Interview with Luke Branch of Asylums

Asylums
Asylums Photo: Kana Waiwaiku

Asylums are one of the most exciting live bands I’ve seen for a long time.  They are fast, furious, wild, wacky and above all… have a set of great pop songs. Think Weezer and The Lemonheads with the madcap antics of The Monkees TV show.  If you’re lucky enough to still have a favourite local record shop, you’ll find their music somewhere in amidst the bubblegum punk pop category.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZA2FVbBIik

Asylums hail from Southend-on-sea, a seaside resort on the Essex coast. To date they have released four well received 7″ singles on their own Cool Thing label; and with praise from radio and music press, plus support slots to the likes of Killing Joke, Reverend & The Makers, The Enemy and Ash, the Asylums fan base is gathering pace.

Asylums are: Luke Branch (guitar & vocals), Jazz Miell (guitar), Henry Tyler (drums), Michael Webster (bass)

Between time in the studio and a well earned holiday in the sun, Buzzin Music threw some questions at Luke Branch.

Luke Branch of Asylums Photo: Kana Waiwaiku
Luke Branch of Asylums Photo: Kana Waiwaiku

Asylums are receiving some great media support from the likes of NME, Louder Than Bombs, Buzzin Music, and radio DJs Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens, Steve Lamacq, Tom Robinson, Gary Crowley & Dave Rowntree.  How does that make you feel?

Luke: Supremely grateful, there’s a lot of music out there.

And what do you think of Dave Rowntree quote: ‘’Blur, if they’d grown up disgruntled, and in Seattle and signed to Sub Pop”?

Luke: I think it sums up our sound pretty well. Dave is a wonderful champion of new music and a hero to us all.

The latest single ‘Joy in a Small Wage’ made the Radio 1 Playlist. Pretty impressive.  Especially as you have so far put the singles out on your own ‘Cool Thing’ label.  Was setting up the label something you planned from the start?

Luke: I’d say we started planning it after our first Asylums recording session.  It went so well that we wanted to try and do unique things with marketing, promotion and visuals to help the music along.

It was amazing to be put on the Radio 1 Introducing playlist after 10 months of graft.  It would never happened without the support of BBC Introducing Essex an the support the previous 3 singles had built across the rest of the BBC Radio 1 and Radio 6 team’s.

Some of your songs are very catchy and have an air of familiarity about them.  In particular, ‘Joy in a Small Wage’.  It’s less frantic than the previous singles and very daytime radio friendly.  Was there a conscious decision to release this single for those reasons?

Luke: We just put out the music that we really like.  There’s no point trying to predict who will dig it or play it. We really liked the message in that song and after three punk rock bangers it’s seemed exciting to show a different side. I’m glad we did it.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdETnxggDuE

It seems to me that, given there are only a few major labels in the whole world now, the music industry has turned from big business to bigger business.  Do you think this monopoly has led to the music industry becoming less prone to taking risks signing new unestablished  bands?

Luke: Absolutely, and I can see it from their point of view too….it’s a tough market to industrialise talent in. I have felt for some time that we are moving towards a cottage industry era for most new bands, by that I mean small teams of friends working hard to make a band’s profile grow steadily and doing it all on a realistic budget.

If Asylums were to follow in the footsteps of the Beastie Boys and make a video where each member were played by famous people (‘Make Some Noise’); given that Jazz would be played by Stephen Merchant, who would best play the rest of the band?

Luke: Mike would be played by Ted Danson, Henry by Sesame Street’s Big Bird and me by The Simpsons Sideshow Bob.

I’ve only been to Southend-on-sea once.  It reminded me of my childhood seaside holidays to Margate in Kent.  Lots of amusements, bags of candyfloss and groups of women in ‘kiss me quick’ hats.  What’s it really like to live in a seaside town like Southend?

Luke: Like every town it has a mainstream current and an underground one, my Southend includes South Records, Utopia Café, Rossi’s, Southend College, The Beecroft Gallery, Old Leigh, The Railway, The Market Place, Chinnerys, Henry Burger……these places and many more are the beating heart of the real Southend arts Scene. I don’t often visit the arcades or feed the Seagulls.

I was bowled over by the energy and excitement you whipped up in your afternoon performance at the recent Camden Rocks festival; and you’re returning to Camden in September to play Koko. Bigger venue, bigger audience?

Luke: Thank you, we enjoyed Camden Rocks very much…unfortunately in the aftermath we were involved in our heaviest nights drinking of 2015 and lost a guitar!

Over the next few months we will playing quite a few huge London shows, Koko, The Roundhouse (with Killing Joke), The Forum (with The Enemy), Shepherd’s Bush Empire (with Ash) and quite honestly it’s all a dream come true. We love playing live so much and can’t wait to turn on some new fans to the music.

You’ve released 4 singles in the 12 months What’s the next 12 months plans for Asylums?

Luke: We are planning lots of exciting new single releases, videos, artwork, tours and a debut album. There are also new bands for Cool Thing to launch too. It’s going to be a lot of work but a lot of fun.

If Asylums were to star in Back To The Future, and be transported back in time, what cover version would you choose to perform as your own?

Luke: ‘I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times’ by The Beach Boys

Asylums are set for a busy end to 2015.  If you like the singles, and get the chance, go see them live.  They will quite possibly blow your mind.

Asylums 2015 Autumn / Winter UK Dates
Asylums 2015 Autumn / Winter UK Dates

Buzzin interview – Feldberg talk to Buzzin Music

Feldberg
Feldberg

As volcanic ash from Iceland once again causes disruption to UK airports Buzzin Media interviewed the newest addition to Iceland’s enviable canon of internationally acclaimed music artists.

Feldberg are a duo from Iceland consisting of singer Rósa Birgitta Ísfeld and multi-instrumentalist Einar Tönsberg (better known as Eberg). They were formed in 2008 when songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Einar returned to Iceland from London looking for a female vocalist to record Running Around, a song he had written for an Icelandic advert.

Feldberg make sumptuous dreamy electro acoustic folk-edged pop music.  This year their debut album, Don’t Be A Stranger finally received a UK release via  Smalltown America.  The album was preceded by two singles, Don’t Be a Stranger and Dreamin’.

Feldberg make sumptuous dreamy electro acoustic folk-edged pop music
Feldberg make sumptuous dreamy electro acoustic folk-edged pop music

Do you come from Reykjavík?  What is the rest of Iceland like compared to Reykjavík?

Einar: We live by the sea and all the cute houses look the same here with these multi-colored iron rooftops. Iceland is more or less the size of England but with less population then Brighton. Two third of the population is around Reykjavik, so the rest is pretty peaceful.  Just tweny minutes outside of Reykjavík you are already in lava land where moss covered lava is everywhere to be found.  The centre is amazing, a sordow no mans land and unaccessible unless by 4×4.

How did you first meet & start working together?

Rósa:
Well Einar called me up because he was working on a sync and apparently no less than three people recommended he should call me.  He had a nice voice and seemed stressed so I just popped right over to his studio and never left.

You played as a three-piece in a recent gig at The Lexington in London but you have previously played with a full band.  What do you prefer and why do you not always use the same group live?

Einar:
Usually the budget controls how many people we can bring over.  The group really is us two so if we are doing radio or instore we just play the two of us, but we love having the whole band, it´s just more dynamic.

Feldberg - Rósa Birgitta Ísfeld & Einar Tönsberg
Feldberg - Rósa Birgitta Ísfeld & Einar Tönsberg

Do you share the same inspirations?

Rósa: Sometimes we do and sometimes we don´t.  Einar works alot with music so he likes going home and enjoys the silence or turns on the radio (BBC 4 kind of radio).  I on the other hand am a DJ, so I am always listening to different stuff.

What inspired you to form Feldberg (music and otherwise)?

Einar: It just kind of happened. We decided meet up every Tuesday night and before we knew we had enough songs to make an album. We never really planned anything, it just came along naturally.

Do you have a set way of writing new songs?

Rósa: Usually Einar has a backing track and some vocal idea ready when I come in, then I babble some nonsense over and before we know we have the melody in place and we keep on going from there.  At other times we just jam it on a piano or the guitar and just have fun.

Why has it taken two years to officially release your debut album, Don’t Be A Stranger, in the UK?

Einar: Once you have an album ready in Iceland you just press print and the album is in the shops a couple of weeks later. Then all the work with marketing, radio and singles starts. It´s kind of the other way in the UK.  Here you do the work with marketing and so on beforehand. Smalltown America found our CD and decided to release it in the UK.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYecHA59A50

Read the Feldberg – Don’t Be A Stranger album review.

For more information visit:
www.myspace.com/feldbergmusic
www.facebook.com/feldbergmusic

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J Mascis releases first ever solo album supported by European tour

J Mascis
J Mascis

Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis, one of the pioneers of grunge rock music is about to introduce another side to his unlimited talents when he releases his first ever solo album Several Shades of Why on March 14th. The album is preceded by the release of the single Not Enough on February 28th.

The album marks a departure from the fuzzy electric guitars that have been Mascis trademark since those early days with Dinosaur Jr. and is instead an acoustic collection of some incredible beauty.

Recorded at Amherst Massachusetts’ Bisquiteen Studios, the album was created with the help of a few friends. Notable amongst them are Kurt Vile, Sophie Trudeau (A Silver Mount Zion), Kurt Fedora (long-time collaborator), Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene), Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), Matt Valentine (The Golden Road), and Suzanne Thorpe (Wounded Knees).

Together in small mutable groupings, they conjure up classic sounds ranging from English-tinged folk to drifty, West Coast-style singer/songwriterism. But every track, every note even, bears that distinct Mascis watermark.

Mascics comments;

“Megan from Sub Pop has wanted me to do this record for a long time, she was very into it when I was playing solo a lot in the early 2000s, around the time of the Fog album [2002’s Free So Free].  She always wanted to know when I’d do a solo record. Several Shades of Why came out of that. There are a couple of songs that are older, but the rest is new this year. And it’s basically all acoustic. There’s some fuzz, but it’s acoustic through fuzz. There’re no drums on it, either. Just one tambourine song, that’s it. It was a specific decision to not have drums. Usually I like to have them, but going drum-less pushes everything in a new direction, and makes it easier to keep things sounding different.”

In celebration of the release, a free download of  wonderful album track ‘Is It Done’ has been made available, downloadable direct from Sub Pop.

In this amusing video interview Mascis gives an insight into the new album as well as a quick look around his studio.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLebfV0n6Ak

Playing European shows in support of his forthcoming album Several Shades of Why, Mascis will arrive in London on April 14th for an intimate performance at London’s Cargo. The full European dates are:

13th – Dublin, Whelans

14th – London, Cargo

16th – Paris, Point Ephemere

17th – Milan, Bloom

18th – Rome, Circolo degli Artisti

20th – Antwerp, Trix

21st – Amsterdam, Sugar Factory

22nd – Madrid, Moby Dick

23rd – Barcelona, La (2)

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Interview with Marco Pirroni & Chris Constantinou – The Wolfmen

Marco Pirroni & Chris Constantinou - The Wolfmen
Marco Pirroni & Chris Constantinou – The Wolfmen

Marco Pirroni and Chris Constantinou formed The Wolfmen in 2005. Marco’s first live performance was at the 100 club Punk Festival in September 1976 playing guitar with Siouxsie & The Banshees. He also played guitar in Rema Rema and enjoyed great commercial success as guitarist / songwriting with Adam & The Ants.  While Chris Constantinou (bass & lead vocals) formed Jackieonassid after working as a bass player with Adam Ant and Annabella Lwin (Bow Wow Wow).

The Wolfmen’s first projects were soundtracks for Bravo TV’s ‘I Predict A Riot’ and for two hitherto-silent early 1990 fetish films for the ICA/MoMI’s inaugural Fashion In Film Festival.

Early Wolfmen records were released through Damaged Goods. These include a mixture of limited edition EPs and vinyl singles, all of which sold out and gained praise and radio airplay from Jonathan Ross (BBC Radio 2), Mark Lamarr (BBC Radio 2) and Phil Jupitus (BBC 6Music).

The Wolfmen have also worked with several other artists including Lou Reed, Sinead O’Connor and worked with Primal Scream on a cover version of Screaming Jay HawkinsI Put A Spell On You’ for an Alexander McQueen catwalk show.

The band’s debut album, ‘Modernity Killed Every Night’ was released in 2008 and a second album will be released next Spring.

Buzzin Music recently spent time with Chris Constantinou and Marco Pirroni asking about the past, present and future.

Buzzin Music: Chris, did you first meet Marco Pirroni working together on Adam Ant’s solo material?

Chris Constantinou: Yes – I was signed to RCA records with my band, Drill who Chas Chandler (of The Animals, a former manager of Jim Hendrix & Slade) was producing and managing and it had come to an end.  I saw an advert In the NME ‘bass player wanted – must be able to stand and deliver’ Claire Russell from RCA records (who later managed me and Annabella Lwin when we signed to S2 records ) said they had been through loads of bass players and were sick of auditioning people but she managed to blag me an audition I turned up and It was just Adam and Marco at Nomis Studios sitting behind a raised bench In a rehearsal room with an amp and a chair In the middle.

Adam asked loads of stupid questions and I had to fill in a questionnaire – did I drink, do drugs, have any criminal convictions, did I like kinky sex…that sort of thing.  Marco was just scribbling on a bit of paper like he was taking notes but I later found out he was just drawing some silly shit. It was an audition to take over for Gary Tibbs In Adam and the Ants.  I forgot about it and then a few months later the phone rang and it was Adam.  He apologised for the delay in calling and asked if I would like to go on a world tour with him. He said he was going solo & would I be ok with changing my name to Chris De Niro (Adam thought I looked a bit like De Niro in the film Taxi Driver).   I toured with him for 4 years or so – doing all the television performances and videos and then we made the Vive Le Rock album with Tony Visconti.  It was fun for a while.

Buzzin Music: How did The Wolfmen form?

Chris Constantinou: I had a band called Jackieonassid in which I was singing and playing bass guitar and was trying to find a guitarist who could play like Marco. We had a session booked at a studio in North London with Harvey Birrell and I asked Marco to come play guitar on the tracks.  We got talking and he said he wanted to put an album together for his label and so we decided to join up and do an album together.  That’s how The Wolfmen started off and the first album ‘Modernity Killed Every Night‘ came about.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7Pcmts_23U

Buzzin Music: The latest single, ‘Marilyn Monroe’ comes with a “JFK” mix.  This follows a previous single “Jackie, Is It My Birthday” & ep track, “Jackie Says”.  Is there a JFK thread going on here?

Chris Constantinou: Not JFK exactly, no.  Strangely enough I was in a band called Friends of Jack with Bob ‘ the count’ drummer on Vive Le Rock – then I wrote this song called ‘Posing As An Angel‘ while in Jackieonassid, which later became ‘Jackie Is It My Birthday? ‘ featuring Sinead O’Connor.  Then some of the Jackieonassid songs ‘Andy Warhol‘,  ‘Plastic Charm‘, ‘Jackie Says’ and others have a ‘Jackie’ in them. I don’t know … maybe I just need therapy to find the answer to that.

Buzzin Music: Am I right thinking Marco Pirroni & yourself worked with Ari Up on the recent Revenge of the Killer Slits album?  Were you aware she was ill or did her death come as much of a surprise to you, as it did to me?

Chris Constantinou: Yes we did that at Edwyn Collins studio. Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols was on drums, me on bass, Marco on guitar and Ari Up on vocals.  I then did more work on the tracks at Marco’s, post production and mixing.  Actually I’ve never even heard the finished mastered EP because no one gave me a copy!  I’ll go download it on ITunes later if I can.  Ari Up was a real live wire.  An amazing character, running around the studio vibing herself up for the takes.  Really, really great performances.  I was impressed, and a decent person too.  No, I wasn’t aware she was ill so it was a shock to me.

Buzzin Music: The second Wolfmen album is due out in early 2011.  Will there be a UK tour supporting the album release?

Chris Constantinou: Yes, The Wolfmen will tour.  It’s about time.  The album is called  ‘Married to the Eiffel Tower ‘. Steve Musters produced the album and Courtney Taylor-Taylor from The Dandy Warhols and Jacob Portrait handled post production and mixing . It’s out in May 2011.

Buzzin Media: You’ve also recently written with other artists, most notably Lou Reed, are you currently working on other projects apart from The Wolfmen?

Chris Constantinou: Yes we’ve written some tracks with Sinead O’Connor for her new album and she sang with me on our single ‘Jackie Is It My Birthday‘.  We’ve also co-written some tracks with another artist that Sinead’s manager looks after called Rosie Vanier who’s great and  and produced an album with Indian pop star Daler Mehndi which is a crossover album of new wave and bangra. Daler sent us his vocal files and we wrote and played Wolfmen type songs.  Somehow it worked.  Stephen Pooch made a documentary when Daler came over for a few days.  It’s on YouTube.

We also wrote and produced three tracks with Namgyal Lhamo.  We’ve also been working with some young, developing artists who are really good that Sony-ATV our publishers have introduced us to; and we’ve also written music for films, adverts and tv stuff which has been a bit of fun.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wolEvPP5QYY

Buzzin Music: Can you name one contemporary artist that you would like to work with & why?

Chris Constantinou: Cheryl Cole.  We could write and produce a real sleazy VU (Velvet Underground) type track for her to sing on.  She would have to write the lyrics and melody herself and we would insist on no auto tune. It would be funny to hear her say ‘you wolfmen absolutely smashed It’  or ‘you wolfmen are right cheeky chappies’ Seriously though, I’m not sure which current artists I’d to work with.

Buzzin Music: Marco, the first thing I know you were involved with is playing guitar for Siouxsie & the Banshees at the 100 club gig in September 1976 supporting the Sex Pistols.  How did you hook up with The Banshees, was it always going to be just one gig, and was performing 20-odd minutes of the Lord’s Prayer as awful as it sounds?

Marco Pirroni: We just hung around the same set of people in the Kings Road, our paths were bound to cross and no it was never meant to be more than one gig and; as far as it being awful, I’ve never heard it since but I remember it
sounding great!

Buzzin Music: Was there ever talk of becoming a permanent member of Siouxsie & the Banshees?  Was it something you would have liked to been involved in?

Marco Pirroni: They never asked me but I don’t think I would have done it anyway.

Buzzin Music: Of all the bands you have been involved with, Rema Rema is probably the least known or spoken of.  But members went on to form three bands (if you include you forming the new Ants with Adam, along with Wolfgang Press & Renegade Soundwave).  What was it like at the time and how do view the Rema Rema songs now?

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWGPcA0eIY8

Marco Pirroni: I can’t really remember what it was we were trying to do now.
I think we thought we were very clever and groundbreaking and in some respects we were.  But I haven’t heard that stuff for years.  As soon as I have finished something I don’t tend to ever listen to It again.

Buzzin Music: Were you surprised when you heard what the other members of Rema Rema went on to do & do you still stay In touch with them?

Marco Pirroni: I saw them all a few months ago and its bizarre because nobody’s really changed that much.

Buzzin Music: Gary Asquith (singer with Rema Rema & Renegade Soundwave) once told me he felt Rema Rema could have gone on to bigger things if it wasn’t for Adam Ant ‘headhunting’ you to join Adam & the Ants. Do you feel the same?

Marco Pirroni: I can’t see what they ever could have done with or without me; and Adam didn’t headhunt me I was already out of Rema Rema when he called me.

Buzzin Music: How did you get to know Adam Ant & how did you feel when he asked you to join him in a new Ants line-up?

Marco Pirroni: I knew him through Andy Warren who was in the Ants at the time and I was very interested with working with Adam, especially as he said it was a whole new project.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtxuPqjSJDc

Buzzin Music: How did that song writing partnership work with Adam Ant?

Marco Pirroni: Like a very classic writing partnership.  Two guys with guitars in a room swapping ideas.  A bit like Father Ted when they are trying to write ‘My Lovely Horse’.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzYzVMcgWhg

Buzzin Music: From outside looking in, it looked very much like everything to do with the Adam & the Ants look, sound & direction was completely controlled by Adam, is this true?

Marco Pirroni: Not really.  Musically it was Adam, (Chris) Hughes and myself.  Directionally it was both of us.

Buzzin Music: How did you feel when Adam decided to go solo but still wanted you to write the songs with him?

Marco Pirroni: I was very happy.  I wasn’t interested in performing anymore so it was a perfect situation for me. I really don’t like being in a band.  But a working partnership with one or two other people suits me fine.

The Wolfmen’s  second album ‘Married to the Eiffel Tower’ is scheduled for release in May 2011 and will include their current single, Marilyn Monroe and the 2009 single with Sinead O’Connor,  ‘Jackie, is it my Birthday? ‘.

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