Young Southpaw has his first repeat guest with The Black Watch’s John Andrew Fredrick. Always a good time with the elegantly loquacious Mr. Fredrick, talking about Nabokov, tennis, the new Black Watch album ‘Fromthing Somethat’, the possibility that Rachel Cusk, Epiphone Guitars, The Ocean Blue, & Congress are all listening to this episode together, and much much more
Young Southpaw: Speaking of secret messages and Nabokov, I re-read ‘The Vane Sisters’ last night.
John Andrew Fredrick: Yeah, that’s a powerful one. That’s the kind of short story along the lines of a number of others of his, like ‘Spring In Fialta’ for instance, or other things, any given Chekov story, or lots of Katherine Mansfield, that you could read throughout your life and many, many times and find so much to be bewildered by and in awe of and in the presence of just wondrousness as well. Did you love it once again? I’m sure
YS: Oh yeah, and you notice little things more every time. And it’s about those little things, just finding the wonder in the ‘glass-blown minutiae’, the line that he ascribes to Cynthia Vale.
JAF: Yeah, it’s one of my favourites of his, and one that I think ‘okay, let me brace myself’ when I sit down to read it. Cause Nabokov’s on my top shelf. If you look up there (points to bookcase) you can see at the very top that he’s there. And Henry James and Proust right below him. Yes, absolutely. And he talked very sincerely, as sincere as he could be with interviewers, about the ways in which he wrote to amuse himself. And somebody with such a towering brain, I daresay he would have to invent a certain amount of games for his delight, thinking solely, as he remarked many a time in Strong Opinions that he really writes with nobody but himself, an ideal reader, in mind. That’s not to say that it’s all solipsistic, although he’s been accused of that. I think that he’s not alone. Robert Smith has said many a time about Cure songs that when he wants to hear a great song, without hubris he’d say ‘I write one’. And I can really relate to that because I do write both songs and stories in order to please myself. And I do the same thing when I paint something, to have something that I really want to look at or I’ll toss it.
Young Southpaw gets the scoop on one of his favourite new bands, High On Stress. Chatting with singer/guitarist Nick Leet about The Replacements, Prince, seeing Def Leppard at a mall, High On Stress’ fantastic new album Hold Me In, and a whole lot more
Young Southpaw: What’s your favourite Replacements tune?
Nick Leet: Oh jeez, it’s all the hard-hitting questions today! It changes by the day for sure but I’ll cheat a little and name a few. Obviously ‘Alex Chilton’ is great, ‘Left Of The Dial’ is great, ‘Valentine’ is great. They’re one of those bands like - I’m a big Prince fan, obviously, but you know he’s got these different eras and different sounds - and The Replacements...were a sloppy rock n roll band, but they kinda had their different eras as well along the way. And if you’re asking me early, we’re sayin’ ‘Takin’ A Ride’. Kinda that middle period, I’d have to go with ‘Unsatisfied’ or ‘Bastards Of Young’. And then as you get a little later, it’s probably the Chilton and the Valentine, and then ‘Achin’ To Be’ and all of that so...Definitely period-wise would be my answer.
YS: That’s a really good way to go about it. Let’s not leave it out, what’s your favourite song off All Shook Down?
NL: (thinks) Probably go with ‘Merry Go Round’. How about you?
YS: I can see that. That’s a strong second to ‘When It Began’. That song is just a perfect autumn tune to me. Whenever I hear that, I’m 17 and it’s fall out, just that perfect weather.
NL: It’s funny, the band has played shows with Slim Dunlap and he joined us onstage and we backed him at some of his solo shows. But it started, he’d seen - we were already friends - but he had noticed we were playing ‘Valentine’, a cover on YouTube from some show we were playing. We did that and we did ‘Bent Out Of Shape’. And he called me up and he was telling me how great ‘Valentine’ was, and how we did such a good job. He goes ‘you do it in a different key than we normally did it but doesn’t matter, cause Paul would change the key on me right before we’d go on stage anyway so it all works out’. And I’m like ‘that’s hilarious.’ So I’m like ‘did you see ‘Bent Out Of Shape’?’ cause that’s kinda the Slim era. And he goes ‘eh, I never liked that song’ (laughs)
Young Southpaw talks to Suede bassist Mat Osman about James Bond, Kraftwerk, Los Angeles, Swedish LARPers, where he’d take Liza Minnelli for dinner, and his excellent debut novel, The Ruins
Buy The Ruins at https://repeaterbooks.com/product/the-ruins/
Young Southpaw: When did the title, The Ruins, come to you?
Mat Osman: Titles are really, really hard, to be honest. You want something that gives an angle on the book, without explaining the book. I have these discussions with Brett (Anderson) a lot about album covers and titles and stuff. They need to be a kind of way of looking at it. So there’s lots of, you know, the people in the book are kind of ruined, and it’s a lot about the city, about London, the ruins of London being built up, and all those kinds of things. But at the end of the day, it sounded good, it cropped up in the book, and it looked good on a poster. This is one of the reasons we’re called Suede, and not something longer. It was always like if you call yourself something small, you look bigger on the poster, and it always looks like you’re higher up the bill. If you’re called something like The Teardrop Explodes, you’re always on this line in the middle so... I mean X is the best band name of all-time. It’s just there.
YS: You can’t get smaller than that
MO: Exactly. Well, I suppose you could be just like a comma or something
YS: Yeah, punctuation seems to be creeping in
MO: Yeah, you don’t want punctuation in the band title, do you? That’s really too much. That’s when you know it’s gone too far. Who had a song about an Oxford comma? It was Vampire Weekend, wasn’t it? That’s too geeky even for me. There are certain things that are not the purview of rock n roll music. And I think the correct use of a comma would fall into the things that you could write a book about, but please not a song.
YS: I guess that’s the new punk rock
MO: (laughs) Punctuation is the new punk rock
Young Southpaw talks to author John Higgs about Aleister Crowley, Robert Anton Wilson, William Blake, the possibility of a supernatural James Bond film, Iron Maiden, and a whole lot more
John Higgs: Illuminatus! is a very important book, and it is a very powerful book. And it has had a sort of strange reality-warping impact on a lot of people at a lot of points. I always recommend people read Robert Anton Wilson and I always sort of say try Cosmic Trigger first. But at some point, people always want to go back to Illuminatus! It seems especially relevant now. In a lot of Bob’s stuff, he talks about a place he calls Chapel Perilous. Chapel Perilous is the place where basically all your maps have run out, and you’re lost, and you don’t understand what’s going on around you, and you don’t know the way forward. And it’s very much like now. For a lot of people. We’re living in Chapel Perilous. And that’s what makes him so useful. Because he talks about the way he found his way out of this sort of state. He says there’s really only two ways out of Chapel Perilous. One is agnosticism. And the other is paranoia. And if you go down the paranoid route, you stay there and you’re trapped, stuck in Chapel Perilous forever. But if you accept that it’s okay that you don’t know everything, and you don’t have to be certain, you don’t have to be the guy who’s right all along...if you can just humble yourself a little...then you can just slide out of that. Which is probably about the most useful advice anyone can give at this particular point. Now we have social media and we have all the sort of ‘wars of the certain’ in the online debates, for want of a better word. People have to be correct, and have this psychological sort of need to be correct and have their viewpoints confirmed. And you just drop all that, and let all that just slide away. That’s the only way out of this.
Young Southpaw talks to Carla Easton about her fantastic new record ‘Weirdo’, her love of Taylor Swift, ‘pop’ not being a dirty word, and much more
Young Southpaw: What have you been listening to the past couple of years while making this record?
Carla Easton: I was really into Lily Allen’s album ‘No Shame’, which I got around April last year after reading her biography. I loved the textures on that and how it was very much a pop record but dealing with like complex lyrics. So I felt like I could really relate to that. And then Sigrid, I went to see her at Usher Hall in Edinburgh last year. I was blown away and quite excited about how pop music can sort of you know - it used to feel like if you said you were pop, it was quite a dirty word to say, whereas it feels like there’s a new generation come through that are saying ‘embrace it’. And I’ve never believed that ‘pop’s a bad word, you know. So I was quite influenced by them. Also just like my record collection, you know, I’ve got a lot of New Order in it, and kind of a mix of pure pop and indie pop. But mostly it was just getting into vintage drum beats, really, and writing around that. Which I found really good, developing a new sound that way.
YS: What’s your favourite New Order record?
CE: I’m definitely a singles person, in terms of lots of bands I like. And with New Order for me it’s ‘Your Silent Face’. I think I’ll forever spend my life trying to replicate that synth sound at the start of it.
CE: I’ve certainly enjoyed new releases that have come out this year. I loved Lady Gaga’s record and Taylor Swift dropping an unexpected album. It’s definitely kept me going, having new music in my life.
YS: I saw one of your posts where you were debating which version of the Taylor Swift album to buy
CE: Yeah, I know! I was like ‘ah! what one will I get?!’. And then I settled on one version and I’m glad I picked that. I’m glad that the option to decide was only a week long because about a week after I was like ‘awwww! I shoulda bought that one as well’ (laughs)
Whitney Matheson chats to Young Southpaw about comics, pop music, her many various writing projects, the great American rock bands, what her make up would be if she ever joined KISS, and much more
Young Southpaw: The Ramones, I don’t know if I would consider them a ‘rock’ band...it’s a tough call on that one.
Whitney Matheson: Why wouldn’t you? Cause you’re saying punk? They were a rock band
YS: Punk. But they also wrote great pop tunes. I don’t know if I would consider them rock n roll. I mean I’m willing to accept that as an answer but I’m not sure I would say it myself. Obviously I love them
WM: I mean, I don’t know, I say leather jackets, tight pants, songs about sniffing glue is pretty rock n roll.
YS: That’s a very good point.
WM: But it's true. My daughter when she was very little, like 2 or 3 loved The Ramones. Cause those songs are so, it’s like three chords, so melodic, easy to sing to, ya know.
YS: That’s awesome. What else does she like?
WM: Well, when she was little it was like Ramones, Beatles, Blondie. She still likes Blondie. Right now she’s in a big Prince phase. Which is great. She’s seven years old. I played her When Doves Cry, and for whatever reason, something clicked in her and she just wanted to hear everything. And I’m so relieved that it’s not crap that she’s into. But she has seen...ya know stuff kids don’t get, it goes over their heads, and she’s seen some of the videos and she was like “Mom! The women in these Prince videos, they wear bathing suits so they can dance better”. And I’m like “yeah, that’s it, that’s true. It’s so they can dance better.” Yeah, you can have good moves in a bathing suit.
YS: When Doves Cry used to scare me when I was little. I remember thinking it was odd. It was much darker than what else was going on on the radio.
WM: Oh yeah, it’s dark. But she likes it. She likes it so much that I figured out the chords on the banjo so we could sing it.
Young Southpaw chats to Kevin Crace and gets the skinny on his legendary label, Humbug Records. Ignored in their native country, the label was nevertheless home to some of the finest eccentric British songwriters - Captain Sensible, Martin Newell, Simon Turner, Colin Lloyd Tucker, TV Smith... Some excellent records were made, along with homemade jam, early xmas parties, and the conviction/label motto that “two dozen people can’t be wrong”.
Kevin Crace: I wanted to create my own label and a label that was sort of themed, sort of stylized label. I was really listening to people like él Records. That’s really where I was coming from at that time. Me and my friends were some of the few people sitting around in London listening to él, listening to XTC, listening to this sort of esoteric pop music. And really I felt the world really needed that at that time. And I nicked a couple of the él artists, and was quite pleased to do so. Louis Philippe came and joined me and I did some work with Simon Turner, The King Of Luxembourg. I loved él. There were probably very few people who were ever listening to it, if I’m being honest, it was so specialized. It didn’t represent anything else that was going on in the music world at that time, but it just really worked for me, it was so beautiful. And as much as I’d come from a punk background, and an electronic background, and an indie background, I really like things like The Ink Spots. I love some of those old classic bands that had just been totally forgotten at that stage. So when 1992 came around, I started to look at acts to sign for Humbug Records and I found that there was this whole amazing selection of great, great British singer-songwriters that were homeless. They weren’t able to make money, they weren’t able to get signed, and they certainly weren’t able to get any recognition in the media for how great they were. So to some extent, there was an endless list of people that I could have signed as an independent at that stage.
So I started off, the first signing was Captain Sensible. I love The Damned. For me, they were my childhood band. They were the punks, not the Pistols, they were the real punks. And Captain had split with The Damned at that time, he’d been apart from them for a number of years, he was creating this wonderful, wonderful pop music. Just simply brilliant. That it was almost impossible to get anybody to listen to. That was always the problem. With Captain, with Humbug, with all of these, it was a very difficult time to get the media to support you. Because at that time there wasn’t really the respect shown to the great British artists.
Young Southpaw talks to The Church’s Steve Kilbey about his new solo album 11 Women, the songwriting genius of Kilbey, Bolan, Dylan, Lou Reed, Lennon, McCartney, and the magic & mystery of songs themselves
Steve Kilbey: That’s what I want to do with songs, truly break through to that sort of hypnogogic state, where all the music and the words, everything, it’s just a flow of thoughts, that aren’t completely random. If you go too random, then you get meaninglessness. You don’t want that. You don’t want people to go ‘there’s no meaning in this’. You’ve gotta have this, it’s a very subtle thing and only the really great songwriters understand that. These subtle threads that keep you interested in a song, even though it seems on the surface, superficially it seems like there’s no thread. There is some kind of internal thread that the listener will grasp, and it will make you feel good that you’re sort of in on it. People write to me and go ‘your songs make me feel like I’m in on something’. And that’s cause you’re sort of grokking it, ya know?
Young Southpaw: Yeah. ‘Sheba Chiba’ reminded me of like a Bolan rhyme as well.
SK: Oh yeah, of course. Marc Bolan and David Bowie and Bob Dylan and The Beatles are never far from any of my songs. I played 11 Women to a girl who came round the other day and she said ‘wow, it’s really Marc Bolan’ and I go ‘yeah, of course it is’. But hopefully the good part of Marc Bolan and not the bad part. In my opinion, Bolan went really badly off the rails, and is a spectacular example of what not to do. He was really writing these wonderfully ambiguous songs and then he became really famous and it all went to his head and he started just making up nonsense. Instead of having this ambiguous dreamlike hypnogogic stuff, he was just making up nursery rhymes and nonsense. The last album I ever bought of his, there was a line ‘Uncle Bimbo drank up the sea of Galilee, and like a fool he promised it all to me’. And when I heard that line I went, ‘you’ve lost it, Marc. I don’t wanna hear that anymore.’ And there was David Bowie putting out Aladdin Sane, and I’m like ‘well, it really hurts me to do this, but David Bowie’s now my main man. Sorry, Marc.’ And I felt like Bolan had lost it.
Later on, I read he was heavily into cocaine and heavily into drinking a lot of red wine and snorting a lot of coke, and he lost his mojo. Where the cocaine worked for Bowie. But for Bolan it didn’t, it just sort of made him egotistical, and he thought ‘oh, I can just do anything’. And you can never! You can’t! No one - not John Lennon, not Bolan, not me, no one - can just do anything.
Young Southpaw talks to Martin Atkins (Pigface, PiL, Brian Brain, Killing Joke, Damage Manual, etc.) about his punk rock ethos, entrepreneurial skills, books and zoom talks, as well as Public Image Limited on American Bandstand, Commercial Zone, GG Allin, the ‘Paul McCartney clause’, and much more
Martin Atkins: I’ve got four drawers of board tapes, alternative mixes...So if you’re a PiL fan, I’ve got both nights in Paris, it was released as Paris Au Printemps, that was my first show. And I’ve got both nights’ board tapes. It was actually my suggestion that we release it as a live album. I’ve got both nights in Tokyo. We released one night.
[Commercial Zone] is only Keith Levene’s album in that he stole the tapes. I talk about this in one of my presentations - while we were in New York, there were 17 rolls of two-inch tape. So this is me applying - I have my Master’s Degree now, big deal, but it changes the way I look at things - so instead of just going ‘we recorded a bunch of material, it was crazy’, well how much material did we record? Okay, so I go and look at my cassette archive, there’s 17 rolls of two-inch tape. How much music fits on a roll? 32 minutes. Oh my god. So now I have a spreadsheet with all of the songs, all of the versions. There are some songs on Commercial Zone that Keith isn’t even on, that he didn’t know existed until he took the tapes.
I don’t think it’s any secret that Keith had a drug problem. Like a really serious drug problem. A really serious problem with serious drugs. We were all using speed and drinking a lot, but he was levels above. There were times...you know John [Lydon] is a magical, charismatic individual. And his charisma protected PiL. There could be 10,000 people in a room and John could stare everybody down, more effectively than security punching people. And we were protected by that. It also allowed for Keith to be not always there at shows. He’d take a two song break. And we’d just do an instrumental version, or John would just sing over bass and drums. And people would be like ‘wow, PiL, it’s crazy’. Instead of ‘hold on a minute, where’s the guitarist? I like this song.’ But we got away with it. I think less and less, but we did get away with it.
When we booked ten shows in Japan, the walls started to close in on this version of the band. There are very strict drug laws in Japan. You can’t have a Vicks inhaler. They’re illegal because they’re a stimulant. Never mind heroin. And then Paul McCartney and his band, Wings, he got off a plane with like a kilo of weed. He was in jail for 11 days. I mean, the world went mad. He was fined a million dollars, and then let go. But what happened was every Japanese promoter then retroactively inserted something called ‘the Paul McCartney clause’....