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Ian Phillips got topical with the star of Mock The Week and The Lost Weblog Of Scrooby Trevithick ahead of his new UK tour...
e catch up with Andy Parsons as he prepares to set off on a 37 date tour of his new show ‘Citizens!’. Kicking off at the end of January Andy is touring the length and breadth of the UK through into May. In “Citizens!”, the promotional blurb declares, Andy illustrates how as citizens of the world we could change it, if we really wanted to - if only we could be arsed. But what exactly will the show consist of? “I’ll be instructing people that they have the power to do things,” Andy explains, “and then whipping them up into a frenzy… Fully understanding that the next day they’ll do absolutely nothing.” It’s a timely subject for him to be handling as we’re constantly reminded that the world is undergoing great changes right now, changes that are having a massive effect, and equally the world is waking up and recognising that there is plenty more that urgently needs change. “We live in exciting times.” Andy continues, “There’s a black man running America and we now own most of our own banks. Some pretty amazing things have happened in the last six months… And someone’s closed down a Dorset Lapland after a Facebook campaign. There are things afoot! If people really care about things they can change things, it’s all about ‘what do you care enough about’, and asking those sorts of questions.” Indeed people power can be an impressive and wonderful thing, if the people can be bothered. The recent American election saw masses of people turning out to vote who would never normally have made the effort. Is Barack Obama a change Andy can believe in? “He’s done a lot in his first 100 hours or so… He’s signed off to close Guantanamo bay, he’s bringing the troops back from Iraq, he’s going to put global warming at the top of the agenda, he’s saying that science will be at the forefront, he’s going to look at the emissions schedule. There are a lot of things he’s already said he’s going to do in the first 100 hours. Things Bush had no chance of doing, and was in fact doing the complete opposite for the last eight years.” And in other news… The financial crisis and the worldwide banking system; again a topic very much of the moment and certainly something in need of change. Does Andy think the current catastrophe will bring about change in the banking system? “I think they may effect change in the short term. I think there will be some regulation. There was a time when I was growing up when those bespectacled bastions of society, the bank managers, everybody looked up to them, but now most people haven’t a clue who their bank manager is and nobody’s got much respect for banks at all. It’s going to take a long time for them to rebuild the respect if they succeed at all.” Whilst the decision was not ours, we’re all effectively contributing to help sort out the economy now with tax-payers money being injected into the banking system to try and alleviate the crisis. Does he have faith in the government’s rescue efforts? “Well a couple of amazing things have happened haven’t they? One, Gordon
Brown was supposedly dead and buried, and then after a massive worldwide crisis, biggest worldwide crisis for twenty years, possibly for longer, suddenly his approval ratings are well up again! Secondly, the general feeling was that we were spending far too much money and that they were going to have to cut back on the bulk services… and then suddenly when we’re tight for money he’s throwing money at it!” Andy’s new stand-up show, “Citizens!”, as you can see comes with an exclama-
has been keeping a close eye on all things newsworthy throughout his comedy career. More recently his angle on topical events has been seen on Mock The Week where he holds a regular spot, but his satirical sword was sharpened many moons ago as a lead writer on the classic ITV puppet show Spitting Image and contributing sketches for BBC radio show ‘Week Ending’. Does Andy ever ‘switch off’ and take a break from keeping a constant professional awareness of the news?
tion mark and it seems quite fitting for a man who’s on stage delivery seems to lend every sentence an exclamation mark. His excitable ranting style is unmistakeable and something of a trademark these days; but deep down within is Andy an angry person? “Yeah well I suppose that’s true of everybody isn’t it, we read the papers and we find out what’s been happening and you’re thinking ‘how has that happened?!’, ‘how are they doing that?!’, ‘why on earth did they think that was a good idea?!’ and you know it all spins off that.” Whilst we all keep up with the news from time to time and like to read a paper, Andy
“Well its quite nice to go on holiday and not know what’s happening, but then sometimes it’s quite nice to come back from holiday to find out what’s been happening and go ‘ooh I didn’t know that had happened’. You go away for a week and there’s always a lot that’s happened; people have died, people have resigned, you know various things have occurred… I do gigs every Tuesday night, a show called ‘The Cutting Edge’ in London [weekly topical comedy nights at the Comedy Store]. So in some ways you’ve always got to be on top of what’s been happening that week.” Comedy wasn’t an immediate career
choice for Parsons, but his passion for humour began to take hold whilst studying at Cambridge University where he met his long time comedy partner Henry Naylor. The two of them have worked extensively together as well as enjoying nine series of their own show on Radio 2 ‘Parson’s and Naylor’s Pull Out Sections’. It was the acting bug that brought them together and then later saw them both taking important roles in the running of Footlights, but it was Law that brought Andy to Cambridge in the first place. “I had absolutely no interest in doing law from day one. I’d done science A-Levels and I hated science A-Levels. They didn’t let me do English at university because I’d done science A-Levels, and so it had to be some sort of crossover topic and that was Law, but I had no intention of ever practising it.” Joining the ever growing list of well-known Footlights alumni, Andy Parsons and Henry Naylor were Club Secretary and President respectively for the year 1989-90, with other notable names such as Sue Perkins and Ben Miller rising through the ranks behind them. “I didn’t really know much about Footlights until I was there, and in fact really what kindled my interest in some ways was the National Student Theatre Company, I managed to get up to Edinburgh with them for a couple of years, and that was much more what started me off on that path as it were.” Comedy has found itself newsworthy of late, with Mock The Week also being dragged out into the scrutiny of the tabloid’s morality guardians following the infamous Ross/Brand affair. It’s an interesting time to be a comic, particularly when working for the Beeb. “ The BBC has got to put out stuff for all tastes and for the Daily Mail to decide what should be on the BBC I think would be a mistake. The fact that there were two complaints after the original [Russell Brand] show and then after a concerted campaign for two weeks you’ve got 40,000 complaints from people who hadn’t been offended… But they might be offended… And of course off they went and found out they were offended… It didn’t seem the right way to go. But it’ll be interesting as far as I’m concerned, in terms of, if and when Mock The Week returns, how that will affect all these producers who have to tick boxes… It’ll certainly make putting together a topical TV comedy show a more painful experience.” Mock The Week came ‘under fire’ when the Daily Mail highlighted a Frankie Boyle joke broadcast shortly after the Ross/Brand affair exploded in a mini-scandal that’s been widely derided for its delayed reaction, the show having first aired eighteen months previously. “You’re always gobsmacked when people complain about stuff that happened sometime in the past, it seems remarkable. But basically it’s just people trying to sell papers isn’t it and in some ways it’s a shame that were just giving them extra publicity by repeating the name of their publications.” Andy Parsons is on tour now. See myspace.com/andyparsonslive for dates, venues and booking information.
on Richardson has enjoyed a relatively rapid rise; winning the 2007 Best Newcomer gong in Edinburgh at the if.Comedy awards and last year getting the Chortle Breakthrough Act award. Jon’s was named in the top five of Q Magazine’s reader poll listing comedians to look out for in 2009 and these days following the departure of Russell Howard, Jon has his own show on BBC 6Music with his own name in the title and everything! This year Jon embarks on his first solo tour… “A whole evening in the company of me.” [He sighs] “Which’ll be interesting. An interesting experience for the audience. [Another sigh] “It’s kind of everything I’ve got really, ‘cos it’s the first thing that I’ve done like this, it’ll be best bits from the last two shows plus, you know, stuff that I’m thinking of at the time, stuff I’m working on there and then. I want to pick the best of everything, the current stuff is often the funniest ‘cos it’s sort of fresh and it’s new. So there’ll be plenty of new stuff in there as well. For people who’ve seen the last shows.” Jon’s last two shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (Spatula Pad and Dogmatic) proved very successful; hence the awards and recognition. But despite this acclaim, Jon can’t help but find things to worry about. “ I get it in my head that if people have seen stuff before… You don’t perform it as well… I’m not the kind of comic that is searching for that amazing one-liner that they can use for the rest of their career. It’s quite an American thing to build up that ten minutes that you do everywhere. Because I’ve done compereing a lot, I’m more interested in stuff that is current, something more interesting. Because you’re enjoying telling it, if you’re talking to an audience about something that is only happening that day then it’s bound to be more exciting then I think.” It’s early on in the interview and we’ve already come across one of Jon’s little foibles, he has a few. Does his tendency to worry affect his act? “I certainly include it in my act, I don’t know… It sounds negative, like I can’t get over it, but I have to include it because I do… I’m not one of those incredibly confident comics that is quite happy just to rattle on and is deluded enough to believe that what they’re doing is of so much importance that the audience interaction doesn’t matter, you know you’re there to make people laugh and be interesting and I think if you’re aware of the fact that the audience is there you can’t help but be a little bit neurotic about it and conscious of it.” He was once described by The Scotsman as a ‘junior version of Victor Meldrew’ and by The Herald as a ‘grumpy young man’, would he agree to being labelled grumpy? “Well, this is kind of what my last year’s show was about… Trying to disprove that I’m grumpy. I kind of resent being told
Ian Phillips chatted to one of comedy’s rising stars about neuroses, grumpiness, and where to get hot food in Ascot...
that I’m grumpy; it’s just that I tend to like things done a certain way. I just think, where things aren’t right, where people don’t behave well it’s better to pass comment and try and makes things better, rather than to delude yourselves with other things or pretend that things are alright. I think the only way that things are gonna get better is people picking up…” He stops himself mid sentence as something infuriating catches his eye: “As I talk to you now some prick has just gone by on his mobile phone while driving. That’s the sort of thing… were I in my car he’d get a good strong blast on the horn now but because I’m incapacitated there’s nothing I can do about it but, you know, I think you’ve got to pick up on things where you see them.” experience here, that from seeing his last show in Edinburgh (Dogmatic) if Jon Richardson is grumpy, then we’re grumpy too. You can’t help but agree with his moans. “Well that’s what I hope, if I get to a point where I’m doing these rants and people aren’t nodding then I need to shut up I think, but hopefully if people are nodding along then I think I’m saying something that’s relevant and interesting and should be said really and erm… Yeah if I actually get to the point where I’m just whingeing at stuff and people don’t understand what I’m whingeing about then I’ll erm… Can I get… oh ok… sorry I’m just trying to set up… shall we try some of that… do you wanna get yourself a sandwich?” We’ve lost him… and he’s lost us… We’re chatting to Jon on his mobile, and
Does this kind of thing happen to him often, getting incensed by the actions of others? “Yeah, when they affect negatively on other people. Because I live, you know, I live sort of on my own and I keep away from people and I make sure that when I go out I don’t cause any negative influence on anybody else. If I am with friends I try and make sure that I’m considerate to them, if I’m driving I’m considerate to other road users. The times I get angriest are where someone’s own actions or something that they do purely in their own self interest makes life worse for other people… Even slightly worse you know. If we all just looked after the people around us… This sounds incredibly… I sound like I’m putting myself up as Jesus now… But I think if you look out for the people in your immediate vicinity then the world can’t help but get a little bit better then. Part of making sure people are looked after is getting angry at people sometimes.” The accusations of grumpiness come not as attacks upon his style or persona, but rather as attempts to describe his act by reviewers – as reviewers are kind of expected to do. We can speak from personal
as it turns out, he’s in Ascot this afternoon trying to find a place to eat. “This is ridiculous… Ascot doesn’t sell food after 3pm! I’m having a meeting with another comic about some writing that we’re trying to do… We picked Ascot as a kind of neutral middle ground between Swindon and where he was…” At this point we lose Jon again for a moment as he pops into an eatery and makes what turns out to be a futile attempt to get some food. And then he’s back and you can almost hear the steam building up. “Who’d have thought it! He’d got food there… He’s got burgers and pies behind the counter but he refuses to cook them!! D’you see exactly the sort of shit I’m talking about… And he’s called his place ‘Ascots’ as well… You can’t call your business after the town it’s in and then fail to provide a service to that town… Ridiculous!” “Well you can put this in the interview. Don’t go to Ascot if you want hot food after 3pm! These guys are dicks! It’s all very well if you wanna watch posh women prance around after horse in ridiculous hats. But if you want a bowl of chips, you’re better off in Bracknell… It’s obvi-
ously one of those places where they have food for the locals, but when they get a sniff that you don’t live around here they don’t want you coming back… Outsiders!” Jon is known for being susceptible to annoyances and of course for his little neuroses. These traits are laced with a little hint of OCD. “I try less and less to describe it as OCD. I just think it’s a consequence of being very aware of things around me means that… You know like in the papers at the moment you’ve got Gaza and you’ve got the recession, things that however terrible they are you can’t really do anything about. And it’s right to read about them and its right to care about the world you live in. But when you can’t influence those things you can get very wound up so my coping strategy… You can either stop reading the papers and not be aware of things or you can make sure that things in your own remit are how you want them… So I can cope with recessions and war and things like that if I know that when I get home and lock my door things are tidy and how I want them. I think OCD is probably going to become more prevalent in society as more people try and control the things, sort of, within arm’s reach. I think that’s all it is, but I just try and avoid saying OCD ‘cos it sounds like I’m using what can be quite a serious problem for comedic effect. Which isn’t my intention.” Whilst Jon doesn’t use OCD for comic effect, unfortunately other people do have a tendency to use it for their own personal amusement. Does Jon suffer at the hands of mischievous types trying to mess with him? “I did an interview once with a radio station in Swindon where the guy came round to my house, which I wasn’t entirely comfortable with to begin with, but then I went to get coffees and he moved stuff around and played like a little game where he said: ‘Right I’ve moved five things and you have to find what they are.’ And I found four of them while he was there and he wouldn’t tell me what the fifth one was. It ruined the rest of my day ‘cos I knew there was something that wasn’t right and I knew that I couldn’t find it. It didn’t help… But yeah people do… If I’m out having food with some friends, they watch the way I eat because I eat very carefully as well, and I make sure that at the end I have a portion with a little bit of everything on it. Towards the end it becomes quite an endeavour to be honest, you can see the concentration on my face and they always try and finish their food first so they can watch me eat with a smile.” Jon Richardson is on tour now. The Jon Richardson Show is on BBC 6Music Sundays 10am till 1pm myspace.com/jonrichardsoncomedian
ppressively low ceilings bear down over my head as the I enter Franz Ferdinand’s hotel of choice to meet. Waiting in the foyer I take in the towers of stainless steel cowering beneath shuddering waterfalls while deep red walls fight slate and black features for attention. Is this Franz’s way of thoroughly following through with a theme?
ANZ FR AND DIN FER
by Danielle Goldstein
After all, the new album, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, pursues an ominous night of debauchery, leaving you blurry eyed and bewildered in the light of dawn. Add to that the cover art work accompanying it - an Arthur Fellig-esque crime scene in which Franz don dark suits and cast suspicious roles. In fact, as the minutes pass by I am beginning to feel suspicious and seedy, but before a retreat to the cell-like toilets to hide I’m ushered into a purple velvet-lined room where Franz perch on throne-like seats. Which gets me wondering, in the four years since their eponymous debut and the Russian constructivism of their second record, You Could Have It So Much Better, how have Franz evolved into the four brooding men in black that
sit before us? “We changed the visual aesthetic this time round because the look of those first records reflected the sound of those records,” says frontman Alex Kapranos as he leans forward on his elbows. The scrunching of his leather jacket seems deafening in the silence, but his eyes remain deadly focused. “The bold geometry - the jerky, rhythmic movements of the records look like that to me [but] this record has a different feel to us, a dirtier night time vibe which looks like that cover.”
musicians looking for wider influences and we certainly have been on this record,” Kapranos pronounces as Thomson straightens up to speak. “Now, in my life, I feel like I listen to a wider variety of music,” states the moustachioed drummer. “And I tend to not to dwell on what genre it is or the geography of the music. I think it’s something to do with getting older and feeling less like you belong to a peer group.” “Especially the way we listen to music now,” Hardy interrupts. “With MP3 players and the iPod you’ll have Daft Punk next to Dolly Parton and not even think twice. They’re just good songs.” Kapranos contemplates this, his bottom jaw slacked slightly. “It’s definitely different,” he mutters, chewing the thought over. “I remember when records were the only way of listening to music really. It was so different and difficult to find new music. To find those wider influences you’d have to go to a specialist store and order something and wait for it to come six weeks later. It’s definitely easier now.” Perhaps it was this search for wider
inspiration that led the band to use a variety of producers – namely Brian Higgins, known for his work with Girls Aloud, Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford and London-based electro DJ Erol Alkan – before settling on Dan Carey (Kylie, Hot Chip) to help guide the direction of Tonight. And perhaps this search too led to the use of a human skeleton to replace the percussion section in the sultry ‘No You Girls’. “Just for percussion,” reassures Kapranos, while Thomson is quick to assure us they got it from an auction and not a grave robbing spree. “We did an interview in Paris recently,” Kapranos continues. “And the journalist said, ‘Oh you were using a skeleton on a song, did you go to the graveyard and dig it up?’ No!” They all start laughing, relaxing the atmosphere somewhat and Thomson carries on with the story. “But then he was like, ‘Yeah me and my friends used to do that when we were young. We wouldn’t take it though.” He feigns a perplexed face to represent the Parisian journalist before Kapranos takes on the role. “‘Yeah, we used to like, knock the coffin over, not touch it.
The band also spent their time off growing up. Kapranos went to Vancouver to produce The Cribs’ third album, Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever, while guitarist Nick McCarthy laid low in South America, drummer Paul Thomson raised a family and bassist Bob Hardy toyed in the film industry. All this experience went towards influencing the concept behind Tonight and rediscovering themselves. Musically as well, they began absorbing everything and anything that their ears were subjected to. “If you look back, there’s always been
We weren’t sick’.” And this sends them all into fits of laughter once again. It’s easy to mistake these fresh-faced young Scots for the boys they were when they formed in 2002, but when they explain themselves you can hear their experience coming through in their confident speech. Rarely pausing for ums and ahs, you know that Franz have come a long way since Franz Ferdinand and you can also tell in the way they approach their music now – lyrically and instrumentally. Referring to ‘What She Came For’, where Kapranos chants: “I got a question for ya, where’d you get your name from… where do you see yourself in five minutes time?” he says: “[A journalist] asked if it was one big come-on, and I said ‘No, it’s about talking to guys like you.’ Well no, I didn’t actually, I just said, ‘Whatever’. But it is about talking to guys like him. You might find that sometimes you do interviews with people and questions get repetitive, but you can’t be a prick about it. People are asking those questions because they want to know the answers to them, you know? So if someone does ask you where you get your name from, you tell them, don’t be a dick about it.” And when it came to conceiving this record, Kapranos explains the thought process to creating its vigour. “It’s supposed to represent the dynamic of a night out. ‘Lucid Dreams’ sort of has that climax, that moment where it really comes up and then the come down is through
‘Dream Again’ and into ‘Katherine Kiss Me’. But with both of those songs, when we were recording them, obviously with the lyrics, but the music as well, we wanted to give them a dream-like quality - but different types of dreams. ‘Lucid Dreams’ is that fervoured, frantic, Saturday nightmare. Whereas ‘Dream Again’ is a much more positive, relaxing, happy dream.” ‘Katherine Kiss Me’ and ‘No You Girls’ also parody each other. “Both songs are about the same sort of event,
remembering how it actually was, how emotionally fragile and vulnerable you felt and maybe it wasn’t quite as rewarding as you’d hoped it would be.” Moving on Kapranos tells us how they’ve changed the way they approach song writing now. “When we started off we would write in a more conventional, sit-down-with-an-acoustic-guitar-and-getthrough-the-songs sort of way. But this time we tried writing in a different way, a bit more modular, where [we’d] work on
‘Well, the rest of this is not as good as this’.” Taking a leaf out of the Warhol line of attack, Thomson tells us about how they tried to construct a factory vibe in McCarthy’s flat. “Alex would work on ideas in the living room and I’d be working on beats in the kitchen and when it turned three o clock and we’d take it down to the studio in Govan and try to pool some ideas into working in a band set-up.” Once they were done with recording it was time to get some feedback, so Franz played an Edinburgh show to debut a lot of new material, but it didn’t get great praise from the Scottish press. “I think that was unfair,” Kapranos mumbles. “The audience were brilliant at that gig [but] technically, we had one of the worst gigs we’d had in years. My guitar blew up, a cable snapped…” “My keyboard played five octaves higher than it should have done,” McCarthy cuts in, breaking his steadfast silence and surprising me with his presence. “Things have happened like that,” Thomson continues. “You don’t tend to get too spooked, but when your entire family is watching you play and all your friends - it’s in those situations that it definitely spooks you. So I’m not gonna lie and say we’re not affected, but I think we pulled it back. To use a football analogy, we considered a goal quite early on, but…” “We came back in the second half!” Kapranos completes with a defiant grin before they all collapse into giggles again.
‘And the journalist said, ‘Oh you were using a skeleton on a song, did you go to the graveyard and dig it up?’
about kissing somebody for the first time. The two songs are trying to show how we recall big emotional events in our lives in different ways depending on the circumstances in which we recall them, or who we’re telling them to. So, ‘No You Girls’ is sung how you’d tell an anecdote to your friends if you’re in the pub - where you’d exaggerate something and become the hero of the story. Whereas ‘Katherine Kiss Me’ is recalling the same event, but a section. Like, you’ll have a collection of melodies and construct songs and rhythms from that, as well as working in a conventional way. You can construct songs in a more abstract way and to do it you have to lose any preciousness for the songs that you’re writing and be able to say, ‘Right this melody works really well in that song, but if we lost the rest of [it] and put it here it’d be magnificent’, and to do that you have to be able to say,
“We never bothered to book gigs” How did a show-shy rock band turn into one of the country’s best drum and bass acts? Rob Stares asked The Qemists to find out…
The Qemists are currently laughing at the latest batch of reviews that have been sent through. Amongst the slew of positive press critiques for their debut album Join The Q, one particular anecdote has made the trio of Dan Arnold (bass), Liam Black (guitar) and Leon Harris (drums) chuckle in unison whilst sat in their Brighton studio. Leon explains: “It was a review that was really opinionated against drum and bass. They liked the track, but they didn’t want to like the track so they gave it a good review but pretty much told everyone that they probably wouldn’t like it! [The end line was] ‘Although this is drum and bass, it’s not unlistenable noise!’” Articles such as these aren’t a rarity to The Qemists. Essentially a drum and bass/rock crossover act, they’ve managed to corner a genre that is fairly underdeveloped. The band have grown tired of constant comparisons to Pendulum of late: “We don’t really feel it,” says Leon, but have enjoyed recent nods towards The Prodigy much more. Growing up in Sussex during the nineties, the trio have now known each other for: “How many years? Something ridiculous,” according to Dan. Their first major foray into music came in the shape of angstridden rock band, The End of Things: “We wrote a lot of songs, but we never sent out a demo CD or attempted to get a record contract,” explains Leon. “Most of the time we didn’t bother to book gigs either. We just thought: ‘this’ll happen when it happens. If we get good enough, something will come of it eventually.’ And I think we were right.” Being musicians was always the goal, even at school: “We didn’t know that we would succeed in it or expect to live off it, but we did know that as soon as we stopped, we would’ve failed instantly,” said Dan. “The road to success is long and arduous, but failing is too easy. We never gave up.” From 1997, their interest in drum and bass increased, gradually turning them into rockers by day and resident DJ’s by night. Their biggest break arguably came in the shape of a remix for the legendary dance duo Coldcut in 2005, which saw them gain praise from a wealth of musical peers. Remixing ‘Everything Is Under Control’
triggered the start of widespread acclaim, with Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and – yes – Pendulum stepping up to recognise their talents. Remixes for Roots Manuva and Basement Jaxx amongst others were racked up, and a record deal with (Coldcut formed) Ninja Tune followed. Job done. Well, nearly. The following two years would see the band work on creating their debut LP on a near round-the-clock basis, fitting it around their day jobs. Liam worked as a builder, Leon was a web designer and Dan taught Music Technology to budding musicians. It sounds gruelling, but they were committed: “When you describe that you’re going to be a musician and immerse yourself in music totally, you don’t really have any other choice,” explains Leon. After considerable deliberation, they got the album just how they wanted, with ex-Faith No More front-man Mike Patton being the final piece of the jigsaw on ‘Lost Weekend’. The album they’d longed for was complete. “Any idea behind it was to make a record that hung together and that people could listen to from start to finish,” states Liam. “A lot of dance based albums kinda sound like a collection of singles.” Suddenly, all the work they had been building up from since they were thirteen was done. By the time you read this, ‘Join The Q’ will be in the shops. With the first batch
of finished CD’s only reaching them on the morning of the interview, did it feel like they were moving into a new chapter of their lives? Leon says: “It feels like everything we’ve done in our lives it seems has bought us up to this album. I guess we’ve always sort of been doing it. And always will.” What would’ve their younger selves thought to the finished LP? “I think the younger me would’ve absolutely loved it!” laughs Leon. “It was always what we were trying to put our finger on, but never could. I would’ve definitely been glad that music like this could be created.” With the next two months of 2009 already packed out with live shows from Osaka to Sheffield, Dan’s wish of “…maybe [having] a holiday” this year is already looking bleak. However, the dismay may subside when The Qemists head out on tour, as they’re planning something very special for their live shows: As Leon explains: “It’s done in a way that has never been done with a live band before, to my knowledge. There’s no backing track and we’re not playing synths or instruments with our instruments. We’re playing our bass, drums and guitar and are triggering samples, like you might do in a DJ set. It sounds bloody amazing!” By the sounds of it, The Qemists were merely waiting for the world to catch up with their musical dreams.
Qemists Join the Q (Ninja Tune) February 2 2009
Franz Ferdinand Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (Domino)
Before you pick up that franz ferdinand record know this, once you delve in you’re never going home again. or so says opening track ‘ulysses’ - the initiation of a night of wantonness - a night that’ll have you flirting, kissing, regretting, sinking into depression and coming up on the hazy side of reality with a clammy mouth and dirt on your face. The drums have had to dumb down to make way for simple heart-thumping beats, while the synth takes centre stage and electrifies your heals into snapping so hard you simply cannot fight the urge to dance. The angular riffs and methodical bass lines of earlier franz have been shoved aside for Killers-glazed synthetics, utilising every blip, beep, whirr and buzz they can lay their hands on. Tightly wound build ups (‘Lucid Dreams’) and hammering thrash outs (‘What She Came for’) feature intermittently. Throughout the album there’s a strong sense of movement, like you’re shadowing someone on this impious night
ANyoNe WITh a weak jaw should steer clear of Join The Q. The power that the Brighton trio possess on this crossover drum and bass/ rock album will hit you square on the chops instantly, and if you’re not ready, it’ll completely floor you. Designed to get people dancing and equally obsessing over its finer details, Qemists have transfused the rock roots of their teenage years with musical diversity that mimics modern Britain. Not only that, but they’re also content for their guest vocalists to stamp their personalities over their individual efforts, which is this albums’ star turn. Wiley’s addition to the grime/dubstep hybrid ‘Dem Na Like Me’ and beatbox maverick Beardyman on ‘Soundface’ are notable examples. ‘Lost Weekend’ is another, as exfaith No More frontman Mike Patton hollers throughout the schizophrenic breakbeat rout. every track contains a surprise. The subtler ‘Got one Life’ takes on dancehall and electro but adds a string section similar to Sergei Prokofiev, whilst ‘S.W.A.G.’ shimmies from soul to techno-rock.
even when things get relatively straightlaced with ‘on The run’, ‘When ur Lonely’ and ‘The Perfect high’, a glance beneath the surface sees future anthems controlled by riffing guitars in an electronic guise. There’s a massive difference in just how deep these songs go compared to anything remotely similar. The normally sampled, flat rhythm sections are pumped full of live band steroids, and the difference soon becomes clear. It may be a little intimidating for some, but those with the nerve to listen as well as dance will find a summary of the auditory cortex in most young adults – a hedonistic blur of songs, mixtures and tastes, caring little for classification or acceptance. Buy this album, and a chin guard. They’ll be your wisest investments this year. by rob Stares
out rather than experiencing it for yourself. Sharp, jabbing riffs and a rollercoaster hum trail the hand claps of ‘No you Girls’, parodying the gentle acoustics of ‘Katherine Kiss Me’. If you listen carefully you’ll notice that both songs document the same situation from a bragging pub story view to a remorseful morning after reflection. What franz have produced with this record is a peek at the dark side of fun, holding a mirror to our faces they’ve thrust an intelligent injection into the world of dance that fights off all pretensions. by Danielle Goldstein
The View Which Bitch? (1965 Records) February 2 2009
The DuNDee scamps return with a second long-playing effort that sees them take the surprising step into pop eccentricity. Much of Which Bitch? is straightforward progression on the Libertines-like, rowdy, lad-indie-by-numbers that made a splash two years ago. But even with this predictability The View have produced a noticeably bigger sound, one that is itching to get into the stadiums and these tracks sound more fully-formed than their predecessors. ‘5 Rebbecca’s’ is The View amplified in swathes of reverb and distortion, it is still the predictable indie-sound but has a stadium-filling magnificence. ‘one off Pretender’ (apart from the illadvised rap vocals), ‘Glass Smash’ and ‘Double yellow Lines’ will keep the Viewfaithful happy with more of the same.
It is the sounds elsewhere that may well turn some heads and confuse some of the bands fans, taking in off-kilter layers of horns, strings and woodwind that send much of the album off on tangents from the current indie-norm. This step into new territories takes in vast orchestrations and echoing electronics (‘unexpected’), Vaudeville stomp (‘Distant Doubloons’), subtle lounge-jazz (‘Covers’) and folk-rock (‘realisation’) all fuelled by the expected rowdy View energy. ‘Gem of a Bird’ is a sugary-sweet slice of simple boy/girl folk that adds another layer to the View musical cake. Kyle falconer’s untamed, street-wise vocals duck and dive between sweet and sour with him often attempting things that should be out of his reach, but some how his attempts at vocal dexterity add charm to the proceedings. But his vocals are often at odds with the scattershot melee of pop sounds making much of the album not work in the way it was intended. for many fans this will be seen as the difficult second album, but for those after depth and development Which Bitch? will be a surprising pointer to possible greatness to come. by Chris Marks
More reviews online at: thenationalstudent.co.uk/music
Valkyrie Out Now
Tom bloody Cruise. somehow every film he’s in is all about Tom. And somehow he gets away with playing the same character every single time. Here he plays Serious Tom, which means no shit-eating grin and not even any running this time, but lots of furrowed brows and talking… very… slowly. In an American accent. Even though he’s playing a German. And even though the other Germans all talk in English accents. Confused? You won’t be. Because despite this being touted as a tense thriller from the writer/director team that brought you The Usual Suspects about a plot to assassinate Hitler, it is disappointingly lacking in tension, thrills or a great deal of plot. The film’s main downfall is that we know how it’s going to end. And that’s not because anyone with an intermediate education in modern history knows that Hitler wasn’t
actually assassinated, but because so many tricks are missed in illustrating the means of the plan’s failure and ramping things up toward the inevitable conclusion. Instead the cracks in an imperfect plan are shown early on and everything plays out in the most obvious manner, leaving us wondering why we should care about them at all, it’s their own bloody fault. That doesn’t matter though ‘cause look: TOM’S ONLY GOT ONE EYE! Just to reiterate again, because it’s still difficult to accept: this is Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie, the writer/director team that brought us The Usual Suspects. A film with so many twists and turns you didn’t know which way was up by the end and you may even have forgotten to breathe. So how could they fail so spectacularly here in finding that same magic? How could they miss out such basic elements as an effective antagonist and conflict (inner and external)? How could they drop the ball so easily on plot devices like the ticking clock of the bomb fuse or the threat to Tom’s innocent family brought about by his actions? Who cares ‘cause look: TOM’S ONLY GOT ONE HAND! There’s no doubt a quality line-up of Britain’s finest on show here: Brannagh, Stamp, Nighy, Wilkinson, Izzard. Well, maybe not Izzard, but that’s mainly because he had the weakest part in the whole film – his character choosing to betray the Führer not by making the difficult choice to do what was right as a human being despite what the state says, but because Tom pretty much bullies him into it. As for the other members of the anti-Hitler coven, there’s no depiction of any kind of inner conflict in the really quite serious step they’ve taken, so we don’t give a hoot about any of them when they face the consequences of their actions. The best character beat in the film comes from two very minor characters: the communications officers who after passing conflicting orders from both sides decide to grow a pair and make their allegiance (guess who to). Oh, but look: EVEN TOM’S GOOD HAND HAS FINGERS MISSING! IT’S JUST GOT LITTLE NUBS, LOOK! Ultimately a disappointing offering from a team who really should know better, instead seeming to believe the hype and sit in their eagles’ nest oblivious to its failings. Screw you, Tom Cruise. by Phil Dixon at her for his pleasure, the sheer desperation of her situation is perfectly and pointedly illustrated. Looking for a better life she upssticks to Vienna as an economic migrant. Unemployed security-guard Paul (Paul Hofmann) heads east with similar ambitions. Initially shown out as a thug, an unfeeling brute he unravels as a lost soul trapped by the crushing oppressiveness of his life – you can’t help but feel empathy for him and Olga. And this is one of the films finest achievements as it forces compassion from the viewer where the film-maker is displaying very-little, it puts the moralising firmly on the shoulders of the viewer and is the more effective for it. It would be unfair to claim a lack of humanity on Siedl’s part, why would he make a movie addressing such hard issues if he didn’t care about them? However, in this case he has taken the role of observer rather than commentator. Import/Export is a perfect example of reality-cinema. Even the line between the artistic performance of the film’s cast and reality is blurred. The performances are so real, understated and natural you often forget that they are acting at all. Siedl’s use of non-actors brings a less polished edge to the performances that brings a quality to the
The Wrestler Out Now
DOUBTLESS YOU’VE already heard about The Wrestler’s critical acclaim and all of the awards nominations. You’ve probably seen the posters plastered with more stars than the American flag and the ones at the top of this review, so you know it won’t be reaching a verdict you can’t read in countless other publications. All that remains to be said here is why it’s so good. Firstly despatch any notions you may have that this will be a bawdy romp like that horrible David Arquette movie or a braindead actioner like anything you’ve seen The Rock or Hulk Hogan star in. This is a simple tale of human drama and the struggle for redemption – and doesn’t the Academy just eat that stuff up? Twenty years ago Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson (Mickey Rourke) was at the top of the wrestling game, the biggest ‘face’ in the business. These days the years have taken their toll but he’s still eking out a living doing two-bit amateur shows at school gymnasiums and community halls, spending his meagre earnings on painkillers, bleaching and tanning sessions, and Cassidy, a stripper who herself is in the twilight of her glory years (Marisa Tomei). After a heart attack and doctors’ orders meaning he can’t wrestle again, he’s forced to take stock of his life and realise he’s a deadbeat loser and he’s all alone, and sets about trying to make sure he doesn’t go out like that. Not an easy feat for a man who can’t seem to function in the real world, unable to let go of the past. Running in parallel, both Randy and Cassidy’s stories are a perfect study of faded glory, obvious to everyone including themselves, though they are unwilling or unable to admit it. The most poignant scene in the film perfectly illustrates this fact in one whole experience that would simply not work in other films. The director has been questioned for his exploitation of the public for artistic gain. His use of real patients in a geriatric ward who seem largely unaware of the cameras and the future audiences who will view their plight is certainly questionable. A prostitute abused by a bored and frustrated Paul is not an actress but a real-life hooker, brought in to the fold. In a film of this nature this use of real-life to supplement fiction is an essential part of its frame-work and is one of the aspects that make Import/Export work so well. The criticisms will come but Siedl is the kind of rare filmmaker who is less bothered about the chatter, and more interested in what is needed to make the best film possible. And few films are more effective in getting their point across – in the west we dwell in ignorance on economic migrants, Import/ Export challenges the consensus. The scene where Olga working as an aupair is being shouted at by a spoilt little middleclass scrote who has lost his mobile phone, is unsettling and a little cartoonish but perfectly highlights the West’s comical snobbery towards our Eastern European counterparts. This one
point-of-view shot as Randy looks around a sparsely-populated fan ‘convention’, surrounded by his other old-school contemporaries, complete with canes, wheelchairs and even false limbs. Read any interview with Rourke postcomeback and you know he’s a man riddled with self-loathing, which no doubt was his reason to take the role, informing and enhancing his highly emotive performance through his connection to the material. Credit must also go to director Aronofsky for sparing no pride for his leads. Every sag, crease and wrinkle is borne on screen as the camera gets up close and highly personal, saying more about the ravages of time than 90 minutes of dialogue ever could. Filmed in shaky cam ob-doc style with minimal score, it’s very much like watching a real documentary on the subject, comparable to Wrestling With Shadows, the film about former WWF superstar Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart containing much the same themes. It’s a technique that immerses us in this world that is both recognisable and on screen is palpably real, so much so that even in the wrestling bout scenes the lines are blurred between what constitutes the performance of the fight and the film’s plot. To use clichéd critic terms, it is a triumph. To use hackneyed wrestling speak it is an emotional slobberknocker. To say it plainly it is a powerfully heart-rending portrait of a broken man coming to terms with the death of The Dream; struggling to hold on to a fantasy life in the ring with one hand while losing grip of what few strands of a real life he has with the other, and the choice he has to make between the two. Heavyweights like this don’t come along often. Essential. by Phil Dixon scene alone acts as a powerful metaphor for Britain’s majority view on migrants and the pure childish-nature of our general ignorance. Import/Export is a cinematic tour de force, it may not be a film you want to see, but it is a film you NEED to see. It is a work of opinionchanging brilliance. by Chris Marks
Import/Export DVD - Out Now
AUSTRIAN FILM-MAKER Ulrich Seidl’s second foray into fictional cinema makes for unpleasant and uncomfortable viewing, but is absolutely essential. Import/Export is about as far from the concept of ‘film as entertainment’ as you can get, but presents and addresses important modern-Europe social issues with style, flair and unflinching realism. This is true car-crash cinema, you want to look away but you simply can’t. Centred on the East/West economic migration between Austria and Ukraine and shot in documentary-style, Import/Export offers a dark glimpse into the heart of modern human existence. Olga (Ekateryna Rak) is a Ukrainian nurse, simply existing in the bleak backdrop of postSoviet housing-blocks and supplementing her income gyrating for emotionless, controlling perverts on web-cams. As Olga shakes her bare behind while a faceless male barks orders
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