Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Jeff Green - Interview

Jeff Green, whose album Jessica is reviewed here kindly gave his time to this interview....why not play these demo versions of songs from the album currently under construction - Elder Creek - while you read it? I particularly recommend Mnemosyne...

Elder Creek Demos by Jeff Green

Hi Jeff, nice to be able to interview you. Tell us a bit about your background and your influences.

Hey Roger, Thanks for taking the time to interview me. Much appreciated mate!

Well, I started off as a recorder player after hearing “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” back in ’74 while living in and going to school in England. I eventually graduated to the clarinet a few years later before the guitar “bug” grabbed me after hearing David Gilmour’s “Money” solo from the “Dark Side of the Moon” Eventually, Rick Wakeman became a big influence after seeing him at the Hammersmith Odeon back in 1976.

My first exposure to your music was the album Jessica, an intensely personal work, describing the joy of impending parenthood, the trauma arising from the subsequent still birth of your daughter, and the celebration of her spirit. A creative person in any field of the arts has an advantage over the rest of us in that they can use their art as catharsis. Was this your main intention behind the making of Jessica?

Thanks for that Roger, but I must say that I believe that every human being on this planet is “creative” I truly believe that we are all born with an equal potential for artistry… It is simply down to each individual to develop it.

Of course there was a huge degree of catharsis appertaining to this album. To be perfectly honest, that was the original purpose, but then it grew much bigger than me, or anything I could ever conceive of – it kind of took on a life of its own.

Do you hope that Jessica may be of help to others who find themselves in that same awful place?

You know, this is a thing that no human being should ever have to go through. It really hurts, but we deal with it and as “survivors” we make the most of a tragic situation… I truly believe that Jessica is out there and with us weaving her “magic”!

Did you find your perspective on those events changing over the 11 years it took to complete the album, and is that reflected in the songs on the album, as it all seems amazingly seamless to me?

That is a very good question and to a degree it did change during that time as more acceptance began to settle in. However, I did my best to keep the story and original message intact and keep the whole project as smooth as possible.

The proceeds from the album sale are going to Southend General Hospital towards the creation of a Bereavement Room. How is that project progressing?

Well, during that eleven year period a bereavement room has been built. So the proceeds from this album will be going to maintain the room, provide facilities and generally keep the room as comfortable as possible for those who unfortunately have to use it.

How's the new album "Elder Creek" coming along, and when do you think it will be ready?

It’s going very well. I’ve just about completed the writing process and 5 tracks already have the final drum and bass parts recorded. I’m aiming for a late Summer release.

Who are the other musicians involved in Elder Creek?

Pete Riley and Mike Stobbie who performed drums and keyboards respectively, are both on it. I have an excellent bass player named Andy Staples who came highly recommended by Pete, Garreth Hicklin from the Illegal Eagles will be contributing vocals as will (fingers crossed!) Alan Reed ex-Pallas.

One of the samples of Elder Creek on Soundcloud is Mnemosyne, a good old fashioned 20 minute prog epic, For those of you old enough, that's one side of a vinyl record, and the proper length for an epic in my opinion. Calliope would be proud! Will this be the start of a "one epic per album" trend, he says hopefully?

It certainly will for me! I’ve always hated the time constraints that have been arbitrarily imposed by record labels and radio formats. Some songs simply need time to develop and create a mood in order to get the message across. Many of my main influences have come from side long tracks!

This is a bit of a naff question I know, a bit like "what's your favourite colour" (you can tell us if you want!), but, what's your favourite "epic" piece of music of all time?

Ha ha, Blue I spose… Seriously, It would have to be “Close to the Edge” by Yes. It is such an intense and beautiful piece of music – an absolute masterpiece and I truly believe that is the standard by which all epics should be measured.

Old codgers like me sometimes despair of modern listening preferences, particularly the obsession with mp3. Epic stuff like Mnemosyne deserves to be listened to on proper hi-fi systems I reckon. I suppose the modern musician has to make sonic compromises in order to get their music across to a wider audience. What's your stance on the download phenomenon, and is it the only way a musician outside of the mainstream can get a return for his or her efforts?

I completely agree with you, in fact I still lament the days of vinyl, where not only was the sound quality superior, but you had a cover that you could actually read and in many cases some incredible artwork – a complete package. I have to say that I despise the MP3/download culture. The sound quality is vastly inferior and the whole download phenomena has “Cheapened” music in my opinion making it very disposable. Having said that, it has made it easier for independent artists like myself to distribute music to people who would never have otherwise heard it. That I’m afraid is the compromise. Or perhaps I’m just a grumpy old man!!

As an American living in Ireland via the UK, why Arsenal FC, and who is the best comedy goalkeeper, Almunia or Gomes? (bet you say Gomes!)

I became an Arsenal fan when I was living in England as a schoolboy simply because all my friends were, much to the dismay of my family who were all devout Spurs supporters. As for Almunia and Gomes, they have both provided me with many laughs, if I wasn’t an Arsenal supporter it would have to be Almunia!!

Thanks for your time Jeff, good luck with Elder Creek, it's been a pleasure...

The pleasure is all mine Roger, many thanks for the interview!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Blow Up Hollywood - A Photo Montage & An Interview

This montage of the wonderful Blow Up Hollywood  was put together by my good mate Phill.
This band should be HUGE...investigate more here.

Below is a radio interview where leader Steve Messina gets a few words in edgeways!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Making Love To A Vampire With A Monkey On My Knee

Mr John Robert Parker Ravenscroft was more than slightly responsible for my tastes veering leftwards at some point in the early mid 1970s, opening my ears (well, ear actually, as this was in the days of monaural tranny radios listened to late at night under the covers so as not to attract parents' attention) to all sorts of strange sounds from Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt, Can, Krautrock, reggae, amonst many others, and especially the wildly veering Pachuco Cadaver that was the John Peel favourite, the quite fabulous and remarkable Captain Beefheart.

We miss you John...

So it's October 1976 and Peely starts playing a new single called New Rose by the alluringly monickered The Damned, a band I'd read about in The Bible...sorry, the NME, and was curious to hear what Nick Kent et al hailed as one of the front runners of a new scene that was aimed at the kids, a scene in which you didn't need an MA in music theory to be able to play in one of the bands, bands whose songs rarely went over three minutes long. I thought it was utter shite. Then JP played it again, followed by the b-side, a rumbustious mangling of The Beatles' Help! Hmmm, actually this New Rose thing is quite catchy...by the time JP had played it for the third time I was sold....this is brilliant, I want it now!

At this point I have to make a confession. While I was utterly sold on the adrenaline rush of the new punk sounds, under cover of darkness and when I was sure no-one of my peer group could catch me out I was still playing dinosaur music, or prog rock as it was and is known. At school in the sixth form common room, where I was one of only three people into this new racket - it's great when you have a small clique that no-one else understands - the LPs of choice on the Dansette were still from the likes of Genesis, Yes, Rush, BoC, Floyd, etc. I tried not to tap my foot while in the company of the other two "punks"; the quotation marks because we were punk in name only I'm afraid, maybe with a few strategically placed safety pins in jacket lapels, it was a middle class Grammar School after all! A legacy bestowed by Peely that endures to this day is my catholic music taste, as I try not too get sucked in by genres as it places unneeded and unnecessary restrictions on all that wonderful music out there that you could be listening to, and it started then by liking prog and punk at one and the same time, which in those days was a heresy punishable by complete social rejection and mucho name calling.

I digress...throughout the later part of 1976 right through '77 and early '78 I devour anything punky and nascent post punky that comes up, from the mainstream Pistols, Clash, Stranglers, Buzzcocks, Damned (who were also the first punk band I saw live in '76, the Captain flinging bucket loads of horseshit everywhere - lovely) through to lesser and tiny tiny lights like The Table (the still wonderful Do The Standing Still), The Lurkers (lumpen prole punk, great live), The Fall, XTC, Siouxsie, Magazine (my fave post punk goth-prog band - yes I'm afraid they were definitely prog), This Heat, Ultravox!, Prag Vec, Scritti Politti (never bettered Skank Bloc Bologna), Gang Of Four (severe funk, so much so it hurt), Chrome, Television, Pere Ubu, Suicide, and all sorts of other weird shit, then I got distracted...

On November 20th 1978 I saw The Mighty Mighty (I'll brook no argument) Clash at De Montfort Hall, Leicester and a better gig I had not seen before, and even now it's still firmly in the number one spot. While liking their first album and the great singles that followed, it took a while before I took full notice of the politics, as I was too busy idiot dancing. However, and probably partly the result of agitprop drip feeding from The Bible, on top of the influence still lingering from an old school left wing Eng Lit teacher, by '78 I was fully politicised and took up any right-on cause with youthful gusto. This entailed being punched over a wall by an irate plod in Corby on an ANL march, later numerous RAR benefits, CND marches, I've still got the badges to prove it. Anyone who was around at the time must have had their heads buried in the mounting piles of uncollected rubbish if they attempt to deny that The Clash not only rode the zeitgeist, but practically were the zeitgeist. An added benefit was their visceral pumping rock'n'roll. which when they got it right felt like it could move mountains. You'd have to have both cloth ears and lead feet for it not to move you, and of course being the right age at the right time in the right place certainly helped! It felt at that point that music could indeed change the world, and with the help of various hotel room floors and some eye opening life lessons in sex'n'drugs'nrock'n'roll my two mates and I followed the band round the country for what seemed like ages but looking at a gig listing for that tour was actually no more than 10 days, during which time they played 9 gigs. Incidentally, the support act were The Slits, women the likes of which my previously innocent mind was not capable of imagining. They were a great laugh too.

From "The Bible"

The Clash 1978 - Kick Out The Jams Muthafuckas!

All I remember distinctly is ending up in Peterborough and getting a bus home. I also ended that lot with partially dyed green hair, which I seem to recall my girl with the pink hair (I'd need hypnotherapy to recall her name I'm afraid, as there was an awful LOT of jazz cigarette smoke in the air) dying it brown for me before I trooped off towards Peterborough bus station. God knows what my parents must have thought, but they never said much about it, much to their credit.

You can see why all the other bands back then seemed much of a muchness to me, with the notable exception of Magazine who showed that you could combine punk attitude with art rock stylings and get away with it. Unfortunately I don't think that The Clash's music has dated too well, with the notable exception of the genre defying London Calling, and indeed most bands of that era do not stand the test of time well, but then they were never intended to were they?

Right, where's that King Crimson album....

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Jeff Green - Jessica

Inspired by and describing events leading up to the tragic still birth of his daughter Jessica in 1996, and Jessica's enduring legacy, Jeff Green's album was 11 years in the making, as he naturally needed to get it right and of course it must have been a painful and cathartic, but at the same time celebratory experience for him and his family. All profits from the sale of this cd are being donated to a hospital in the UK towards the creation of a bereavement room for families who suffer the same awful fate in the future. Read Jessica's deeply moving story here.

Jeff is a guitarist originally from Northern California, now residing in Ireland, via the UK. To help him make the album he called upon the vast experience of Mike Stobbie (keyboards - ex Pallas), Pete Riley (drums - John Wetton, Keith Emerson Band & Guthrie Govan) and top UK guitarist Phil Hilborne. The music they have created crosses all aspects of Classic Prog to produce a varied and interesting listen. Drawing on the influences of Floyd, Yes, Rush, Genesis, and all things classic rock, Jeff and the band produce music that encompasses hope, pride, reflection, fear joy, anger, loss, grief, and a resolving inner strength - in fact the entire gamut of human emotion. It sure can't have been easy making this album and as it took so long to put together it is perhaps to be expected that emotionally at least, one would see a change through the years. It would be interesting to know which parts of the album were written when, as it hangs together very well and it's not really possible to make any distinction between the "then" and the "now", much to Jeff's credit.

As you would expect with two guitarists in the band that instrument dominates, and there is some fine soloing and harmony work, especially on On This Night, the longest song at just over 9 minutes on this 12 song album. The following track Willing The Clouds Away has some nice keyboard touches, and more impressive axe-spanking. There are a few short pieces that serve as links between the longer workouts, one of which reminds me of Horizons, and the lyrics which are sparingly used are unsurprisingly plaintive in places and never less than heartfelt. Jessica's Theme is sad but uplifting at the same time, and the following three closing songs on the album is where the whole thing takes off. Tomorrow Never Came lets out Jeff's anger and hurt at the sheer unfairness of the hand that fate has dealt. One wonders how many takes it took to get down a line like "I thought today would be the day I would be holding you." It's hard enough being a disconnected listener, so God knows what recording this must have been like. Cathartic only begins to describe it I'd imagine. The lovely and atmospheric Prittlewell Chase then calms things down with some reflective Celtic inspired sounds, conjuring images of a favourite beauty spot perhaps? Halfway through the song morphs into proto-funk electronica backing with still restrained wah guitar and harmony guitars to the fore. The album closes with Live Forever, the sentiment expressed in the title needing no explanation I hope, and ends with some fittingly uplifting guitar runs full of joie de vivre.

Overall I suppose Symphonic Prog is the label that might apply, were it not for the subject matter showing up pigeonholing as the largely pointless exercise it always is. This album is an emotionally wrought experience, obviously for the creator, and for the listener too, without ever coming across as mawkish or overly sentimental, and I defy any listener not to be touched by this album.

Although not my usual aural cup of tea, I will return to it when I need a bit of grounding, such is its impact.

Listen and buy here.

Beyond marking, but 3 out of 5 if you insist!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Jakszyk Fripp & Collins

A taster of the hopefully soon come Jakszyk Fripp & Collins album A Scarcity Of Miracles:

Marvellous! More info here.

Blackfield - The Assembly, Leamington Spa, 6th April 2011

Let's be honest here, I would say around 90% of tonight's audience are here because of the Steven Wilson connection, and 5% are probably fans of support act The Pineapple Thief, who need no introduction from me, as you probably know! I'm probably being generous saying 5% are actually Blackfield fans first and foremost.

I find Blackfield the least compelling of all of Wilson's many side projects, as their first two albums come across as Porcupine Tree leftovers to these ears. Their latest offering, Welcome To My DNA, has been played a couple of times and has yet to make an impression beyond being more of the same.

The Pineapple Thief came on at around 7:45 and played a somewhat restrained set compared to the all-guns-blazing recent showcase gig in London. I can't see that they made many new fans on tonight's showing.

After a break of around half an hour, Blackfield enter stage right. First impression is that Wilson and main writer Aviv Geffen make a very odd pairing. Wilson with his well groomed slacker look, if that's not a contradiction in terms, replete with trademark bare feet, stands across from Geffen who is dolled up to the nines showbiz stylee, sequined jacket, shiny black patent leather shoes, hair gelled to the max. Geffen is huge in Israel, where his left wing credentials appeal to the disaffected youth of that strange country. A kind of Robbie Williams on downers, he discarded layers of clothing through the show and played the encore bare chested. You can't imagine Wilson doing that can you? His lyrical themes of love, peace, death and suicide might be how he came to Wilson's attention, as our Stevie has an ear for the doom and gloom, as we know!

What about the music? You may well ask, as it never really gets beyond lukewarm apart from a couple of exceptions, in particular the encore Cloudy Now, which is the apogee of my and my companions' feelings on this band, in that I see Blackfield as Porcupine Tree lite and without many defining characteristics of their own. One thing that did catch my attention was the overbearing drummer who sat behind a big kit on an overly elevated drum riser and made AS MUCH NOISE AS POSSIBLE ALL THE TIME. Think of the ghastly Mel Gaynor out of Simple Minds way back in the 80s, who contributed to ruining a half decent band in my opinion, and you'd be about there. This guy could certainly do with a few "less is more" lessons.

My scribblings might give the impression that I did not enjoy the gig - not so, it was ok, but that's about it I'm afraid.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Text Of Festival (9)

Some more videos and pics from gigs of yore...

Not unsurprisingly I could not find a video of The Jazz Butcher performing on his home turf in 1985, but here's the band from the same year in Munich..

Again, no vids of The Fall from '85 at the fleapits where I saw them, but here are Mark E Smith's slaves at WOMAD in the same year. Brilliantly mad!

My last Glastonbury - a collage from the 25th Glastonbury Festival 1995, before it got toooo big for its own good...

The best band at Glasto '95....

The Pineapple Thief, Camden Underworld, London, Last month! Marvellous. I'm somewhere on the right out of shot, luckily for you!

A selection from Shoesville............

Arthur Lee at Northampton Roadmender 2004. I think the guy who shot this must be about 4'10"!

The Copemeister at Northampton Roadmender 2004. Nice hat.

José Gonzalez at Northampton Roadmender 2008

That's all folks!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Matt Stevens - Ghost

Matt Stevens sent me this album a while back and it has been lying around waiting to be reviewed for a few weeks now, as I just cannot get a handle on it, beyond it being an unassuming record that for me never makes it past background music. Perhaps I'm the wrong person to review this, as I like my music to have an edge to it, and I'm not sure where any market for this might lie to be honest.

You can envisage Matt, a big bear of man, hunched over his acoustic guitar and effects pedals, being a permanent support act to an unending parade of pastoral prog bands as most of the audience remain fixed in the bar, or you could see him playing quietly in the corner of an upmarket restaurant, while disinterested patrons chase down foie gras with an eminently quaffable Chablis.

I'm not saying this is a bad album, it's just that after a number of listens it fails to grab my attention for any length of time. It is obvious from the track by track description that Matt supplied with the album that this is very much a labour of love and I wouldn't for a second take any pleasure in belittling his efforts. The tracks are all recorded using an acoustic guitar and looping pedals, as you'll have seen KT Tunstall use, and minimal percussion. Like Ms Tunstall however I feel this would sound so much better within a full band line up, particularly a track like Burnt Out Car which you could imagine rocking out to great effect. For some reason I reckon it would sound like Radiohead at their most forceful. Going on with this theme if you shut your eyes and imagine what are at the moment fairly innocuous instrumentals being played by a full band replete with vocals, solo sections etc, Matt Stevens could well have an epic on his hands.

I don't get paid for this reviewing malarkey and usually only review things that I would or have bought for my own collection, which makes reviewing this doubly difficult. All I can say is Matt, if you read this, get a band together, pick up an electric guitar, rock out a bit, then I and I'm sure others too will take more of an interest.

If you're curious you can listen to the album on Matt Stevens' website.

2 out of 5

2019, the insanity grows...

Odd title for an annual music review, but them's the times. With these words I aim to provide you with an escape from the creeping madne...