Jason How – Four albums of Psychedelic & Pure Power Pop Genius

Jason How

I’ve only recently been introduced to the music of Jason How (cheers Joe Whyte). I’m so glad I am no longer a stranger to his music. Jason is a prolific songwriter, releasing an album per year over the last 4 years.

It would be difficult to pin Jason down to a specific music genre or style as there is a great variety of influences across the albums. His influences are apparent in the music, US West Coast psychedelia standing out, but also with the influence of 70’s punk/power pop and 80s indie.

Certain elements come together and bring to mind different bands and/or singers. Sometimes the combined elements together sound like Buzzcocks, others reminiscent of purveyors of perfect Punk/Power Pop, Duncan Reid and the Big Heads. It all depends on what album and what track you are listening to.

One thing is for certain. They all have big tunes, are hook laden, lyrically clever and sometimes eccentric and cover a wide array of subjects.

Suffice to say the fruits of Jason’s labours are eminently listenable.

Who is Jason How?

For anyone else to whom this might be an introduction to Jason and his music, I asked him to give me a bit of background on who he is:

Well my father started Rotosound Music Strings in the 1960’s and I have been Chairman since 1996.  

As you say I have been around music all my life and never really been that good a guitarist  so I thought I would try writing songs which I really enjoy and seems to come fairly easily to me.

I play guitar, bass, keys and vocals.

My real trade is in engineering I have designed and built most of the new string winding machines at Rotosound over the last 20 years. Following on from when my father died in 1994. 

Passionate about keeping the manufacturing in the UK!

….all about the strings!

www.rotosound.com

 When did you first start playing music? With the Rotosound connections you obviously have been brought up close to music:

 Started listening to music from an early age, my dad used to bring home all the albums by the bands Rotosound were dealing with in the 70’ s. From bands like ELO, Queen, The Jam, Wreckless Eric etc. Quite an eclectic mix.  

That eclectic mix is something that has obviously influenced Jason’s own music. Jason has his own distinctive sound but you can also hear a variety of influences within the albums.

What instrument did you start playing? What was the first song/tune you played?

 Started playing the guitar when I was 15. I remember that ‘A Legal Matter’ by The Who was the first guitar riff I learnt LOL! I remember picking out the guitar riff on “A Legal Matter by the Who as my brother had just lent me “Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy”, the early Who compilation.

I had an old Aria acoustic guitar, started writing tunes on my dad’s old Wurlitzer organ, just sort of instrumental things. Then started writing tunes on the guitar and finally adding lyrics.

My mate Jim Bishop and myself wrote a tune called ‘Lost my words in the mountains’ when we were about 16, then we formed a band called Wicked Cooker (terrible name) and wrote a lot of weird stuff with song titles like ‘Stop eating your chocolate biscuits’ and ‘Soapsuds in my binoculars’

Bootlegs are available for your further listening pleasure……

 That would be an interesting listen I’m sure.

The Music of Jason How

Where do you get your musical inspiration to write from?

I love the late 60’s psychedelic scene from the West coast in the US, bands like The 13th Floor Elevators, Chocolate Watch Band and The Strawberry Alarm Clock. The Doors obviously.

 Also the 70’s punk scene I love and a lot of underground Indie from the 80’s especially a lot of the Glasgow bands like The Close Lobsters, The Vaselines (etc) and others like The Church, House of Love and Robyn Hitchcock!

 Lucky enough with my job to know some of these guys like The Stranglers, Wreckless Eric, Bruce Foxton etc….

As I said earlier, musically I can hear that range of styles/influences across the albums & just from the initial listen to “The Eve of Oban” I can see some obvious targets in your lyrics – corporate suits, political /government themes. What else inspires the themes of your lyrics?

Of late the political is as you say an easy target so I really write exactly what I think.

 I do try and add in some English whimsy and create some kind of mood with the music and lyrics. Eve of Oban was a stripped down lo-fi affair that could have been done in mono for a bit of fun!

I think running the business gets you thinking with regards to politics etc…. you try and see it from both sides but is quite difficult sometimes!

You’ve released 4 albums to date. The Tall English Sun (2014), Speedboat on a Magic Sea (2015) & The Eve of Oban (2016) and the latest Viscount Spoon Plays Sounds from the Cheeky Warm (2017). What is next on the horizon for you?

Had a bit of a hiatus this year (2017) as I feel like I have gone all out over the last 5 years so have just tried to empty my head and get back into it in 2018.

 Still trying to work out the next vibe for the next album. I have a lot of older songs knocking around but I hate going back to them. Would rather write new material if possible…….

I believe you pretty much play all the instruments on the albums – any thoughts of getting a band together and taking the songs out on the road?

Would love to do that at some stage I think it would only happen if the right group of people came together naturally. They would have to be into the music etc…

Doing the music alone is a double edged sword, you can do as you please but then there’s nobody to bounce ideas off and keep the quality control at the highest level.

 There you go, if the right group of people are out there…

Who are you listening to personally at the moment? Any recommendations?

Sad to say I’m still listening to all my old favourites although I am having a bit of a completist moment with Van Morrison right now…. “Astral Weeks” such a classic!

Also most of my fave artists are on the website! (Read about Jason’s favourite artists on his website http://www.jasonhow.com/)

Not sad at all, I often listen to my “old favourites”. Don’t get me on completist. I’m no-where near as bad now but back in the 80’s when the record companies released a 7”, 12”, 2 CD singles and maybe even a cassette single, all with different b-sides, mugs like me had to buy them all.

Thanks to Jason for taking the time out of a busy schedule to answer the questions.

Reviews

As I alluded to earlier, Jason’s albums are a joy to listen to and bring a smile to my face when listening in the car on some miserable drives to and from work.

The Tall English Sun

The sunny psychedelic influences of 60’s West Coast US bands is most apparent on debut “The Tall English Sun” (also featuring Keith More and Martin Johnson) with beautiful harmonies, tambourines and song titles like “Summer in Eden”,  “April Rained Forever” & Viaducts of Your Dreams” reflecting this too.

The whimsy Jason mentioned earlier is also apparent and there is a certain eccentricity to many of the songs and lyrics across all the albums adding to the appeal.

“Speedboat on a Magic Sea” continues in a similar vein where “The Tall English Sun” left off, complementing its harmonious psychedelic influences with three minute melodic power pop/punk – such as “Sunset in Deutsche Town” with the political comment starting to come to the fore in some tracks.

Speedboat on a Magic Sea

Songs like “Run like Falling Stars” are stand-outs with a rich acoustic intro building into a beautiful song with warm fuzzy melodious guitars and elongated outro.

Many of Jason’s songs across his output hark back to days gone by. “Looking Glass of Time” is, unsurprisingly based on the title, one of those, referencing 1969 and lunar moon landings, and spending days riding bikes and climbing trees.

Can Jason predict the future? “If I Could be President” could have been written by Trump, but with a great deal more intelligence and flair. With lyrics like “everybody’s gonna know who I am, everybody’s gonna hate what I am”, “I’d change the rules of the game” and “I’d gas all the scum, you’d be on the run” and a post punk feel, like a cross between Teardrop Explodes and Wire with its keyboards and angular sound.

 Eve of Oban

Album three, “The Eve of Oban” has a melodic late 70’s punk feel a la Buzzcocks on tracks like album opener “Tricked by the Blink of an Eye” (a brilliant opening to the album with its catchy refrain) and “Decoy”.

The political and corporate lyrical influences add an edge to some songs – “F**k the Government”, “Can You Feel the Benefit” and “C**ts in Suits”- while still maintaining the stirring feel of the music and injecting a bit of humour to lighten the mood.

As I indicated, one of the key proponents of power pop/pop punk in recent years has been “Duncan Reid and the Big Heads” mastering their sound over 3 albums to date. Jason’s intonation from time to time is similar to that of Duncan and this adds to the comparison. The exuberant sound of both bands is a pleasure to listen to.

Viscount Spoon Plays the Sounds of the Cheeky Warm

“Viscount Spoon Plays Sounds from the Cheeky Warm” is his latest album and sees a return to the more psychedelic and eccentric element of his repertoire, maintaining the power pop/pop punk leanings. Jason is in reflective mood on this album with the subjects for many of the songs harking back to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

“Records from the Past” makes me want to do exactly what he says in the song “I just want to spend my Sunday afternoons, listening to records from the past”. It sounds like a perfect Sunday. Throughout the song there are references to a variety of the bands Jason has liked over the years from 60’s (Velvet Underground), to the 80s (The Smiths via House of Love). While slow burner “Badge Boy” builds into a melodic 60’s treat to the eardrums.

On “I Used to Think I was Mr Benn” Jason evokes memories of childhood and the aforementioned cartoon character. Anyone who reflects back now on Mr Benn will recognise the certain psychedelic element to the cartoon. Straight-laced Mr Benn in suit and bowler hat visiting a shop where “as if by magic the shopkeeper appeared” and provided him with an outfit and a magic door taking him on a variety of adventures related to said costume. Remarkable cartoon and striking song.

Linking back to 1985 again as he did on “Records from the Past”, Jason is in contemplative mood again on, funnily enough, the brooding melancholic acoustic number that is “Back in 1985” when “all of the colours were alive”. The iconic “girl with the elegant curls” gets her own tribute on “Oh! Diana Dors” summarising her sometimes tragic rollercoaster life in four minutes of brilliance.

Final track on the album is a strangely (based on its subject matter) uplifting song “3 Day Week” about the winter of discontent. The song has a jangly guitar intro which wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the indie discos I used to attend back in the 80’s.

All told, four albums of pure pop genius. I look forward to album number 5 Mr How.

Explore for Yourself

…. All about my music! http://www.jasonhow.com/

New post Brexit demo here….

https://soundcloud.com/jason-how/voice-of-democracy15

Albums available on iTunes.

https://itun.es/gb/Pmb1W

“Viscount Spoon…” is available on CD and also up on Reverbnation.

https://www.reverbnation.com/jasonhow/album/171575-viscount-spoon-plays-sounds-from

 

Razur Cuts

Razur Cuts

 

Razur Cuts IV
Razur Cuts IV

Compiled and produced by Derek S, Razur Cuts is for fans of stories, poetry and music and caters for those who yearn for the days of self-published fanzines. Get your hands on Razur Cuts IV before it sells out.

With its glossy cover it is a bit more high-tech than the old photocopied fanzines of old but the principle is still there. And it’s something tangible for those who still prefer a physical magazine or book.

The magazine features contributions from a variety of people, both new or more established, showcasing their short stories, poetry, interviews and articles.

Musically, past issues have included features on bands such as The Media Whores, Shatterhand and the Bucky Rage amongst others.

Razur Cuts IV

The latest issue (Razur Cuts IV) features the usual diverse mix of contributions from a variety of writers and musically an interview with Scottish music legend Martin Metcalfe (of Goodbye Mr McKenzie, Angelfish, The Filthy Tongues (with and without Isa) and The Fornicators).

The issue of poor mental health is also tackled in an interesting article by Danny Coyle.

To get your hands on a copy, get it through PayPal to deeko1963@googlemail.com – a bargain at £4.

If you are interested in having one of your poems, stories or features printed in a future publication contact razurcuts@gmail.com.

Find Razur Cuts on social media on Facebook and Twitter as @razurcutsmag.

thegingerquiff – 2017 – Looking Back

Looking back on 2017

It is that time of year when everyone reflects on their “best of” lists for the past year. Why should I be any different? I may as well join in.

I’m not going to write lists as such, or limit myself to a top 5/10 or whatever. I’ll just go with the flow and shout out some of my personal favourites of the year…

I only started thegingerquiff blog in August and have enjoyed many albums, singles and gigs since then that have featured on my blog, but there were plenty from earlier in the year though too.

So, here goes in no particular order (apart from no. 1)

Dead Hope
Dead Hope – Songs from the Second Floor
Album of the year – Dead Hope – Songs from the Second Floor

Debut album of the year for me and one of my most listened to of the year was by the magnificent Dead Hope. Their album “Songs from the Second Floor” is packed full of nihilistic post-punk scorchers delivered with passion and fervour. I reviewed the album and launch night gig earlier in the year. They were also the last gig of 2017 I attended, at Nice ‘n’ Sleazy in Glasgow on the 29th December. In fact that gig consolidated for me that their album wasn’t just debut album of the year but for me it is my ALBUM OF THE YEAR. The gig was a joyous occasion where a packed Sleazys greeted every song with enthusiasm. Despite my description of the band as nihilistic post-punk, the music is uplifting and gives great joy. The solid rhythm section on Andy and Keith on bass and drums respectively are complemented by the array of magnificent noise created by Scott on guitar with his selection of effects pedals.

And the Rest

Talking of album launch gigs, another album highlight of the year was The Red Eyes who launched their latest and most accomplished album “Man and Boy” in Audio. I thought they had reached their peak with “From the Outside In” with tracks like “This is My Life”. However, “Man and Boy” exceeded all expectations with tunes aplenty and provoking and passionate lyrics. The band were celebrating their 20th anniversary and played 2 sets in Audio – the first featuring the original line up from back in 1997 and a headline set from “Man and Boy” featuring Alex King from Hateful in the line-up. As mentioned, the album has some of the best song-writing I’ve heard in a while with thoughtful subject matter and accomplished musicianship. The support on the night came from Strung-Out Nights, who released 2 fantastic EPs this year and also the omnipresent Heavy Drapes. I may have seen them more than once this year…

https://theredeyes.bandcamp.com/track/its-over-before-it-even-began

Whilst on the subject of Hateful, I was late in coming to the party in buying “Noize from the Streets” but it is a fantastic album packed full of brilliant tunes and song-writing. It has everything from sub 2 minute punk songs, intro and outro instrumentals that had me reaching for & listening to the Skids “Monkey McGuire Meets Specky Potter behind the Lochore Institute” and epics tracks with strings and the works. I feel both this album and “Man and Boy” deserve a feature of their own on my blog at some point soon. Watch this space.

Tarbeach Showcase – Kiss This

Back to Heavy Drapes who also played as part of a Tarbeach Records Scottish showcase gig featuring label-mates, ReAction and The Zips. The gig was a triumph with people travelling far and wide to catch the 3 bands. ReAction threw in a handful of new songs which went down a treat and have whet the appetite for forthcoming sophomore album. Heavy Drapes introduced new bassist Paul Research in a temporary with in the band – with the recent good news that Jerry Dangerous has now returned to the fold to take up bass duties again. Paul has recently released debut single with new band Voicex – also featuring Richie from Heavy Drapes. The Zips played tracks from their extensive back catalogue including early single “Don’t Get Pushed Around”. The great news is that all 3 bands have EPs/albums due to drop in 2018.

Broadcast was also home to “Back in the Garage” earlier in the year. The gig had a stellar line-up including The Media Whores, ReAction & The Zips with a rare Scottish headline appearance by External Menace. Unfortunately I was …ahem… tired and emotional by this point and missed their set…

Back to debut albums, I also thoroughly enjoyed Delinquents debut “About Last Night” a fairly eclectic collection of pop-punk tracks that brought a smile to my face. You’re sure to catch them gigging around the UK in 2018. See my review of the album here.

https://delinquentsdundee.bandcamp.com/track/never-gonna-fit-in

Savage Cut released one of the songs of the year in “Andy from Accounts” featuring Leyla Josephine on vocals and followed it later in the year with a tremendous album of collaborations with a variety of vocalists. “A Ricochet off the Moon” doesn’t disappoint and due to the nature of the collaborations provides a great mix and variety of songs.

Another album that brings a smile to my face on every listen is the latest, and in my opinion one of his best, release from Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders. “Scenery for Dreamers” is an exquisite album of sublime melodies, memorable lyrics & hooks and lush guitar riffs. The album sees Daniel team up with some quality musicians well known in the Scottish music scene in Neil Sturgeon, Johnny Smillie, Jim McCulloch to name a few and the result is exceptional.

Gig of the year – Duncan Reid and the Big Heads

Duncan Reid and the Big Heads continued to prove a treat to the ear-drums with third album “Bombs Away”. The melodic and sophisticated power pop/punk played by the band is second to none and builds on the quality of their previous releases. I had the pleasure of seeing the band live in Glasgow’s Nice ‘n’ Sleazy with 3 Minute Heroes and Heavy Drapes. Like the last gig they played in the city (in Audio with support from the magnificent Media Whores and omnipresent Heavy Drapes) this was probably my GIG OF THE YEAR.

An honourable mention to The Media Whores here. Although “Dangerous Minds” was released in 2015 it was long-listed for this year’s Mercury Music award. To me, this is one of the most important albums of the last few years with its topical subject matters from police and political corruption to mental health and eating disorders, tackled in an eminently listenable way. The band have played some noteworthy gigs securing prime support slots along the way. See my feature on the band here.

LIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Talking of Audio, Martin Metcalfe & the Fornicators recorded an acoustic live album in the venue. Unfortunately I missed the gig but the fruits of the evening’s labours have recently been released in the form of 10 track live album and it is my LIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR. Tracks feature from throughout his career, from Goodbye Mr MacKenzie classics like Candlestick Park through to The Holy Brothers from last year’s brilliant Filthy Tongues album “Jacob’s Ladder”. The Filthy Tongues also played a storming support set to The Skids in the O2 ABC in Glasgow. A treat for anyone who turned up early. Which to be fair was a large chunk, the draw of the Filthy Tongues was apparent. The Skids also treated us to a fantastic show, proving that the old punks can still cut it. I also wasn’t disappointed as Jobson put on a great display of Dad-dancing as usual.

“Damage and Joy” by The Jesus and Mary Chain was a welcome album of new material for one of my favourite bands and they played a magnificent gig in the O2 ABC to support the album. Unfortunately that gig also goes down in my memory was the one at which I experienced the biggest number of knobs. I’ve still to publish a blog on gig etiquette if there is such a thing… That aside, some of the new songs like “Always Sad” and “War on Peace” stand side by side with the Mary Chain classics of old.

Two throwbacks to the 90’s saw releases that were a complete “pleasure” to listen to. Gun released their best album in years in “Favourite Pleasures” and perennial touring band, Shed Seven’s first album of new material since 2001 was exactly as described in the title an “Instant Pleasure(s)”.

The Fall have gone through an almost endless list of band members through the years. Some of the ex-members led by Brix Smith (ex in more ways than one for Brix), Brix and the Extricated released one of the albums of the year in “Part II”. With a classic indie-rock sound the album was for me a welcome return to the music scene from Brix whose previous incarnation, the more Voice of the Beehive sounding Adult Net, I also thoroughly enjoyed.

Legendary Kilmarnock goths Southern Approach finally got round to releasing their debut album “Restitution”. An accomplished album of massive soundscapes and powerful vocals from Davie, with beautiful harmonies provided by Shirley. Originally called Legion after the Theatre of Hate song of the same name, 2017 also saw them supporting said band at a cracking gig from both bands in the Bungalow, Paisley. Watch out for more rare gigs from the band in 2018. Also hoping for action from Outstandifold and the Wettygrippers in 2018 (One of the other projects including David and Barry from Southern Approach)

I enjoyed some US punk/ska-punk too this year in the form of Rancid’s new LP “Troublemaker” which was released without much fanfare. Being a Rancid fan it is no surprise that I enjoyed the album. I think I have only missed one Rancid gig in Glasgow, so I was also looking forward to seeing the band live on Glasgow Green in a line-up that included Green Day, The Skids and Slaves. Unfortunately due to “the weather” the gig was cancelled at the last minute. The less said about that the better.

Slaves second album was a major disappointment, but to make up for it Idles similar style in their debut “Brutalism” made up for it in waves.

I’ve also recently been introduced to Jason How and have been listening to his 4 albums with relish. More to follow on the blog…

Re-releases/Compilations

There were a few re-releases/compilations of note this year too.

“Reissue, repackage, repackage, re-evaluate the songs”. The Smiths took their own advice with a CD and LP box set of The Queen is Dead, including alternative takes and live concert. In my opinion, it is still one of the best albums ever released. It’s a pity Moz is a bit of a tosser these days…

The Fall helped me keep up with their extensive back catalogue by releasing an extensive box set of all of their single releases and B-Sides. Until you see them laid out in front of you, you can easily forget how many memorable songs and hits the band have had in their history. I didn’t get to see the band live this year but it was a shame to see the way Mark E Smith is looking just now. Get well soon.

The multi-talented Alex Lusty (Happy Martyr, Rats from a Sinking Ship) released a compilation songs from his hip-hop/rap incarnation Frigid Vinegar. Titled “Lou Ferringo” the album is lyrically eccentric, think of a hip-hop Half-Man Half-Biscuit and you’ll get the idea. I shudder to think what goes on in his head! Look out for a longer feature on Alex and his various projects as Rats go on tour again in 2018.

Also worth your time is The Membranes 5 CD box set “Everyone’s Going Triple Bad Acid, Yeah!”. It is a completist’s dream as it compiles all their releases and documents the bands journey from 1980 to 1995. The band continue to record and tour with more recent album “Dark Matter/Dark Energy” becoming their most successful. I look forward to future planned dates as I missed their December Glasgow gig.

Gary Crowley’s Punk and New Wave compilation is a superb listen. It takes a different direction than many other punk/new wave compilations which churn out the same tracks over and over again. This 3 CD box set features many lesser known acts interspersed with a few bona fide classics – among them Altered Images best song, the Siouxise and the Banshees-esque “Dead Pop Stars”, 999’s “Emergency” & The Boys “First Time”. The compilation also features Glasgow punk legends and one of the hardest gigging bands in Glasgow, The Zips with “Take Me Down”.

Tarbeach Records continued to release some gems this year, releases by GIFTSHOP, Monkey Don’t Care and The Pepper Kings to a stripped back acoustic “19 Forevva” by Jonzip (of The Zips) and the magnificent “Old School Rules” EP from ReAction. The EP shows all the sides of the band, from the old school(!) punk of “Out of My Head”, the sophisticated 2 part “Street Fight” and the dub of “Crystallised Radio” (remixed from the album Accelerator) to their version of the External Menace classic “Someday”. It was a striking appetiser for the forthcoming second album (did I mention that already?).

Tarbeach also released a brilliant compilation CD (“No Animals Were Harmed”) to raise money for Sonny Vincent’s family (more about this here), but is also a great introduction to various bands on the labels roster (the only place you can currently get Heavy Drapes “Nightrippin’”) and others mentioned here and on my blog previously – such as Thirteen, Hateful, Texas Mod Crushers and so on.

And to the singles of the year

Some of the other singles/EPs I’ve been listening to time and time again this year have included what can only be described as feel good song of the year “Ehm Feelin’ Teckle” by Cundeez. From the opening cymbals all the way to the end I defy you not to smile. You’ll want to jump up and skank.

Single of the year – GIFTSHOP

Back to Tarbeach and GIFTSHOP who released my single of the year, a double A sided blue vinyl single featuring two different but equally stunning tracks. The in your face 2 fingers romp that is “Despicable” and the more restrained almost 50’s rockabilly crooner “Dontcha”.

An enormous slab of industrial strength post-punk came on the form of Drunk Gods double A single “Found the Lord and Lost Ma soul”/“Pet Hate” with its Killing Joke-esque sound and Ewan’s unique vocals.

As well as publishing his debut novel “A Rainbow in the Basement” Ian Donaldson has previewed his solo album due to hit the shelves in February with top track “Ticker Tape Parade”. I’m looking forward to the album and live launch dates.

Albums of the Year

Dead Hope – Songs from the Second Floor
Duncan Reid and the Big Heads – Bombs Away
Daniel Wylies Cosmic Rough Riders – Scenery for Dreamers
Delinquents – About Last Night
Jesus and Mary Chain – Damage and Joy
Crimedesk – Louder…..Faster
Red Eyes – Man and Boy
Hateful – Noize from the Streets
Shed Seven – Instant Pleasures
Gun – Favourite Pleasures
Martin Metcalfe and the Fornicators – Live
Brix and the Extricated – Part II
Savage Cut – A Ricochet off the Moon
Southern Approach – Restitution
Rancid – Troublemaker

Singles/EPs of the year

GIFTSHOP – Despicable/Dontcha
Cundeez – Ehm Feelin’ Teckle
Reaction – Old School Rules EP
Drunk Gods – Found the Lord & Lost Ma Soul/Pet Hate
Jonzip/The Zips – 19 Forevva/Barbara Wire
Strung Out Nights EPs
Ian Donaldson – Ticker Tape Parade
Duncan Reid & the Big Heads – Bombs Away/C’mon Josephine

2018

And so to 2018, and loads to excite. The Skids “Burning Cities” is due in January, albums and EPs are due from Heavy Drapes, ReAction, The Zips and Ian Donaldson. There have already been too many gig announcements to mention, filling the calendar and making it hard to choose.

An intriguing announcement is due from Brian Setzer/The Stray Cats on 2nd January – do I look forward to a Glasgow re-union gig to make up for the cancelled farewell gig? Fingers crossed.

A massive thanks to all those who have read, supported and contributed to my blog in 2017, feel free to share far and wide.

All the best for 2018.

 

The Price of Progress?

The Price of Progress?

I was listening to a news story on the radio the other day about technology, specifically around the music industry.

Spotify logoIt was on the back of publication Spotify executive’s salaries and the way we access music in the 21st Century. The general gist of the story was that the Apple store will probably disappear in the next 5 years as people won’t own the music but stream only. It all smacks to me that the changes are for those high up in Apple and Spotify and less to do with the artists or giving the public what they “want”.

There were a lot of assumptions mentioned during the piece. Along the lines of no-one wanting to own music anymore, albums dying and as people are no longer interested, they only want to access the tracks they want to hear.

The more I listened the more pissed off I got.

Streaming

Who decided that no-one wants to own music anymore? I didn’t. Generally, I hate downloads and I hate streaming even more. Yes, I use Spotify on my blog, but first and foremost I will buy a hard copy on vinyl and/or CD. I suppose at least with a download I own the music, but I still like a hard physical copy. Yes, I know, I’m a curmudgeon.

VinylI yearn for the days when you saw a poster, heard on the radio or read in a magazine that a band you like were going to release a single or album in the coming weeks or months.

Buying Vinyl

The anticipation waiting for that release was immense, and the hiatus in hearing about it and the record actually coming out built up the excitement. Making the trip to the local record shop was an event. Getting there and picking up the record sleeve, reading the sleeve notes and track listing and admiring the album cover was part of the enchantment. Before I bought it, I might only have heard one song on the radio so the anticipation to get home so I could listen to the rest of the album was intense.

The journey home was part of the overall experience, sitting on the bus or train and reading the inner sleeve notes and lyrics. Then, finally getting home, slipping the vinyl out, the feel and the smell of the vinyl then the sound of the needle hitting the groove and the music starting. Bliss. I just loved getting lost in the music and immersing myself in the whole experience.

The instantaneousness of streaming or downloading isn’t the same – click – done. No experience, no gratification.

The public gets what the industry wants…

The whole argument about giving the public what they want doesn’t wash with me. The industry strangles us and gives us what they want. My kids stream tracks because that is what they are told they want. It is all they really know (well, if they didn’t live with me surrounded by CDs and LPs). Surely the revival of vinyl is an indicator that people still want this whole experience?

I feel sorry for today’s youth that all they know is this instant accessibility for everything. Streaming or downloading “tracks” rather than listening to an album as the artist intended. Or should I say these days the way the programmer and Autotune intended… But it is not just music, its TV box sets, social media, photographs, even ordering from the likes of Amazon and Argos and getting it delivered the same day. EVERYTHING is NOW NOW NOW.

I also fear for the future of bands and live music. Ok, so I don’t think it will ever die out, as the majority of the bands I listen to these days do it for the love of music. The majority are unlikely ever to be able to make a career out of it. It is a hobby rather than a career. That makes me sad. The industry has changed so much. Gone are the days of massive signing fees and bottomless pits of cash from record companies. How are the bands supposed to make any money from streaming if the figures I read are true?

I know it isn’t always all about the money, but if you’re making nothing and everything ends up costing you, how long can that be viable? I’m no industry expert but I do read horror stories of how many streams are required for artists to make any sort of return.

Is all change progress?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Luddite – I’m writing an online blog after all! I do wonder sometimes whether so called progress is always necessarily a good thing.

I’m not anti-change, but are there always valid reasons for change? Industry will always argue that there are reasons, but most of that is to do with cold hard cash. Fuck people. Who cares about them!

Things seem to change at such a pace these days. Take TVs – my parents had the same TV for many years. Did that have an adverse effect on us? Absolutely not. Now there are new models out every 6 months/year and you are told in no uncertain terms that your model is out of date and it is going to have a massive adverse impact on your life if you don’t upgrade. Phones, computers, tablets… The list goes on and same message goes for all of them.

Slow Down

Sometimes people just need to slow down and relax. Modern society doesn’t seem to want this though.

What are the drawbacks of technology and change?

Well, this started about music so from what I’ve already mentioned there is an impact on the bands and artists themselves.

But widening this out, technology and change are sold as opportunities for people to make the most of their leisure time. Is there not a catch 22 here? The more automation and change that happens, the more leisure time we’ll have as everyone will be out of work and as a result won’t have the income to do anything with their leisure time and all this fantastic technology…

Mental Health & the Modern World

I like to write about the music I love, but my blog is also about mental health concerns. From a personal perspective, I need to ensure my behaviours are right and I do the right thing for myself. The modern world doesn’t always help someone with anxiety and depression issues in dealing with them.

Slowing down is always a consideration. Everything, everywhere goes at 100mph. People want things yesterday. One of the things that has the potential to bring on my anxieties and panic attacks is the expectations (often self-imposed) that everything needs done NOW. That may be work related or outside work – DIY, stupid tasks around the house, anything and everything.

The feeling that you have so much to do and so little time and the feeling of failure when you don’t achieve what you THINK you needed to achieve.

Instant gratification

This culture of instant gratification for everything, people not seemingly able to wait for anything and trying to get everywhere as quickly as possible doesn’t help this. Neither does modern technology. Yes, I don’t disagree, it is great that you can find information straight away using Google (other search engines are available), learn a new skill via YouTube (ditto…).

It is however, almost impossible to escape your work or be off the grid with laptops, tablets and mobile phones being part of everyday life. Remember letters? Even faxes. You got a chance to receive and read these then compose your response before replying. Your inbox these days is constantly pinging and the pressure to respond immediately can be intense.

Slow Down

The world is obsessed with doing everything faster, cheaper and more efficiently. I can appreciate that margins are tight and why businesses want to save money but does there not come a time when we have to say stop? After all, is the economy not a man-made notion and influenced by the few at the top. It is not a naturally occurring phenomenon

Are we so obsessed with cutting a few minutes off journeys that we are prepared to risk people’s lives? Look at high speed trains. Look what happened this week in the US.

Amtrak high speed train crash
Amtrak high speed train crash

Roads. Yes, it can be frustrating waiting in traffic, but who has created that mind-set? Do we really need to be constantly building new roads, reducing the time it takes to get places, increasing the amount of traffic on the roads? Why is everything so focussed on time, time, time – faster, bigger, more…

Nothing ever closes

We have a 24/7 society and it is difficult to switch off. Supermarkets open 24 hours, shops opening earlier and closing later. Banks closing left, right and centre because they have forced us down the internet route and now no-one wants to use the branches. Until they close and then everyone realises the impact it has. The internet never closes.

And automation – these robots coming over here and stealing our jobs! Self-service check-outs, self-driving cars, internet shopping, social media even skype. Bloody hell, with “Alexa”, you don’t even need to get off your arse and switch a light on/off or type something into your keyboard. What have we become? Great, these innovations may all save time and money. They may make things easier for us. But are we losing the ability to communicate with others? When do we find the time to interact with fellow human beings?

What does that all mean to our mental health? Or indeed or physical health. Is it any wonder there is an increase in obesity? Are we surprised we have more lonely people about? Is it any wonder that there are increased levels of anxiety and depression? Unreal expectations, automation taking away human interactions, reducing people’s skillsets, feelings of worthlessness, inability to cope with the all pressures that go along with modern life.

Live Life

There is no escape but there are things you can do. What will I do?

I’ll continue to buy my music on vinyl or CD (no matter how much my wife complains about space!)

I’m going to continue to support new bands and artists if I can – promoting them, buying their product, going to their gigs when able.

I’ll use the tills with people on them, who cares if I have to wait in a queue for a few minutes, I’ll get to talk to someone and not encourage continued automation.

Take the slow train. Read a book, listen to music! RELAX

I know I need to be more active – not only for my physical heath, but for my mental health. Take a break from the pressures of 21st Century life. Realise what is all around me. Take a step back to think and observe what life is really about.

I need to switch my phone off when I’m in the house. Writing this I realise how often I check my e-mails, my messages, Facebook, Twitter in the course of a day. What will happen if I don’t respond immediately? The world won’t come to an end.

Breathe – and I mean that literally. Sit down, breathe and notice my breathing. Notice the sounds around me, notice what is happening to my body. Relax.

So, stop reading this blog on your phone, tablet or computer. Go and talk to someone. Switch off your tech, read a book, listen to some music (on vinyl!!), go to a gig. But most of all slow down, chill out and relax. The world isn’t going anywhere. Enjoy life. Don’t let it pass you by.

Tarbeach Records – NYC Record Label

Tarbeach webTarbeach Records

Over the years, there have been a number of essential record labels with Scottish roots that have given rise to some unforgettable bands and their music.

The list is massive but everyone must be familiar with at least one of these:

  • Postcard (Orange Juice, Josef K, Aztec Camera)
  • Creation (Oasis, Ride, Primal Scream, Jesus and Mary Chain, House of Love)
  • Creeping Bent (Vic Godard, Secret Goldfish, Alan Vega)
  • Chemikal Underground (Mogwai, The Delgados, Malcolm Middleton, Arab Strap)

And that is just scraping the surface.

Scottish Roots

Add a new one to that list – Tarbeach Records. Although NYC based, the label has Scottish roots and a number of Scottish bands on their release list.

To date they have an impressive back catalogue (see below) of releases from bands old and new – with much more to come.

ReAction Accelerator album cover
ReAction – Accelerator

I first came across the label when I bought the peerless debut album “Accelerator” by ReAction, but have since bolstered my Tarbeach collection somewhat.

In addition to the ReAction album mentioned, from a Scottish perspective, Tarbeach has been supported releases from the much touted Heavy Drapes and Glasgow’s legendary The Zips/Jonzip. These 3 bands recently played a sold out showcase gig “Kiss This” in Broadcast, Glasgow.

Kiss This Poster
Kiss This – Broadcast, Glasgow

Walter Stewart

I asked Walt Stewart about the origins of Tarbeach…

The label started in 2016. I had recorded an album in 2007 called “Thee New York Tarbeach Recordings”. It was an Avant-garde set. I continued to record as Thee Electric Fits, or Thee E-Fits or Thee EFF-its.

The reason for the labels existence is because I felt like doing something, more concentrated, other than these abstracted projects.

So from humble beginnings, the label has worked with a range if bands to get their product out there. Walt expanded on the ethos of the label.

This label was intended to be, and has become a self-functioning collective. I hope it is about giving bands a home and appreciating their efforts by releasing their music indiscriminately. That their effort is so natural, is nothing to do with the label at all. That’s the ethos.

We don’t have a roster (of bands), whatever is coming out will be on the website. We don’t have any CAPITAL to advertise ‘n stuff, if it’s out, it’s on the website.

All the more reason for anyone reading this to spread the word far and wide. If you need any encouragement – just listen to some of the bands that have released their music on Tarbeach. (See the list of releases below). I guarantee you’ll find something you like and be impressed by.

What about the music Walt likes?

I can swing from Miles (Davis), to Buttholes (Surfers), to Sparks, To GBV (Guided by Voices), to The Fall, to Milkshakes, to Pixies, to Reaction, to Monkey Don’t Care.

But most of all, I listen to the local scene. My fave bands of late are Pepper Kings, and GIFTSHOP.

On that note, being NYC based, Tarbeach naturally supports a diverse range of New York/US based bands, including some of those mentioned by Walt.

Again, NY and Glasgow have reflected activities around showcasing the bands on the label. As well as the recent gig in Glasgow there have been showcase gigs in NY in the last few months including Monkey Don’t Care, Pepper Kings and The Bowery Boys along with Golden Axe Attack and the Rose Pedals in Gussy’s Bar, Queens in June.

Tarbeach showcase gig June 2017 NYC
Tarbeach Showcase NYC

A truly international label. Loved by many on both sides of the Atlantic. Tarbeach artists regularly feature on Danny Mac’s Testifying Time Radio Show. On the other side of the pond, Walt (along with ReAction’s Joe Whyte) recently appeared on DJ Rob Select’s show

The label has also been involved in supporting Sonny Vincent and family after the much publicised tragedy that befell them. This was through the release of a compilation CD (details below) of bands associated with Tarbeach with funds raised going to the support fund.

Upcoming releases

Tarbeach has a busy few months ahead with a number of releases scheduled. Look out for the following exciting releases coming in the next few months:

October 31st:

Halloween sees the release of the second EP from Monkey Don’t Care:

Monkey Don't Care
Monkey Don’t Care

Monkey Don’t Care – “Pearl Necklace” CDEP – Tracks “She Goes Her Own Way”, “Slow But Sure Destruction”, “Lids of my Eyes” (Tar022)

3 great tracks of melodic alt-rock with distortion heavy vocals on a couple of the songs. “Slow but Sure Destruction” is a standout with its pleading opening bass over the sound of rain bringing a feeling of desolation but builds into a crashing epic song. “She Goes Her Own Way” brings the tempo back up again and is reminiscent of early REM.

November 17th:

(The) Meghan Taylor (fronted) quintet (GIFTSHOP) specializes in CBGB’s style punk mixed with 21st century pop hooks. GIFTSHOP’s dynamic live shows have earned them prime festival slots.

Giftshop band picture
GIFTSHOP

GIFTSHOP – “Despicable”/”Dontcha Know” – AA blue vinyl 7” (Tar020)

“Despicable” with its driving guitars and plaintive vocals is a straightforward fuck you to an asshole who thinks he does “the things that make him likeable”, but is really just ”despicable”. A fantastic 3 and a half minute romp. “Dontcha Know” shows a softer side to the band – more ballad like and with a real 50’s feel to it. Definitely not aimed at the subject of “Despicable”. Brilliant.

December 25th:

Pepper Kings – “Pepper Kings” debut CD album (Serial No TBC)

Pepper Kings band picture
Pepper Kings

I want to say the Pepper Kings are quirky. I can’t think of a better word to describe them, their sound is unconventional and often eccentric (Hoot Owl).

It would be difficult to pigeon-hole Pepper Kings. While not necessarily sounding like them – the band are off the wall in the way bands like XTC, Devo and Talking Heads are – doubtlessly a good thing.

The vocals at times reminiscent of varied vocalists like Jello Biafra, Calvin Johnson and Fred Schneider. Like Dead Kennedys, there is a serious side to the songs too, with “Casinos Mean Jobs” making a deliberate political statement.

You will categorically not be bored listening to Pepper Kings. I’ve only heard a selection of the songs from the album, but I look forward to hearing more.

(Date – TBC):

ReAction – “Out of My head” b/w “Crystallised Radio” 7” white vinyl (Tar013)

Reaction live picture
ReAction – Live

ReAction are a phenomenal band both live and on record. The energy from Big Carson is second to none and the song-writing and music is sophisticated and varied. The 2 tracks here showcase different sides to the band with “Out of My Head” being an in your face punk rock romp. ”Crystallised Radio” on the flip side is a dub remix of Accelerator album track “Crystal Radio” and follows on from Fireball in Dub (Warped Plan Remix) on the album.

I am excited for the future of Tarbeach and hope to see many more releases coming from the label continuing with the variety of music styles as they have to date.

Thanks to Walt and all the bands for the time and effort they put in to get their music out there to the masses.

I’ve linked to bands Facebook pages/websites throughout where possible.

Get the above releases and the back catalogue from the website – Tarbeach Music. You can find them on social media too – Facebook and Twitter

Back catalogue

Tar002Electric Fits – Opposable Thumbs (album) CD/DL

Tar003 – Electric Fits – Sonic Metamorphine b/w Being One (single) DL only

Tar005 – ReAction – Accelerator (album) – CD/DL

Tar007 – ReAction – Hey Patty Hearst/Heavy Drapes – Into the Blue AA split 7” red vinyl

Tar010/ Tar010CD – Heavy Drapes – Should I Suck EP – amber vinyl/Heavy Drapes – Should I Suck EP – CD/DL

Tar011 – Double pack of Tar007 & Tar010

Tar012EP – ReAction – Old School Rules EP – CD/DL

Tar013 – ReAction – Out of My Head – single – white vinyl – Final Release date TBC

Tar014/Tar014CDEX – Jonzip/The Zips 19 Forevva/Barbara Wire AA split 7” green vinyl/Jonzip/The Zips – CD EP with 2 extra hidden tracks – different colour sleeves

Tar015 – Triple Distilled – pack of Tar007/Tar010 & Tar014

Tar016 – Tarbeach Compilation – No Animals Were Harmed During Any Recordings – CD/DL

Tar018 – Monkey Don’t Care – “I Hear What You’re Saying But I Just Don’t Care” 3 Track EP – CD/DL

Tar019 – The Bowery Boys – “EP#1” 5 track EP – CD/DL

Tar020 – GIFTSHOP – Despicable/Don’t’cha Know – AA single – blue vinyl (released 17/11/2017)

Tar021 – The Pepper Kings – “EP#1” 4 track EP – CD/DL

Tar022 – Monkey Don’t Care – “Pearl Necklace EP” – CD/DL (released 31/10/2017)