How I wrote ‘Perseverance’ by Terrorvision’s Tony Wright

April 24, 2018 in Features, Interviews

Terrorvision

Terrorvision: “With Perseverance it was a mishmash of riffs held together by the melody and the lyrics”

BRITROCK WEEK: The Bradford band’s singer tells the story behind the writing of their riff-tastic ode to whales and dolphins

Terrorvision are one of the most successful bands to come out of the city of Bradford. At the peak of their powers in the 1990s they were writing songs which cleverly blended heavy rock riffs with memorable pop melodies. Singles such as Oblivion, Celebrity Hit List and Josephine could all be considered anthems of the Britrock era. But the song which best sums up their style and appeal is Perseverance.

Taken from the band’s Top 10-reaching third album, Regular Urban Survivors, Perseverance became the band’s highest charting single up to that point when it reached No 5 in 1996. It wasn’t just the monster riff that caught the imagination; audiences took great delight from singing along to the line, ‘I was right about the whales and the dolphins. Whales and dolphins, whales and dolphins, yeah!’ Such was the popularity of the lyric that Terrorvision even used it as the title of their 2001 greatest hits compilation, Whales And Dolphins.

Frontman Tony Wright takes us through the creation of his band’s marine-friendly hit…


Terrorvision 'Perseverence' single cover

Released: 1996
Artist: Terrorvision
Label: EMI/Total Vegas
Writer(s): Terrorvision
Producer(s): Gil Norton
UK chart position: 5
US chart position: n/a

“The song came out of hearing the riff. We’ll have been at a rehearsal space and all putting in ideas. Sometimes someone would come in with a song that was just about written to all intents and purposes, but then when we played it as Terrorvision it became Terrorvision. I might take in an idea and say, ‘I’ve written a song,’ but by the time we got to recording it I would think, ‘This is nothing like it!’ You can still see the bare bones but the hair colour, the size of the stature and everything is a completely different beast. But with Perseverance it was a mishmash of riffs held together by the melody and the lyrics. That’s how that one worked out, it wasn’t one where someone came in and said, ‘I’ve got the majority of a song written here and it goes like this.’

“I have a thing called “A Bag of Riffs” which is all songs that I’ve started to write but have never got past the first verse or the first chorus. It’s an imaginary bag, but I can see it and it’s a hessian sack with a drawstring at the top of it. If I’m writing with the band I’ll play something and hope it’ll trigger other ideas and together we’ll write a song. I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes by saying, ‘I’ve written this, everyone play it.’ You have to be quite open-minded in the band format and so quite often the bag of riffs is just riffs that I’ve come up with which the band haven’t taken any further. If I get to the point where I’m writing a song and I’m stuck, I put my hand in the bag of riffs and I search around and I pick out all these ideas that I’ve had before and I’ll jam them in here and there. Terrorvision have a very similar thing as a band. We have a bag of riffs where people would say, ‘I’ve got this idea,’ and then someone would rummage around and go, ‘It fits with this riff at the bottom of my bag,’ and we’d put them together. We worked it that way.

“At that time I was always trying to cram too many words into small spaces, I think I’ve always been guilty of that. I could just hear the line, ‘I was high on a Molotov of cocktails’. It’s a really weird thing with songwriting, you don’t feel like you write them, you feel like they make themselves appear to you. So that line presented itself to us and the rest of it was just really easy, it came from there. So from the high of a Molotov of cocktails to being low on a hundred things.

“I LOVE WHALES AND I LOVE DOLPHINS”

“There are certain lines that you really mean and really want people to hear, and the ‘whales and dolphins,’ line was one of those and so I just repeated it – it’s kind of simple isn’t it. I love whales and I love dolphins. It’s weird because we always got dumbed down by a lot of the press who said that what we were singing about wasn’t as intelligent as someone like Blur, but that was just them being up themselves because Blur never came up with a line as good as that!

“From being, ‘Lost on the road to nowhere,’ to, ‘A guest on a runaway train,’ I kind of like that chaotic journey that the song went on. A lot of Terrorvision songs did this, they’d ask a question and have an answer, but also then have an alternative answer to that question and they’d explore both sides of everything. I think a lot of our songs were exploratory in the searching kind of way that you are in your twenties. I’m not so keen on songs that tell you how it is; I’m much more interested in being asked a question and then being left to find out an answer.

“Then we went to Parkgate Studios down in Battle with Gil Norton and worked the song up from there until it became Perseverance as we know it, with brass sections and everything like that.

“Personally I think the popularity was because we were right about the whales and dolphins. People heard the song and I think that line grabbed them. That’s what you do when you write a song, you’re writing it in your bedroom and then you play it to a crowd and you’re hoping that someone in that crowd thinks the same way as you. A lot of people love whales and dolphins. David Attenborough’s Blue Planet has proved that! Maybe it should have been the theme tune to that. If you come to any of our gigs, the line, ‘Whales and dolphins, yeah!’ is one of the loudest retorts we get. There’s a couple of times in a set that you’ll hear the crowd louder than you can hear the band and that’s definitely one of them. I still love it!”

Interview: Duncan Haskell


Terrorvision feature on the Britrock Must Be Destroyed Tour, which kicks off in Manchester on 4 May. Tickets are available now via britrock.seetickets.com

EXCLUSIVE! ‘Up All Night ft. Annabelle’ by Future Joy

April 24, 2018 in News

‘Up All Night ft. Annabelle’ by Future Joy

Today’s exclusive is by the wonderful, Future Joy

Today’s exclusive is brought to you by a delightful electro-funk group who borrow gleefully from the gamut of electronic music

We’re back and we’ve got a real treat for you today, folks. A track from a group whose sound starts in the electro-funk domain, but steals expertly from electronic music’s back catalogue. We give you, Future Joy.

The song is titled Up All Night and the group has this to say about it: “We wrote the beat for Up All Night and then Annabelle effortlessly improvised lyrics over the top and a new late night party anthem that’s full of love was born!”

They’ve been compared to Big Gigantic, Pretty Lights, and GRiZ. Listen below to make your mind up on those comparisons…

Their self-titled album is out on June 1st here. You can catch their release party May 25th at Your Mom’s House in Denver, CO. If you can’t make that then head over to their website, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and SoundCloud to find out more.

Britrock Must Be Destroyed

April 23, 2018 in Events, Features, Interviews

Britrock Must Be Destroyed Tour

Britrock Must Be Destroyed Tour: a glorious collision of anthemic British rock

BRITROCK WEEK: Before their playful UK tour celebrating mid-90s British rock, we hear from Reef, The Wildhearts, Terrorvision and Dodgy

While the British music scene of the mid-90s is perhaps best remembered for the rivalry between Oasis and Blur, and the many also-rans those two groups inspired, there were plenty of bands who ignored the Britpop template and continued to crank things up to 11. Four such bands will be dusting down their amplifiers next month to head out on the Britrock Must Be Destroyed Tour. Kicking off in Manchester on 4 May, the shows will give Reef, The Wildhearts, Terrorvision and Dodgy a chance to pit their riffs against one another and find out once and for all whose fans are the most raucous.

This week we’re handing our website over to this awesome foursome, and to get things started the frontman of each band looks back on the ‘Britrock’ era and lets us know what we can expect from the upcoming gigs…


Ginger Wildheart

Ginger: “There’s no competition between the bands – I don’t care and we’re all too fucking old!”

Ginger

South Shields’ guitarist, singer and songwriter who formed and led The Wildhearts

“To be honest, there was never any such thing as Britrock. It was a desperate attempt by some magazines to cash in on Britpop, but the bands didn’t feel it, and the audience didn’t really feel it. We’ve got four bands on this tour who all had a very different audience. So there wasn’t a sense of camaraderie, nor was there any real competitiveness. It was more about just getting on with our own thing.

“It was work as usual until Oasis broke, then everybody wanted bands like them, so it was a desperate cash-in by the rock world to try to join in the party. I thought we’d already established that rock music was something that wasn’t going anywhere any time soon and it was a bit sad when everyone was trying to turn into Britpop bands. So I kind of rejected any idea of there being such a thing, to be honest.

“I’m looking forward to the competition, healthy or otherwise, between the audiences. There’s no competition between the bands – I don’t care and we’re all too fucking old! My money’s on our crowd being the loudest and I think they’re pretty confident getting into that ring, but we won’t know until we prove it on the pitch.”

Terrorvision

Terrorvision: “We had longer hair and louder guitars than the Britpop bands”

Tony Wright

Lead singer of Bradford’s Terrorvision and also the band Laika Dog

“We didn’t hang out together much. We were all busy working, recording and touring. We didn’t tour together. You might end up staying at the same hotels and having the same drinks in the same bar sometimes but it wasn’t like a club or anything like that. We were just all successful rock bands at that time. You can throw Therapy? and Skunk Anansie in the mix as well. It was just that we had longer hair and louder guitars than the Britpop bands. We didn’t brag about how off the rails we were going because we didn’t really want people checking it out. It was about enjoying it.

“We did a tour for the 25th anniversary of Regular Urban Survivors and we were playing to more people and selling out bigger venues this time last year than we were this time 10 years ago. I don’t know, why is that? Is that because nothing has come along that makes people thing, ‘I’ll leave that behind now because this is where we’re heading and this is better,’ or is it because they’ve hit an age where their kids have left home now and they’re having what some people call a midlife crisis, I prefer to call it a ‘midlife realisation!’”

Dodgy

Dodgy: “It will be quite interesting when we step out with big guitars and distortion pedals”

Nigel Clark

Redditch-born singer-songwriter best known as the lead singer and bassist of Dodgy

“When I was a kid you could only like punk music, you couldn’t admit to liking ABC, it was Crass and Discharge and Dead Kennedys. I secretly liked The Lexicon Of Love, but you couldn’t have that on the back of a leather jacket. But it became acceptable in the 90s.

“I didn’t really know any of the other bands. I think we once got quite competitive with Reef at a football match in Mile End or somewhere like that. We got competitive and thought we didn’t like them. They beat us so we said they were Gary Stringer and his ringers, or something like that.

“What’s happened with the 90s is that the people who were 15 in ’95 are now 38 and they’re settled and can get babysitters. People are nostalgic by nature, I get nostalgic, I look at gigs that are coming up and I want to go and see some cool bands but I also went to see U.K. Subs last year.

“I think people were surprised when Dodgy got added because we’re not really known as a rock band but we’re up for surprising a few people in the audience. People do see us as the band behind Good Enough and people are really quick to make preconceptions about you so it will be quite interesting when we step out with big guitars and distortion pedals.”

Reef

Reef: “It’s not the Olympics, it’s not sport, it’s music!”

Gary Stringer

English singer, musician and songwriter who fronted the Glastonbury band Reef

“I’m not bothered about representing a nation. At that time there was the whole Britpop thing and I just thought, ‘It’s not the Olympics, it’s not sport, it’s music!’ I wasn’t really that fussed about it. You had Tony Blair coming in with the Union Jack and Cool Britannia and it’s just a marketing tool. I kind of feel a bit whatever about it, even though I love England and I love where I come from, but music is music isn’t it.

“I don’t think I’ve got anything outside of music for that decade, it was just music. A friend of mine sent me one of our tour schedules for 1997 and it’s incredible. Spain to Norway, Arizona up to Seattle then to Canada, all of Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Japan. I mean, I was away more than I was home.

“Obviously when you know the tickets are going on sale, you do think, ‘I wonder if anyone gives a toss anymore?’ So for all the shows to sell out makes you feel really great and it might be corny but I want to thank everyone who supports us now. We’ll come out and we’ll throw a load of energy down and make a great sound, we’re a rock ‘n’ roll band and we’ll come out and lay it down. 99 times out of 100 that energy comes back in spades from the crowd. That’s what a rock ‘n’ roll gig is. You can expect good sounds, rhythm, rock ‘n’ roll and people smiling.”


The Britrock Must Be Destroyed Tour kicks off in Manchester on 4 May. Tickets are available now via britrock.seetickets.com

Evolution Emerging Conference celebrates 10 years

April 21, 2018 in Events, News

Evolution Emerging Conference 2018: a free to enter event. Pic: Generator.org.uk

This year’s event in Gateshead promises to be the biggest ever, including a seminar by independent music publisher Sentric Music

On 6 June the Evolution Emerging Conference takes place at Sage Gateshead. The free to enter event is the precursor to the annual Evolution Emerging Festival, which will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on 9 June.

The full-day conference will feature talks from music industry heavyweights, which include representatives from the UK’s largest music organisations including Musician’s Union, PRS For Music, British Phonographic Industry, PPL, Help Musicians UK, Music Managers Forum, Music Glue, and Sentric Music.

Songwriters, musicians and producers worldwide turn to these events for learning and networking opportunities, but it’s important to know what you want to achieve from a music industry conference. Any songwriters at the Gateshead event will want to attend the Sentric Music seminar, as the company helps over 100,000 songwriters collect royalties, while Music Glue offers e-commerce services, providing a direct-to-fan solution for all levels of musicians.

For further information about speakers and registration details for the Evolution Emerging Conference visit generator.org.uk

Songs In The Key Of… Country Pop

April 21, 2018 in Features, Interviews

Jenn Bostic by Sara Kauss

Jenn Bostic: “too pop for country and too country for pop”. Pic: Sara Kauss

Here we get Nashville-based singer-songwriter Jenn Bostic to pick out 10 tracks that perfectly straddle both pop and country music

Nashville-based Jenn Bostic is a country and Christian music singer-songwriter who is most well known for her hit single, Jealous Of The Angels. A tribute to her late father, the song won her five awards at 2012’s Independent Country Music Association Awards and, with the support of BBC Breakfast, Songs Of Praise, BBC Radio 2, Weekend Wogan, Good Morning Sunday and Smooth Radio, Jenn also began winning over the hearts of people here in the UK. The song also reached No 1 on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart.

Although once described “too pop for country and too country for pop,” we feel Jenn is well-placed to select 10 songs that best represent the country pop scene, and explain why she thinks they’re such great examples of songwriting. To listen to the whole playlist in one go, check out the Songwriting YouTube Playlists.


EVERY LITTLE THING – CARLY PEARCE
“I’m a big Carly Pearce fan. So thrilled to see this song break her career. She’s as nice as she is talented, and this song is an earworm I don’t mind getting stuck in my head.”


THIS TOWN IS KILLING ME – CAITLYN SMITH
“Honest. Vulnerable. Relateable. Perfect.”


80S MERCEDES – MAREN MORRIS
“This song is a perfect blend of pop and country. I love the groove. Maren Morris just has a cool swagger about her; you can’t help but sing along.”


HIDE THE WINE – CARLY PEARCE
“Another Carly song, but this song is so good. I love the clever lyric, the guitar tone, and the background vocal part is so much fun for everybody to join in.”


SHAMELESS – STRIKING MATCHES
“I love this song and this band. I had a chance to see them perform this live at SXSW in Austin this year and it was fire. I think this is a great example of how much the lines of pop/country/indie are all blurring.”


THY WILL – HILLARY SCOTT & THE SCOTT FAMILY
“This song fuses country, pop and Christian music and I love it. It’s incredibly powerful, especially knowing the story behind the song.”


BROKEN HALOS – CHRIS STAPLETON
“I love this song, I love his voice, and I love the bluesy soul that sits at the heart of everything he does. The imagery in this song is stellar.”


STAY A LITTLE LONGER – BROTHERS OSBORNE
“I love the quick lyric and groove to this song. It’s catchy in the hippest way and brings the pop element into the mix, while still remaining true to country roots.”


WASTED – SARAH DARLING
“Sarah is a dear friend of mine and I think she knocked it out of the park with this song. It’s honest, it’s raw, and it’s beautiful. It’s an honour to sing a little harmony on it whenever we perform together.”


GUILTY – THE SHIRES
“I’m really loving the new single from The Shires. It’s really catchy and clever. There’s a hip pop sound that still has a hint of country in the mix.”


Jenn Bostic has performed sold out tours across the United States and Europe, and has opened for the likes of Richard Marx, Christian Kane and The Band Perry. She is in the middle of a new UK tour and is looking forward to her biggest ever UK headline show, at London’s prestigious Bush Hall on 1 May. Jenn’s new album Revival comes out on 4 May. Find out more at jennbostic.com

EXCLUSIVE! ‘Moon Tomb’ by Vinegar Mother

April 17, 2018 in Music, News

Today's exclusive is from the smooth, Vinegar Mother

Today’s exclusive is from the smooth, Vinegar Mother

Today’s exclusive song comes from a soul-rock quintet whose singer has a sublimely smooth vocal. You’re going to love them

Psychedelic soul-rock quintet Vinegar Mother have been wowing audiences from Brooklyn to Burlington with their excellent live performances, and now they’re here exclusively for you.

The track they have for you is called Moon Tomb and of the song, Julia Zivic has this to say: “I feel happiest when the sun goes down and I can be alone with my thoughts. I always look at the moon late at night and feel a silent kinship.”

They’ve been compared to Hiatus Kaiyote, Erykah Badu,and Amy Winehouse. Check out Moon Tomb and see who they remind you of…

If you like that then check out their Instagram and Facebook pages to find out more.

Classic Of The Week: Shallow

April 15, 2018 in News

Shallow

“There was a boy I knew, he kind of looked like you”

This week’s classic is a shoegaze masterpiece from the most underrated band of all-time. Songwriting Magazine hope you enjoy it

You’ll find this song in our Songs In The Key Of… Shoegaze feature, but it’s so good that we simply couldn’t resist making it our classic of the week.

Made by Kansas trio Shallow, Slowdrone is a shoegaze masterpiece. Starting with a considered and moody bass, and Julie Shields’ magnificent, effortlessly sweet vocals, it builds into a fuzzy ridden alt-pop triumph before melting into one of the most brilliant closing sections committed to record.

While many acts have an honourable claim to being the most underrated band of all-time, Shallow is the nomination of this writer. We hope Slowdrone brings you as much joy as it has to us and implore you to check out the album it features on, High Flyin’ Kid Stuff.


Classic Of The Week Playlist


Chumbawamba film close to completion

April 14, 2018 in News

Chumbawamba

Chumbawamba: singing a capella at the Rudolstadt Festival in 2012. Pic: Schorle/Wikimedia Commons

‘Tubthumping’ was one of the hits of the 90s, but what was it like to be part of the band?

Chumbawamba’s lead singer Dunstan Bruce has revealed that the long awaited film about the band is nearing completion. In 2015, Bruce began a campaign on Kickstarter to fund the documentary, I Get Knocked Down: The Untold Story Of Chumbawamba. The film goes back to the start of the band’s story, and is told from the members’ point of view.

It was 1997 when Chumbawamba scored their biggest hit with Tubthumping. The lyrics were catchy and memorable. Dance floors would come alive as people flung themselves around, frantically pogoing and singing. It was football terrace culture being bought into the nightclubs. But the political theme of the song is still lost on many people who think it’s simply a drinking anthem.

It’s taken some time to put the film together, but Bruce revealed that he will be going into the editing suite this year to finish the film and put an ending to it. And according to Bruce the film will feature the 2018 tour of his new band, Interrobang.

‘H+’ by JB Dunckel (Album)

April 13, 2018 in Music

JB Dunckel

JB Dunckel: better known as one half of French music duo Air

The electro visionary from Versailles returns with more colourful and fluid dreamscapes to whet the appetite, if that’s your thing?

‘H+’ by JB Dunckel album coverJean-Benoît Dunckel is perhaps better known as one half of French music duo Air. The band’s flavour of downtempo electronica came to prominence during the mid to late 1990s, and it’s that dream pop vision that remains with the Frenchman to this day.

To say Dunckel loves synthesizers would be a huge understatement. Throughout his musical career the instrument has been used to create wondrous and epic songs – more like a crazed scientist than a seasoned musician. It’s that image that makes it less surprising that Dunckel, in fact, used to be a mathematics and physics student.

Fans of Dunckel’s countrymen Phoenix, who also hail from Versailles, and synth pop band MGMT will find H+ an interesting listen. The spacey synths and vocals are accompanied by captivating electro-beats. Opening song Hold On isn’t the strongest offering from the album, but the quality grows, so stick with it. By the time Qwartz and Slow Down sweep in and encompass the room, the impressive use of sound might be enough to win you over.

However, if the science of sound isn’t your thing, then the lack of dynamic range may induce a feeling of boredom. Individually, some of the songs burst with colour and are a pleasure to consume, but H+ is a tad too wistful.

Verdict: A little one sided

Dave Chrzanowski

Interview: John Carter Cash

April 12, 2018 in Features, Interviews

John Carter Cash by David McClister

John: “If my dad drove a pickup truck and delivered chicken for a living, I’d still be going through his papers.” Pic: David McClister

Johnny Cash’s son talks to us about bringing his legendary father’s unpublished words to life on a star-studded new album

The iconic albums Johnny Cash made towards the end of his life with Rick Rubin highlighted the emotion and authenticity that he was able to bring to other people’s music, but perhaps diverted attention from his own songwriting. The 2016 posthumous publication Forever Words: The Unknown Poems not only revealed the exhaustive amount of material left behind by the ‘Man in Black’, it also helped to bring attention back to his enormous contribution to the world of lyrics and literature.

The natural progression was to turn these words into songs. Alongside co-producer Steve Berkowitz, John Carter Cash (Johnny’s son) invited musicians to create tracks from the treasure trove that had been discovered. Featuring family members Rosanne Cash and Carlene Carter, and legendary artists such as Elvis Costello, Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss, the album of the same title is further proof of the legacy and goodwill left behind by Johnny Cash. The record also features one of the last solo recordings by Chris Cornell, whose contribution You Never Knew My Mind takes on an even greater poignancy due to Cornell’s own tragic death last year.

We recently caught up with John Carter Cash to discuss the album and his father’s enduring place in the history of music…


How did you go about the task of sorting through all that material to select what you needed for this album?

“This whole project is about the words and it’s about the connection with my father. Going through his papers after he passed away, in his office tucked in crevices and in folders or old files, some in his safe, there were probably 2000 pieces of paper that were all handwritten. Some of them were biblical study notes and some were lyrics to songs that had been published, but there were 200 that weren’t. I had help with the research and determined that they had not been published before. We put these into a bound volume, sorted through them and carefully typed them out as best as possible, with some help from Steve Berkowitz and Paul Muldoon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.

“With Muldoon and Penguin we put together the book of poetry, Forever Words. During that whole process I heard the possibility of music being added to some of these pieces, but it wasn’t essential then. The most important thing at that time was to reaffirm and establish my father’s strength as an American cultural literary figure. ‘Literary’ being the key word there, I saw the strength of the literary value of his work. The majority of folks know the iconic image of Johnny Cash or they connect with a song, but his strength as a writer was the focus.”

Johnny Cash by Don Hunstein

Johnny Cash. Pic: Don Hunstein

So you always saw the words as the beginnings of potential songs?

“I always did hear melodies there, most certainly, to a lot of the pieces. But the book was very important first. The album is a collection of my father’s word and that’s the consistent line through the project. My father has a very diverse fan base. Fans who own nothing but punk rock have the same Johnny Cash records in their collection as a fan of country gospel who owns no punk rock. Other artists respect for my father is also across the board, genre-wise.

“So the question was, who loves my father the most, or who has it within their heart or within that love that they feel capable of taking this on? It may not be something that an artist would do or maybe it would be something that they would enjoy. Most painters don’t paint with other people’s paints, but each artist was handed the paints and the palette and then they did what they would with the music. I didn’t try to direct anything and neither did Steve Berkowitz. I did give them the freedom to do edits if it was necessary for the song and what they were creating – I think my father would have done the same. He was very open-minded musically.

“Within his own record collection he would listen to American black gospel music before 1950 and that’s about all, but when he was studying for one of his albums he would listen to everything and artists all across the board were influenced by my father.”

Did you give them the specific lyrics or did they get to pick?

“Most artists saw two to three pieces and picked. Rosanne saw more and Carlene too. I also pointed out The Walking Wounded to Rosanne and said, ‘This one, Rose,’ because it’s something that I knew she could believe in and relate to and would intuitively speak out for. It’s about post-traumatic stress. Dad wrote it focussing on what was happening with the veterans of the Vietnam War but it connects through to everybody. It depended on the artist and who it was, but I did a lot study with Steve Berkowitz on what would work for what artist.”

And did you personally record all the artists?

“I recorded most of the stuff, except for five or six tracks. I produced it at the Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee, which is where my father did a lot of his latter-day recordings on the Rick Rubin projects, and where I recorded with my father all those years ago. I was there for every session from American III until the end of Dad’s life.

“I tried to put the frame around the song instead of building the song and the frame. The essential thing was the words, I didn’t want to direct an artist and say, ‘Let’s write it like it’s a Johnny Cash song.’ I wanted them to have their own freedom and follow their heart so that it’s honest and true to their artistry. If the artist was like, ‘Hey I connect with this as if your dad is in the room and we were going to sing it together,’ then that was fine too.

Johnny Cash by Don Hunstein

Johnny Cash. John Carter Cash: “My dad was my best friend when I was young.” Pic: Don Hunstein

Was that something which happened a lot?

“There’s two like that on the album, the T Bone Burnett track and the John Mellencamp track and they work wonderfully. I gave I’m With Her a few pieces to look at and I didn’t think they’d pick Chinky Pin Hill but they did, and wow. As far as production, sometimes there was more to be done, but with those girls they just do what they do and you just set up the microphones. I watched Jamey Johnson write Spirit Rider spontaneously. He looked down at the words, he had his guitar in his hands and the song just came out. I happened to be recording and what you hear is the way it came out, except one verse got moved. Also Gold All Over The Ground, I just happened to be recording the first time Brad Paisley saw the lyric.”

What you were feeling as you watched those artists create music with your dad’s words?

“It was wonderful to see them connect with an artist that I respect like my father. I respect my father’s artistry and music independently, in a scholarly fashion, and also respect the artists that I’m bringing it too and love their music. Then there’s also the fact that they’re my dad’s words and they connect so strongly with my father on a more personal level. It was exciting and it was thrilling. I love creativity, being in the midst of it and watching people be creative and capturing it.

“The experience varied with each song. I’ll Still Love You by Elvis Costello was one of the tracks that I wasn’t there for, it just depended on what it was. I invited everybody to come to the cabin but sometimes they couldn’t make it. I was there when Goin’, Goin’, Gone began. Robert Glasper started writing the music with Anu Sun and that was a lot of fun and it’s actually the one place that you can hear me on the album, that’s me whispering. It’s across the board as far as genres go, but they all love Johnny Cash and that’s what makes it work, an honest love for my father and his music.”

Johnny Cash by Don Hunstein

Johnny Cash. Pic: Don Hunstein

You Never Knew My Mind, the Chris Cornell track, must take on an even greater level of significance now?

“I know where Chris was when he wrote that song, he was in a very good space. He recorded it in early 2016 and had written it not too long before that. It almost made me cry the first time that I heard it, it chilled me to the bone. That was the demo that he sent to me on an email and then mixing it after he passed away was pretty heavy. It still is overwhelming because Chris and I developed a camaraderie through the whole process. We talked about different things. He went fishing with his dad when he was a boy, I did also, so we talked about those fishing trip. We talked about him travelling on the road with his children because my dad travelled with me all the time when I was young. We connected and I miss the guy. He was a gentle, loving and humble man. I thought he would be very intense but he was so soft-spoken and kind and he just had a very gentle heart, but was tortured. My father was likewise. That emptiness that you feel in that song was something that my father expressed a lot in music, like with Hurt.”

What effect has this process had on your relationship with your dad?

“I’m 48 now and I’m seeing through a different pair of glasses. His words touch my heart differently now, I’ve had different experiences since he passed away. It’s a communication, it’s spending time with my best friend again. My dad was my best friend when I was young. We worked together, we laughed together, we struggled through things together. We went through a lot and it’s sort of like encountering him again. I talk more about him than I think the average person would his father who has passed on, but it’s given me a chance to go through a healing and a catharsis at the same time. It’s been a wonderful experience, it’s been a journey. But I’ve produced music other than this type of thing. I’ve produced over 105 songs for Loretta Lynn and I’ve got my own album coming out soon, We Must Believe In Magic. I have to have a balance.

“It’s such a wonderful thing to have the chance to encounter my father again through his words and be reminded of everything that he was and who he was. If my dad drove a pickup truck and delivered chicken for a living, I would still be going through his papers.”

Lastly, what do you think his legacy is?

“I’m just going to go with what Dad said. Larry King asked him on live television, ‘If you could be remembered as one thing after you pass away, what would be the most important thing?’ and Dad just didn’t skip a beat and said, ‘A good father,’ and in that he was successful but I think his legacy can be what we choose for it to be. To me I like to focus on the light and the good and the beauty. The darkness is there, the struggle and the emptiness, but I hope to always bring to mind the good things and spread the word about the strength, love and light that endures. Yes there were struggles, yes he fell short and had addictions, but there’s so much hope and that’s what this album is about, hope.”

Interview: Duncan Haskell


Johnny Cash: Forever Words is out now at johnnycash.lnk.to

Songs In The Key Of… Shoegaze

April 11, 2018 in Features, Spring 2018

Discover: Shoegaze

Discover: Shoegaze feature in Songwriting Magazine Spring 2018 available now at pocketmags.com

We’re delighted to bring you a collection of songs from one of the most influential genres in guitar-pop’s alternative canon

In the spring edition of our app we walked you through a journey, one where you discovered shoegaze with Songwriting. While The Scene That Celebrates Itself has offered so much to music (the love of pedals, texture, and ethereal vocals) at the end of the day, it’s all about the songs – that’s precisely what we’re bringing you now.

Listen to the whole 14-track playlist on the Songwriting Spotify Profile. You can find the Discover Shoegaze With Songwriting by purchasing the Spring 2018 edition of our digital magazine. Enjoy!


ONLY SHALLOW – MY BLOODY VALENTINE
The opening track from the shoegaze album, Only Shallow is just over four minutes of blissful, womb-like fuzz, with floaty vocals hanging over the top. It’s nothing short of a masterpiece.

HERE COMES EVERYBODY – AUTOLUX
Our first contribution from over-the-pond to a scene initially renowned for its English influence, Los Angeles’ Autolux offer a divine Elliott Smith meets MBV combo with this track.

SLUG NIGHT – NO JOY
It’s thick and doomy, moody and gloomy, but doesn’t miss a trick; Canadian pair No Joy operate at the heavier end of shoegaze and you’ll be all the happier that they do after this three minute wonder has passed.

DECAY – RIDE
Such production… Ride are one of the scene’s true gunslinger’s, stepping into the fray armed with machine gun drums, stabbing melodies, and riffs that wash over like a terrible thunder. Decay demands repeat listen after repeat listen.

ALISON – SLOWDIVE
Second is nowhere in sport. Thankfully, music isn’t sport and this wonderful track from Souvlaki, the album just below MBV’s Loveless in shoegaze’s canon, proves that there’s an awful lot of pride in being almost the best.

KICK THE TRAGEDY – DROP NINETEENS
A song that gives meaning to the dreamy descriptions that have followed the genre since its 80s beginnings. Hit play, drift off, and feel as though the world has become a lighter place.

HORROR HEAD – CURVE
This London duo had enough electronic tinges to set themselves apart from their sneaker staring peers, but were still one of the high-points of the genre. Listen to Horror Head and you’ll understand why.

TALKING WITH FIREWORKS / HERE IT NEVER SNOWED – THE TWILIGHT SAD
Taking a kitchen sink approach to their wall of sound assault might would be this group’s finest quality, if it wasn’t for vocalist James Graham’s gorgeous Scottish accent. Sadly, The Twilight Sad are more famous for their touring keyboardist, Martin Doherty, who plays in Chvrches.

HEAVENLY NOBODIES – LUSH
Crunchier, poppier, and rockier than many other bands from shoegaze, Lush were, however, one of the very first bands to be handed the label. And, as this song proves, they were also one of the finest to wear it.

FALLING DOWN – CHAPTERHOUSE
At first glance, it would be easy to mistake this Reading group for Stone Roses posers. None of it. There’s a more acid-rock feel than many of their genre buddies, but make no mistake: Chapterhouse are shoegaze, through and through.

KILL RHYTHM – CATHERINE WHEEL
There are so many great tracks from the Billy Corgan inspiring Catherine Wheel that it’s difficult to pin them down to one. We’ve gone for Kill Rhythm and we’re sure you’ll agree that it’s an absolute banger.

BELL – SWIRLIES
It’s true, listen to this and you’ll be more swayed by the Sonic Youth than MBV comparisons, but this Boston group had just enough airiness and fuzz to sit at the same table as their shoegaze chums.

DUEL – SWERVEDRIVER
As much as Swervedriver are chock-full of absolute stunners, it simply had to be Duel. As hard as it is melodic, and as direct as it is dreamy, this is a masterpiece of weaving guitars and tumbling vocals that you’ll fall in love with over and over again.

SLOWDRONE – SHALLOW
We’ve reached the end and we’ve saved the best till last. Not part of the original scene and a band whose lack of acclaim during their existence should see the world’s ears issued with a life sentence. The music from this Kansas trio is heavy, beautiful, aching, and cathartic, while Julie Shields’ otherworldly vocals are the sound of a Commodore 64 given lips. Genius, absolute genius.

Words: Damien Girling


Listen to the whole 14-track playlist on the Songwriting Spotify Profile. You can find the Discover Shoegaze With Songwriting by purchasing the Spring 2018 edition of our digital magazine. Enjoy!

EXCLUSIVE! ‘Heavy Dog’ by Foxanne

April 10, 2018 in Music, News

Foxanne

Today’s exclusive is by the lovely, Foxanne. Credit: Liz Ornitz

Today we bring you a truly lovely song by an ‘independent post-pop’ trio who channel St. Vincent and Devendra Banheart

They’ve been called “both sensuous and original in nature,” and when you listen to the song that US post-pop trio Foxanne have gifted you that statement will ring true.

The song in question is titled Heavy Dog and of the track, band member Chelsea Gohd has this to say: “Heavy Dog is a song about moving on respectfully from a relationship. I used the metaphor of an old, heavy dog to symbolize the ending bond. The dog understands that its time has come and it crawls under the tree to lay in my lap and leave with love. A hyperactive puppy soon enters the picture, not a new relationship exactly, but rather life in front of the relationship.

Continuing: “The bridge was actually written live. I was debuting the song at an underground poetry night and realized mid song that it needed something else, so I improvised a bridge and loved it enough to keep it. The guitar part, the backbone of the song, is extremely repetetive and drone-like. I was inspired by Devendra Banhart’s earlier guitar style for this part. Especially in his songs like Owl Eyes, the delicate drone of this fingerpicking style really allows the lyrics and story to be front and centre.

Adding: “Jeff Taylor’s guest backing vocals coud almost be missed if you weren’t looking for them. In production, I thought that it would be fitting and feel right if his voice was almost the ghostly partner to mine. We shaped Andrew and Mike’s parts in the studio to act almost like rolling thunder. Heavy, low tones support the song like the score to a very short film.”

They’ve been compared to St. Vincent, Devendra Banheart, and Florence + the Machine. Are those comparisons right? Listen below and you’ll find out…

If you like that then check out Foxanne’s website, and Facebook for more.

Interview: Ben Harper

April 9, 2018 in Features, Interviews

Ben Harper

Ben Harper: “I’m not letting go of the fact that this is some soul-based shit!”

The genre-blending, Grammy-winning musician and performer extols the benefits of songwriting, collaborating, skateboarding and channelling the frequencies of the universe

Three-time Grammy Award–winning singer, songwriter and guitarist Ben Harper plays an eclectic mix of folk, blues, hard rock, country, jazz and reggae. Growing up in a musical family, he quickly developed his craft as a singer-songwriter and guitarist, played his first gig at the age of 12 and by his early 20s performed live with iconic bluesman Taj Mahal. In 1992, Ben signed with Virgin Records and released his debut album, Welcome To The Cruel World, the first of 12 studio albums he would make as a solo artist.

But over the next 25 years, Ben Harper would rarely cut a lone figure. With his supporting band, The Innocent Criminals, he released his third album The Will to Live in 1997, and then Burn To Shine two years later. His first studio album of the new millennium was 2003’s Diamonds On The Inside, which showcased two songs recorded with Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

In 2004, he collaborated with The Blind Boys of Alabama on an album of gospel songs, There Will Be a Light, which reached No 1 on Billboard’s gospel chart and took a Grammy for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album, while the track 11th Commandment won Ben an award in the category of Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

Ben Harper also formed the bands Fistful Of Mercy (with Dhani Harrison and Joseph Arthur) and Relentless7, recording albums and continuing to performing live with each of them. He teamed up with legendary blues harmonica player and guitarist Charlie Musselwhite for the 2013 album Get Up! and collaborated with him again to create 2018’s No Mercy In This Land.

We took this opportunity to catch up with Ben in his studio, Machine Shop, in Santa Monica, and ended up talking about skateboarding, the universe, jamming lyrics, and bumping into Larry David…


You’re well known for playing the lap steel guitar. How did you discover that instrument?

“I grew up in a music store called the Claremont Folk Music Center, and it’s still open to this day. It was a musical and literary epicentre for my region of the world, which was in Southern California. The people who have wandered through those doors: from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, John Fahey, Leonard Cohen and Jackson Browne, just to name a few. That was my childhood and upbringing, so the lap steel guitar just happened to resonate with me the deepest.

“In my early 20s, I was very much focused on all things slide guitar and blues. So I was in my family’s music store and within that environment you start to see people coming in, who were writing their own material. I was knee-deep in the blues at that point and I was very focused on learning and playing blues music – I was going around the world, meeting living blues legends (those that would have me, anyway!) Then I realised that some of these guys wrote their own songs and once I started forming strong musical opinions, I thought, ‘Oh okay, that’s how that works,’ and I just set out to do it.”

Can you remember when you first wrote a song?

“It was on my first record, Welcome To The Cruel World, and it was called Pleasure And Pain. Norma Waterson covered that song, so that does prove that there was a reason why that one resonated differently. She did a brilliant cover of that, by the way, much better that mine!”

“Here’s the interesting part: I’d probably written about 20 songs before what I would consider my first good song, and when I wrote that it felt different. Something opened up, either in me or in the universe, to let that happen. Now, any time anyone talks about the fucking ‘universe’ they sound like a crystal-toting lunatic! I don’t want to sound like that, but let’s just face it: everything in life has a frequency. Every wind that blows and every step you take is a frequency, so we are all living in a world surrounded by frequency-based realities that we cannot see. So who’s to say that there’s not something that has to resonate in the universe in order to resonate through your soul? You can’t prove that it does, but you can’t prove that it doesn’t, therefore I’m not letting go of the fact that this is some soul-based shit!

Ben Harper

Ben: “I’d rather be a trend, than to fit into one. I’ve never tried to write a song; I’ve always had to write a song.”

Tell us more about writing that debut album.

“The first record was nice because you don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re doing it anyway. There’s a certain purity to that, but there’s also a certain refinement that comes with knowing what you’re doing. When you’re not concerned about a middle eight and you just put one in there because you don’t think about it. Doing something and thinking about doing something are quite different!”

How about your second LP The Will To Live. The guitar sound you produced on that Faded especially was so unusual.

“Yes, that was the heart of my sonic exploration, and lyrical exploration, taking chances. For JP [Jean-Pierre Plunier, the album’s producer] and I, production was a huge part of songwriting. We got turned down by other labels, and one of the reasons was because I refused to let the ballads be produced syrupy – I wanted them to be stripped down.

“Actually, that was a transitional period when I still didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, but I had an idea of where I was going and where I could take it. There was no path for musical eclecticism in that period, so I just felt we were breaking the rules. I had done it so wrong for so long that it was starting to become a style, and it felt great and very liberating. I’ve never looked over my shoulder and taken stock, and I’m still doing it quite wrong! It’s still against the grain.”

Is that a conscious thing?

“No, it’s not. I’ve always been an industry outsider. From time to time, I’ve stolen the keys to the kingdom and got chased straight out again! And there’s no other place I’d rather be. I’d rather be a trend, than to fit into one. I’ve never tried to write a song; I’ve always had to write a song.”

Can you explain that a little bit – is it a cathartic process or simply your ‘work’?

“Trust me, I’ve had to set the pen down out of frustration, but who doesn’t? It’s always been out of necessity and the filter of seeing the world through a song. I know screenwriters and novelists who see the world through a film or a novel. I’ve bumped into Larry David, socially, and he sees the world through absurdity. He takes notes and it ends up being an antic in his programme.

“During The Will To Live period, it was as though the restraints were lifted and, ‘If you’re going to get to a third record as a professional musician, there’s no reason you can’t get to a thirtieth.’ That started to become clear to me.”

Did you enjoy those sessions more?

“Yeah, it was the first time I’d seen any money – I was broke until The Will To Live – and I was about to have my first child. I just was in a place where there was still a naivety but it was a confident naivety. There were fans and people who were going, ‘Go, go, we want more,’ and that was fun. You could fill up a 500-seat room by yourself – I’ve made it!”

And there was confidence in your ability to keep writing?

“The only way I’ve avoided writer’s block for going on 30 years, is to be running from something and not to be worried. Am I running from my childhood or my past, or am I running from not wanting to run out of ideas? Am I running from being who I really am? There’s so much in this life to run from, but at the end of it you’re running towards something. And songwriting was always something I could run towards.

“I was so worried, and everyone says, ‘isolate,’ and I’ve done that and there’s been some interesting stuff that has come out of absolute isolation. I’ve tried it all, but The Will To Live was lived as well as written, and explored by way of biography, autobiography, and novel.”

Ben Harper

Ben Harper: “Musically I’ve collaborated with various bands, but most people just aren’t bringing lyrics to the table”

Which tracks are you most proud of on that album?

“Songs that stand out on that record are I Shall Not Walk Alone, Roses From My Friends and Jah Work. Those jump out right away.”

Lyrically as well as melodically?

“Both. The combination and collaboration that goes on between melody and lyrics. For that reason, those do jump out at me.”

Did you get The Innocent Criminals involved in the songwriting process, or was it a case of playing them the songs and them running with it?

“Y’know, an ex-drummer from the band [Dean Butterworth] co-wrote a song with me that I’m quite excited about and proud of, that I hear a lot about, called She’s Only Happy In The Sun. For the most part, with The Innocent Criminals in the early stages, songwriting wasn’t their thing – they weren’t looking to do it. So I had to prod it out of them. Dean was the first Innocent Criminal that actually brought me a song that was quite well formed. There were some holes that he allowed me to fill in, but that was probably one of my earliest collaborations. I was always telling them, ‘Bring me songs. I don’t want you to think that I’m being precious about the process.’”

Were you writing music with anyone else at that stage?

“No, I was isolated, solo, just me.”

You’ve frequently collaborated in recording and performance over the years, but do you prefer to write alone?

“As a lyricist, I’ve very rarely have collaborated – I can count the times on one hand. It’s not even for the lack of being open to it, because musically I’ve collaborated with various bands, but most people just aren’t bringing lyrics to the table.”

Well, you can’t really ‘jam’ lyrics.

“[Laughs] Exactly right! The only time I have jammed lyrics is with my other band Fistful Of Mercy, with Joseph Arthur and Dhani Harrison. It was really fun, to just have giant white cardboard paper tacked all over the walls, giant markers, and to just go.”

How did that come about?

“I knew Joseph and Dhani very well and, separately, had been talking about making music with them. Then finally a light went off and we said, ‘Let’s all get in a room,’ and we came out a week later. The jamming with lyrics was borne out of our intensity and lunacy.”

We were lucky enough to interview Dhani Harrison last year and we talked about the band. Are you planning to do more together?

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say yes.”

I suppose the three of you are pretty busy with other projects?

“Absolutely. I’ve never called Dhani when he’s not in the middle of three things that are very important, creatively, to him, and managing his dad’s world. I don’t know how he does it.”

You’ve been pretty busy yourself over the years. Is it 15 albums you’ve released now?

“I have lost count! It depends if you include live albums and Fistful Of Mercy, y’know.”

Ben Harper

Ben and Charlie Musselwhite: “Knowing it’s Charlie … I’ve got to aim high! So I bring my ‘A’ game”

Let’s talk about the new album with Charlie Musselwhite. How did you start working with him?

“Working with Charlie came out of a lifetime of appreciation, up until the point that I met him through John Lee Hooker. John was helping a small club to pay its bills, so he was doing some free shows and Charlie was sitting in with him. John Lee had heard my music and invited me to be the opening act, which was a hugely exciting, as you can imagine. So I met Charlie in ’93 and we stayed in touch after those shows, for years. Then in 1997, John Lee invited Charlie and I into the studio to play with him on what would be his last studio record. And John Lee mentioned that our sound leant itself to one another and we should do more stuff as a duo. That always stuck with Charlie and I, then 15 years later we got into the studio – we’d talked about it for that long.”

Why did it take you so long?

“Timing, and also I had to live my way into being worthy of sitting at the table with Charlie. It took me 15 years to set aside the blues to be ready.”

How did you write together?

“Here’s the thing: I bring the songs forward and I usually pick 10 out of 20, so that was the case. Knowing it’s Charlie Musselwhite, who’s played with Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter and all the greats, I’ve got to aim high! So I bring my ‘A’ game and 10 hit the mark, and we leaned into them. I’m of the age now where I feel comfortable bringing people into the fold. I mean, as much as I bring the songs, I’m giving people songwriting credit for their instruments and what they’re playing, and bringing the song to life. Even though you could bring it to life in a hundred different ways, out of reverie for the players I’ve got to cut them in. I say, ‘Hey man, the drummer made the drum part, here’s your cut.’”

You say you brought your ‘A’ game for Charlie, because you have a lot of respect for him, but were you trying to craft the songs in a different way?

“With Charlie at the centre of the circle, it gives me something to aim for. So it’s not as though I changed, but on this particular record I was merciless on myself. Not that I’ve ever had a throwaway line, but I trimmed the fat off this record like you wouldn’t believe!”

If you could form a duo with anyone else, who would be top of the wish list?

“Tom Waits. Just playing Closing Time the other night, my wife and I, and our mouths were agape at how beautiful it is. Ah, come on!”

What do you do to relax when you’re not making music?

“Skateboard. I skate. I jump down things, over things, flip tricks and stuff like that. I’ve been non-stop for the last six or seven years. If your mind is not clear while you’re skating, you’re in trouble!”

Interview: Aaron Slater


Ben Harper’s new album with Charlie Musselwhite No Mercy In This Land is out now. Find out more at benharper.com

Classic Of The Week: Misfits

April 8, 2018 in News

You feel the heat as death comes ripping

“You feel the heat as death comes ripping”

35 years on, this sublime classic shows that the inventors of horror-punk are so much more than a gory novelty

Recorded when Glenn Danzig was still part of the band, Death Comes Ripping is a light speed classic that sounds as fresh today as when it was released in 1983. The inventors of horror-punk are no novelty act: they’re one of the most influential punk acts of all-time.


Classic Of The Week Playlist


The legend of the 27 Club

April 8, 2018 in Features

27: Gone Too Soon

27: Gone Too Soon – casualties of rock and roll

In reviewing a recent documentary film about the famous musicians who died aged 27, Fern Dunn explores the tragic phenomenon

The legend of the ’27 Club’ – a list of popular musicians, artists, or actors who died at that age – has been a prominent piece of music folklore. Artists dying young, in the prime of their musical careers, often under turbulent circumstances; tragic deaths that leave the world and fans reeling. I remember the moment my friends and I turned 27, we referred to this as the “rock and roll year” – that’s how much part of our popular culture it had become.

The film 27: Gone Too Soon, directed by Simon Napier-Bell, full of rare unseen footages of each artists era, takes a closer look at the legend surrounding this exclusive club of musicians, what led them to self-destruct, and if anyone could have prevented it. Filled with talking heads from a range of industry professionals, journalists and artists – Gary Numan and Chilli Jesson among them – we see a rounded view of how this group are perceived, many of the musicians themselves acknowledging how close they could have been to joining it.

Choosing to focus on the six main artists surrounding this phenomenon, we have Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison – all of whom died within three years of each other, inspiring the term 27 Club – before moving onto Kurt Cobain and most recently Amy Winehouse. There were far more than these six, and even more who though not 27 still died at the height of their fame.

But what are the elements that define this group of artists? Author and broadcaster, Lesley-Ann Jones gives us a list: dysfunctional childhoods; early trauma with no opportunity to process the events; full of angst; highly intelligent; misunderstood by their peers; rebellious nature; misplaced. “Is there a direct link between music and addiction?” asks music critic and rock historian Barney Hoskins. He attempts to answer the question, explaining: “Music offers us a release from anxiety, from being trapped in your own head with your own thoughts…it’s a release from that.”

27 Gone Too Soon DVD

The 27: Gone Too Soon DVD

As the film goes though the list one by one, it is striking how each tale works into the clichéd history of the destructive relationship between music and drugs, but also a sobering reminder this group themselves created these clichés. All of these deaths shook the industry, but as we see, not many lessons are learned, the temptations remain and are often the catalysts to the creative process.

As I see the narratives unfold on screen each time, I want so desperately for the story to be different. I wonder why more hadn’t been done to help them, and the overwhelming sense of loss of their talent, the albums we missed, and the concerts we will never see. I find myself shocked to see the parallels between Joplin and Winehouse – both strong female artists with raw soulful voices, an intense dependence on drugs well known to all around them and countless attempts to get clean that ultimately failed.

27: Gone Too Soon is incredibly factual, it doesn’t sensationalise the events or make light of the artists lives. There is no hint at conspiracies or a need to place blame on particular parties. At just under 70 minutes, it is quite short for a documentary, and trying to cover six musical histories in this time frame means that there isn’t time for much detail, but rather this being a negative it has fuelled my cravings to find out more about each artists fascinating lives. This is definitely one to watch for any music fan, but like any time that I think about this group, I am lead to wonder why them when so many survived this period. Was it inevitable that these bright young stars would think, as Cobain wrote in his suicide note: “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”

Some of the famous 27 Club members

All six artists have musical legacies that continue to this day in their own right, but have also spawned influences across all genres of music…

Brian JonesBrian Jones
As founder of the Rolling Stones, Jones shaped the band’s image and sound long after his departure and death. Although not credited with songwriting, he provided the band with some of their now iconic melodies. Also adding his musical talent to tracks by the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, Jones’ stamp is on some of the most iconic music of the decade. [Legacy: The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Rolling Stones, The Hives, Harry Styles, Oasis]

Jimi HendrixJimi Hendrix
Guitar legend, Hendrix is known to many for his experimental guitar playing, combining traditional blues with roaring noise, pushing the instrument into unknown sounds that musicians still use today. [Legacy: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Prince, David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Slash… pretty much anyone who has ever picked up a guitar!]

Janis JoplinJanis Joplin
Joplin’s voice is so distinctive she remains one of the most iconic identities in music. Despite releasing only three albums in her short career, she provided the blueprint for many female artists that came after, teaching them the power of raw emotion in songwriting and performance. [Legacy: Florence and the Machine, Stevie Nicks, P!nk, Joan Jett, Joss Stone]

Jim MorrisonJim Morrison
Considered by many to be the ultimate rock and roll frontman, with his good looks, mysterious persona and poetic lyrics, so many musicians have used him as the template to create their own stage persona. For many, Morrison embodied the spirit of the hippie counter-culture of the era, opening up fans to new ideals and rebellion. Buried in Paris, his grave is a pilgrimage spot for any music fan. [Legacy: Iggy Pop, The Strokes, Velvet Revolver, U2, Fatboy Slim, Bon Jovi]

Kurt CobainKurt Cobain
Frontman of the 90s grunge band Nirvana, Cobain was seen to be the voice of his generation. Embracing the angst, that so many of his teenage fans felt in the band’s lyrics, the Seattle band became a rite of passage for any modern youth at the time. [Legacy: Lana Del Rey, Arcade Fire, The White Stripes, Green Day, Alice In Chains, Muse]

Amy WinehouseAmy Winehouse
The most recent member of Club 27, Winehouse played out much of her career in front of the cameras. Her decline was well documented; the first in a social media world. Like Joplin before her, Winehouse used raw power and emotion to create jazz-influenced pop smashes. She was able to express everything she was feeling in her lyrics and live performances. [Legacy: Adele, Duffy, Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, Bruno Mars, Paloma Faith]

Words: Fern Dunn


The documentary film 27: Gone Too Soon is out now on DVD and Digital HD…

Comebacks: The Good, The Bad And The U.G.L.Y

April 7, 2018 in News

Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys: performing at the Roskilde Festival 2014 in Denmark. Pic: Bill Ebbesen/Wikimedia Commons

The world is weeks away from the return of Arctic Monkeys, while a pop duo also makes a shock comeback

This week Arctic Monkeys released details of their new album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, due out on 11 May. It could well be the most anticipated album to come out this year as Arctic fans gear themselves up for the band’s first release since 2013.

Tranquility… will explore further into the creative mind of frontman Alex Turner. The Sheffield band have a reputation for developing their songwriting abilities with each album. The band’s debut album is full of songs about nights out and club life. Arctic Monkeys draw on their life experiences and travels every time they enter the studio, meaning each album has its own personality while retaining the Arctic Monkeys’ spirit.

Last week brought us another return to the limelight, as Daphne & Celeste released their first album since their 2000 debut We Didn’t Say That. The new album, Daphne & Celeste Save The World, came out on Good Friday to mixed reviews, in what could be the most bizarre comeback this century.

Daphne & Celeste ambushed the charts in 1999 and 2000 with hit songs Ooh Stick You and U.G.L.Y, and a cover of Alice Cooper’s School’s Out. The pair’s career came to a wet and premature end when they were bombarded with bottles of urine thrown by angry rock fans during their main stage performance at Reading Festival. However, Daphne & Celeste returned in 2015 with the song You And I Alone, working with producer Max Tundra who wrote and produced the new album.

‘Vessel’ by Frankie Cosmos (Album)

April 6, 2018 in Music

Frankie Cosmos. Pic: Angel Ceballos

Frankie Cosmos: much-loved New York indie-pop act. Pic: Angel Ceballos

Taken from Songwriting Magazine’s Spring 2018 issue out now, this is a featured review of Greta Kline’s new 18-track long-player

Frankie Cosmos 'Vessel' album coverVessel is the third album by much-loved New York indie-pop act Frankie Cosmos and the 52nd record to be released by band leader Greta Kline. With 2016’s Next Thing securing widespread acclaim, expectations are understandably high for its follow-up. Not only is Kline a prolific songwriter, she doesn’t skimp on the number of songs she includes with each release: the first Frankie Cosmos album featured 10 songs, the last included 15, and this time round Kline has gifted us with 18.

Some of these many tracks skip by and are over as soon as they began, with the lovely piano piece Ur Up, and ineffably sweet My Phone barely making it beyond the half-minute point. But despite their short length, none of this seems self-indulgent or an attempt to bump up the numbers.

Instead, it makes it clear that with each song Kline is exploring a specific idea, or moment. Take Apathy: here Kline explores what it’s like to realise that you’ve become distant and detached from people who you have cared deeply for. Or Jesse, where the subject matter is the influence that dreams and your subconscious have on your conscious life.

That is not to say that you can’t enjoy Vessel’s melodies in isolation from their lyrical content: This Stuff is a beatific indie-folk number with a gorgeous chord change; Being Alive races out of the blocks in mix of Tiger Trap, and All Girl Summer Fun Band, before a serene middle gives time for reflection; while Cafeteria is built on a shimmering and fuzzy riff that’s classic Frankie Cosmos.

It’s rare a record of double album length finishes before you’ve had a chance to process that it started. And Vessel is an unusual record in a wonderful way; the contrast between the brevity of the songs’ lengths and their volume, matched to their succinct lyrics, gives the sense that it’s a soundtrack of Kline’s life – you could imagine it being accompanied by a Wes Anderson produced stop-motion animated film.

This all adds up to make Vessel the most personal and engaging album Frankie Cosmos has released so far, the one which lets you look behind Kline’s eyes and forge a deep connection with the soul responsible for the wonderful music she produces.

Verdict: Personal and engaging

Damien Girling


For more music reviews like this, and to explore Frankie Cosmos’ #SongwritingSurvivalKit, get our latest edition from pocketmags.com

The Importance Of The Physical In The Digital Age

April 5, 2018 in Gear, News

Qrates

Qrates: an on-demand marketplace and crowdfunding platform helping to power the future of music on vinyl

We invited the crowdfunding platform Qrates to explain how they are helping to power the future of music on vinyl

Even though we’re now living in a world where everything is being consumed digitally, we’re seeing a huge resurgence in vinyl sales. The UK is seeing the highest amount of transactions made this side of the millennium and for music fans, the idea of owning a physical element of the music they love is hugely popular.

Why is there such a renewed interest in this area? Owning vinyl records for a music fan can hold any number of symbols such as nostalgia, audio quality, an art piece, a memory of a specific time and place. The physical feel of the artwork, the size, the weight – these characteristics are missing from digital music and can’t be replaced so easily. It’s twofold, in that older people are getting back into vinyl and the younger generation are now discovering music in a format that they’ve never seen before – and the excitement is shared among all. Vinyl records offers a special and unique listening experience.

People just think that this young generation are only streaming music, but actually, we’re seeing that they are wanting something quite tangible and real. That’s where vinyl records is taking on the role that CDs once occupied. Even though streaming is a rocketing trend, it’s helping to lead fans into owning it in a physical way via vinyl. Streaming music has only encouraged this music and vinyl discovery.

But, how does one go about making a vinyl record? Why can’t it be as easy as posting or uploading a song on name-your-music-service-of-choice?

Here at Qrates, being an on-demand marketplace and crowdfunding platform helping to power the future of music on vinyl, we recognise the importance and celebrate music being on a physical medium. Since launching in 2015, we have hosted 1,409 crowdfunding projects submitted from 59 countries and pressed 62,678 vinyl records for 243 vinyl releases. We’re always looking to make life easier for both the experienced and first-time upcoming labels, emerging artists and songwriters to press small quantities of vinyl by offering modernizing technology and cutting out the middleman. That’s why we’re listening to feedback and constantly reviewing our product to ensure our customers are experiencing an easy process and transaction.

New Qrates

Qrates: an improved vinyl builder, new look and other updated functionalities

We’ve just introduced a bunch of new features with the biggest update being our Pre-Order function. This will allow artists to adjust ordering quantities until they are ready to press their record, so that the project doesn’t rely on the success of them reaching their crowdfunding target goals.

Along with an improved vinyl builder, new look and other updated functionalities, we’ve essentially made it easier than ever before for fans to discover and back new music, or labels and artists to develop vinyl records.

For songwriters especially, Qrates is a great tool to realise their music in the physical format in the form of the hugely popular vinyl record. We want to create equal opportunities for everyone, even if you’re an emerging artist or a songwriter, so that their music is released onto vinyl. Using Qrates won’t end up costing a fortune as small quantities of vinyl can be pressed but still profitable. Without financial commitments, songwriters and artists can launch a project on our platform.

There are a number of other reasons why vinyl has seen a comeback. The experience of vinyl is proactive and ritual like. The needle needs to be moved over for the vinyl to be changed or flipped over. It’s an engaging experience. There’s also the thrill of the hunt. Music fans will venture out to local record stores, markets, and shop – in the quest to discover their new treasured vinyl record. It’s creating a community feel. Record shops are now a place for like-minded people to come together and connect. They can discuss the latest releases, new music and even boast about rare finds.

For 2018, we see the resurgence in vinyl continuing. It’s growing each year and with events such as Record Store Day, which has become a nationwide phenomenon, and the new shops selling vinyl – it’s clear there is no sign of it slowing down. We’ve seen supermarkets such as Tesco stocking vinyl and even Sainsbury’s launching its own-branded vinyl albums.

For more information and discover the new updated Qrates, visit qrates.com

Interview: The Magic Numbers’ Romeo Stodart

April 4, 2018 in Features, Interviews

The Magic Numbers' Romeo Stodart

The Magic Numbers’ Romeo Stodart: “I’m probably most confident when I’m holding a guitar and making something.”

As the English pop-rockers return with a new album, we chat to the band’s songwriter about life as an outsider

When The Magic Numbers burst onto the scene in 2005 attention all too often focussed on the group’s family dynamic – formed of two pairs of siblings: Romeo and Michele Stodart, with Sean and Angela Gannon – or the fact that they didn’t have the conventional look deigned essential for bands of that period. Those who delved a little deeper commented on the close harmonies and seemingly effortless charm of early singles Forever Lost and Love Me Like You. Yet, as beautiful as those two tracks were, to stop there was to miss out on an album of significant artistry.

From the very outset they presented a rich variety of music, combining classic song craft with an obvious wealth of influences such as indie, country, folk and soul. Though very much a unit, it’s Romeo’s songwriting that has always underpinned the band’s output. Never wishing to just repeat the formula of that hugely successful debut, subsequent albums Those The Brokes, The Runaway and Alias continued to showcase his ability to span genres whilst remaining true to the group’s core.

All of which makes Outsiders an entirely appropriate name for their new album, their first since 2014. Once again, it’s a record which displays a rich spectrum of inspiration and ideas, with songs ranging from the epic rock of lead single Sweet Divide to the gentler country sway of Wayward. If there’s any justice then this collection of songs should once again place The Magic Numbers at the summit of the UK music scene.

We recently had the chance to chat with Romeo about the new album and discuss his life as an outsider…


How much has being an outsider shaped your songwriting?

“I think it’s definitely helped in the sense of the loneliness and withdrawing from life in some ways. I was 8 or 9 when I realised that I wanted to do this, and I’ve always felt like a bit of a loner throughout, so that works well because you’re a lot more reflective, you’re turning inward. All throughout my teens I just wanted to learn how to play. Music was the main drive for me so I spent a lot of time on my own writing and developing and feeling like I needed to create something of my own, which I think is really important as well. It’s obviously helped within my life, sitting here still having that place to go to when things are too much. It’s finding solace within music and songwriting.”

Is that something you’ve always embraced?

“Music has definitely been something that I draw confidence from. I’m probably most confident when I’m holding a guitar and making something. In terms of where we are now, calling the record Outsiders, I guess there’s more of a realisation that we’ve never really fit in with any particular scene or tried to chase something and adapt to the current sound. We’ve just been on our own path and we’re now loving that and embracing it even more. Lyrical themes of this record were inspired by knowing that there’s a lot of people like that in their lives, especially in this time of the internet, having to box yourself in and say, ‘This is who I am,’ I find that kind of bizarre.”

The Magic Numbers' Romeo Stodart

Romeo Stodart: “I know we’re a band but I have the songs and then the next part is bringing the song to them”

Did the title lead you to the songs or what it the other way round?

“The overarching theme of the lyrics led to the title. I was trying to write a lot more character-based songs as well. There’s a song on the album called Ride Against The Wind which is about a motorcycle gang. There are four different women who are at different stages in their lives and they decide to take to the road and leave it all behind and not conform. That song inspired things. Runaways is another one, it’s about misfits who have messed up their lives and can identify with other similar people and find the romance within that.

“With the last couple of records things were a lot more introspective and I was in a much darker place personally. So this time I found a vehicle to steer it somewhere else, the spirit of it anyway. Outsiders feels like closure and also reflects how the four of us are as a band and individuals.”

Do you find it freeing to write in character?

“It is like a new way really of approaching the core of what it is that you’re trying to say, coming at it from a different angle. I’ve always loved writers like Tom Waits that create a world, but for me in the past it was much more unconscious songwriting. I’ll just start playing and there’ll be a melody and I’ll sing whatever it is and just have voice memos or a Dictaphone and it’s a stream of consciousness kind of thing. I’ll then pluck things from the feeling of what I’m trying to say and then I’ll chisel it out, but I’ve been conscious of looking at different ways of getting the feeling of the song.”

How much do you have the other three in mind during that initial writing stage?

“I don’t really think of that at all, even in terms of what the production is going to be like or the arrangement. I just try to tap into that honesty and pluck things out, letting it happen. I find that’s best for me, to be in that space. Every day I pick up the guitar or go to the piano and I’m always playing stuff. Some days I might be thinking too much and be second guessing things and I might then play the same chord sequence a few days later but all of a sudden I’m not thinking too much and a melody will turn up. I’m never thinking about what it’s going to be in the end and I find that a really liberating thing for me.

“Sometimes well we’ve had that chat of, ‘I don’t see how that’s going to fit on this record,’ but I kind of like that. I like those different sides to us. This album is probably more guitar driven, but then there’s a song like Power Lines on there which is more like a soul tune. We’ve always done that, even on the first record. People’s perception of the band who may have heard the singles would think of us as an indie thing but then you’ve got songs like Love’s A Game or Try that are more folky. I think the song arrives out of thin air in the mood that you’re in, you shape it a little bit but it dictates what it needs to be.

“I know we’re a band but I have the songs and then the next part is bringing the song to them. Then the lyric can be coming from a dark place but when we start playing it as a band, because we have a way of playing together and arranging things, I feel like it shifts a little bit and becomes more up and hooky.”

So you’ll play them the basic track and then flesh it out together?

“Yeah, but then sometimes I do it differently. There’s a song on the third album called Throwing My Heart Away which I wrote on the piano and I instantly thought Angela in the band should sing that song, I just felt like it would be perfect. So that was actually halfway through coming up with the song that I thought it would be great for her. So it depends. It’s not the main way, there’s no set thing I guess. Nowadays I do so many other projects that when I’m writing I might think, ‘This will be great for that,’ or sometimes I just sit there and make things up for fun. If I’ve got a couple of hours I I’ll just write things and make up a project, with made-up band names, albums and song titles.

The Magic Numbers' Romeo Stodart

Romeo: “As soon as we have that first rehearsal or jam it’s apparent that we’ve really got something”

Does it also work the other way, in that the side projects bleed into The Magic Numbers?

“Outside of The Magic Numbers I’ve done lots of little bits of co-writing and lots of playing with different people as a musician and production stuff. But the main one for me that’s been a real game changer is that I met a singer songwriter from Manchester called Ren Harvieu and she’s got the most incredible voice. I actually first saw her on [Later… With Jools Holland] a few years ago and her voice reminded me of Linda Ronstadt. Over the break between Magic Numbers albums, me and her have been writing and we’ve just finished making her next record, which I’ve been producing as well. During that time I was writing really big emotional songs, more ballad-esque, and I think when hooking back up with the band it was almost like not wanting to do that kind of thing, going against it and being like, ‘Let’s approach it in a different mindset,’ and in some ways it’s a lot more fun, just not in a sunshiny way. In short, doing other projects and then coming back to the band, it has really informed things.”

As chief songwriter do you ever feel a responsibility to the other members of the group, almost as if you have to keep doing it for their sake?

“No, it’s more of a love of what it is that everyone brings to it. It’s my outlet of writing and everything. It is great to do other things, Michele has done solo records and everyone does stuff, but we gravitate towards that moment of itching to get back together. As soon as we have that first rehearsal or jam it’s apparent that we’ve really got something. Sometimes we’ve played the odd show, we’ll have been doing loads of things and then this one show comes in and we play that gig and look at each other and go, ‘Bloody hell!’ We take it for granted but we’ve got something and we love this and it’s that unit, that gang thing. It’s an interesting one with us because we’re two families that get together. I couldn’t imagine myself being in a band with a bunch of guys. There’s something about me and my sister and Sean and his sister, there’s something quite protective within it and something instinctive and it’s quite powerful. I may have amazing moments by myself where I’m playing different kinds of music but that’s what pulls us back, that feeling of having something special together.”

It’s a different dynamic to the sparring siblings in bands like Oasis or The Kinks…

“It really is, just in terms of how we are. I remember when we started, when I first moved to London the Gannons were my first friends. I went to see Sean in a band and we started playing music together. We had been playing together for 10 years and our little sisters would come to those gigs and they were growing up. So all throughout that time different members would come and go and then we were sort of like, ‘Well should we get Michele and Angela in because we’re singing together at home and it’s sounding great?’ Michele could play guitar so maybe she could play bass and then it was just this thing that was natural and the best. Straightaway things started happening for us. But when it did we felt like we had to look after ourselves so we kept working away in the corners of the room and then as you get older you get more accepting of yourself as a person and as musicians and you’re like, ‘Let’s do this’ and you end up in the centre of the room going, ‘Come on!’”

Lastly, what do you hope for when releasing a new album these days?

“I’m still as ambitious as before in terms of hoping for success but the meaning of success has now changed in my mind. Before it was those experiences, like getting on the radio for the first time or the cover of the magazine and all these things that you imagined. Don’t get me wrong, amazing things have happened but success really is the creating, making something and feeling that you’ve made this thing which captures where you are at a certain time. The album is coming out in May and we’re putting some shows together and it’s exciting, as well as nerve-racking because you want the music to get out there to people. You still want to get on the radio and television, all these things that are really out of your control, but they always were. But it’s different now in terms of in my mind, it’s not going to destroy me. In the past if something wasn’t as successful and you’d put your heart and soul into it, it kind of does destroy you a little bit, but now I’ve awoken to the fact that I’ve just got to make things, I’ve just to create and get it out and push myself. And as a band we’ve got to not take four years between records, that’s insane. As I’m getting older I’m like, ‘Let’s start the next one, let’s do this.’ The most rewarding thing is going out playing live and hearing people sing your songs and feeling like it affected them, you can see it in the moment and then it transcends into this other thing. So I would love that to happen with the new songs.”

Interview: Duncan Haskell


Outsiders comes out on 11 May. For all the latest news, head to facebook.com/TheMagicNumbers

EXCLUSIVE! ‘Planetary’ by Stimmerman

April 3, 2018 in Music, News

Stimmerman

Today’s exclusive is from the wonderful, Stimmerman

She’s contributed to some of the best indie-rock to come out of New York and now she’s here for you

Eva Lawitts might not have a name as recognisable as some of the current big-hitters in indie-rock, but that don’t be fooled by that: she’s played with Vagabon, Citris, and some of the finest artists to have come from New York in recent years.

She’s gifted you with today’s exclusive, Planetary, which she performs under the name Stimmerman.

Of the song she says: ““I spent 2015-2017 in a van bouncing from NYC to LA to Chicago to Richmond to Savannah to Texas to Kansas and back. [Planetary is one of] 5 songs I wrote either staring out of the window of that van or in my home in Brooklyn, anticipating how soon I would be staring out of the window of that van.”

She’s been likened to Bully, Dilly Dally, and Screaming Females. Is she like any of them? Find out for yourself…

If you like that then head over to Stimmerman’s Facebook, and SoundCloud for more.