Friday, April 22, 2011
London DIY band Hygiene answered some questions for Gilded Gutter to tell us a little bit more about them, their new album and a few other things too!
Let's start off with introductions - who's in Hygiene and how did you guys come to form a band?
Richard Lewis: I play bass, fellow resident of Holloway with Nat and keen to follow in the footsteps of my favourite bands, even in some token way.
Pat Daintith: I play drums. I was the last member to join. I used to work with Nathaniel, we went out & got drunk one night & he asked me to join. I said yes & three years later I'm still here.
Nathaniel Weiner: I sing and coordinate. Richard and I have been friends since 2004 and tried to start a band when we were flatmates in Holloway. It never got off the ground until we met Guy through a musician wanted ad and then, 9 months later, I convinced Pat to drum.
Guy Butterworth: I play guitar, sing occasionally, and do most of the recording and mixing. I answered an ad in the Dirty Water Club mailing list that mentioned some bands/music that I like, and that’s where the whole magical story began.
Last Saturday was Record Store Day - did you guys celebrate in anyway? Pick up any records?
RL: Most of us were spending the weekend holidaying in rural Wales where sadly record stores are few and far between as are any other shops although we did listen to a Welsh language folk and rock compilation in the van. I believe Pat went to a Crystal Palace match? I'm not sure how many notable records they've picked up...
PD: I went to a dismal football match that I'm not going to talk about. This week I bought a couple of Wailers 7"s, a collection of Japanese 60s pop & a Residents LP.
GB: I didn’t celebrate it at all, and I’ve never been to one. I think I might’ve wanted the Happy Birthday record from last year, but I’ll queue outside a record shop for no man, dead or alive.
Record Store Day is great on the one hand as it boosts music retail, on the other, stuff ends up on ebay and it defeats the purpose - what's your view on the event?
RL: I haven't been, but I actually quite like the idea of it. It's good PR and I like reading about the rise in record sales in the news.
PD: I'm in two minds about Record Store Day. Firstly, sorry to be pedantic but it should be Record Shop Day in this country. Secondly, although it's fantastic that people are going to record shops, it does seem to have been hijacked by major labels in order to sell Radiohead remix 12"s that will end up on ebay within five minutes of it leaving the shop. That's hardly in the spirit of the occasion. Also, it was these same labels that chose to obliterate vinyl in the first place, so it's a bit rich to see them crawling back to it now that sales of over-priced CDs are plummeting.
GB: I’m not sure who it’s aimed at, but I don’t particularly covet collectible records, and I’m not much of a shopper, so it really doesn’t appeal to me all that much. Plus, £8 for an Electric Eels 7”, when you can get the discography double LP for not much more?!
NW: It’s a bit of a joke really, I’ve never attended Record Store Day as there’s nothing I wanted to buy, but my flatmate works at a prominent London record store and his description of it makes it sound like a hellish free-for-all of mouth-breathing ebay flippers. Having said that, we actually released a Record Store Day single last year, so I guess we’re hypocrites.
What record stores did you visit in your formative years, any current favourites? Do you remember the first record you ever bought?
RL: The backbone of my collection was passed onto me by a guy who just had them in his garage in Stevenage. He heard I was into punk and just gave me the lot. There was a healthy number of The Jam and Sham 69 singles and albums which I shall treasure forever. Since then I remember this fantastic little record shop by Holloway prison called DOCs which was very smelly but a really distinctive, interesting shop. Sadly, the guy running it recently died and so there is no longer a decent local shop near me and hence I usually order mine or go into Soho. I still have a number of records from DOC with the hand-written price stickers on.
PD: I was lucky to grow up in Croydon which had a plethora of decent records shops. Beanos was a huge, sadly missed, second hand place that is probably responsible for my record collecting habit. Equally important was Shake Some Action - also now gone - which sold cheap punk, HC, garage indie etc. records, had bands playing on a Saturday afternoon & had a rehearsal room (of sorts) at the back, which is where I first learned how to play the drums. It also allowed me to meet like minded music fans for the first time. As a child I was also taken to many car boot sales & obscure church fetes across South London, so probably my obsession with searching through dusty detritus comes from this. My current favourites are Casbah in Greenwich, Sounds That Swing in Camden & Wanted Music in Beckenham. The first records I owned were 'Hey Mickey' by Toni Basil, 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' by Tight Fit & 'Karma Chameleon' by Culture Club.
NW: I grew up in Toronto where, when I was 15/16, I bought my first punk CDs and records at Rotate This and a shop called Full Blast! The first vinyl record I bought was either the ‘Against the Grain’ LP by Bad Religion or the Evaporators’ ‘I’m Going to France’ EP. By the time I was 17 I’d moved on to buying old records from Vortex in North Toronto and Rick’s Collectable in the East End. Rick’s is a crazy mess of records, VHS videos and used stroke mags - its where I bought the ‘There is No Future’ compilation, which had a formative influence on me. In terms of current favourites, I like Flashback on Essex Road and some of the stalls in Notting Hill Market and various London record fairs. I find most of the shops in London to be way over-priced to be honest. AND the stock is always completely battered – British record sellers seems to price all their records from the book and grade them as “near mint” no matter what the condition. For contemporary records I have to order most things online from the USA, usually from Vinyl Richie’s Wiggly World of Records (aka Florida’s Dying) in Orlando although I also buy from Chicago’s Permanent Records and Memphis’ Goner Records.
GB: I think the first vinyl I bought might’ve been Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘No More Tears’, or possible a purple vinyl Spinal Tap 12”, with a scratch and sniff cover. Then I switched to tapes/CD’s; next I remember picking up a Hard-ons comp LP, and lots of pop punk on Leeds’ Crackle Records in the mid-1990’s. I used to frequent Action Records when I lived in Preston, but there aren’t many good ones left in London now. I like Sounds of the Universe and Sister Ray. Sadly a lot of good places closed over the last few years, such as Selectadisc, Daddy Kool, and Rhythm, in Camden. Goner Records is a great place to buy from online. As is my own mail order, www.hodistro.com, of course.
How did your new album ‘Public Sector’, come to be released on La Vida Es Un Mus?
GB: Paco recognises true art when he sees it, but he put our record out anyway.
NW: It was originally going to be released on a fairly pedestrian American garage rock label, but the guy running it was giving us serious misgiving with his control issues, his constant requests that we pad out the album by re-releasing songs that were still in print and his refusal to contribute any money towards the costs. I was also strongly advised by people who had had bad experiences doing records with him to steer clear, so we parted ways citing “creative differences”. We were left without a label but our friend Paco who does ‘La Vida Es Un Mus’ stepped up to the plate. At first it might seem like strange matching but ‘La Vida Es Un Mus’ is fairly esoteric and he’s recently reissued the Crisis and Astronauts LP, who I think we fit in nicely alongside.
Can you expound on the influences in your song writing? It sounds straight down the middle - musically, Punk and then the lyrics and delivery in the vocals come across as Post Punk.
RL: I like classic punk, 60's stuff, Oi!, and also bands like The Fall and I've always had a healthy interest in post-punk. I'm not sure how purposeful the Hygiene 'sound' is to be honest as we've all come to it from slightly different angles.
PD: The Hygiene 'sound' is more accident than design.
NW: Is that a roundabout way of suggesting I can’t sing? If so, its accurate.
GB: Our creative process can be quite spontaneous, although we do sometimes think we ought to have songs with particular elements to them in terms of tempo or structure. We worked to try and make it so that the album didn’t have too many similar-sounding numbers.
Where did you record the album and how involved were you in the recording/mixing side of things?
PD: The LP was recorded in Stoke Newington & in Guy's flat.
NW: Guy did all the recording and mixing with a little bit of input from me.
GB: I acquired recording equipment over the years, sometimes by doing ‘mystery shopper’ purchases at the now defunct Turnkey Music on Charing Cross Road, and I record and mix everything we’ve put out, with the exception of the ‘Town Centre’ EP. That one sold for the most on ebay the other week, and that’s probably due to the fact that our friend Pumuky recorded it for us.
Who made the artwork for the sleeve? It’s a great cover – what are some of your favourite album covers?
RL: 'The Game' by Sham 69, I find it such a challenging, transcendental piece of artwork. Also 'A Way of Life: Skinhead Anthems' by The Last Resort. The provocative stance of the iconic monochrome skinhead figure has become a unifying symbol for the cream of British youth.
PD: I think the theme of the cover was to be not unlike a post-war dystopian SF novel. I love many, many record sleeves, but off the top of my head some of my favourites are the first Killing Joke LP, 'Relics' by Pink Floyd, any Nick Blinko artwork, 'Black Moses' by Isaac Hayes & 'Friends Of Hell' by Witchfinder General. I am also very fond of Linder Sterling’s work for The Buzzcocks.
NW: Our friend Joanna Coates did the painting in the style described by Pat. I didn’t know she could paint until I saw the cover she did for unofficial fifth Hygiene member Johnny White’s band, the Rollercoaster Project. It seemed like a perfect ‘fit’ with our aesthetic. Off the top of my head, some of my favourite album covers are ‘Fighting’ by Thin Lizzy, ‘My Generation’ by the Who, ‘Sell Out’ by the Who, ‘The Good, the Bad and the 4-Skins’ by the 4-Skins, the Clash s/t, ‘A Touch of Class’ by the Ejected, ‘We’re the Meatmen. and you Suck’ by the Meatmen, the Undertones s/t (both versions), ‘Live at the Witch Trials’ by the Fall and ‘Cause for Alarm’ by Agnostic Front. I also really like covers of not-quite-as-good sophomore LPs from first-wave punk bands such as the Jam, the Boys, the Damned and Generation X.
GB: I like the Stone Roses’ action painting/template style of doing things, the way that they had a theme to the art. I also really like the Beastie Boys’ ‘Paul’s Boutique’ cover, with the 360 degree photo. The Smiths’ pin-up shots are also pretty iconic for me, as are Pedro Bell’s Funkadelic LP cover paintings.
What do you enjoy more playing or recording your songs?
RL: Depends on the gig and if I'm in a good mood but I can absolutely love a live set. I like getting out and about however we don't gig that often so it's fair to say the recording and rehearsing side of things is a bigger part of being in the band.
PD: I generally prefer recording as I prefer to listen to a record than hearing it live.
NW: I find both quite taxing. I always read about how much bands love performing because they get to unleash tension or express themselves or whatever but I certainly don’t feel that way when we’re up on stage.
PD: Yeah, I generally feel more tense afterwards, & slightly embarrassed.
GB: I find recording stressful and tiring, since I have to sit there for 6-8 hours straight usually, so I’d say I like to play live more. Having said that, it’s not that much fun when there are few people in attendance, which is usually the case.
Any advice for bands in London trying to get where you are, or thoughts on the city’s underground scene currently from your experience playing in Hygiene?
RL: Buy smart clothes and get a haircut. Also use a firm handshake with the promoter.
PD: Don't endlessly nag people to come to your gigs. Avoid any 'Myspace/Big Cheese/NME et al presents unsigned band' competitions at all cost. Drink Jaegermeister if you must, but don't be fooled into thinking it is remotely rock'n'roll. Don't do endless soundchecks & if your set is over 20 minutes, ask yourself if it's really necessary. Be polite.
NW: Pretend to be into punk by blogging for Vice about some mp3s that you downloaded and getting your drummer to put Hygiene on in the middle of nowhere without paying them. Play your first gig at a DIY benefit show and make friends by demanding to know how much you will be paid. From then on, only play indie showcases, using your industry connections and the fact that your father signed Oasis to generate a buzz. Release a faux-punk single with badly digitised Crass-style artwork on a subsidiary of a major indie label. Remember that being allegedly "punk" is your selling point. If you follow all these steps you’ll soon get signed to One Little Indian and will be paid a monthly 1000 pound retainer each.
GB: I don’t know much about any underground, as I go to few gigs that don’t involve touring bands from the USA. I think a lot of how we’ve ended up getting records out and touring is due to us having friends who are passionate about what they do, and due to our making music that they appreciate enough to make them feel like helping us out, which we’re grateful for.
How do you feel about file sharing and downloading from the point of view of an underground band? Do you see it as a help or hindrance?
PD: As I like record shops & hunting for vinyl in strange places, downloading music seems a bit anathema to me. It also renders record sleeves obsolete. That said, I couldn't care less whether people download our music or not.
GB: I download music and then buy the vinyl if I like it enough. That goes for older, usually dead, artists though, not current bands. Myspace is still essential for checking out a band before I buy a record in for the mail order.
Any bands you guys are fans of that we should know about?
NW: People probably already know about them but some contemporary bands that I currently follow are First Base, the UV Race, ECSR (Eddy Current Suppression Ring), Skipper, Boys Club, Firestarter, the Rantouls, Personal and the Pizzas, Slippery Slopes, the White Wires, Mickey, the Pets and the Real Numbers. Locally, there’s Black Time, Love Triangle, Wake Up Dead, and the Pheromoans.
PD: Kipper, Razzle, The Electric Treats, Forces’ Sweethearts, The White Spades & Bronx Warriors II are all ones to watch.
GB: There’s a lot of good French stuff coming out on Sweet Rot Records such as the Dictaphone, Love Tan, AH Kraken. The Limes are a great Memphis band, too.
RL: The Sceptres
What do you have planned for Hygiene in the future?
PD: A couple more 7"s which we've recorded, plus a Christmas single which we've not recorded nor written.
NW: Hopefully a US tour next summer.
"I'm full of dust and guitars" - Syd Barrett, what are you full of?
RL: Biscuits and cat litter.
NW: Comic books and Pepsi Max.
GB: Irie vibes.
Pat's mail order www.hodistro.com
Interview in Maximum Rocknroll