As one of pop’s busiest men Glenn Gregory takes time out to talk to Getintothis’ Banjo about what he is up to and why he keeps himself so busy.
With New Order drum maestro Stephen Morris’ autobiography now published, Banjo catches up with the post punk legend.
Punk rock progenitor and one-quarter of arguably the greatest ever punk band, The Sex Pistols in conversation with Sun 13’s Banjo
Like a lot of people, Glen Matlock looms large in my cultural background. As one quarter of Sex Pistols, he was directly responsible for the total upheaval of my teenage world. He was the band’s main musician and was the closest we were likely to get to a Sex Pistol you could take home to meet your mum.
The Pistols and punk appeared quite suddenly in my life. I have a crystal clear memory of a day in my last year at school when I was told of a band who had appeared on TV the day before and swore ‘like troopers’.
Again like a lot of people, this was the first time I had heard about Sex Pistols. It was not to be the last.
I lived hundreds of miles away from where the program was broadcast and nobody in my school had seen it, but its shock waves had made it to my neck of the woods the very next morning, so we can see the effect this program had on spreading punk across the country.
But, and this is an important point to Matlock, there is more to him than his past. To the point that it is easy to imagine him coming across this article and feeling immediately dispirited that yet another interview with him starts off with that band and that interview.
He has played with Iggy Pop, The Damned and The Faces, but the shadow of the Sex Pistols looms large over him to this day.
Glen has a new album, Good to Go, released this Friday, 21st September. Recorded with Earl Slick and Slim Jim Phantom, it is an album of unashamed, unadorned rock n roll. To promote Good to Go, he has been keeping himself busy, playing gigs in such far-flung corners of the globe as Korea’s demilitarised zone and the banks of the river Ganges in India.
When I spoke to him he was in the middle of an intensive couple of days of back to back interviews, and sounding fairly worn out and weary with the whole thing, as anyone would be spending that much time answering the same questions and giving out the same details.
‘Sorry’ he tells us at one point as he struggles to answer a question, ‘I’m a bit interviewed out today, I’ve done about 9 or 10 interviews so far.’ Yeah, I saw your schedule I tell him, I’m amazed you’re still going.
Back on a roll, he continues. ‘I’ll tell you what I did do earlier’ he says, ‘I did The Wright Stuff tv program, then I did some Russian tv thing. But it’s all part of life’s rich pageant. I think my maxim to life these days is just say yes to most things that come your way.’
There’s a mate of mine who’s in the fashion business, and when we ask what we’re up to, we always quote Newton’s Law of Motion at each other – a body at rest stays at rest, a body in motion stays in motion, unless an exterior or equal force acts on it, or something like that.
But if you say I’m just waiting for the phone to ring it invariably doesn’t, and one thing begets other things.’
Glen Matlock also still sounds like someone who is passionate about the music he is making and is very keen that it gets listened to.
Tell us about the tour and these far flung dates you’ve been playing.
‘Well it’s not really a tour, but I’ve been playing selected dates. I’ve just got back from Korea, I’ve had something in India, just a one-off thing, and I’ve had a five night residency in a place in Canary Wharf, I’m going over to Dubai for a gig with Chris Spedding and then in September I’m going to Scandinavia for some shows, just me and my acoustic, which is kind of one down from being a comedian I think. ‘
It all sounds a long way from Monday nights in the 100 Club.
Yeah, but that’s alright too. When you’re an older bloke you take what comes along and as long as you approach it with a good heart, it all comes out alright in the end. The main reason I’m doing this is for the new album, which I’ve got to get people to dig somehow.’
So tell us about your new album?
‘It’s a bunch of songs I’ve been writing over the last four years. I wanted to so something a bit different, not the same old punk kinda thing, which is fine, but not when you’re not playing to the people who did it with the first time around.
And I saw Bob Dylan play, maybe three or four years ago and I can appreciate Bob Dylan. I’m not his biggest fan, but the band he had were fantastic. He had Charlie Sexton on guitar and the bass player was Tony Matthews, who plays stand up bass. And the drummer was fantastic and spent most of the set playing with brushes, and I thought that’s really cool, you can get the songs to come through, how can I do something similar?
And I thought ‘I know, I’ll call Slim Jim Phantom, he only uses half a drum kit, I’ll ask him if he’s up for doing it.’ And he suggested using Earl Slick on guitar, who I’d worked with before. Chris Spedding plays guitar on a track which I’m quite pleased with, with him being a member of The Wombles!
And I wanted to make the album a little more Americana-ish. I don’t think I’m ever going to get on Radio 1 these days, but I know that Radio 2 and Radio 6 are playing music like that, so I thought maybe I should change the tune, production wise.’
Would you want your stuff to be played on Radio 1 these days? Did you ever want your stuff to be played on Radio 1?
‘I think anyone who writes a song wants as many people as possible to hear it and then be able to decide whether they like it or not. If you write something that’s catchy and people hear it a couple of times they might think it’s really catchy.
Music is about communication, so the more avenues there are to get it out there the better really.’
Where do you look to for your influences these days?
‘Just what’s going on in my life really, and how I’m dealing with it and how you’re rising or not rising to the occasion or dealing with the pitfalls of it all. I’m not on some heavy political bent, because we all know what’s wrong with the world and you end up preaching to the converted and can come across as a bit Billy Bragg, which I don’t want to be.
You write in songs what you can’t necessarily express on a piece of paper and it brings out some emotional thing. Or that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.’
Has the way you write music changed over the years?
‘Nah, it’s the same old shit basically. Most songs I write, I’m walking down the street and an idea comes into my head, and if that idea doesn’t go away it’s time to pick up the guitar and work out the chords that go with it.
Every songwriter’s got a mental bag of half ideas that they can use and reference, but the whole thing is about trying to get across what’s on your mind. It doesn’t always have to be of the most fantastic consequence, but I think it’s got to be as succinct and direct as possible.
I try to write songs as if I’m having a conversation with somebody. I do like to think there’s a bit of humour in my songs, I think we can all be a bit tongue in cheek about things sometimes.’
Well it must all work for you. You’ve written some of the best songs ever recorded and it’s taken you all over the world and last over 40 years. You must be doing something right.
‘I suppose I must be. I don’t know what yet. [laughs]’
One thing I noticed recently, looking at the calendar, is that a few weeks ago it was the 40th Anniversary of the first time I went to Eric’s in Liverpool, and it was to see you in Rich Kids.
‘Were we any good?’
You were great, Rich Kids were a brilliant group.
‘I’ll tell you what I do remember about Eric’s, it used to whiff a lot because they had a problem with the drains, but also I do remember playing there with Iggy Pop, must have been in ’79, and I’m pretty sure we did a matinee performance for the underage people.
And instead of having the usual intro music to come on to, we played the theme tune from A Fistful of Dollars and Iggy would come on.
But by the time he’d come on, in that Iggy Pop style he has, there was all these kids dressed as scouts down the front.
And they started singing Happy Birthday, and for a split second he was dumbfounded and then he turned to the band and said ‘well fuck you’ and we went straight into Kill City.
I met some really cool people there, in fact we played there with the Pistols really early on. We played upstairs and there weren’t that many people there, but I skived out of packing the van and when I went downstairs there was this whole thing going on.
Yachts were playing and I was stood there having a drink and everyone was waiting for me. I got in the doghouse with everyone over that, but I met Clive Langer, Maybe Ian Broudie and Jayne from Pink Military.
It was good to realise that there was this thing outside of London. In our capital city ways, we may have been too high minded to think there possibly could have been.
But also likewise I remember going down to Newport or Bridgend in Wales, we did a series of gigs there and I met Steve Strange for the first time and got chatting to him.
And they were the same, they looked like punks before punk had been invented. And he asked where we were playing next, and it was a gig in Burton on Trent.
We stayed in Wales and by the time we got up, he was already in the car park waiting for us. He actually helped us carry the gear in, which I doubt he ever did since [laughs].’
Were you aware at the time, when you were playing these gigs, of the effect you were having on people and the outburst of creativity that you left in your wake?
‘You know what, I don’t want to sound big-headed, but yeah I think so. We knew we were polarizing people somehow.
We had this self-confidence, maybe not so much on my part personally, but Steve was the biggest ne’er do well in London. He was the spirit of the Sex Pistols, John put it all in words, I came up with the tunes and Paul provided the backbeat and kind of went along with what Steve said.
They were a double act and to me, they were always like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, which was fine by me as I liked Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble.’
How do you feel about the way the Sex Pistols and punk turned out over the years to now, where we can still feel the ripples from what you did?
‘Good I suppose. I don’t really know any different. I remember reading some interview with Keith Richards and the interviewer asked him about the price of milk, and he replied ‘Don’t ask me mate, I’ve been a rock star all my life, what would I know’
And I don’t know any different, I’ve always been saddled with the Pistols thing. I’m proud of it, but it’s a bit of a double-edged sword because here we are talking about that rather than what I’m doing now.
And I kind of hate it for that sometimes. A little bit.’
Well back to your new album then. There’s quite an old school rock n roll feel running through it.
‘Maybe so, I like all that kind of stuff. I’ve tried to do something slightly different within the confines of what I like and do and the people I’m playing with and get the songs across. My favourite song on the album is Speak Too Soon, which is kind of earthy and quite up.’
My favourite is Wanderlust at the moment, although that could change – there are some catchy riffs on there.
‘That’s a bit of an older one that I’d never really recorded before, that’s kind of my hats off to Roadrunner, but not by Jonathan Richman, but by Junior Walker and the All Stars. I do like the bluesy kind of stuff sometimes.
I’m chums with Pete Wylie, although I haven’t seen him in a long while. But I’m a big admirer of his, and he called one of his album Songs of Strength and Heartbreak and that’s what I subscribe to lyrically, finding a way through the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
Pete Wylie does the most fantastic version of a Gilbert O’Sullivan song, Alone Again Naturally, just him and an acoustic guitar. It’s heart-rending.’
Matlock has a huge library of tales he can tell about his time in music, with every mention of a band of a city inspiring more anecdotes of a life well lived. And more tales are doubtless being generated as he continues to tour and make music.
Do you still keep up with new music?
‘I do, my kid’s in a band and they play me new stuff and it sounds alright, rocky kind of stuff. One of the bands I played with in Canada were really good, and the name is fantastic too. They were called Ringo Deathstar. And Ringo went to see them. [laughs]
I met him, I was helping out his son Zac, and his dad actually plays pretty good guitar. We did a showcase gig for the record we were making at Raymond’s Review Bar we were telling Zac we needed to go on stage. And he was saying ‘no, no I’ve got to wait for my dad’ and I thought ‘wait for your dad?’ before remembering who his dad was! ‘
Well according to your schedule Glen, you’re late for a radio interview now.
‘Have I? oh blimey, I didn’t know that. I’d better go then’
And with that Glen Matlock says his goodbyes and heads straight into another interview, no doubt adding further to his fatigue and world weariness. It says something of the man that he is still prepared to put himself through such a punishing schedule to promote his work. He is obviously still proud of his work if a little frustrated that it is not naturally finding a wider audience.
Reflecting on our conversation later, I think to myself that one of the common threads that runs through the lives of people who were caught up in shaping the early days of punk is that of the huge difficulty dealing with the huge void that followed when their part in it all seemingly came to an end.
Steve Jones and many others turned to heroin to fill their days, The Slits’ Ari Up retreated to Borneo, living with a tribe almost completely cut off from civilisation while others abandoned music completely, turning to other careers. Others were not so lucky and didn’t manage to make old bones at all.
Matlock’s approach to all this has been to keep his head down and keep making music. There is a certain dignity to this calm and steady approach, one that shows that Matlock has managed to avoid the pitfalls of his profession with ease.
We wish him well in his quest to carry on doing what he does, especially when what he does is release top drawer rock n roll in this manner.
Glen Matlock has left his past behind him and has, as always it seems, still got an eye on the future and a place in his heart for rock n roll.
With Queen Zee having split up, Sun 13’s’ Banjo spoke to Zee Davine about creating art, subculture and what the future holds.
Zee Davine, ex-singer, guitarist and focal point of the wonderful Queen Zee, is many things. A musician, a spokesman and a role model, definitely. But the first thing that strikes you when you see Zee live is a certain undeniable star quality.
Star quality is a difficult thing to define, but an easy thing to recognise. Some people just have that something extra, something more that means you can’t take your eyes off them. They command, even demand, your attention and you, in turn, are happy to give it.
With Davine at their head, Queen Zee were, however briefly, the best band in the world.
But then, just when things were going well and their rise seemed unstoppable, Queen Zee announced their split, saying ‘It has been an honour to be a voice for the freaks, weirdos and queers for the last three years.
This band has taken us on the greatest personal journeys of our lives so far We are not mourning a loss, we are celebrating our time together.’
Those of us in the know, who had been affected and infected by their sense of purpose, their sense of fun and the sheer exhilaration of seeing them live fell to mourning.
But before too long came notice that Zee Davine was again ready to take to the stage, this time under a new, more personal name.
But what would this new stage show be? What would Zee’s new music sound like? What could we expect from this news?
In Zee’s first interview since Queen Zee split up, we were able to ask these questions, to find out what is going on in Zee’s world and to hopefully have something to look forward to.
We started by looking back and finished by looking forward. Obviously, the first thing we wanted to know about was what happened to Queen Zee.
Why did Queen Zee split up just as it seemed you were about to take over the world?
“That’s kind of been the reaction I’ve had. I think to everyone outside of the band it felt like a weird time, but I think inside the band it made total sense to us. We never really had any intention to do any of the things we did, [Queen Zee] was a DIY local punk band that just seemed to get out of hand.
It was such an amazing and beautiful experience for our last run of shows, playing Brixton Academy and Reading Festival, being backstage with Dave Grohl, it was surreal!
So with all the joy that brought us we didn’t feel there was any more to achieve. To view the industry as this game of milestones, to tick them all off and get to the stage where you’re headlining Glastonbury or Coachella or becoming a multi-platinum Adele type artist just feels really bizarre to me.
With Queen Zee we always had a message that we wanted to put out there, we had some songs that we wanted to do and we did that.
We never even wanted to do an album, we only did the album because we got PRS funding for 500 vinyl copies. I feel like there was always a timespan for Queen Zee, it was five individuals who all had very different tastes and different views on how we should be artists, how we should conduct ourselves.
We were just enjoying each other’s company, enjoying making music and creating and I think everyone just wanted to go and fulfill themselves in some creative way and Queen Zee just wasn’t that way.
It’s nice that the reaction has been that everyone felt we could have done more. I’d rather people had that reaction than ‘about time!’“
Go out on a peak.
“Yeah, how else could you top a great year than go ‘right, that’s it’.”
Have you got a band together for your upcoming shows?
“Yes and no. It’s not so much as band orientated as Queen Zee was, people come and go, it’s more of a collective feel. But yeah, all seven of us on stage.“
That’s a big band for The Stockroom.
“It is, the band are bigger than the stages we’re playing on this tour, but we’ll make it work.
Dave from Queen Zee is still playing drums, we’ve got bass, guitar, keys, saxophone, there’s a lot of electronic elements, it’s a bit more diverse than Queen Zee. A punk bite remains, but I’ve been able to delve into my other loves a bit more. “
So what’s influencing your new music?
“Probably the same stuff, but I’m taking it to a different place. Instead of looking at the energy of a song being created through the distortion and the noise of it, creating the energy through its tempo or its arrangement, clashing keys or creating a dissonance in the song.
I’m getting a lot more into the songwriting of it in this project, getting into creating something that challenges the ideas we have around Pop and what a Pop song should be.
That’s something that’s always fascinated me, how far can we push what it popular, how can we get the weirdest thing ever to be Pop music, get the masses singing along to something that’s really bizarre. That’s what I’m trying to achieve.”
So that’s the plan, to go to Pop music, whatever version of Pop music it might be?
“Yeah. I’ve always had that love of Pop, I think Pop has always driven everything I’ve done. I’ve always tried to make my music quite concise and to the point. It’s just where I come from, its my background. It’s such a bizarre time for Pop, what was Pop in the 70s was very different from what was Pop in the 80s.
But now, there are no subcultures. You can like Billie Eilish and you can like Black Metal or Ska Punk, and that subculture vibe of ‘I’m a mod’ or ‘I’m a goth’, that is so gone. Pop music now, I feel, can be anything.
So it’s Pop in the sense of popular, but Pop in the sense of Kylie, maybe not so.”
I know you’re an Iggy Pop fan, it sounds like you’ve perhaps moved from Raw Power to The Idiot.
“The Idiot is my favourite Iggy record, so probably there’ll be a bit of that in there.”
Do you still have the same message or manifesto as when you were in Queen Zee?
“I think it’s a little more intense this time. The liberating thing about picking up again and creating your own stuff, which I never really intended to do, I intended to not do music but I think it was the message that has motivated me to keep creating, to keep going. “
You’ve been doing this for a while now, you’ve been a mouthpiece for the LGBT scene for a number of years, have you noticed any changes in that time? Do you think Queen Zee made a difference, do you think you’ve made a difference?
“I’m not sure how much I made a difference, but I’m always amazed when I see the reaction to Queen Zee. I’m not sure how much of it was Queen Zee or how much was down to a general movement in music around 2016/2017. There was a lot of queer artists, it was almost like another wave of Riot Grrl and Queercore.
I’m not sure who spearheaded that, I don’t know why that happened, but it did. I think you can feel an undercurrent in the Punk scene at least and that is very much a part of it again.
In terms of the world, the world is in a state of psychedelic flux. Of course we’ve seen great changes, when I first started Queen Zee I didn’t come out, even though it was very much there in the material and the songs, I wouldn’t talk about it personally, about my queerness or my identity.
Non-binary wasn’t a popular term, gender fluid wasn’t really a term and even though I’d grown up with icons like Pete Burns to help me formulate this into some kind of language, people wouldn’t really get it. They would get the reference, you could say ‘gender bender’ and people would get it.
But now non-binary is used on certain passports in the world and can be used for legal documentation and that’s over such a small span of a couple of years, so it’s really gaining public momentum.
And then on the other hand, hate crime has increased, the murder rate has increased, Trump’s attacks on trans people, the Tories have a very minimalist view on the funding that goes into trans help services. We know the rhetoric that Boris Johnson has used before to describe us LGBT people, so I don’t think the climate has changed but I think the undercurrent has.
But that could, if I’m completely honest, have always been there and it was just a different generation taking over.”
You mentioned how there are no subcultures anymore, no one is a goth or anything anymore, but when I would see Queen Zee live, it was like there was a new audience, a new movement. Is all this a grassroots movement that is flourishing despite the authorities and the political climate? Is this where the rebellion is coming from?
“Yeah, totally. I feel that by destroying subculture we’ve almost created a new subculture, one that’s like a youth movement in general. It’s a disenfranchised youth that’s very aware. It’s the most aware young audience there’s been since the 70s.
It’s so politically turned on, it’s living through Brexit, it was raised in austerity and there’s just this mass of young people who want more, that has this aspiration for more vibrancy in their lives, for more colour, just more than the mundane Brexit doom based scenario that they’ve had to live through.
And that’s what Queen Zee wanted to do, we just wanted to inject some colour for 35 minutes and the fact that people responded to that, there’s definitely a hunger for it.
I’m not sure where people are getting it from, or where they’re going to get it from, but if I was going to bet money on the next Beatles or the next band that really, really explodes, I would say it’s going to be the kind of band that can really become the pinnacle of that and become the anti-everything.”
Can we also expect a non-musical direction from you as well?
“Totally. The idea of Zee Davine is not just my musical output, I’m creating as an artist and song is part of it. The shows are just as rooted in performance and rooted in art as they are in music.
That’s something I’m developing more as an artist and exploring more and I fell that’s where the hunger is, that’s where the appetite is, that’s what’s connecting when I see the eyes of the audience at a show. “
How far is this non-music career going to go? Could it be TV, could you become a celebrity?
“It’s everything. I really just view myself as an artist, I create on every platform and in every format, music is just something I’m inherently drawn to.
As a kid, playing around in your big box of toys, music was the one that I grabbed first. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to play with the other toys. It means that that’s maybe my favourite one.
I’m writing a short film at the moment, with a friend, that will come out next year. The album that’s coming out is a series of videos that interlink. There’s 20 minutes in the show that has no music.
So I’d really like to show how far I can push things, because that’s why I do it. I enjoy creating things, seeing what I can do and being that sort of vessel for it. It will be interesting to see where it does go, I honestly don’t know.”
When can we expect the new album?
“I’m being kind of a perfectionist on it, so not really soon, but fairly soon. Definitely 100% this year and probably sooner rather than later but there’s no single locked in, there’s nothing yet.”
So it would seem that, far from Queen Zee’s ardent audience having to console themselves following the split, we are about to experience an amazing burst of multimedia creativity.
Zee’s passion about art and message is as strong as it ever was. What we are seeing is an artist who refuses to let boundaries or pigeonholing define them or what they do.
What we are seeing is a brave and bold move from someone for whom staying true to your vision is more important than being successful.
Despite the highs that Queen Zee scaled and the impact that they had, it would seem that the best is yet to come.
Sun 13’s Banjo speaks to Stealing Sheep about their influences, rejecting the norm and playing in a beam of light.
After an eventful 12 months, it seems only right that Stealing Sheep are Getintothis’ band of 2019.
The year has seen them release their incredible Big Wows album, which quite rightly made our album of the month back in April, where we noted that ‘ the mere fact that they exist makes pop music a better place.’
They also played the 6 Music Festival held in Liverpool, made a triumphant and extravagant return to Edge Hill Arts Centre and finished the year with a three night residency at The Stockroom, an ‘intimate’ venue with a capacity of just 80 people.
And, something we’re very pleased about, they will be appearing at Liverpool Sound City in 2020.
But more than this, what marks Stealing Sheep out from the pack is the way they naturally, even instinctively, look to do things differently. Not content with the idea of turning up to play a set of songs in their day clothes, they have instead mastered the art of performance.
We can think of no other band capable of putting on a show like Stealing Sheep do and it is simultaneously impressive and inspiring. Every aspect of every detail seems considered and, wherever possible, an alternative, better way of doing things emerges.
The same attitude informs their music, where once again the level of thought and attention to detail raises the Sheep above the masses and makes them stand out and shine.
Personally, no one has impressed me as much in the whole of 2019 and this is a situation I can’t see changing anytime soon. If I see a better gig than the last one I saw by Stealing Sheep, chances are it will be by Stealing Sheep.
To look back at their year and to find out what might be happening in the future, Getintothis spoke to keyboard player Rebecca Hawley about their dream gig, how they get on with technology and empowerment.
I find it difficult to pinpoint where Stealing Sheep get their influences, but I get hints of post punk bands like The Raincoats. What would you say influences your music?
“I’ve never actually heard The Raincoats, but I get where you’re coming from with the way of making music and them not being from classically trained backgrounds, and being a gang of friends and putting music together.
We actually listen to such a massive mix of music, but film soundtrack stuff, Bernard Herrmann. Also, a lot of electronic music, techno stuff, and we really like Daft Punk and their approach. And we listen to a lot of Suzanne Ciani, Delia Derbyshire, Laurie Anderson, those kind of more conceptual synth women.
But it really is a broad range, because then there’ll be times when we just want to listen to Dad stuff or folk stuff.“
Is that where you see yourself, more at the conceptual side of things?
“We do more ‘art’ shows with dancers, so I feel like we’ve got an outlet where we explore more experimental ideas and then the band side is much more of a party atmosphere, using our album’s recorded material.
But we often remix that for a live audience as well. I guess we try to experiment with different ways of performing live,”
I think that’s where the post punk thing comes into it for me, it was a time when people were questioning everything that went into an album or a gig – do bands just stand there and play or can they do something else, can they take it further?
“Yes, because we’re all individuals and we all come from more artistic backgrounds, so that keeps it really fresh and alive for us, playing with costume and lights, how to make it more like a collective experience for the crowd. And us.”
Which shows do you prefer doing, the more theatrical; ones or more straightforward gigs?
“Both, for different reasons. The ‘spectacle’ shows have more of a barrier between us and the audience and we’re more robotic.
We play into that, we feel that everything has to be completely perfect and in sync in the way that we’ve choreographed it, whereas the band show is a much more free spirited experience where there’s no fourth wall and we can break down the barrier between us and the crowd and have that direct connection.
So they both have quite radically different experience connected to them for us and for the audience. It’s interesting to explore the two extremes like that.”
The last two Edge Hill shows that you’ve done were incredible, and now I’m looking forward to seeing you at the Stockroom to see the other side of Stealing Sheep. What made you play a residency there rather than one night at a bigger venue?
“We have a big history with The Kazimier, so that venue and that area of town is such a massive part of our evolution as a band, along with the people who run that venue. With the car park that’s turned into the gardens, they’ve been really creative with the space and the former stockroom, where all the drinks used to be is somewhere we used to hang out backstage.
It’s got an atmosphere that only comes through all of these years of being on the same theme together. So that venue it’s like a portal, like a beam of light in the middle of the gentrification, that has our history in it.
It’s a place that resonates basically, and it felt like the right thing. Plus the fact that we’ve got quite a big show now that fits on a bigger stage and to bring that into a tiny room to have an intimate show with only 80 people, I think that that experience is going to be really amazing.
And Edge Hill has become this incredible place for us, it’s local but it’s a little out of the way, so it’s good for them to bring more of the Liverpool cultural scene into their venue. They have these amazing facilities where we can road test things that we otherwise couldn’t dream of. That pairing has become revolutionary for what we’re doing.
When they first approached us it was at a time when we really needed it, when we wanted to start pushing our artistic boundaries but we didn’t have the financial backing to do that. We suddenly had this unlimited creative scope, so that’s been massively important in our development.”
Is this part of your search for something different?
“Yes, I think it’s just natural for us to lean that way, to have these different experiences with live shows and spaces. In Edinburgh we played The Caves, which is a space that has a really amazing history because the person who found it knocked through walls and claimed it, he was basically a squatter and he just sat on it for ten years and now it’s an amazing music venue.
We played in a library and the premise of that really appealed to us because it’s about reclaiming libraries as public spaces and diversifying how we experience libraries.”
How will this differ from your last performance there?
“Last time we played we celebrated the centenary of suffrage with a 15 piece female marching band and a 15 strong dance troupe from Edge Hill University. It was a bespoke performance with workshops and a residency with brighter sound a charity based in the northwest with a manifesto to rebalance gender in the music industry. This resonates with Sound City too and made for a magical collab.
In 2020 we’re touring our album show Big Wows, performing tracks from our latest album and live remixes of our past stuff, it’s our 10th anniversary as a band and this is culminating in super eclectic show filled with lasers, choreography, costume changes and rhythmically synchronised lights, programmed and built by Venya Krutikov, one of the directors at the infamous Kazimier Productions.”
Where would be your dream gig?
“We’ve been plotting for a while to do something in the Barbican, because we’ve seen quite a lot of interesting things there, so that’s one of our dreams.
But in a more dreamy, fantastical sense we’ve been looking into a virtual reality dream venue, so I think that will come to fruition in the next year or so, a self-invented space to perform. Inside a rainbow for example or a beam of light”
How would you describe your relationship with technology?
“That’s a theme within the album. We’re from the pre-Internet generation, so we remember what it was like to go and call for your friends and they might not be in and it was a surprise and it was spontaneous, before Instagram and being popular online and how it affected people.
We had that as a discussion within the group and that started coming through the music. It also affects how we make music, how you start making music with acoustic instruments and then how the computer becomes a tool as well.
It’s a love/hate relationship with the computer because it’s an amazing palette that you could never have accessed otherwise and then it’s that journey of trying to find the human, emotive quality in all of the sounds and how slight things like modulation travel through the sound of the synthesiser and gives it an almost organic felling, and then pitch shifting so it sounds more human, because the human voice isn’t just monotone, it fluctuates.
And I feel that this mirrors the conversation that we’re having about technology and how we’re trying to manipulate it to bring back to its human essence.”
Your music is quite intricate and has lots of different parts to it, but it all manages to fit together. How do you go about writing your songs?
“We each have a vision for a song and the meanings we want to get across, and that’s an independent thing that comes out of one of us having a certain message or a certain chord progression that has a feeling to it and then that person usually directs the vision and we all support that and bring it to life and then we all add our own personalities to it.
On most of the albums there’s kind of a ‘leader’ per track and I think that that comes out. That gives the albums so much variety and dynamic because it’s always going between each of us. And the fact they’ve all got vocals linking together creates a thread that goes through everything that we do that makes it completely ours, no matter how we want to experiment with genres and sounds. It’s our personalities coming through those vocals.”
You’ve changed a lot musically over the years, have we now arrived at the Stealing Sheep sound or is this just another stop on a long journey?
“I’d say the latter, which is kind of annoying because it means we’re never satisfied. We have a personal need to push our boundaries of what we can do and that’s what makes us us, the thirst for fresh energy and sounds and exploration.
But I do feel there’s been a reference to each decade in each album, where we’ve been really enjoying a certain era. They’ve kind of been in the right order too, 60s, then 70s, then early krautrock into more electronic 80s pop, then into where we are now.
Lucy’s been playing a lot of Charleston jazz drumming in the background so I don’t know if that will come through, but who knows.”
You do always seem to have one foot firmly planted in the future as well, so it never seems retro.
“I think that applies to so many things we do as well, like what we want to do with a gig and the album sounds.
We’re on tour at the moment and we have a support artist on tour with us called VideO, who does all of our visuals, she’s very much in tune with who we are and what we represent, and we’ve been working with her as sort of a pen pal over the Internet for a year without even knowing each other and now we’ve got her in real life.
I feel that when we’ve been the support artist in the past it’s been very, very hard, you’re right at the beginning of your career. So we wanted to change things instead of going by the rules of the past and so we have them on tour with us, in the van, making sure they don’t have to spend money unnecessarily, putting them up in our hotels and anything that we can do to make that experience better for the new artist.
Hopefully we’ll be changing the culture in the music industry that way, with little things where we go “we don’t have to just do what everyone did to us, we’re in a position now where we can make it a bit different” and that applies to how we want to do a lot of things.”
Is this questioning of the norm, rejecting of the norm something instinctive or is it something you’ve sat down and talked about?
“I think it’s instinctive and it might be based a little on our backgrounds and the lack of opportunities we might have experienced as younger people and coming at things from a more artistic background, where you’re taught that if you’re following the market you’ll always be behind the market.
So you have to be brave and push boundaries and experiment with your own vision, even though that can be harder and more scary and you could face more rejection.
If you’re coming from a background where things haven’t always gone smoothly, maybe that’s part of your instinct to reject the norm, because the norm didn’t work for you as a child, and for many people who are disenfranchised or on the outskirts of privilege and things like that. So maybe that’s something that’s come through how we’ve been brought up.”
Do you see that as part of what you do, giving a voice to the disenfranchised?
“There’s a feeling of wanting to unite people who have been outcasts, at school or somewhere else. That’s a strong feeling for us, just through different things in our past, like family members that have been rejected. You have more of an empathy, there’s definitely a fight in that and it’s a good fight to have.”
There’s an air of empowerment about Stealing Sheep as well. Is that part of the same thing, the same struggle?
“Yes, that’s something that we’ve experienced through being three women on stage and being constantly compared at the beginning, realising that that shouldn’t be how it is. All this subconscious bias that everybody has and the “which is your favourite?” and “who’s the most talented?” and things like that.
We’ve rebelled against that and realised that it’s about supporting other women, making sure women aren’t a threat to each other, that it shouldn’t be like that. We want people to feel that girls should support each other instead of being seen as competitors.”
What next for Stealing Sheep?
“We’ve got a few plans for 2020. We’ve already announced South by Southwest, and we’re going to announce a US tour and we have the plans for the virtual reality experience that we’d like to start developing. Also, there will be new music in the new year, so quite a lot.”
So, while Stealing Sheep may be the best band of the last 12 months, it would appear that they are all ready for the next 12. It is also easy to see they aren’t afraid of a challenge.
They have the songs, the appeal, the intelligence and the drive to take their sound and their performance truly overground in the next year.
Our band of the year may also be our band of the future.