Demo, after all) but cost is a massive issue and the benefits of being free from a record company do have to be set against the lack of tour support. If you or anyone reading knows a booking agent in the states who wants to book a viable tour for us – please feel free to send them stuff and ask them for us – it’s only the money that’s keeping us away :)

Anthem For Doomed Youth – The Indelicates

31
Jul
09

Preferring Impressions To Ideas, Exceptions to Types: A Short Interview With Black Umbrella

Derek James

The following is a small interview with Derek James, frontman and songwriter for Black Umbrella, a band I’ve mentioned and championed before here on the blog. Note some of the rather clever answers, especially the one to 10 (e).

1. Where did the name Black Umbrella come from?

The name Black Umbrella came to me in a dream. I saw it on a marquee surrounded by lights. I had entertained the idea of calling the band Kindred Act. But in the end I thought Black Umbrella was a stronger name, aesthetically.

2. How would you describe your sound?

It’s strange because the sound of the band is always changing depending on who I’m working with, but I always kind of fall back on New Order meets Smashing Pumpkins or New Wave/Glam/Pop.

3. Who/what inspires your art?

It’s difficult to say. To me, music is the ultimate art-form. Cinema should be, but isn’t. Art in my opinion is literally capturing time. Music not only can be expressed aurally it can be expressed visually, lyrically & there is so much magic taking place anytime you press record. The things you plan go awry & the mistakes you make end up making the song special. Happy mistakes. I guess what inspires me for the most part is striving for pop perfection. Creating a song like “I Would Die For You” by Prince or an album like “The Holy Bible” by Manic Street Preachers. Becoming a part of that pop spectacle where you’re mentioned in the same breath as the people you admire.

4. Who are your musical heroes?

Besides the aforementioned bands there’s a huge David Bowie influence. As a teenager I thought that Bowie defined what a Pop Star should be & Manic Street Preachers defined what a Rock Band should be.

5. If you weren’t a musician, what would you have chosen for your career?

A “career” is death. If I couldn’t be an “artist” (musician is an ugly term to me, as I have no desire to be that great of a musician) which is basically impossible, I would choose to simply exist. So I suppose if I wasn’t interested in music, I would find a way to lead the most pointless existence imaginable & affect as little people as possible. Which in its own way, would be art.

6. How do you intend to stand out from all of the thousands of other bands trying to find success in this fragmented MySpace-Facebook world?

That’s a good question, I don’t know. I think the only way to do that these days is to be a real band that tours, makes albums, releases singles & shoots videos. There’s no real rush to get recognition right off the bat. I’d rather be a band that has a rich back catalogue before people start to notice. Current acts such as Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti & The Brian Jonestown Massacre have that. So in a way it really doesn’t matter because these bands exist whether you like it or not.

7. What was the first album you ever bought?

Dr. Dre-The Chronic (True)

8. In the future, will Black Umbrella warrant a biographical tome or a footnote?

Passionate hyperbole is embarrassing; I only want sunshine & kitty cats.

9. How robust is your ego?

“If you stand up like a nail then you will be knocked down”

10. What’s better:

a. Authenticity or artifice?

Authenticity is a disguise.

b. Lyrics or music?

Morrissey & Marr

c. Analog or digital?

In a perfect world; analog. In an imperfect world; digital.

d. C81 or C86?

McCarthy!!!

e. Whippet or alsatian?

William, It Was Really Nothing

f. Sport or stationary?

Station To Station

Black Umbrella will be touring this coming November and releasing a good old-fashioned 7″ single Down & Out in Paris at the same time.

Fool You Can’t Escape – Black Umbrella

Human Nature in Hollywood – Black Umbrella




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Gigs Attended

Arcade Fire w/ Bell Orchestre + Wolf Parade (2005)

Arctic Monkeys w/ Reverend and the Makers (2007)

Austra w/ Young Galaxy + Tasseomancy (2011)

Big Audio Dynamite (2011)

Billy Bragg w/ Ron Hawkins (2009)

Billy Idol w/ Bif Naked (2005)

Bloc Party w/ Hot Hot Heat (2009)

Buzzcocks w/ The Dollyrots (2010)

Damo Suzuki (2012)

David Bowie w/ The Polyphonic Spree (2004)

Diamond Rings w/ PS I Love You + The Cannon Bros. (2011)

Diamond Rings w/ Gold & Youth (2012)

Dragonette w/ Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees (2009)

Frank Turner w/ The Cavaliers (2010)

Frank Turner w/ Into It Over It + Andrew Jackson Jihad (2011)

Franz Ferdinand w/ Think About Life (2009)

Gang of Four w/ Hollerado (2011)

Good Shoes w/ The Moths + The Envelopes (2007)

Hot Hot Heat w/ The Futureheads + Louis XIV (2005)

IAMX w/ closethuman (2007)

IAMX w/ Coma Soft + The Hourly Radio (2007)

Interpol (2007)

Janelle Monae w/ Roman GianArthur (2012)

Joel Plaskett Emergency w/ Frank Turner (2012)

Jonathan Richman (2011)

Keane w/ Lights (2009)

Lou Reed w/ Buke and Gass (2011)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Fear of Music (2007)

Manic Street Preachers w/ Bear Hands (2009)

Manic Street Preachers at Wanaja Festival (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Old Folks Home (2009)

Mother Mother w/ Whale Tooth (2011)

Mother Mother w/ Hannah Georgas (2012)

MSTRKRFT w/ Felix Cartal (2008)

Muse (2004)

Nine Inch Nails w/ Death From Above 1979 + Queens of the Stone Age (2005)

of Montreal w/ Janelle Monae (2010)

Owen Pallett w/ Little Scream (2010)

Patrick Wolf w/ Bishi (2007)

Prince (2011)

Pulp w/ Grace Jones, TV on the Radio, The Hives, The Horrors, Metronomy, Devotcka, Vintage Trouble (2011)

Rufus Wainwright w/ Teddy Thompson (2010)

Snow Patrol w/ Embrace (2005)

Snow Patrol w/ OK Go + Silversun Pickups (2007)

Sons and Daughters w/ Bodies of Water (2008)

Stars w/ Thurston Revival (2006)

Stars w/ The Details (2008)

Stars (2010)

Steven Severin (2010)

Stroszek (2007)

The Antlers w/ Haunter (2012)

The Flaming Lips w/ Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2010)

The Jesus and Mary Chain w/ Nightbox (2012)

The Killers w/ Ambulance Ltd (2004)

The New Pornographers w/ Novillero (2008)

The New Pornographers w/ The Mountain Goats (2010)

The Ordinary Boys w/ Young Soul Rebels (2006)

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart w/ Suun (2011)

The Rakes w/ The Young Knives (2006)

The Raveonettes w/ Black Acid (2008)

The Stills w/ Gentleman Reg (2009)

The Subways w/ The Mad Young Darlings (2006)

Tokyo Police Club w/ Smoosh + Attack in Black (2008)

TV on the Radio w/ The Dirty Projectors (2009)

Yann Tiersen w/ Breathe Owl Breathe (2011)

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The only certain thing that is left about me

There is no part of my body that has not been used

Pity or pain, to show displeasure's shame

Everyone I've loved or hated always seems to leave

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So I turned myself to face me

But I've never caught a glimpse

Of how the others must see the faker

I'm much too fast to take that test

The Smiths Queen is Dead

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're happy

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Oh, Keats and Yeats are on your side

A dreaded sunny day

So let's go where we're wanted

And I meet you at the cemetry gates

Keats and Yeats are on your side

But you lose 'cause weird lover Wilde is on mine

The Clash London Calling

When they kick at your front door

How you gonna come?

With your hands on your head

Or on the trigger of your gun

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Charles Windsor, who's at the door

At such an hour, who's at the door

In the back of an old green Cortina

You're on your way to the guillotine

Here the rabble comes

The kind you hoped were dead

They've come to chop, to chop off your head

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Then you came with your breezeblocks

Smashing up my face like a bus-stop

You think you're giving

But you're taking my life away

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Won't someone give me more fun?

(and the skin flies all around us)

We kiss in his room to a popular tune

Oh, real drowners

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Don't walk away

In silence

See the danger

Always danger

Endless talking

Life rebuilding

Don't walk away

Walk in silence

Don't turn away in silence

Your confusion

My illusion

Worn like a mask of self-hate

Confronts and then dies

Don't walk away

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You don't want to hurt me

But see how deep the bullet lies

Unaware I'm tearing you asunder

Oh there is thunder in our hearts

Is there so much hate for the ones we love

Tell me we both matter don't we

The Associates Affectionate

I don't know whether

To over or under estimate you

Whether to over or under estimate you

For when I come over

You then put me under

Personal taste is a matter of gender

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I wake at dusk to go alone without a light

To the unknown

I want this night inside of me

I want to feel

I want this speeding

I want that speeding

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You'll never live like common people

You'll never do what common people do

You'll never fail like common people

You'll never watch your life slide out of view

And dance and drink and screw

Because there's nothing else to do

Vanilla Swingers

All I have is words, words that don't obtain

And I feel I'm a stain on your horizon

So I stay away - it's easier that way

And there won't be no-one I need to rely on

Is it him, is it me

Or is there something only I can see

How did I get here, why do we blow around like straw dogs on the breeze

I'm a special one, what they used to say

But I've to stay on, finish levels-A

You don't need exams when you've read John Gray

The Indelicates American Demo

And nobody ever comes alive

And the journalists clamour round glamour like flies

And boys who should know better grin and get high

With fat men who once met the MC5

And no one discusses what they don't understand

And no one does anything to harm the brand

And this gift is an illusion, this isn't hard

Absolutely anyone can play the fucking guitar

JAMC Darklands

And we tried so hard

And we looked so good

And we lived our lives in black

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Plucked her eyebrows on the way

Shaved her leg and then he was a she

She says, hey babe,

Take a walk on the wild side

Said, hey honey, take a walk on the wild side

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Hide on the promenade

Etch a postcard:

How I dearly wish I was not here

In the seaside town...that they forgot to bomb

Come, come, come - nuclear bomb

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Back when we were kids

We would always know when to stop

And now all the good kids are messing up

Nobody has gained or accomplished anything

Wire Pink Flag

Prices have risen since the government fell

Casualties increase as the enemy shell

The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive

And sooner or later the end will arrive

This is your correspondent, running out of tape

Gunfire's increasing, looting, burning, rape

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Well, maybe there's a god above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you

It's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who's seen the light

It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

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And what costume shall the poor girl wear

To all tomorrow's parties

For Thursday's child is Sunday's clown

For whom none will go mourning

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My body is your body

I won't tell anybody

If you want to use my body

Go for it

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Oh it's opening time

Down on Fascination Street

So let's cut the conversation

And get out for a bit

Because I feel it all fading and paling

And I'm begging

To drag you down with me

Mansun Six

And you see, I kind of shivered to conformity

Did you see the way I cowered to authority

You see, my life, it's a series of compromises anyway

It's a sham, and I'm conditioned to accept it all, you see

Japan Gentlemen

Take in the country air, you'll never win

Gentlemen take polaroids

They fall in love, they fall in love

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We just want to emote til we're dead

I know we suffer for fashion

Or whatever

We don't want these days to ever end

We just want to emasculate them forever

Forever, forever

Pretty sirens don't go flat

It's not supposed to happen like that

Longpigs The Sun

There's no perfume I can buy

Make me smell like myself

So I put on perfume

To make me smell like someone else

In bed

Calvin Harris I Created Disco

I got love for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

I've got hugs for you if you were born in the 80's, the 80's

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Does his makeup in his room

Douse himself with cheap perfume

Eyeholes in a paper bag

Greatest lay I ever had

Kind of guy who mates for life

Gotta help him find a wife

We're a couple, when our bodies double

Simple Minds Sons and Fascination

Summer rains are here

Savaged beauty life

Falling here from grace

Sister feeling call

Cruising land to land

No faith no creed no soul

Half a world away

Beauty sleeps in time

Sound and fury play

Bloc Party Silent Alarm

North to south

Empty

Running on

Bravado

As if to say, as if to say

He doesn't like chocolate

He's born a liar, he'll die a liar

Some things will never be different

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LCD Soundsystem

Well Daft Punk is playing at my house, my house

I've waited 7 years and 15 days

There's every kid for miles at my house, my house

And the neighbors can't...call the police

There's a fist fight brewin' at my house, my house

Because the jocks can't...get in the door

Johnny Boy

I just can't help believing

Though believing sees me cursed

Stars Set Yourself

I am trying to say

What I want to say

Without having to say "I love you"

Josef K Entomology

It took 10 years to realise why the angels start to cry

When you go home down the main

Your happy smile

Your funny name

Cocteau Twins Bluebell

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Doesn't she look a million with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Yes, she's a beautiful brunette angel from heaven with her hairagami set

Hair kisses 'n' hair architecture

Augment a beautiful brunette

New Order Power Corruption

How does it feel

To treat me like you do

When you've laid your hands upon me

And told me who you are

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You must let her go

She's not crying

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Baiting

Feeling like I'm waiting

Modern times

Valentines

Hating

Hating to distraction

Just leave them alone

Whipcrack

Girls in the back

Girls in the back

Puressence Don't Forget

They say come back to earth and start getting real, yeah

I say come back to earth and start getting real

I know I can't

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So I walk right up to you

And you walk all over me

And I ask you what you want

And you tell me what you need

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The problem of leisure

What to do for pleasure

Ideal love a new purchase

A market of the senses

Dream of the perfect life

Economic circumstances

The body is good business

Sell out, maintain the interest

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Sitting in my armchair thinking again and again and again

Going round in a circle I can't get out

Then I look around thinking day and night and day

Then you look around - there must be some explanation

And the tension builds

Psychdedelic Furs

India, India

You're my love song

India, you're my love song

In the flowers

You can have me in the flowers

We will dance alone

And live our useless lives

Ladytron Light Magic

They only want you when you're seventeen

When you're twenty-one

You're no fun

They take a polaroid and let you go

Say they'll let you know

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No consolation prizes

Spit out your lies and chewing gum

Cut off your hair yeah that's it!

If you look like that I swear I'm gonna love you more

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All the neighbors are startin' up a fire

Burning all the old folks, the witches and the liars.

My eyes are covered by the hands of my unborn kids

But my heart keeps watchin' through the skin of my eyelids

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Prince charming

Prince charming

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Don't you ever, don't you ever

Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome