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Review + Q&A: Squid – O Monolith (2023, Warp Records)

It is a difficult and anxious task to take on a second album of a band that has released the best debut album you heard in years. Bright Green Field by Squid was that, and also a much played and recommended album that became a champion for independent adventurous music and a good friend in one. Within a few days the band will be ready to release its successor, and I got the privilege to listen to it in advance and twist my brain into yoga poses to comprehend it.

Because sure, O Monolith is a difficult second album, but not in the regular sense. The difficulty lies with the listener this time, not so much with the band, who in fact seemed to have had a lot of fun and inspiration making it. It is a layer cake album, that you will need to spend much time with to fully digest, musically and lyrically. Nothing is ever what it seems, and once you think you got them pegged, they wriggle away like the squeaky little squids they named themselves to be.

If Bright Green Field‘s major appeal was Squid‘s fresh proggy take on uptempo post punk in the vein of Talking Heads and their contemporaries Black Midi and Black Country, New Road, O Monolith stretches up the progressive part and fully rips it open, guts spilling noisily. There is a whole new range in dynamics at work here too, with less uptempo dancing and more emphasis on building up tension into what Can would call “Godzillas”. Just listen to the postmodern classical bombast of album closer If You Had Seen The Bull’s Swimming Attempts You Would Have Stayed Away and note that the real leap Squid took here is not even in that song title…

An intricate work, and an album your ears need to grow accustomed to, but a lovely rich one too once it fully opened itself up to you. As a big fan of the first album you might need to step over the lack of hooks and danceable tunes, but O Monolith will reward your patience in the end.

The impression that stays a few listens into O Monolith is of a band of explorers that are free to go wherever the flow might take them. Equipped with impressive musical chops and unlimited creative possibilities they had eight adventures in Peter Gabriel‘s Real World studio. The result is as eclectic and diverse as an album by human musicians as outstanding and singular like Squid might ever get.

But let’s hold off on a final conclusion for now, because I for one am not nearly finished with this monolith quite yet…

When I started this blog three years ago I had little expectations of what it would grow into. It was just something to occupy my mind with during the pandemic dread. So when I was able to actually fire a couple of questions at one of my absolute favorite contemporary artists Squid this month I was pretty damn pleased with myself. It’s a personal highlight of an already pretty great year in new music. Guitarist Anton Pearson did the answering to my questioning.

Hi guys, how have you been since the release of Bright Green Field

We’ve been good… we’ve been writing lots of new music, done loads of shows, travelled to a bunch of countries we’ve never been to before. Most of us have moved house at least once since then. So yeah, a busy time.

It’s been a very successful album, which raises the level of anticipation towards the “difficult second album”…How big of a part has that played in writing and recording O Monolith?

We tried not to consider it too much. We were really pleased and surprised how much people seemed to like BGF (some people probably hated it too) but we weren’t really interested in making music in reaction to public feedback, we’d probably end up with something pretty awful if we did that – 5 opinions is enough to juggle already. We’ve just kept making music we find exciting and challenging to make.

Where do you live, and how does it affect your musicianship in any way?

Right now I’m living in Brighton, Ollie’s in Bristol and Arthur, Louis and Laurie are in London. They’ve all got distinct music cultures and scenes and they’ve all been important cities to us in different ways. Brighton got a bunch of good small venues, without them we never would’ve got started as a band. Some of my favourites are the Hope and Ruin, The ACCA and The Rose Hill. 

What does an ordinary day look like for you?

I’m constantly yo-yoing between Brighton and London these days. I usually get the train up and meet the other squids at a rehearsal space at 10/11am and work until about 5pm and get the very busy train back again. We haven’t been touring much recently and I’m feeling very lucky to be able to spend most days writing or rehearsing with those lovely fellas.

If I have a day at home I like playing football and going for walks.

Can you tell us about some of your contemporary heroes?

Hmm tricky question. Just thinking about what I’ve been listening to today – Richard Dawson and Laurie Anderson are big legends in my eyes. Dunno I’d call them heroes though, reckon they’d be rubbish at fighting crime.

Outside of music Kyogo Furuhashi is one of them for sure.

Where do you draw your inspiration from when it comes to the lyrics?

I don’t think there’s any set rules about where we draw lyrical inspiration from, its whatever really. To keep things impulsive and raw to a certain degree, it’s important that we don’t worry too much about things making perfect sense. But quite often we get inspired by things we’ve read or seen or overheard people say, then let our imaginations mull it over over a bit and come up with something new with it. We usually write the music first and the lyrical ideas feed off that. Ollie writes most of the lyrics for Squid, he’s a talented boy.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do immediately after reading this interview?

I’ve recently moved somewhere with a garden for the first time in my adult life and I built a pond a few months ago. It’s been great watching that come to life – I’d recommend doing that if you’re able to – it’s great for your local wildlife and easy to do.

Review + Q&A: Adam Camm – Mirror, Mirror (2023, self-released)

On his debut album Mirror, Mirror Adam Camm from London takes us all the way back to 1970s New York and the new wave scene of CBGBs with bands like Richard Hell and the Voidods, Television, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, and Blondie. The music really represents that half-cheering/half-serious vibe and is similarly irresistible in its jumpy danceability.

The production and execution of these tunes is wonderfully jingly jangly, and played with a looseness that is hardly ever heard these days. Not unlike Richard Hell, Adam Camm himself is not always super solid on his high notes, but he can deliver a message. Where Hell’s message was one of punk, doom and the blank generation, Camm’s messages are closer to his heart with more universal themes. Musically the album is quite diverse, varying from uptempo rockers to Kinks-y ballads, and Bowie-esque crooners. All very much rooted in the 70s, as you might have noticed by now…

Overall Mirror, Mirror is a nice little trip down memory lane that will fit right in with your other alternative rock albums from the mid 70s. So to all the modern dandies, T-Rex and Bowie adepts; here’s your new favorite band!

A solid DIY production is always worth supporting, and for Mirror,Mirror Adam Camm did most of the work and creation all by himself. Strangely enough no label was involved either, so here is presenting this cool album of his all by his lonesome. It does give the man all the credits as well, and credits are due, because Mirror, Mirror is highly enjoyable. So let’s meet Adam and see what he is all about!

How are you? How was the pandemic period for you as a musician?

Hi, I’m very good thank you. 

I think the pandemic, whilst troubling in so many ways, did give some musicians the time to try out new things and work on writing more than perhaps they possibly could before. It was during the pandemic that I wrote and recorded my debut solo EP Echo Chamber and then shortly afterwards, began work on what was to be my debut solo album Mirror, Mirror.

Whilst Mirror, Mirror isn’t really influenced by the pandemic in the same way that the EP was, it might not have happened had I not had the time and opportunity to focus on my solo outing.

Can you introduce yourself, how did you start your career, etc? 

My name is Adam Camm and I was born in Bristol, England but have lived in London since the late 2000’s. I’ve been a musician since I was at school when I started my first band and have had a few different bands since then. After taking a break for a few years in the late 2010’s I got back into writing and recording which spurred me to complete and number of projects including the one I’m now talking to you about.

What can you tell me about your musical background?

My earliest memories are watching glam rock videos with my dad. Being brought up on a diet of Bowie and Bolan and then getting into other artists like the Beatles and Stones from a pretty young age has stuck with me and that’s undoubtedly heard in my music. Then when Britpop came around and Oasis hit the scene, that was when I started to take music seriously and play rather than just being a consumer.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

Sadly, my music is yet to pay my bills so I do have a day job which luckily for me helps to keep me in instruments, records and everything else.

I have a dog, a Norwegian Buhund, called Bergen who is shown by my partner, Marie. He recently won Best of Breed at Crufts so he tends to steal the limelight!

Outside of that I enjoy watching my football team Bristol Rovers and watching the England national team at home and abroad when possible.

What is the best thing about Mirror,Mirror?

I think it’s the best sounding record I’ve made. I don’t like how many modern records sound. I wanted this to have that rough vintage edge and I really think it has that. I’m very happy with the mixes by Steve Cornell and the mastering by Ben at Rare Tone Mastering is excellent. He made sure to run it through his huge range of analogue outboard gear and you can really hear the difference.

Where do you live and how does it affect your music?

As I said, I live in London which obviously has a rich music history. However, I think that it’s becoming less friendly to musicians with the closure of venues and the cost of living and being a musician.

I aim to play a few gigs this year but I haven’t done anything since 2016 live because of the costs and the difficulties involved.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

Probably my most favourite band that has come out in the last five years or so is The Lemon Twigs. Obviously their sound and aesthetic fits right in with my tastes, but I admire their mentality too. Having such a big hit first album and then deciding to do a double album musical about a monkey going to school takes some balls!

Can you tell me about how you went about composing and recording songs?

I was lucky to go through a couple of hot streaks for this album. I often write and record at the same time in my home studio. I had a couple of ideas that I was determined to flesh out and finish, but the vast majority of the songs were conceived and recorded relatively quickly. 

Anything can inspire a song. It could be a lick, a riff or a turn of phrase that inspires a lyric. Sometimes it comes to me quickly and other times I just need to play about and see what happens!

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

My immediate plans are to support the album with a few gigs. I have a band and we’ll start rehearsing with a plan to do some gigs in the latter part of the year.

Longer term, I will continue to write music and record with my solo project and also my other projects I have. I’d like to do a few collaborations at some point with friends and other musicians I’ve connected with through social media so this won’t be the last thing I do for sure!

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?

I’d like them to listen to Mirror, Mirror. I hope they enjoy it, and most of all… Stay weird!

Review + Q&A: Wooden Tape – Music From Another Place (2023, God Unknown Records)

My first encounter with Liverpool’s Wooden Tape is the lovely video (added below) of the song Geodesic Eric in which we see a humanoid dog figure ballet dancing his way through a typically English rural landscape. The whole thing radiates a certain calm, peace, and finesse that is quite typical of Wooden Tape and its music. The album Music From Another Place is a clockmaker’s ambient work in that sense that it is carefully crafted, has a deep sense of detail, and that it fully demands your attention to embrace its deep inner beauty.

Wooden Tape is Tim Maycox, a high school arts teacher in Liverpool. Within this project he has meticulously crafted his own minute little universe, in which every single sound has its function. If it were an armchair it would probably resemble a Rietveld. In a similar way all the extras are stripped but instead of a lesser object, it becomes more, stylistically, and artistically.

There is a strong connection to the world outside as well, and often times we hear various species of bird chirping and twittering away. It personally transported me right back to my own pandemic experience, when the sudden quiet of a society grinding to a halt also seemed to amplify the sound of nature around me. It was actually one of the big upsides of the whole dreary situation.

With its skilfully executed mixture of guitars, electronics, and field recordings Music From Another Place is quite a unique work even among the Avantgarde ambient of today. It would lend it itself perfectly for an arthouse film, but for now it also works fine to visualise your own film inside your brain. Perhaps the latter is even preferable, as every time you put this record on it could transport you to a different place. The album title seems to suggest that, and we are welcome to explore…are you up for it?

I had a nice chat with Tim Maycox from his home in Liverpool. Having had a couple of stints in bands and playing with renowned psych bands like Mainliner and Teeth Of The Sea, he carefully explains his musical roots and current status, and the perks of being a one man band in Wooden Tape.

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for you?

It is during times like the pandemic that you realise how lucky you are to have creative outlets to fall back on and escape into. I was also blessed to have my family with me, not everyone had that. It did lead to some of the writing and recordings on the album.

Can you introduce yourself and the musical projects you are involved in?

I am Tim AKA Wooden Tape. At the moment, Wooden Tape is ‘the’ project, with the album due out I am involved in putting together a small band of like-minded types to do some live work over the summer and beyond. Wooden Tape is a combination of my interests in hauntology, acoustic guitar music of the late 60’s/early 70’s, ambient synths and pads, library music and classic OST music. The sound of the album is a set of forgotten theme tunes like audio versions of little, faded ektachrome snaps. There is another collaboration I have been working on but I hope that might be one for the future, involving music, word/text and possible film. I also have a new set of pieces I am developing.

What can you tell me about your musical background?

Played in a couple of bands over the years in the Merseyside/Liverpool region. Did some great shows as ‘Fortunatus’, supporting the likes of Teeth of the Sea and Mainliner, with the excellent Behind the Wall of Sleep promotions and as part of the Liverpool Psych Fest. We could never really get any traction and it kind of fizzled out, like a lot of bands do! I also recorded and wrote as part of a project called ‘Sons of Sekander’, we put out our own E.P, not dissimilar to Wooden Tape but with a bit more spoken word on it. The great thing about Wooden Tape is I have been able to bring together Joe and Sean from those previous bands for the Wooden Tape stuff. I worked at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall for 16 years (I was a classical roadie) so music was never far- at home and at work. Wooden Tape grew from a couple of songs that two close friends championed. Very organic.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

Very dualistic! I am a High School teacher which I love. I teach Art but am based in a building with Music so sometimes I am asked to play on bits (the students put me to shame!) I am lucky to be able to take one cap off and put another on, when I have the time. A regular music day can be anything from recording in my house, to organising mixes to writing. 

What is the best thing about Music From Another Place?

I suppose like anything someone puts out it is a distillation of your particular likes. It can be hard to be subjective about your own music and to stand outside and look in. I think it does sound different and that is the home recorded element to it. I have a set of percussion that maybe different to the next musician’s set of percussion so you instantly get a ‘sound’ I am heavy on melody and don’t mind things being ‘pretty’ but I also like balance, so you get pieces like ‘Birds II’ and ‘Broken Tapestry’ sitting next to each other. That is one of the things I love about my favourite albums that light/dark thing. At school I talk about Chaos and Order in art, and I think that is really important.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

I live close to one of the great music cities, Liverpool. I also live in a region that is probably untouchable with Liverpool and Manchester, within 35 miles of each other. Then you have got North Wales close by, which is and always has been a hotbed of amazing music. Liverpool is as receptive as any place to alternative sounds and music and the musical environment is very healthy though we have lost some great venues.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

I have always loved Ben Chasny/Six Organs of Admittance and really liked Rick Tomlinson/Voice of the Seven Woods. Anything Ghost Box brings out is always amazing. I like Bibio, Hampshire & Foat and songwriters like Bill Callahan the list goes on! Locally we have amazing bands like Ex-Easter Island Head, who are a must see live. Johhny Trunk and Andy Votel are big idols for me, they straddle that music/film/art/outsider/retro thing so well and are culturally so important (I am ever the art student!) I could do this interview tomorrow and add another 100 artists!

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs?

I tend to write a lot on acoustic guitar and still see myself as predominantly a guitarist, but I love to pretend to be Matthew Fisher or Rick Wright and tinker away on a keyboard. I get bits down on the phone and go back to them, I know if I had to get out of bed, go downstairs, find my guitar, get the phone out and press record it must have been ok (hard listening back when it wasn’t though!!!) I mostly start by looping percussion, put down an acoustic pattern and then add washes with other guitar and keyboard. When you don’t have words, titles become really important as they set the meaning, though I do also like using vague/ambiguous titles so people can have their own take on the themes. Anything I do then goes to the brilliant Marc Joy to sprinkle his wonder dust on. Marc has been pivotal to the sound of Wooden Tape.

What are your immediate and long-term future plans?

Immediate plans are to promote the album, Jason at God Unknown has given me a wonderful opportunity. Also, we need to get out and support the album with some live shows, hoping for some visual aspect to these with film. Long term is more music! I touched upon that other project before, there is music written and a script with some interest so let’s see?! A festival would be nice, we always loved the Green Man so if you are reading…

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?

Listen to the album! I would start with the video for Geodesic Eric that the very talented Clifford Sayer animated and then listen to the album in sequence. Then go down that rabbit hole of influences! Umliani & Zalla (or pretty much any Italian Library music, they were the masters) John Renbourn/6 Organs of Admittance/Popol Vuh/KPM again, the list goes on. It’s the wonderful thing about music, it just keeps on giving!

Review + Q&A: Dead Sea Apes – Rewilding (2023, Cardinal Fuzz Records/Feeding Tube Records)

The Dead Sea Apes have returned out of their pandemic induced slumber. Domesticated were they, caged, like all of their musician brethren. Sure, they managed to make new music still, but it was never as raw and alive as before. Until now. They found the holy fire again, being able to play together renewed, free in the live experience. The jam, the very blood flowing through their veins. The Apes could roam again, wild once more. Bear witness to the Rewilding of the Dead Sea Apes.

On their new album the revitalised Apes have stripped their sound to the very core: guitar, drums and bass. Just three guys in a room picking up on a vibe and rolling with it, six times in a row for forty-two minutes. The sheer pleasure of the solid click Brett Savage, Chris Hardman, and Jack Toker have is infectious, and it is not difficult to visualise the energy in the room with your eyes closed.

You can feel it too, in your limbs, in your stomach, the rumbling bass, the tribal hacking of the drums, the gyrating howl of the guitars. This is a band of wildling apes released from their cages once more, ready to crush, ready to shed some sweat, ready to breathe. Rewilding presents a band finding back their holy fire; the mighty jam, the intuitive ritual, and we get to be there in this moment. It is a good time to be alive.

I talked to guitarist Brett Savage, who was more than happy to tell us more about the who/why/how of Dead Sea Apes. It is so great to be able to connect with passionate musician lifers like him and his band mates. It is the main reason for keeping up this Weirdo Shrine of mine in the first place…

How are you? How was the pandemic period for Dead Sea Apes?

Hello Jasper! Im all well and good, thank you. Hope that you are too! Personally speaking, I’ve got very mixed feelings about the pandemic period. I realise that it came with a real heavy cost to a lot of people – but I also thought it was really an interesting time to be alive. The lockdown period here in the UK was a really odd time. There was a real uncanniness to that time that I don’t think that we will ever experience again in our lifetimes, and I do think it ended up having a huge bearing on Rewilding. The empty streets, clear skies and the general quietness was a little bit spooky.

Here in the UK, we were allowed to go outside for short periods for exercise and get a breath of fresh air. I was out walking with my dog on a quarry local to me and I was listening to some really spooky music (Dire Wolves, as it happens), it was April and still quite cold and windy. The wind was making all the trees sway wildly, flecks of snow were flying in the wind – and all of a sudden, two deer just run out in front of me. It was like something out of a dream. It kind of felt like Mother Nature was reasserting herself in some way. That had a profound effect on me. It was both dreamlike and visceral at the same time – and that really seemed to jive with the times.

I also felt like a lot of people were affected rather oddly by the overall atmosphere of the lockdown. I’ve always been interested in conspiracy theories (not as a fan, more as an observer) and it was interesting to see how these ideas had started to promulgate so fervidly, as they often do in periods of uncertainty. These themes and the general uncanny vibe of that whole era seemed to fit with the primal and red-blooded music that had started to come out of us when we finally got back into the rehearsal room.

Obviously, it was frustrating for anyone in a band during the lockdown, as it was incredibly difficult to make music together beyond recording stuff and sending it over the internet, but we managed to get some ideas together with Adam Stone and Stephen Bradbury (Black Tempest) to make Dataland, which we are all really proud of and which I think captures some of that weirdness of the pandemic era really well, not least in Adam’s words.

Pic by Hayley Ward HEW

Can you introduce the band, and how did you meet, etc, ?

Originally, Both Chris Hardman (drums), Nick Harris (Bass) and I (guitar) met through online musician’s noticeboards way back in 2009. We were a steady line up, up until Nick Harris left at the end of 2017. It took us a good few months to find Jack (Toker), who came in to replace him on the bass. I used to see Jack at quite a few gigs down in London and had always got in well with him. I ran into him at gig for The Heads in Manchester when we were looking for a new bass player after a few false starts. He had not long moved back up to the North of England and was keen to join. And we are so glad he has. He has given us a new lease of life and has fitted right in.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

All of us have had experience playing generally loud and weird stuff in a number of bands, up and down the country!

What does a regular day in your lives look like? (jobs/hobbies/vocations…)

Well, music is a connective tissue in our lives. In his day job, Jack builds and fixes guitars (he has just built me a beautiful custom guitar, by the way!). Chris is a sound engineer for the BBC. He also records and produces all of our stuff. We have recorded everything in our rehearsal room and Chris makes it sound pretty much as if we have been in a recording studio! I’m definitely biased here, but I think Chris is a true artisan when it comes to recording. He has a lot of creative talent backed up with a high level of technical skill. As for myself, in recent years, I’ve opened a record shop, so making music is kind of a ‘busman’s holiday’!

What is the best thing about Rewilding?

I think Rewilding has been an absolute rebirth for us. Although it took its time in coming, I think that we have bounced back with a real passion. I think we were really hungry to get back to playing as a band and let that unspoken communication can come back into play. You really can’t replicate it playing it in a back bedroom and sending it over data transfer. We wanted some of that ‘rehearsal room democracy’ to inform our music – and as a result, I think it made this album much more focussed, cohesive and our most passionate yet. Admittedly, we have taken our time in making it, but I feel that we have got the feel and the sound just right. We wanted it to come along in its own time. We haven’t laboured it to the point where it had drained all of the life out of it. It feels wild and spirited. We’ve been Rewilded!

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

Both Chris and I live in different parts of Greater Manchester and we have always pretty much rehearsed in the city centre. Jack lives a bit further out in Todmorden. Both Manchester and Todmorden have great promoters and audiences that are really supportive for music like ours.

A friend of ours told me recently that they felt that the Dead Sea Apes sound is very ‘Northern’, not so much that we sound like Oasis or The Stone Roses or anything (at least I hope not), more that it captures the vibe and space of the surrounding hills and local environment etc. I took that as a real compliment.

Pic by Hayley Ward HEW

What are some of your best memories with the band so far?

We have a lot of good memories with the band – and most of them revolve around the friends, including a lot of great bands, that we have made and met along the way. We have been really lucky to meet loads of great people – and Facebook has allowed us to keep in touch. We’ve also played with bands that we are real fans of such as The Heads, Carlton Melton, Part Chimp and loads more.

We also have a back catalogue of albums that we are proud of. I don’t feel that we have any real weak spots in our collection, nor feel the need to rewrite history to reframe them to make sense of them. They all capture us at a point where we were at that time – and I feel that they all stand up really well.

We have also been incredibly lucky to work with Cardinal Fuzz on all of them. You really could not wish for a more supportive label owner than Dave Cambridge – who is a great friend of all of us in the band. We have also co-released with some great labels including (the legendary!) Feeding Tube, Sky Lantern, Sunrise Ocean Bender (RIP Kevin McFadin) and Deep Water Acres. Also, a big shout out to Andy Uzzell who released a couple of groovy lathe cuts with Adam and Steve on his great Misophonia label! We could also do with giving props to Adam at Drone Rock Records and the Terrascope guys for adding us onto their great compilations too. And finally, thanks to all at Golden Lion Sounds for releasing a split single with us and the mighty Carlton Melton!

Can you tell me about the recording sessions of Rewilding? How did you get in the right flow?

I think just before the pandemic, we felt a little bit lost – and not a lot of stuff was coming together. We kind of entered the lockdown period with nothing really solid to work with as a band.

When we got back in the rehearsal room we regrouped and returned with a newfound energy. Some new ideas seemed to just arrive fully formed, which really shocked us. Some other ideas that we really liked took some time to percolate into what they are now – but definitely showed promise. We could feel our confidence returning and I think when you are excited by what you are doing, the album then starts to build up its own momentum. And as I said before, we are lucky in the sense that Chris is a sound engineer and records everything – so nothing is really lost to the ether. We can listen back to the jamming out that we do with each song and take any ideas that come from the sessions and apply them to the songs.

I also feel that Jack had really bedded in and stamped his authority all over this album too. That’s not to say that he hadn’t on the last two, but I feel that he has really brought lots of ideas and a real energy to this one. It really has confirmed that he was the right choice!

Pic by Hayley Ward HEW

What is the secret of a good jam? What would you recommend aspiring jam bands to do?

Jamming is a pretty strange thing to try and quantify as I feel that there is a lot going on in the mix! I think it really helps if you are actively listening to each other and that you can pick up on cues for dynamics etc – but I also think, when I put my ‘magical thinking’ hat on, that a lot of unspoken communication comes into play. Peak states, flow states, third mind, whatever… but it definitely feels like something spooky is going on when you hit your stride.

I’m also a big advocate of the input/output rule – the more music that you listen to expands the scope of your own musical imagination. Its also good to work with other people who like stuff that you have never heard – and they can subsequently open you up to it – and likewise, it’s also good to work with people who share similar touchstones as you.

I suppose an openness to follow where it goes is also good. It might not hit the spot everytime – but you are more likely than not to hit peaks the more that you play together!

Any touring plans? Would love to see you guys in Europe!

We do have some touring plans. Not least, we are playing at Ottawa Psych Fest in September – at the invitation of Mr John Westhaver of the amazing The Band Whose Name Is a Symbol. He is a good example of one of those really good friends that you meet along the way. We cannot wait to play over there. John has been a real advocate for us over there – and we have been told to expect a warm welcome. Christopher Laramee is also playing as Wasted Cathedral, and he is another exceptionally fine fellow who I’ve met a few times now. Its going to be great! We do have a few UK dates for the rest of the year, but not for Europe unfortunately. Maybe next year? (and so long as the Brexit related admin nonsense is not too much of a stumbling block!)

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?

I’ve always loved it when The Minutemen’s Mike Watt used to shout ‘learn an instrument… form a band’ at the end of shows. I think that is good advice, so I will steal it!

Dead Sea Apes

Interview: Mike Vest (Drunk In Hell, Modoki, Artifacts & Uranium, Downtime, Neutraliser, Mienakunaru, Bong, Blown Out, 11Paranoias)

Ok, so we just had to talk to Mike Vest, right? Known throughout the underground for his involvement in Drunk In Hell, Bong, 11Paranoias, and of course the mother of all psych jam breakouts: Blown Out. In stark contrast to his regular noise mongering on record and on stage, we find the man in the quiet environment of his vegetable garden in Newcastle, UK. “I much rather visit the chaos, than live in it” is a beautiful quote from the man who seems to live very much in the presence, and does not dwell on the past for a second. So open your eyes, but definitely also your ears for this one, because there will be a lot of new and upcoming sounds in this one…

How are you? Can you introduce yourself and you multiple endeavors?

I’m good, enjoying these lighter nights, I’ve been gardening, I farmed a lot of potato soil end of last summer. Trying to get the garden soil back to a good pH or whatever. Starting to see the benefits now. De bois, gariguette and cambridge strawberries plants are growing well,
especially happy with the Ceanothus (Lilac Tree). The roots run deep, took about a year for it to be able to stand on its own. Hydrangeas are returning stronger, dark violets and royal reds hopefully, like last year. Going to plant a pear tree in the autumn. Tulips came out nice too. Winter pansies holding strong. Nice to have some freshly picked flowers around the house again.

So…two new LPs out now, MODOKI with Mitsuru Tabata playing leads.
I play bass and do the mixing and Dave Sneddon, handles the drums.
‘Atom Sphere’ our debut is available from Riot Season (UK) and Echodelick Records (US)
Our second, ‘Luna To Phobos’ should be seeing the light in a couple of months I think.
The second has more twists and turns. These were both recorded and mixed around the same time as each other.

New album from Artifacts & Uranium, our 3rd ’The Gateless Gate’ is out on Riot Season (UK) and Echodelick Records (US). Fred Laird did a great job with the production and mixing, as he has done with all our albums. We have just completed the 4th. This has Mitsuru Tabata as a guest feature. As I was working on Modoki stuff at the time.

The Tomoyuki Trio LP should be seeing the light soon as well.
A trio with legendary guitarist Tomoyuki Aoki from UP-Tight. Awesome album. Was a pleasure to work with him. Foundations are laid for our 2nd. Up-Tight have just released a couple of lps on Cardinal Fuzz. Reissues, well worth checking out. kawabata

I completed a new debut album with IIkka Vekka, Ohto Pallas, Otto Juutilainen from Haare & Nolla. New project called Kaliyuga Express, total Hawkwind experience, specifically the Warriors and Masters periods.

Did a lot of experimenting with ultra delays on the guitars and micro tonal changes, lots of automation and octave chords. Tried to mix the guitars so every four/eight bars, something changes tonally. Just recently signed this off with the label.

DOWNTIME, a duo with me and Dave Sneddon. Our debut tape came out on Cruel Nature Records (UK) in January. Might be a few left. Weird instrumental noise rock. Slide guitar ventures. SNED runs a publishing house.

Lot of punk literature and art books.

NEUTRALISER, collaboration with Charlie Butler, released a tape on Cruel Nature Records (UK) in January.‘Capsule Bowed Space’ There is some copies of the 2nd run of tapes.
Also self released a digital album a month back, called ‘Liquid Oxygen Kerosene’.

What can you tell me about your musical background?

Been playing guitar & bass in bands’ since I was 16, got into improvisation and noise/drone music specifically when I was 20, I think. Started BONG, loosely, when I was 22/23. Played in noise, drone, improv sludge, noise rock, thrash, punk, grindcore bands through my 20s. Started playing gigs heavy from the age of 25 till 38. Probably more known for playing in BONG, 11Paranoias, Drunk In Hell, Melting Hand, Blown Out, Mienakunaru….

What does a regular day in your life look like? What role does music play?

Most days I’m working on music, mixing, recording or just listening and making notes.
I’ve got so many notepads full of numbers, track names, ideas, edits…etc. Maybe for only for an hour or so. But everyday, there is something to check over. I minimised my recording setup and the way I record albums. So it’s not a big thing to just start checking/recording/mixing various projects I’m working on. Its a fluid motion, I’ve made it easy to just pick up, play and start recording/mixing and so on..

I paint whilst I listen to mixes.

Painting by Mike Vest

Where do you live and how does it affect your musical doings?

I lived at the coast for years, now I live close to the boarder between Gateshead and Newcastle. I used to be away all the time, playing shows/recording in larger cities, so, with being away lot, made me appreciate the smaller scale and calmer atmosphere I would return to. Less daily stress means more time to be inspired and productive, I guess.
Like a pirate, I would go and gather all gold from the capitals and go back to the sea.

I much rather visit the chaos, than live in it.

Can you highlight some of your favourite releases you were involved in, and tell us why?

The stuff I’ve released over the past 2-3 years and LPs that are on the way. I’m most proud of. I don’t save any copies of any album I have done. They either all get sold, given away or traded, everything is in the outbox. Test pressing etc, everything goes eventually. Being able to create music with Mitsuru, Junzo & Aoki over the past couple of years has been great. Same with Fred Laird with A&U & Charlie Butler in Neutraliser, got me back into enjoying, what I love the most about music.

The creating of it and the evolving process. Most importantly though is Dave Sneddon, without his drums, many of these albums/projects/bands would not be possible.

What is “the dream” for you as an independent artist?

To have 10% of my followers, buy my music and art.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?

Buy music and art.

Review + Q&A: The God In Hackney – The World In Air Quotes (2023, Junior Aspirin Records)

I don’t really like the term “art rock”, like all rock isn’t art. It feels a bit pretentious too, and lazy for the labeller. And yet, with The God In Hackney I get it. On their album The World In Air Quotes they seem to have thought about every single detail, and stylised every second to their own ideas. Then again, perhaps we shouldn’t apply the label, or any label to it, because if there ever was a genre defying, border crossing, progressive prog album, this it it. Rock does not even cover it. Art pop? Or just art?

The God In Hackney is a band formed by British friends, who then branched out allover the world and now live on at least two different continents, in big cities like Los Angeles, New York, and London, but also in the British countryside. On their album this contrast and variety is expressed as well. Beautiful quieter parts clash with electronics, spoken word, cinematic synths, urban jazz, tooting horns, and much, much more. A stable presence are the vocals though, with a subtle British accent, they pose as a guide through this versatile album, taking the listener by the hand and eloquently leading us on.

Originality is key here, but you can hear influences and fresh takes on various great musicians too. Midlake in the dreamy atmosphere and the multi vocals for instance, Peter Gabriel in its clean use of different styles and forms, and Jonathan Wilson in their positive creativity. But first and foremost The God In Hackney put their extreme musical talent on display here, their technical craftsmanship, combined with their brave artistic choices make The World In Air Quotes stand out between pretty much anything else I have heard this year. Hearing = believing.

The miracle of the internet made me talk to four members of The God In Hackney at the same time, even though they literally could not be further apart on this earth. They are Andy Cooke, Dan Fox, Ashley Marlowe, and Nathaniel Mellors. It is good to meet these creative whirlwinds and they visibly made an effort to let us a as a reader and listener get to know them better. Want to get to know the background story behind The World In Air Quotes? Let’s dive in…

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for The God In Hackney?

Ashley: I was unable to join Nathaniel in his studio in LA and record drums and try other ideas / instruments in live real time so to be honest not as fun and fluid as previously. Still, the results seem largely cool.

Andy: I am building a new floor on my house, I am always dusty.  I became a father in June 2019, so the pandemic went somewhat unnoticed to start with, since everything had already fundamentally changed for me in the most profound way.

Dan: I’m a writer by trade. Spending long stretches of time alone with my thoughts is part of my job and that turned out to be helpful preparation for lockdown. As Ashley says, we missed each other. But we’re good at working with constraints, turning limitations into an advantage, working with what there is to hand. We live thousands of miles away from each other: being apart is a state of mind we are used to as a band. 

Nathaniel: Good in that I’m fiercely proud of what we’ve done with The World In Air Quotes and I got to make  some art exhibitions and spend time with my family. I couldn’t see my friends enough though, and some died, which is not ideal. 

Can you introduce the band, and how did you meet, etc?

Ashley: Myself and Nathaniel have known each other since the early 90’s being from small towns in close proximity. We made a lot of records and music in the electronic arena for several years. Nat went on to academic studies in Oxford & London where he met Dan & Andy and we started cross-collaborative projects from there….

Andy:  Yeah,I met Dan & Nathaniel at art school, and then Ashley through Nathaniel. We remain best friends. That’s an important part of the band dynamic.

Nathaniel: What they said. 

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Ashley: Our musical backgrounds are diverse but in harmony via multiple taste crossovers encompassing pretty much any genre you can name.

Andy: I started piano around age 5-6, didn’t really get on with it. Somehow I persisted until I was 11/12 when I had a somewhat damascene moment with a teacher and the pentatonic “blues” scale.  Guitar started around age 11 and I’ve always loved it and never stopped playing. Last count I have 24 guitars. They are mostly rubbish but I love all of them.

Dan: I learned to play piano on an upright with a cracked soundboard and buzzy strings, originally built by John Spencer & Co. circa 1900, and bought from the North Wales Music Company of Bangor and Caernarfon. I learned guitar on a Kapok children’s acoustic guitar with one side of a pair of Walkman headphones sellotaped to the body and plugged into the microphone socket of an all-in-one record, tape and radio hi-fi system. Further experiences came from a single keyboard church pump organ with mouse-gnawed bellows, rescued from a farm near my childhood home, a Casiotone MT-100 keyboard and lots of mucking about with blank cassette tapes. Then art school.

Nathaniel: I started out making improvised noise music in my teens with Simon Johns (later on of Stereolab), and that led to making music with Ashley, which led to our techno group Conemelt with Grant Newman. After university Ashley and I made post-punk with Dan as Skill 7 Stamina 12. At that time Andy made one genius album called ‘Bat’ as Socrates That Practices Music. It’s a noughties classic! Then we call came together as The God In Hackney, and now we are reaching new places and spaces together. 

What does a regular day in your lives look like?

Andy: I live in the countryside and I work in construction.  I see cows and power tools almost every day.

Dan: I like a line the Scottish writer Alasdair Gray borrowed from the Canadian poet Dennis Lee: “work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.”

Nathaniel: Coffee, run, kids, work, kids, attempts at sleep. 

Ashley: I’d rather not say. I enjoy spending time with my children though.

What is the best thing about The World In Air Quotes?

Dan: Today it’s the way Andy’s voice on the song ‘Philip’ reminds me of leather and fog.

Ashley: That it exists on vinyl

Nathaniel:  It’s dreamily imaginative but real; it’s emotionally direct and you can’t pin it down. 

Andy: All of it, every second.

What can you tell me about the message of the album? 

Ashley: My sole interpretation is we must never lose the power of critical thinking. Also that it reflects the duality of one’s material and emotional experience of current Western lifestyles

Nathaniel: There’s no limit to what art can describe and how it can change your consciousness.

Andy: Stop waiting to start making something that means something to you.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

Ashley: We have varying situations. I live in a small UK city and times are hard.

Andy: I live just outside London in the Hampshire countryside. There is nothing for musicians here really. That said I saw Wire play in a tiny local venue a few years back. Good for them for playing these places. London is great, obviously.

Dan: I live in New York City. It loves musicians yet makes it punishingly difficult for them to survive here. Each time I get in a cab in New York I think about the fact that Philip Glass was still working as a taxi driver when his first opera premiered. And that was back when it was supposedly easier to live here as an artist. But this city seeps into our music, as do the other places where the other band members live – Los Angeles, Brighton, the English countryside. Last year I played a lot with the New York band Das Audit, and with composer Eve Essex, who also appears on The World in Air Quotes. That put me into situations with classically-trained musicians and players who are immersed in improvisation, musicians far more advanced than I am, and I’m certain that experience must somehow feed back into my contributions to The God in Hackney. Something similar happens with the conversations we have with Kelly Pratt, another great multi-instrumentalist who guests on our records, who lives in North Carolina. But in his case there’s something about long-distances that shapes what we do as much as proximity does. There are a lot of influences on us that you can’t necessarily hear on the surface of our music, but which shape our sensibility. Invisible influences. Like the way a scent can change the mood of a room.

Nathaniel: I live in Los Angeles and have young children. When I can get out I like going to Zebulon, which is a great independent music venue. I’m lucky to know some talented musicians and artists who live and work here like M. Caye Castagnetto, Eddie Ruscha and the Los Angeles Free Music Society (who have been going in various improvisational groupings since the 1970s). There’s a strong cross-over of art and music here and it’s well represented by The Box gallery, who I work with and exhibit an amazing range of artists, including Simone Forti, Paul McCarthy, Barbara T. Smith and the L.A. Poverty Department.

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours?

Ashley: None spring to mind of the stature of those sadly passed.

Andy: Yesterday my 4 year old son and I listened to a compact disc of the KLF’s Chill Out. This felt contemporary to me, and certainly was for him. I’ll probably see Melvins when their tour reaches Europe this year.

Dan: Sometimes you want tea, sometimes you prefer a cup of coffee. This morning I was chatting to Nathaniel about Björk. Tomorrow it might be the weekly singing session that my next-door neighbours do with their children.

Nathaniel: Adrian Sherwood, Siouxsie Sioux, Derrick May, The Raincoats, The Residents…there’s a long list but so many of are really well known, whereas there are lots of people who are not necessarily my heroes but they are heroically making great music now, when the broader culture is in a less artful or radical moment, or offers less of a profile. People like Little Simz, Billy Woods, Sweet Williams, Duvall Timothy, Pablo’s Eye, Alexander Tucker, Nyati Mayi & The Astral Synth Transmitters, Eddie Ruscha & Kot Kot who have all made superb records more recently. 

Can you tell me about how you go about composing and recording songs?

Ashley: Ideas are passed between us, layered and expanded, sometimes subtracted

Andy: I record everything I can with whatever I have. I have a terrible musical memory. Then I revisit those recordings in the studio / later… and develop them or maybe they just lead somewhere totally different.

Nathaniel: melodies and words come out of the ether, the first fruits come fast, we record, respond, record then the editing and mixing gets more forensic…usually, but not always. 

Dan: I walk around my local park and worry. 

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

Ashley: Stay alive

Andy: More time spent in the studio making music

Dan: Immediate plan is lunch. Lunch will also play an important part in my future. On a daily basis, I hope.

Nathaniel: Immediately finish reading ‘Chaos – Charles Manson, The CIA & The Secret History of the 60’s’. Long-term being about a year – we realize the 4th The God In Hackney album in a transcendental manner and I should maybe learn some guitar chords, as I still can’t play one that I could name. 

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?

Andy: Listen to the KLF’s Chill Out.

Ashley: Hug someone for as long as you dare.

Nathaniel: Order The World In Air Quotes, order Dan lunch. 

Review + Q&A: Helicon – God Intentions (2023, Fuzz Club Records)

When you are a psych band from Scotland, it makes sense that you turn inwards. Between the rough weather, and the lack of many places to play it makes sense that you want to hole up, lift off, and pretend to be somewhere else. Just read Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and you can get an idea what it can be like if you don’t feel like choosing normalcy, and instead pick opting out. Glasgow’s Helicon are masters at pretending. They can conjure up complete dream worlds and live in them. On God Intentions they have created eleven such worlds, and each of them travels to very different realms.

Helicon plays a brand of contemporary psychedelic rock you might expect on a label like Fuzz Club, but they add a certain darkness, and on God Intentions they have visibly sought to branch out, seeking aid in various guest musicians and putting multiple different perspectives on the genre.

The singles actually paint a good picture of what the album can all be. It is at once dreamy and familiar like on Flume, cinematic and curious like Disobey, and darkly driving and fuzzed out like on Tae The Moon. Helicon covers it all with their signature reverb blanket, synth freaky and sitar antics, and makes it their own.

God Intentions shows a band that is so comfortable in their own skin, that they can move freely into many different territories without losing face for a second. If you live in rainy Scotland, or any other place you might want to briefly escape from, here is your ticket.

I talked to vocalist/guitarist John-Paul Hughes as he and his lads prepare to launch their new baby into the world. Tours are being planned, and release parties organised. In the middle of all of this he has some time to talk to Weirdo Shrine, as he and Helicon are proud to share what they made, and rightfully so.

How are you? How has the pandemic period been for Helicon?

We’re in good spirits mate. New singles are being well received and buzzed for the release of the new album, ‘God Intentions’ on Fuzz Club on 28th April. The pandemic was a highly productive period for us. The core of this new album was mostly written during that period. We were lucky that none of us were seriously impacted in terms of health during that time, so we used it to be as productive as we could. Songwriting, learning new instruments, streaming live performances from home and anything else we could do to keep moving forward. 

Can you introduce yourself, how did you meet, etc? 

We’re a “neo-psych” band from East Kilbride / Glasgow. But I think our sound is more than that. The band was formed by my brother Gary and I about 12 years ago. We’ve been through a few members over the years but he current line up is John-Paul Hughes (guitar and vox), Mike Hastings (guitar), Graham Gordon (sitar and synths), Mark McLure (multi instruments), Billy Docherty (bass) and Seb Jonsen (drums). We’re all friends from the Glasgow underground music scene over the years, with a shared love of psychedelic music. 

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

Helicon is the only band I’ve ever been in.  And probably ever will be. Mark played in a few local East Kilbride bands when he was younger but he’s been with us from very early on. The other guys have much more colourful backgrounds. In the 90s Graham was in a relatively successful band called Figure 5.  He’s toured with Asteroid#4. Seb has played for more bands and done session work with more artists than I can remember. He still plays with Lavinia Blackwall – whom he’s done a few BBC 6music sessions – and his folk duo, The Poachers. Billy has been there, seen it, done it with multiple bands at various levels of success over the years. Mike is ex Trembling Bells and has done work with guys like Mike Heron – Incredible String Band. A few years ago, Mike, Seb and Graham all toured as the band for Peter Daltrey’s Kaleidoscope UK and for Twink. I think a few of them have all played The Royal Albert Hall at different times too. Told you they were all more interesting than me. 

What does a regular day in your lives look like? 

We all work full-time. Advertising, delivering fresh fruit n veg, running a caf, gardening, care work, and quality control in a fucking drugs factory, ha ha, nae joke.  When we aren’t working, we’re writing, rehearsing, gigging, drinking and eating. Or you might find Graham drawing. He’s a pretty incredible artist. 

What is the best thing about God Intentions?

It’s an album unlike anything else in your collection. It’s our most uplifting album to date but is still a wild helter skelter of emotions and themes. You’re hearing the album we wanted to make the way we wanted to make it. And its packed with fuckin bangers. Wait till you hear ‘Heliconia’ with the string quartet and Lavina Blackwall on vocals. 

What is the scene like in Glasgow? Also if you compare it to Scotland in general?

It’s always been so wide and varied, but we’re old farts in our 40s, so we aren’t exactly plugged in to what’s happening with the young team. and strangely, we’ve only ever played (as Helicon) in Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland. I guess there isn’t much of an appetite for psychedelia here in the homeland. We get much better crowds in Manchester, London, Paris and so on. But I would like to draw attention to some Scottish artists worth your time, some of whom feature our members: The Poachers, Lavinia Blackwall, Rhona MacFarlane, Tomorrow Syndicate, Mike & Solveig, Filth Spector, Domiciles, Kundalini Genie, Black Cat Revue, Son of The Right Hand, Floating Heads, Big Hogg, The Wellgreen, Delta Mainline, Dead Otter. 

Who are some contemporary musical heroes of yours? 

Jedward, Daniel O’Donnell and that guy off the Go Compare ads. 

Can you tell me about how you went about composing and recording songs differently after This Can Only Lead To Chaos?

Time and money were the big differences. The pandemic afforded us more time to craft and hone the best set of songs we’ve ever made. And with backing from Creative, Scotland, Fuzz Club and our fans buying our back catalogue, we had a bigger budget than ever before to spend proper time in the studio on production and experimenting with our producers Jason Shaw and Luigi Pasquini. We could afford to hire a string quartet and even get Mark Gardener from RIDE involved to do the mastering. Collaborators and contributors on the record included Lavinia Blackwall, Mark O’Donnell, Anna McCracken, Rhona MacFarlane, and artwork from San Francisco based artist Nina Theda Black. Every element, from concept to cover art, hit a new level.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

The album is out 28th April. And we’re releasing a single from that each month in the run up to release day. We’re performing ‘God Intentions’ in its entirety, with the string quartet, at Stereo, Glasgow on Saturday 27th May.  Then we’ve a couple of tours planned. A short run in July including Kozfest in Devon 28th and The Black Prince in Northampton on 29th. Then we head out on a UK/EU tour in October with our friends Acid Rooster, from Leipzig, Germany. Dates to be announced. All the while we’ll be working on new material for the next record. 

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?

Scream ‘FUCK THE TORIES!’ at the top of your lungs then head to and pour some Helicon right into your lugholes.

Interview: Fred Laird (Empty House, Artifacts & Uranium)

The last time I talked to Fred Laird (Earthling Society, Taras Bulba), things were still strange with covid, and I had just discovered meditation. I noticed that a lot of instrumental drone artists around me moved in similar directions, and Fred was one of them. Through the article about meditation I first came into contact with his Empty House project, and Secret Suburbia is his fifth release since!

Secret Suburbia is still music you should listen to with your eyes closed. In a near-meditative state it will bring you places. The almost complete lack of percussion creates a deep stillness in every track that reverberates a mysterious tranquility throughout the album. With my eyes closed it is like discovering a secret garden, and then discovering nine more gardens even deeper hidden within, each with their own ambience and sounds.

Secret Suburbia is another place that Fred Laird created for the listener to go to and find creativity in stillness. Just close your eyes, and let him lead you through this new chapter of Empty House

We return to Fred Laird, in actuality the first musician Weirdo Shrine ever talked to. That is not a coincidence, as his work resonates deeply within this blog, from his early days into heavy space rock with Earthling Society, to his psychedelic solo work with Taras Bulba, to his quieter work with Empty House, and his collaborations with Mike Vest in Artifacts & Uranium. And then of course we share a pandemic story arch, as we both changed a bit through covid. Fred discovered meditation and Empty House, I started this blog and discovered experimental ambient music. Now that we are both came out of the drabness pretty well it is time to catch up!

Hi Fred, how have you been lately?

Hi Jasper. Yes things have been good thanks. Keeping myself busy with music, reading, movies and martial arts. Just finished reading the water margin or Outlaws of the Marsh as it’s known officially. 2100 pages of mayhem set in the Song Dynasty with a 108 leading characters all with similar names!! 

Last time we spoke it was deep lockdown everywhere, how did you come out of that? Are there things that have changed since?

Yes I changed physically and mentally. I had just decided to quit drinking about a month before and with the lock down and sobriety,  decided to fling myself into an exercise regime that i still maintain now. It really has made me more focused, more attentive to things, especially being more meticulous in song construction. As for mental health, I no longer rely on antidepressants which I was on and off with over the years. I feel physically stronger and no longer feel like a self depreciative slob that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Uriah Heep!

What musical ventures are you working on currently?

I’ve recorded some guitar stuff for Mika of Astral Magic which is coming out soon (listen to it here-ed). I have also recorded another Artifacts-Uranium album with Mike (Vest) which also features Mitsuru Tabata on lead guitar. Its sounds good. Primarily its Empty House for me from there on in. Thats my main focus now. I Have some new ideas for the next release which are quite interesting.

I had a really good time listening to the last Empty House album Secret Suburbia, what can you tell me about making that album?

It was a joy to make i know that much. No hassle. It was like a meditation in itself. I’m thoroughly pleased with it and its sold out really quickly which is great. I kind of knew what i wanted with each song and just took my time layering it down then stripping stuff away to keep it focused.

What can you tell me about the field recordings you did for it?

There’s an eccentric woman who’s garden faces mine. She has lots of canaries and other birds. They are on the album. I also used radio Garden before they restricted the licence to UK members. So i would sit with my phone plugged into a handy recorder and tune into these desert radio stations in the middle of Africa and pick up random sermons or tribal chanting. There’s a lovely little station where these girls just recite psalms and chat away.It seems like it’s outdoors as you can hear dogs bark and whatnot. They are on track 1. Such a lovely part of the album for me.

What can you tell me about the upcoming Artifacts & Uranium album? Did you and Mike Vest spend some time jamming this time?

Gateless Gate was a lot more focused than the previous albums. I had this idea, it was a theme – Visions of Albion part 1&2. I had Penda’s Fen or some other folk horror stuff going in my head. It was a ritualistic idea, a trance like soundtrack to William Blake or Arthur Machen. I was trying to capture Terry Riley, Coil, Throbbing Gristle, Joy Division, Monster Movie CAN throw it in a cauldron and have them coming out as odes to the book of Thel or Lud Heat. Anyway long story short it was changed to Gateless Gate which is a reference to a zen book of koans. Still sounds great though. Very different.

What new music are you listening to at the moment?

New music? Beth Orton ‘Weather Alive’. I had a habit of playing Sandy B‘s ‘Student Night’ constantly which I think was pissing off the rest of the house ha. Suede‘s ‘Autofiction’ is great too.

Do you have any music tips for people that would like to try meditating?

Keep at it, let the thoughts come and go like little fluffy clouds, don’t fight them..say Shoo!!

What should the Weirdo Shrine readers do after reading this interview?

Go and buy Secret Suburbia of course! Oh and be kind to one another.

The Artifacts & Uranium project is a monolith of ritualistic experimentation in which two psychedelic noise veterans meet and test their amps upon the unsuspecting crowds. Fred Laird found Mike Vest (Blown Out, 11Paranoias, Modoki) and together they bring out the otherworldliest and most bombastic version of themselves in this project. The Gateless Gate finds the trilogy come to a close, after their self-titled debut and the impressive Pancosmology.

It is an album divided into two great rituals; a throbbing, danceable, uplifting sermon called Twilight Chorus, and a tribal monolith called Sound Of Desolation.

Twilight Chorus hits the beat button right away, turning the post apocalyptic wasteland into a psychedelic dance floor for stoned zombies. Eventually the track mutates into something Stereolab could have done if they would have jammed with Neurosis, and the ending is in fact quite serene and beautiful.

Sound Of Desolation is the grand finale, and it could be what I imagined the soundtrack of the beginning of 2001:A Space Odyssey would have sounded like when the monkeys discover the black monolith. It builds up for a good ten minutes, and then fully bursts open, displaying love for early industrial music and even some Joy Division (that bass line!).

It is a colourful, multifaceted album, with an album cover that prepared the listener beautifully for what is coming. Ambient noiseniks know where to go from there.

Review + Q&A: Legs On Wheels- Legroom (2023, Dismembers Club Records)

Legs On Wheels is an English band from Manchester that stole our hearts a while ago with their debut EP. They play “chameleon rock” exclusively, and I just think that is a great way to describe them. You know chameleons; quirky fellas, wobbly eyes, always twitchy and ready to unleash that weird sticky tongue of theirs to lunge at another fly or insect? Oh yeah, and they are multicoloured of course, always adjusting to their environment, and ready to blend in.

Legroom gives us exactly this, but without all of the bug eating. It is a multi colored, multi-facetted, proggy, psych-y, dream of an album that takes the best aspects of 70s King Crimson, early Pink Floyd, and a spoonful of The Claypool Lennon Delirium, puts it into a rocket, and shoots it right into the 21st century.

On this debut full length they have bundled all of their combined super powers into four seven-something minute bangers, and one HUGE magnificent beast of a song called Arnold The Slime King, that takes a whole bag of multicoloured chameleons, and just shakes the hell out of them for seventeen adventurous minutes.

I’d recommend this album on its grand finale alone, but then I would sell the other songs short, which would be a heinous crime. The bottom line is; if you are a psychedelic prog chameleon, you need Legroom in your life. Period.

It feels right to talk to these Mancunians again now they have finally unleashed their full-length beast upon mankind. And of course, they were happy to oblige and shine their light on the process. Read carefully, and then go buy their amazing debut album…

How are you? How have you been since we last spoke (after the release of your EP)?

Great! Busy! Busily great and greatly busy! Thank you for asking.

Can you introduce the band, and how did you meet?

Certainly. We have Alex on guitar/vocals/percussion, myself on guitar/vocals, George on keys/vocals/percussion, Dean on bass, Ged on drums/percussion.

George and I met way back, in our school days. We’ve been in various bands together for over a decade now. The rest of the band were recruited through the Join My Band website, where desperate weirdos go to advertise themselves when the mainstream music scene rejects them, or vice versa. I met Alex for coffee one morning, when I hadn’t slept a wink. I remember feeling and acting kind of crazy, but he’s a convivial and generous man and, as such, accommodated my manic state with grace. We agreed to join each other’s burgeoning musical projects — he had a group called Handle, later renamed Noontide Sleeper, that was a pretty sweet freak-folk outfit featuring banjo and violin.

Our drummer Ged sounded like the perfect candidate when I read that he played in a Genesis tribute act, the Carpet Crawlers. He’s an insanely good hitter of round things. I don’t remember what Dean’s advertisement said, but he was just a super-nice, chilled guy who played the bass like a motherfucker…still does, in fact.

What can you tell me about your musical backgrounds?

In terms of our interests, there’s a fairly eclectic mix of stuff…at the centre of the Venn diagram is progressive rock: King Crimson, Genesis, Yes, Magma, Frank Zappa

George and I are pretty into jazz these days. Alex brings a great appreciation for Dada-esque weirdness to proceedings, enhancing the visual aspect of the band via lipstick and great hair. Dean has a real head for bass and is a lot more attentive to his tone than most bassists in my experience. Ged is a prog-obsessed and road-hardened warrior of the sheepskins.

What does a regular day in your life look like?

There is no such thing. One day it’s all about “What the fudge are we to do for the next music video?” The next it’s “Whom the fudge do we have to email to get a gig at this stinking pit of a venue?” We’re completely independent at this point, so the to-do list is endless and spans the full spectrum of being in a band today. Right now we’re organising tour dates for the autumn, making props and things for a music video, and running a Kickstarter.

What is the best thing about Legroom?

Probably the artwork. Mario really knocked it out of the park, like always. Close second is ‘Arnold The Slime King’, the album’s final track. It’s far-and-away the longest, most varied and expansive track we’ve ever created, and I think it hangs together as a piece of musical storytelling too.

Where do you live and what is the environment like for musicians like you?

On a serious note, it’s actually increasingly tough for musicians in Manchester, where we live. There’s a brilliant music scene here, and lots of great venues, to be sure. But at the same time, there’s a lot of money being poured into property development by wealthy investors, and it’s having the two-pronged effect of a) pricing more and people out of the city centre, away from the venues, and b) limiting the amount of space available for bands to practice.

An example very close to home: one of the cities many old cotton mills is currently being demolished, so luxury apartments can be built in its place. For years, the mill has been an amazing resource for musicians, with upwards of 100 bands rehearsing there. Fortunately, the guys running it have found a new site and are busy getting it set up. But it’s a lot smaller, with fewer than half as many rooms available, so a lot of bands are essentially being made homeless because of the proliferation of unaffordable properties in the city…YAY.

Plus, there’s a legal battle going on right now between Manchester City Council and longstanding venue Night & Day, over a Noise Abatement Notice which threatens to close this legendary musical hub. So it’s a complicated picture, a bittersweet existence for musicians within the squeezing hand of unrestrained financialization.

What are your immediate and long term future plans?

We’ve been filming stuff for the next music video/single release. Keep your peepers well and truly peeled for that one. It’s gonna be a hot one. Soon after that, the album comes out.

Right now we’re on track to have vinyl records printed of Legroom in time for our hometown show on May 6th at The Castle Hotel in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, which will be a fantastic culmination to the project. Local darlings Ask My Bull will be joining us. It’s sure to be a hoot, alright.

What should the Weirdo Shrine reader do after reading this interview?

Whatever they feel like…Drink a glass of water. Talk to a friend or family member about literally anything. Save an animal from jeopardy.

If they feel so inclined, Legroom is available to order at on CD, Vinyl and as a digital download. I’d also encourage y’all to sign up to our mailing list via the links in our social media profiles. We often have extra content just for subscribers.


Single premiere: Nothingheads – Rat

Today on your freaky Friday Weirdo Shrine all the way from Manchester, UK comes a very British, snotty, raw, and unshaven trio called Nothingheads to present their new single Rat to us. It is a new tune from their upcoming EP Sunlit Uplands, which will be out June 9th on Just Step Sideways Records. You can now listen to it right over here:

This is a song straight from the underground streets, you can smell the uncollected garbage, the exhaust fumes, and the cigarette smoke. It is leather jacket stiff upper lip rocker drenched in left field influences ranging from post punk to garage rock to psych. They’ve been compared to PIL and they’ll share the stage with McLusky and they fit right in with both of those bands both in style and demeanour. An interesting acquaintance therefore, and something that makes these ears hungry for more…