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Bad Amputee interview: “trying to make something that works and does the music justice”

On the back of their brilliant debut album, ‘Convenience Kills’, we speak to Bad Amputee’s Phil Tyler.

The greatest thing about a site like this is the amount of new music that drifts into our inbox.

We try to listen to everything, but with a total “staff” number of two, both of which are in gainful full-time employment, it can be quite difficult.

When I saw the band name, Bad Amputee, my initial thoughts were ‘punk band’.

How wrong I was…

Out of all the bands that have so contacted us, I can’t see myself finding a better one than the Newcastle trio anytime soon.

Bad Amputee (Phil Tyler – vocals/guitar, Claire Welford – vocals/bass, and Robin Fry – drums) are one of a handful of artists in Britain adopting the origins of slowcore and in a landscape of new music that consists of indie landfill fodder, Bad Amputee are simply a godsend to these ears.

Their debut album, Convenience Kills, will go down as one of the most underrated releases from a British underground act in 2020.

The songs, full of space and depth, with tones that elusively pummel and rhythms that stay etched to your mind.

From the opening seismic rupture of Stick Herod, to album highlights, Gwanggaeto the Great, the Low-inspired Rhona, the achingly beautiful Last Path and, of course, the epic closer in Beyond the Dreams of Medieval Kings, Bad Amputee well and truly leave their mark. It’s hypnotic rock music circa 2020 and as far as Britain is concerned, not a lot has touched it.

Tyler has been around the Newcastle scene for many years. Perhaps better known to us with his folk project as Cath and Phil Tyler, with Bad Amputee he takes a left turn and the results are fascinating.

He took the time to answer some of our questions about Convenience Kills, amongst other things.

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Sun 13: Tell us the history about Bad Amputee?

Phil Tyler: “I’ve been  in bands for years, as we all have, I’d had the idea of a slower styled trio for a long time but, due to the procrastination’s of life, hadn’t done anything about it. Talking to a friend once [and] he said he’d be into playing so it began. That friend fell by the wayside after a while but by then the thing had started.

“So there was a bit of time spent finding the right people, but we got there. Then more time spent playing together and working on the songs, [it was] a real improvement curve as things turn from rough ideas into finished creations we like. The magic of music!”

S13: What strikes me with Bad Amputee is that your sound really fits the northern landscape. How much does Newcastle itself have an influence on the band’s overall sound?

PT: “Interesting… I’ve lived in Newcastle for many years, Rob lives on the coast and Claire is from County Durham. I wouldn’t say Newcastle itself influences the sound but perhaps the open spaces of the wild North, high moorlands etc. We like hill walking.

“That said I may be too closely involved to think about influences like that. If they are there they are not particularly conscious, it’s not in my mind when writing.”

S13: I would say that your influences are certainly immersed in ’90s slowcore. Codeine and Low spring to mind. It’s interesting because other than yourselves and, say, Lanterns on the Lake, there doesn’t seem to be that many slowcore bands in Britain. What’s your take on that?

PT: “I’m into those bands but the others less so perhaps. We’re certainly not trying to sound like anyone else. We get some strange band comparisons sometimes, anything from The Doors and R.E.M. to Alice in Chains

“I think it’s people liking the sound but not having any ’90s indie/slowcore references so they just compare it with stuff they like, which is nice. Yes there doesn’t seem to be much UK slowcore I can think of. No idea why… “

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S13: The album was recorded before lockdown if I’m right in saying? Can you tell us how it all took shape and the inspiration behind these songs?

PT: “We recorded some basic demos a couple of years ago which were promising , then inevitably focused on some better recordings. We did ten songs in a day. Live recordings with the vocals [were] added after. We do have some slightly pacier numbers but the six that made the album seemed to be made for each other.

“Some of them are quite old and have been hanging around in my head for years while others are newer creations since the band’s been together. Inspiration is a funny thing to talk about, there may not be so much of that about. Tunes come from lots of guitar playing and catching hold of the good bits. Lyrics are the harder part, trying to make something that works and does the music justice. What’s it supposed to be? 20 percent inspiration, 80 percent perspiration?”

S13: Looking at the song titles and some of the messages within, without suggesting it’s a concept album, it’s there a loose thread between the songs?

PT: “Again, it may not be for me to say. Not really. If there are any general themes I’d say future dystopias and the healing power of nature.”

S13: What I find too, from front to back the album flows perfectly. Was it an easy decision to have a song like Beyond the Dreams of Medieval Kings close the album?

PT: “Yes, that was an obvious closer. Track sequencing is so important for a good album, also knowing when and what to leave out, even if there is good material not being used in the end. Luckily it wasn’t too difficult to decide this time.” 

Bad Amputee - Convenience Kills

S13: Gwanggaeto the Great feels like the highlight for me. Firstly, did that come early in the writing process and secondly, what’s the inspiration behind the both the song and title?

PT: “That riff was one of the pre-band things I’d had, though we didn’t work it out properly until the band existed. Gwanggaeto the Great was a medieval Korean emperor. Nothing to do with the lyrics, I just liked it as a title. One has to take what you can!

“Some lyrics are slow to form, this was easier but I ended up with too many and had to cut some away. I stole a line from Bob Mould‘standing on the edge of the Hoover Dam’ and thought I’d make it the Kielder Dam instead, and it kind of became an account of some wild and possibly nightmarish expedition in Northumberland.”

S13: All your songs are over the six minute mark, which is a rarity these days, which makes Convenience Kills so refreshing, to be honest. I think drawing out your songs gives them more emotional depth. Would you agree?

PT: (Laughs) “Yes, of course! They seem to have their own flow and pace and it’s not difficult to know how long they should be.”

S13: Several Newcastle artists have broken out over the past two years – Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs and Richard Dawson in particular have really been flying the flag. Does it feel like Newcastle has boasted a vibrant local array of artists over more recent times?

PT: “There’s always been a good scene, but yes it seems particularly strong at the moment. Richard Dawson has been good to us, having us support him at the Sage and also his Hen Ogledd band locally, too. Maybe it’s just luck that some bands start to break out and get more coverage at certain times, when there’s talent there all the time. And I’m sure this applies for any town too.”

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S13: On that, what are the other local bands in Newcastle that we should be listening out for?

PT: “The Unit Ama, Me Lost Me, Nathalie Stern and The Dawdler spring to mind right now. However, I don’t feel particularly that up-to-date with what’s happening locally.

“Also let me mention Yakka Doon (Claire‘s solo acoustic based project which I also play in) and Emergency Librarian (Robin‘s band, which sometimes gets called ‘experimental’).”

S13: What’s next for Bad Amputee? Have you got any plans to work on a follow-up or even a tour next year (if current circumstances change, of course). 

PT: “No concrete plans except more writing and recording. Any gigs are welcome! Out-of-town shows /tours would be great, let’s hope gigs are a thing again soon and we can venture forth somewhere.”

Convenience Kills is out now and available from Bad Amputee’s Bandcamp page.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

One reply on “Bad Amputee interview: “trying to make something that works and does the music justice””

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