CKRRR #017 Tricks of the Gods / Blacktiewhitenoise / Gordon Raphael
'Our name is a comment on how the world works I guess. What are gods? Who are gods? In ancient times gods were said to play tricks on people or on other gods.' - Chris Brady (Tricks of the Gods)
Chris, Lenny, Andreas and Jonny
Clark Kent’s Rock and Roll Revue is sub-edited by…
Tricks of the Gods are an awesome hard rock band that I've been following for some time. With Dumbjaw front-man Lenny V on drums and the blistering guitar of Jonny Davis, Chris Brady fronts one of the heaviest yet melodic outfits known to modern man. And let's not forget the subtle elasticity of Andreas Podda's bass-lines. Time for a few words of wisdom from the gods...
Points raised: Names, corporations as gods, politics, and of course, adoring fans...
O.K., for people who've just got into you, I wanna ask this on their behalf: the name...it's awesome! Does it mean anything?
Well it can mean all types of things. It is a comment on how the world works I guess. What are gods? Who are gods? In ancient times gods were said to play tricks on people or on other gods.
Lenny Dumbjaw Verralis
We're all sex gods!
WOW! Sex god ideas aside, would you be willing to write songs with politically laced ideas? Corporations act like gods, don't they?
Yeah for sure, in a way they do. We have one song called Corruption, and there is a thread of political commentary within a few of the songs. I Owe You Nothing could refer to this... the bullshit debt pile the governments go on about; we owe them nothing, but they take from us with their tricks.
A band with a name that means something in relation to their music? A dying art. Cheers for that lowdown. Now about the tunes...Never Be is AMAZING. Tell me about that one boys...
Well that song is an all out rocker, a break up song. Telling some girl that they will "never be the one for me". A nice little heart-breaker. On the recording James Buttery from Low-fi dub step mavericks Darkstar appears on lead guitar and he also mixed it which was very nice of him!
Cool. The drums in Tricks of the Gods are so propulsive. Wanna say something about your input Lenny?
Lenny rocks like a beast on the drums.
Lenny Dumbjaw Verralis
Didn't play on the recordings haha, it would have been even better. The songs write themselves.
HA! Tell me of the live material...you never miss a beat.
Lenny Dumbjaw Verralis
Simple and solid.
He is the machine that propels the band to new heights on stage and off!
Where do you guys see yourselves fitting into the cultural landscape of now?
Lenny Dumbjaw Verralis
I don't really know. We're open minded guys, I don't think we think too hard.
Yeah I'm not sure about cultural landscapes.
Lenny Dumbjaw Verralis
We don't need to be, we're gods!
There are a few schools of thought on this one. I like the idea of just doing the music and having a good time. Are you not actively looking for a distribution deal then? Some might argue that branding is key for such deals to be struck. Branding obviously coming out of an awareness of sound led image. Tell me more dudes.
We kind of leave that up to the Gods to decide. We are talking to a few companies and managers at the moment though.
Hahaha! C'mon, enough of the mystery! Clark Kent demands answers!
We do have a release in Scandinavia coming up soon...
Tell us more about it?
Hahaha! Fine...mysterious it is. You've got a loyal fan base, and they really respond well to your shows. How long did it take you to build up such a crew?
A good old multi text, and that was it, word got around.
Hahaha! No guerrilla gigging from you guys then?
Haha funny Jonny...we have all worked hard to play good gigs and put on a good show every time we walk on stage. Multi-text does work wonders though.
I got one: What bands NON-existence would change the sound of Tricks of the Gods? What would you sound like if Led Zeppelin didn't exist?
Lenny Dumbjaw Verralis
And that's a great place to end the interview. You guys ROCK.
Chris Brady plays guitar and sings
Jonny Davis plays lead guitar
Andreas Podda is the bassist
...and Lenny Dumbjaw Varralis plays drums.
Together they are...
'We can only live today, we can't be in tomorrow until it becomes today , so peace lies in being fully engaged in what you are doing now.' - Morris of Blacktiewhitenoise
It feels like years since I first had the compulsion to walk up to a diminutive dread-locked Morris shredding his guitar on the London Underground. The station in question is Waterloo, if you're interested. He's always there, playing amazing guitar. You ought to hear his band. I have. They are a flamboyant mix of Hendrix and early Bowie. Woohoo! May I have the pleasure of presenting to you, Blacktiewhitenoise!
Points raised: Hendrix and Bowie, philosophical/spiritual songwriting, and a more fulfilling alternative to the 'money, fame, recognition' template for 'making it'...
Firstly, thanks for agreeing to the interview! You're named after a Bowie album, but I hear Hendrix? Explain yourself!
O.K. well, Hendrix and Bowie were both early influences in my childhood, in terms of music. Hendrix for guitar playing, Bowie for songwriting/performance and general imagination. I'm more of a Bowie fan these days than a Hendrix fan. Hendrix is just ingrained in my psyche now. I don't really listen to or think about Jimi much these days, whereas Bowie is alive/current and in my opinion inventive and diverse in terms of songwriting...
What is it about Bowie's songwriting that's touched you?
I find Bowie, especially the really early 60's pop music he did, quirky and melodic, which are both very important ingredients for songwriting in my opinion. Here's an example. The song changes key at least 3 or 4 times. Quite odd. The end is great, and the lyrics are brilliant:
Here's another great one. It's about his grandfather:
This is quite an original way to do an interview I must say. Here's my question, why the Superman fixation? If you don't mind me asking...
My fav Bowie album at the moment is 'Outside'. Not many people talk about Bowie's return to characters and grand concepts on that L.P. Regarding your Superman question: I was in a band that wore superhero affiliated clothing onstage. Superman helped me grab attention better. His logo is quite an advantageous symbol since everyone knows who Superman is. Is image important to your musical career? How do you feel about Bowie's relationship to branding and has it affected your own?
Image is important in any business and so is branding. I am not sure about Bowie's relationship to branding though. Dont know much about it. My feeling on the subject is, any brand or logo has to be simple and effective, which in turn makes it memorable. Complicated intricate images are hard to remember. On image, as a band we never really think about it, but we will be working on that more as we move forward. I always like dressing up a bit and we may play on the black and white thing a bit in future (white trousers/black cravat...?)
Hmmm...food for thought. I like bands that have a flamboyant way of dressing/being that happens to help their image stand out on and off stage. Let's steer us back to your music. Remembrance is my fav track of yours. What's it all about?
Remembrance is a song based on spiritual themes as well as practical ones. Its main thrust however, is the removal of the ego self and the remembrance of your true Self, which is part of the universe or all that is, depending on how you define it. It's also about letting go of the past and not thinking of the future. Therefore being totally present in the now IS remembrance of one's self. That's why the lyrics sometimes focus on our concept of time, "Today will never be tomorrow" is true in the sense that we can only live today, we can't be in Tomorrow until it becomes today , so peace lies in being fully engaged in what you are doing now. It's quite Buddhist in a way. I am into that kind of vibe...
Nice. Do you have other songs full of such philosophy? You guys are quite a rare breed. Most people seem fixated on sex, drugs and more sex.
Well I suppose most people at some point have sex, get off their face on drink or drugs, so most people relate to that, and that's why people write songs about that. And also that might reflect what they are doing in their lives. A lot of people write love songs for this reason as well. That's precisely why I write songs about different themes, as well as more common ones, to open up debates on deeper subjects. I am also practicing a lot of spirituality in my own life, so that's why it comes out in my music. I write what's real to me. Now to answer your question, YES! One of our other songs, "Reaction", of which there's a rough demo of on our sound cloud, deals with the concept of reaction. It plays with the idea that Reaction is not a necessity, and that we can always choose differently. Most people tend to react to things automatically and without thought. They almost have set ways of reacting to certain stimuli. This song puts forth the idea that the same way you always react, may not be the best way.
Well answered! Now, penultimate question: How far do you want to take the band, or are you happy just to play? The concept of 'making it' is quite a juicy subject. I think I'll have to ask more bands this question as it reveals the truth of that group's ethos.
I have a bit of experience in the "making it" department. I was in a band that had an independent record deal and a major publishing deal with Sony, which still pays me quite well. So i have toured, been on the radio (xfm live sessions), supported big bands at big venues (Electric 6/Franz Ferdinand/Babyshambles). Which was fun, and when we got paid that was good too. I just realised that I wasn't happy even with all that, and if the band was very successful, I would not have been happy as I wasn't enjoying what I was doing. Now I am in a band that I really enjoy playing with and that's the main reason I do it. For enjoyment and expression. Anything that comes as a result of that enjoyment and expression can only be good. There a few people in the industry interested in us and if we get a deal of any kind I am up for that too, and I think we are ready and capable of taking our band to the masses, but my main drive is to make interesting music and if it pays at some point, I will make more interesting music!!! Basically, if you don't enjoy what you do, no money/fame/recognition will change that will ever change that or give the happiness/fulfillment you seek. And "making it" can be summarized by those 3 words. Money, Fame, Recognition.
Now that's all very informative! Cheers. Now, please tell us, what do you guys have planned for next year? Anything specific you wanna plug?
We have a new EP on its way this year in fact. So if you want to know when that is, people can sign up to our mailing list through our website www.btwnmusic.com. I guess the plan is just to keep playing and writing and jammin' as much as possible. That's what being a musician is really. Everything else comes after that.
Wise words, good music. Thank you for your time and again, good gig last Friday!
Nice one brother. See you soon man....
...and Morris (Guitar vox)
'The Gordotronic method of human interaction[...] simply refers to trying my best to go around in different lands and cultures and leave as overwhelmingly lasting, deep and (hopefully) uplifting impression along the trail' - Gordon Raphael
GORDON SAYS (part II)!
Here's the next part of my interview with Gordon Raphael - you know - that guy that recorded Is This It with The Strokes? I hope you enjoy his opening up about his recording/playing history. There is a lot of it and a heck of a lot more to come!
Points raised: The history (and ups and downs) of Shoplifter Records, Gordon's current mission, and the 'Gordontronic method of human interaction' and all that it entails!
...I have discovered some of the most brilliant, and volatile and creative and accomplished musicians and bands (accomplished as in reaching the goal of expressing stunning, original sounds and ideas in the artistic realm of music and performance) in places like Mallorca, Brazil, Seattle, Buenos Aires and Berlin. The burning feeling I get when I have 12 newly finished songs from a band such as Satellites (from Mallorca), or 4 songs from Detonantes (Argentina) is the same burning feeling I get when I make another album of my own music. I WANT and NEED people to hear it, and love it! Not only that, I want these killer-cool bands, and my own Analog Poodle to be traveling all over entertaining and enlightening music lovers everywhere, and earning a comfortable way to eat and be sheltered and thrive along the way!
In the mid 80's in Seattle I felt exactly the same way. My band was called Colour Twigs, and I was recording many super-interesting bands in our town; I wanted to start a record label/ art movement called Ars Divina (no not Arse!). I moved my studio and intention into an old church there (built in 1927) and sincerely tried to make that happen. Though I learned alot in that experience, I was not, ultimately successful with my goal! And that place caught fire, and burnt down, which led directly to my first New York City move.
In 2004, while I was living in London, I had my own band called Black Light, and Sony S.I.N.E gave me my own record label called Shoplifter Records. I wanted to release 12 bands that I was in love with that year, including Black Light, Miss Machine, Kill Kenada, C33X, Satellites, and Regina Spektor, who's phenomenal album "Soviet Kitsch" I had just finished producing with her (and may I add, funding that record entirely from my own pocket with the assistance of co-producer Alan Bezozi).
The only thing that really got done with the UK version of Shoplifter Records was several Miss Machine singles, and Regina Spektor's "Soviet Kitsch". Soon after that, with Black Light's "The White Album" and Satellite's "Limehouse and The Cave" waiting in the wings for release-- my label partner both forged my signature, and bankrupted the label right out from under me! YES it hurt, and yes I was furiously angry about it for years. Again, it was massive learning experience, and I took from that: "Gordon, you can't just fly around the world and get stoned and record The Strokes and leave your label in the hands of that person that you never fully trusted to run your entire business!" Yup, I quit being a stoner pot smoker that very day (Sept 1st 2004) and have had infinitely better results in life every since.
Back to my agenda! I now have 12 bands that I want the world (and other planets) to hear (see! the stoned-out influence is everlasting) and love, and I wish these bands to be touring, making videos and enjoying a financial reward for their art. My mission is now: 1) Get the new version of Shoplifter Records funded and empowered to do great, smart and creative business in the world. 2) Play many more shows and make some films with my own Analog Poodle music and 3) Keep discovering new bands and producing them in mutually happy and beneficial ways.
As far as the Gordotronic method of human interaction, that I have cultivated: this simply refers to trying my best to go around in different lands and cultures and leave as overwhelmingly lasting, deep and (hopefully) uplifting impression along the trail. Even if a group of very young musicians in Mexico City (Venison for example!) hire me to produce their songs, I want to treat them with a level of respect and sensitivity that really brings the most out of their performances in the studio, and beyond. It takes very little effort for me to show up on time, respect the band's ideas, do my best to show them that I believe in what they are doing, and make them feel very empowered whilst playing their songs. Ultimately I want them to be absolutely happy with their own music by the time I leave.
The bonds of friendship and mutual respect that come from being invited to participate, help shape and even play/sing some of my own ideas on these musicians songs, is for me, extremely gratifying and lasts, like the music, long after I split town and am starting another adventure elsewhere.
But wait! There's more. As part of my international music rocking mission into the human cultures of the world, I bring myself as a person who is vegan, preferring organic foods. I don't smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or take any drugs, and I work in the studio with hardly a moment of break day in and day out listening to the music at the highest volumes of sound that the speakers can give! I feel thrilled about all of this, and the musicians, studio owners and friends and family of the bands quite enjoy the spectacle. Plus, my entire style of working enables us to record, produce and mix 11 or 12 song albums in 7 to 10 days- with everyone leaving the process feeling energized and happy-as-hell! Weird, huh??!
Gordon? You do know that this means we're gonna have to make your interview the first three parter right? Fantastic info there, really! It's great to see someone push for other bands in such a genuine way.
More musical Yodaism's from Gordon next week Monday Gypsies! For now, check out Gordon's blog HERE!