Saturday, December 2, 2017

Ride in this Point of Light: Ötzi and their latest video "Ghosts"

On the one year anniversary of the Ghost Ship tragedy that happened in Frutivale last December, I still can't articulate the right words to say. I feel clumsy, fumbling over my words and overly vulnerable whenever I do. However, many artists can articulate the pain, confusion and utter emptiness that I certainly still can not. So, I think I would rather let them do the talking.  From the title track of their latest album (available from Near Dark, Last Hour Records, and Bat-Cave Productions) we have the premier of Ötzi's video "Ghosts": 

The "Ghosts" video was created in memory of those who died in the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland last December 2, 2016. Some of those lost in the fire were friends, some were acquaintances, and some we only knew through their art. On the anniversary of their passing, we are joined by their loved ones and survivors in creating tribute to them, and speak to them in the way they spoke to us. This video is about anger and regret, the intersection between public and private mourning, and the thinning of the veil between the living and the dead." 

The song itself is gripping and haunting. It's echoing, polished goth punk tousled in Riot Grrrl with precise, moody and most certainly addictive string work, sometimes reminiscent of the darker side of the 90's. Akiko and Gina blend together vocally to make a new school Skeletal Family/Vice Squad sound: bold, somber and raging. It's a chilling, passionate work and it's some of their best to date. 

The primary camera work was done by the über talented local photographer that is Kevin Brown (bandseyescene) and the upcoming videographer Rissy. With additional camera work by Post-Consumer and even Akiko herself, it is visually lucid in eeriness with great use of layering and lighting, creating many a hold-your-breath moments with its' symbology. 

When the song ends, the lyrics sit with with me and they can speak for aspects that I feel now yet can not formulate into words. They resonate deeply with the reoccurring thoughts and feelings I've had in light of those that I have lost this last year.  

 "In the darkness I can't see all the voices following me...I'll wait for you in a dream...I'm falling over...I'm sinking further...Where are you?"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For those who would like to be amongst community and friends at this time for support here is a list of memorial gatherings. Thank you, Akiko, for this compilation. 

Ghost Ship Pop-Up Memorial Dec 2, 5pm - 9pm at Ghost Ship Site

Ghost Ship Fire Memorial 2017 Dec 1-3, 8:30am  - 5pm at Chapel of the Chimes

Sound Reflection tonal drone event Dec 2, 5pm-8pm at Vintage Synthesizer Museum

Hybrid Veils : The Artwork of Jsun Adrian McCarty Dec 1-8, all day at Pro Arts Gallery

Ghostship Memorial Dec 2 9pm-2am at Starline Social Club

Ships in the Night benefit for Ghost Ship qt/poc survivors & fam Dec 2, 9pm-2am at the New Parish

The Hanging Garden Dance Party Moment of silence and remembrance of Introflirt. 
Dec 2, 11:15pm at The Uptown. 

Ghost Ship Fire: Moment of Silence at SF Dance Clubs on Dec 2nd Dec 2 between 11pm and midnight at various dance clubs iin the Bay Area and beyond

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Catch the Man! Richard 23 on Front 242, Revolting Cocks and life in the Wax Trax!

If you are a fan of all that is Wax Trax! well, then this is a pretty exciting time for you. With Front 242 just finishing their Circling Overland tour,  the Revolting Cocks is also touring once again and stopping in SF (11/12/17) and doing a set the night before at the Cold Waves show in LA.  Minsitry just played the Warfield in SF and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult played a Halloween show at the Brick and Mortar. On top of that, the Wax Trax! Documentary "Industrial Accident" is in it's pre-screening phase and is presenting that at the Montalban theatre in LA (hopefully a bay area screening soon).  So, getting a chance to talk to Richard 23, one of the front men in Front 242 and Revolting Cocks was very exciting. Their album "Front By Front" was Wax Trax! top selling album in their history. Richard 23 alongside Patrick Codenys, Jean- Luc De Meyere and Daniel Bressanutti was the original line up in Front 242 and it is one of THE quintessential industrial bands. Revolting Cocks consists of Paul barker (ex- Ministry bassist) Chris Connelly, and Luc Van Acker and is revered in the Wax Trax! cult that still has an obsessed following today. 

This interview was originally supposed to be done via email, but in a turn of events I ended up doing it in person the night of the SF Front 242 show. I showed up at the Mezzanine at 6pm and met him in the metal box/storage container-like smoking room, getting a little sick off smoking too many cigarettes in anticipation. They were doing sound checks for the drums. I sat there in the smoke, smiling to myself, anticipating about what we were going to talk about. Richard talks about the early inspirations in forming Front 242, the fun that is had in doing the live RevCo shows again, and inside info on the making of the Wax Trax! documentary. 

Richard 23 performing in Front 242

1981 was a very prolific year for many genres — punk, goth industrial. What was the scene like when you first started out in Belgium? You seemed to gain popularity quickly there, then it spread to the U.S. when you got signed to the famous Wax Trax! records in 1984.  How did you get started in making music? 

 First of all, in Belgium, punk was already gone. It was dead. Punk really started in 1976/1977. Starting out in NY and the U.K. with people like The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and all that. So, in 1981 there was still punk bands around, but at that time it became more New Wave with Bauhaus and Siouxsie. When we started there wasn't really a “scene” in Belgium. But there was an audience for sure. 

(sound check goes off with drum tests in the background)

It’s going to get really loud in here! (lights cigarette). In our little “corner” (Belgium) there wasn’t anything organized as a “scene”. Those were the early days. But like I was saying there was an audience and there was a lot of shows. Most of the bands from England, for example, their first show outside of the U.K was ALWAYS in Belgium: Joy Division, Cabaret Volataire, even U2. The fist time U2 played outside of the U.K. was in a small club in Brussels, made for 50 people. We (Belgium) were always really open because we didn't have strong cultural roots, it's like a made up country. We were very open to what was going on. We were in to the U.K music as much as the French and German stuff. So when we started out it was sort of a DIY story. No one was really able to understand what we were doing. The studios back then in Belgium were big and expensive. So we had to do it in our home made studio; small recorders, small mixers. We also realized it would be easier to do the covers, the graphics ourselves. So we found out quickly what we had to do. There was no tour managers. We could have gone and worked with U.K (industry) for this reason but we really didn't want to enter that “Anglo-Saxon” environment.  So, yes, it was all DIY on our end; from making the music, producing it and creating the graphics, the stage sets, the costumes, everything. 

What was the concept that was behind Front 242? I know in another interview you mentioned that you wanted to convey an “intensity”. 

Well, first off, none of us were musicians. None of us had any background in music. That’s why we started to use machines, synthesizers, computers to express ourselves musically and even beyond. If you are learning to play guitar you have to learn how to play your instrument. With a synthesizer all you have to do is sit down and take the time to fuck with it. We found it was more interesting this way, to sound differently than all those other bands at the time. Since we weren't musicians, we were influenced by many other things than music- architecture, movies, literature. Some of these bands that were up and coming, like Depeche Mode or The Human league (their music) was great but the live performances were kind of boring.  Just people standing around keyboards. You were missing that "something", like in punk music their live performances has an energy to it. It was just a lack of energy. So we wanted to bring that energy, a physical power. When we were creating music, it was like we were creating a soundtrack to a movie that didn't exist yet. 

That makes sense, thinking back to the "Headhunter" video produce by Anton Corbijn. Bringing the cinema to cinematic music.

The thing is that the medium we were lacking back then was the video aspect. We were doing everything else. Doing video back then was impossible to do that all by yourself. It’s not like now you just buy a camera and put it all together on your computer for real cheap. Anton Corbijn work was very interesting to us because he was first a photographer. So he had the “eye” before anything else. When we met him we told him was that we didn't want to do a video just for a single, we wanted to do a video to promote the album (Front by Front), like a trailer for a movie, featuring samples of different tracks from the album. Instead the label asked him to do a video for “Headhunter”. We told him he had complete freedom. We didn't give him any direction. Didnt’ explain any of the lyrics to him. It was cool because I think he got some of the sense of humor that isn't easy to catch the first time you listen to (Front 242)  It was cool to work  with someone and to give them total freedom and to see what they come up with. 

It’s cool since you mentioned some of your inspirations was architecture, and he definitely uses architectural lanscapes in that video. 

Yes! That was all shot in Brussels. 

I love that! So going back, in creating the initial sound for Front 242, sampling was a big part of it. Where did you get the idea for using this? Were you kind of the innovators of this sound?

I wouldn't say we were the beginning. When we first started sampling, sampling machines had just came out on the market. Before that people were using tapes, and we were too in the early days. So was Cabaret Volatire for example. They were using tapes as a sort of archaic sampling system. In the early 80’s when they systems came out we were lucky enough that Patrick won the lottery. He won some money and with that money we were able to afford the Emulator 2 which was verryyy expensive sampling machine. It was like the price of a car back then. 

What a turn of events! 

We were lucky that Patrick could actually buy this and we could start sampling. The idea for sampling was because we were influenced by architecture and movies but we were also influenced by TV. Belgium, in the early 80’s was the only country in Europe to have cable TV. So we had access to 15 or 20 channels from all over Europe. Which was not the case in France, England or Germany back then. So we were filled with images from French, German, British tv. So we had access to so many great sounds and images. So we are sampling TV news, movies and trying to make music with this was very exciting. We were trying to avoid using preset sounds from synthesizers. Except for people like Throbbing Gristle, we were trying to do something different. We would use the sound of someone hitting the table- make a sample of that and it became the “snare” in a song. 


We were one of the first bands who started using samples in that way. 

It creates a musical collage.

Of course, we were also using synthesizers. The lyrics and vocals were important, but not as important as the sounds. We always considered the vocals as another instrument before the story telling. Sometimes  Jean would come up with interesting lyrics but like "Operating Tracks" is a good example of that. The lyrics mean nothing but it brings an imagery. 

More rhythm focused rather than poetically focused.
I always wondered about the lyrcis. They always sounded somewhat political to me.
Did these songs mean to have a political edge to them on your end?

No! We were using news samples and of course you get the political aspect that's going on in the world.  In the early 80’s it was still the Cold War and that was pretty interesting in terms of propaganda, speeches from political leaders. We were not making a statement, we were just using those words, speeches and sounds to put back in the music. A reflection of what was going on around us. 

A Historical reflection.

Yes, but no position taken. “Welcome to Paradise we weren't saying we were Christians or Anti-Christians. We visited the states in 1984 and we turned on the TV and saw all those preachers on all these channels. That was something completely unknown in Europe! We were so excited! the way those preachers were talking about God and Jesus and just the drama. 
Front 242

Oh yes, high drama!

For us we were thinking “Whoa! What IS this?!”

It's still really weird!

Sure! But now everybody knows about it because the rest of the world now has access to it. Back then no one knew. So we recored it, we sampled it. and it’s in the track. It’s no statement. We used it because the way the expresses them selves, just the sentences they used alone were very strong. That doesn't mean we agree with what they say, we just found it very interesting.

Yes, you use their emotional intensity to heighten the musical intensity that you're creating.

Yeah! it was so weird just hearing, “Jesus is the son of God,” “No sex until marriage”  sort of stuff. We were fascinated by this aesthetic, not so much it’s substance. 
“Funkahdafi” same thing with that song. The intro is a speech and we felt the sme way. It was strong and we just wanted to fuck with it.  It was just all over the news back then.

You're being observational and with that you "assault" people sonically with it.
Going on this tour what songs do you look forward to performing now?

I really look forward to playing “Operating Tracks” which is the first song off the first album "Geography". It has big bass lines, cut up lyrics and some good smaples. of course “Head hunter” is always a fun one to play. It was the song that sort of made us sort of “famous” and helped us to go a little bit further than the others. 

Is there any other songs that you notice the audience really enjoy, that they get wild about?

It depends on where you play. In Spain they go mad with “Commando Mix”. I think a lot of DJ’s were playing that back in the day in the clubs. It has that kind of repetitive, techno aspect to it.

Oh yeah they love that over there!

"Im Rhythmus Bleiben" is very popoluar in Germany. It's German and it’s tough!

What was the initial idea with your outfits?

When we started, we wanted our stage presence to be different. We were really influenced by war movies, like Apocalypse Now. We sampled that movie a lot for "No Comment” album”.The military outfit look was a reflection of the Cold War/Vietnam era. We had to reflect that feeling.  They were also cheap to buy, easy to wear.  We wanted to have a very strong look.  It just fit with that feeling of the “No Comment” album so well. Of course the imagery changed slightly over the years, but that was the basis. 

 I saw ‘The Cocks” perform the "Big Sexy Land" album anniversary show at the DNA lounge. I know you thought you would never perform those songs again. But now you are on tour for the second time. What is that like? You guys have great chemistry. It looks like you all have such a good time performing it, which makes it so fun.

Yes, thats exactly what happened.  At first it we got back together to do the one show for the Cold Waves festival in Chicago (2016). But putting in all that energy just for one show was a bit stupid. I thought maybe we should set up a few more shows. So we set up six and we found out we could do a few in Europe so we did. It’s working so well, we get a long so well. It’s just such a pleasure and it’s just so fucking fun. We did SF last year, it was a success and I can’t believe were coming back. Like I said before, It’s just such a pleasure to play with those guys, away from what I’m doing with Front 242. I mean they're just great musicians. Paul Barker!!

I was going to ask you about him! He’s my favorite bassist!

Yes! Basically the idea is to get together and have fun! And people are asking for

The energy is so infectious!
I know back in the day Al Jourgenson was a part of RevCo back in the day. I know he’s also very problematic to work with. Do you still talk to him?


HAHAHA! no surprise there!

None of us. None of us do. It’s even worse for Paul and Chris. Paul went through with suing him and stuff. 

Oh jeez too messy!

Oh yeah, it's messy. 

So! Wax Trax! documentray! What was it like being involved in some of the filming of that?

I saw it a few times before the pre-screening in Chicago. They did an amazing job. It’s just such a great story. Poeple will probably think it’s just going to be about industrial music, but it goes beyond that. But it's really about the guys who created the label.  It’s more about how they came up with the idea. How they moved from Denver to Chicago and the way they did it and all that stuff. It’s a human story before it being a music story. There’s lots of unseen footage and secrets revealed! 

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that "Front By Front" was Wax Trax! biggest selling album!

Yeah! plus the fact that “Head Hunter” was on there as well as “Welcome to Paradise”. Yep, it was their best selling album.

Wow, how amazing to be apart of something so iconic. 

The thing is we grew up in the States as the same time as Wax Trax! Our reputation started growing in the states as well as the label. That really made a connection between the label and the band. Later on we had to go because the limit of promotion and distribution was already reached for the label. We felt like we could grow a little bit more, in terms of exposure. Then they started to have money problems because they were very bad business men. They were both music lovers, great people but just not good with the business aspect.

Not meant to be financiers.

Yes, they would spand millions on a record that everyone knew wasn't going to sell, but just because they loved it. That’s the beauty of Wax Trax! but that’s the same reason why they went bankrupt. When that started to happen, we felt like we had to go. It wasn't our main label, it was our U.S. label as we had our European label. We were just connected by a distribution contract. At a certain point we just had to say, you know 'paymnets are coming late'. The distribution had met it's maximum. When the money problems started happening many bands on the label felt the same. When you can sell more and tour more with someone else, even if you have a very strong connection with the people (Wax Trax!) you try for awhile to stay and work it out. But eventually we  had to say “I’m sorry I have to keep up on my career”. 

Right, it’s not personal, you've just hit a ceiling.

It was heartbreaking, but we had to go. What happened after that is they went bankrupt. It’s all in the documentary, you’ll see. There’s no more record store. but they keep the legacy alive by doing “pop up” record sales, selling some of their original merchandise. 

Well, I guess we will find out more in the documentary!

It’s touching, it's a very cool story. Right now it’s in the pre-screening phase due to legal issues/ figuring out copyrights etc. Then once that’s sorted out it will tour film festivals for more exposure and then one day hopefully it will be on DVD. (Wax Trax!) really was an accident. That’s why it’s called “Industrial Accident”

It sounds like it will be full of rich history! 

Get tickets to see The Revolting Cocks here!!!!!

Here's a good song to listen to! 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A little Show/Album Review - Stacian "Person L" release party! with Lohza, Gel Set and Dimentia!

     Despite being so burned out that day, I am so glad I went to this show.  The three opening solo female fronted acts caught my attention for the night. It was Stacian’s night to shine with her release “Person L” full length E.P. with support from solo femme acts Lohza and Gel Set. Headlining the night was Dimentia from the hard-wired music collective, Katabatik. 

Lohza, Gel Set and Stacian 10-7-17 Eli's

  Lohza opened the evening in front of the keys delivering uncontrived yet engaging soundscapes enchantingly lit by a modest candelabra. A slower tempo, minimal singing and  less beat focused, it was entrancing without putting you to sleep. I was imagining putting this album on once I got home that night to wind down after all the dancing I was about to do. Upon getting her digital format only EP- I was happy to find it was the perfect music to do so that night, early morning, my room gently lit with candles amongst my new potted plants. “Night Bay” is well suited for your “good night mornings (1)", “Topic Hole” meditates with more earth tones, and “1987” is a perfect backdrop for an early 80’s melodrama (yeah, I was thinking Twin Peaks). Find a punk- ask them for her email, buy the digital EP.

Gel Set (LA)…. I just kept thinking of the words “lucite” and thinking of clothing made of shiny vinyl and jelly sandals. I just had to see it.  Turning towards more of the  electronic -beat side element of the evening, she brought brave innocence with miminal wave and moody moments that suggested  down tempo dancing and swoon swaying. Although at times her live set I felt could be a little more polished (maybe technical difficulties? Hell, it is Eli’s) I was determined to get her LP as well. 
I was immediately invited in to “Don’t you miss Me” with the un-fussed yet bouncing digital sounds of early Depeche Mode- A Broken Frame era and continued to be wooed by the smokey sadness of "Sexual Numerals" and taken in by the clean pops of "Bounce".  

Stacian always brings the bodies out to dance in every live performance I've seen of her. "Don't worry, I'll wake them up" I remember her saying at one drowsy party, before her set. Her sound is an edgy, techno noir-wave trance and she sings with a sensual aggression channeled through a dark wave filter.   Her record label, "Night School” describes her as “(Stacian) is Person L, is Oakland resident, solo artist and academic Dania Luck. Beginning in the American Mid West, Stacian has been an ongoing Bay Area concern since 2008, deeply involved in the minimal wave and underground electronic music scene. A dystopian vision of alienated humanity, broken communications and technoid mal-forms, Person L is her most fully developed full length and a leap forward from 2012’s Songs For Cadets. Moving away from the primitive Cold Wave of previous work, Person L manages to create a bleak dystopia without relying on Ballardian cliche, though still invoking concrete prisons and urban disassociation. Person L is a throbbing, murky underworld that revels in imperfections, a submersive, digital swamp bleeding through the club.”
 First side of her LP allures you with lo-fi, dark-side vocals and Subtonix-y feels on the keys. The second side brings you to the steely and hypnotic mode of post -apocalyptic dance electro via two analog synths, sequencer and drum machine. Side two is less vocal and pulls you right in with the  provocative first song “Dirgent” and to the perfect last song “Gnomon” with its’ keenly chosen samples.   I got lost in it and that's what I wanted it to do. Good late night music. Good fucking anytime music. 

Dimentia brought his knob-laden,  Katabatik-ness to the mix, which I love myself some Katabatik. He opened for Front 242 the week prior! His technical intensity is on point. However,  the ladies stole the show. 

Thank you all for your passion! Make sure you check out all these acts! 

(1) "good night mornings" is a thing my friend Richard Toomer (SF/NYC comedian and philosopher) likes to say. I can't take credit for it, but I know those days where you stay up all night to the morning and there is the perfect song for that specific moment. <3

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Looking Inwardly: An Interview with Mark Burgess of The Chameleons

Listening to The Chamelons is like smelling a perfume you once knew. Once that certain aroma captures your attention you are transported back to that very moment where you first experienced it. That moment you met someone, left someone, starved, cried, laughed. This Manchester-based paragon banded in 1981, a year that was rich with budding avant-garde, post-punk legends such as Bauhaus, Modern English, Dead Can Dance and Clan of Xymox. Mark Burgess was on vocals and bass, Reg Smithies and Dave Fielding doing the guitar work and John Lever on drums. They were involved in the BBC John Peel sessions era, who showcased prodigies such as Joy Division, Cocteau twins and The Smiths .The Chameleons went on to produce the 1983 debut album  "Scripts of the Bridge" followed by  "What does anything thing mean? Basically" and "Strange Times". By 1987 they were disbanded only to reform briefly, years later, in 2000.  They're an underdog in terms of lyrically charged, glimmery, subtly psychedelic British post-punk, that has a depth unmatched. Sometimes, with such an illustrious musical affinity,  you don't get the honesty that they have and continue to have.  Mark Burgess, who now performs this original material under the title The ChameleonsVox, is on tour now. They will be at the Pandemonium event alongside Theatre of Hate, Soft kill, Ötzi and The Ink Bats on 9/9 in Oakland.  He invites us in on this interview with very introspective stories recalling his time working with the BBC sessions, his moments as human/artist trying to navigate through this world and his love for the bay area. 

You are now returning to the bay after two years since doing the “Script of the Bridge” tour. Your last show with us at the Elbo Room in SF sold out.  One of my friends and local DJ's  said that in 1982 “Script of the Bridge” was the Number One played album on bay area radio station KUSF! I was happy to hear that!  You’re coming back on 9/8 with Theatre of Hate and Soft Kill.   What was your reaction to the current excitement as well as lasting legacy The Chameleons have in the current music scene? Who is in your line up this tour?

It never ceases to surprise me when we get an excited reaction to the news that we’re coming into a city to play. That’s something I’ve never taken for granted., I mean, that’s a pretty good feeling, right? It definitely gives us a very positive outlook and makes us more excited about doing them. I’ve personally been performing this material a long time and I’d be a liar if I said that my enthusiasm never waned. On occasion it has, but never when we get those kinds of reactions to a tour announcement. I think for me, personally, it helps me focus too on trying to want to make the shows the best we’ve shows we’ve done. Whether we succeed or not is entirely subjective but it definitely motivates everyone to focus that little bit more than we would when it’s felt kind of routine. Having said that, the times performing this music HAS felt routine is quite rare. We get a lot of direct feedback and there’s often excitement around an upcoming show, maybe not every date on a tour but certainly key places.

The line-up SHOULD have been the same line-up as the last time we were in town, myself on bass on vocals, Neil Dwerryhouse on guitar, Chris Oliver on guitar and Yves Altana on drums. Unfortunately, Chris has had complications around his passport and visa applications, which resulted in him having to withdraw from the tour and I’ve had to ask my old friend and past collaborator, Justin Lomery, who’s currently based in New York, to step in. Justin has played a few tours with me both here and in Europe so I was very relieved not to say overjoyed that he’s stepping in, cause he’s a great guitar player with a real passion for this music. I’m looking forward very much to having him back on board. Those people who are familiar with some of my recordings outside of Chameleons will know the name Yves Altana. I’ve made a couple of albums with him over the years and performed quite a few number of tours with him too. He’s a very talented multi-instrumentalist, guitar being his strongest, but took over drum duty a couple of years ago when John Lever got injured and continued with that after John eventually left the band. Anyone who’s been around long enough to see The Sons Of God U.S. tour in 1994 might remember Yves played guitar on that, as did Neil Dwerryhouse who’s also with me currently. 

I'm really glad that worked out with Justin Lomery. I know a lot of bands who have had to cancel their U.S. shows due to passport complications. 
“Dont’ fall”, “Here Today” and “Second Skin”  to name a few are just a few of your songs that highlights the pain and struggles in life while simultaneously having a positive edge to it.  Your songs have a sort of rebirthing quality to them. As if maybe one minute you are going “up on the down escalator” (to be cheeky) and you're crying and losing it and then your lyrics bring back this glimmer of hope, a realistic hope and you might even find yourself smiling, getting ready to pick yourself up and face the day, the month, the problem with a shred of virtue still present.  What was some of your situations you were in that helped write these songs? 

Oh God yeah, I mean life even now, is a bit of a roller coaster. I mean there’s a common arc through all of them really that stems from a feeling of alienation, of being the outsider, but I’ve never felt that things are totally hopeless or anything. I mean, yeah, it gets harder to see that hope or to hang on to it, no question but events and circumstances, or consequences haven’t been able to stamp out that light of hope I carry completely. I mean, I believe in following paths, finding the right one and following it, although right and wrong are not really good words to describe them, there is no wrong path or right path really, just this one or that one and often they can converge into the same present, what sets them apart are the experiences and lessons and consequences of cause and effect that are unique to them. They don’t all necessarily have the same destinations however, so it pays to listen to one’s instincts and not be afraid of taking hard, long, analytical or critical looks at oneself. All of my lyrics are born from direct experience of life and the interpretation of the reality around me and the alienation I’ve always felt from society. 

I’ve noticed in other interviews you mention that the audience has approached you with some detailed experiences of listening to your music. I have to say when I did at the Elbo Room I found you to be such a kind and generous spirit. It must be pretty incredible to be performing all over the world and hearing such personal stories that were inspired from listening your your records.

Yes, it is incredible and also incredibly powerful. You know, I’ve had people in tears holding me (saying) it’s meant so much to them. It’s the real reason why I do this, why I continue to perform this music instead of just moving on and relegating it to history. This is too important to people to just let it die, and the increasing relevance of it, the power of it, demands that I continue to perform it. Working out a way of doing both, making more music outside of it and continuing to perform it has been a little problematic for me. I’m not wealthy and I have to make a living just like everyone else. Those kinds of complexities can be tricky to deal with to be honest. It’s the kinds of reactions and encounters that you speak about that brings the purpose of what I’m doing into focus. People can and have got very cynical about the music and it’s ability for change, especially rock based music, which many see as being largely irrelevant these days. If you’re not the Beatles or the Sex Pistols, you know, changing the fabric of society why bother? Surely, then in light of that rock music is rather superficial. What they fail to see is the impact it has on a personal level for people and how that can change the world in ways that, despite not being globally visible, are just as significant if not more so. “He saves a single life, saves the world entire". So that kind of feedback, the kind your talking about, is never, ever lost on me. 

 I’ve always been curious about the album art. They all have their own dream like quality to them. The cover art of “Script of the Bridge” has a new romantic feel to it while “Strange Times” has this sort of surrealistic take. I read that Reg Smithies was the artist. Can you tell me a little bit on the ideas/story behind presenting your albums by this cover art?

I can try but my instant take it on it is, not really and I doubt that Reg could either. "Script of the Bridge" is somewhat easier in that all of the places on there were places we went to, they’re real places. A freeway bridge that you cross on your way to cenotaph that stands in a park surrounded by the lights of Greater Manchester. The castle is Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland, a place we used to visit often and still do. The colours and the face represent something we saw there one night, Easter Sunday actually in 1982. 

"What Does Anything Mean? Basically!" I have no idea. It’s my favourite of all the sleeves, which is why I like to use it so much promoting the band I suppose. I liked it immediately but once it had been placed against the cloud backdrop I LOVED it. Gorgeous. What does it mean? Fuck knows.

"Strange Times"... well, I’m not sure again but I suspect it’s Reg just having some fun. The characters on the table are the usual Reg "surrealistic creations". His girlfriend at the time is looking on, opposite him, while he draws his own hand reaching in and interacting with it. It wasn’t designed to be a record sleeve, he just showed it to me as something he’d done and I immediately knew that was it. None of the records had titles when he worked on what became the sleeves, they just seemed to fit naturally to each other. 

 I think some of the most timeless recordings came from the BBC/ Peel Sessions- and you were apart of the chosen! Any thoughts on this moment in time for you and The Chameleons? What was it like to be apart of something so iconic?

AMAZING.. Definitely high amongst my favourite experiences with the band. We had no motives other than to be on that program, which we listened to religiously each evening Monday to Thursday. It was a nightly ritual for a while. We’d meet at a friends place after doing whatever it was we’d been doing that night: roll a few spliffs and listen to Peel. I’d been listening to him since his Radio Caroline days. I got into T.Rex as a young kid through John Peel and a lot of other things. WE all did. So, to actually be on the show was fantastic and having him hype the session the night before it went out, well, we didn’t expect that. We were floored by that. I’d never heard him do that before when he was promoting the following night’s session. I was stunned by that. The whole experience was surreal. Meeting him outside the BBC to give him the tape to have him phone me at home early the following Monday morning. I mean I thought it was a wind up for about 30 seconds. Recording at the BBC at Langham. We’d be given the choice to do it there immediately or wait for the new state or the art studio at Maida Vale to be finished. It was no - brainer. I knew how many great sessions had been recorded at Langham going back to the likes of Jimmy Hendrix and a fledgling David Bowie. And we learned so much with their engineers and producers. It was said that if they didn’t like it you’d be done and dusted by 10:30 pm. We never got out there before 3:00 a.m the following morning. I think the other reason why I loved those sessions so much was that by and large you’d do ideas that were barely developed or finished, because they were the freshest and the ones we were most excited about, and seeing as you had to record four songs in a single day it was very fast and spontaneous, but the producers and the engineers were good enough that they could capture that excitement and freshness. I think that’s why Peels sessions in particular still hold a place in people’s hearts when it comes to their favourite bands. You don’t have the weeks of production in there, the meticulous attention to detail, you just have the band raw and excited to be there. I mean I’d take The Smiths’ Radio Sessions over most of their records any day of the week for that very reason. ………..

I would have to agree with you on that one!  Those sessions do capture those candid moments. Your story alone makes me excited! What a whirl wind!

One of my musician acquaintances commented casually that the “music industry is an industry of rejection. Don’t let it get you down and stay focused”. Do you think this is a true statement from when you started out in 1981 up until now? 

Yes, I do and I think it’s a very good way of expressing it. It always seemed strange to me that they’d pick up on something or sign something that was obviously exciting people but then interject and re-interject elements they thought needed changing or fucking with, until what was great about it is lost or the band splinter cause they can’t agree. And then yeah the myriad of bands and talent out there that never even make it that far who might actually believe that these accountants that run the business actually know what they’re fuckin’ talking about. I’ve been really gratified to see the industry expand to the point where the mechanisations that were traditionally running it have become pretty much irrelevant. I mean, sure, if you throw a million dollars at a record chances are you get it to chart or on rotation or what not, but what genuine artist is interested in that anyway? It used to be important, I suppose, to the likes of early Bowie, but in recent years it’s become as hollow and as mundanely irrelevant as it ever was. It’s a hard question to answer though to be honest because while rejection is the norm in this business, I mean you have to be prepared for that. Unless you can show merit on your own, no one’s going to take notice and cause resources to fall into your lap from the sky. If you can’t mentally prepare and stand up to that kind of rejection you’re fucked, now more than ever. While that’s the norm, I never really experienced it. Within six months of joining the band and getting to grips with the song writing I found myself on John Peel’s show and CBS records. While it’s true the band was eventually dropped, that was what we wanted. We were happy to get out of that and it didn’t take us more than a few weeks to find a home somewhere else and when that went south we found another one, or another one found us. So, I’ve never really experienced that kind of rejection, although as I say I know it is the norm for artists and up and coming talent. 

  You are touring with Soft Kill right now. I know you collaborated with them on their 2016 album Choke. I know last week you announced that you had produced a recording session with Belgium band “An Orange Car Crashed”.  Looking forward to hearing this! How did you get involved with Soft Kill and AOCC?  

Well, Soft Kill contacted us with a view to putting together the 2015 tour we did and we became firm friends, added to which obviously we really liked the band. We play with a lot of bands and while many of them are good, a few outstanding and Soft Kill for my money are one of them. So when they asked if I’d do a spot of vocals on their record last year I was happy to do that. Now they’re bringing us out again having just toured with us in Europe, although, the European shows had nothing to do with us. Our agent in London phoned and asked if we’d mind if he featured this band he’d discovered from America, on the dates he was putting together, and told us it was a band called Soft Kill. He had no idea we knew them, which says something about our relationship with our agent, how we laughed.  AOCC were a band I met when were on the road in Belgium (Arlon to be exact) and we played with them a few times and became friends. I’d spent the weekend out there performing with them on an Adrian Borland tribute show they’d put together and it kind of cemented our friendship. So a couple of them came over when we played with The Mission last May at a festival and asked me to do it. I don’t really do much of that to be honest but in this case they’re such a great gang I fell in. I have to say it was a very enjoyable experience on every level. They’re very happy with the results too, which is a relief- haha!! I couldn’t stay for the mixing though, which is a bit of a bummer. 

Like what you were talking about earlier, it was as if your paths were converging.
I’m so sorry to hear about the passing of drummer John Lever earlier this year. I’m sure you have had quite the journey of the soul.  

Yeah, that was very hard to process seeing as over the last few years we hadn’t been on the best of terms, which I suppose is putting it lightly. I don’t know I mean, when I got the news I was shocked obviously that it had finally happened, but I couldn’t say I was surprised given his lifestyle choice. It was really was a ticking time-bomb. I mean, I was able to make my peace. I had a very strange experience a few days after I got the news, which I won’t go into, suffice to say it brought me a lot of peace. I think what I hate about those situations, aside from losing someone you love obviously, is all the social politics that come to bear after and around the event. It become so emotive and clouded that the really important factor, i.e. losing someone you love, gets completely lost in the bullshit. The living are to blame for that, not the dead. At any rate, yeah, it’s very, very strange to think that John isn’t out there right now being John, that we’ve lost one of us in a very real sense. I suppose I’m still processing that really and will be for years to come if I live that long. 

 When you come here for tour what are your feelings on San Francisco/ Oakland?

Well, my feelings for San Francisco have been there for years because I’ve made no secret that it’s one of my favourite cities in the world, one I’d dearly love not to have to leave. In recent years Oakland, too. I had an incredible roller coaster summer in Oakland some years back and the music I was finding that was coming out of the Bay was incredible. I mean it kind of reminded me of Manchester - circa 1978, which was a bit of a golden age really with the likes of The Fall and Joy Division. So yeah I have a massive amount of affection to the Bay Area and the music that’s come out of it. I mean, off the top of my head, Blackbird Blackbird, Blasted Canyons, Grass Widows, Wymond Miles, Tamaryn, The Oh Sees, some great talent and some great, great records. 

 All of your songs are emotionally charged in some way, some are more somber and existential than others, but is there any particular songs that you still perform that bring up pain for you? is there a sense of “re-living” certain situations via performance of certain songs? 

Well yeah, but my pain plays a huge part in who I am and as long as I can still feel that when I perform the music I know I’m still me, although, I like to think I am evolving as a person and dealing with a lot of that. To be honest, I wouldn’t perform the music if that wasn’t true. I mean people come to shows in the hope you’ll be able to recreate how that music made them feel when they first heard it, before they eyes, so I have to tap into that in order to give the music its potency, otherwise I’m just going through the motions. 

Better get your tickets to Pandemonium! The ChameleonsVox put on an incredible live show. You really shouldn't miss it. Such a great line up! Get your tickets here!