Category Archives: Features


Small Planets Album Cover

Los Angeles post-punk/shoegaze five-piece Small Planets released their self-titled debut album a few weeks back, and Jeff Love, one of the band’s guitarists, gave a short description of each one of its 11 tracks:


Haunting and aggressive, with an intro that builds up a little tension before ripping into the verse.


Has a catchy classic alternative sound about redemption and/or whatever your interpretation of that is.


Has more of an alt-rock pop song vibe to it.


A very melodic track about love.


Another poppy adventure in finding love and missed opportunities. To me, this song was always kind of a fairy tale.


A really catchy post-punk track about death, and wishing you just had one more moment before losing that person.


A very dark, aggressive song. I think it’s our most gothic-sounding track.


This song is the outlier on the album, but it still fits perfectly. It has everything to do with defining your own destiny. It is the “hope“, and has a nice cello part in the middle and at the end.


Another post-punk track with electronic beats and strong melodies. It’s dreamy.


This song is really complex, as it has lots of different parts, lots of melodies, and lots of hidden things to discover.


This track is dramatic…it starts off really pretty, and then we just take the listener on a journey through feedback and distortion, all while driving a strong melody.






Small Planets band photo


Last month, Small Planets – an immensely-talented five-piece from Los Angeles, the capital of the US entertainment industry – unveiled a self-titled debut album, comprising of 11 well-crafted tracks drawn from a diverse range of musical influences, but rooted in post-punk and shoegaze.

The band’s first full-length offering represented another step in a journey which began in earnest when guitarist Jeff Love asked bassist Josh Spincic if he would be interested in collaborating with him on a new musical project.

Jeff already had a handful of songs when he asked me to join“, remembers Josh, “I listened to them, liked the musical direction he was heading in, and I thought I could add a lot to those tracks.

With Josh on board, him and Jeff searched fruitlessly for a drummer to complete the collective, until Josh thought of Phil Drazic, who he had played in a previous outfit with.

Phil was – and still is – one of the best drummers around, and so we brought him in.”

However, the now trio soon felt that something was lacking which would enable them to reach a higher level, and they decided that another guitarist and a vocalist was the way forward, but the process of finding the people who were the right fit was fraught with difficulty.

We actually went through quite a few, before we finally struck lucky with Ryan [Silo] and Jess [Hernandez].”

The bolstering of the band’s ranks with Ryan‘s guitar playing, and Jess‘s vocal tones, resulted in an evolution of a sound that effectively combined the swells of the Cocteau Twins, melodic richness of The Cure, and the darkness of Joy Division, and having already performed live across their home city, including at such iconic venues as the House Of Blues, The Viper Room, and the Troubadour, the five members decided it was finally time to put their songs to record.

It would take the Californian collective eight months to put together their debut album, but there was a good reason for the lengthy recording process.

We wanted to make the best possible record” explains Phil, with Josh adding, “Having the ability to take our time doing what was best for the songs really shows in the end product.”

The release was recorded at The Cave Studio, with a production team including people who had worked in the past with the likes of The Cure and The Jesus And Mary Chain.

It took a long time, and it was very detail-oriented, but [engineer] Josiah [Mazzaschi] really encouraged us to do whatever we wanted, and he was very patient with us.” says Jeff.

Once recording had been completed, the album was sent to the iconic Abbey Road recording studios in London to be mastered, before it finally came out to a overwhelmingly positive response from the quintet’s fan base, with Josh saying, “People seem to really get what we’re doing, and that is a great feeling to have.”

However, the band aren’t stopping to bask in the glow of all the plaudits heading their way, as they have already been working on a five-track EP, with Jeff teasing, “The EP will be more shoegaze-driven than the album, musically more mid-Cocteau Twins era on two of the songs with words, and all we need now is to just add some production into the mixes, some more guitar from Ryan, and we should be set.

The EP – entitled ‘Seasons‘ – will be unveiled at some point early next year, and after that, the five-piece will start work on their second album, so it looks set to be a busy time ahead for the ambitious Small Planets.

Small Planets Album Cover



MITCHEL EMMS – ‘Vertigo At History’s Edge’ TRACK-BY-TRACK

Mitchel Emms photo


Vertigo At History’s Edge‘, the debut solo album from singer-songwriter Mitchel Emms, finally came out last month, and has so far had an overwhelmingly positive response from critics and fans alike.

In this feature, Mitchel looks back on the process of writing, recording, and mixing the recent release, and what each of the 10 tracks that make up the album mean to him personally.

I put the album together with the idea of having the album be a holistic musical journey from start to finish (so I assume that makes it a kind of concept album!)

Although there are many autobiographical elements involved, the overall themes are of awakening, dealing with loss, and confronting the future in an age of anxiety, and because it’s such a personal record, it’d take me forever to explain every single meaning and detail behind why everything is the way it is, so I’ll take influence here from ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away‘ from David Bowie‘s album ‘Blackstar‘, and I often write in a way of letting ideas flow in a stream-of-consciousness way that I make sense of afterwards, but I’ll give an overall summary of what I was going for with each song. 

However, I like the idea that art and music can mean different things to everyone. Although it might have meaning for me in my own way, it’s open to interpretation from the listener through the lens of their own life experiences and perspective, or to just enjoy for music’s sake.


I left the title of this as just ‘Intro‘, as I think it’s something that I can’t really put a definition on. I had this melody in my mind for a long time whenever I was feeling mixed emotions, and when I recorded it, I thought it was a perfect fit to open the album.

For me, it starts the record off from a place of nostalgia, familiar yet otherworldly, soothing but poignant, kind of like a lament.


This was the song that really helped the direction of the album take shape, as I knew from the get-go that this would be the opening track.

The lyrics are kind of cryptic on this one, but it mainly deals with being at a crossroads in life, going through an awakening of sorts, and wanting to know a deeper meaning to it all.

Musically, I was super happy with how it all came together, especially how the first section of the song expresses a rise from a distant foreboding into a moment of euphoria, and it was fun to get a bit experimental and add mellotrons (essentially sampled lo-fi reels of tape of real string recordings) and synths into the sonic pallette of the album to give it the cinematic vibe I was going for.


I wrote this song when I was 19 for a band I was in (MisterNothing), and it never got used. However, I always loved the song, and in 2018, I found it related to it more than ever.

Re-recording it and adding new parts and dimensions to it really helped the song take on a new life and identity as part of this album, making this the definitive version of it.

The track deals with the way I think a lot of my generation feel at the moment: the anxiety, and the constant struggle to find motivation to keep going when everything seems stacked against them. 

Also, from a mixing standpoint, I absolutely loved using phase modulation effects in part of the song that helped add emphasis to the metaphor of sinking into water. 

This one also took the longest to finish mix-wise as there was so much going on in it instrumentally that it was an exercise in carving out places for everything compositionally and sonically to fit in, however, I was very happy with the result of it. 


I released this back in 2018, and at the time, it was a turning point for me with my songwriting, as a lot of the demos I’d been making that year felt like it was lacking something, but when I recorded this, I felt like I had found a new musical direction and approach, and it was a cool experience making a song that slowly developed from a quiet moment into a huge wall of sound, with plenty of space to breathe in between.

The feedback from that kick-started me into making this album, and the meaning of it for me is kind of a summary of a lot of songs I was writing at the time, so to be able to sum them all up in one track was a bit of a “aha!” moment. 

This song, especially, comes from my own reflection of everything I was up until that point in my life, and some of the archetypal things that people go through that can end up with us feeling depressed and not fully appreciating ourselves and our individuality.


This one is kind of hard to explain, but it deals with growing up, realising the tragedy of life, and how people can fall victim to isolating themselves, living lives of meaninglessness and empty comfort, and not fully realising their own potential, but coming from a place without judgement.

This song came about from me noodling an early Genesis-type thing on guitar at around 2am, during which I ended up making this really interesting chord progression that I recorded right on the spot, and that take is the same one as on the finished track. 

The mellotron strings make a return here, as well as the lo-fi bells at the beginning of ‘Rivers Of Ice‘ at the end, to tie the two songs together. 


There’s been times where I haven’t felt my best, and I’ve gone into full “hermit mode”, shutting myself off from everything, not out of spite to anybody, but just purely because I felt I wasn’t worth having around, and being a bit burned out. This song comes from my own experience of it, and it’s a track for anybody who has ever felt the same. 

Musically, I was drawing a bit of inspiration from shoegaze and post-rock with this track, and I feel that, for me, when it fully kicks in during the latter half of the song, it encapsulates the melancholic juxtaposition of being filled with passion despite being withdrawn.

Also, as a guitarist, there’s barely a guitar solo on the album, as I wanted to just stick with great guitar melodies over self-indulgent soloing, but I felt this was crying out for a passionate one towards the end of this track. 


This one is a response to the previous song, in that it’s about trying to encourage someone to not isolate themselves and reach out. It was actually one of the last tracks I wrote for this album that ended up replacing a song that I felt didn’t really fit in, and this felt like it wrote itself, as it was finished within a day, and I was really happy with how it turned out.

The track also references the sort of disconnection we have at the moment, what with the influence of social media and the internet, with an example being the line “…with black mirrors in hand, distracted from this broken land”.

I messed around a lot layering distorted guitar feedback over the last third of the song, multi-tracking it, reversing it, and generally manipulating it in interesting ways, which was a lot of fun to do. 


The title of the album, ‘Vertigo At History’s Edge‘ is based on a talk by Terence McKenna, and ‘History’s Edge’ is a song that addresses one of the meanings behind why I chose it. I recorded the acoustic guitar and vocals on my phone one evening, which I then used in the actual track.

It’s really hard to put into words what this song is personally about for me, but overall, I think I can sum it up as being about finding out a seemingly unspeakable truth that almost everyone is blind to, and you’re left wondering what the hell you’re going to do with that information, and how to move forward in the face of it all. It’s a musical moment of introspection, alienation, and loneliness. 


This song is difficult to explain, because it comes from a place of so many complicated emotions and thoughts, all at the same time.

When I was making the album, there was a lot going on in my personal life, and I finished writing this track shortly after a friend of mine had passed away, which ended up having a huge impact on the meaning of the entire project,

The lyrics are what came out of me in a moment during that time, and I can say overall that this is a song about realising that nothing lasts, regretting the moments you took for granted, and being at a loss with all of that. 

Musically speaking of where this track comes in on the album, I like to think of it as the moment of opening the door to the outside after a solitary dark night of the soul. 


This started life as an instrumental piece, inspired by JRPG game soundtracks I loved as a kind such as ‘Chrono Trigger‘ and ‘Final Fantasy VI‘.

However, the more I worked on it, the more I realised that I was actually making the outro to this album, which I wanted to end on a positive, upbeat, and reflective note after some of the more melancholy and dark moments on the record, and I wanted to let loose a little bit musically and creatively with it, and do something different than the other songs on the album. 

Lyrically, it’s the shortest, but it’s about continuing to tackle life head-on in the name of something or someone that once was, as an act of acceptance or dedication, and choosing to carry a memory of something you loved as inspiration to carry on rather than as just a reminder of better times that are now long gone. 

Having the intro used here as the outro completes the journey of the album, bringing you back to the music you heard when you came in.

Mitchel Emms Album Cover








Mitchel Emms photo



Last Friday, singer-songwriter Mitchel Emms unveiled his eagerly-anticipated solo album – entitled ‘Vertigo At History’s Edge‘ – which is an effective showcase for the multitude of musical skills acquired during a career that began at the tender age of nine, as well as a genuine love for writing and performing songs.

Mitchel‘s journey up to this point started one day when he was looking through his father’s CD collection. “I found ‘The Wall‘ by Pink Floyd, and when I first listened to it, even though I had no idea who they were, and I didn’t really understand the adult-oriented lyrical themes, it was like experiencing an incredible movie in my mind.

Mitchel credits the 1979 masterpiece for laying down the foundations for all of his musical education going forward, as from there, he discovered a eclectic range of bands, spanning from the classic rock of Led Zeppelin, to the alternative rock of Radiohead, to Nirvana, and it was the legendary Seattle grunge outfit who left the biggest impression on the young boy.

I vividly remember seeing the video for ‘Heart Shaped Box‘ on MTV, and I felt a real connection to how visceral and artistic it was, and how Kurt Cobain‘s music spoke to me.

Already beginning to show an interest in singing and playing the guitar, as well as discovering he had a perfect vocal pitch, Mitchel started busking in Burntwood, the small town in the English Midlands where he grew up, and made an appearance performing as his musical hero on the television programme Stars In Their Eyes Kids.

By the age of 15, Mitchel had become well-known on his local music scene, having performed over 500 shows, however, he was having much difficulty getting noticed from further afield, so when he got offered an opportunity to audition for the second series of The Voice UK in 2013, he decided to take it.

I honestly never thought I would get through because I felt so far removed from that kind of world, and I was only expecting to make a brief appearance, so it was a complete surprise to me when the chair turned.

On the programme, Mitchel was mentored by The Script frontman Danny O’Donoghue, and got all the way through to the live shows, but after being eliminated, he found himself back at square one.

I was 19, and a little naive, therefore, I believed the people at the time who were telling me that this was going to be my big break, and that I was going to get signed to a label, but there was very little guidance on how to make the most of my time on that show.

Despite this, and subsequent criticism from some parts of the music world, Mitchel says that he enjoyed the whole experience, as it eventually opened doors for him that otherwise would have been closed off.

Having spent the next two years playing in a band called MisterNothing, hard rock collective The Treatment, having seen Mitchel‘s Voice audition on YouTube, approached him about becoming their vocalist for a few live shows, which later became permanent.

I credit the band for making me a much better vocalist, as I had to tackle such difficult material, as everything was written in such a consistently high range, so doing 80-minute shows every night was an intense vocal, as well as physical, workout.

However, despite the highs of touring across the UK and continental Europe to sell-out crowds, a combination of factors led to Mitchel battling anxiety and depression, something which he attributes to neglecting his own mental health and creative ambitions to please others whilst chasing his dream of a successful career in music.

After leaving The Treatment in late 2017, and subsequently taking a much-needed break, Mitchel decided to return to his roots and embark on a solo career, utilising his skills and personal experiences to form the backbone of his recently-released offering.

Vertigo At History’s Edge‘ is a summation of a lot of my feelings and thoughts, along with ideas, themes, and aesthetics that I’ve wanted to combine for a long time.

Despite being a deeply personal album, Mitchel says that it has been crafted in such a way that any listener can relate, as well as put their own interpretations, to each of the tracks, which also represents another step on the journey towards his long-term goal.

I want to eventually become a musician and a person that I am proud of being, who enriches the lives of the people around me, and if anything I do makes an impact on someone in a positive way, then I’ve achieved what I originally set out to do.

Mitchel Emms Album Cover




Derby Alt Fest 2019 poster


Tomorrow, The Hairy Dog in the city of Derby – increasingly becoming seen as a premier venue in which to see both established and emerging bands/artists – will be playing host to the fourth Derby Alt Fest.

This year’s festival looks all set to be the biggest and best yet, having been extended for two days for the first time, and containing a bill comprising of some real top quality outfits from the genres of rock, metal, and alternative, including Sworn Amongst, Raised By Owls, and Death Remains, which isn’t bad for something that started out as a simple EP release show in 2016.

To find out more about all of this, I spoke to the festival’s founder/organiser Liam Barlow, and he had much to say:

How did the initial idea for the Derby Alt Fest come about?

Alt Fest began in 2016, when my old band This Is Hate booked out The Hairy Dog for our EP release. We wanted to put on a stacked line-up for the day, with something for everyone (basically to sell tickets), and on the lead-up to the event, the name Alt Fest came along, and it just stuck.

When did you start planning for this year’s festival?

Planning starts the second the previous year ends, we get the date locked in, then we move forward from there, and a lot of work goes on behind the scenes finding bands, making sure it stays alternative, and not just a full-on heavy fest! (laughs)

For those who are going to the Derby Alt Fest for the first time in 2019, what can they expect?

This year is going to be the biggest yet, from advance tickets, to the bands playing, and it just gets better every year, but you will have to come on the day to see for yourselves!

For the first time this year, the festival will have an additional day, with an event called “The Hangover” taking place on the Sunday. How did that come about?

In all of the previous years, we have had to cram every act into one day, which could get a bit messy, to be honest, and bands ended up having to play shorter sets. With “The Hangover“, we have managed to spread the bands out over the two days, and no main stage act has a shorter set time than 30 minutes, which is good for them!

Also, the name “The Hangover“, well, it speaks for itself, as on the Saturday – myself included – people will enjoy having a few drinks, so I think there will be a lot of sore heads on the Sunday!

This will be the fourth Derby Alt Fest. What have been your personal highlights of the previous three?

My main personal highlight is seeing how it has grown and progressed, and you can just look at the posters over the years to see that!

However, something that stands out for me was having Dave McPherson (the lead singer of InMe) play the acoustic stage last year, and seeing him jamming all those big InMe tracks acoustically up close, was really sick!

And honestly, did you ever expect the festival to grow like it has when you first started?

Did I ever expect it to grow? No way! (laughs) Like I said, it was just meant to be an EP release show, but people really liked the idea, and had a fun time there, so I’ve just kept moving it forward.

What is your current opinion of the rock and metal scene in Derby?

The scene in Derby is not that great, which doesn’t really make sense, as The Hairy Dog – for me – is one of the best underground venues in the UK. However, I’m changing that with my new music promotions company Unearthed!

I know this will be a difficult question to answer, but which bands/artists are you personally most looking forward to seeing this year?

You can’t ask me that! (laughs) Obviously, I’m looking forward to seeing every band…*coughKing Abyss *cough*

And lastly, what is your future aim, in regards to Derby Alt Fest?

My aim for Alt Fest is for it to become the biggest independent festival in Derby, and I seriously don’t think it will be long until you see a full weekend line-up and multiple venues.

I would also love to do an outdoor gig at some point, but I don’t think that the dog walkers at Markeaton Park would really appreciate some slamming death metal, do you?

However, they might actually, who knows?








Sasha And The Shades band photo


Today, emerging London six-piece Sasha & The Shades have unveiled a new track –
entitled ‘Echoes‘ – which is the first in what will be a series of single releases over
the next few months, and represents another step in a musical journey that began
with a reunion at a gig celebrating frontman Sasha Adamczewski‘s 21st birthday.

I had been studying for a degree in fine art, so I hadn’t seen Tom (Julian-Jones,
guitarist) – who I have been mates with since primary school – for a while“, recalls
Sasha, “I knew that he had been in a couple of blues trios, and when I watched him
play, I was so inspired by how far he had come, in regards to both his sound, and how much fun he seemed to be having on stage performing within a group of musicians.”

After meeting again, the two old friends began to regularly rehearse together, and it
would be during one of those occasions that they would decide on their sonic direction.

Tom knew that I had been writing and playing my own material from a young age, so he suggested that we take some of the strongest material from my back catalogue,
and re-arrange it so it was more suitable to perform with a band.”

They took that idea to a friend of Sasha‘s family who worked in the music industry,
who in turn introduced them to producer Sean Read, who would go on to play a vital role in the band’s odyssey.

Joined by two session musicians, the fledgling collective recorded a three-track
demo, which was then sent to indie label Rough Trade Records, who liked it, but
decided not to pursue their interest in them any further after watching the outfit
play live.

After this rejection, Sasha and Tom both realised that in order to push themselves
further, they would have to make a few adjustments.

With a couple of departures and arrivals, what had been a four-piece became the
current sextet, who then worked hard on enhancing a sound that is rooted in blues-rock and Americana, but also embraces a diverse range of musical genres, as well as developing a stage presence that is atmospheric, powerful, and energetic.

Armed with this attributes, the band began to make an impact on the London underground music scene, also receiving acclaim from critics and fans alike for thought-provoking lyrical content containing themes spanning from mental health to Brexit.

This has culminated in the six-piece performing at this year’s Camden Rocks Festival, as well as in Paris, where they will be playing again after a set at the upcoming Left Of The Dial festival in the Netherlands.

However, despite all of this positivity, Sasha says there is still so much left for him
and his bandmates to achieve.

We want to break further into the blues-rock/Americana scene, we also want to
tour the rest of the UK and Europe, and we also want to keep writing new music, and
we hope we manage to do all of that before the world completely turns to shit.”

Sasha And The Shades Single Cover




Louzada band photo


Louzada will be unveiling debut EP ‘The Z Files‘ this Friday, and with it being highly-anticipated by the London hard rock outfit’s rapidly-growing legion of followers, the band recently took the time to go through the upcoming release with me.


Our idea for ‘The Z Files‘ was to create something striking, in terms of both how it looked and how it sounded. We enlisted the services of Visual Decay Art & Design to create the wanted poster-style front cover.

The title fitted well, because it portrayed the band as being on the run and showing off our new breed of rock and roll everywhere we go. It sounds clichéd, but we feel this concept, and who we are matched perfectly!


This song is simply a powerful expression of who we are and what we aspire to do, therefore we deemed it to be the perfect opener for the EP. Lots of our idols started off their albums in the exact same fashion!

We basically wrote this song with one question in mind, “How can we make this song sound as much like AC/DC as possible?” Obviously the subject of this song is something that those guys have been doing for so many years, so we thought it was the perfect formula to follow! Everything about this song screams AC/DC from start to finish.


This is definitely our most commercially successful song on the EP. Every band has their sing-along favourite, and this is ours! This one has a summer vibe to it; it’s about meeting a girl and falling in love!

In terms of musicality, we took our hard rock sound and incorporated blues and a pop-style chorus into it, as these are two things that many music fans can instantly identify. We took our inspiration from 80’s glam bands such as Whitesnake and Mötley Crüe in both the instrumentation and vocal styles.


This is another song that we intended to relate with our listeners on an emotional level, and another one with a story behind it that many people can relate to. It portrays the situation of an abusive relationship, where one party is being controlled, used, and lied to by the other, and the lyrics depict the feelings and thoughts of the sufferer as the situation progresses.

The title of the song speaks for itself; anybody in an abusive situation feels their sanity and mental health slowly deteriorating. It also depicts the moment that the sufferer says enough is enough and fights back. The melodies and chord progressions here were largely inspired by modern alternative rock bands such as the Foo Fighters and Nickelback.


This is the most aggressive track on the EP, and it really shows off our influences from bands such as Metallica and Motörhead. This one can be interpreted in several ways, for example, some may interpret it as our response to current issues in the world, and the chaos that ensues as a result.

However, others may interpret it in a more music-oriented way. The chorus starts with the line, “The world isn’t ready for what’s coming now…“. In this way, it refers to our new rock sound, which we want to show off to the world.


This one is the most complex song on the EP. The changes in the groove and tempo in the second half of the song, and the intense playing style of all the instruments make it a suitable closing track.

It talks about mental health, which is something that continues to be a huge issue, especially in the music industry, and the first half portrays an individual battling the demons in his head, feeling like he has nowhere to go, and nobody to turn to, however, the second half of the song portrays the person’s determination to battle his demons and ultimately win his fight.

Bands such as Avenged Sevenfold, Helloween, and Alice In Chains were a huge influence on us when writing this song with the slow-to-fast tempo change, the guitar melodies, the vocal styles, and the intense double kick drum towards the end.

In summary, this song is our way of encouraging those who are struggling that they can and will overcome any obstacle, no matter the size.

Louzada EP Cover