Category Archives: interviews

Dave Beer & Ali Cooke

IT’S nine o’clock on a cold Saturday evening and Ali Cooke and Dave Beer are in their tiny office in the labyrinthine Music Factory, looking suitably shagged out after a trip to the Royal Albert Hall to collect Back to Basics’ prestigious Mixmag club of the year award last night.

The two bleary-eyed promoters clearly enjoyed the occasion to the full. They are not at their best. And all this less than a year after the club’s first night.

“I didn’t even realise you got awards for stuff like that,” Beer says. “When we set the club up, it’s not as if we did it to put ourselves in the limelight.”

“Dave wanted to go to a club where he’d like the music and the people around him,” adds Cooke, who also DJs at Basics. “And I wanted the chance to play the kind of music I want to play.”

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Mis-Teeq

THERE are various ways you can try to persuade straight society to buy weekly magazines from homeless people – free gifts, guilt trips, having a picture of Danger Mouse on the cover – but for a time at the Big Issue in the North, we decided to use instantly recognisable celebrities instead.

The idea to capitalise on the street-wise cachet a high-profile interview with the magazine could deliver came after people like the Stone Roses and Morrissey ignored Fleet Street and the music press to give us world exclusives on their post-hiatus returns to the limelight.

It worked for a while, but the emphasis on finding easily-recognisable faces week in week out led to us going for whatever pop culture dreck was ploughing their way through the grim regional press grind that particular week – telly, movies, music, the lowest common denominator stuff you could ever imagine.

Ultimately, it looked like we were just another celeb-focussed magazine, but crucially, unlike Heat or OK, you had to buy our magazine from someone who was very often a drug addict.

This Mis-Teeq interview dates from a period when I was commissioning interviews – and occasionally, as with this one, writing them myself – with the likes of various Spice Girls, Atomic Kitten, Hear Say and Westlife (as well as, in my defence, people like Macy Gray, Craig David and Amy Winehouse). It is nobody’s finest moment.

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The Cravats

IF EVER there was an archetypal ‘John Peel band’, whatever that actually means, then the Cravats are probably it. It seemed like they were doing sessions for Peelie’s legendary late-night Radio One every couple of weeks at one point but I only really began paying attention when they released their seminal single Rub Me Out on Crass Records in 1982.

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Although they largely conformed to the Crass ‘format’ in the single’s packaging, with the front cover featuring the title picked out in the Crass label’s trademark circular stencil, the image in the centre wasn’t some convoluted hybrid CND/anarchy A logo or whatever, but actually featured a member of the band.

I imagined Crass fans all over the UK asking: are these blokes on some kind of ego trip or what? Maybe it was just me being as daft as a brush.

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Snacks

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OKAY, let’s cut to the chase. Who has the biggest record collection in Snacks?

“Aljoscha, definitely, without a doubt,” says Rene Corbett, the New Zealand half of the Berlin-based DJing/production duo. “He’s been buying up large of late. I don’t know how many he’s got now. Every week he’s definitely adding to it. He’s such a good digger.

“He has a thirst for new music. He’s also got a good ear for what people are playing. It’s helped us develop a really cool set, the Snacks kind of sound, so I’m constantly learning a lot from him.”

Who is the best dancer in Snacks?

“Rene,” says the German half of Snacks, Aljoscha Babel. “He used to do ballet. But we both wouldn’t win any prizes”.

“I have to say Aljoscha,” says Rene. “If I get to a certain point, if I’ve had enough to drink, I sort of get better. As most of us do.”

Who can drink the most and still maintain?

“We both drink a bit,” admits Rene. “When you’re playing all night you lose track. I always get to a certain point and think, okay, I’ve had enough. You get passed shots and I’ll say cheers with everyone and just take a little sip and put my shot down. Aljoscha just keeps going. Right through to the early hours of the morning.”

Who is the best cook in Snacks?

“Cock?” asks Aljoscha, with a nervous laugh.

“That’s definitely, Aljoscha,” says Rene, who does not mishear my question. Skype lolz. Although the pair do share a flat in Kreuzberg, so …

Let’s not go there.

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Morrissey

WHAT did Morrissey do that was so bad?

For the tabloids it was his undisguised loathing for the Royal Family, his rampant vegetarianism, his refusal to play Live Aid, and his audacity, as a mere pop star, in discussing the crimes of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady.

The music press, his initial champions, never forgave him for the split of The Smiths in 1987. He’s too intellectual, they say. He can’t cut the mustard as a solo artist without Johnny Marr, they claim. And worst of all, he has been tainted with accusations of nationalism and racism since he wrapped the Union Jack around himself at a Finsbury Park gig in 1992.

Two weeks ago, the NME listed his crimes in anticipation of his British tour this week, and advised its readers to ‘brick’ the singer offstage. It’s the martyrdom of Saint Stephen all over again.

So it’s not altogether surprising that this most English of entertainers has gone into self-imposed exile. The quintessential Mancunian miserabilist now resides in the shiniest happiest city in the world: Los Angeles, renting Carole Lombard’s bachellorette pad at 7953 Hollywood Boulevard no less.

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Dennis Morris of Basement 5 and Urban Shakedown

EVERYONE knows the score, right?

Someone whose work you’ve admired for three decades is appearing in town – except you’re broke and worse, broken-hearted, because your girlfriend’s just walked out on you, it’s all still very raw and you don’t really know what day it is.

So you walk all the way to the Whitworth in the rain, and then when you get there, you’re soaked to the skin, you’ve no fags left, everything’s a bit surreal and you suddenly feel utterly disconnected from whatever the fuck ‘normal’ is.

You can’t find the insightful, carefully-researched questions in your pad, so you just end up asking questions about stuff that’s not very interesting, and forget all the stuff you really wanted to know about.

Everybody has been there, right? No? Yeah, me neither.

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Greg Wilson

AS MUCH as Greg Wilson is excited about DJing a big, open-air gig on the Pier Head in his home town of Liverpool – and he’s clearly thrilled – you also get the impression that he’s every bit as excited about the chance to talk about the ideas behind his involvement with the Very Big After Party.

Transatlantic 175 is a commemoration of 175 years of passenger travel across the Atlantic, taking place on Liverpool’s waterfront and docks. It involves the Very Big Catwalk, an attempt to break the world record for most models on a catwalk, followed by the veteran DJ Wilson doing his stuff for the assorted fashion divas at the Very Big After Party.

Wilson was brought in by Wayne Hemingway (whose Vintage Festival is also at the dock over the weekend), with a brief to highlight the musical connections between Liverpool and the US.

The perceived wisdom is that the story of musical Liverpool all started with the Cunard Yanks, the merchant seamen who went to New York and took the music, the clothes, even the mannerisms they found back to their home city, planting the seeds that would eventually grow into the Beatles and Merseybeat. A young George Harrison, for example, bought a black Gretsch guitar from a Cunard Yank fresh off the boat from New York.

“That’s not half the story, even though it’s massively important,” says Wilson over a tea cake in a restaurant on the seafront in New Brighton.

“Bob Wooler, the DJ at the Cavern, told me that he got his records from everywhere, it wasn’t just about the Cunard Yanks. He told me he used to buy a lot of new American imports from a shop in Newton-le-Willows. That seemed a bit bizarre to me. But it’s next to Burtonwood Airbase. It makes complete sense. They were selling them to the US servicemen.

“There’ve been American servicemen in this country since the second world war. I think that’s one of the reasons why there’s such an affinity with black music. And that scenario plays out in Liverpool as much as anywhere else. Black American servicemen used to come to clubs like the Timepiece in Liverpool in the 70s. And at the same time, it was always a cosmopolitan city. It was a melting pot for ideas.”

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