Writing by Neil Kulkarni

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

"if you need crack, just go wait by a bus stop"

Foo Fighters interview, 1996, in Seattle with Steve Gullick, good trip, nice guys, could be wrong but I fink it was m'first front cover and it looked like this. Wish Pat Smear did interviews. He was too busy eating an entire gigantic bowl he'd filled with squirty cream dusted with m&ms. 

Foo Fighters are back with a new single, 'Big Me', and a fresh determination to not let adulation force them into a Nirvana-type corner. Melody Maker goes to Seattle to meet the most approachable guys in rock.

Thirty Thousand feet in the air on beer number six and this is hard work. Trawling through the Foo Fighters' press thus far breaks the mind with the depressing realization of just how many short-sighted whisky-pickled sentimental old farts there are in this job. It ain't the embarrassing cliches about Kurt Cobain ("The golden-haired blue-eyed boy with a guitar and a gun in his mouth," as one mag tastefully puts it), it's that the tone is so retrospective and mawkish.
  One mag, obviously unable to furnish us with grisly autopsy pics, gives us a review of a Foos gig by Kurt Cobain's imagined ghost. I AM NOT KIDDING. And the fundamental error is two fold: one, that Dave Grohl's personal experience is somehow a shared public one (thus cheapening both his and yours); and secondly that Foo Fighters only gained resonance from the recent past.
Only one piece looked back to look forward, and had the right to, and that was Everett True's brilliant Barcelona piece. 
  And if that was about trying to look forward, well I'm sorry, I HAVE NOWHERE ELSE TO GO. So gather round while I break it down and unravel my pedigree. Nirvana never meant shit to me. Distant as The Smiths, Roses, just another great shite hope. Never owned "Nevermind" or danced or sang or cried to any of it. Heard the news, wondered how everyone else was gonna take it.
  The Foo Fighters mean something to me NOW. In a world in which good rock'n'roll is becoming a contradiction in terms, the Foo's debut LP still fucking tears my head off, still rips through my doubts (how do I fit this essentially simple retro music in with the rest?) like a firestorm, still MAKES THIS MOMENT MORE, and that's all that matters.
  The Foos are pure alchemy; the constituent parts conventional, even uninspiring (bass/guitar/drums/power/snore), but the whole hits with a blast to the head that's anything but retro. It's less to do with craft or honesty, more to do with visceral effect; less about exorcism and looking back than thinking about the coming summer streaming through the window, the sun bum-rushing your fuzzy head as you stretch awake, throw open the staybrites and noise-bomb the neighbourhood.
  Foo Fighters should be welded to your deck next to the new Tribe Called Quest, Afghan Whigs, SWV, Prodigy and a million others. Why? Cos they all sound fucking ace, that's why. You can have futurism and still be swept away. Cos the Foos make you feel like painting the town gold and fucking it ragged, OK? Cos those were the days, and these are THE days, right? Good. Touchdown.

"If you want heroin, go that way. Speed, amphs, barbs? Go east from here. If you need acid, go anywhere. If you want yer dick sucked by a six-foot docker in a dress, head down past First. If you like to watch, go to the club where it says '49 Beautiful Women And Two Ugly Ones' and my friend Heather will have sex with another woman while you sit in a booth and jerk off. Oh, yeah, and if you need crack, just go wait by a bus stop."
  Will Goldsmith (drums) is giving me a rough guide to the bright lights of Seattle from our sectioned-off section of the bar where we're doing the interview. He's a drinker, is Will, eyes twinkling from behind his Jagermeisters. And he's a looker, boys and girls, make no mistake; out of all the Foos (and who would object to starring in a Rock Band Daisychain video with these guys?) he should be the one you wanna fuck the most, especially as he sounds like he'd be well up for it after a few babychams.
  "Did you ever fuck Heather?" asks Dave Grohl (guitars, you know).
  "Nahh, I sucked off her boyfriend, though".
  "Well, I half did. It was kind of a joke," offers Will, apologetically.
  "What, like, 'Hey, I got a real good joke for ya! [simulates choking fellatio]. Hey d'ya get it? Am I funny or what?!' Or like, 'Hey, I got an even better one for you, but for this one you have to fuck me up the ass! [starts riding a cockhorse in his chair]. Hey d'ya geddit?! Jeez, this is funny, huh?! Yer killing me!' Was it like that, Will! Was it, was it??"
  Pat (Smear, guitarist) is laughing. Pat doesn't do interviews (he should have that printed on a T-shirt). Pat is a fucking sweetheart, who this weekend is gonna go cheer on Tyson as he slays some old pantomime failure in three. He says if Tyson loses he's gonna cry all the way back from Vegas. Pat could charm the foundation garments off a whole order of long-dried sisters.
  "Hey, Will, tell us that OJ joke you made up today," he says.
  "OK. Knock, knock."
  "Who's there?"
  "OJ who?"

Dave Grohl is smiling. He seems to always be smiling, or laughing, his pigtails jiggling. He, along with the rest of the Foos (including Nate Mendel, bassist) endures the rigours of Foos business with an enthusiasm that belies the enormous success of the band (1.9 million sales in the US alone). His behaviour as frontman for one of the biggest breaking bands on the planet is admirably naive, endearingly unconcerned. It's as if the garage he started making noise in as a teenager has just got bigger and bigger.
  "It's hard, though, man," jokes Dave. "I've got this leash around my neck constantly dragging me back to reality, and one of these days it's gonna snap. And then I'll start wearing dark glasses a lot more and put down a deposit on the Perspex bodyball."
  "It's already snapped," whispers Will into my tape recorder mic.
  But it must be tough, c'mon all those people after you all the time. How long before, intoxicated by success, you just become this big blue-veined arrogant rock star dick?
  "But it's FLATTERING, and it should be considered flattering," says Grohl. "I think it's sweet when people come up and say, 'You're in a good band.' It's nice. How could it be anything else?"
  "I've never taken compliments well," says Will. "You just sorta think, 'Well, I don't necessarily agree.' It's this weird Catholic guilt thing, where you think if you take a compliment something bad is gonna happen to you. So you appreciate it but take it with a grain of salt."
  "OK, then. I love you, baby," says Dave.
  "Hey, this is just me," volleys Will. "I was only able to masturbate and not to worry about it about a year ago."
  "I think maybe once it becomes a burden," adds Dave, "once you consider it a burden, like, 'Godammit, someone else just came up to me and told me they think I'm good,' then it's time to wear shades and check into the clinic".
  And you can't envisage that happening?
  "No, I can't. Not me," he says, emphatically.
  But Dave, can you see a point where the public will be able to see you as equally or even less important than the other members of the band? Some still see you as The Dave Grohl Experience.
  "See, you guys made it like that," he says, and he's probably right. "You should have seen all our backgrounds before you saw THIS. Having seen where Nate and William and Pat came from, having seen where Pat came from, definitely - he should be the leader of the group. I just don't understand why once you put someone in front of the microphone he immediately becomes the leader of the band. I just don't subscribe to that."
  Yowsa! Democracy in action!!
  "Y'know, Jim Morrison was just some stoner poet on Venice beach writing like..." Will switches to an uncanny Lizard King drawl: "THE CHICKENS ARE FLAMING UP THE BUTT OF A HORSE, OHHHMMMM."
  "Yeah, exactly," says Dave. "He meets Ray Manzarek and it becomes a band with him as leader. Take away the music and it becomes just this bong-babble. Fuck all that I'm the Leader Of The Band bullshit."
  But it may be a position you wind up being forced into. I saw you in Wolverhampton last year and kids were fainting, screaming, looking up at you. Don't you feel a certain responsibility to be "messianic"? It's expected of you, man.
  "No, I just think they think we're real handsome," deadpans Dave. "Kids fainting, screaming, it's more of a Beatlemania thing than looking up to us as role models or elder brothers. It's just...we're a good-looking band."
  "It's not like we go out and urinate in people's mouths," says Will, apropos of nothing.
  "That's true," says Dave. "I can vouch for that. No, I never think about that hero thing at all, or even entertain the remotest possibility that some kid might look up to us in any way whatsoever."
  But they do, obviously.
  "Yeah, but," he sighs, "I dunno. I might've had two heroes in my entire life. One was Jim Craig. He was the goalie of the USA hockey team when they beat the Russians in, like, 1980. He was like America's hero, I thought he was the coolest guy. He was just, like, ugly, short, fat, straight outta nowhere. He was the one, and that was it, really."
  You said two.
  "Oh yeah, and Barbara Streisand.
  "When I was young I thought the people in rock bands were just weird. I mean, how could you possibly look up to Kiss?! How could you possibly depend on Kiss for motivation and goals?!!!"

The bar speakers suddenly burst out with Smashing Pumpkins. You're reminded that rock musicians are, as a rule, full-on stupid egotistical wankers and you mark Grohl and the Foos down as an interesting exception. Maybe even truly special. Especially when you consider the rest of whitepop America '96.
Dog's Eye View. Spacehog. The Nixons. Everclear. Bush. Silverchair. Never heard of them? Well, I have. Consider yourself lucky.
Honestly, people, it's grim over here. The most popular video on MTV right now is President Of The United States Of America's "Peaches", a song so transcendentally irritating Shed 7 start sounding like a viable alternative. When the monotony of the grunge-lite that follows me around Seattle is broken by the odd snatch of Busta Rhymes or Coolio, I breakdance round the room in sheer relief. In a record shop, drooling over a thousand hip hop LPs I can't afford, I hear Hootie & The Blowfish. For the first time I stagger out feeling used, cheap, unclean.
The US music scene is swamped by a million bands like Hootie: chirpy, singer-songwriter lyrics that make James Taylor sound like Method Man, ghastly, grunge-lite that the Spin Doctors would have dismissed as too weedily formulaic. Alanis Morrisette's dippy act sounds fresh in this sewer. A few years ago the year that punk rock broke, things seemed so promising. What went wrong, guys?
  "It's kinda strange," begins Will. "I've noticed that a lot of popular music now that's called alternative isn't that much different from the way popular music was a long time ago before more guitar-driven bands started getting popular. It's like 1985 revisited."
  Glen Frey, Foreigner, Huey Lewis, Hooters...
  "Yeah, but now they're wearing Beenies and have a distortion pedal. They're all session men... Jeez, it's weird for the first time in years I look at the music scene and realize once again that I despise most of the bands I see," says Will, staring sadly at his drink.
  Grohl's got the whole sorry situation worked out.
  "If you look at the bands that are really popular in America now you've got Bush and you've got Silverchair. Why are these bands popular? I'll tell you: Bush sound an awful lot like Nirvana used to. Now Nirvana aren't really around any more, but hey!! This band sound like Nirvana and they tour!!! So you can go see 'em live and relive the Nirvana glory days!!!
  "Silverchair sound a hell of a lot like Pearl Jam. And whereas Pearl Jam don't tour, you can go see Silverchair live right now !!! It's like, I missed out on the Beatles but I went to see 'Beatlemania' and it was cool. The bands you mention are for a whole bunch of people who feel like they've missed out for some reason. Also, never forget, America is a big country. There's a hell of a lot of space between Frisco and New York and it's mainly full of people who'd rather go to a frat dance and hear Hootie & The Blowfish, than go to a local bar and check out Built To Spill. I think it's a fraternity conspiracy myself, with possible CIA assistance."

If that's the case, then the next wave of bands are gonna be even more lamentable. David Stubbs was right to describe America's mainstream music scene as worthless compared to Britain's fairly lively one. The only thing he got wrong was his assessment of black music. That's more feverishly inventive than ever.
  But turn the spotlight on white rock and the picture looks massively grim. Oh, sure the underground rumbles on, throwing up fresh delights every other week: Chavez, June Of 44, Rex, Bedhead, Run On, Ui, Tortoise, Trans Am, Jessamine, Built To Spill, Shudder To Think, Drain - don't get me started.
  However, in terms of people making populist rock, it's even worse than it was in those barren pre-grunge years, except now grunge's pathetic final flails are occupying the centre ground the Seattle explosion once destroyed. It's bands like The Presidents from sea to shining sea, too many bald heads and stupid shorts, too many lazily kick-ass lame-brain mediocrities.
  The only exception are... Fuck!! The Foo Fighters ARE the only exception. The only band where you can't hear camera-gurns and over-exposed videos, the only ones not saturated with sideburns and sweat and bad beards and incoherence and kookiness and childish slacked-out emotional paralysis and too much snappily dressed self-indulgence and bad bad bad footwear and all those other things that spread like a virus from the MTV cathode nipple to infect the whole sick self-satisfied scene that's masturbating itself down a black hole into decay. The Foos are THE ONLY ONES WHO ARE FUN, y'dig?
  At least, that's how it feels.
  Cos the Foo Fighters are far from the '92 throwback image you may have formed of them. In fact, they're almost out on their own in rockist hell in creating glorious, loud, unashamed POP music. Not award-grabbing, desperate-to-be-liked pop music, but big, shiny, 10-foot hooks and stupidly cool POP MUSIC. As heard on the Foos' spanking new single, "Big Me".
  "Totally," agrees Dave. "In England you have a better attitude towards pop than we do over here. I love that Oasis song, I love songs that make you wanna jump around, have a good time for three and a half minutes. Eight-minute songs drenched in feedback are cool too, but I just can't write them. I wanna write a song as good as that Supergrass thing, 'Alright', that's a fucking great pop song."
  Heresy! Heresy! Hooray! Hooray!!
  "Well, I've always walked a fine line between writing songs to express myself and justwanting to entertain people. I think I lean towards the latter."
  People wanted the debut to be this kinda huge exorcism/catharsis LP but it wound up recalling that Kristin Hersh quote where she reminded a particularly intense interviewer that hers was mean to be music you dance to, y'know?'
  "Well, why would anyone wanna listen to me going, 'Wah-wah-wah, my problems, mememememeME, la, la, la.'?"
  "That's what my old band used to play," says Will to much laughter.
  Some might say it's what YOUR band used to play as well, Dave.
  "Yeah, but y'know, I'd rather see a band who looked like they were having a great time than just an evening out with their therapist. A night with the Foo Fighters should be a great night out, not this horrible confessional. This is POP MUSIC, like you said, and I don't want it to be any more than that."
If I had no inhibitions, I'd kiss them. (The Foos are a very tactile band, pussycats the lot of 'em). Because at last we have a US band confident enough to be modest and likeable enough to never call themselves "artists".
  "We're just another band," Says Dave, then suddenly, as if it's just hit him: "THAT'S WHAT I DON'T UNDERSTAND!!! I just don't understand how anyone could consider their band anything other than just a band, for God's sake. I mean. there are a few exceptions, but for the most part I could never understand howsomeone's ego could just get blown sky-high by something as silly as playing music. I mean, it can be a serious outlet for some people but I just don't. . . what's he big deal?? I just don't understand the ego thing at all. We're just, I hope, a great night out. And you know exactly how totally irrelevant and infinitely important that can be."
  Fuckin' A.
I suppose at this point I should be asking Dave whether his current attitude merely came about on he rebound from Nirvana, who clearly though they were more than just a band, where egos and irritation at the trappings of fame were at their most acutely, and ultimately self-destructively, developed. But I really don't think Dave has ever felt any different. Dave is the sort of person who makes you feel better just for meeting him. And that's the point of the Foos. Like a good friend, they make you feel better.
  There comes a point where music doesn't just answer or raise questions, it floods your heart with joy. That's when you have to forget the past, flick the Vs at the future and just surrender to the here and now in your headphones. Because life's too short. It really is. And if anyone knows this, if anyone expresses that in everything he does, including he sound of the band he plays in, it's Dave Grohl.
  OK? Good. Take-off.
  Hey, Foo Fighters, walking around Seattle yesterday, I'd thought I'd put my finger on why grunge started here, why you like this particular paradise surrounded by wilderness. Real three-mile-high snow-capped near-arctic wilderness. In the hotel lobby I saw three grizzly ol'boys set off for a hunting hip in a pick-up truck, all Burt Reynolds moustaches and chipmunk-garrotting hands.
  Whereas NYC rock matches the insanity of the streets and LA rock mirrors the superficial perfection of cosmetic lives, in Seattle, however tortured the singer's psyche, the music has to emphatically WEIGH IN, kick ass and roar and ROCK as the stunning environs demand.
  "We like the sound," says Dave, embarrassed, and the whole table looks at me in scorn.
  I didn't want you to say that.
  "Well, I know, but what the fuck, we do. That's all there is to it."
  "We really don't think about it that much," adds Will, the helpful bugger.
  But don't you feel like you're perfecting a form, don't you feel like you're the best ever?
  "We just go in and knock it out," says Dave.
  For a second I frown, then I realize that this is the correct answer. For them. And when I think about it, pretty much for them alone.
  But does that slapdash spirit extend to the lyrics as well? There was a lot of anticipation for the first LP and it seemed that you wanted to head off simplistic misinterpretation at the pass via rendering your vocals inaudible or when they did sneak through, plain incomprehensible.
  "Well, that's just cos I've got a really shitty voice," laughs Dave. "I fucked up the vocals, slurred them and scrambled them, in blind fear that people would hear my voice and realize just how dire it really is. As for the lyrics, I specifically left out a lyric sheet precisely to avoid people wasting their time microscoping my nonsense for hidden meanings that really aren't there."
  Rock lyrics always work better as phonetic effect anyway, a contribution to the whole mood of a song rather than as direct narrative.
  "Exactly. Also, I'm practically fucking illiterate. I mean, really. So lyrics have never meant that much to me anyway."
The Foos have to shoot off. They're Rehearsing every night in preparation for a US tour that will be kicking off as you read this. They're rehearsing in a concrete-encased warehouse with hardly any windows so the sound is "amazingly fucking loud", as Dave gleefully tells us.
  I have some serious professional journalist questions.
  "Really? Cool! Shoot."
  Will you be playing new songs?
  Have you written the new LP yet?
  How's it shaping up?
  "This next LP, and this is my cookie-cutter answer to this question cos I'm gonna get it so much, is gonna be such a natural progression. You look at the first LP and it was basically a studio album, recorded by one person, so you don't have the dynamics of four different personalities, you don't have the contribution of three other amazing musicians. So this album will probably take advantage of the live aspect of recording rather than sounding so studio-ish.
  "Did you get all that?"
  Shit, man, you've got that answer DOWN.
  "I know, pretty impressive, huh? It's got a nice professional vibe. I could almost con myself into thinking I know what the fuck I'm doing."
  They look like they do and it's gonna be fun finding out.

Monday, 27 February 2012

"the bliss of being buried"

11:56 Posted by neil kulkarni , , , , 1 comment
Cos they're back with a new album. Here's what I thought of an old album. 

 Fabulous Muscles 
(5 Rue Christine Records, 2004)

The inlay’s a great flickbook. Put your dirty thumb on the edge and watch the images scatter by cover to cover. Woman with bullwhip up her fanny. A machine gun pointing into a bold Iraqi dawn. Tumescent stiffy disinterestedly pulled by some beefcake. Uniformed bestetsonned grunt pushing up for a squat thrust. Blindfolded child in vest perhaps sat on the knee of the great dictator, maybe just dimly aware of the pederast behind the viewfinder. All flesh of equal beauty, equal reality, equal plasticity, the same cheap thrill and priceless solitude – the underlying theme here being both pain (the infliction and acceptance of) and pleasure (the sheer banal tedium of it’s consumption) – so that the pink bar that dashes each shot suggests Xiu Xiu are floating amidst every frame, watching, learning, realising another cause for their life and another reason that they must die. What it all suggests is that Xiu Xiu are looking in on the world from the bubble that is their own heart. 

Xiu Xiu clearly & forensically understand strength, are aware of the groinlurch and gruesome cruelty that’s animated mankind’s progress since we were plankton at Plank-time. They love from afar the human tribe’s blissfully ignorant magic (modern life being a ritual they’ve never been invited to) but are both appalled by (and resigned to) their own inability to be settled in such a cruel world, their own everyday negotiations with reality that leave them feeling cheapened, impure, as damned as the damn world they damn so deeply. 

Devouring love like pep pills, needing flesh, hating their own inconstancy, their own foul confining physicality, XX are lovers you can’t change, so deeply sewn up are they with their own self-loathing, so locked on their own spiral into an early grave. By the time “Fabulous Muscles” fades out you realise XX have been seducing you into a final act cos the record is a half-hour-odd so desirous of brutalisation and the bliss of being buried you can feel the pull on their lips as your entanglement becomes more intractable, you can palpably sense Xiu Xiu’s need to shed the weight from their skeletons, become pure statistic, another body under leaves found by a party of people scouring the fields. “Fabulous Muscles” is the most fervent murder pact you’ve submitted to since “This Last Night In Sodom”. And its thirst for death makes it immortal. 

Their queerness is as clear and complex (cockhunger being the shame they relish and the chance for inclusion they reject) as it must be but is never explicitly earmarked as the cause for their angst (dig “Bunny Gamer”, “Mike”, “Brian the Vampire” and the title track). Rather it’s the sheer pathological insatiability of what they want that’s the problem, that isolates them and twists them out of kilter with a problem-free planet and a nation going deaf blind and mute simultaneously (check the brilliant “Support Our Troops”). Certain emblematic moments from childhood (“Crank Heart”), moments from the recent past (“Little Panda McElroy”), moments they know will occur in the future (“Nieces Pieces”, “Clowne Towne”), are set in motion and they outline just where the fuse wire ends up, what lives will be blown apart. Foreboding and the true self-dread are odd things for records to contain right now and as such I can’t call “Fabulous Muscles” a pleasurable experience. I can only call it true to life, a pack of lies, a human document. 

What’s real is the words. What’s unreal (and surreal in the sense that it touches deeper) is the music, a devastatingly orchestrated moebius chamber of mod-con agony, desolate isolationism, broke-assed lo-fi, bedroom wiring designed to terrify, and pure symphonic gothery that warps and wends it’s way around each sentiment as if each word is rubbing the national grid up the wrong way. Throughout, it is machines played by people, marshaled to the heart. It never seems pleased with itself. It’s a soul record from the hole where souls used to be, always shot through with that dead-eyed realisation that suicide isn’t a choice but an inevitability. As such it’s the timeliest record you’ll hear all year. So smart it could be Japanese. 
Neil Kulkarni

(from planbmag 2004)

Saturday, 25 February 2012

"nightmare kids who know life’s a nightmare"

OK, here's the new Odd Future video. Once the giggling gormless cunts over at hipinion or  ILXOR have wiped their wads off their jaws I think we can all agree it's . . . .mediocre.

So, what the hell, let's send this one out there again, 'Rella' illustrates precisely why I've kinda got bored of OFGWKTA (although that said the new mix from Hodgy Beats is a doozie -s'the thing, I'm always gonna keep an eye & ear cocked their way cos you'd be mad not to the amount of talent they have) but back when I still found all their shit fresh I wrote this piece for DJ Mag way back in 2010, never ran, those wonderful people over at collapseboard picked it up.CB've also ran the thoughts of this cretin recently but don't let that put you off - one of about 5 music-websites that will actually make you laugh on the planet right now)


(2010, Neil Kulkarni)

Welcome to my home

the place that I hate

the place that I love

the planet of the apes
the place that I loathe
the boy minus father
equals boy minus heart

My cup runneth over

with sith lord dark side of the force

in the trunk of a Porsche tryna butt fuck Yoda

shotgun; drop T, Earl flow shogun”
Jabbing with a pen while you faggots getting toes done”
- Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All, ‘Fuck This Christmas’

Nothing kills mystique in pop more than over-explication. In the internet age, hiding yourself, only revealing shards and fragments over time to build a sense of intrigue is nigh on impossible. When someone, or something manages it it’s a rare delight indeed and it’s something that LA hip-hop crew ODD FUTURE WOLFGANG KILL THEM ALL (or OFWGKTA) have been throwing down slowly for two years now. A loose-limbed collective of kids, skaters, artists, filmmakers, MCs & beatmakers, what’s most startling about them isn’t that they’re old seasoned veterans playing a wise-assed game in reinvention, or that they’re pop intellectuals putting together a hip collage of previous rap transgressions. OFWGKTA have very little to do with the past and everything to do with right fkn now. They’re kids. Not Disney kids or showbiz kids or even kids with a dream. They’re kids with nightmares. They’re nightmare kids who know life’s a nightmare. And they don’t wanna wake up. They want to drag you in with them. A 10-strong Crenshaw-borne crew of readers, ranters and rapscallions they defy categorization, create their own new blueprints every time they drop, and though they seem almost designed to tick boxes for critics, have hoodwinked and out-thought those critics every step of the way. This is music that makes me feel old, thank fuck. Remember music that you simply couldn’t figure out, that you couldn’t link to anything else, but you knew you loved? Odd Future are some of the only people making that kind of music as we face down the world’s end. For all the words slung at them, Odd Future are where you have to stop talking and listen, and read, and watch, and submit. Welcome, and wake up to, THEIR Cooper-black fonted world. The lyrics above are from their just-dropped Xmas single. It is, genuinely, diabolical.

Next thing you know we're on Earl's burgundy carpet

and she's kicking and screaming for me to fucking stop it (scream)

"look, you know it's not rape if you like it, bitch

so sit down like a pretty ho and don't fight the shit”
Earl Sweatshirt, ‘Epar’

Fittingly most can’t pinpoint the first time they heard OFWGKTA, more likely they’ll never forget the first time they SAW Earl Sweatshirt’s video for his track ‘Earl’. You get used, surfing YouTube or vimeo, to watching music videos that don’t stick with you, that get flushed from the memory as soon as they’re done. This was a video that haunted you, not only for it’s jarring imagery of kids getting wasted and then falling apart (literally – the most memorable scene featured someone removing their own fingernail with a pair of pliers), but also cos of the astonishing mental combustion going on in Earl’s (“black Ted Bundy, sick as John Gacy”) stream-of-fuckedness lyrics & the molten futurist soundscape conjured up behind it. With biographical information scant, and the scent-trails of their twitter-feeds and blogs only adding to the confusion, people clutched at straws to find antecedents and influences. Wrongheaded old farts pointed to 90s horrorcore, cineastes pointed to Larry Clarke & Harmony Korine. What separated OFWGKTA from all of this was their utter resistance to being pinned down to ANY lineage bar the one they were blazing themselves – unlike all of the influences mentioned Odd Future weren’t looking at themselves from a distance and depicting, they were simply BEING who they were. Kids. And kids aren’t these simplistic little nodules of received influence – kids have an amoral, occasionally frightening smartness that enables them to make artistic leaps older more hidebound-by-tradition MCs, producers, & film-makers simply can’t make.

What became clear the further you got immersed in Odd Future’s panoply of deformed beats and deranged rhymes (esp. in tracks by other members like Tyler the Creator - co-founder of the crew with Earl - Domo Genius, and Hodgy Beats) was that far from being the resurrection of something long-lost from rap (and thus something hipsters were gonna jump all over – and they did), what was going on was the explosion of a totally new unique method in hip-hop madness. Musically, straight off, it was clear that OFWGKTA were the only producers in rap who seemed genuinely informed by an insanely wide palette of music, from mainstream rap to avant-rock to the generated noise of their immediate environments. Just as, musically, Odd Future’s sound was unplaceabley multifarious yet somehow absolutely located in their own distorted realities, lyrically Odd Future leave nothing out, give you every single tendril of their teased-out brainjizz. There’s no dilution or diversion in Odd Future’s music, what you get is the way these kids think uncut, and anyone’s who’s strayed or worked or been in a playground or skatepark or classroom recently knows that kids come up with THEE sickest shit. The moral outrage that some have expresseed regarding Odd Future can only come from those who don’t know that for most kids, viscera, gore, rape, homophobia, murder, fantasy, sex, violence aren’t ‘subjects’ to be dilletantishly dabbled in. Sci-fi, serial killers, comic-books, the saturation of sickness, they’re the fuel your mind runs on at that age, the age where, as Tyler says “our imaginations are creations of the fucking situation that's having out brains racing”. Dodgy-as-fuck as the lyrics may be, Odd Future’s words are the only poetry out there that seems to match up to the frantic fractured way the dungball planet appears to a teenage head too quickwitted to be duped by an older generations govt or industries or program for the future – all OUR old taboos become casual threats, chat, the grisly day-to-day currency of kids conversation. Uniquely in a hip-hop world obsessed with becoming men, faux-sophistication and the career-ladder of recognition and ambition, Odd Future seemed to genuinely not give a fuck about anything other than scraping their brain-pans, cleansing the bugs out from under their skin, staying on the outside. 

That process of turning their darkest innermost thoughts inside-out has given us some of the most vital, violently divisive hip-hop music and imagery of the last 2 years. What makes Odd Future more than just a repository for nonchalant shock-tactics and predictable outrage is the genuinely unsettling music that accompanies their thoughts, the entirely untutored way they arrive at skull-fucking new sounds by dint of pure untethered imaginative power. Tyler The Creator’s stunning ‘Bastard’ mixtape (including the groggy eerie robo-rape dream ‘VCR’), Earl Sweatshirt’s equally brain-jangling ‘Earl’ LP, Jet Age’s bathtub-psychedelic ‘Voyager’ mix, Hodgy Beats & Left Brain hooking up to form the mighty Mellohype & drop the fantastic ‘Yellowhite’ were some highlights of the ever-growing Odd Future world, and last year’s ‘Odd Future Presents Radical’ mix was some kind of cumulative highpoint for the collective, an abrasive unhinged hour of headphone-hebraphrenia wherein the twisted and tortured MCs unleash a host of outright mindblowing, stomach-churning tweaks to the Queens-English light-years beneath, and beyond, anything else that popped off on planet rap in 2010. Prepare to hold your hand to your mouth in sheer wide-eyed wonder & disbelief at what you’re watching and hearing. When’s the last time someone on Def Jam did that to you?

Nigga had the fuckin' nerve to call me immature
Fuck you think I made Odd Future for?

To wearin' fuckin' suits and make good decisions?

Fuck that nigga, Wolf Gang”
-Tyler The Creator ft. Hodgy Beats ‘Sandwitches’

All Odd Future music can be accessed via their website oddfuture.com. Unlike older more respectable crews you never get the feeling that Odd Future are waiting for a handout from the soon-extinct dinosaur that is the record biz, rather they’re one of the few crews genuinely harnessing the power of the clicked-on screen to smear their sickness across the planet, via unmissable tweets and vids and downloads. Crucially, you can’t predict what the hell will happen with the kids of Odd Future because the normal trajectories of career ‘progression’ seem utterly irrelevant to them. Unlike the traditional hip-hop underground they’re so misguidedly compared to you get no sense of Odd Future wanting or waiting to crack into the mainstream, and the music and rhymes are simply too mean-spirited to feel like they’re interested in any conventional route to ‘success’. Odd Future seek no nod from rappers who’ve already ‘made it’, in fact sabotage other rappers Wiki pages, have openly called out nigh-on the entirety of mainstream rap as bullshit, are committed only to their own endless indulgence. Crucially, they are emblematic of how small communities of artists are now able to create their own fanbase and their own futures, of how finally we can actually hear people who genuinely don’t give a fuck. Because why play in the ruins of the record industry when we’ve all got our own ruins, our own inner dereliction to explore? Honest, fearless young genius: as of now keep ‘em peeled for the next instalment. Simply put, if you’re not listening to Odd Future in 2011, you’re deaf dumb and blind.

"I’m not from New York. I’m not from LA. I’m from Pennsylvania so I know these people"


"it’s not ‘let’s all commit suicide/drink the Kool-Aid’. There’s PARTS that are like that . . ."

Soft. Interior. On the conveyor. Plush environs. Hotel interviews. They’re ace – they remind you of what a piddling peon in the chain you are. Every twenty minutes of today, Trent Reznor is asked to talk about himself but by the time I get to him he’s still chipper, giving you a firm handshake backed by biceps you’d scarcely credit him with, clearly keen to talk about new opus ‘Year Zero’ with the assiduousness and seriousness of an ingénue auteur dropping his dew-fresh debut. That he’s no spring chicken , that for the past fifteen years the calmly outspoken, disarmingly well-met & clearly bright individual talking to you has been variously an avatar of his own self-destruction and a fantasist of vengeance worthy of Marvel, an equally important figurehead in the careers of Marilyn Manson & Johnny Cash, and further, an icon of morbidity for a generation of pop perverts all seems irrelevant when your ears are still zinging from your first exposure to his latest, greatest work.  Played to us an hour before this chat, ‘Year Zero’ feels like a wiping clean of the slate, a densely-layered sci-fi parable about the dystopian future to come within and without and possibly the best 60 minutes NIN have ever given us. Fifteen years in, Trent’s outdoing his past on all fronts but what militated towards a new NIN album right now?
   “What it never is is someone on the business side saying ‘hey it’s about time you had an album out’ – hence the sporadic output of NIN releases so far. I try to be in a place where an identity hits a form and there’s a purpose to it. I aim to reinvent the rules each time – I don’t really like to work with a band during the writing process and left to my own devices I’d just fool around. At some point there’s a cerebral process where I say ‘maybe the album could be about this’ – then it’s a case of experimenting around that concept for awhile. Pretty soon I’m at the point where I’m thinking – I’m bored with all this, BUT this fits with this and that fits with that, and pretty soon after that the album starts taking shape. Lots of demos and eventually we stumble into things and I think, I’m not just fucking around. You feel a certain fire.”

When did the seeds for ‘Year Zero’ first start simmering?
   “On the last tour of the US in 2006 – just to stay sane sitting around waiting I started making music on a laptop just to see if I could entertain myself, if I could see it as a creative limitation rather than just a bummer limitation. I found ways to manipulate the limited software to arrive places I’d never been before – in the studio the possibilities are endless and deadeningly so, but on the laptop I was stumbling into things that felt fresh and exciting. The music felt amazing. Came off tour and though physically shattered, mentally I was gunning– I set up a studio in my house that got flooded out, which I saw as a sign. So I set up a place in the woods – total exile, deer in the back yards. The concept of the record really came to me there – that for the first time, instead of just writing about myself, now,  I could write from the perspective of several different characters and set the whole piece at some point in the not-too-distant future. From then it came together real quickly and it felt, it feels, like the most singular and focussed thing I’ve ever done up to this point. It was fun battling my ability with the technology with the sounds I had in my head. I’m at constant war with my own boredom and making ‘Year Zero’ won out every time.”

 No question- the album hits you up more effectively and directly than anything Trent’s ever done, as if given a limited sound-palette has stretched his imagination and sonic vision to its kino-eye limit. There’s multi-textured Bomb Squad-style funk noise, labyrinthine digi-dub, strung-out doom-electro – it’s the most exquisitely gorgeous collage, an endless glut of sonic delight and aggravation a million miles away from the confined synth-rock you might’ve feared.
   “The mindset with the previous records was always – how is this gonna work with a band. This time around that wasn’t a concern and it was totally liberating not to reach for a guitar or a bass to find the precise imperfections I needed, but to see if I could squeeze it out of the little technology I had. I was getting dangerously unconcerned with making another album at all, so a new method had to be found. It’s totally reinvigorated my relationship with music, and hopefully anyone who listens to it will feel that.”
An extra kick to ‘Year Zero’s fresh impetus is Reznor shifting his lyrical eye from self-conceits to out’n’out polemic – tracks like ‘Capital G’, ‘The Good Soldier’ and ‘Vessel’ step away from the navel-gazing angst you might expect (and that undoubtedly made Reznor a star) into the most avowedly political poetry he’s ever aired. You keep recalling Public Enemy, not just for the seething noise-scapes but the righteous/resigned agit-rhymes they’re couching.
   “”Lyrically and thematically everything’s changed. Previous albums, the lyrics have kinda been thought up after the event of the music, and so long as they were true to me, then that was ok. I didn’t over-consider lyrics, they either worked or didn’t. This time around I wanted to be honest about what I’ve been thinking about in recent years and that hasn’t been me, it’s been the state of the world and just exactly where the hell we’re heading morally, as Americans.”

One of the ideas that leap to the fore on ‘Year Zero’ is how civilization’s façade isn’t just slipping, it’s irredeemably shattered. In such unclear ground, base survival is all that’s left.
   “And the major emotion behind ‘Year Zero’ is disgust. Concern growing into dawning horror. What I definitely wanted to avoid was anything that directly namechecks what’s going on today. That’s just horrible and nobody, least of all me, wants to hear it. But I AM a huge sci-fi fan, and I was intrigued with being able to create a vision of how the world might be in 15 years from now if we carry on down the road we’re on to the point of a crisis. Fleshing that out made ‘Year Zero’, thinking of the viewpoints of characters that’d inhabit that world, from religious zealots from both sides of the world, to the greed-fuelled lunatics who’d be running things, to the everyman American who vaguely knows what’s going on but is secure in the knowledge that nothing will ever happen to directly affect me.
   What specifically made ‘Year Zero’ into the first album where you addressed all this though?
   “There are a couple of things giving doomsaying an extra urgency at the moment. One is how close we are to running out of resources, and the clear, visible way we can all see the environment collapsing. Another is the way that radical evangelical movements in the States are coming to the forefront – that’s not new, but the fact that these extreme fundamentalist ideas are becoming so MAINSTREAM now is a genuinely new, frightening phenomenon. It’s every bit as terrifying to me as the Muslim-extremist movements are presented to all of us. S’just a different costume. In both cases what we’re seeing is the horrifying brainwashing of children into soldiers gladly willing to die for their God.”
  How come most music in the States seems silent on this?
   “Well, I’m not from New York. I’m not from LA. I’m from Pennsylvania so I know these people. A whole lot of people who elected Bush were easily brainwashed into voting for ‘that’ guy because ‘they don’t want gays living next door to you’ or whatever. Political rhetoric is becoming avowedly religious and apocalyptic – people are being convinced that the end is nigh in the middle-east, and that we’re headed for a holy war in which all us good Americans will be raptured into the sky and salvation. That’s the kind of lunacy that’s being propagated and I have no idea what to say to these people – they’re locked in on these ideas. I have as little to say to my neighbours as I do to the guy with a bomb strapped to his chest strolling into an Iraqi market. In both cases religion is cutting people off from reality and each other.”
   What can music do at such a time?
“When all that’s being said is lies, music has a duty to cut through with the truth. Or at least suggest that something else might be going on. That’s what ‘Year Zero’ is all about.”

  You wonder if a younger, more tortured Trent would have made such a calmly devastating indictment as ‘Year Zero’ is. You suspect not. Less monochrome both musically and visually than previous NIN albums, ‘Year Zero’ steeps itself in the lurid hues of our present chaos, and posits a future in which the contrasts and shades of planet earth are even more brutally tweaked up. Refreshingly free of judgement yet clear in it’s portrayal of our modern malaise, ‘Year Zero’ treads a deeply personal line ‘tween resignation and resistance, Trent ever-able to to translate his vision through technology into sonic-warfare and ear-candy alike. And further, it’s the numbness that’s suggested, the sense on ‘The Good Soldier’ and ‘Me I’m Not’ that the desensitization of us all is nearly complete, that gives ‘Year Zero’ its timeliness and accuracy to the west’s ravaged soul. In an era where technology seems to be giving us everything we want and nothing we need, ‘Year Zero’ is a reminder that in the right hands, and with a clear conscience, technology can unpick the clickable atrocity-exhibition we may call contemporary life like nothing else.
   “I wanted to recall a time when an album was something you continually discovered, that sci-fi feel of an internally coherent universe to explore. That meant either having the most elaborate sleeve imaginable or what we’re actually doing – on the net we’re trying to flesh out the backdrop to ‘Year Zero’ with a kind of background story, give people jump-off-points and information that’ll help make the album a totally engrossing, engulfing thing. They have 11 chapters so far, I’ve written a hundred, and looking at the chatrooms there’s some satisfyingly intellectual discussion going on instead of the usual drivel-of-the-net bullshit.”
   If you were younger would you be so rigorous about backdropping the album, or would you just be demanding the bombing of the White House?
   “Well – the scariest thing suggested on the album is that now that voting has become privatized, now that democracy has truly disappeared and we’re pretty much living in a state of dictatorship, what happens to people who don’t have a voice? I don’t mean the nutjobs, I mean the rational sane people who realise that they simply do not have a means of resistance other than violence, that nothing changes other than the colour of ties. The only option left for so many of us is violence, is bombing, is terrorism. The album’s not suggesting that people should do that, but it’s saying that the State is cut off from the people so much, the only way most of us would ever feel involved in politics ever again is by direct, violent action. That’s worrying.”
   But where exactly do you stand between hope and hopelessness for our future?
“If I could get on my pretentious soapbox for a while I’d say that I just want people to think about things the rest of the world doesn’t want them to think about right now. The record for me is a cautionary tale but it’s one of hope. It’s mainly hoping that at the moment of madness when there are fingers on the buttons that there is some innate sense of right and wrong in people that means we won’t extinguish ourselves. At the moment of moral crisis there is an innate humanity that people have.”

  Odd to hear you say that.
Your work isn’t exactly famed for its positive attitude . . .
“True. It’d be ludicrous for me to say, ‘oh there’s always been a real optimistic side to our music’ BUT most of the time, no matter what state of despair or desperation I might be in on the records - there is an element of hope, of salvation being searched for. When I’m on stage reacting to people it certainly doesn’t feel hopeless or hate-filled to me.”
That’s the weird thing I noticed at the show last night – it was an energising, positive experience. At a NIN show. Whodathunkit.
“Yeah, it’s not ‘let’s all commit suicide/drink the Kool-Aid’. There’s PARTS that are like that! But overwhelmingly for me, NIN is always searching for redemption of some sort. There was and is a positive reason for this record to exist. To get people to pay attention, look around themselves in a different way. It’s pretentious. It may not work. But it’s worth a shot. I’m only pissing my own money away! And I’d hate to look back and just think my music sleepwalked through these years. ‘Year Zero’ feels like the right thing to do for me right now. The only thing I could’ve done and still been ok with myself.”
Still sating his demons, but slaying a fair few in the process. You’d be insane not to listen up. Hard.

(From Terrorizer Magazine, 2008) 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Morrissey - Greatest Hits album review, Plan B Magazine 2010

Morrissey – Greatest Hits (Polydor)

He always sounds like a man who since childhood has only wanted to quote himself. 
Allow me the same indulgence -  in 1999 I wrote this: "There’s something about the Smiths that still has an unhealthy hold over people you’d love to love. Get the facts straight though: the Smiths were about nostalgia, they were about destroying any black trace in pop, when they emerged they were pretty much a rights-for-whites insistence that nothing since punk had mattered. “Panic” is a letter to Melody Maker spun into a song and Morrisey is a Ted-fixated pre-immigration-fantasizing Granny of a man. This laid the groundwork of morose retrospect that Lad-rock would later find it’s spiritual motivation. Blame and shame them every chance you get".

   I have no desire to take that opportunity now, especially now the pack are involved. For Moz to get dissed for nostalgia and fear by the fucking NME would be funny if it weren’t so grisly to watch – that definitive mix of leftist sloganeering and conservative queasiness that the Smiths pioneered has moulded the political  metabolism of UK indie music ever since. The Smiths won, and own their detractors in a deathgrip inescapable– they beat Yargo, the Stone Roses beat the King Of The Slums, Oasis beat the Mondays – and sure it's all a damn shame but hold it. I grew up, I got over it, I hadda admit there are moments in Smiths tunes that are magical and that the Smiths reveal an essential of pop even more lucidly than Blur or U2: that the frontman is ultimately what changes cognizance to love, and can just as easily turn admiration into loathing. So though I mourn the victory of classic guitar-rock in Manchester (and Morrisey trailblazed that steady campaign) I’ll concede the Smiths aren’t entirely kindling - for the first few singles (when the mystery was still intact) I was in love. 

Then I heard & read deeper, and I realised that this band simply weren’t on earth for me – were in fact eyeing me with suspicion and faint repellence every time I even approached. So by the time I knew that Morrisey hated rap, black pop, “dislikes Pakistanis immensely” (his own words), by the time of ‘Asian Rut’ and ‘Bengali In Platforms’ and ‘National Front Disco’ (none of which are included here of course), I knew that his dreams didn’t include me, that me and my kind were a problem, an(other) obstacle in his vision of English pop progress/regress, his love of the sanctified suedeheads and po’ doomed trash that populated his perspective and mark the limits of his compassion. What’s clear through this comp, that in 15 tracks attempts to cover everything since 88 (live Patti Smith covers and two new tracks as well as EIGHT tracks from the last two albums – you’d have to be seriously dedicated to even be arsed) is that this is a man smart enough to never even think about surprising his audience, or himself: what’s conjured here is no sense of a man ageing , rather he’s a Peter Pan of Weltschmerz, the rotating monomania of his concerns (especially on the tracks from ‘Quarry’and ‘Tormentors’) & his bristling stew of martyrdom and malevolence still endlessly fascinating to him and consequently his adoring public.

 I’m not sure Morrisey cares, or even whether he should care, that he only has that fan/dom relationship left, that he’ll never matter anymore now his myopia has become the mainstream, that the emo bands and indie-janglers will pocket and repackage his schtick until he gets the permanent Vegas-residency he’s been aiming for all his life. Nothing here, even from 88 and especially the new stuff,  is remotely exciting to me. But give me Morrisey’s honesty about his little-Englander mindset over the wretched cowardly political-silence of NME-sanctioned rock every fucking time. The injured regret, the post-colonial revulsion of Morrisey’s music is closer to White England’s heartbeat than anyone else will currently admit to being – beyond that this comp is something to seal yourself into whilst waiting for that Cameron victory you so secretly desire in 2010, British Proper Music packaged and compiled with all the laziness and largesse (you get a live bonus CD if you’re keen) you’d expect from a Time Life Neil Diamond comp (and check that gloriously smug sleeve). 

Me, I’ve got letterbombs to send and trains to derail and my own delusions to make real. See you after the cleansing.
Neil Kulkarni

without prejudice or technique









(from Plan B Magazine 2009) 

Eyup folks, it's 2009 and I'm just wundrin - do we have forward motion? Hasn't anyone been watching this dial, checking the rear-view? Ain't anyone concerned to see the future came and went a while back and all we're doing is revving pop down a circular grave, misdirected by an industry and media blinkeredly convinced it's on the right road just cos everyone who counts agrees so? Even 2009's most resolute poptimists have to be brutally honest with what carrion & cobblers the charts are strewn with in these weird perma-1985 days we're in. Butchered remains, corpses fucked so hard they crumble, all in the name of 'another great year for music'. For 'great' read busy, read lucrative, read holding pattern, read the reassurance only a shareholder could desire. Counter-intuitive hint – it's that which we'll have to go back on that really counts, those sounds you know you're going to have to re investigate immediately, those sounds that stall your consumer-agility in a frozen hour of reverie and old-skool ravishment, because the detail and the shock of first-exposure to that detail is too revelatory an experience, too much of a dimensional leap away from 4-square fauxturist reality to simply file with the rest, divide from your heart and conquer with category.. It was my first reaction on hearting Telepathe's 'Dance Mother', knowing the sure ledge that I'd have to hang on to this, let it grow into me as I grow into it, knowing that encompassing this disc within brain and booty would take time, might even be impossible . Not a record that gives you what you want, but that gives you a challenge and deluge you thought you'd been deadened to. Odd refreshment of parched presumed-perished parts:  'Dance Mother', the album Brooklynites Busy Gangnes & Melissa Livaudais have spent the best part of the last two years creating, needles and nuances it's way into your body, into your walk and talk and the tangent you take at the universe, whilst at the same time knowing when to leave you rapt, bereft of co-ordinates, unsure of anything but the new horizon you're hurtling towards. Yes 'Dance Mother' offers forward motion, but it's got viscosity, dazzle, derailment and distraction enough to swallow '09 whole. It's smart enough to try and be everything, generous enough to be like nothing else.

   “All through our lives” admits Busy, “we've listened to music. A lot of different music. The key with everything we've loved is that in it's time it was totally unlike everything else. There was only ever one goal with Telepathe and that is to be unique.”
   “With us listening to so much music from so many different places and times that can be difficult” asserts Melissa. “But when a track has that extra feel to it, that feel that it's no longer this or that type of music and can only be Telepathe music, then we know it's something we can put our name to. We're not into this for any other reason than surpassing what we know and what the audience expect. Otherwise, why bother making music at all?”

Tru'ndeed. The shock for me hearing 'Dance Mother' is that I don't look for that isolated motivation in bands anymore. Only in some hip-hop, some chartpop, some club music do I find any kind of break from the revoltingly collaborative vibe of mutual mediocrity currently asphyxiating rock with it's own shitty-pampers . I read that hip-hop was an 'influence' on you but it seems way more than a cosmetic infatuation, on tracks like 'Chrome On It' & 'Can't Stand It' it seems more like a metabolic, cell-deep upbringing.
  “Well, it's a music we can't avoid” admits Busy. “Living where we do hip-hop is in the air, coming out of passing cars, radios, shops – it's everywhere. You'd have to be pretty close-minded in our bit of Brooklyn to not have hip-hop kind of running through your veins.”
   “Added to which it's something we've always listened to obsessively” says Melissa, “purely from a production perspective. If you're making beats and not listening to hip-hop what the hell are y'doing?!”
   Sure, seems obvious – but the key thing always missed about hip-hop, especially when processed/partied-with by, ahem, auslanders, is that in hip-hop beats are hooks and hooks are beats and these are things you have to FEEL under your skin, tugging your flesh. You can't just affect the revolutionary nature of hip-hop with a few choice techniques or samples worked into already-formulated orthodoxies– it has to fuck with your sense of sonic propriety to be understood or even embarked on.
   “Right” nods Busy. “Because if you listen to hip-hop it changes the way you hear everything, not just music. Hip-hop is important to us because from a lyrical and sonic angle it encourages the use of everything, and the freedom to explore everything.”
Melissa: “I should just say that from the beginning of working with Busy– it was clear that doing anything that a traditional band would do was gonna be total anathema to us. At every point in Telepathe we've taken what traditional 'bands' have done as a direct lesson in what we MUST not do.”
  But you have pals! In bands! I don't want to list them/neuter you in situ.
“So don't. We're friendly with bands in a social sense but in a musical sense I think we feel totally alone. And we really wouldn't want it any other way.”

   When you say 'we' – how together a concept is that? This goes beyond collaboration don't it – seems more like sharing a soul. On much of 'Dance Mother', it's impossible to disentangle your individual roles within Telepathe's sound, let alone even ascribe the sounds to a discernible human touch. Siamese-twin voices. A whole firmament of treble. Killer beats, unafraid to slip repetition's leash and pile themselves up. Always a unified whole. What's clear is that not only do you make music together, you hear it together too.
  Busy: “Yeah. Me and Melissa are in each others pockets and have been forever. We hear the same sounds, we spend all our time together, so when one of us has an idea it doesn't require much explanation to the other. I wouldn't say we don't each have individual skills we bring though. Melissa's great at responding to my melodies and brilliant at thinking up beats, I'm good at melodies & then layering those things up with proper notation to make all the harmonies work. That's that detail thing you were talking about: we always aim to give people too much to listen to in one go. And we never really do that thing of 'sitting down to write a song' – our tracks emerge more from . . . play, and investigation and experiment, rather than having a single thing on our minds we want to express. I kind of disagree that it sounds inhuman – it sounds more human to me because we came at the technology without prejudice or technique”.

   Melissa: “It's not like we 'jam' or sit down and 'write' a song. It's more like . . we'll hear something, somewhere, and we'll love it and want to pay homage by 'stealing' it, making it our own. We work on ideas together in the studio or at home, and things just grow. There's a lot of different influences going on in our sound . . .”
[Kate Bush, Insides, Fleetwood Mac, The RZA, Hood and a cast of thousands]
   Busy: “. . but hip-hop is like the building block, the method through which we work with what we have. We really see ourselves as a production team rather than a band and we'd seek to mould ourselves musically along the same lines of possibility that Timbaland, The Neptunes, the Bomb Squad or Dre work in.”
   How did the creation of 'Dance Mother' bring that production sense on. I mean, it's leaps and bounds beyond anything you made before.
   “It really comes down to the environment Dave Sitek set up for us in the studio” insists Melissa. “We have never had enough money to bring what we hear in our heads to fruition. We've always had to make do with what we can bag/steal/borrow/beg for. Dave basically gave us free-rein to explore his studio and a whole load of synths and my god, it was like playtime.”
   Busy: “We were kids in a candy store. So much amazing equipment we'd always wanted to play with but never been allowed to before. We'd just clamber around this gear, figuring it out, trying everything, seeing how far we could take it. After that initial period of pure freedom with all of this, it then became a process of seeing what worked, what was unnecessary, what we wanted to use. But without that sense of play to start with, I don't think the album would sound like it does.”

  The sound is open & wide-eyed yeah, but it's a precious fluidity, not some half-assed jam but seemingly painstaking.
   “Oh yeah” agrees Busy. “We know how we want things to sound and we will persist until we get it right. You can lose yourself in that process, never get things done – the music we used to play seemed so self-conscious even though it was supposedly about losing that consciousness. Now we've decided to just be honest to what we love and make out'n'out pop music it's simple and self-conscious but more free than it's ever been. Because we only have a few simple rules. We want to move the feet. And we want to make pop with massive hooks in it. And that forces you to be inventive in ways that more conventional, 'weird' music doesn't encourage.”

   The suckerpunch that truly lays you out from 'Dance Mother' is the lyrics, the words that slip into your memory and rotate themselves a home there like all the catchiest pop should. Words that slip from cosmic mystery to future-magik to a lovers most intimately charged threats within a couplet – very hip-hop in that untrammeled ability, and in their disconnected, random feel they seem to come from an MC's notebooks rather than a band's concentrated effort.
  Melissa: “We write all the time. We use it all the time. You're right, we don't write lyrics for specific tunes, we just pull from the thoughts and words we have.”
  Busy: “The words can frequently just be another instrument, another way of shaping the sound: the images in our lyrics are there to seal the feel of a track. A lot of lyrics at the moment are just about one subject, one person in one place. Ours move around because that's the way our minds work.”
  Melissa: “Music shouldn't be catching up with your head. It should be way ahead of everything else you experience.”
   And amen to such vaunting ambition in '09, such convinced innocence. Telepathe are blazing a trail, forcing the puzzle of pop back into the confusion and cataclysm it needs. Too much to get into here. Get into it where you are. And don't ever stop.