Tag Archives: Zak Sloman

ASYLUMS

Asylums band photo

ASYLUMS (from l-r): Mike Webster (bass), Jazz Miell (guitar), Henry Tyler (drums), Luke Branch (vocals/guitar)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

From Essex, Asylums are an ambitious, fiercely-independent four-piece who specialise in a well-crafted, artistically-led alternative rock sound, which is accompanied by thought-provoking lyrical content that relates to a wide range of personal and contemporary political and social issues.

As well as focusing on their own development as a band, the Southend quartet also run a record label, Cool Thing, which supports and encourages emerging like-minded musical collectives.

I spoke to the outfit about all of this, and more, following their set at the recent Camden Rocks Festival, and here is what they had to say to me:

How did the band initially get together?

LUKE BRANCH (vocals/guitar): Basically, we were all in different bands, but in around 2013, they all came to a natural conclusion, for all sorts of different reasons. My granddad could see I was getting stressed out about it, so he gave me £1,000, and told me to keep pursuing my musical dream.

I then called Mike up, and asked him if he fancied working on some songs with me, then we called up Jazz about two weeks later, and then Henry after that. We went on to develop some material as duos, and then – I think it was around Christmas 2013 – we all got into a room, and started to jam on what we had been working on.

It just started like that, really. We didn’t go, “Let’s start a band! Let’s be the greatest!“, and I thank my granddad for giving me that money, because without that, I don’t know if we would have ever got off the ground.

How did the name Asylums come about?

LUKE: Many years ago, I used to play in a band with one of my best friends, and he said to me, “Fuck me, mate! We’re either going to end up living in mansions or asylums doing this!“, and as time went on, and that band finished, and so on, I was walking up a hill one day, and I thought, “Yeah, I think I’m ready to live in an asylum!” (laughs)

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

LUKE: Up until recently, we kind of had a factory line, as I would first work on a song by playing the piano or the guitar, and try and flesh out what I got from that as much as I possibly could, and then I would usually go to Jazz or Mike, who would then make their contribution, and whichever one of the two came next would then also contribute, with Henry usually being the last to contribute, and that seemed to be the way we always did it, and after that, we would add lyrics, chords, and melodies, and then record it.

However, with the album we’re working on at the moment – our third – we’ve tried a new approach. Rather than doing what we’ve done before, where we have all done stuff and sent it to one another, we’ve gone for a more collaborative process. I will play something I’ve come up with on the piano, and then Jazz will improvise on his guitar, and so on, so we’re still achieving pretty much the same thing, but it’s fresher, and it gives the record more of a flavour, so that’s something we’re getting rather excited about.

We had to do what we did before, mainly because of lack of time, so we had to be strict with ourselves, but now, we can be more relaxed.

What inspires the band lyrically?

MIKE WEBSTER (bass): Horror films.

LUKE: I read a quote somewhere recently from the author Martin Amis, who said, “Every line needs a minimum of elegance“, and I think I know what he means by that, because you have to set a bar for yourself lyrically, and words in general, as every line has to justify itself by being beautifully constructed, which is a hard thing to do, as you have to be conscious of the bar you set yourself, and it needs to feel right, as the feeling is more important than anything else, so you have to try to balance these two things, while also not diminishing the meaning of it, and that’s where the instinctive, playing together, drawing from the lyrics as you remember writing them rather than lifting them directly from the page, helps to bridge that gap.

In terms of inspiration, our lyrics can range from subjects such as gender politics, austerity, generational stereotyping, nostalgia, and even to a greater degree on our next record, the conflict between biological and genetic means of pro-creation against an increasingly right-wing world.

So far, you have brought out two albums, which were both very well-received. Honestly – especially in regards to your first album – did you ever expect it to get the response they got at all?

MIKE: We really didn’t expect anything, to be honest, because I think we were at a stage where we had been in separate bands, and we had decided to come together, and it was like, we decided from the very beginning that we wouldn’t go down the traditional route of working towards getting a deal with a major record label – any label in fact – and that’s why we decided to start our own one up, Cool Thing Records, so whenever we brought a record out, and it got great reviews, we felt better about it than how we would have felt had we released one through a label we had signed to, so the fact that we have been able to do that, as well as being able to sustain ourselves through Cool Thing, it’s been a fantastic journey for us, so far, and for us, over the past couple of years, it’s always been about the label, more so than ourselves, really.

On the subject of Cool Thing Records, a few other emerging talented outfits have been signed up, for example, Indian Queens were invited to play at the Meltdown festival in London when it was curated by The Cure frontman Robert Smith last year. That must have been quite an experience for them, as well as for you all.

MIKE: Indian Queens have a great agent, and they’re actually playing here tomorrow, but unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to see them. They are a great live band, they have a lot of talent, and they also work very hard, as do all of the other bands who are on the label, but yeah, Meltdown was a particular highlight for them, as well as for us.

LUKE: Yeah.

MIKE: I mean it was a fantastic thing, as I saw The Cure‘s ‘Disintegration‘ performance at the Sydney Opera House the other day on YouTube, and it was really, really good. Did any of you guys see it at all?

JAZZ MIELL (guitar): Yeah, I did. I respect Robert and the rest of The Cure so much.

MIKE: They also tuned in on my favourite song of theirs, ‘Fascination Street‘, and when that came on, I was like, “Yeah!

LUKE: Anyway, going back to your original question of did we ever expect the responses the albums got, I think – especially in the run-up to the first album coming out – we had given up using traditional methods, and we had all learnt the same lesson of – it this makes any sense – “All art is created for its own sake“, so there was really no point of us trying to second guess how well it was going to do on the radio, how it was going to be received by the press, and that helped to free us in a big way, because from there, we could just be as expressive, and have as much fun with it, as we wanted, and I think that was another reason why we started Cool Thing up, because we didn’t have to answer to anybody, so we felt we could take the piss, and be as anarchic as we liked, and that’s really how rock n’ roll should be.

It shouldn’t be about red carpets being rolled out, and musicians getting ideas above their stations, and unfortunately, those things have reduced the sentiment of the whole thing, I think.

You have just played a set here at Camden Rocks. How is the experience – for the band overall – of performing live?

JAZZ: Generally, for me, I try to embody what we try to do with the music, so the stage performance is like a physical representation of what is on our records, but every gig is different, I find, whether it’s the crowd, the venue, the weather, you never really know what’s going to happen on the day, so I think you owe it to the audience to produce a unique experience every time, as we can’t just stand there and not do much.

How was the band’s set today?

JAZZ: It was really good. We had a great time, and we really enjoyed ourselves. The venue we played (Fest) did a good job of looking after us, and every time we’ve played here at Camden Rocks has been a really good experience.

LUKE: We did our first gig here four years ago, at The Stables in Camden Market, and we tried something recently. We were mentally exhausted from the process of making music, don’t get us wrong, we still very much enjoyed it, but it was draining us mentally and physically, so we decided to take six months off playing live, and we used that time to re-focus our friendship and relationship with music, so today was the first time we had done a gig in six months.

The last one we played before then was at the Camden Assembly, but it honestly hasn’t felt like it has been six months, but we have used that time to re-adjust our personal lives, because I think it is important to do that, especially when it involves our mental health.

Even though mental health is now a very big topic, I still don’t think it’s discussed enough what a human being can take in terms of touring, making records, and promoting them, as I still think that there is a lot of pressure on an artist to compromise their mental health to a degree where maybe they start to feel that they are in a dark place.

That’s just my opinion, but I know from the experience that we are a hell of a lot better, a lot more creative, we have more music in the can, so I think our break was just our way of saying we needed a breather, which is something I would almost certainly recommend for anybody who is reaching a point where everything is becoming too much for them.

What are your plans for the near future? You earlier mentioned that you’re working on another album.

LUKE: Yeah, we are doing another album. We’re doing it in circumstances that we’re really excited about, but unfortunately, we can’t say too much in regards to that at the moment, but I think it would be something that people might be pleasantly surprised by.

We’re going to be making a documentary called ‘Join Us On The Small Wave‘, which will be about Cool Thing, and we have a wider agenda of getting three albums out by three of our acts on our label, so currently, the plan is to get out our next album, and I suppose the point of all that is really that we want to expose sustainability, an approach to existing in the arts with a message of positive mental health, community in the arts in a positive and stabilising feature of independent work.

THE THIRD ALBUM BY ASYLUMS WILL BE RELEASED SOON THROUGH COOL THING RECORDS, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

 

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BUNKERPOP – ‘Bunkerpop’

Bunkerpop band logo

REVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Having built up a devoted following in recent years with an eclectic sound drawn from a broad range of musical influences, Hull five-piece Bunkerpop have delivered a self-titled debut album.

Comprising of 12 tracks totalling almost 54 minutes, the band have split their first offering into four manageable parts – all named after colours – each containing three songs, which all reflect a true sonic diversity.

The opening group of tracks – the ‘Red Side‘ – begins with ‘Start Something With A Stop‘, a synth-heavy number that evokes the musical stylings of German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk.

Despite the fact that it only really comprises of the same four bars of synth repeated on a constant loop, it does an effective job of advertising the quintet’s penchant for avant-garde instrumentals and prepares the listener for what is to come.

Following this is ‘(Are You Ready) For Something‘, which, in comparison to the opener, is a more melodic-sounding affair dominated by piano keys, a consistent underlying tribal drum beat, and the use of snippets of distorted dialogue.

Rounding off the first part of the release is ‘Bunkerpop Theme‘, which marks a return to the synth-led, new wave-esque sound of the opener, albeit with a generally more chilled-out vibe.

Moving onto the ‘Blue Side‘ now, and ‘Stop‘ – a track that will be familiar to anybody who watched the band live in their first year – is a rather psychedelic offering, featuring sounds of crashing waves, and an acoustic guitar rendition of the theme tune to classic children’s television programme ‘Camberwick Green‘.

Kijk‘ is another one of the quintet’s songs to have become a live favourite, being described by fans as “Super Mario on acid“, which on listening to this, can be an accurate description, what with a fast-paced sound that is rather reminiscent of the music from the early days of computer games, accompanied by an odd mix of birdsong, Japanese dialogue, and pins being knocked down in a bowling alley.

In comparison, the ‘White Side‘ opens with the Humberside five-piece venturing down a more traditional route.

Newtown‘ – the seventh track – is noticeable for being the only one to contain so-called “proper” lyrics and vocals, dealing with the boredom of city centre life, with the use of sound effects being kept to a bare minimum.

This number almost acts as a gateway for general listeners who may be put off by the more surreal fare, as following song ‘Don’t Upset The Hawk‘ sees the collective go back into pure avant-garde.

The remainder of this offering, including last part the ‘Black Side’ mainly goes along at a laid-back pace, with some creative experimentation along the way.

Wet Brains‘ – a seven-minute epic – has a relaxed vibe for the majority of that time, however, in the final minute, the sound really gathers pace, building up towards an overwhelming finish, which is a genuine surprise for those listening to the song for the very first time.

Harmony Wheel‘ has a playful, jazz-esque vibe to it, ‘Lovely Eno‘ is a truly atmospheric-sounding affair, and ‘Action After Warnings‘ closes proceedings by featuring the quintet at their most improvisational.

In conclusion, ‘Bunkerpop‘ is a well-crafted album that has much to offer, highlighting a true knack for musical creativity, and provides concrete evidence that the band care more about the music they produce rather than pandering to the lowest common denominator in order to generate a big financial profit, something that is – especially in regards to the mainstream – is sadly becoming a rarity these days.

TOP TRACK: ‘Kijk

(4/5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUNKERPOP – ‘Bunkerpop’ ALBUM TRACK-BY-TRACK

Bunkerpop band photo

by ZAK SLOMAN

Recently, rapidly-emerging Hull five-piece Bunkerpop unveiled a self-titled debut album, which they had spent the best part of a year working on, constantly tweaking what had been recorded to ensure that the release would be the best it could possibly be, as well as being an accurate reflection of the band’s eclectic and distinctive sound.

Unlike the majority of albums, the collective opted to split their first offering into four parts – all named after colours – each comprising of three tracks, and they were happy to go through them all in detail with me.

RED SIDE

‘START SOMETHING WITH A STOP’

This track started off in life as a tune called ‘Disko Socks‘, which we used to play live, and was quite a favourite in the early days. It didn’t quite work on the recording, so we basically took everything off the live take and stripped it back apart from four bars of Jonathan‘s synth line, which we repeated over and over again.

It’s the most Kraftwerk-type tune we have, and conjures up images of speeding down the autobahn in true krautrock style.

‘(ARE YOU READY) FOR SOMETHING’

The obvious choice for the single from the album. It has elements of The Chemical Brothers and charity shop Daft Punk to the sound. Paul and Jonathan did the vocoder parts, with the original dialogue coming from a YouTube clip of a crazy preacher man trying to convert the masses at a church.

‘BUNKERPOP THEME’

The first track the band ever practiced together in full. Jonathan started it with a squelching from his synth, Carlos joined in, and the rest of us followed.

The dialogue track came from a promotional record bigging up a 1970’s local radio station somewhere in the south of England, and Trevor – the band’s bassist – has a selection of bizarre sound effects records that we draw from when we need something a bit odd to add to proceedings.

BLUE SIDE

‘STOP’

This is the track we used to open every live set with for the first year. It came about from an improvised jam, and we really loved it. Paul added the Camberwick Green acoustic guitar to give it a nostalgic feel that took us all back to our childhoods.

‘KIJK’

This tune started off being called ‘Three Times The Stabs‘, and it was called this right up until about a month before the final mixes. It has been described as “Super Mario on acid” by fans of the band. It’s a live favourite, and was BBC Introducing‘s track of the week a few weeks ago.

‘LUISTER’

This started off as the weakest track on the album, as it really wasn’t doing anything. The three tunes on this side all meld into each other, and this really was a bit lame, so Mark and Paul cut it up, sliced it, spliced, thrashed, and added chopped-up bits from the original live take to come up with something we rather like, so it’s bizarre.

The three songs on this side are Dutch brothers….the English translation is ‘Stop, Look, Listen‘.

​WHITE SIDE

‘NEWTOWN’

The only track on the album with “proper” lyrics. The words are descriptive of the boredom of city centre living and town centres in general. It highlights town centre planning, town centre furniture, town centre zombies, and town centre mediocrity….which we quite like. It also features our friend Salbo Baggins (The Dyr Sister) on strings.

‘DON’T UPSET THE HAWK’

A one-chord live jam that was pretty boring until we cut it up in the studio and added overdubs. Nice, fuzzy, and percussive. Carlos the drummer plays a blinder.

The dialogue comes from an Australian TV interview with Lou Reed. Lou wasn’t playing that day, so the interviewer’s questions were more interesting than his answers.

Also, watch out for the new video made by Nicholas Broten of Fonda 500 for this track…one of our personal favourites from the album.

‘WET BRAINS’

Wet Brains‘ was the first song we practiced after Paul returned from an eight-month trip travelling around Europe.

It’s in ‘B’ minor, which is unusual for us, as we normally stay in the majors. It’s very dub and laid back right until the end when the band goes nuts. It also features sound effects from a steam boat, and Nicholas Broten on razor guitar.

BLACK SIDE

‘HARMONY WHEEL’

This was originally about three minutes too long, so we cut much of it out. It’s a very playful tune which reminds us of a Henry Mancini tune called ‘Baby Elephant Walk‘ for some reason.

It’s a delightful plod through the jungle, and the dialogue once again comes from one of Trevor‘s sound effects records.

‘LOVELY ENO’

This was the biggest surprise on the album. It’s basically a live improvisation towards the end of the last recording session with a few overdubs from Mark in the studio eight months later.

Basically, we had some spare time, so we just pressed record and went for it after a few false starts, which we kept on the record as we really rather liked them. Paul and Trevor both play bass on the live take, and Jonathan‘s parts were recorded with his headphones plugged in, so we didn’t hear what he was playing until we pressed the recorded playback.

It’s a gorgeous, atmospheric piece of muzak.

‘ACTION AFTER WARNINGS’

Action After Warnings‘ is a song title we had for ages, but couldn’t find a tune to fit. It was going to be the album title too. This tune basically followed straight on from the improvisation of ‘Lovely Eno‘….we just kept on playing. Mark, Jonathan, and Paul added overdubs of guitar, keyboards, and melodica in the studio…and hey presto!

THE SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM FROM BUNKERPOP IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND FURTHER INFO ON THIS – AND THE BAND – CAN BE FOUND HERE & HERE.

 

A CHAT WITH BUNKERPOP

Bunkerpop band logo

by ZAK SLOMAN

Since forming in the spring of 2016, five-piece Bunkerpop have been building up a devoted legion of followers, initially in their home city of Hull, and now spreading across the UK, with a truly unique, mostly instrumental sound drawn from an eclectic range of musical influences, as well as live performances that actively encourage audience participation.

However, the genesis of the band happened to be a complete accident. “We were originally practicing just for a David Bowie tribute night at the Adelphi (a popular live music venue), which Jonathan – our keyboard and synth player – had organised.

During the practice session, the five members suddenly began to jam with their instruments in unison, and sensing positive vibes from this impromptu musical collaboration, they all decided to meet again for another practice, where the quintet put together their first track, entitled ‘Bunkerpop Theme‘.

With a name stemming from both an unforgiving windowless concrete space underneath a stand at the city football team’s stadium, and a song by Mancunian post-punk singer-songwriter LoneLady, Bunkerpop got to work on honing their approach to songwriting.

We have a three-pronged approach to songwriting. Sometimes, somebody will start playing something, and then the rest of us join in, which is sometimes very successful, and occasionally awful. Other times, we’ll start from scratch in the studio, build a tune up that way, and then practice it for live performance. We also combine those two approaches to come up with a third way, where we will record a live take, then splice it up, add things, take things away, and spew it out the other side.

The latter approach is what the quintet opted for when it came to recording their recently-released debut album.

We recorded it over three sessions, and we got our friend Bob Wingfield to engineer and press record whilst we basically played live. We then took the recordings, and worked, re-worked, and worked on them again. Some stuff was dumped altogether.

This is something the Humberside collective would consistently do over the next 12 months, taking many hours and days making everything as perfect as it could possibly be, and once they were completely satisified, the band sent it over to mastering supremo Pete Maher, who has worked with the likes of the White Stripes and U2, who – in the five-piece’s words – “gave it a shiny finish“.

Unlike the majority of bands and artists out there, Bunkerpop mostly eschew lyrical content in favour of samples of dialogue and sound effects. It plays a big role in what they do, and how the outfit present themselves, and this way, “the songs are open for interpretation, and we trust the listener to have enough integrity to come up with their own thoughts and feelings.

This is something that also applies to the album as a whole, with the offering comprising of three songs on four sides, all named after colours. “We decided not to number the sides, as we didn’t want to have the listeners to think which one is best, so instead, they’re coloured sides. Each side is a mood, so the listener can choose a mood instead of an order.

And this is reflected in the overall sound, which the band have described as “gorgeous“. “It’s groovy and strange. You can dance to some sides or you can chill out to others. Some of it is very pretty and nostalgic, whilst other parts are aggressive and fuming with the state of it all.

Now the album has finally been released, the quintet are currently on a summer tour, which will see them play festivals and venues across the UK, and although rather gruelling, playing live is something they simply love doing. “We do not stand for mediocre, because why should anyone stand for that? The audience play a big part in any of our performances, and stage invasions are encouraged. We include the whole room in a performance, and there is no boundaries between band and audience. We have our uniforms as we are a team, and we play together to create joy and happiness.

So far, the new release has had an overwhelmingly positive response, and the band have managed to sell half of its initial vinyl pressing, not bad for an outfit who have no major label support, and do pretty much everything independently.

However, the five-piece are not going to let this success get to their heads any time soon. “What really makes us happy is being creative and playing, and we’ll be moving onto recording new stuff soon as with the momentum we have currently, we can’t really afford to stand still. This time next year, Del Boy

THE SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM FROM BUNKERPOP IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND FURTHER INFO ON THIS – AND THE BAND – CAN BE FOUND HERE.

 

BUNKERPOP

Bunkerpop band photo

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

Comprising of five talented musicians – Mark Blissenden, Carlos Macklin, Paul Sarel, Trevor Simpson, and Jonathan Wainberg – from the city of Hull, Bunkerpop draw from an eclectic range of musical influences to deliver a truly unique, diverse, mostly instrumental sound that leaves the listener free to make their own interpretation of it.

The band have been building up a devoted legion of followers over the past couple of years, initially in their home city, and now spreading across the UK, with this, as well as live performances that actively encourage audience participation.

Having recently brought out a self-titled debut album, the quintet spoke to me about what can be expected from it, as well as a lengthy recording process, which saw them work their fingers to the bone in order to produce the best possible release.

How did the band initially get together?

Bunkerpop came together in the spring of 2016 by a succession of flukes and accidents. We were originally practicing a David Bowie song in preparation for a tribute night to him at the Hull Adelphi, which Jonathan – our keyboard and synth player – had organised.

This led to a couple of new tunes squeaking out of his equipment, which we liked, and that then led to a hastily-arranged recruitment of mates to form a full band practice. The first tune we played all together was ‘Bunkerpop Theme‘, which is on our debut album.

How did the name Bunkerpop come about?

The name comes from a space at the place of work that Paul was working in. It was a windowless concrete room underneath the south stand of the KC Stadium (home of football club Hull City) with flickering strip lighting which caused twitchiness and mental health problems to all who worked there. We called it “The Bunker“.

This was coupled with the fact that Paul was playing a lot of tunes by an artist called Lonelady, who has an excellent tune called ‘Bunkerpop‘, so it seemed to fit the mood of the music too. It’s a terrific name.

What would you say was your approach to songwriting?

We have a three-pronged approach to writing songs. Often, they will start with the five of us playing together at practice. Somebody starts, and the rest of us will then join in, which is sometimes very successful, and occasionally awful.

We are very good listeners, so we are kind to each other and nobody overplays, as we like to keep it simple. Other times, we’ll start from scratch in the studio and build a tune up that way, and then practice it for live performances.

We also combine the two approaches mentioned to come up with a third way, which is to record a live take, then splice it up, add things, take things away, and spew it out the other side.

What inspires the band lyrically?

Most of our tunes have no lyrics, but we do like to have a narrative of sorts running through them on recordings, with things like samples of dialogue or sound effects playing a big part in what we do and how we present ourselves.

Without actual lyrics, the songs are open for interpretation, and we trust the listener to have enough integrity to come up with their own thoughts and feelings.

With our debut album, we hope to capture a mood with each tune. We are quite an upbeat band, but we do have a darker, more cynical side which runs throughout it.

You recently brought out a new single, entitled ‘(Are You Ready) For Something’, to an overwhelmingly positive response. How have you been dealing with that?

The tune is a great track, so we knew it would get a positive response. It was one of the first to be finished for the album, so we had to sit on it for about a year before officially releasing it as a single, and we never got bored of it during that time, so we guess we knew it was a goer for a single.

Also, we made a brilliant video for it with our friends Mark Richardson and Anna Bean, who are both very talented. It only cost £18.80 to make, and it was all shot in around 90 minutes.

And the track was taken from the band’s recently-released first album. How was the recording process for it?

The basic live tracks were recorded over three sessions at Gorilla Studios and the Hull Adelphi. We got our friend Bob Wingfield to engineer and press record whilst the band basically played live.

We then took the recordings and worked, re-worked, and worked on them again, with some stuff being dumped altogether. We then did all that again and again for 12 months, adding extras such as the samples, overdubs and edits, with Mark – who plays percussion in the band – taking hours, days, and eventually months mixing, splicing, sliding, and perfecting until we were all happy with it.

We then had it mastered by Pete Maher – who has done mastering for The White Stripes and U2 – and he gave it a shiny finish. It’s a terrific record.

And for those who have yet to listen to the album, what can they expect?

So far, we’ve had nothing but positive feedback, and a lot of musicians like it. It’s a double album with three tunes on each side, but no numbered sides, as we didn’t want listeners to think which side is best.

Instead, they’re coloured sides which represent a mood, so the listener can choose a mood instead of an order. The sound is gorgeous on it, and there is a lot of space with very clean production, which is perfect for the tunes, as they’re mostly instrumental.

Our influences range from Kraftwerk, to Daft Punk, to Can. It’s groovy and strange, as you can dance to some sides, or you can chill out to others. Some of it is very pretty and nostalgic, whilst other parts are aggressive and fuming with the state of it all.

The band are from Hull. How is the contemporary music scene there?

There are a lot of good people doing great things in Hull, and most folks are more positive about the city nowadays after years of there being a lack of confidence.

Bunkerpop exist in a bit of a vacuum doing our own thing musically, but we’re appreciative of what is going on elsewhere. There seems to be a real vibe, and people are being braver in putting on bands and experimenting with different genres.

It’s healthy, and after visiting another major city in England only a few weeks ago, we have come to appreciate that we have a vibrant music, arts and creative scene going on in Hull. It’s a unique and brilliant place to live. It’s edgy, and it has its problems, but by jiminy, we love it.

How is the overall experience – for you all – of playing live?

The band are brilliant live. We adore playing live, it’s where it’s at for us all. We will not stand for mediocre, because why should anyone stand for that?

We are visually and sonically on another planet, which is perhaps the moon, or in a shuttle on the way to Mars, when we play live. The audience play a big part in any of our performances, and stage invasions are encouraged. We include the whole room in a performance, as there are no boundaries between us and the audience.

We have our uniforms, as we are a team, and we play together to create joy and happiness. Boom!

Now that the album has been released, what are the band’s plans for the near future?

We have just played the first couple of gigs of a summer tour. The gigs shall see us take our stage show to many other exciting places, including festivals and parties in such exotic places as Nottingham, Rugby, Hull, London, and Barrow-in-Furness.

We’ll be bringing the Bunkerpop dancers to some performances, and we also have a loyal following of friends and fans who often jump on the Bunkerbus to create chaos and joy at gigs.

We’re also continuing to push the album, which has already sold 50% of its first vinyl pressing, and we will also be bringing out a new video out soon, which has been made by our beautiful friend Mr Nicholas Broten of Fonda 500.

We may have a little rest in September, but we are planning another blast of gigs for this autumn, and then we will be moving onto the next batch of recordings. We are totally independent, and we do all of the bookings, promotion, artwork, recordings, social media, and organisation, so it’s pretty full on.

And lastly, what is your long-term aim?

I guess the long-term aim is to keep going, and to enjoy it as much as we can. We’d also like to be very rich, so we could concentrate all our efforts on this, but realistically, we’re happy to cover costs, get experiences, and meet incredible people.

We have already met smashing folks who are doing this for the love of it, such as Richard McKerron in Derby, Will and Jason in Nottingham, and the I’m Not From London record label, and it’s always great to see old friends too, like Jimi from Gigantic.

What really makes us happy is being creative and playing. We’ll be moving onto recording new stuff soon, as with the momentum we have, we can’t really afford to stand still.

This time next year, Del Boy

 

Bunkerpop band logo

THE SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM FROM BUNKERPOP IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

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A

A band photo

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

PHOTO by IAN GAV

Since first forming as A back in 1993, the Suffolk alternative rock outfit have been on an eventful journey that has seen highs – signing their first record contract, releasing a string of critically and commercially successful albums, and playing gigs and festivals at venues across the world – and lows – the record label they were a part of suddenly collapsing, getting into a dispute with the label that took over their contract, resulting in them being dropped, and the band splitting up for three years in the mid-2000’s.

However, they have risen above those past negative events to become a collective who are highly-respected by their musical peers, and still bring much fun and enjoyment to their live shows.

Following the current five-piece’s set at the Electric Ballroom – as part of the recent Camden Rocks Festival – I went backstage to speak with frontman Jason Perry, who spoke to me frankly about his and the rest of the band’s experiences over the years.

How did the band initially form?

In the womb! Me and Adam (Perry, drums) are twins, then Giles (Perry, keyboards/vocals) popped out four years later. We were always into creating and playing music, which then eventually evolved into us starting a jam covers band when me and Adam were 11, and that was it, really, as we’ve just carried on ever since.

How did the name A come about?

We wanted a name that didn’t really mean anything, which wasn’t pretentious or anything, easy to remember, and wouldn’t tie us down to a specific genre. Also, we wanted a name that looked good on a T-shirt.

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

I don’t know, to be honest. Mainly, I will walk around, an idea will suddenly come into my head, and I’ll put it down on my phone or whatever.

We’ve never just sat down and written a song. Mark (Chapman, guitarist) will often come up with a bit of music, so did Dan (P. Carter, former bassist), when he was in the band, back in the day, and then we’ll join up all of the different dots to create a song. That’s the way we’ve always done it.

In 2002, the band brought out their third album, ‘Hi-Fi Serious’, which did really well critically and commercially. How did you all deal with the response to it at the time?

Honestly, we wanted it to do better! (laughs) No, it did well, but we thought it was going to take off in America, because we had been touring there a lot, putting down all of the groundwork, and a few of our tracks had been played on K-ROQ (an influential radio station in Los Angeles, which specialises in playing alternative rock), which was a big deal, so just before the album came out, we were really excited, all of us were thinking, “This is going to be it! We’re going to crack America!“, but unfortunately, Mammoth Records – the label we were with at the time – suddenly collapsed.

We first heard that news while we were all in France, snowboarding with Jo Whiley of BBC Radio 1, and Mis-Teeq, who were this pop group. We had had a great couple of days, but then we got this call about the label collapsing, and that it had been taken over by Disney, so we had gone from being part of this really cool record label, to being part of Hollywood Records, which was owned by Disney.

You went on to have a dispute with them, didn’t you?

Yeah, we did. We were gutted, because we had brought out a big album, which was doing well here in the UK, it was also doing well in Japan, Germany, France, all of these different markets, and when the MTV Awards were being held that year – I think it was hosted by Jack Black – and they were giving out the award for best band, they played one of our songs, yet in the middle of all that, our label had collapsed, and we subsequently lost our record deal, so it was really bad luck.

In 2005, the band decided to take a break. At the time, was it just meant to be that, or did you honestly think this was the end of A?

We had just brought out another album (‘Teen Dance Ordination‘), which didn’t do very well, it didn’t land anywhere, and when you had had a big album on a major label, to then come back and not get any radio play, it wasn’t good.

We did another tour after that, but we didn’t want to end up being this band that just kept hanging around, complaining all the time, so we decided to take the “no complaining” route, and during our break, I began to write and produce music for other bands.

Over the years, you’ve toured all over the world, playing numerous venues and festivals. What have been your main highlights from those times?

I think touring Japan was our best experience, and the rest of the band would probably say that as well. The main reasons being were that the audiences were cool, and we also got an amazing amount of time off.

We were over there with The Streets – who were our label mates at the time – and The Wildhearts, and we also played with The Offspring and Guns N’ Roses, and on our days off, we would hang out with Mike (Skinner, The Streets frontman) and the other guys from The Streets, and I remember just having an amazing time, as we all had lots of fun. It was really cool.

Also, playing at festivals in Germany, and on the main stage of Reading & Leeds, they were high points for us as well.

When the band first formed, did you ever expect it to still be going now?

No, not now. We wanted to be big, we wanted to write big songs, we wanted to play big venues, but along the way, we scored a few own goals, as we were just silly, because we spent more time trying to make each other laugh rather than doing other things, and I think – looking back – that was detrimental to our careers.

However, having said that, we have always been able to put on a good gig, for example, today could have been a complete disaster, but it ended up being fun, and I think we’ve always been good at being able to do that, as well as connecting with crowds, and that’s always been our favourite things to do as part of being in this band, because at the end of the day, the crowd are cooler than we are, and we’ve always thought that.

I don’t know why, but playing live has always come so naturally to us, as we’re the same on the stage as we are off it, also, we don’t rehearse for any of our gigs, so what you see on stage is genuinely real. In the early days of the band, our manager would try and get us to rehearse, but we quickly got bored and just went to sleep! (laughs)

What are your plans for the near future?

We’ve just written two new songs, which we think are really good, so we’ll soon be recording them in the studio, and then we’ll be going back on tour in November, playing the ‘Monkey Kong‘ album in full.

Will the band be releasing another album at all in the future?

An album seems so old-fashioned to do nowadays, so we’ll just keep on getting out new singles, because it does actually cost a lot of money to record a professional-sounding album, so it would really be of no use for us to release an album that sounded crap.

Also, there’s some really good music about at the moment, and we seem to be heading towards another great era.

And lastly, what advice would you give to any emerging bands and artists out there?

Don’t split up! It sounds obvious, but the best way to succeed is by not developing massive egos, and they say the first rule of business is to stay in business, because some bands tend to forget that at the end of the day, they are actually businesses, so it’s no use arguing over songwriting credits, royalties, etc, because that could result in a band splitting up.

I think everyone who is in a band now needs to find their own specific role to play. It doesn’t necessarily have to be music-related, as now, as well as being a musician, you need to also be an entrepreneur, so finding a role to play is now as important as anything else to do with being in a band.

A WILL BE TOURING THE UK – PLAYING THEIR 1999 ‘A vs. MONKEY KONG’ ALBUM IN FULL – THIS NOVEMBER, MORE DETAILS OF WHICH CAN BE FOUND BELOW:

A tour poster

FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

YOUTUBE

 

 

DERANGE

Derange band photo

DERANGE (from l-r): Justas Brazdziunas (guitar), Joe Macpherson (bass), Cat Pereira (vocals), Joe Farrell (drums), Nick Crosby (guitar)

INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN

In the autumn of 2015, London tech-metal collective Derange burst onto the scene with their debut album, ‘The Awakening‘, which appealed to fans and critics alike, with the likes of Metal Hammer and Powerplay Magazine giving it excellent reviews.

Since then, the band gave been building up their following further, with tours of the UK and continental Europe, appearances at festivals such as Bloodstock, and a string of well-received single releases.

Following a highly-energetic set to a packed crowd at The Devonshire Arms in Camden – as part of the recent Camden Rocks Festival – vocalist Cat Pereira and guitarist Justas Brazdziunas spoke to me about all of this and much more.

How did the band initially form?

CAT PEREIRA (vocals): The band initially formed while I was at university. I met Joe – our bassist – at a party, and he asked me if I would be interested in joining a band he was thinking of forming.

I replied, “Okay. Why not?“, and then I met Nick when he turned up to our first rehearsal, where I showed him a few ideas that me and Joe had come up with, which had been very badly recorded on my mobile, which he then transcribed, so I knew then that would be the right person to join the band, and Justas and Joe – our drummer – joined later.

JUSTAS BRAZDZIUNAS (guitar): I joined quite recently.

CAT: We already knew each other, as we were already good friends, so I knew that Justas was a great guitarist. We invited him to join us on tour last year, and we quickly realised that he was giving us that extra charge, so after the tour had finished, we made him a permanent member of the band, and that’s how our current line-up came about.

How did the name Derange come about?

CAT: It was completely random. In the summer of 2013, I was listening to a lot of nu-metal – bands like Rage Against The Machine and Linkin Park – and I would think, “I want to be in a band like that“, and then one day, I was listening to a track called ‘Deranged‘ by Coheed And Cambria, and afterwards, it kept coming back to me. Sometimes, people will call us Deranged, but it’s Derange.

JUSTAS: That’s why it helps to remember the name.

CAT: Yeah.

What would you say was your songwriting approach?

CAT: Our songwriting approach usually starts off with Nick writing a cool riff, or having an idea for a verse or a chorus.

Usually, I will have lyrics at hand that I have written at other times, and I will suggest that we try them, so it usually starts just being me and Nick, and then when we’ve put together a melody, us and the rest of the band will jam it, and then one of the other members will come up with an idea or something, therefore, everyone in the band gets a chance to participate, and that’s the way the songwriting process works for us.

There’s none of this “something is better than the other“, as if something fails to work, it all fails.

What inspires the band lyrically?

CAT: It all depends on our approach, on how I’m feeling at the time. For our first album, ‘The Awakening‘, I was very much interested in the power of consciousness and spirituality, but I didn’t want it to focus entirely on me, because I wanted the lyrics to be of more general appeal, but recently, I have found that that doesn’t really work for me any more, as when the lyrics are more personal, I can get the emotion across much better.

I now write about that, as well as everyday things that happen, really, but I like to write about things that actually mean something.

‘The Awakening’ was released in the autumn of 2015 to very positive reviews. Honestly, was that something you were all expecting while recording it?

CAT: We knew that it was a good album, because it was written on a perception of the truth, but we have an even better album coming out soon, which we’ve been working very hard on.

However, we weren’t expecting ‘The Awakening‘ to get the response it did, which we got to fully experience when we played at Bloodstock the following year.

How was playing at Bloodstock as an experience?

CAT: It was amazing. When we were first told we were going to be playing at Bloodstock, we had no idea we would end up playing on the second stage, so that was awesome.

You earlier mentioned a new album. When are you thinking of getting that out by?

CAT: We’ve been working on the album for a while now, and we have actually released a couple of tracks from it already, but in regards to a release date, unfortunately, we can’t say at the moment. We’re not even going to reveal the album’s title yet.

The band have just performed a set at Camden Rocks. How is the experience – for you all – of playing live?

JUSTAS: It’s great, especially the set we’ve just played. It’s such an enjoyable experience.

CAT: We were genuinely surprised at the high turnout we had for our set, especially when it was at one o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. Camden Rocks is a great place to discover new bands.

JUSTAS: Yeah.

CAT: The bigger the crowd, the more energised we feel, so it creates a real buzz.

JUSTAS: It also makes you relax more, as there’s less pressure, therefore, we could play a really good set today, as we could see a lot of people who were watching and listening to us, and it gave us a very positive feeling.

And lastly, album aside, what have you got lined up for the near future?

CAT: We are going to be playing at Tech-Fest, we also have a tour lined up for this autumn, and we’re going to be releasing a few more singles, as the ones we have released from the new album so far have had great feedback.

We’re currently looking at getting the next track out in mid-July, so we’re not going to be having any rest from now on. (laughs)

Derange Single Cover

‘DIVIDE’ – THE LATEST SINGLE FROM DERANGE – IS AVAILABLE NOW, AND THE BAND’S SECOND ALBUM WILL BE RELEASED LATER THIS YEAR.

FURTHER INFO ON DERANGE CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

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YOUTUBE