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 directional 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.”
GAD WHIP are a quartet of non-hairy and also hairy freaks from various northern shitholes who present an ungrateful world with a very pleasing hodgepodge of high-energy, low-fidelity punky psychedelia and post-industrial musique concrète, via the medium of cassette tapes, mostly.
Let’s not get hung up on the medium at the expense of the message.
Named after a murkily arcane North Lincolnshire ‘old religion’ ritual involving a long cattle whip being shaken above a priest’s head on Palm Sunday or something, Gad Whip are old enough to know better but they don’t. Me and singer / drummer Pete started swapping zines through the post in the mid-Eighties and I later met Geoff when he moved in across the road from my girlfriend, and their band Aki began to gig around Scunthorpe.
And here we are, 30-odd years later.
On first hearing, these analogue fundamentalists’ albums sound like the craziest and greatest mixtapes you’ve ever heard, but within a few listens each track begins to sound like it could only have been produced by Gad Whip. And you have to wonder what kind of weirdo would have these kinds of mixtapes recorded for them. Me, apparently.
Musically, Gad Whip are all over the place. There appears to be neither rhyme nor reason to their outré oeuvre. They point and laugh at genre politics. The constants appear to be a willingness to experiment and a weary exasperation with the essential rubbishness of modern life.
While middle-aged blokes are always moaning about something (exhibit one: the Twitter stream on the right of this page), seldom has this kind of male-menopausal grumpiness been expressed with such invention, energy and style. They have yet to repeat themselves. And busying themselves with this shit definitely beats waking up one morning and leaving your missus and kids for a florist named Lance or even buying an elaborate surrogate phallus in the shape of an expensive car / motorbike.
I like what Gad Whip do very much.
THE STRANGEST thing about Uncarved Block is just how much everyone seems to hate it.
Flux of Pink Indians’ first album – the snappily-named Strive to Survive Causing the Least Suffering Possible – was a very likeable kind of angry, knockabout Crass punk with tunes and feedback.
By contrast, their second, The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks, was a very unlikeable maelstrom of feedback, shouting and no tunes whatsoever. And that was kind of the whole point.
Even so, the greying, befuddled online remnants of the anarcho-punk community seem to prefer The Fucking Cunts to Uncarved Block, the band’s third album, an ultra-accessible collection of loose-limbed dub funk with lyrics inspired by Taoism.
“Uncarved Block was the most unexpected of the band’s three studio albums, delivering more polemic allied to dance and funk rhythms that left their previous audience totally nonplussed,” says some guy off the internet. “It was a dreadful effort.”
Uncarved Block is, it seems, “largely uninteresting”, “self-indulgent rubbish” and, according to Flux guitarist Kev Hunter in The Day the Country Died, “nothing to do with punk in the slightest, a completely neutered record with no balls at all. Trumpets and bongos on a punk album? Arty-farty shite, I’m afraid.”
You have to peer into some very dark and dusty corners of the internet to find another view.
IT’S been a shit year for everyone. Get over it.
Yes, it’s been a fantastic time for the idiots, charlatans and nutters of the world but they only have money, guns and bombs on their side. We have love, soul and passion. Where they have hatred and intolerance, we have compassion and generosity.
They don’t stand a chance.
Some truly awful things happened around the world this year. The supposedly black and white certainties of the past evaporated a long time ago but the confusing miasma of disinformation and bullshit and lies became so much denser and more impenetrable in 2016. We don’t live in a post-truth world. There was never any truth in the first place.
It turns out there are no good guys or bad guys, no good or evil, no right or wrong. None of those things ever existed. We’re all just people. Some people do ‘good’ things, while some do ‘shitty’ things, and others simply do nothing.
Music provided some respite from the insanity but finding five albums that were released in 2016 and worth talking about isn’t as easy as you might expect considering we live in times when banal, tinkling muzak, with no bottom end to speak of, emanates from every platform and device imaginable.
We’re awash with music, drowning in it, choking on it. Most of it is utter fucking shite, of course. You don’t even have to listen to it to know this. Simply close your ears, condemn the lot as dreary, derivative, philistine nonsense and make exceptions for worthwhile stuff as and when it forces its way into your consciousness. It’s okay. Everyone has the capacity for change. And nobody gives a shit what you think anyway.
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.