Sunday, August 29
He's the coolest rapper who has ever written a track about Edgar Allen Poe...I interviewed MC Lars a few weeks ago at the Truck Festival. The proper edited interview will appear on some website or in some magazine very soon, but for the time being, here is part one of the full unabridged interview for all you Lars lovers... Part two will follow next week.
Katy, Squib and I met Lars in the main area of the Truck Festival after discussing for ten minutes whether this random other bloke was him, until we spot the man himself striding across the field.
Lars is really talkative and chatty on the way backstage and as it begins to rain, we take refuge in Katy’s car where I press play on the Dictaphone…
Lars: ...But I wanna do the Warped tour next year, I really want to
Phill: Did you play some punk shows already, earlier this year?
L: Yeah you’re right, I did this festival called Skate and Surf, which is in New Jersey – it’s cool
P: And how did the crowd react when you played, were they into it?
L: Yeah for the most part. They were there to see HIM.
LAUGHTER FROM EVERYONE IN CAR
P: That’s Katy’s favourite band!
L: There was a band called One Line Drawing on after us and then HIM – so they were all waiting and they called me Vanilla Ice and I said “My album’s coming out on Truck Records" and they were like “who gave you a record deal!". But out of about 800 people I think there were only three people that hated me….but they just happened to be at the front, so it was a bit of a disproportionate representation. But that show sparked a lot of cool emails from people.
Katy: But they stayed in the front row, they didn’t leave – they could have!
L: Yeah, I guess I polarised the crowd.
P: You used to be in punk bands yourself didn’t you?
L: Yeah, in High School I played in this band called Amphoteric and it’s a chemical that if you take an electron out of it can be Hydrogen or base if you add an electron. So we were trying to be like nerdy you know and funny… So I was in that band for a few years, but meanwhile I was doing my rap-laptop stuff on the side. So I’d do shows where I’d do the laptop rap and then we’d do the other show – and more people responded to the Laptop stuff.
P: So how old were you when you started?
L: About 16, but I was doing the other bands since I was 15 – but I didn’t get serious until I was around 19.
P: Did you just practice in your room and then start to do shows?
L: Yeah I would do local shows back in Monterray, which is south of San Francisco and I did them in my school. And then I got to Stanford and did shows there and it was cool, but it wasn’t until I got to Oxford in the winter of 2003…I contacted all the local bands that I could find and said “Hey I’d like to do a little set before your show, like maybe two songs or something". And people responded who I didn’t know. Before it had been my friends and my grandparents and then it became random people and I thought wow, maybe this is an appeal outside of my bedroom.
P: And then how did you end up hooking up with Truck Records?
L: They did a Trailer Park night with Mark Gardner and they had me open that show and I met PC and they invited me over for tea at the little Percy Street house and we talked, and then I got back home and they were like “We wanna put out your record" and I’m like “really?!" and then it led to Truckfest and all this cool, cool stuff, because they were nice to me.
P: So, you’ve just done a tour around the UK…
L: Yeah I’ve been here for two weeks with this band Audiokarate and this other band My Awesome Compilation and it’s kind of a punk tour that this website punktastic.com sponsors. And it was really, really cool – because there were all these kids that liked the other two bands..and then started to like us.
P: Did you check out any of the places around England and the UK when you played?
L: Yeah we were in Cardiff and there was a castle right across the street. You mean the sites like that?
P: I mean did you just wander around the cities and stuff?
L: Yeah! I mean I love this country, because I feel it’s all within reach, the public transportation is cool, people are nice – do you think that’s a fair judgement?
P: I don’t think the public transportation is cool! (laughs)
L: It’s definitely better than California
L: Yeah I mean it cost us £17 to get from Guildford to Oxford on the train.
P: I wanted to ask you about that, in one of your tracks when you’re name checking English places you said ‘London, Oxford, Guildford’ – why did you choose Guildford?
L: Well I was in Oxford and I did the gigs around Oxford because people let me open for them. Then this band Chicone let me play with them in London. Then I sent this email to as many people as I could find who were promoters and one of the guys who responded to me was this dude from Guildford. So I did this small punk show there and it was crazy, because everyone there had never heard rap really, and they went nuts – so I decided to shout ‘em out in the song. We’ve played there three times now.
P: So back in the States have you released any of your stuff there?
L: The Radio Pet Fencing record came out in January there, but they didn’t really push it, because it’s kind of an indie fringe record.
L: But the ‘Laptop EP’, there’s a label in LA that’s putting it out. So Truck Records is an awesome presence in England and I guess part of Europe, but in America, I think it’s hard for them to push new artists, so we have an indie label helping us there too. So that’s cool and I hope Truck Records doesn’t hate me for that (laughs).
Squib: I’m sure they don’t.
P: What do you think of the other acts on Truck Records, because they aren’t really similar to you, it’s mainly kind of an indie label isn’t it?
L I know huh… I think they all have a similar ethic, like do it yourself, just go out and so it on the flipside of the big major labels or something – they all have a kind of cool spirit. I love Goldrush a lot. I like the Trademark EP and I like their band Fonda 500…
K: They’re great…
S: They played here last year
K: They’re really cool yeah
P: You know when you’ve played here five years in a row, do they say you have to have a year off or something?
K: I dunno – it happened with Smilex
S: Well Goldrush play every year!
L: They should have them back because they’re a fixture…..
L: (closes the car door) I hope I’m not getting the car wet…
K: That’s ok, don’t worry about it!
P: I wanted to ask you about MP3’s and file-sharing and stuff, because one of the tracks on your new EP you’re name checking Lars Ulrich and Shawn Fanning and stuff – what’s your standpoint on the issue?
L: I think Lars Ulrich has so much money. Any recording musician with their own pool should not be worrying about someone downloading their MP3’s right? I mean, I think MP3’s are a way to spread your music and you make money when people come to your shows because they’re fans and they buy a T-shirt. And so if you’re going to be a jerk and say “I don’t want you to download my MP3’s", that means that you get less fans. It’s the new way to share media and I think it’s an important thing to embraced and appreciated. So the lyrics are ‘I ripped one track in MP3, then Lars Ulrich came after me’ cos he’s a punk. And then he kicks him and then Shawn Fanning has justice. I think a lot of artist realise that MP3’s are important. It’s just the greedy ones to put it bluntly, like Dr Dre and Metallica that have kind of ruined it…
P: So if people are downloading your tracks from sites that are perceived as illegal, would you encourage that or…..
L: I love that! Because if someone’s gonna download my songs it’s really cool because they’re interested. And then my hope is they might download two songs and like it, then they might come to a show and buy a shirt…maybe. And that’s definitely worth the exchange, you know what I mean? So like if you sell 2,000 less records, but you sell more shirts, that’s better.
P: So you just want as many people to hear it as possible?
L: Yeah, because it’s so exciting for me that people want to listen to my songs that I just did in my room, and just all of a sudden people care…and that’s awesome…
P: When you first started and you were just getting your own style, who were your influences? Who did you look to and maybe draw inspiration from?
L: It’s kind of embarrassing, but the dude who started me was Weird Al Yankovic – you know him here?
L: I thought it was so funny, because he has such great quality music and he’s funny and I didn’t realise you could do that at the same time…so when I was ten I kind of got into him and then I started listening to Nirvana, Green Day…when they were big and I started playing guitar. And then in High School I listened to more punk, but then when I got into College, Hip Hop became my main thing, I started listening to Old School KRS-One, Run DMC and Public Enemy, because I did this radio show at my school and they had this great collection of vinyl which I discovered. The old school Hip hop world is a lot more interesting and fun and cool and I prefer that to the new stuff. That’s just my opinion but….
P: You did a song about Atom and his Package as well...
L: Yeah I love him, I mean like in High School, I listened to him in Senior Year all the time and I love him to death. And I met him and he was really nice to me. Do they like him here?
P: I dunno, I think he’s still quite obscure...
L: I’m wearing his sweatshirt actually!
P: I don’t think he’s that famous or popular, but he should be...
L: Actually he just stopped, did you know that?
L: He’s just started a new band. And do you know MC Paul Barman?
P: No I don’t...
L: He want to Brown University, Prince Paul produced his first record and he’s really funny and witty.
P: So what I wanted to ask you about was...you did ‘Rapbeth’ and then the new Edgar Alan Poe one (Mr Raven). When did you decide to put Literature into a rap song?
L: The Shakespeare one was an assignment in High School. The idea was make fun of Macbeth. So that was a cool assignment and I did a song and it was good…and it was like wow, people like literature songs. There’s just something about it, because I guess Lou Reed does it, but I mean you don’t hear Britney Spears doing... ‘Gullivers’ Travels’
L: I think it’s cool because people appreciate the stories. What I like about it is that I like to think I’m making those old authors cool – not that I’m any judge of cool, but if it’s in a rap song – it makes it more universal.
P: What mark did you get for your assignment?
L: Oh I got an A on that. Do you think that’s a good grade? The one on ‘Radio Pet Fencing’ I re-did, the old one was kind of less energetic
P: You’ve released two CD’s now, how do you improve as an MC and progress?
L: In my Hip Hop show and sometimes live I try to do freestyle battles and I practice that, so I’m always trying to push myself as an MC. I’m not the best yet, but I definitely take that very seriously and I think the Laptop EP, one thing that makes it stand out for me from the last album, was that it was actually done in the studio, as opposed to all just done in my room. My band and I did the pre-production in my room, but going into a real studio and working with a real producer…he coached me on delivery and stuff, so that what improved the next album for me. And the next album after that, I wanna experiment with different genres and I wanna maybe do more electronic stuff, so it’s just a matter of not getting bored with yourself...
PART TWO TO FOLLOW LATER IN THE WEEK
That it was my birthday in Wednesday and now I'm 24 years old... Some of the lovely presents that I was given for my birthday include...
Hard and Heavy - A classic 80's rock compilation video
A new PJ Harvey Biography
From Joy Division to New Order: The True Story of Anthony H Wilson and Factory Records - Mick Middles
What a Bobby Dazzler - David Dickinson
Hell Bent for Leather: confessions of a Heavy Metal Addict - Seb Hunter
Rough Trade Indie Pop Volume 1
And while we're on the subject of lists, some of the bands that the esteemed Mr Phillipe Bergeroo played at A Different Kettle of Fish on Tuesday include: Radio4, !!!, The Rapture, Devo, The Clash, Gang of Four, ESG, Ex-Models, Boys of Scandinavia, Ladytron, MC Lars, LCD Soundsystem and more....though sadly no obscure Japanese electro-pop....this time!
Blogs of Note
The Words and Pictures of Ciarán Ryan - Ciarán's brand new blog - go and say hello to him!
Tricia Bickley - A fantastic Olympic photo blog.
My Internet Dating Hell - I've just found this and it's very very funny! Follow Sean as he attempts (unsuccessfully) to find the right woman.
Richard Herring - A blog from the top Comedian - updated literally every day!
Dresden Diary - This is probably my favourite blog at the moment - it's really well written, go and check it out.
Haddock Twat - Worth reading for the name alone, but also for the comprehensive analysis of European toilet signs.
Saturday, August 28
This is a really beautiful picture of the Roskilde Festival taken on a disposable camera...check out the mud!
Tuesday night saw musical history at the very first A Different Kettle of Fish (Catalogue number Fish1). If you were there, then be content in the knowledge that in ten or twenty years time it will be mentioned in the same breath as the Sex Pistols at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall, Carina Round at the Flapper and Firkin and Joe Pasquale at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall. If you weren't there then you missed out...but hey at least you can come to the next one and be almost as cool...
I was quite strange actually as at one point I was having a drink and chatting to some friends and enjoying the music - thanking, yeah this a really good night. Then I stopped and thought, wait a minute - I ORGANISED IT! It's also cool when people come up to you and say things like 'i'm really digging this record, who is it by?' or 'wow, you're not as bad a DJ as I thought you would be!'
I do have a new respect for DJ's now though - it is quite difficult...Especially if you play punky songs that only last for about 2 minutes! Before I began my set the master...AKA Rich...AKA Ideosphere gave me a few tips told me what the buttons did. He then asked me something on the lines of 'Do you want know how to do a Beatmatch', which I foolishly replied 'No thanks, I gave up doing drugs years ago'...
Dean did his job as marketing manager with his usual style and put posters on a moving bus, a lorry, some roadworks signs and a cashpoint...
Anyway...we're looking at perhaps booking a certain ex Britpop singer for a hush hush secret gig...so we'll see what happens with that...
So much stuff has happened lately, including a trip to Alton Towers and securing a wildcard entry to one of Britain's top sporting events. A full update will follow shortly, but in the meantime I might just put some photos up.
Wednesday, August 25
Monday, August 23
Ask almost any former student of Keele University from the past twenty years about Neil Baldwin and the odds are they will know who he is, but not exactly what he did. Neil was a former Stoke City FC kitman and also was Nello The Clown. He ran a football team on campus and always claimed to know Kevin Keegan (at the time when he was England Manager), though nothing was ever proven. I played for Neil Baldwin FC for a while and have a few stories about him, but for the moment here's a cracking story from the Keele Alumni Website found by Donna
Neil was keen to introduce me to the new crop of players who had joined since I left so he took me on his usual rounds around all the halls being introduced to the new students. How I mused at the familiar lines such as "That's a nice looking jar of curry sauce on your shelf, that would be lovely with a few chips!" and the disbelieving look on the student's face that was once my own! Anyway we were about half way round when we called at a room in The Oaks (where the botanical garden used to be). In his normal manner Neil hammered on the door and then tried to open it without waiting for a reply. The door didn't open so Neil knocked again, again no reply. We were about to walk away when Neil said that he thought he'd heard something and there was someone in the room after all. It had already occurred to me that there were going to be people who, for whatever reason didn't want to be disturbed as it was at least 10pm, so I tried to encourage Neil to forget it and go on to the next place. But alas he was determined. There then followed a conversation, something like this:-(bear in mind it was after 10, and every word Neil said was bellowed at the top of his voice!)
Neil: Rob, Rob, are you there (I think it was Rob, I may be wrong)
From the room: No reply
Me: Come on Neil, let's go. Even if he is there he doesn't want to be disturbed
Neil: Are you there Rob (hammers on door again)
From the room: Ummmmm, what is it Neil? (very feeble voice, guilty and awkward sounding)
Neil: I knew you were there. Open up, I've got one of my old players to meet you.
Rob: Could it wait till tomorrow Neil, it's a bit awkward now
Neil: No, he'll be gone tomorrow, open up we won't keep you long
Me (realising what is going on): No Neil, I'll meet him next time I'm visiting, it's not convenient now
Neil (oblivious to my comments): Come on Rob (more hammering)
Rob (swearing under his breath - quick movements occurring in room): Well just to say hello then Neil. It's not convenient now
Me (to Rob): It's ok, I'll meet you next time. Come on Neil (I attempt to physically drag Neil away - no easy task!)
Neil: It's alright, he's said he doesn't mind
At this point we hear the lock open and the door open a fraction. A worried looking lad with a red face appears at the door dressed only with a towel around his waist.
Neil: Rob this is Jon, Jon this is Rob
Rob and Me: Pleased to meet you - we shake hands and rob nearly loses his towel in the process.
Neil: Right then Rob let's talk football tactics, you can cook us some of that lovely chilli-con-carne you did the other night, that was lovely. A worried look appears on Rob's face
Me (winking at Rob): It's ok Neil, I've got to get back now anyway. I've met Rob now we can go on.
Neil: Ok then
Neil turns away saying goodbye, relief starts to spread visibly over Rob's face. Then Neil remembers something and turns back.
Neil: Hey Rob, show Jon that Spurs shirt you've got signed by all the players
Rob: Ummm urrrr it's not here Neil.
Neil: Yes it is I saw it yesterday (tries to worm his way past rob who stands firm)
Rob: Well it's a bit awkward Neil, you see I've got company (red face returns)
Neil: That's alright, introduce us. Maybe he could sign up for NBFC
Rob: No Neil, ummmmm, it's female company (so embarrassed he can't even look us in the eye!)
Me (almost shouting): Come on Neil, time to go
Neil: Oh that's ok Rob, introduce us anyway. I promise not to talk about football too much (Neil shouts into the room) Alright Duck
Female voice from the room (very embarrassed and annoyed and Rob and probably me for being soft on Neil and not just shutting him out): Hello
By this stage 4 or 5 people, mainly in dressing gowns have gathered in the corridor due to all the noise. Most of them are smirking because they realise what's going on.
Neil: Get the kettle on then Rob and let's see that Spurs shirt
Without warning Neil makes an attempt to open the door and catches Rob off guard. He succeeds in fully opening the door where we (and the now 9-10 people in the corridor) see the poor girl desperately trying to cover every inch of herself in the duvet (whispers start in the corridor, it appears this isn't the girl who should have been there!) Rob makes a desperate and all too late lunge to close the door and in his efforts the towel falls off completely. He desperately lunges for the towel but trips up over Neil's leg and ends up in the corridor stark naked (by now about 20 people have gathered and the smirks have turned to riotous laughter.
Neil (still not quite realising what has happened): Well there's something you don't see every day, anyway Rob, we'll get off now then.
Rob crawls back into his room and locks the door. A big argument gets going in the room as we leave and all Rob's neighbours are falling about laughing in the corridor.
Neil (to me as we are leaving): He's a nice lad Rob, but I don't know what got into him tonight, he wasn't himself. Anyway I want you to meet Chris next.....
Back on the campus road, shrieks of hysterical laughter can still be heard and the silhouette of two people can be seen in one room throwing things at each other. Neil's eyesight isn't perfect and he thinks the people are waving.
Neil: That's Rob's room look he's waving at us. (Neil waves up at the room!) He's alright really I'll put him in the team for next week, see I look after all my players.
Wednesday, August 18
Well i've been watching quite a bit of the Olympics as it's on all the TV's all around the office. There's no sound, so i'm never 100% sure what's going on, but one thing that I do know is that I love the Archery Teams' hats - where can I get one from? - they are marvellous!
I've had a look on ebay but to no avail - is there any official archery team merchandise - I need to know!
Sunday, August 15
Spent last weekend in Liverpool and I can only conclude that it's a strange city - a place where having shellsuit bottoms tucked into your socks is socially acceptable, as is a love of Bon Jovi. On Saturday night we went to the Krazyhouse to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of Dean's birth. As rock clubs go, it was pretty cool and had a Crystal Maze arcade game which was great! I managed to get four Crystals but I got too many silver credits in the dome at the end, so I didn't win the prize...
There were thousands and thousands of people out in Liverpool and as we staggered around early Sunday morning at 3am looking for a taxi, I was cursing this fact almost as much as Dean and Jon's lack of a sense of direction.
We also found the nicest veggie Cafe ever, the Egg Cafe - it's on the third or fourth floor with brilliant views and a delicious all day veggie breakfast.... almost being able to rival Mr Egg in the cafe's featuring the word egg stakes!
Also i've discovered that yes I really do dislike The Beatles...I mean it was 40 years ago man...just like get over it or something.... Where is the Cast museum and the Echo and the Bunnymen Museum? Dean kept threatening to take us to them, but I suspect they only exist in the inner reaches of his twisted scouse mind...
Rather excitingly I might be interviewing dEUS and HIM in the near future, which is pretty cool. I've also got a job interview on Friday so wish me luck...
Wednesday, August 11
This becoming Tony Wilson malarkey is harder than it looks. I watched the great man on the Keith Barret Show on Monday to pick up some tips, but with limited success.
Organisation for A Different Kettle of Fish is haphazard to say the least. The posters have hit a photocopying problem and there is also the fact that I can't actually DJ - I do have some cracking, obscure tunes to play though. Including a Lo-Fi electro version of The Doors 'LA Woman'...
After August 24th i'm not sure if i'm going to organise another night, at least for a while...it's two much hassle for one person...I need an Alan Erasmus. So it looks like I might just skip to stage three of the plan:
Stage 1 - Become Local Journalist (Status completed)
Stage 2 - Organise own night (Status pending)
Stage 3 - Discover dark genius
Now as you may realise - stage three may prove to be difficult...perhaps even impossible...but i'm not to be deterred...
On the subject of Tony Wilson, I was reminded of the Broccoli scene in in 24 Hour Party people as we were discussing how the aforementioned vegetable was invented. Some people claim it was the Romans, others god but i'm with Wilson and favour the vegetable hybrid claim - probably a cauliflower and a pea...also the guy who did James Bond, Cubby Broccoli - definitely a family connection there methinks. What is truth and what is fiction? To paraphrase the great man. When faced with the fact or the myth, go with the myth
Also some fascinating facts about George Bush Snr and Broccoli - it seems he wasn't a fan
Sunday, August 8
We're ordering a couple of CD's from Amazon:
Stellastar* - Stellastar*
Life Without Buildings - Any Other City
One more CD is needed to take it over the magical £25 mark and get free delivery - what should it be, dear reader? I need your advice. For a hint - you can see what kind of bands I like in my sidebar.
Saturday, August 7
Just downloaded Mozilla Firefox to replace Internet Explorer and all i've got to say at this stage, is that it seems really cool! Very fast indeed, which has been a bit of a problem for my computer of late...
Spent the day playing Aerobie and not going to the Lichfield Rock Festival - I may have missed out on rock history, but I did get to throw a ring obscene distances around a park in West Bromwich! Photos tomorrow...maybe
On Friday for lunch I went to the all you can eat Chinese Buffet which was a feat of endurance...some people couldn't stand the pace in the office in the afternoon, after overindulging at lunchtime, bit I was OK as I obeyed the golden rules of all you can eat Chinese buffets. What are they oh wise man? you may ask...and one day I might tell you....but not until you're 21.
Tuesday, August 3
Opening night at the new BBC Club in Birmingham saw a free buffet and Red Stewart & David Essex tribute acts. I had completely fogotten about this and I was happily munching away on my cheese and pinaepple on a stick, when they walked in wearing full stage costume carrying their equipment causing me to almost choke with laughter.
Now the Rod Stewart knew his place in the world and got on with the job in hand, making sure his hair was in place of course. However, the David Essex guy had ideas above his station - having a go at the management for a poor turnout and later, the lack of a crowd response - you could see the anger and disappointment in his eyes. But as a colleague of mine pointed out - he's a tribute act - a David Essex tribute act and as such has no musical dignity!
Talking of no musical dignity - during the course of doing this months music listings, I have noticed several Bon Jovi tribute acts doing the rounds. I will list them below and leave it up to you to decide which is the best or 'least worst'. The ultimate endurance test would be to see several of them, back to back on consecutive nights...or alternatively, for someone to book them all on the same bill....truly scary...
And two that I can't find a website for, but they do exist:
Bon Jordi (The Geordie Bon Jovi - my personal favourite)
The German Bon Jovi tribute act:
And if you fancy forming your own Bon Jovi tribute act
Cartoon by the very talented Ciarán Ryan - he's also lending me his job at the moment...thanks Ciarán!
Monday, August 2
I had a chat with Carina Round recently for the BBC Black Country Website. Some of the fascinating facts I discovered include: Her favourite cheese is Parmesan, she almost hit Jack Nicholson with her shoe, her favourite pub is the Old Moseley Arms and she loves Swordfish Records in Birmingham...
Read the full interview
Sunday, August 1
Then you've got to keep the acts happy...Hopefully we'll be going to check out the equipment at the venue this week, but mysterious French DJ Phillipe Bergeroo is being very demanding with what he wants on his rider ;-)
I've got this grand vision to start putting bands on somewhere...but I need to find some cool bands and a decent venue first...maybe Dave could be my Vini Reilly...who knows, but I still need to find my Ian Cutris.
I'd love to get MC Lars to come and play in Birmingham on his next tour...he really is the coolest Californian rapper i've ever met! Interviewing him in Katy's car last weekend, I discovered that he is obsessed with Coventry and has even written a song about the place - very strange indeed...hopefully i'll have finished editing the interview in the next few days...there's just the small matter of a job to apply for first...