Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hookworms : Interview

Hookworms are a five piece based in Leeds who are poised to release 'Pearl Mystics' in just over a weeks time.  This debut full length follows two singles on Gringo Records where the clan offer up nine tracks of foggy psychedelia that give a nod to Sun Araw and Spacemen 3.  I got to catch up with them about 'Pearl Mystics' and a few other things too...

(Also watch out for Hookworm's track 'The Correspondent' on forthcoming psych compilation 'Psych For Sore Eyes' on Sonic Cathedral)

Let’s start with your upcoming debut album on Gringo, how did you come to work with the label?

MB: Matt who runs the label released our last 2 records which both turned out great and sold out, so when it came to who should put the LP out it was a pretty easy decision. Matt has released some of our favourite UK records of the last 15 years (Bilge Pump, Wolves of Greece, Ox Scapula, That Fucking Tank etc), and is continuing to release amazing records by our friends like Cold Pumas, Sauna Youth, Broken Arm, Grey Hairs and Vision Fortune.

You guys recorded and produced it in MJ’s Suburban Home studio, what was the setup?

MB: We practice at Suburban Home as well, so it was a case of recording demos of tracks as we wrote them, then listening back and changing bits here and there until we were happy with the basic structures of the songs. There are some pretty mammoth demo versions of some of the tracks. I think we clocked a 20 minute version of Away/Towards in its earliest incarnation. We spent a weekend laying down the bass and drums for the whole record at the end of 2011, and then the rest of the overdubs were done sporadically over a 6 month period in the first half of 2012, whenever there was free time at the studio. A lot of the mixing was done in the middle of the night when no one was around, and we’d often wait for the cake factory workers adjacent to the studio to finish work so we could re-amp tracks down the huge corridor outside, which we used as a make-shift reverb chamber. MJ can probably go into more technical depth, if that’s what you meant.

I wanted to run through the tracks and see if you could tell us a little about each one:

“Away / Towards”

MB: In my head this track is split into 3 different sections. There’s the atmospheric build up at the start, the organ-driven motorik in the middle, and our attempt at a VU/Modern Lovers pop song at the end.

MJ: Lyrically this song is split in two (signified by the duel names). It's a reflection on loss and the way we can chase something that doesn't exist anymore or how we can push ourselves away in denial.

“Form And Function”
MB: This is the oldest song on the album; we had previously recorded a different version of it for a split 7” with Kogumaza. I much prefer this take on it though, it’s a bit more up-tempo, and we actually wrote an intro for this one. The old recording just kind of faded in because we didn’t really know how to start it. I’m a big fan of SS’s guitar playing at the end of this track.

MJ: Big fan of the kick sound on this track.

MJ: I can't remember how I did this, sorry. Probably with loads of pedals at three in the morning.

“In Our Time”
MB: I came up with the main bass line that repeats throughout the song, and MJ wrote the organ chord progression that makes up the “verses”, and we glued the two sections together. There is a definite Pure X influence on this song, we’re collectively big fans of their LP “Pleasure”. JW recorded layers and layers of guitar feedback in different keys, and MJ stacked them all up to create this wonderful wall of noise, almost like a guitar symphony, which drones throughout the entire song. Our friend Jack from the band Mazes dubbed this song and What We Talk About “drone-soul”, which I thought was great. The call and response backing vocals at the end of the song are one of my favourite parts of the album.

MJ: Yeah, I recorded JW feed backing in different notes and then pieces them together into chords. I actually wrote the 'song' for this for my Family Scraps solo project, but it worked so well with the bass line MB brought that we used it for this instead.

“Since We Had Changed”
MB: Possibly the song I’m proudest of on the album. It started off as quick acoustic jam we knocked together for a live BBC session, but we thought we’d try it out for the album and see how it went. At one point I think we were heavily leaning towards scrapping it completely, but then we re-amped sections of it down the corridor outside the studio that I mentioned before, and the reverb completely brought it to life. That was a total “woah” moment for everyone in the studio, it really changed the song. We’ll probably never be able to play it live, there’s a load of stuff on there like acoustic 12-string through tape delay, sitar, backwards plucked piano etc.

MJ: I hated this until that day we re-amped everything. Now it's my favourite part of the record. I was dreaming of Tower Recordings.

MB: This is the second oldest song on the record. We’d been playing this live for quite a while before we started the album, so it was pretty straightforward to record. We tried a few different things out like some Stooges-y claps to accentuate the weirdo “I Want Candy” drum beat, but we decided against it. We managed to squeeze in some John Cale-style piano being hammered in the background ala “I’m Waiting For the Man”/”I Wanna Be Your Dog” though.

MJ: The oscillating sound on this section is something (can't remember what) being run into a spring reverb over and over and over until it was un-recognisable. I recorded rain in a puddle for this. Probably a low moment.

“What We Talk About”
MB: We were originally talking about trying to get some gospel singers on this for the backing vocal part, but we thought it might be a bit over the top. MJ layered up his own little one-man choir anyway, and it sounds great. Our friend Andy Moore played some trumpet at the end of the track to give it a Stones-y gospel/soul vibe.

MJ: Me and MB recorded most of this song as a demo one afternoon. Pretty sure we kept everything from that session except the vocals and bass take.

MJ: I wrote and recorded this one night with two amps pulsing in stereo in the live room. I sat between them and played most of this live with a couple of synths and a monotron.

The artwork looks awesome, where did the image come from?

MB: JW “found” and doctored it with a scanner, as well as changing the colour to the “pearl mystic” shade of turquoise that gave the album it’s name. I’m half expecting us to get sued by whoever took the photograph once the album is released.

What are some of your favourite album covers?

MB: I like a lot of 60’s record sleeves with the bands posing on the front, but only because I know we could never be cool enough to pull something like that off in a million years. Stuff like the first Stooges record, the first Creedence record, Back in the USA, and that Count Five album where they’re all stood round the edge of a grave.

MJ: hate to be a cliche, but pretty much anything by Raymond Pettibon is up my street.

Do you guys prefer playing or recording?

MB: Probably recording, I don’t think there’s a feeling in the world like when a record starts to come together. It’s a different kind of rush when you’re playing a fun show.

MJ: Recording. It's my favourite thing in the world.

What’s been the most fun you’ve had playing a show so far?

MB: I always have loads of fun playing in Brighton; everyone is really friendly. We did a couple of shows for our friend Andy Auld who used to run Sex is Disgusting that stand out in my head. One supporting The Men at the Prince Albert, which was one of the first times we’d played some of the new songs off the new album live, and one at the Green Door Store which I think was the last ever Sex is Disgusting show. A strobe light was turned on halfway through the first song which we weren’t expecting. I don’t think I’ve ever played a set with a strobe light in my face for the entire thing, you start seeing things. I have no idea how bands like Vision Fortune do it for every show they play, I spent the whole time worrying it was going to trigger a fit, which probably gave the whole thing an edge.

MJ: I enjoyed Liverpool Psych Fest. We played the main stage at midnight straight after Dead Skeletons. I was genuinely surprised when people stayed for our set.

Most memorable show you’ve watched?

MB: Probably Pissed Jeans in the upstairs room of The Fenton in Leeds a few years back. I don’t think anyone’s feet were touching the floor.

MJ: Yep, Pissed Jeans at The Fenton, The Wrens at The Rescue Rooms in Nottingham or the first time I saw Mob Rules do that really long track off their LP.

How would you spend your perfect day off?

MB: Listening to records, reading a book, nice walk in the countryside and a couple of ales.

MJ: Even on my days off from my job as a recording engineer I go to my studio. There's nothing else I'd rather be doing.

What else is coming up for Hookworms in 2013?

MB: We’re doing a few shows in February running up to the album launch in Leeds on February 23rd, and then there’s going to be a proper “album tour” in April. We have a few other releases in the pipeline already too. There should be a 7” for the Too Pure singles club out in May, and hopefully a vinyl re-release of the Live Vol.2 CD/DVD which came out last year. There weren’t many copies of that because the sleeves were all handmade, so it’d be nice for everyone to be able hear and see it. There’s some other stuff too, but I don’t want to jinx them just yet.

I tend to finish interviews by asking - "I'm full of dust and guitars" - Syd Barret, if you were sliced in half what would be inside? But for you guys maybe the clue is in the name?

MB: Bitterness and Mexican food.

MJ: Saudade.

Hookworms Links : Gringo Records  Facebook  Psyche For Sore Eyes (Sonic Cathedral comp) Twitter

Monday, February 11, 2013

Exhaustion 'Future Eaters' : Interview

Exhaustion are Australian three piece Duncan Blachford (Snawklor, Cross Brothers),  Jensen Tjhung (Deaf Wish, Lower Plenty) and Per Bystrom (Ooga Boogas, Leather Towel).  Their debut 'Future Eaters' on Aarght! just started streaming last week on Mess+Noise and is fast becoming a favourite in this parts.  These eight new songs play out prowling guitars, howling vocals, crashing rhythms and gulping bass transmitted through a wall of murky fuzz and distortion.   It all comes together in a way that brings bands like Les Rallizes Denudes and Fuckin' Flyin' Aheads to mind whilst testing the limits of where that paranoid/brooding free-noise sound can go.  I got to talk to Duncan to find out more about the record, here's what he had to say...

Most of us are just finding out about Exhaustion now through this record out on Aarght!  Being a relatively new band, I wanted to ask if there’s a goal/message in this project that you wanted to tell us about…

If I had a goal it would be to destroy, or attain peace with, the world and the mundane nature of a working life. As a band, our goal is to create music we're proud of. We're happy with this record, we can retire now.

When I was goo­­gling to learn a bit more about the band I only found 2 search results for Exhaustion… it’s a great name, surprised no one’s ever really used it – how was it picked?

It was very literal, a feeling of pure exhaustion. Typographically, I like it, when its treated right its monumental. Exhaustion and d├ętournement, that's all that is left in this world.

How did recruiting Jensen Tihung and Per Bystrom for the band come about?

I met Jensen when he working in a dive bar. He's one of the few people who ordered everything I put out on my label, Endless Melt. So he seemed the natural go-to guy. He'd never played bass before, I hadn't played much guitar. A good pairing.

Per heard some of my early solo recordings (Drunk Hands) and offered to drum if I wanted to start a band. It didn’t happen till now. He carts round all this scrap metal with his kit, a one man swedish Pussy Galore.
You did a tour of the US in 2008 was this as Exhaustion?  How did those shows go?

That was another band I played drums in. At the time, it was four friends and an asshole soundguy, on the road for nine weeks. Played most nights, driving around North America, crashing on couches and in cheap motels. It was fantastic. I felt at home being on the move.

I was listening to one of your other bands Snawklor – the songs I heard sounded pretty ethereal, did you ever think you’d start a band like Exhaustion that was the polar opposite with this big damaged-rock sound?

Nathan Gray and Dylan Martorell started Snawklor a decade ago, doing extremely quiet electroacoustic music. They’re both great artists and improvisers, their art and music bleed into each other. I joined more recreantly on drums and my background is definitely in damaged rock, but I've always been drawn to more exploratory music too. I'd started fooling round with freeform percussion, no beats, I brought that approach to Snawklor. We have done a lot of shows but no proper recording as a trio. Sometimes we sound closer to Lightning Bolt or the Boredoms, sometimes ethereal free jazz and psychic exotica. 

To my ears at least I can hear bits of Les Rallizes Denudes, Liquorball and Fuckin’ Flyin’ Aheads on ‘Future Eaters’, because in one way or another they all have this mesmerizing/paranoid/noisy approach – do you listen to those bands at all?

Funny you mention Fuckin’ Flyin’ Aheads, Per introduced me to them when we started playing. He'd heard traces of it too. I've never listened to Liquorball but I'm a huge fan of Les Rallizes Denudes. Mizutani is THE guitar anti hero.

What was the first type of music that made an impression on you?

Hendrix and Black Sabbath. Hendrix especially. When I was about six, I saw Sex Pistols on TV one night and it scared the shit out of me. In my teens I was watching The Year That Punk Broke with no knowledge of that unmentionable youth cultural revolution of the '90s. Seeing Sonic Youth play Schizophrenia hit a chord, I grew up around a lot of schizophrenic activity, it was great seeing that captured in music.

Do you prefer playing or recording?

You gotta be playing when you're recording, so I prefer playing.

What was the setup for the recording of ‘Future Eaters’?

An 8-track reel to reel of Jensen's. Six mics. Three on the drums, one on the bass, and one on the guitar. Vocals later. Very rough and ready set up, but Jensen has a way. Did it at his place, above a psychologist’s practice. It was a renegade recording in that we thought we might get away with a 7” before neighbours shut us down. We managed to come out with this record. Almost all first takes, it was a super easy all firing session. Done. Bang.
Can you talk about “Your Memory Don’t Want You”, that one’s been one of my favs since streaming the record….

I recorded a demo of it years ago as Drunk Hands, a noisy instrumental version played on a fuzzed out acoustic. I brought it back to the fold with Exhaustion. Most of these songs relate to very personal experiences, put across in a broader way. Its about black outs, memory and our relationships with consciousness.

Over here in the UK music chain HMV just went into administration, now record buying is online or via indie shops that have managed to survive…I was wondering what the current state of record stores is in Australia?

Sounds very similar to what is happening here. It’s shrinking all the time, with a few notable exceptions. Only a few stores are lucky and smart enough to keep afloat. Small record stores that sell coffee and awesome food are probably the way to go, here's looking at you Wooly Bully

You have your own label Endless Melt – I was wondering what you’ve found to be the biggest challenge with running a label these days?

It’s a micro label of marginal music, a labour of love. It often costs me money to sell something. Luckily I don't do much business or I'd have to shut it down.

How do you manage to sustain being in bands and doing a label?

I work. I spent a long time on the dole living the dream of a rock n roll youth, but everything is so expensive now and the dole hasn’t really increased. I have a family now too. It'd be very hard to get by without a job.

How would you spend your ideal day off?

I would do nothing at all.  Ideally, I would do everything I wanted to do. 

Your new album is coming out imminently – what else do you have planned for 2013?

Jensen has an artist residency in Sydney for a few months come late March. Hopefully we'll do a show up there. We're all a bit older now,  touring isn’t a priority, more a holiday. We all have several bands, jobs, Per and me have families. We'll roll with the punches. I predict we'll have a new album recorded by the end of the year, release it by early next year, and a 7" in between. Put a fiver on it. 

A question I always finish on “I’m full of dust and guitars” – Syd Barrett, if you were sliced in half what would be inside?

Blood, guts and the ghosts of a million forgotten lives.

'Future Eaters' is limited 250 copies - available at Goner

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Tyvek 'On Triple Beams'

Tyvek have been turning heads since their first album in 2007 'Fast Metabolism' (What's Your Rupture).  After a few lineup changes and a load of releases, the Detroit outfit continue to prove to be at the forefront of punk today.  'On Triple Beams' is their fourth album, second for In The Red, that sees Tyvek tightening things up whilst staying rough around the edges.  This new album captures what many already know about the band, that they focus on frustrations rooted in the humdrum of daily life.   Tyvek share a fondness of turning the banal upside down with muses Wire and Wipers, whilst bringing something fresh and radical to the table.  The record kicks off with "Scaling" featuring Kevin's signature tannoy system effect vocals - chewy guitars, stomping bass and ramshackle rhythms all forging regulated chaos where Tyvek are as carefree as they are careful.  It's this state of being on edge and strung out that denotes their raucous approach, wonderfully shown on the ballistic "Little Richard".  My other favourite track is "Efficiency", taking a swipe at the tedium of every day life with grinding guitars and one repetitive beat against a backdrop of discordant noise accompanied by Kevin's monotoned holler, "Efficiency is boring...".  After spending a lot of time with the Tyvek back catalogue this album reveals, to me at least, how the band continue to go from strength to strength.  'On Triple Beams' is another great record for the Tyvek cannon - really worth your time.

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