CKRRR #019 Adventures in Bristol Feat. ST PIERRE SNAKE INVASION & GORDON RAPHAEL

'The much needed generational riposte to the bland, uninteresting, boil in the bag musical atrocities that pollute minds and airwaves alike.' -  St Pierre Snake Invasion

Clark Kent a.k.a John Clay

Don't you just love it when a band you love reveals their biggest influence? One that you were previously unaware of and then can't stop playing? St Pierre Snake Invasion just got me into the now disbanded Mclusky. Looks like my recent jaunt to Bristol has proved fruitful.

Adventures Outside London (part 1)

So the wayward plan is, every month or so, Kate Shall and I will venture outside the capital to watch a band and then interview them/or whichever one of them decides to put us up for the night. All Clear? Cool. This December we traveled to Bristol to watch St Pierre Snake Invasion support Electric Six.

I’m in Bristol’s O2 Academy watching Damien Sayell handle a heckler. Next to me is the petite and ever eager Kate who has never seen Damien’s band before… St Pierre Snake Invasion are a fireball of live music entertainment. I first encountered them a few months ago in Bristol’s ArcTanGent festival and if you’re a regular reader of this column you’ve probably been anticipating their return here (click HERE to read Damien in Interview). Last time, Damien took my expectations of Rock and Roll and rocketed them to the moon. Seriously, watching him begin and end the gig on the main floor whilst the rest of the band barraged through their post-punk onstage was truly awe inspiring. Not seen something quite as captivating as this since The Dogbones. Witnessing a group like this is just as important as owning their records. So you can imagine my surprise when the recent gig in question began and ended with Damien onstage. Sure, his banter between songs was timely and of course, the heckler (who apparently apologised to Damien after the gig) was dealt a killer blow via Damien giving him the finger during an almighty rendition of ‘Last Words of a Bent Cop’ (‘your favourite band is shit!’), but to me Damien seemed restrained. I decided to note this and ask him about it later. After all, he had agreed to put Kate and I up for the night. Time was on this interviewers side.

The sound in the Academy was muddy and in a way, the lack of high-end proved a distancing factor between us – the fans – and them – the band. Any other group would have picked up on the lack of movement in the gathered assembly and folded in on themselves, but then, St Pierre Snake Invasion are far from ordinary.  Oh yeah! I contented myself with the sing along lyrics to ‘Hey Kids! Do the Choke Stroke'’ and ‘If The Only Way is Essex...' I committed myself to a fair bit of head-banging too. Click HERE to watch St Pierre Snake Invasion performing If the Only Way is Essex... (BBC Introducing in the West)   After the gig Kate and I headed to The Hatchett to rendezvous with their manager, Graeme. That part comes later though. First the headliners...

Electric Six

Electric Six is why a lot of the audience were in attendance for. Let’s face it, anyone whose heard 'Gay Bar' and 'Danger Danger (High Voltage)' is gonna be down here if they can make it. A fantastic band to get pissed and jump around too. There’s a guy in shorts (completely inappropriate for this weather) who Kate and I decided not to laugh at in a bar earlier. And here he is, knocking into me every few moments. Some of us wanna stand and nod to eighties stadium rock damn it. I’m not in the mood to dance with strangers. Alas, he keeps doing this and thus interrupting my analysis of Electric Six’s set. Meaty guitar riffs and seventies dance beats that I have to admit, despite their forgettable melodies are damn tight and begging for me to swing my dreads to. I move away from shorts guy to only be approached by a guy in a suit far too formal for such an occasion. What does he want? Oh wait, he’s mouthed something about his friend. He’s making excuses for him and so I feel the karma police have my number and through this gentlemen are doing their job well. Until… Some loon tries to clothe me in something shaggy and smelly and…it’s some kind of fur coat. These ruffians are a gang that needs attention and I kill them all with my eyes. Pity my smile is the understanding type. Kate obliges our mission by taking some pics and after a rather great rendition of Gay Bar, Danger Danger, Electric Six wrap up with Dance Commander. Would I recommend Electric Six?

Danger Danger!

Yeah. I wouldn’t go all the way to Bristol to see them, not unless  St Pierre Snake Invasion were in the support slot. It has to be noted that the front man has a way with the crowd the likes of which I’ve rarely seen. He’s so funny. Jack Black channeling and silly. There is some Doors a-like jam with him talking of the politicised nature of the band. How they plan to raise money to travel to villages in the middle east and educate fundamentalist Muslims about Electric Six. Maybe you had to be there? In print you might think they were going for the cheap laugh at the expense of an oft misunderstood culture. You’d be wrong though because I was there and I can tell you, tongue in cheek diatribes via song are what this band ought to indulge in – Nevermind waiting till the end of the gig to unleash it. Check out Electric Six HERE. The rest of the night is spent in two places: a) The Mothers Ruin b) Damien’s house.

The Mother’s Ruin:

I’m determined to move to Bristol. I repeatedly say so to Kate who agrees that the community here is what I scheme and plot London to be but would find my poor-man's-Tony-Wilson maneuvering easier here. I mean – Christ – The band stay on after the show and chat to new and old fans alike. They form emotional bonds and buy each other drinks. The owner of The Mothers Ruin (or at least the guy who runs it) is Paddy, the Snake Invasions guitarist. Graeme band manager dude, (one time pro-footballer for Man UTD) tells us that he owns two (or was it three?) other pubs in the area. Presumably live gigs occur in those places as well. No one wonder Graeme is keen for Damien and his motley crew to break into some kind of success. Bristol is still known for its trip hop scene back in the middle nineties.

Damien Sayell

I find myself in that awful predicament that non-smokers deliver themselves when their night tribe is mainly made up of nicotine puffers. But standing outside with Damien is a perfect place to begin interviewing him. Damien is happy with the gig in that there were enough people in the audience to convince the promoter that St Pierre are followed and thus ought to be re-booked. There were 177 people on the guest list and only 66 of those turned up. Damien’s regret – not mine. Nor indeed is anyone else spotting the deficit as everyone that cares to remark upon the gig chooses the words ‘excellent’ or ‘great’! The mild mannered Mark (bassist in St Pierre Snake Invasion) reckons the gig was average. What a trooper! I can’t stand people who make their band out to be something that it isn’t. I agree with Mark and tell him that I intend to make the article less Damiencentric and shine a light on the rest of the band. Now that’s a difficult one as the rest of the band have dispersed to different parts of the pub, and I’m a little too wasted to move from where I am. Plus, I feel the need to hang near Kate as this is our first trip/mini holiday from London. Yeah, I’m officially off the market. Mark is amiable but he won’t let on about what is occurring next year with the band. His cards are close to his chest, as was Graeme’s. Fine. One of these guys will let slip something, even if it hurts to talk. It’s my jaw you see. My abscess has swollen and I’m determined to pretend it’s not a growing problem.

Damien’s House:

Not gonna lie, but this is the reason why I’m here. Good gig, bad gig or even, cancelled gig, I was intent upon chit chatting with Damien in his own home. Of course I’m nervous, he’s a cool mother fucker. The last time I interviewed (courtesy of BLEEDER MAGAZINE) him I could barely talk. Shit, here's the proof: My first video interview with Damien Sayell. Thankfully, he’s humble about our meeting, and considering the inebriation and the fact he’s had to do a gig hours before, he is congenial and open to my rather blatant interviewing style.

Sayell is candid about the band being at a crossroads musically and performance-wise. For one thing, he doesn’t want to be known as the band that has alright songs but a funny guy at the front. I tell him that’s not possible. 'The Flesh E.P' for one has fantastic tunes and it’s no secret that I prefer it to ‘Everyone’s Entitled to My Opinion’. Damien admits that his lack of technical know-how stumped his ability to communicate a better way for the tunes to be played and mixed. Now, I spoke of a musical crossroads: The band have a choice to either mirror the raw black energy of their live set OR to showcase their melodic song based expertise. Each path has its pitfalls and I hope that in my anti-sober state I told Damien to go with his gut. The group is his baby and has a loyal following. Only complacency would determinedly erode their progression now. So then, inside I’m happy that  St Pierre Snake Invasion are not comfortable with continuing as usual. Why record another E.P? Why not prove to companies they respect that they can put together an album?

Damien is so candid about internal group issues, but despite his openness and compliance to share issues of sacrifice and commitment here, I won’t report what he tells me. All I will say is that the band has plans for next year that are far too enticing for any one member to take lightly. It’s serious time.

 St Pierre Snake Invasion are:

Damien Sayell - Vocals Szack Notaro - Guitar/Vocals Patrick Daly - Guitar/Vocals Sam Forbes - Drums Mark Fletcher - Bass 

More on these guys next week ;)

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GORDON RAPHAEL SAYS!

I wanted to wrap up the Gordon Raph interview in say, three to four pieces. But he has so much to say! And so we continue to learn more about his ongoing musical voyage. Last week, Gordon wanted to know if I was interested in penning his biography. This week he gets his answer...

Gordon R 4

John Clay Do your biog? Most definitely. We should discuss that after the interview, for sure. Now, being a producer of a record is like being the director of an actor. Discuss!

Gordon Raphael Yes, asap! I've never directed a film, but there are certain directors that I am constantly in awe of: Jean Cocteau, Powell and Pressburger, Kubrik and Fellini to name my favourites. I realized at some point that the magic of music comes very much from the artist who has a deep urge/idea that they choose to develop and birth via a creative process that may be spontaneous, or it may take years of focused effort. In the best of cases, a musician who dedicates love and time to develop performance skills can be dazzling and absolutely magical- transformative even! So then, as a music producer it is my job first to identify honestly and fearlessly which projects move me, and trigger my imagination enough to want to spend days and long hours deep in the recording process with those particular bands or artists. For me, music is a lot like food-- both that it nourishes and sustains me, but also that within seconds of "tasting" it I can tell if it is delicious, amazing or simply bland, average or lacking in love. Now I declare that this is all fairly instant, and also absolutely subjective-- for I realize that the music I "hate" or have no use for, is not "bad music" it's just nothing that relates to my current mood or life current at all! Ok, so the big thing that relates a film director to my job, is that once the cast is chosen for it's amazing and obvious strengths, we need to make sure that everything we have learned and experienced can be utilized to encourage the greatest performance possible from them. With a musician, and very notably for a singer- who's instrument cannot be "put away in a case" for in fact it is located right next to their heart!, it is easy to use harsh critical tones that will render many of them unable to sing at all, so full of doubt and fear they can become. On the other hand, I may easily adopt an attitude and maintain an energy so that the words I use to ask a singer to try again to hit a certain part "on pitch" or with greater impact will yield a result that is so superb and perfect, that neither of us, nor their band members can quite believe it! I have seen many amazing drummers go berserk onstage and do almost impossibly cool beats and stunning fills, only to come in the studio the next day and be so uptight about "making history with recordings that the world might hear and scrutinize" that they simplify their rhythms to the point of "nothing special" and then still rush the fills or come out late because they are so worried! If a producer or director puts out the feeling that we are doing difficult demanding work, and things are oh-so-serious, and we are on a tight budget and schedule- well the art created under that vibration is going to reflect that. On the other hand, when I am in a studio, everything from the visual appearance of the place, the freshness and the psychological atmosphere is one of pure 100 percent fun, joking around and being prepared to rock super-powerfully with no distractions and no interference- if possible. Insofar as I intend to make the great musicians I like to work with comfortable and feel respected and paid attention to, the performances THEY give, hilariously- makes me look like a genius!

John Clay Great stuff! Can you name anybody that has influenced you behind the desk? Spector? Eno? Namedrop!

Gordon Raphael Brief Namedropping section, starting from the beginning of my music listening lifestyle: I heard Sgt Peppers when it first came out. That record along with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention's "We're Only In It For The Money" informed my first impressions of the world of music, and what the experience of listening to a record was all about. They are both masterpieces in every important way, from the production (George Martin with the Beatles and Frank Zappa himself), to the lyrics, orchestrations + arrangements, record cover (odd that the Zappa Record's jacket was a wonderful, funny parody of the Beatles album!) and the mix of psychedelic rock with orchestral and exotic sounds. Next came Cream (producer Felix Pappalardi), The Doors (producer Paul Rothchild), Jimi Hendrix (produced by Chas Chandler and Jimi but always engineered by Eddie Kramer). When Jimi Hendrix died, it had to be Led Zeppelin and John McLaughlin's Mahavisnu Orchestra that gave us the future of guitars, and certainly brightened my life considerably! Soon Prog Rock (or Space Rock as I liked to call it) featuring jaw-dropping keyboard players including Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd,YES, Emerson Lake and Palmer (these last two always engineered by the epic Eddie Offord), Gentle Giant, Genesis, PFM, King Crimson (Islands and Lizard were their two albums that moved me!), Eno's solo albums with weird crazy vocals and Kraftwerk. Every band I mentioned so far, was my major background for directly experiencing the power and mystery of music, and a kind of deep soul relationship with the power of recordings. The next wave that destroyed my ego and fortified my soul was David Bowie, with both Ken Scott and Tony Visconti producing, but Bowie produced Diamond Dogs! Bowie also produced and or mixed some of the most important material Iggy Pop has released (except for the first The Stooges album!) and both of them have a special place in my heart forever. (musically right up to Low for Bowie, and New Values by Iggy). Devo and Talking Heads (both produced by Eno) came next, and we shall stop there, because other than Wendy Carlos' brilliant score for the film A Clockwork Orange-- these are the major inspirations and Raison d'être for my lifelong fascination and love of music and records. I never had a real idea what those producers I saw listed in the credits actually did, but I imagined that because the music and the personalities of the bands and musicians was so intense and divine, that these producers must be very special, and I imagined they helped organize things and help the bands making the records somehow. Especially when I saw the same producer name pop up subsequent albums by my faves, I sure imagined that the bands must have come to enjoy and trust working with these guys!

Gordon Raphael has a record label.

Check it out for cool artists that we'll one day be exposing here: SHOPLIFTER RECORDS

 I'll be taking a week off this festive season to do some writing for my novel so hey, no posting until JANUARY 6th 2014. If you miss me you can have a peek on what I'm working on here: 

The Russian Doll Stories 

Merry X Mas and have a great New Years Eve people!