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13 Questions

13 Questions with Milap’s Alok Nayak

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Albums Features

The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld 30th anniversary

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13 Questions

13 Questions with Mondo Trasho

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Albums

Stereolab: Electrically Possessed: Switched On Vol. 4 – “pristine and almost hallucinogenic”

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13 Questions

13 Questions with Campfire Social

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News

Northwest release first videos from two year project

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Lost Albums

Dalek I Love You: Compass Kum’pas – “one of post-punk’s genuine masterpieces”

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News

Liverpool’s Milap announce Music for the Mind and Soul concerts

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13 Questions

13 Questions with The New Icons

The New Icons is Liverpool’s Tony Hart‘s latest musical concoction. The name being a cheeky nod to his first band Iconoclast (aka The Icons).

During the Spring/ Summer lockdown, Hart composed, produced and released a ten track album of new material from his home studio under the title Electric Ghost Graffiti.

Work on the follow-up to Electric Ghost Graffiti is currently and is currently scheduled for release Spring 2021.

As lockdown drags on, the prospect of being able to go to gigs again seems a long way off, but with vaccinations being ‘promised’ by July, maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel and bands like The New Icons will be able to make plans and play gigs again. If this is so, we expect this will be like taking the cap off a shook up coke bottle and, after all this solitary existence, we expect them to explode across Liverpool’s surviving venues.

Ahead of all this however, we caught up virtually with Tony Hart and asked him 13 questions. Read on to find out more about play arguments, guilty pleasures and human contact.

1. Where are you and what are you doing? How is that working out?

“Firstly, thank you Sun 13 for having me, I don’t usually do interviews but it’s nice to be asked.

I have this Saturday routine which involves wearing my comfy (scruffy) clothes & watching the days football while noodling about on an acoustic guitar. It’s quite chilled.”

2. How have you been coping with the lockdown?

“Lockdown has been mad hasn’t it!? Generally speaking I’m quite lazy anyway & do enjoy my own company – but too much of anything is never good. I’ve missed hugging other family members most (& going to the local of course).

It’s been quite a productive & cathartic experience for me though, I’ve had the time to write/ record music which I normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to do given the distractions of the outside world.”

Read our other 13 Questions features here

3. Who is the nicest ‘celebrity’ you’ve met?

“I don’t really subscribe to the cult of celebrity to be honest. Having said that, I do get a slight child-like buzz on occasions where I’ve shared drinks with former Liverpool FC players. I’m not one for asking for selfies or kissing-arse though.”

4. When did you last get into an argument?

“I get into ‘play arguments’ daily with the Mrs. I’m a big wind-up merchant & my recent theme has been sharing with her some of this ‘conspiracy’ stuff currently doing the rounds. I’m actually middle-ground/ on-the-fence with it all, I don’t really know either way. Some of it is interesting & some of it is bonkers.”

5. What’s your favourite food?

“Lasagne, Salad (with chillis in), Coleslaw, Garlic Bread, balsamic vinegar & a bottle of Shiraz. You’ve made me hungry now!”

6. When did you last consider quitting social media?

“I consider quitting social media daily, but it’s a good way of keeping connected when used in moderation.”

13 Albums We Missed in 2020 – Part 1

7. What’s the best night out you’ve ever had?

“The best night out I had lasted eight years, from the age of 15-23. I don’t remember most of it but some of the stories I’ve heard sound brilliant.”

8. How would you describe yourself?

“I’d like to think I’m a laid-back calming influence when it matters, quietly passionate, cheeky & good company.”

9. What words of warning would you give your younger self?

“I’d advise the younger me to appreciate my Mam more while I still could (sorry that’s quite heavy, but very true).”

10. When were you last told off?

“Same as the earlier answer to the 4th question I suppose, on a daily basis for the same reasons.”

11. What has been your favourite decade for music?

“I always pick the 60s as my go-to decade, I love absolutely loads from then, deffo my fave era.

I’ve previously always slagged off the 80s but the older I get – the more I’m finding out I may have been hasty (some of the production from then sounds dead cheesy though).”

12. What band or record changed to course of your life?

“This answer can come in four stages:

Sgt Pepper is the main one, it blew me away as a kid that it was all one band doing so much varied stuff. I stole the cassette tape of my Dad’s & played it constantly. Still do, I’ll never get bored of it.

A guilty pleasure was an Aerosmith compilation I asked for at Christmas when I was about 10 years old (maybe that made me want to play guitar initially), probably after being exposed to their videos on MTV – when it was actually a music channel. I listened to it again for the first time in years during the summer & it’s actually alright, silly hair a-side.

Morning Glory was a big one, some great tunes & seeing these fellas who were working-class northerners that you could probably walk past on the street made me & my mates think that we could have a go of being musicians too.

The Stone Roses debut is a really magical one for me – our gang discovered this after it being referenced in Gallagher brothers interviews & reviews. When we first started a band we wanted to be The Roses & would play the album start to finish whilst learning our instruments.”

13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.  Is there anything else you’d like to say?

“There’s no way we can experience another collective shit year like this again is there, so everybody look forward to next year & try to keep a positive outlook.

Hopefully a lot of us have realised what is truly important in life & materialistic things aren’t. Human contact & sharing love is what it’s all about. Look after each other.”

Catch up with The New Icons on Facebook and on their website.

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13 Questions

Meet the Team: 13 Questions with Simon Kirk

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13 Questions

13 Questions with Mondegreen

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Album Reviews

Jettison the Past – Yorkie Retrospective Reviewed

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13 Questions

13 Questions with Irene Skylakaki

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Singles Uncategorized

Exclusive: Shipbuilders release new single Hanging Me At Dawn

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Albums News

Ponderosa Glee Boys prepare for their new album

The Ponderosa Glee Boys sprang out of the late 70’s Eric’s crowd and have since achieved a cult status as one of Liverpool’s great lost bands.

Encouraged to start a band by none other than Jayne Casey, Ponderosa Glee Boys emerged as purveyors of fine post punk. Rooted more in the Public Image Ltd school rather than the New York/Velvet Underground influences of much of the Liverpool scene bands at the time, the Glee Boys stood out.

For a while, all was going well.  Managed by the inestimable Doreen Allen, gigs at Eric’s, Brady’s and the Royal Court gave people a chance to catch them live and they signed to Inevitable Records, home of fellow scenesters Wah! Heat.

But there the good luck stopped and the band petered out. Unfortunately, Inevitable went bust before any records could be released, their singer left and the Glee Boys soon split up.

However, some high profile gigs and a lack of recorded material proved to be a potent mix for creating a mystique that kept the band in the minds of those involved in Liverpool’s music scene at the time.

Then, out of the blue, The Ponderosa Glee Boys reappeared in 2018, to play a series of gigs in December of that year. This was made considerably more complicated by the fact that singer Carl Eaton now lives in Australia. The logistics involved here are enough to make most bands throw in the towel, but as we have seen, the Glee Boys are made of sterner stuff.

Doreen Allen Interview: How did you feel when Eric’s closed down? ‘Oh, destroyed. Many people moved away when it closed down.

Having got back together, they decided against rehashing their old set, which was now over 40 years old, and instead bravely elected to write and rehearse a completely new set of songs. In three weeks. And then play it live to a crowd of discerning old Eric’s punks.

And, to their eternal credit, they made a stunning job of it. Those songs, once road-tested and worked on were then recorded for their long overdue debut album, Awake.

There is a common enough story that sees bands taking a far too long gap between recording albums; Stone Roses and Stereo MCs can claim five and eight years respectively between debut and their follow-ups, while Guns n’ Roses Chinese Democracy famously came 15 years after its predecessor.

But Ponderosa Glee Boys had to wait a colossal 42 years before their debut album was released. The joy, vindication and hunger was evident in their gigs. They had waited a long time for this and their gigs were a release of pent up kinetic and creative energy the likes of which I have witnessed few times in my life.

Guitarist Mike Mooney is incredible, as his pedigree (Spiritualized, Massive Attack, Echo and the Bunnymen) would lead you to believe. He is able to sound like three guitarists at once and give PGB an enviable wall of sound.

Bass monster Phil Hartley and drummer Mark Robson provide a superb rhythm section, tight and with just the right amount of groove and attack.

2019 saw the band back for another visit to District in what was fast becoming a festive tradition, before the COVID-19 pandemic sadly put paid to this year’s Glee Boys spectacular.

Iggy Pop at Liverpool Eric’s: Shock was part of the currency of the early punks and, in Iggy, they had inspiration of sorts

But, all has not ground to a halt for The Ponderosa Glee Boys. Carl has been busy down under creating a set of new songs, meaning we won’t have such a long wait for Awake’s follow up.

After taking such a long time to get their debut out into the world and after starting to again build up some momentum, second album Demigods of Bedlam will be with us as soon as pandemics permit.

In the meantime, Sun 13 can present the fruits of Carl’s labour so far in the form of five demos for album number 2.

The songs are a progression from Awake and differ in tone and ambition.

Carl says that “They sound a little different than if the band were playing on them, and I’m no Mike Mooney but I’m happy with what I’ve played and the overall direction the songs have and where they sit. The second album should see us move forward and keep trying to create a sound that our current environment represents, so I wasn’t scared to try a different approach with them in the studio.”

It looks like the brave attitude that saw Awake take shape is also the driving force behind Demigods of Bedlam, and that can only be a good thing.

Here at Sun 13 we are awaiting this with barely contained hunger. The Ponderosa Glee Boys have come back from the brink to become one of Liverpool’s best bands and we have our fingers firmly crossed that 2021 will be their year.

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13 Questions

13 Questions with A Man Called Adam

A Man Called Adam first came to the fore as providers of the finest Balearic grooves, influenced by the genre hopping DJ sets they heard in Ibiza’s early rave days.

They appeared in the Ibiza documentary A Short film about Chillin’ and came across as people who genuinely got the Balearic Ibiza vibe, rather than people who were there for the drugs and general hedonism the white island could offer. As a fellow Ibiza veteran, I always felt that A Man Called Adam just got it.

They were in tune with the spiritual vibe that dance music embodied and made some of the best and most evocative music of the era, aimed as much at the soul as the feet.

Their albums have shown them to have one foot on the dance floor and the other underneath a table at the Café Del Mar, and they have happily ignored being confined to one style of music, taking in soul, jazz, dub and anything else that caught their magpie eye.

Since then, both Sally Rodgers and Steve Jones have continued this eclectic aesthetic with their excellently diverse DJ sets.

In 2019, after a gap of some 20 years, A Man Called Adam returned with a new album, Farmarama, where they honed their sound to produce their best and most cohesive album yet.  Farmarama is a delight to listen to and can transport you back to the Ibiza of old, where the Café Del Mar stood almost alone on the now infamous Sunset Strip.

The duo have also kept up a steady stream of compilations and remixes, keeping their flame alive and their fans happy. Farmarama came in for this treatment with two EPs of remixes and an album of 7” mixes, all of which come highly recommended.

Their latest release is Love Forgotten Oddities & Rarities Part 1, which the band describe as “a left of centre overview of one band’s career as heard in remixes, oddities, outtakes and edits.” This collection brings together soothing ambient gems, new takes on old favourites and varying degrees of dancefloor friendliness that again takes in the full range of their influences and touches dub, electronica and beatless grooves.

 Taken as a whole, Love Forgotten Oddities & Rarities Part 1 illustrates perfectly the fact that A Man Called Adam are simply too talented and worldly wise to limit themselves musically. It further shows that whatever they turn their hand to comes with a guarantee of quality.

The world is a better place for having A Man Called Adam back in it and we hope that this current momentum is kept up, especially as they continue to demonstrate the fact that they can balance their various influences and their chilled focus so flawlessly. 

If all of this has whetted your appetite, a good selection of A Man Called Adam’s recorded output can be found here on their Bandcamp page.

In the middle of this activity, Sally Rodgers has become the latest participant in our 13 Questions features. Read on to find out more about being defined by our responsibilities, koumpounophobia and being a disastrous baker.

1. Where are you, what are you doing and how is that working out?
“I’m at home in the North East and have just finished teaching online. I teach at Leeds Conservatoire a couple of days a week. I’m currently pouring a glass of wine, thinking about what to eat for dinner and answering your questions. There are worse places to be.” 

2. How have you been coping with the lockdown situation?
“Sigh* I’m OK. I’m always reminding myself how lucky I am but I do miss my friends and my gigs and just face to face interaction generally. I seem to work, sleep, eat, walk my dog, repeat, these days. “

3. What do you miss most about pre-lockdown times?
“Just that really. Seeing my friends and playing records in a sweaty pub or bar. Going outside for a fag and a laugh. Staying in hotels. Arriving on a festival site. Meeting interesting strangers.”

Jeff Tweedy: Love Is the King – “sleepy-eyed serenades”

4.  Recommend one band or album that you think we should check out
“Cassowary”

5. When did you last make yourself do something you didn’t want to?
“Our lives are made up of many things we don’t want to do no? Our responsibilities define us though, so we do what we must.”

6. What’s your guilty listening pleasure?
“I don’t know why but I’ve been really enjoying old skool UK Garage and 2 Step lately. I made a playlist for myself with things like Sunshine by Garbrielle (the Wookie Mix) on it – haha!”

7. Can you cook?
“Yeah a bit. I’m best at Italian food. Just a few ingredients of exceptional quality cooked perfectly. I’m a disastrous baker though – can’t be arsed with all that measuring etc…”

8. Tell us a secret
“I have a mild form of koumpounophobia or button phobia. They don’t make me vomit like they do some people, and I can stand them if they’re functional, but I’d never buy or wear anything that had them on for purely decorative purposes. They make me shudder – haha.” 

9. What’s the best night out you’ve ever had?
“Oh god, I don’t know. So many. When I was younger it was getting clattered, dancing all night and falling asleep in bass bin. Now its great food and wine followed by an ace selector, dancing with friends and drinking a dozen Negronis.”

Check out our other 13 Questions features here

10.When was the last time you laughed until you cried?
“Me and Steve were watching Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer’s Gone Fishing and were crying with laughter the other day. Bob Mortimer’s the funniest man. We also laughed our asses off at ‘Four Seasons Total Landscaping’ debacle and all the tweets and memes that ensued.”

11. What is your favourite view?
“I live near the beach and when I walk the dog you can climb up into the dunes and see the coastline stretching either way for miles. There are more exotic views in the world but this one will always mean home to me.”

12. When did you last shout at the TV?
“Honestly, I’m pretty selective about what I watch. I did switch off the government Coronavirus briefing the other day – Boris Johnson’s smirking face makes me angry.”

13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.  Is there anything else you’d like to say?
“No, just thanks for having me :)”

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13 Questions

13 Questions with Dave Haslam

Dave Haslam has not been the kind of person to take it easy. Over the last few years our paths have crossed when he has been DJing, promoting the books he has written and when he has been acting as host to Q&A sessions with the like of Stephen Morris from Joy Division/New Order.

His latest project is a series of shorter books, the Art Decade series, on subjects as diverse as Courtney Love living in Liverpool, selling his record collection and New York nightlife. He sees these shorter works as ‘singles’ to the ‘albums’ that are his full length books.

He has written five full-length books, including Life After Dark: A History of British Nightclubs & Music Venues and his autobiography Sonic Youth Slept On My Floor.

Haslam has been lucky enough to be present at and involved in youth culture movements as they start and has had Morrissey round for tea, written for the NME and played the last record ever heard at The Hacienda.

It is this knack for finding himself in the right place at the right time that has made him in many ways a perfect spokesman or custodian for the cultural earthquakes that used to form a part of life in this country.

His interests obviously extend beyond this fascinating but limited remit, and so book 4 in his Art Decades series, My Second Home, looks at Sylvia Plath’s visits to Paris in Easter 1956.

Here we discover how Plath filled her Paris days, including dinner with an Italian communist, drunken afternoon sex with a friend of a friend, sketching in the park, and lying in an attic room listening to the sound of the rain as she considered her choice of lovers.

Within ten weeks she married poet Ted Hughes.

Sun 13 spoke to Dave Haslam and asked him 13 questions. Read on to find out more about getting shouty with Deliveroo, keeping career ending secrets and how Joy Division changed his life.

1. Where are you and what are you doing? How is that working out?
“I’m in my home in a leafy, bohemian part of South Manchester. Thinking that this time last year I was taking so much for granted -. this makes me weep, to be honest.”

2. How have you been coping with the lockdown situation?

“We’re all rollercoastering aren’t we? In March it seemed like a novelty and that it might provide some space in my life, then April and May I was anxiety-ridden, my sleep was exhausting vivid dreams, by August I was doing OK. Now it’s all bleak again. I lost all my DJing gigs. This year I’ll have done just four. But at least, with my Sylvia Plath book I’ve got some writing done.”

3. Who is the nicest ‘celebrity’ you’ve met?
“I’ve rarely been let down by meeting heroes – can I call them that instead of ‘celebrity’. Every one knows how warm and friendly Nile Rodgers is, for example, and he really is.

The only public figure who’s ever been terse with me was Chris Kamara from Sky Sports, but that was my fault. I’d been DJing in Iceland and up all night and had to change at Heathrow, and he was there waiting for the plane up to Manchester and I accosted him and he just looked at me and said “Ryan Giggs is over there” and pushed me over towards where Giggsy was also waiting for the plane, so I bugged Giggsy instead and he was Ok because he’d heard me DJ a lot.”

Dave Haslam Interview: “There is a redemptive power in music”

4. When did you last get into an argument?
“I am sorry to report I was a little shouty with the Deliveroo driver who was driving up and down the wrong street for ten minutes before he found where I lived and delivered me a lukewarm saag aloo.”

5. When did you last shout at the TV?
“I’ve stopped watching things featuring Farage or any of those people. I’ve learned over the years to swerve anything that makes me miserable. So, no more ‘Question Time’ for me.”

6. When did you last consider quitting social media?
“I like social media for so many reasons. I connect with so many people I like and want in my life, it’s good. It’s also great for spreading the word about stuff I do.

So on balance, I’m a fan, but it sure comes with some problematic stuff doesn’t it?”

7. Tell us a secret
“No! I am really good at keeping secrets. For example, I know secrets that would end the careers of two old punk personalities, for example, but I’m too nice say anything.”

8. When did you last make yourself do something you didn’t want to?
“A friend of mine wanted to do a photo shoot with me as the subject, and he booked a studio etc, and I kept being positive and cheerful about the project. I don’t mind people just taking pics while I’m DJing or taking two minutes after an interview but I squirm at more formal photo sessions.

I went through it, spent an hour there, but afterwards I admitted my real dislike of the whole thing. Any posed photo the same; there’s a photo of me when I was about fifteen, my hands are clenched tight like I’m about to face a firing squad.”

Stephen Morris interview: “We didn’t want to be Joy Division anymore, but we didn’t know anything else”

9. What words of warning would you give your younger self?
“When you are DJing at the Hacienda and someone asks for the name of the record or a girl asks for your number or whatever, don’t grab the nearest flyer and scrawl on it and give it to them – put all the flyers you can find in your record box and take them home because one day selling them on eBay will earn you more money than DJing will.”

10. When were you last told off?
“No idea. Although I’ll probably get a call from at least one old punk personality any minute now.”

11. What has been your favourite decade for music?
“Am I allowed to choose the ten years between 1977 and 1987, create my own decade? I mean, it’s all arbitrary isn’t it, so why not? Yes; the ten years between Television ‘Marquee Moon’ and Blake Baxter ‘When We Used to Play’.”

12. What band or record changed to course of your life?
“Joy Division is really the only answer I can give.

Heard them on Peel, started going to see their gigs, got drawn to move from Birmingham to Manchester, witnessed the early days and evolution of New Order, established a fanzine, by age 23 I was working at the Hacienda, and interviewing New Order for NME.

Thirty five years of an intertwined history later, I was working with New Order on a project for Manchester International Festival and just the other day I was interviewing Stephen Morris about his new book, ‘Fast Forward’. I’m still a fanboy.”

13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.  Is there anything else you’d like to say?
“Have we mentioned my book? I spent the Summer writing about Sylvia Plath, my publisher can’t leave the house because his family has coronavirus, but it’s available online, and it’s the best thing I’ve written. I know I sound like an asshole saying that, but it’s true.

A literary website reviewed it and said it was ‘surprising’; they were surprised a disc jockey could write so perceptively and emotionally about Sylvia Plath. I liked their honesty. And I like surprising them. Who writes the rules of what you can and can’t do in your life? You.”

The Sylvia Plath book and the other books in Dave Haslam’s Art Decades series are available to buy online here – https://www.confingopublishing.uk/shop

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13 Questions

13 Questions with The Room in the Wood

The Room in the Wood are clever buggers. Their latest album We’re the Martians, Now  is one that will work is way under your skin and into your subconscious and, once there, will stay with you for a long time.

We’re the Martians, Now is an album that repays repeated listens by revealing it’s many layers. Personally, I have always been a fan of albums that grow on you, that have something going on under the bonnet, as I think these have a musical and emotional intelligence.

Happily, they are often the albums that you end up loving the most, something that will certainly be the case with We’re the Martians, Now.

Things get off to a good start with Diamond Clouds, featuring a riff and groove kind of halfway between the Rolling Stones and The Verve.

There is a lack of studio trickery here that places us almost in the same room with these songs. Dave Jackson‘s voice particularly is left bare and quite high in the mix. The result is an honesty that makes the songs more beautiful and more expressive and that provides an intimacy missing from more over produced songs.

This isn’t to say that We’re the Martians, Now is under produced, just that the production sounds as if it was approached with a view to capturing the band as they are.

The Room in the Wood are a band I find it hard to draw comparisons to, to identify where their influences come from. There are a few hints here and there that the band may not have even countenanced. Hints of Johnny Cash or a more pastoral Nick Cave maybe.

It is also hard to pinpoint an era that feeds in their music. Stowaway has a 50’s elegance to it, while Blue has an air of 90s shoegaze.

Album highlight Shimmer is the kind of song that lodges itself in your head and refuses to move.  “Does it get any better? It could always get worse” croons Jackson over a delicate and haunting guitar line.

Other songs such as Fun of the Fair show that The Room in the Wood can take things up a gear and rock out when they want to. There is a vein of rockabilly that runs through their songs when they do this.

Dragonfly takes us again in a pastoral direction, complete with flute intro, acoustic guitar and an almost 60s pychedelia-like whimsy about the whole thing.

We’re the Martians, Now is an album that exists outside of current convention and fads. It is also one that will repay the investment of your time.

Sun 13 subjected The Room in the Woods’ Dave Jackson to a set of our fiendish 13 Questions. Read on to find out more about flat earthers, riding a bike and calling Dominic Raab a cunt.

1. Where are you and what are you doing? How is that working out?
“It’s the morning of 4th November and I’m in my office in the Redmonds Building at LJMU, using a day free from Zoom teaching to finish a chapter for an academic book on Screenplay Adaptation. I’ve got till Friday to complete an account of the development process that went into adapting, filming and editing the 105-minute low-budget feature film that we released in 2017 from my 100,000 word fantasy novel, Violet City.

I’m using this questionnaire to prevaricate and also to distract me while simultaneously listening with trepidation to US election results as they come in.

One of your earlier questions to a previous 13 questions participant was ‘When did you last shout at your TV?’ Before I left for work this morning, I screamed ‘Cunt!’ at Dominic Raab as the smug Tory arsehole refused to comment on or to condemn Trump giving his speech prematurely calling an election victory and claiming that Democrats were committing electoral fraud . The present state of affairs has me in a perpetual state of indignant anger.

I’ve been coming into the largely deserted University building to use my office computer’s webcam for teaching sessions. The zoom sessions, though scary at first, seem to have been going well. But, it’s all a bit weird and I do worry for students unable to interact in anything like a normal manner.”

13 Questions with Pete Wylie
“I’m an artist. And I’m a well educated intellectual in disguise as something else.”

2. How have you been coping with the lockdown?
“My mother became seriously ill in late February and was taken from hospital to a care home just as lockdown kicked in. We were able to have phone conversations with her, a few zoom calls, and one be-masked outdoor meeting during the summer before she took ill again and died in hospital at the end of September. We had to wait nearly a month to have her funeral without most of our family present. 

Being unable to play live to promote The Room in the Wood’s LP ‘We’re the Martians, Now’, which came out just after lockdown kicked in was a pain. It also meant we didn’t get our records into shops, but everyone is in the same sieve as far as that’s concerned.

The early weeks of lockdown went fairly smoothly. I started doing long walks and then I bought a bike. I hadn’t ridden one for about 30 years, and after a few wobbly incidents, I took to cycling like a cat to water.  But I did miss beer and meeting up in pubs and such.

Recently, things have begun to really get grim. News of the deaths of Andy Wilson and Hambi  really hit hard. Both were lovely men. Andy played keyboards with me with John head, and Tim O’Shea and recorded the Red fin Sunset album I did with Robin Surtees and Greg Milton. He also played on several songs on the first The Room in the Wood album.  I’ve know Hambi since the late 70s. 051 played an Eric’s gig with TonTrix in 77 and I made a short film with him in 2004 when he first started getting into filming.”

3. Who is the nicest ‘celebrity’ you’ve met?
“Not fond of the words ‘nice’ or ‘celebrity’. However, nice can mean sharp and, back in the mid-80s, Television’s Tom Verlaine seemed like a famous person to me – does that count? When he agreed to produce songs on The Room’s In Evil Hour album, I was thrilled. He didn’t suffer fools gladly, but he was friendly and helpful with me and the band, even giving Becky Stringer the moniker Boozy Becky for some obscure reason. I seem to recall that we bonded over a mutual love of the works of Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett and James M Cain.”

4. When did you last get into an argument?
“It might be easier to ask ‘when didn’t I?’ Something I should probably curb. When you’re young, it can seem like ‘attitude’. In later life, it can come across as simply bitter and twisted. But I do have a real problem with religion, superstition and conspiracy theories of all kinds. So God Botherers and Flat Earthers beware.”

5. What’s your favourite food?
“Egg, Chips and Beans or Chicken Fried Rice. I can’t decide.”

6. When did you last consider quitting social media?
“Nearly every time I look at it. I started doing it because of the music stuff, really. But once you’re in – you’re in. It’s the only way I know of informing people about my endeavors.”

7. What’s the best night out you’ve ever had?
“If I could remember that, it might not count as the best night.”

8. How would you describe yourself?
“An introverted extrovert, who may have been born a few drinks under par.”

9. What words of warning would you give your younger self?
“Don’t expect friendship and loyalty to be reciprocated in the same manner that you give it. Choose your battles carefully and try not to be so intense in your attitudes when it comes to essentially meaningless matters of taste. Oh, and never eat anything bigger than your head.”

10. When were you last told off?
“I’m telling myself off as I write.”

13 Questions with Paul Simpson: “Be magnificent.”

11. What has been your favourite decade for music?
“1970 to 1980 –  From Ride a White Swan to Atmosphere. T. Rex, Bowie, Roxy Music, Hawkwind, Lou Reed, Television, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, The Only Ones, Wire, The Fall, Joy Division. Glam Rock to Post Punk, if I have to choose. But loads of ace stuff before and since.”

12. What band or record changed to course of your life?
“Marquee Moon by Television inspired me to want to be in a band, and seeing The Fall for the first time gave me an understanding that an anti-showbiz stance and a way with words could be a pathway to a sort of weird transcendence.”

13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.  Is there anything else you’d like to say?
“I might have blathered on enough. But cheers for the opportunity.”

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13 Questions

13 Questions with Northwest

I became aware of Northwest as a result of a chance email, detailing the release of their 2nd album. As you can probably imagine, we get quite a lot of these kind of emails at Sun 13.

What then was it that made me single out this particular message, made me click on the link and then made me listen to Northwest‘s album? Let’s call it fate. Maybe I was just fated to stumble across this lush gem of an album, something that would chime with my soul and fill a gap that I never knew was there until I heard this record.

This album is a beautiful thing. If, like me, you find it a great shame that This Mortal Coil only made three albums, the answer to your problems could well be at hand. Northwest pick up threads from the likes of Filigree and Shadow and use them to construct their own fabric.

Fans of early 4AD would be well advised to listen to this album at their earliest opportunity.

Opening track Wind is sparsely populated, opening with an accordion and almost whispered vocals. Other instruments and voices gradually fade in and the song grows around you as you listen, the glacial tone gradually warming up as it evolves. the effect is similar to sitting indoors in a warm blanket on a cold, grey day, comforting and unsettling at the same time.

As with This Mortal Coil, this is as much about effect as instrumentation, the music and vocals combine to create one glorious swell of sound.

Winterland takes this template and develops it further still by adding washes of orchestration, building to almost Beatles levels of noise in the mid section, before reining it back and reverting to subtle and beautiful instrumentation.

The Day and Interlude II follow suit, occupying a strange hinterland between sparse minimalism and baroque orchestration. This is not an easy thing to pull off, and twin traps of too much and not enough lurk either side of the path that Northwest have chosen to tread.

Thankfully their balance is perfect and they walk it with style.

All of a Sudden is a beautiful piano ballad and stands out as a single, having perhaps more body to it than some of the other tracks that make up this album. It is also one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.

Before the Spell starts with an oboe (possibly – I am no expert at naming wind instruments) and takes me back to childhood days listening to the likes of Peter and the Wolf on my parent’s record player. A skillful use of dissonance and developing melody make this one of the album’s stand out tracks. It grows from tiny strands of noise into a haunting and affecting song that would be perfectly at home in a David Lynch film.

In fact the atmosphere that this Northwest conjure up would go perfectly with one of Lynch‘s black and white films. Both take their audience into other worlds where the outside seems to be temporarily kept at bay.

This makes Northwest an intriguing band. Outside of their music, I know little about them. So, with a view to putting that right, I contacted them about a 13 Questions feature. The conversations we had are from a band who are courteous, polite and literate. A band who are responding to the current lockdown situation by keeping their artistic and creative flame alight.

This can only be good news, as the place we find ourselves is one that is in desperate need of illumination from the beacon of art and creative endeavours, the first of which will be a new music video released on the 16th of November. If we can come out of lockdown with more beautiful works like the ones Northwest have already created, maybe we can at least have something to be thankful for.

Here at Sun 13, we are already looking forward to seeing where Northwest take us next.

Read on to hear more about making music, toxic environments and going to Zombie clubs.

1. Where are you, what are you doing and how is that working out?
“We’re currently in Spain. We came here temporarily in summer to visit some friends and family before going on tour in October but because of Coronavirus the tour got cancelled so we decided to stay here until January when we’re planning to go back to England. 

“Since we cannot travel, tour, go to concerts or meet with friends and family, we’re taking this time to work and focus on getting better at our craft by writing and composing soundtracks, writing and producing for other people, working on new Northwest material, new music videos, our individual projects.

“If 2020 has taught us something is being able to reinvent ourselves and our plans in a matter of seconds.”

2. How have you been coping with the lockdown situation?
“I guess like everybody. You go through ups and downs. It’s a very difficult situation with a lot of moral conundrums, fear and uncertainty. We’re trying to stay positive and let the best version of ourselves take over. Use this time and the privileges we have to make the best of the situation, otherwise there’s a big and comprehensive risk of getting depressed.

“But we believe a crisis can always have a positive outcome if you use it wisely.” 

3. What do you miss most about pre-lockdown times?
“The freedom. We always thought about states of oppression (or at least this fundamental oppression) as something from the past. We never imagined we were going to be deprived of such basic rights in our lifetime.

“We understand why it had to be done. We understand there’s a public health emergency but we were hoping to rely more on the individual’s responsibility and solidarity. We find it’s sad that the governments had to get police on the streets and force everybody to isolate (not taking mental health and other very important issues into consideration) just because apparently people can’t be trusted to do the right thing. 

“I believe this has created a very unhealthy relationship with the government (he’s our strict dad and we’re the irresponsible children) and a very toxic environment where some people see other people as enemies. There’s real police on the streets and then there’s another ‘moral police’ of neighbours snitching on one another.

“The other day we had a motorcycle accident and there were several witnesses and no one came to help us or even ask us if we were okay (which by the way, it’s illegal not to). We’ve never been in that situation. We thought: is this because of Coronavirus? Could it be? If that’s the case, we don’t want to live in that world.”

4. Recommend one band or album that you think we should check out
“Catherine Watine.”

5. When did you last make yourself do something you didn’t want to?
“Everyday. This is a very good question because it touches a very interesting topic that is not usually talked about but we believe it’s important. There’s this general notion that if your job is your passion, then you’re the happiest person on Earth all the time and your job is effortless because you like it and when you like something then it’s easy. So thank you for giving us the opportunity to debunk that with your question! 

“We love making music and we’re very happy we chose to quit our jobs 5 years ago and fully devote ourselves to it, but this is not an easy job. Most of the jobs aren’t, especially when you’re trying to do them as best as you can.

“Firstly, there’s a lot of parts of this job that nobody talks about because they’re not very romantic and glamorous like spending days sending emails, doing taxes, accounting, dealing with contracts, managing social media, having to learn about sales and marketing, about copyright laws, royalties, putting on and putting down a whole stage, carrying instruments here and there all day… which we, personally, don’t enjoy much but we have to do them if we want this to work. 

“You don’t have a regular income or a boss who makes the important decisions for you. Everything relies on you and that’s a lot of responsibility. If you’re feeling tired, you cannot call your office and say you’re not feeling okay and stay at home and still get paid at the end of the month. Everything depends on your mental strength and willpower. You need to learn the hard way to live with daily rejection.

“On the other hand, the creative and technical part of the job is also hard. Concentrating day after day for hours on cognitive demanding tasks (such as the compositions of a soundtrack, getting better at an instrument or the production of a record) is hard work, especially if you’re forcing yourself to give your best and you’re pursuing doing something different, hopefully innovative someday.

“The body actually fights it, there’s even days when we feel physical discomfort because our bodies just want to lay on the sofa and watch Netflix and eat. That’s why there’s a thing called ‘procrastination’ that a lot of us, humans, have problems with.”

Kevin Morby: Sundowner – “beauty to be found” The modest troubadour returns to his home state of Kansas to find inspiration on his sixth album.

“You know what truly makes us happy? Having a record we feel proud of finished and knowing we’re using our time on this Earth to make something meaningful. But the process of making it is hard and there’s a lot of days when you don’t want to wake up and spend hours in the studio frustrated because this particular sound doesn’t sound like you want and you fear not being good enough and you fear people are going to judge you, or even worse, ignore you… 

“Since we decided to devote ourselves to making music 5 years ago, we’ve seen a lot of people who started at the same time as us giving up along the way, and this is why. The music business is especially harsh because the market is over-saturated and there’s fierce competition and the product itself is extremely delicate and vulnerable (it’s our soul, really. I would even argue that music is not meant to exist in the actual consumer society, but that’s a whole other topic).

“You have to be very sure that what you’re doing and pursuing is worth the pain. So, yes, we do things we don’t want to do everyday, but at the same time, that’s what makes us happy because that’s why we’re becoming the persons we want to be and why we’re even having this interview! because we woke up one day and did all the things we didn’t feel like doing.” 

6. What’s your guilty listening pleasure?
“We personally don’t believe in guilty pleasures. I don’t feel guilty for liking what I like because music is something very primal and emotional. Like St Vincent once said: ‘I can’t turn off what turns me on’.

“I, (Mariuca), listen to a lot of things that people would hate me for and even Ignacio, the other half of Northwest, hates me for. So out of respect for him and for our audience, I’m not going to share them. I will just say Justin Bieber is among them. But that being said, I don’t have a problem with what I like. I made peace with myself long ago.” 

7. Can you cook?
“Yes! Ignacio is a very good cook. Since music has become his job, cooking is now actually his hobby and he spends hours in the kitchen making delicious dishes. He makes really good stews.”

8. Tell us a secret
“If we tell you, then it’s no longer a secret (I’m being super annoying and pedantic, I know (laughs). I’m sorry)”

9. What’s the best night out you’ve ever had?
“It’s difficult to pick just one. Both Ignacio and I were party animals in our early twenties so there’s been a lot of crazy nights. I personally remember a lot of amazing coming-of-age summer nights in Santander (a town in the north of Spain) where I had some of my first kisses, got drunk and high for the first time in my life, went into the sea naked every other night with a bunch of my friends…  and also great nights at Zombie Club in Madrid when I was 18 years old, moshing around to electronic punk music feeling like I was part of something bigger and amazing when in reality I was just a middle class kid drunk in a venue.” (laughs) 

10. When was the last time you laughed until you cried?
“Probably watching an episode of The Simpsons or It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

11. What is your favourite view?
“The view of London from the walk along the Thames on the South Bank area. It reminds us of how we felt when we first moved there and started making music for real, the feeling of excitement and endless possibilities… we still carry that with us.

“I also love the view of high mountains and green deep forests on one side and the sea on the other side that I can see from my favourite spot in Cantabria (the north of Spain).”

Catch up on our other 13 Questions features here

12. When did you last shout at the TV?
(Laughs) “I love this question. Shouting at the TV is underrated. I think we shouted in this year’s Roland Garros final. Rafael Nadal is amazing and an inspiration for us. I love watching documentaries and reading about great sports people because I find there’s a lot of parallelisms between elite athletes and musicians.”

13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.  Is there anything else you’d like to say?
“We want to say that there’s a very powerful way for each of us to change the world and become activists, and it doesn’t imply going to Africa and devote your life to a NGO or joining a political party (which is incredibly valuable).

“Every coin we own, every euro, pound, dollar… is a vote. It’s a vote in favour of a company with these values or that values, it’s a vote in favour of an artist we want to see existing in the world, it’s a vote in favour or against ourselves… We have more power than we think, because we all have votes in our pockets that can change the course of the world just by using them consciously on a daily basis.

“Thank you so much for the interview. We feel honoured you want to listen to us.”

Northwest can be found on social media here:

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Instagram: @this_is_northwest
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Categories
Album Reviews

Kete Bowers: Paper Ships Review

An acoustic guitar is fingerpicking a lonely, melancholic chord sequence, a low bass plays a sparse melody and a slide guitar echoes a minor scale counterpoint. The effect is unsettling and creates a mood that could be described as cheerless or gloomy.

This is the world of Kete Bowers. Do not come here expecting uplifting songs or lyrics that are comprised of meaningless froth, but do come here if you want to listen to honest songs that examine a place we all know only too well, a world made up of heartache and disappointment.

All of this is by no means a criticism, some of the best music ever made has come about when people confront their demons and examine their life path from a point they never thought they would reach.

There is art in this kind of approach, where an artist lays out their thoughts, their disappointments and their shortcomings, there is an honesty that lifts the resulting music up and makes it seem empowering more than depressing.

Think of the lineage of Nick Cave, Tim Buckley and Simon Bonney, who have also managed to turn their dark thoughts into art. Bowers has a mighty lineage behind him as he opens his heart to us all.

First track Northern Town sets the scene with some delicate guitar work and a vocal line that initially recalls Patti Smith’s Free Money, which can only be a good thing.  “I can count on the fingers of just one hand the number of times you treated me well” sings Bowers as he starts to examine his life. The slide guitar that appears places the song in alt-Country territory, but a million miles away from the more mainstream proponents of this genre.

Full Force: In Conversation with Holy Sons’ Emil Amos – Part 1

There Was a Time sounds to these ears like the perfect song to soundtrack a tracking scene in a gritty Western, there is a sense of a story being told and a cinematic feel to his songs. Strings swell the sound, but Bowers remains centre stage. I imagine him sat on a stool in a smoky bar whilst the audience looks on in rapt silence, but that may just be me.

Although the next song is called Winner, this does not mean a burst of ill advised optimism is about to reveal itself. “I used to be a winner” he tells un, before adding “I guess I lost my turn” There is an Americana about Bowers music and his voice and his Liverpool roots are not immediately apparent, but his experiences growing up in an area of decline add to his lyrical canon.

Ghosts adds an organ to Paper Ships‘ sonic palette as Bowers sings “Only old ghosts walk behind you on that road” Again I am reminded of Simon Bonney’s solo work, but when I mentioned this to Bowers, he was unaware of these records, making him a like minded soul to one of my favourite artists of all time.

A Town With No Cheer is quiet and affecting, with Bowers’ voice high in the mix, giving a feeling of having him talk directly to you in a bar room confessional. With hints of Bob Dylan, perhaps this song is closer to what people are calling Dark Folk as a genre.

A Place By The River is an album highlight, a creepy feel again makes me think that Bowers would be well suited to soundtrack work, perhaps for some mid period David Lynch. A Fine Day To Leave is more pastoral and lighter in tone musically if not lyrically.

Country Westerns -“filled with tales accepting the misgivings of life”

Northside sees Bowers look to his Liverpudlian childhood, telling us “I grew up on the North side of the river” and is lyrically evocative with images of rain soaked cobble streets and rows of houses all the same. Although he left Liverpool many years ago, the ghosts of his past “still call my name.”

You Stole My Joy is a delicate country song that brings Paper Ships to a close on a suitably down beat note. Not once has this album let its vision or quality slip. Paper Ships has navigated the terrain of Bower’s experiences and has documented these in an honest, open and sincere way.

It is a sad fact that a lot of good, credible music like this goes under the radar these days, while more lightweight, less intended music earns fortunes for the teams involved in its successful marketing. But then again, musicians like Bowers have always been denied a mainstream path, choosing the road that leads to heartfelt, genuine songs rather than commercial gain.

The mainstreams loss is our gain here, leaving us able to claim Bowers as one of our own.

To listen to Paper Ships is to be involved in another person’s life journey in the same way we do when we read a good book and become immersed in the lives of the main characters. With the lockdown again about to bite, maybe Paper Ships is the best journey we can currently take.

Kete Bowers’ Paper Ships can be bought at Bandcamp here.