Browsing Tag Graham Day & the Forefathers

LBB11 Review

LBB11 – Thursday

The Stairs, Graham Day & The Forefathers, The Wicked Whispers

Cor, blimey, Le Beat Bespoke ELEVEN? It only seems five minutes since the last one: what’s more, it only seems like yesterday I was musing on exactly the same thoughts. Wherever do our lives go?

This year is decidedly a bold step for the New Untouchables: for the first time, there is not one band or artist gracing the bill whose career predates the early-80s. THE WICKED WHISPERS, who like tonight’s headliners hail from equatorial Merseyside. Whilst I’ve never heard them before, their sound and appearance seem strangely familiar: (they twang their Rickenbackers and Telecasters with youthful fervour and exuberance, know their way round an eerie melody, and recall the Toytown stylings of Factory and Kaleidoscope as much as the West Coast hallucinogens of the Byrds, Charlatans and Music Machine, whose standout tune The People In Me they end with) their early 90s indie influences, by now an inevitable facet of any psych revival act, give them a defiantly British identity far more refreshing than many of their contemporaries’.

By contrast, GRAHAM DAY and his arse-kicking beat combo THE FOREFATHERS have always known where they want to be (in a word, Medway, where they’ve always been) and they revel in it. Sandwiched between two quintessentially North-Western acts, they couldn’t be more “Sahf Eastern” if they tried: whereas mate and mentor Billy Childish has spent half his career soaking up primal Americanisms, Day and long-term colleague Allan Crockford have always sounded, despite sharing the exact same blues, garage and RnR influences, like the bunch of Kents they are. This, of course, is why all their former bands were brilliant, and why they’re great. Thrashing through the tracks from their 2014 longplayer “Good Things” ( a mixture of Prisoners, Gaolers, Solar Flares and Prime Movers numbers re-recorded the way Day always envisaged them) they’re essentially, though they won’t thank me for this, the Mod or psych-garage-head’s equivalent to Motorhead, AC/DC or early Quo: rock’n’roll at its most undiluted and wilfully uncommercial, yet ironically featuring Beatles/Kinksesque hooks and melodies that could batter most so-called “mainstream” artists into oblivion.

And though something’s clearly up with Day’s guitar (thus robbing Love Me Lies and Begging You of about 30 percent of their overdrive) and Crockford’s allegedly brought the “wrong setlist”, these distractions only determine the trio further to grind such gremlins underfoot. Following a slight lull in pace, Sucking Out My Insides revives proceedings with incendiary aggression: the encore of Joe South’s/Deep Purple’s Hush is an arguably unnecessary adjunct to their own, far superior I Drink The Ocean, but one supposes every rock’n’roller must pay respect to his influences sometime and this has been in the set list on and off since the Prisoners days. The question is, will Day ever again channel his inherent Purpleness into performing selections from the Prime Movers’ Earth Church or Arc albums? What do you mean, “piss off”?

To mark their first London appearance in over 20 years, THE STAIRS have seemingly brought along an entire Scouse Mafioso of devotees and even if some of them do spend the entire set complaining about the volume (try not talking over everything, duckie, and you’ll hear it) the awe and reverence in which we all still hold them “dahn ere” obviously still pales into insignificance compared to their Godlike status up the ‘Pool. And so it should: without Edgar Summertyme-Jones and crew’s early 90s efforts, half the subsequent psych, R’n’B and indie acts that followed in their wake simply wouldn’t have followed. The Coral? Had they never heard “Mexican R’n’B”, they’d probably all be stacking shelves in the Hoylake branch of Tescos right now. Truly, the Stairs were, and are, that important so, now they’ve finally returned to show the pretenders how to do it properly, will they live up to the legend?

From the opening blues-pummel of Mary Joanna and Flying Machine, it would definitely seem (even if lead guitarist Ged Lynn’s distortion pedal doesn’t appear to be plugged in) that this is the case: When It All Goes Wrong and Mundane Monday have much the same (if more refined and textured) impact, although Russian Spy & I bumps the energy levels back to party proportions.

Woman Gone & Say Goodbye, Mr Window Pane and the evergreen Right In The Back Of Your Mind are as swaggeringly cocksure as any triumvirate of tunes can be, hitting the assembled fans (many of whom, including me, never saw ‘em first time round) in all the designated places. Conversely, just as many are bemused by both sides of the new single A Thousand Miles Away/Shit Town, the former sounding like extreme Canterbury prog fed through Robin Trower’s blues blender and the latter like the Swell Maps or TV Personalities on harder drugs than either ever took, but I personally find their uncompromising experimentalism encouraging after all, do you really want your favourite band to reform 20-odd years on having not developed in any way whatsoever? The Stairs have never danced to anyone’s tune but their own, and that’s what makes them special. And, somehow or other, I don’t see things changing. The final song of the set is Skin Up and the encore is (what else) Weed Bus. The Stairs represent the embodiment of everything New Untouchables has ever been about. Welcome back gentlemen.

LBB11 – Saturday

Jim Jones & The Rightous Mind plus Little Barrie and The Dustaphonics

Having sadly forgone Friday’s shenanigans, Saturday promised to be undoubtedly the most “rock n roll” of all four nights: definitely the most radical departure from the original NUTs template since the days of Circulus, albeit louder.

My apologies to the DUSTAPHONICS, who I was unable to see due to a family engagement in not-so-sunny West Kensington: having heard positive things about them, I was keen to catch at least some of their set, but after a while, it became apparent this wasn’t going to happen, something which also became increasingly true of LITTLE BARRIE as the hours wore on.

Nonetheless, the two songs I did catch were superb, full of bottom-heavy, fuzz-bass groove, and (though comparisons must be wearing thin by now) worthy of Zep at their best. Even from those eight minutes alone, it was evident that LB are not only light years ahead of any other band on the UK “vintage” scene, but any worldwide combo currently lauded as saviours of veteran heavy rock. Sadly, because of Barrie’s commitments (Morrissey, Primal Scream) they’ll possibly never be as big as the goddam should be. General sensors of opinion was that this was the show of the weekend

JIM JONES and the Righeous Mind mix the best elements of all three of Jones prior aggregations through a demonic, disjointed blender: it still rocks out, particularly on the thrudding grandeur of Base Is Loaded, Hold Up and Walk It Out, but there are more than three chords now, and it’s more angular, uncompromising. More Beefheart than Berry, more Red Krayola than Otis Redding, more King Crimson than King Curtis, more Sun Ra than Sun Studios. Unfortunately, this also means several quieter, blues’n’ jazz-tinged interludes, which a fair percentage of the crowd opt to natter over: whether this is down to the Mind being the most unusual Le Beat headliner yet or simply the unfamiliarity of the material is unclear, but there are definitely less transfixed attendees at the back than at the front. Once the album’s out and fully ingrained in their collective consciousness, though, they’re bound to pay more attention: with closing numbers as powerful as Alpha Shit, it looks as if they won’t have any choice in the matter anyway, and even Boil Yer Blood, which I have to admit I was resolutely unimpressed by on first hearing, is transformed into a stomping monster live, the dirtbox rhythms of drummer Lee Martini smashing thin air whilst Jones lurches and struts like some unhinged hybrid of Lee Brilleaux and Bill Hicks. Such a thunderous climax can’t fail to make impact, and by the closing chords, everyone’s been won over.


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Darius Drewe

Darius Drewe was born in East London in 1974. As a small child, both parents inflicted their musical tastes, from The Beatles and The Moody Blues to Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis, on him, and he was never the same again. Despite being born and bred a 'Cockney tosser', Drewe actually spent his teenage years in and around Birmingham, attending his first 60s/50s-themed nights there at The Ship Ashore, before "coming home" in 1993 to the South, where, with the exception of three years spent in Glasgow between 2007-2010, he has remianed ever since. In the almost two decades that have passed he has trod a strange meandering path from a shy 60s/70s-obsessed teen with no 'scene' to speak of to a Metalhead, sleaze-glammie, Goth, indie kid, glam-punker, garage-rocker, eventual Mod and psych freak (first attending Mousetrap in 2000) In that time he's also written for Shindig! Britmovie, DarkSide, Black Velvet and Get Ready To Rock, promoted various vintage and veteran acts at Camden Underworld, Glasgow Ivory Blacks and several other venues, DJed everything from psych, garage and soul to Metal at practically every well-known club in central London. Drewe is trying to build a time machine that will enable him to visit any period between 1960 and 1980 but still be able to use a mobile and Facebook. His ambition, aside from directing films and building said machine, is to morph into a cross between Jason King, Timmy Lea, Jerry Cornelius and Richard Hannay, and drift about the ether having adventures in a kipper tie, pinstriped flares and camel hair coat.

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May 4, 2016 By : Category : Bands Clubs DJs Events Front Page Music Reviews Tags:, , , , ,
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Record Reviews – Nov 2014 (Part 2)

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Graham Day and The Forefathers

‘Good Things’ – Album

So, here’s the basic idea. A grossly under-rated and overlooked songwriter decides to get a couple of his long-time mates and former band members to join him for a reworking of some of his work spanning over 30 years. They strip it back to basics. Guitar, bass and drums and let rip.

The result is, you end up with six Solarflares tracks, three from The Prisoners, two from The Gaolers and one from Prime Movers. All of them brilliant in their own right, but taken to a new ‘Medway garage’ high on this album.

Graham Day and The Forefathers (they being Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard) have reminded anyone who didn’t know, (or just plain forgot) what incredible musicians they are and what a fine songwriter Graham Day is.

Exuding the principle of ‘don’t think about it, just get it done’, from the off, with ‘The Good Things’, ‘Mary’ and ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Mind’, Graham, Allan and Wolf just tear it up.

All through this 12 track collection, you constantly find yourself marvelling at the power of the trio and at the same time, humming along to a catchy chorus or hook that is the foundation of all great songs.

It is a very neat trick to be able to play with such force and such skill so as not to lose the finer qualities of a tune. That takes experience, of which Graham, Allan and Wolf have bucket loads.

When I said at the start that this was a ‘basic idea’, it has turned into a brilliant idea and a great album.

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The Franklys

What You Said – Single

Those of you who have been listening to the Nutscast Sessions will know this band were the first to appear live in our studio. Those who may have turned their noses up because the Franklys are a rock band are missing the point.

The point is, myself via my reviews and the New Untouchables have backed this band for best part of two years because we recognised the genuine potential in their debut EP. We saw the same potential in The Strypes when no one would give them a second look.

So here we are, two years on and guess what? The mainstream is all over The Franklys. NME, XFM, Absolute Radio and many others have only now twigged what we knew all along. The Franklys are a band destined to hit big very soon. This sudden wave of interest is due to ‘What You Said’, the new single available on digital download.

Following on from the brilliant ‘Puppet’ earlier in the year, this new track sees the girls developing a recognised ‘sound’.

Zoe Biggs’s haunting heavy bass lines, Nicole Pinto doing what good drummers do; make their instrument so much more than a time-keeper. The pocket-sized bundle of dynamite that is Fanny Broburg letting rip with searing lead guitar work and Jen Ahlkvist continues with her bitter-sweet and ever-so-edgy vocals.

Yes, The Franklys are closer to the Foo Fighters than The Jam, but so what? There is always room for a great rock band and more so for a great all-female rock band. Mark my words, 2015 will be a big year for The Franklys.

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The Wicked Whispers

Maps Of The Mystic – Album

For those of you who did not make it to Crossfire back in October, you really missed a great show. The Wicked Whispers played a fair chunk of this, their debut album at the official London launch.

Nutsmag Reviews has highlighted this band once before. It was last year with the release of their marvellous single ‘Voodoo Moon’ b/w ‘Nightbird’.

I’m so delighted to say, the promise shown on that single has materialised onto this album.

2014 has been a vintage year for new music in my humble opinion, and for Wicked Whispers to produce ‘Maps Of The Mystic’ as we head toward the tail end of the year, just highlights what outstanding quality has come from all quarters and most of it ignored by the mainstream. (No surprise there!)

While the band comprises of Mike Murphy, Toby Virgo, Steven Penn, Andrew Smith and Nathan Sayer, it is Murphy who is clearly the driving force. He wrote all the songs and produced the album, which is no mean feat considering the complexity of some of the arrangements.

It says much about the abilities of Virgo, Penn, Smith and Sayer that they can match Murphy’s vision and ambitions musically.

The recent single ‘Chronological Astronaut’ leads the way, and a fine upbeat track it is too. Equally upbeat and just as good are the songs ‘You Wouldn’t Believe’ and ‘Odyssey Mile’.

It’s when the band show their softer side that Michael Murphy’s song writing really comes to the fore. The title track ‘Maps Of The Mystic’, ‘Flying ‘Round In Circles’ and ‘Amanda Lavender’ beautifully display Murphy’s ability to find a melody and work with words. If his aim is to paint musical and lyrical pictures, I have to say he has achieved it with ease.

In a year of brilliant albums, this one has to be right up there with the best.

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New Street Adventure

No Hard Feelings – Album

It seems barely believable that three years have passed since the first time I saw New Street Adventure at The Barfly, Camden. After the show that night lead singer Nick Corbin gave me a copy of a cd the band had just released. It was called ‘Just The Kind Of People’, a four track EP. It was brilliant and sat very well alongside other contemporary bands with a soulful flavour.

It did seem that New Street Adventure (NSA) was set to conquer all in their path. What happened? Who knows? In the blink of an eye, one of the most talked-about bands almost disappeared.

They did, however, sign to Acid Jazz Records which is fortunate because at least they were with a label populated by people who still regard music as an art form. (Not something you could accuse major labels of.)

So after a lot of hard work and a few line up changes, NSA are finally back with their debut album.

Let me say from the outset; this was well worth the wait. All the potential that I and all the other NSA fans saw three or four years ago is all wrapped up in this sumptuous collection of soul flavours.

Nick Corbin has lost none of his acidic anger and whit with his lyrical content and those he aims at are hit fore-square.

Of course the most recent single, ‘On Our Frontdoorstep’ leads the way, and that mixture of Northern Soul-inspired rhythms and hard-edged social commentary is a feature of this album.

But while ‘Be Somebody’ and ‘She’s An Attraction’ could get you dancing, the softer side of NSA is no more evident than in my favourite track right now. ‘Say You’re Lonely’ is one of the finest ballads I’ve heard all year. It draws you in and gives you goose bumps by the end of the song. (Well, it did to me.)

‘No Hard Feelings’ has been a long time in the making, but it been worth the wait. Now they are back on track, let’s hope NSA build on the success of this LP.

I do have one minor point to make though, I still prefer the 2011 version of ‘The Big AC’.


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Graham Lentz

AKA ‘The Baron’ - Like many of his generation, The Jam started Graham's love affair with all things mod back in 1977. He is the author of 'The Influential Factor - A History Of Mod' which was originally published in 2002. An extract from the book was re-printed in Paolo Hewitt's 'The Sharper Word - revised edition' in 2011. Being a self-confessed 'broad-church' mod, Graham's interests range from Modern Jazz to today's up-coming new bands and everything in between. Although he has a passion for mod history, he also has a passion for the new. Whether it's music, clubs, media of every kind, clothing, scooters or art and photography, Graham supports, promotes and encourages as much as he can, because that's how we keep going. 'Give it a chance' is his motto. If it's not for you, that's cool, at least you tried it.

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November 16, 2014 By : Category : Bands Front Page Music Reviews Tags:, , , , ,
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Euroyeye 20th Anniversary

Gijon, Spain- 31 July 4 August 2014

Hundreds of Mods and 60’s lovers from around the World have gathered in Gijon every summer for the last twenty years for this unique festival in the northern Spanish province of Asturias. This means a great deal to us so we put probably the best line-up in our history together to celebrate this milestone.

Thursday kicked off in style with a free live gig in the main square of the city with local Spanish Soul band Attica Revolution warming up the 4000+ people with a great mix of originals and covers before Motown legend Brenda Holloway hit the stage for the first time in Spain and blitzed the audience with a magnificent performance. Brenda played almost the same set as Modstock covering big hits ‘When I’m Gone’, ‘Every Little Bit Hurts’ and ‘You Made Me So Very Happy’ and underground hits ‘Reconsider’, ‘Starting The Hurt’ and ‘Crying Time’. Two encores brought the show to close eventually leaving many happy smiling faces waiting for more action.

In truth the festival already begun a couple of weeks before with various art exhibitions and 60’s cult films which are free to visit for a whole month visit the website www.euroyeye.es to view the full program. The first of four allnighters was a short walk away from the main square and after some tapas washed down with local sidra I was ready for one of the hottest bands around right now The Night Beats from Texas. A loud hypnotic beat pinned by the bass and drums with psychedelic guitars and a great front man whipped the crowd into a frenzy and all too soon for me it was over. The night continued with DJ’s doing a sterling job playing sounds from cross the 60’s spectrum.

Friday morning came around far too soon, the first Scooter cruise was a big buzz as usual. The scooters gathered at the open day at Laboral with Lambrettas and Vespas from all Spain (and a few from abroad including Marco & Steve Groves & Friends from Scooter Emporium) at midday to enjoy the live shows, djs, stalls and exhibitions. After the acoustic gig of Nolan Porter and Neil Jones the exhausts of more than 120 scoots begun to burn west towards what some said was the best sights they had ever had on two wheels. A couple of hours everyone came back to the LAB for the exper-i-mental  Rubayat live 8:2 set, something that has never been done before in our scene.

Doors opened at 10pm for the second allnighter with UK band Stone Foundation which many readers here are familiar with making their Spanish debut. Needless to say they won the crowd over with songs from the fantastic new album ‘To Find the Spirit’ before another US Soul legend Nolan Porter also making his Spanish debut joined them on stage playing his scene faves and choice covers. After the live music the allnighter was wild with two dancefloors and the best mod and 60’s music played by over a dozen DJ’s from around Europe.

Saturday morning at 11am we decided to meet at a fantastic new place, all the vintage scooters gathered in what we call “El Rompeloas” (“wave-breaking wall”), in the sports port with the luxury yachts and fishing boats making a great background for nice pictures. After lots of shots and beers the long love (and loud) caravan headed East towards a “walk & ride” called the Claretian Route, almost coming to a stop at very old pathways in the hills near Luanco. The ride finished at the posh Golf Club of Castiello for a vermouth and great Asturian lunch, price giving, raffle and yet more beers, wine and sidra. Lambretta Club of Spain annual meeting also took place with interesting news for members, some of them I know you will love and enjoy very soon (agree, Andy?).

Then it was off to The Battle of the Bands as Sala Acapulco. After watching 4 great bands the winners were Gamonides, they will record a single at Circo Perrotti studios for free as well as getting the support slot at the allnighter on Saturday night. The heavens opened with torrential rain from early evening into the early hours of Sunday morning making an interesting evening on the terrace at the Oasis. Our headline band from La Coruna Fogbound with Fernando from the Elephant band on Hammond gave a great performance with strong originals and great covers like the Artwoods ‘In the Deep End’ which was appropriate for the Oasis swimming baths. The allnighter afterwards was frantic and really crazy ending gone past 8am with lots of people asking for more… not me.

My brains showed me white flag on the Sunday so no scooter action for me. Any fragile souls will have had their bones and brain shocked to the core when Graham Day & the Forefathers hit the stage ripping through over thirty years of Prisoners, Prime Movers, Solarflares and Gaolers material. The Catalan support Los Retrovisores played a mix of US and Spanish Soul and Pop with clever covers and great arrangements of the scene classics. The last allnighter was a blast again with a short break for Mr & Miss YeYe which are always chosen for their party antics over the last four days. Worthy winners were Raul from Andalucía and Amanda from Brazil. Champagne popped and crowns and banners fixed and it was time to party like it was the last one ever at the Oasis. Dr Robert was scheduled to finish at 6am and after about 5 encores with Esther Phillips ‘Just Say Goodbye’ and The Animals ‘It’s My Life’ the songs I can remember, the party was over for another year.

A fantastic restaurant was booked for everyone Monday to enjoy the local dishes and Sideria before their journey home.

Join us next year from 31 July to 3 August 2015 for EURO YEYE 21.

Pictures by: Eva Lussina Lopez Guisaraga
More photos and news at: www.euroyeye.es

Many thanks to all sponsors and all the artists, bands, djs and everybody involved in the organisation or simply everybody that made it to the yeye in these difficult times to create this unique atmosphere.


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drrobert

I run The New Untouchables organization and events like the Brighton Mod Weekender, Le Beat Bespoké Festival (and compilation series of the same name) and I co-organize Euro Ye Ye with the Trouble & Tea crew. I have run many clubs over the last 20 years in London, where I live and current nights include Timebox, Zoo Zoo, Crossfire, 100 Club and Mousetrap allnighter which has just celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011. I have been lucky to DJ all over the globe including Japan, Canada, USA and Europe and met some great people on my journey. I run RnB Records to offset my vinyl addiction: newuntouchables.com/rnbrecords for rare vintage vinyl.

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September 18, 2014 By : Category : Bands Clubs DJs Europe Events Front Page Music Reviews Scene Tags:, , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Masters – Graham Day

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Masters2

Graham Day, the Medway powerhouse singer, songwriter and guitarist, formed the Prisoners at school in the late 70s and made four albums, including the bona fide classic The Last Fourfathers in 1985, which continue to inspire and thrill today. After a cooling off period following the demise of the Prisoners he headed a succession of bands – the Prime Movers, Planet, the Solarflares, Graham Day & the Gaolers – all tough and uncompromising; his music – granite slabs of his own unmistakable brand of garage rock with tough melodies – eschewing the vagaries of fashion. After the second Graham Day & the Gaolers album, Triple Distilled in 2008, he hung up his guitar until last year when – with long-standing friends and bandmates Allan Crockford and Wolf Howard – he returned, to the delight of his legion of fans, to front Graham Day & the Forefathers, playing songs spanning the whole of his career to date.

What has the reaction been to Graham Day & the Forefathers? Is it what you expected?

It’s been fantastic and pretty unexpected I suppose. We never intended to make it a regular thing but the reaction has been so good we have decided to carry on for a while yet.

You made two great albums as Graham Day & the Gaolers and then disappeared. What happened? What were you doing the meantime?

For me the Gaolers were amazing. I’d sort of retired and had been playing bass with the Buff Medways. Billy [Childish] decided that had run its course and that was that, but my mate Dan from a band called the Woggles was over in England visiting some friends and we met up in London for a beer. He told me I should start a new band with him and the Woggles bass player. Sounded like a great idea so they flew back over a couple of months later and we made the first Gaolers album, Soundtrack To The Daily Grind. There were no real plans to tour as it was a bit of a logistical nightmare with them both being in the USA but it was so good we just had to. It sort of carried on from there. I thought our second album, Triple Distilled, was the best thing I’ve ever done and we did some great tours, but touring takes so much energy and time, and we could never do single gigs as it was too expensive to bring Dan over so we ended up not playing again. I’ve never said it was finished but it sort of fizzled out. What was I doing in the meantime? Retired again I suppose.

What made you get back out there playing again in 2013?

The Prime Movers did our first album, Sins Of The Fourfathers, on a German label, Unique Records. Last year was their 25th anniversary and they asked us to play a one-off show playing that album at their party near Dusseldorf. It sounded like a fun plan but too much effort to just play one gig, so we added three gigs and made it a mini-tour. It also wasn’t interesting or long enough just to play songs off that album so we added a few Solarflares and Prisoners songs to the set. It was so much fun and went down really well so we decided to carry on doing it. But by the end of the mini-tour we’d dropped most of the Prime Movers songs and were playing more Solarflares, Prisoners and a couple of Gaolers songs so it seemed ridiculous to call it the Prime Movers any more. So we came up with the Forefathers because of the Prisoners reference and stuck my name on the beginning just to tie up the fact we were playing songs I’d written in all the bands over the years.

The Prime Movers changed quite dramatically across three albums, most notably with Arc in 1993 which had a strong prog-rock feel. What are your thoughts on those albums?

I love the first album. It’s totally raw and full of energy. We recorded it as a three-piece but never gigged as a three-piece. Fay [Hallam/Day] used to join us on stage for half the set and then started writing songs and was soon with us full time. The band changed pretty quickly due to Fay’s influence. I have no idea what really happened to the sound, it turned into Deep Purple during the next two albums, and live I thought it was great, although pretty self-indulgent and very strange. I was quite happy to go along with it at the time because it was something different but looking back on it I don’t understand it at all. It sounds totally alien and often laughable, like a piss take. When people talk about the Prime Movers I’ve subconsciously deleted those last two albums – Earth Church and Arc – and think of it as nothing to do with me although I’m undoubtedly guilty as charged.

How do you feel about the esteem The Prisoners are held in?

It’s always puzzled me how much people go on about the Prisoners. At the time we did okay in London and France but elsewhere we were pretty unknown and played a lot of gigs to bar staff in mostly empty venues. I never thought of the band as being particularly special; everyone we knew was in a band and it seemed just the normal thing to do. I thought we were pretty good live but never managed to make a record which did us justice. It was the wrong time for our music; the popular thing was New Romantic and recording studio engineers tried to make us sound like the music of the time. We had constant frustrating battles trying to explain what we were about and never getting it. The press mostly hated us and said were out of date and just retro shit.

Have the Prisoners overshadowed your work since?

The adoration people have shown that band over the years astounds me. It’s very touching but has also been annoying at times. Most of the stuff I’ve done since has been fairly well received but totally overshadowed by the Prisoners. Every gig people shout for Prisoners songs and it made me feel like they just wanted a nostalgia trip and weren’t prepared to let me move on. Sometimes people get quite aggressive about it and think I owe them something. Promoters would ring up to offer a gig but they wanted a Prisoners reunion, not the current band. For a songwriter that can be quite damaging, as if my musical career ended at age 22 and has been worthless ever since. There’s no point carrying on unless you really think what you’re doing is the best stuff you’ve ever done and with a couple of exceptions I’ve always believed that. So it has been frustrating to think that no-one else agrees with you.

No chance of any more Prisoners reunions then?

There are still people who want the original Prisoners line-up to get back together, which will never happen again, and it still manages to piss me off. We did some reunion gigs in the 90s and although nostalgic it just wasn’t the same. People have to realise that Johnny [Symons] has never played the drums since so was never relaxed or particularly good when we played and James [Taylor] has made a career out of jazz funk and plays the organ totally differently than he used to; which might be brilliant but unfortunately doesn’t work too well with those songs. Promoters will pay ten times our normal fee to get something which simply doesn’t work, that doesn’t make any sense, and I find it quite insulting that they wouldn’t understand that. The best thing about the Forefathers is that finally I’ve been able to stop fighting against the Prisoners. This is not a new band playing new material; it’s just about embracing the past and enjoying it for what it is. For the first time I’ve been able to appreciate those old songs and have found it quite emotional. Of course we’re now giving the audience what they’ve always wanted so the gigs are no longer a battle and are just one big happy party.

Am I right in thinking you look back at the Solarflares period the most fondly?

I loved the Solarflares. I wrote some of my best songs during that period and also learnt how to sing properly. It started off being quite popular but support dwindled slowly until it wasn’t worth doing it any more. We did some great tours and I look back fondly because we had such a laugh and got on so well together. For the first time we made some records which sounded like the band and I learnt how to produce decent records. I wouldn’t say I look back most fondly at that period; at the time yes, but I’ve enjoyed most things I’ve done and as I said earlier I always believe the current stuff is the best. Following that logic I would have to say the Gaolers was the best period. The happiest period is right now I suppose but that doesn’t count as it’s just a tribute band of ourselves.

If the Solarflares had been your first band in the early 80s and the Prisoners later do you think they’d been judged differently?

Maybe it would be the exact reverse but I’m not sure. There was something really cool about the Prisoners, maybe because we were so young and because of the conflict between me and James which made it explosive at times. I think the Flares were more measured, happier and less cool as a result.

As well as fronting bands you’ve been in Thee Mighty Caesars and the Buff Medways. How was it taking a more back seat role to Billy Childish?

I started playing drums in the Mighty Caesars in 1986 while the Prisoners were still going and I loved it. I was getting pissed off with the Prisoners and loved the freedom to literally take a back seat and bash away on the drums in a cracking rock and roll band without the hassle of singing and feeling responsible for it. Some people got really angry that I did that. When we were gigging one night after the Prisoners split up someone from the audience grabbed me and shouted at me to stop playing this shit and get the Prisoners back together. I never played the drums before but loved it and still do. Same playing bass in the Buff Medways; I loved that for the same reasons. I’m not sure I would like playing guitar in someone else’s band, and definitely wouldn’t sing for anyone else, but on a different instrument it’s great fun.

In what ways are you similar and different to Billy?

Billy and I are very different. We used to live in the same house during the Prisoners days and we’ve always got on really well. He’s much more driven than me, always doing something; be it songs, painting or writing, I’m the opposite and only do something if I’m inclined to. He will record every song he’s ever written and I’m much more self-critical and will bin a lot of stuff before I even play it to anyone else. His life is in the public eye and is a living breathing ‘artiste’ and social commentator; I’m just a normal bloke with a proper job and nothing to say who happens to play in a band for a hobby.

What inspired you to learn to play guitar?

I started off playing bass, playing along to Stranglers and Rezillos songs in my bedroom. When me and Allan started a band in 1978 I found I was too fiddly on the bass and he was a good rhythm guitar player but couldn’t play lead, so we swapped. When I heard Syd Barrett playing guitar on The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn it blew my mind. I discovered how you could make a guitar sound so powerful without being ‘rock’ with loads of unnecessary notes, and it changed the way I viewed the instrument. Similarly with Steve Marriott’s guitar sound and playing, it made me question what a typical guitar player is expected to do.

And to write songs?

I found quite early on that I had some kind of ability to write songs. I suppose it starts off by being inspired by and developing or even copying other people. I’ve found over the years that if you try to do something completely original it’ll be total shit, which is why it’s never been done before. The Prisoners were quite plagiaristic, embarrassingly so at times. Sometimes I did that because I thought a song had a great chorus but rubbish verse or vice-versa and wanted to improve the song. “Midnight To Six Man” is a good example of what I mean. I always loved the song but hated the chorus so I wrote a different one and called it “Be On Your Way”. Generally songs have tended to come to me when I’m trying to sleep at night. I sort of dream about seeing us on stage playing the song and realise I haven’t written it yet. So I have to get up and whisper it into a tape recorder because I know it’ll be forgotten in the morning. If a song doesn’t come together in ten minutes I usually bin it. These days I find it funny to play some of those songs I wrote as an angst-ridden teenager, singing some of those angry misogynistic lyrics now aged 50.

Did you always see yourself as vocalist?

Vocally I struggled for a long time. I never thought of myself as a singer and all the people I loved I tried to emulate to disastrous effect. Phil May, Steve Marriott, all them great soul singers, I quickly realised I wasn’t ever going to be them and had to try to find my own voice. I think I found it sometime during the Solarflares period and I’m only really happy with it in recent years. Just listen to the vocals on Thewisermiserdemelza to hear one of the main reasons I hate that album.

You mentioned about some of the songs you wrote as a teenager. How old were you when you wrote your first album A Taste Of Pink? How do you feel listening back to them?

I think the earliest songs I wrote which made that album were “Say Your Prayers” and “Don’t Call My Name” and I was 16. I still like some of those songs; they have a beautiful naivety and simplicity which can never be recreated. I’ve always been very anal about music and  therefore consequently I’m very narrow-minded. I think that’s why on the whole I was still writing songs with 3 or 4 chords, a guitar riff and a simple melody, recording it in the most basic way possible right up until the last album.

Does song writing come easily now or does it involve a lot of concerted effort? What’s your usual writing method?

I still don’t understand how I write songs. As I said they just come to me. If I sit down with a guitar and say right, I’m going to write a song now, it’ll never happen. I’ve never been someone who always writes songs for fun and have only ever done it when I’m inspired to by having an album or a new band to energise me. I think I’m just essentially lazy. Having said that if we’re recording a new album I’ll probably write a batch of crap first, then the juices will flow and I can normally come up with the music really quickly. Lyrics are another matter completely and I hate writing them. I often used to gig a new song and make the words up as I go along and hope something sticks. The only real exception to that is the last Gaolers album. I had so much fun writing those lyrics as they’re all about touring and past experiences, and some of the best things I’ve written. I absolutely detest some of the shitty lyrics I’ve written in the past particularly about conservation or trying to say something meaningful.

Has the Forefathers got those juices flowing and given you the urge to write any new material?

Not yet. I do have some new stuff I wrote before which was for a possible new Gaolers album and I also started writing an instrumental album but with no real chance of the Gaolers playing again I gave up.

What made you choose “Love Me Lies” as the first single to be released by Graham Day and the Forefathers?

No real reason actually. We recorded the whole set of backing tracks live and when it came to choosing one for a single I just felt drawn to that song.

I assumed it was because you were unhappy with the original on Thewisermiserdemelza. I love that record but you’ve been very critical of it. Why?

Yes I hate Thewisermiserdemelza for lots of reasons. One is the real disappointment with the sound. We had Phil Chevron – rest his soul – as producer; it was the first time we’d had a producer and we had very different ideas about the album. Fair enough but it was our album so he should have listened to us. I’ve already said that at that time studio engineers would try to get you to sound modern and that’s the last thing we wanted. So from the outset we just fought against the engineer and producer. Some conflicts can result in a fiery, energetic battle which can get really good results. This one did the opposite. Secondly I hate the vocals. I just tried to put on some silly gruff voice which sounds completely false. Phil to his credit did try to get me to sing properly but I didn’t listen. It was my 20th birthday during the recording session and I was just pissed most of the time we were there. Lastly I just don’t like many of the songs on the album. I was clearly going through some kind of psychedelic ballad period and just don’t like it.

How has your taste in music changed/developed over the years? What do you listen to now that you wouldn’t have when you were starting out?

I don’t really listen to music that much as I know all my records inside out and I don’t like modern music. I’m cursed by the love of a certain type of recording sound and find it incredibly difficult to like anything if it doesn’t sound like that. I haven’t liked much music since the punk era; although the recording of punk music is really poor I guess I’ve forgiven it because that’s what I grew up with.

What three records have left the most lasting impression on you and why?

Piper At The Gates Of Dawn because Syd Barrett inspired my early guitar playing; The Pretty Things first album because it introduced me to blues, great singing and the ultimate sound of rock and roll; and the Kinks Kontroversy because it showed me how good songs can be.

If you had to pick three of your own albums to best represent your career which would they be and why?

The Last Fourfathers because it’s the best and most representative Prisoners album; That Was Then And So Is This by the Solarflares because we were at our peak then, touring and loving it; and Triple Distilled by the Gaolers because it’s the best album I’ve ever made.

Photos by: © Steve Worrall (www.retromanblog.com)


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Mark Raison

I've spent three-quarters of my life wandering the mod path with detours down its side streets and dark alleys. From an enthusiastic youth to a still-enthusiastic-but-harder-to-tell grizzled old goat, I've dabbled in all parts of the scene from writing fanzines 'Round Midnight and Something Has Hit Me; to promoting bands; attempting to manage bands; singing in the mighty garage combo The Electric Fayre; putting on indie, psych and soul clubs including Freak Scene, Orange Sunshine, and Shake!; writing liner notes for Reg King releases on Circle Records; and, in fitter times, tucking away the odd goal for the New Untouchables. I still DJ from my box of R&B humdingers but more often you’ll find me tapping away on my blog at monkeypicks.co.uk. I like the poetry of Charles Bukowski and dislike the taste of cheese.

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July 8, 2014 By : Category : Bands Front Page Interviews Music News Tags:, , , , , , , , , ,
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