Monday, April 21, 2014

The Brian Jonestown Massacre interview with Anton Newcombe

It would take a few pages to write about everything Anton Newcombe and his band The Brian Jonestown Massacre released in the past. Anton is currently living in Berlin and working with music. He also has his own studio now. The Brian Jonestown Massacre will be performing at the notorious Austin Psych Festival in about a month from now and after that they are going on tour across Europe.  Newcombe is releasing brand new album Revelation, which is the first album that was fully recorded and produced at Anton’s recording studio in Berlin. This is the 14th full length release from the Brian Jonestown Massacre recorded from late 2012 to early 2014, with Anton Newcombe refining the 13 tracks that appear on the album. Featuring appearances from: Ricky Maymi (an original member of the band), Joachim Alhund (Les Big Byrd), Constatine Karlis (Dimmer), Ryan Van Kriedt (Asteroid #4) as well as a vocal performance in Swedish by Joachim Alhund (Les Big Byrds) on the opening track. Here's our conversation with mastermind behind BJM.

Hello Anton, thanks for taking your time for this interview. What are you currently doing?

It's my pleasure, I'm doing alright you know... just taking it easy before I have to tour and spending time with my wife and my psychedelic baby "Wolfgang" as I'll be gone for awhile.

I was hoping we could talk about your latest album "Revelation". What can you say about the process of making this upcoming album and when is the release date?

Well the album comes out on May 19th I guess and I recorded it at my studio in Berlin where I live now. The process for me is that I get up everyday, eat something with my family and ride the utah out to the studio and try and make up ideas because if i don't, then there won't be a record, and no record means there's really no reason to tour... haha.

But to be honest for me, part of the process is overcoming self doubt along the way. I can make up ten songs in a row and a week later wonder if thats it and I'll never make up anything again and give up. The truth is I love writing music... for me it is conceptual art at that point and all I am looking for is the thing that captures my spirit and holds me captive, but not so tight that I can't break free... I want it to scratch this manic itch inside my head as I listen over and over again to it... and I want it to feel like my brain is on fire... like Van Gogh felt with paints or Rodin with sculpture... I am looking for the same with sounds for myself as an artist... Then I try and turn that into performance art live.

How long have you been living in Berlin?

Since 2007 - 2008 I think.

How do you like the "underground" scene of the city?

I am a hermit really, I don't drink anymore so I don't venture too much into the underground, like I said I am raising my son... but remember I spent a hell of a lot of time with a miners cap digging around down there in my life so it's ok to be doing other things.

Do you think it had any impact on you as a musician or maybe influenced you to such an extent that we will hear the traces of urban city life in your upcoming album?

Not just yet it hasn't, I think Berlin allows me the chance to be alone, like a ghost. I don't speak german and no-one bothers me ever... I just come and go as I please wherever I like without many worries in the world focusing on my art. I want to say I am very lucky, but at the sometime I have to say I have and do work very hard and have worked very hard for a long time.

You have your home-made studio there and this is the very first album BJM, that will be recorded there. Would you like to tell us about the recording and producing process?

Well I have an engineer I work with Fabien Lesure, he's quite good and having him there every day allows me to produce myself playing all the parts or with other people and or other bands and get a consistent sound without mucking about working out troubles. We have a system. We have new and old gear and we approach everything pretty much the same way... and at the same time experiment. It's all about the song or project, but the important thing is we keep the cost down... When I was working in studios it would be 1000 a day or more... haha so we can work for a month now for the same price... or something like that. You understand... but yeah... we also produce other bands there... but it's not a commercial studio as such because that would drive me nuts.

It must have been much more relaxed recording in your own home, am I right?

I have a flat and the studio is some place else. I don't like to be confronted with my work as a living space anymore. It makes you feel like an asshole when you want to relax if you are staring at 20 guitars and keyboards getting dusty no matter how much work you do.

You have your own independent label, that formed over 10 years ago and grew into a very special place for various types of music. What's the story about the label? How did you got the idea to start it?

Well I always had an imprint - first as tangible, then The Committee To Keep Music Evil... now it's "A Recordings Ltd"... the main reason is control. I want to make records. I want the money that makes to go toward making more records, paying a small salary, and working on new projects. I don't want some asshole deciding when my "career" is over because of some mistake they made with cash-flow... at the same time, I never sold all my music so this is an option. Some other fucker would be selling my records right now and paying me nothing believe me if I would have taken the offers I would be homeless or dead by now.

The Committee To KeepMusic Evil is putting out some very quality releases for instance Christian Bland and the Revelators, The Vacant Lots, The Cult Of Dom Kellar, The Asteroid 4, Dead Skeletons, The High Dials and many more. How does the work on your own label look like? Do you get demos or do you randomly stumble across the bands, that you find interesting?

We have about 20 albums and projects out and more coming all the time with way better distribution world wide than Rob and The Committee To Keep Music Evil have. Way better. I have seven records coming out in May. Ha ha. No offence Rob, but the reason I started a new label and left the Committee is because I intend to have a label that works… and it does.

Is it hard to run such a label? Do you work on your own or do you have someone to help you out?

I have a label manager Stuart Flint that use to work for Cargo UK with me and now we try and do things to slowly grow the project right.

Are there any exciting upcoming releases from your label?

In May we have:

LES BIG BYRD from Sweden
The KBV from London
And the BLUE ANGEL LOUNGE from Hagen, Germany

All releasing albums along with the new BJM album, then we have things planned for the fall like the MAGIC CASTLES from Minnesota, they have a full length album and we are finally getting around to pressing THANK GOD FOR MENTAL ILLNESS on vinyl (one of our albums) and also, there's a group from the UK called the SLEAFORD MODS that I like, I asked them to do a 10" so yeah... it's a busy time for me.

You've listened to tons of albums. What would you say are those "less" known that had a great impact on you when you started Brian Jonestown Massacre and what are some present artists you would recommend to our readers?

See this is the point where I have to just freeze this conversation because my relationship with music is intense and can not be defined by some list that cannot do justice without the sounds to go with it and why. I have fucking great taste in music, fantastic taste and if I started spitting out song titles and group names it would be ten miles long because it's longer than that and I'm not kidding.

Austin Psych Fest is getting closer and you'll be the headliner there. Are you excited to play there? I think the festival is a great idea of getting all this psychedelic, alternative bands together...

It's an honor, I'm more than excited, I'm nervous. I want everyone to have a great time and I am thankful to be invited again.

Austin Psych Fest, 2012
© Mark Reitz 

After the festival you plan to tour Europe and maybe we can catch you somewhere… Where all will you go on your tour and what can the audience expect?

There really isn't anyway to please everyone when you play a show except to provide whatever it is that it says it is on the tin. That means if you plan to play just the new album, say that so people are not pissed about your other 16 albums. For me, and for this tour... I leave it up to the group because I write and wrote the vast majority of the music of every single era, I'm thankful to have anyone to play any of it with... We're going to play some old some new... that's the plan.

Tue        20th       Lille FR  Aeronef
Wed      21st       Paris FR Bataclan
Thu        22nd      Rouen FR            106
Fri          23rd       Caen FR               BBC
Sat         24th       Brest FR               La Carene
Sun        25th       Nantes FR           Stereolux
Tue        27th       La Rochelle FR   Sirene
Wed      28th       Barcelona ESP    Apolo
Thu        29th       Nimes FR             This Is Not A Love Song Festival
Fri          30th       Besancon FR      La Rodia
Sat         31st       Lyon FR Nuits Sonores Festival                                      
France: ticket link                                           
Mon      2nd        Bologna IT          Rock In Idrho
Wed      4th         Tours FR              Aucard Du Tours Festival
Thu        5th         Strasbourg FR    La Laiterie
Fri          6th         Nurburg DE         Rock Am Ring
Sat         7th         Nurburg DE         Rock Im Park
Sun        8th         Berlin DE             Postbanof
Mon      9th         Warsaw               Hydrozagadka
Wed      11th       Prague  Futurum Music Bar
Thu        12th       Dresden DE         Beatpol
Fri          13rd       Tyrolen, Blädinge, Småland SWE               Psykunta Festival
Sat         14th       Aarhus Denmark              Northside Festival
Mon      16th       Oslo       John Dee
Tue        17th       Stockholm SWE Debaser Media
Wed      18th       Gothenburg SWE             Pustervik
Thu        19th       Malmo SWE       babel
Fri          20th       Hamburg DE       Knust Fabrik
Sun        22nd      Matigny SWZ      Caves Du Manoire
Mon      23rd       Zurich SWZ          Komplex Klub
Tue        24th       Brussels               Orangerie
Thu        26th       Amsterdam         melkweg
Fri          27th       Beuningen Holland          Down The Rabbit Hole Festival
Sat         28th       Brighton UK        Concorde 2
Sun        29th       UK          TBA                                              
Tue        1st         London UK          Roundhouse
Wed      2nd        Norwich UK        Waterfront
Thu        3rd         Bristol UK            Anson Rooms
Fri          4th         Nottingham UK Rescue Rooms
Sat         5th         Glasgow UK        ABC
Sun        6th         Newcastle UK    Riverside
Mon      7th         Birmingham UK Academy 2
Wed      9th         Dublin Eire          Academy 2
Thu - 8  10th       Manchester UK  Ritz
Fri          11th       Leeds UK             Cockpit
Sat         12th       Liverpool UK      East Village Arts Club                                              
UK: Search Results - See Tickets

Will this be more of a presentational tour of the new album, or?

I think we'll play three or four new ones with one unreleased or something like that.

You are also working on a film. Would you like to present us your project, since we don't know much about it...

Well I have wanted for a very long time to do a soundtrack and it looks like I am going to do one for a film called "Moon Dogs". Philip John is the director and it's set in Scotland up in the Shetlands there someplace. It's about two brothers who sort of, they've grown apart after one leaves home and the other stays in the small town or whatever and they go on a trip to get to know each other and bond and all again. And one of them is a musician... and I'll be making up his stuff and the incidental music etc. and maybe working with a few other people. My goal is to have Philip John, and everybody involved end up happy with the project at the end of the day and to the end I want to work hard with him to make that happen.

Maybe you will find it odd question, but still since we are psychedelic, baby! I want to ask you what's your opinion on hallucinogens? Have you ever gone deeper into the psychedelics? I think notorious author Terence McKenna managed to express some really amazing things from his experiments. How about you? Do you think it influenced you as a musician?

I was dosed  with DMT and didn't expect that and I came through the other side. I'm not afraid of those little shits.

Well, Anton we are really glad you have taken your time. Wish you all the best with your current and future projects and also with touring, hopefully we'll catch you on the tour. Would you like to share anything else with It's Psychedelic Baby readers?

Keep the faith baby and enjoy the trip'


© Mary Martley

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2014
© Copyright

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ruined Fortune interview with Nic Warnock and Angie “Bermuda” Garrick

© Mel Garrick

Mark down another win for the blistering Aussie scene!  While Ruined Fortune seems to be as much of an experiment in creating music as it does a band, an evolving orb of utter madness, there’s just enough grounding in twisted and infectious pop to keep the music moving in the right direction.  The history of the band is an interesting one and most likely showcases why the band’s sound comes off like it does, frantic, yet extremely cunningly performed.  Minimalist punk and noise elements seamlessly crash with garage rock and noise-psych a la Chrome, while also inhabiting the body of a mid-80’s club junkie; and in the best senses possible.  It’s refreshing to hear a band that’s so chaotic and crazy at times, who still rely on the strength of the, sometimes atonal but always monstrous, unholy beasts of riffs that trip blindly groping out of the anarchy about them.  Following up 2012’s Bulls Eye single on R.I.P. Society with a highly anticipated debut full-length on HoZac Records, Ruined Fortune are out to prove they’ve come to kick ass and take names!  Armed with enough fuzz, distortion, feedback and churlishness to outfit an army along with an unrelenting urge to use it, this music is for fuzz, garage, psych, head, noise and punk junkies alike.  I could spend even more time talking about how amazing the tracks that I’ve heard previewed from the Self-Titled Ruined Fortune LP on the boss HoZac Records are.  I could talk about how much they seem to have grown, how infectious and heavy the riffs are, how well the almost vocals compliment the music, even about how the production quality seems to have once again shifted to perfectly reflect the soul of the music that it helps to produce.  Instead though, I’ll just say that not only are Ruined Fortune another amazing Australian band, they’re one that isn’t afraid of breaking the mold, make an original statement and they do it all while paying homage to the greatness that’s come before them.   I guess the only thing left, is for you to click on one of the links below, read the article and eventually, for you to just cave in and buy the album…  Wait for it, the urge’s coming…

What is Ruined Fortune’s current lineup?  Is this your original lineup or have you guys gone through any changes since the band started?

Nic:  Ruined Fortune has had quite a scattered existence, lots of long silences between blurts of productivity.  Our first show was actually just the two of us and a cassette 4-track in late 2011, something we’ve returned to for a few shows recently.  Since then we’ve been joined by Sam Chilpin and John Duncan on stage, and hopefully some day on record cause they’re mad dogs.

Are any of you currently in any other bands at this point?  Have you released any music with anyone else?  If so can you tell us a little bit about that?

Nic:  I currently play in the rock group Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, the new-wave (for lack of a better term) group Model Citizen and play solo in experimental-mode as Exotic Dog.  I’m a complex person.  I need all of these outlets to express each facet of my complex existence. 

Angie:  I make music on my own at the moment.  I don’t really have any other musical projects apart from that and Ruined Fortune.  My solo project is just me on different platforms with a revolving backing band style, similar to Circle Pit.

Where are you originally from?  How would you describe the local music scene where grew up?

Nic:  I grew up in Cairns, Far North Queensland and the music scene was poor/non-existent as far as I knew; I could have been wrong, I have since seen evidence of weird music existing in Cairns.  Once I moved away people started putting on house shows and bizarre punk bands formed, which was great to see.

Angie:  I grew up in inner-city Sydney.  The music scene was kinda boring, like bland indie music everywhere and mostly over eighteen venues that seemed kinda expensive.  I eventually gravitated towards the hardcore/punk scene here because it felt more exciting and more dangerous, full of life.  It felt like around that time there was a similar feeling from other people and it kinda exploded, and for a while there was a feeling that something was really starting and changing.  I feel a bit out of the loop now through.

Did the music scene there play a large part in your childhood, your musical tastes or how you play these days?

Nic:  Not really, but I do think the lack of any music orientated youth culture in Cairns was somewhat of a blessing.  No “scene”, meant no rules.  I got to choose my own adventure through music.  I managed to bypass pop punk or any other bland unified youth trend, so I guess that influenced how I play.

Angie:  I feel like it doesn't, but subliminally it must.

Was your household very musical growing up?  Were any of your parents or any of your relatives musicians or extremely involved/interested in music?

Nic:  I didn’t grow up in a musical household, although my Dad was involved in the making of a musical comedy cassette while in medical school under the name Doctor Funk.  I did grow up in an extremely encouraging household though, which paired with my discovery of the “it was easy, it was cheap, go and do it” ethos has given me the confidence to waste my life playing music.

Angie:  My Dad is really into rock and roll, has a great vinyl collection and would play me Credence in my cot.  I always grew up around great music, basically classic rock and then Aussie rock like Rose Tattoo, Sunnyboys, etcetera.  My dad loves ZZ Top and Blue Oyster Cult, so I got exposed to that kinda stuff as a child too.  He never played music though; he was a scientist by trade.  My cousin runs operas, and has been a concert pianist and my grandfather plays amazing piano.

What was your first real exposure to music?

Nic:  I don’t really have any fond or strong memories of music as a young child.  I’d say I had a pretty typical relationship with music as a kid.  Then as a teenager I got into hip hop, Wu-Tang, Gang Starr, Public Enemy, etcetera (note: this music was all ten years old by then) and some more current “underground” hip hop.  This was the first time I had an intense, active interest in music and I think the attitude and subversiveness of hip hop paved the way for future interest in punk, rock ‘n’ roll, all sorts of out-there experimental music and so on; in short rap rules, Geto Boys 4 life.

Angie:  I used to listen to my dad’s music all the time, heaps of Oz rock and classic rock, and then when I was a teenager I would stay up all night and watch RAGE, which exposed me to more current music that really just exploded from when I was about fifteen.  I became obsessed with learning every single song I could on guitar and incessantly playing it over and over.  My room was full of tab sheets everywhere, ha-ha!

If you had to pick on moment of music that redefined everything for you and opened up the infinite doors of possibilities, what would it be?

Nic:  I think hearing The Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog” was a key point.  I mean, it’s kind of made me re-assess what qualities were significant in music entirely, and then when the Funhouse album clicked the floodgates really opened.  It was rock music divorced of any attachment to a counterculture stereotype I’d ever seen on TV, or in movies or anything.  The Saints were a similar phenomenon, especially considering they were from Queensland.  I guess this lead to a fairly standard pathway of finding those groups that preempted punk, or attempted to subvert-the-punks, or music that wasn’t in the punk lineage by any means, but seemed to have a similar renegade streak.  This could be early electronic music, jazz, Beefheart, Whitehouse, lots of stuff.  Of course beyond that, I’ve developed other ways to navigate through music beyond the typical, teen-against-the-status-quo route.  I think I’m even into the group Status Quo now.

Angie:  I think it’s hard to pinpoint this exactly, but I guess I would say when I first heard bands like Beat Happening and DNA, weird American bands that made me realize, “Wow, there’s no real way to define rock music anymore, it can be whatever it wants to be”.  I wasn’t really aware of an Australian legacy like this at that point but wow, it’s good and weird too.

When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music and what brought that decision about?

Nic:  Seeing The Sex Pistols on cable TV, hearing/reading about punk, hearing The Stooges first record, somehow hearing The Electric Eels and Throbbing Gristle (although only a brief snippet).  As naive as it now sounds this was incredibly liberating, it gave me a completely new set of values as to what constituted music and sparked my curiosity in hearing more righteous, weird sounds.  Also my now band mate in Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys Joe, said we should start a band in high school.  I didn’t play anything so he said I should sing, so I said, “Ok”.

Angie:  I wrote my first song when I was about twelve.  It was called “Urinal Cake”, ha-ha.  It wasn’t too bad, actually the other day I was saying to a friend I feel like my songwriting is regressing back to that point when I wrote songs as a twelve year old.  I didn’t really make a “decision” to do it.  It just happened naturally I guess.  You can only appreciate music so much before you make that leap in creating it yourself.

When and how did you all originally meet?

Nic:  I met Angie as a fan of her previous band Kiosk.  When I moved to the outer-Sydney region of Penrith at age seventeen, they were the first Sydney band I became a fan of and ritualistically travelled the hour in on the train to see every show I could.  They were a great introduction to the Sydney music underground, a politically important band for Sydney.  She thought I was a freak because I wanted her to sign the Kiosk 7”s which I bought for two friends up North.  To my surprise I was greeted as a friend at the next Kiosk show after she researched my MySpace account and saw that I enjoyed Can, Rocket From The Tombs, etcetera.

©Mel Garrick

What led to the formation of Ruined Fortune and when was that?

Nic:  A band asked Circle Pit to play a show, Circle Pit were inactive at that point.  Angie said she had a new thing going, which was kind of a lie and we wrote the first four Ruined Fortune songs as a result.  Angie says I volunteered to play in her new rock band, although I remember her asking me if I’d like to start a new band with her.  The band nearly broke up multiple times before we even did anything.

Is there a shared creed, ideal or mantra that the band lives by?

Nic:  Drink and drive, you’re a bloody idiot.

Angie:  We don’t really agree on anything but I would say subliminally it would be to not be boring, and to cross that fine line between straight up rock and roll and the outsider, weird elements.

What does the name Ruined Fortune mean or refer to? Who came up with it and how did you go about choosing it?

Nic:  I’m not sure but I think I’m the “Ruined” bit and Angie is the “Fortune.”

Where’s the band currently located at?

Nic:  Sydney, Australia.

How would you describe the local music scene where you’re at now?

Nic:  Marginalized and mostly ignored, but kind of a healthy and interesting musical breeding ground because of it.

Are you very involved in the local music scene?  Do you book or attend a lot of local shows or help to record or release any local music?

Nic:  I work at my favourite record store Repressed Records, run the record label R.I.P Society and for the last two years have been the co-director of the Sound Summit festival.  I don’t believe in being a removed artist or expecting anything from anyone.  I love D-I-Y/outsider music culture and believe if you love a culture you should contribute in some way to the good of that culture, for the good of that culture.

Do you feel like the local scene has played a large role in the history or sound of Ruined Fortune or do you think you all could be doing what you’re doing and sound the way that you do regardless of location or surroundings?

Nic:  I think Sydney’s music scene has probably indirectly influenced the sound and approach of Ruined Fortune.  Culture and the arts aren’t really a priority here; it’s the business centre of the country.  There aren’t many established paths or ladders to climb in the “band scene”.  It’s either, be a schlub and do things in the boring/correct manner, or choose your own adventure.

I am good at a great deal many of things when it comes to interviewing bands, or at least I’d like to think so, but describing how bands sound to our readers is not one of those things.  I don’t subscribe to the fact that music can be neatly labeled or classified and as such my descriptions get quite verbose and end up being more confusing than anything else.  Rather than me making some bizarre and ultimately awkward attempt at describing Ruined Fortunes’ sound, how would you describe your sound to our readers who might not have heard you yet?

Angie:  A segment of my mind crystallized.

While we’re talking so much about the history and background of the band I’m curious to hear who you could cite as some of your major musical influences?  What about influences on the band as a whole rather than individually?

Nic:  We share a lot of favourite artists, from Blue Oyster Cult to Brian Eno but there was no real template for this band.  The idea of reference points don’t really work when collaborating with Angie; which is good!  I would say there’s some type affinity to bands like Swell Maps, Chrome and Royal Trux in the way they’re chained to rock ‘n’ roll while simultaneously trying to break those chains.  Personally, I started fooling around with a 6-string guitar a short time before we started Ruined Fortune, so I’d consider that an influence on our sound.  I’d been playing bass for years before that.  I can pin-point wanting to play guitar down to two people; Roky Erickson and Alex Chilton.  Although I’d been a fan of both for ages, hearing Radio City or The Evil One didn’t really make me think “maybe I could do this too”.  It was the footage of Roky Erickson in the graveyard, getting the Holiday Inn Tapes LP and Alex Chilton’s Like Flies On Sherbert that made me want to play guitar.

Can you tell us a little bit about Ruined Fortune’s songwriting process?  Is there someone who approaches the rest of the band with a mostly finished riff or song to work out and compose with the rest of you or is there a lot of jamming and exchange of ideas when you all get together to play that gets distilled into a song?

Nic:  Angie and I worked fairly collaboratively on most of the material for the album.  For example I’d bring a pairing of riffs, some unformed words or text and we’d make it a song together.  As the songs are quite open, almost sketches before heading into record, I think the other players on the recordings and Andrew McLellan as an engineer/producer shaped the outcome of the record immensely.  Essentially the structure and lyrics stayed the same, but Andrew in particular turned a lot of stuff upside down.  There’s was about as little jamming as possible when recording the LP.  It doesn’t feel like a band as much as a “project”.  When we record again, I would hope to be more of a unit and for more things to be grappled with and jammed on, as well as some stuff from the incredible minds of John Duncan and Sam Chiplin.

Do you all enjoy recording?  As a musician myself I don’t think that there’s a lot out there that beats holding an album in your hands, knowing all the hard work, time and effort that went into it; but mostly knowing that it’s yours and you made it and no one can ever take that away from you.  Getting that recording done though, especially when it comes to dealing with an entire band can be a little stressful and nerve-wracking to say the least.  How is it recording for you all?

Nic:  Unlike everything else I’ve been involved in, Ruined Fortune thought about its recording first, with performing live actually being a bit of an afterthought.  I loved recording the 7”.  Mixing wasn’t at all painful either; couple of beers with Owen in an afternoon and it was done.  Going into recording the album I felt uneasy, as it was much more of an experiment than anything I’d ever done and I felt some pressure from this uncertainty.  The stakes felt high and I hadn’t mulled over the material at all, I don’t really know where a lot of the ideas came from.  Song-wise the record is a lot more out-of-body and intuitive than I’m used to.  Everyone around me was highly capable though, I was just concerned about getting the most out of it.  By the end of day two I was quite confident it was going to be a good record and overall, I had a great time.  I’m always grateful for any opportunity to do something creative.

Does Ruined Fortune utilize studio environments for recording or is it more of a DIY prospect where things are done on your own time and turf?

Nic:  So far we’ve recorded in a home studio, a proper studio, and in a more DIY manner; whatever’s appropriate for the recording and within our means.  No doubt Steely Dan wouldn’t be as magical on a 4-track and Darkthrone wouldn’t have the same atmosphere if it was recorded “better”.  Funnily, the first review of our LP refers to it as “lo-fi” a few times but we actually recorded it in a professional studio.  I guess on our album hi and lo-fi meet at points, for example a cassette 4-track was used as an instrument on one track.  If we’re to make another album, I’d like to blur those lines even more.

You have a rapidly approaching album coming in 2014.  What’s the name of the album?  Was the recording of the material for the full-length album very different than the session(s) for your earlier single?  Was the recording of the album a fun pleasant experience for you all?  When and where was it recorded?  Who recorded the material for the full-length?  What kind of equipment was used?

Nic:  It’s a self-titled album.  I think we covered most of this in other questions right?

Does Ruined Fortune have any music that we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a single I missed or a song that appeared on a compilation or something?

Nic:  Nope, there was a demo CD-R floating around but I haven’t even got a copy.

With the upcoming release of the HoZac LP right around the corner, are there any other releases in the works or on the horizon at this point?

Nic:  No.

With the completely insane postage rates I try to provide people with as many options for picking up imports as I possibly can.  There’s nothing worse than knowing an albums out, being able to afford it but not being able to pay for shipping, it drives me nuts!  Where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your music?

Nic:  Your local independent record store.  If they don’t have it hit up HoZac.

What about our international readers?

Nic:  HoZac seems to have good distribution, so lots of places!

And where’s the best placer of fans to keep up with the latest news like upcoming shows and album releases from Ruined Fortune at?

Nic:  Our Facebook or Tumblr blog.  Or Google.  Sorry, we’re not that internet active. 

Are there any major goals that Ruined Fortune is looking to accomplish in 2014?

Nic:  Avoid self-destruction. 

What, if anything, do you have planned as far as touring goes for the New Year so far?

Nic:  We’ll play some shows across Australia once the album is out, that’s about it.  I can’t imagine doing any shows overseas in 2014, I have other bits of my life I’d like to sort out that have been long neglected and a full schedule for R.I.P Society.

Do you remember what the first song that Ruined Fortune ever played live was?  If so, what was it and where and when was that?

Nic:  I can’t remember, but it would definitely be one of the following: “Bulls Eye”, “Long Song” (we still don’t have a name for this one), “Hope Diamond” or “Transparent Faces”.  It was at the legendary Black Wire Record store.  Angie and I played live guitar and sang over a 4-track cassette machine containing multi-tracked synth experiments I had made years earlier.  It was quite a mess, but in hindsight I think it went quite well.

Do you all spend a lot of time touring or out on the road?  Do you enjoy touring?  What’s life like on the road for Ruined Fortune?

Nic:  We’ve done weekends away, but no real touring.  Australia’s too big and expensive, plus too many other duties holding us down.  Life, oh life.  Du, du, du, Du.

Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to share a bill with so far?

Nic:  Well the live band came together solely for the purpose of playing with Blues Control when they came to Australia.  I think they’re one of the best bands to come out of the USA in the last twenty years!  We also played with Home Blitz, another one of the USA’s finest exports.  It was really special playing with The Native Cats in Hobart, Cured Pink on a couple of occasions, Oily Boys and Total Control in Sydney and Melbourne’s finest, Constant Mongrel (Interview here). 

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?

Nic:  Most are a fairly standard concert affair…  We played in an old movie theatre once, though.  That was nice.

In your dreams, who are you on tour with?

Nic:  If we had a time machine I would love to tag along on the Alternative TV tour where they played the outdoor festivals with hippy collective Gong/Here & Now.  Or The Shadow Ring and Harry Pussy “Siltbreeze presents…” tour in the early 90s.  Or some type of Blue Oyster Cult/Alice Cooper group, triple-headline tour around 1973.

With all of the various mediums available to artists today I’m always curious why they choose the various methods that they do and why. Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music?  What about when you’re listening to and or purchasing music and if so why?

Nic:  I like records best all round.  I still buy CDs occasionally and think tapes are great for basement-spun-weirdo stuff, or punk/hardcore demos.  Music will be much worse off without the network of independent labels, stores, distros, publications, etcetera.  Even with the internet, I feel substantial music culture is still communicated via these networks in a semi-word of mouth/community manner, that’s very similar to how things operated in years past.

Do you have a music collection at all?  If so can you tell us a little bit about it?

Nic:  Yes.  In this day and age I’d probably be considered a record collector, although I just see myself as someone that likes owning and listening to records I feel are interesting.  I’m probably considered an obsessive; I think I’m just extremely curious and non-complacent.  I don’t care for coloured vinyl, or limited edition pieces, or nothing like that.

I grew up around a fairly large collection of music and there’s was always something awesome about being able to wander over to the shelves of music and pick something completely at random, pop it into the player, stare at the artwork, read the liner notes and let the music transport me off to another dimension.  As a result I developed an appreciation for physically released music pretty early on and have never really been able to shake it.  There’s something about having an album to hold in my hands, liner notes to read and artwork to look at that serves for a rare, brief glimpse in the minds of the artists that created it and make for a more complete listening experience; at least for me.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

Nic:  I share this connection with you Roman, although I didn’t grow up with a large collection of music at my disposal, at least music I was interested in at the time.  I would add that I believe this physical item commands a more active listening experience; the listener perseveres with the record and is likely more engaged with the recording.

As much as I love my music collection, and I do love my music collection rest assured, there’s always been one main problem with it.  I could never take it on the go with me.  Even with the advent of tapes and CDs I wasn’t able to fill a duffle bag full of enough music to keep me happy out on road trips and the like.  Digital music has taken care of that problem overnight and when you team it with the internet has become a real game changer.  It’s exposing people to a whole world of music that they otherwise would never have had the chance to experience.  On the other hand, illegal downloading is running rampant and it’s harder and harder to get noticed amongst the chocked digital jungle out there.  As an artists during the reign of the digital era what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

Nic:  I don’t think Ruined Fortune really has much authority to comment on such a matter.  I do have feelings on this, but it’s too much!

I try to keep up with as much good music as I possibly can but there just aren’t enough hours in the day!  I spend more time than I would like to admit searching for new music online, poring over the bins at the local shop and chatting up the store clerks looking for listening tips.  A lot of the best suggestions I get come from musicians such as yourselfers though!  Is there anyone from your local scene or area I should be listening to that I might not have heard of before?

Nic:  You could say, start at the R.I.P Society then make a family tree of the members other groups and so on.  The same could be said about many starting points in Australia.  Down here the guitar pop of Woollen Kits is only one branch away from intense synth outfit NUN.  Constant Mongrel is one branch from manic hardcore outfit Velvet Whip, Housewives is only branch away from Ghastly Spats and Teen Ax, two branches away from Pleasure Bros.  Love Chants could act as a gateway to the world of Alberts Basement or Matt Earle’s Breakdance The Dawn.  Bitch Prefect would lead you to The Friendsters and Roaming Catholics.  It’s all connected, whether they like it or not!

What about internationally?

Nic:  Neil Michael Hagerty still makes great records with his group The Howling Hex.  I think he’s now based in Colorado.  The mid-west of America is still the most fruitful region, with tons of great punk, hardcore, basement rock, trip metal and other weird musical activity.  Memphis is cool and has a strong link to Australia; I love True Sons Of Thunder a lot!  Always worth checking in with Philadelphia's Richie Records and whatever’s going on with Siltbreeze Records.  Mordecai are from Butte, Montana (ha-ha).  Dan and Letha Melchior reside in North Carolina and sure do make great records.  It’s worth keeping tabs on Graham Lambkin’s work, plus everything on his record label, KYE.  He resides in Poughkeepsie, New York.  From the UK I like the punk group Good Throb, Call Back The Giants and the trendy electronic music group, Factory Floor.  Spain seems to be one of the world’s leading producers of raging hardcore.  I’m actually uncertain of the country of origin for many of the PAN records artists, but I know the label owner is Greek and has also lived in Germany; some of that stuff is real good!

Thanks so much for taking the time to complete this thing, I know it was kind of a monster and it can’t have been easy to finish. But hey, you’re done now and hopefully it was at least a little fun to look back on everything you’ve managed to accomplish and done so far! Is there anything that I might have missed or that you’d just like to take this opportunity to talk to me or our readers about?

Nic:  Dear Sir/Madam
I am a staff of Natwest Bank London. I am writing following an oppurtunity in my office
that will be of imense benefit to both of us. In my department we discovered an abandoned
sum of $22.5million Dollars (twenty two million five hundred thousan Dollars) in an account
that belongs to one of our foreign customers Late Mr. Morris Thompson an American who
unfortunately lost his life in the plane crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 which crashed
on January 31th, 2000 including his wife and only daughter.
You shall read more about the crash on visiting this site.
Since we got information about his death, we have been expecting his next of kin or relatives
to come over and claim his money because we cannot release it unless somebody applies for it
as next of kin or relation to the deceased as indicated in our banking guidelines.
Unfortunately I learnt that his supposed next of kin being his only daughter died along with
him in the plane crash leaving nobody with the knowledge of this fund behind for the claim.
It is therefore upon this discovery that I and two other officials in this department now
decided to make business with you and release the money to you as the next of kin or
beneficiary of the funds for safety keeping and subsequent disbursement since nobody is
coming for it and we don't want this money to go back into Government treasury as unclaimed
bill. The banking law and guidelines here stipulates that such money remained after five
years the money will be transferred into banking treasury as unclaimed funds.
We agreed that 20% of this money will be for you as foreign partner, while the balance will
be for me and my colleagues. I will visit your country for the disbursement according to the
percentages indicated above once this money gets into your account. Please be honest to me
and my colleagues trust is our watchword in this transaction. Note this transaction is
confidential and risk free.
As soon as you receive this mail.please do your very best to get in touch with our
email at:  or 
Please note that all necessary arrangement for the smooth release of these funds has been
finalised. Our Foreign Payment Director,Dr LEWIS ALDERWOOD.will give you specific instruction
on what todo. Please in your response include your telephone number for easy communication
between us.
Best Regards!
Mr Crawford Leeds

(2012) Ruined Fortune – Demo CD-R – Self-Released
(2013) Ruined Fortune – Bulls Eye – 7” – R.I.P. Society Records
(2014) Ruined Fortune – Ruined Fortune – digital, 12” – HoZac Records (Gold Vinyl limited to 150 copies, Black Vinyl limited to 450 copies)

© Mel Garrick

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
© Copyright

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Psychedelic Raiders, Red Square and beyond! An interview with Ian Staples

Ian Staples is a remarkable guitarist whose career began way back in the early '60s and is probably one of the very first "psychedelic" guitarist. He started in a regular teen band and soon joined forces with now legendary Nigerian drummer Ginger Johnsons. He played gigs in London at a peak of psychedelic scene and shared stages with Pink Floyd, Soft Machine and also saw Jimi Hendrix performing with heavy equipment. That must had been lysergic. In the early '70s Ian with a couple of friends decided to start a free improvisational project, which became probably one of the very first of its kind. Time was flying fast and Ian was part of many experimental projects. He is still very active in a band called The Psychedelic Raiders. He went back to his roots, when he was part of the notorious Middle Earth club.

Before we go back to the lysergic sixties we would like to discuss about your ongoing project The Psychedelic Raiders, which is a three piece band consisting of Jon Seagroatt (bass & backing vocals), Chris Hills (drums) and you on guitar. How did you three got together?

Well, after a lot of effort and cajoling, my long-time musical accomplice, Jonny Seagroatt, finally persuaded me that I should revisit my guitar-playing roots in ‘60s psychedelia!
He argued that as I was one of the few guitarists still around who were part of that scene, we should form a band recapturing some of the style and atmosphere of those times. Both Jonny and I knew Chris Hills, a well-known drummer (and tabla player!) on the Oxford music scene, so we asked him to join us and The Psychedelic Raiders were born
I sometimes perform solo gigs on acoustic guitar and have written a lot of songs over the years. We were able to rearrange some of those for the band. It very quickly enabled us to develop a style of our own and write songs specifically for the band, and we now have more songs than we know what to do with!

What can you tell us about recordings of The Psychedelic Raiders. You sent me a CD with very nice psychedelic blues inspired tracks. Do you have anything official out or are you planning to release something in the near future?

Although we formed the band just less than a year ago we have enough material for at least two full albums. We recorded a 6 track limited edition EP, mainly for friends who wanted to hear what we were doing and as a demo for gigs.
We’re plotting a new vinyl release at the moment......

Do you do any concerts at the moment?

Yes, we have some festivals and club dates this summer. We played the Cropredy fringe festival in August last year. That was our first gig and we are doing it again this year.
Coming club gigs include The Railway in Southend-on-Sea, which was one of the very first venues our improvising band Red Square played in 1974.

Let’s go back in the early ‘60s. Where did you grow up and what inspired you to pick up a guitar and to start playing it?

I was born in London but moved to the Isle Of Man at the age of four and was raised in a tiny thatched cottage that had no water or electricity. Which is probably why nowadays I like living on my canal boat which moored by my studio in the countryside. Thankfully though, I also now have mains water and electricity!
When I was a teenager we moved to an old farmhouse overlooking the Irish Sea. When my parents moved out after the owner died, it was purchased by John Coughlan, the drummer from Status Quo, who I believe also now lives in Oxfordshire and regularly plays in my local pub!
I went to the very small Art College on the Island and began to develop an interest in music, sound and the parallels with the visual arts, inspired by the sounds and landscape from growing up in an environment surrounded by the countryside the sea and farms that were still using traction engines and ploughing with horses.

What was your first band you were involved with? You mentioned you played as a solo artist back in the ‘60s? Was there anything recorded and what kind of material did you play?

I think the first thing I ever learnt on the guitar was a Shadows tune, but I very soon became interested in the blues and folk music, but also improvisation and sound for its own value. My musical influences were very diverse, I would listen to Bob Dylan or Mississippi John Hurt one minute and Stockhausen the next. I also listened a lot to Pink Floyd’s ‘Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ album. However, the seminal album for me though was Captain Beefheart’s ‘Trout Mask Replica’.
Trout Mask is still one of my favourite albums!
I played a solo guitar improvised tribute to Captain Beefheart when he died, which is on YouTube.

Whilst still on the Isle of Man I organised some workshops with musicians and non-players and getting them to make random noises to see what would happen. This was around 1964.

My first band was called Henry’s Headband and it was a very early experiment in combining folk with electric guitars, sounds and even feedback. I still have a Hells Angel’s chapter card that was given to me at a live gig from that period.
The other guitarist in that band I believe became very well known in the Philippines as Ka Roger.

In late ‘60s you joined Ginger Johnsons African Drummers. He was Nigerian drummer who I think came to UK back in the late ‘60s and released only one album, but a great one titled “African Party” in 1967. Were you part of this album?

On leaving college I travelled down to London around 1966-67 and started going to the Middle Earth Club where I met Ginger Johnson. Ginger asked me to play in his band, the African Drummers, after seeing me play a solo gig. He also asked my wife, who was a dancer, to dance with the band.
I knew nothing about Ginger before he asked me to join his band! I joined just after he had recorded ‘African Party’ and left just before the Stones Hyde Park concert in ’68 to go back to the Isle Of Man to form my own band.

We often gigged at the Middle Earth, and played student sit-ins and lots of venues I just don’t remember the names of! I do remember playing at the Royal Festival Hall and playing on a float in one of the early Notting Hill Carnivals.
It was really good fun gigging with Ginger. We used to smoke a lot of dope, and I spend a lot of time socialising with him and the band. I remember he had a jukebox at his house we would play a lot of early reggae and ska, and generally have an exciting time. I always remember Caxton one of the drummers in Ginger’s band who was nearly in his 70s and one of the most laid back and affable people I have ever met.
At some of the gigs at Middle Earth, Ginger would give me a solo spot on acoustic guitar. He had a really good flute player, Fred, and we would sometimes do a spot together.
We shared the stage with Pink Floyd, Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Edgar Broughton, The Move, The Graham Bond Organisation, Fairport Convention and many others.
I remember sitting under a table at the Middle Earth smoking dope with Edgar Broughton at his first London gig.
Around the same time I started to play with Ginger, I met John Peel who I became friendly with and regularly went round to his flat. Marc Bolan was often there and we would spend most of the time talking about music. I sometimes used to borrow Marc’s mike for gigs!
I met John at an event at Olympia called Christmas On Earth Continued in December ’67. He came and spoke to my wife, Tilly, and I when we were looking after a stand for someone.
That was a fantastic event! We saw Pink Floyd (with Syd Barrett), Jimi Hendrix, the Animals and many others, but Hendrix and the Floyd blew me away. I think Hendrix had 16 Marshal 100 watt cabs on stage, the sound was phenomenal. Floyd performed behind gauze triangles so you could hardly see them but once again sounded wonderful.
Ever since seeing and playing alongside those bands, I’ve found going to see most bands since a bit of a let down! The last time I saw Pink Floyd live, for example, they were playing the material that became the ‘live’ album of ‘Ummagumma’!

But it was all long ago and hard to recall many of the events, I just took it all for granted really. I remember chatting to Brian Jones in a shop in Chelsea and exchanging ‘hellos’ with Hendrix a few times. But I was a musician in a band at a very exciting time so you just met and talked to people who were just other people in a band.
I also remember at a lot of the gigs we played with Floyd you would get some people booing, and chanting ‘Geno Geno’ (for Geno Washington, popular with Mods at the time) when the Floyd came on. They would soon leave though!

You played in now legendary underground club Middle Earth (formerly 'Electric Garden Club') with Ginger Johnsons alongside with then very young Pink Floyd's. What other bands played there; Soft Machine?

What I remember about the Middle Earth Club was the general excitement of being able to see and play alongside new and breaking bands. Bands I remember hearing included the Graham Bond Organisation, David Bowie (when he was still a mime artist), Pink Floyd (who we regularly supported), Fairport Convention, many others and Paper Blitz Tissue, who were a really good band.
Dave Dufort, then the drummer with Paper Blitz Tissue, and later with Kevin Ayers, lived just down the road from me at the time. I gave my first guitar to Dave’s younger sister, Denise, who later became the drummer in Girlschool.
The Middle Earth was a fairly small and intimate venue and had some very good light shows with oil wheels and strobes, a really new thing at the time.
Thankfully, I also managed to avoid any of the regular police raids. I knew someone who said that he only took a job as a cleaner there to sweep up and smoke all the dropped dope the morning after raids!

How did the psychedelics effect on your playing and on you as a human?

H’mmm -  that’s difficult to say. As an experimental musician and artist (I was not really interested in being a pop star, I was an art for art’s sake person), I saw acid as an extending and enabling tool for what I did.
I did find it difficult to play, but very easy to draw and paint and sex was something else again! I never had a bad trip, probably because I was careful to only have 5 or 6 trips in all and I had a capacity to be aware while tripping that it was an altered reality created by the drug even though it seemed totally real.

I vividly remember one trip that led to an all night drawing session.

  The room was full of silver filigree which I could also feel and hear when I moved. Drawing was amazing; I would make a line on the paper and as I lifted the pencil off the page, the line would follow the pencil then fall back onto the page and move. I was doing drawings based on plant forms and I could see the sap circulating in the stems and watch them move as if in a gentle breeze, I still have some of those drawings somewhere.
   At 6 am the next morning I was coming down, hanging over the washing-line in the garden. My next door neighbour who was a coalman came out and started chatting about the garden, that was a bit bizarre!

I think it did give me an insight and was an enabling experience. I certainly saw and experienced a reality that I otherwise would not have done.

What’s the story about Ginger Johnson? He died in 1972 and he is considered as one of the fathers of so called Afro Beat. He collaborated in London with Fela Kuti. What’s the story behind it?

I knew nothing about Ginger until he asked me to play with him. He was a very kind and gentle man and I was very upset on hearing of his death from a mutual friend.

In the ‘70s you moved into whole new direction of music and together with Jon Seagroatt (soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, flute and electronics) and Roger Telford (drums and percussion) started Red Square which is a free improvisation band.

I moved to Southend-on-Sea in the early 1970s and met a saxophone player by the name of Jonny Seagroatt who had similar musical interests to myself and we started working and playing together and recording a lot of experimental and improvised music. Some of that involved multi tracking, chromatic and free improvisation and using toys with real instruments. We still have tapes of some of these sessions and have considered releasing them sometime in the future.
 In 1974 we were joined by drummer Roger Telford and formed Red Square . This was probably the first punk, jazz metal free improve band and predated Sonic Youth, the Thing and similar bands by many years, not something that had a very big audience in  1974, but we did a lot of gigs (4 in one day on one occasion) and cleared a lot of venues. We played a number of gigs with Henry Cow and Lol Coxhill.
There’s more Red Square here:

You held a lot of experimental music workshops. What were they about?

Those were primarily on the Isle Of Man, with the Headband, incorporating non-musicians and soundmakers into the band.
Later, in Southend, Red Square ran a few workshops for the Workers Education Authority, and Jonny and I would run improvisation workshops at the local art collage in Southend-on-Sea.

You were quite some time in Victorian hotel in Westcliff-on-Sea and played innumerable gigs (four in one day on one occasion), benefits and student occupations, and gigged with Henry Cow, Red Brass, David Toop & Paul Burwell and Lol Coxhill. You were also active in Music For Socialism…

We somehow managed to get a regular weekly spot in a dilapidated and condemned Victorian hotel in Southend called ‘the Queens’. This built up a loyal and regular following, some of whom still come to the occasional Red Square gigs. Some recordings of early Red Square, including live tracks recorded at a gig with Henry Cow, have been released by FMR Records on the album ‘Thirty Three’. Some of the tracks on ‘Thirty Three’ are from one of the gigs that we did with Henry Cow and Lol Coxhill.

At the time only two albums were out on cassette: 'Paramusic' and 'Circuitry', the latter being a live recording of a gig with Henry Cow in Southend-on-Sea. What are some memories from recording and producing? Were this ever reissued or will be in the near future?

We have thought about re-issuing the recordings on the 2 original cassette albums in cassette format; we still have the artwork for the original covers, so who knows? One day, perhaps…

Later you collaborated with Jon Seagroatt in various projects: B So glObal, Omlo Vent and Miramar…

B So glObal came about as I had been working with drones played on an old organ and processing the sounds through effects and adding very sparse slide guitar which Jonny then took away and added some more programming, tenor and soprano saxes and Yamaha wind synth.

We released two albums of B So glObal through Plastic Head Distribution. The second album was less ambient and had more of an emphasis on the instruments. We sold around 3,000 copies of these albums each, which in today’s limited edition numbers seems a lot now!
We were also asked by Plastic Head to do a more experimental album under a different name. This we did as Omlo Vent. These were basically improvisations performed on a number of analogue machines like the Roland SH101, and exploited the interesting cross rhythms that result from poorly synced pre-MIDI analog equipment!
We have a fair bit of unreleased material from these experiments.

Around 2008 you were back together recording some new material…

In 2008 we were asked by FMR Records if we still had releasable recordings of early Red Square - which we did - and that inspired us to reform the band with Roger Telford, the original drummer.
More recently Jonny and I and Jonny’s wife, Bobbie Watson from Comus, recorded ‘Deathless’, an album based on the myth of the Minotaur as told in Steven Sherrill’s novel ‘The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break’. The album draws on a mix of extended instrumental techniques, digitally processed woodwind, slide guitars, electronics, iPad apps, sample manipulation, drones and disrupted song.
You can hear some tracks from the album here:

What are some future plans for you Ian?

My future plans are to concentrate on gigging with the Psychedelic Raiders! Some of the songs we play are inspired by the motorcycle travels of the round-the-world adventurer, Nick Sanders.  We have been in touch with festival organisers with a view to gigging at motorcycle festivals.
We still also do the occasional Red Square gig when asked, and Jonny has his on-going commitments to Comus and Current 93.

Thank you so much for taking your time. Would you like to share anything else with us?

The Psychedelics website address? It’s!
Thanks very much for your questions!

Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2014
© Copyright