I DISCOVERED Hyperculte’s first album while browsing the racks of the in-house record shop at the super-organised and consistently inspiring Zoro squat venue in Leipzig, left there, no doubt, when the hard-working Swiss / French duo (or one of their other musical projects) played a gig in the former vinyl factory.
I can’t think of anywhere better.
I don’t recall what particular section the self-titled album was filed in but, in truth, it could have been any of them. Avant-garde jazz-punk? Pre-kraut post-disco? Trance pop? Take your pick. Hyperculte seem pretty relaxed about genre, categories and boxes.
What I do remember is being struck by the cover image for the album, which featured the duo wearing decidedly un-ironic and bizarre out-size furry costumes by the side of a misty, fairytale lake.
It doesn’t look like they’re having a laugh. The pair of them look like they’re deadly serious, unrepentant, defiant even.
If these hairy chimeras came from some kind of fairy tale, it was clearly one that was infinitely darker, earthier and more primal than the cuddly, sanitised morality tales parents send kids to sleep with today.
In fact, Diego Sanchez’s hugely evocative photography hints at the kind of ancient, amoral, pine-scented central European folklore upon which all that Disney shit is ultimately based.
You can sense a stillness that has sustained for centuries.
It was mysterious, elegant and beautiful. And weird as fuck.
Reader, I bought it.
THE SHOP ASSISTANTS tend to get lumped in with all the jingly-jangly stuff that made up most of the NME’s C86 cassette, but they just sound very punk rock to me. All of my Shop Assistants records went west a long time ago but we do have this short Q&A from 1986. Singer Alex answered the questions.
EVERYONE was on tour in the States and I was staying at Southview House on my own. Alice and Dan were playing stadiums for MTV with Aerosmith and I was working in Belle Isle. But at least I got to hang out with Derek the dog.
One morning, hungover as hell, I stumble out of my basement bedroom and head upstairs.
I discover the Ex cheerfully bouncing around the kitchen with what I have come to understand is their customary enthusiasm and vigour, laughing and joking with each other in high-volume Dutch while frying cheese and mushrooms with abandon.
The people in Chumbawamba and the Ex had been friends for years – in fact Coby did the live sound for the Ex before she moved to Leeds and began working with the Chumbas – and they’d let themselves in after playing a local gig somewhere the night before. It was that kind of house.
I MET John White aka UV Pop when I bunked off sixth form and went over to Doncaster with some girl I was seeing at the time to interview Marcus Featherby about his label, Pax. I’d come into contact with Marcus through the punk gigs he promoted at the Marples in Sheffield. I’d never met anyone quite like either of them before.
At the time, Marcus was staying at John’s two-up-two-down in Bentley. My most vivid memory is the heating not being on, despite it being a very cold Yorkshire winter, but then again, I was still living with my parents, and didn’t have to worry about paying for leccy. And I think my girlfriend was much more impressed with both John and Marcus than she was with me.
Marcus gave me a copy of the debut, Cabs-produced UV Pop single, and I was impressed enough to interview John for my fanzine. I have no clue whether we did the interview in person or through the post.
People being vegetarian seemed to be really important to me at the time (I’d gone veggie about six months earlier, so I had the conviction of the convert), and I had yet to work out the world was coloured in various shades of grey rather than the black and white certainty I so clearly craved.
I’d like to say my interview technique is more subtle and nuanced these days but it really isn’t.
I can’t find any activity for UV Pop (who eventually became a proper band despite John’s reservations), beyond 2012, but I hope John is still making music.
ANY group that has a song with the chorus “Aaaaargh! Aaargh! Aaaaaargh!” must be pretty good. Bristol cider punks Disorder were precisely one such band. Plus, they are named after the fantastic Joy Division track. Me, Doug and John went to see them, Antisect and Amebix at one of Nick Toczek’s excellent and cheap (£2/£1.50) gigs at the Bierkeller in Leeds in December 1983.
As the intro to the original interview in my zine put it:
Lots of people were drunk so it might not make all that much sense in places. For realism, add lots of stupid laughing in between each question.
I’M PRETTY sure this is actually the worst interview I’ve ever done.
The content, written by the lead singer of Dudley industrial metal band Head of David, who’d recently signed to Blast First when we did this postal ‘interview’ in 1987, is not uninteresting in itself – there are one or two truly off-message moments – but with a brief that appears to have consisted of ‘just go through the alphabet and talk about your favourite things that start with each letter or something’, the poor guy was up against it.
Even worse, I clearly ran out of time when I was putting the magazine together – ie Prittsticking, Letrasetting and photocopying idiotic shit onto pieces of A4 – and just pasted a bare transcript onto the page and handwrote an introduction in biro. This is laughably amateur, even in the context of fanzineland, but it’s also a shame because the rest of the magazine had a bit of style to it. No, really.
I’m not sure if Justin Broadrick was playing drums for Head of David at this point but I didn’t get to talk him. Skillz.
I’ve always despised heavy metal – obviously – and I think I tired of Head of David’s stuff pretty quickly, although some of it doesn’t actually sound that bad today. Either way, the whole thing just about represents the nadir of my interviewing career. Or it, would do, if I wasn’t still trying to pull this kind of shit.
I don’t know what to say to you.
AT ONE point it seemed like the same old story.
A group of eager young hopefuls – who are every talented but also very naïve – start to make wonderful music and are taken under the wing of a backer who is more worldly wise and get taken for a ride. It happens all the time.
But the devil doesn’t always get the best tunes. The forces of good and grooviness sometimes get their act together. And that’s exactly what happened with Rotherham’s highly-regarded Beeswax label, which is run by music heads Lee Oakes and Leiam Sullivan (usually known by his DJing name of Sully) and business brain Robert Lovell.
“The deal was that we would set up Beeswax as an independent dance label alongside Empire Studio’s own mainstream label, and anything we did that had mainstream potential would be released through them,” says Robert, who is by far the gobbiest of the trio. “We didn’t want commercial mixes on our records, we didn’t want to go in that direction at all. They didn’t listen to us.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.