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Tag: punk

Interview: The Stranglers

The Stranglers frontman Baz Warne discusses the state of rock and roll, his distaste for genres and how to
maintain a rebellious image in a sanitised pop landscape.

After Hugh Cornwell left the band in 1990, The Stranglers struggled to replace the hole he left so
when you joined the band in 2000 was it daunting taking on such an iconic role?

I never thought about it that way because I was in my mid 30s, I had been a fan of them for many
years and had even toured with The Stranglers in 95 and 97 as their support act. They made me
feel very welcome and we were so busy touring straight away that I didn’t even get a chance to
think about it. The dust settled after about a year and then we all moved into a farmhouse to write
the next record.

The Stranglers were known for their notorious, punk persona, even appearing on stage in 1978
with dozens of topless female dancers. Do you think bands have to worry about being politically
correct when trying to also maintain their rebellious image?

I think it’s just the times they [The Stranglers] were living in, i think if you try and be right on and PC
you’ll never get a chance to say anything to anyone; you’d end up having to call a manhole cover a
person inspection hatch- to be fair that is a really extreme example, funny though! We are who we
are, and it worries other people more than it worries us.

The Stranglers have touched upon some hard hitting topics in their songs, are there any more in
particular you want to tackle?

Well, subject matter just comes to you at the time. I mean, there’s plenty to write about at this
moment in time; we’ve got some US gigs in May and we’ve just got to watch what we say because
I’ve already written a few songs about the cartoon character they’ve got in the white House. It
happens naturally so you don’t really plan ahead, you just save up instrumental bits and someday
you’ll fit words to that.

So do you have pre-made lyrics, then? Or is it more impulsive?

Different sides of the same coin: you should never through anything away, always write it down,
often on a mobile phone which is crucial to musicians nowadays. You might listen back to it in 6
months and think that’s crap and say “I don’t remember writing” that “I don’t want nothing to do with
that shit” but sometimes you’ll listen back and think it’s great and wonder why did we never
recorded it before.

Did you expect the success of Big With Coming?

Big Thing Coming… that was one of the first thing we did together. To be fair we laboured long and
hard on that record actually. I don’t know, it would’ve been easy to follow the same direction of the
90s album which the other guys would admit was a bit ‘wishy washy’. New blood is always good: in
a football team, for managerial staff, anything; anyone coming at something with a different outlook
is bound to bring something new. Living in this farmhouse altogether, it was like The Young Ones, just trying to learn each other’s personalities and how we worked and Big Thing Coming just came
out of that situation.

Did you grow up listening to The Stranglers?

Well I had no internet- just top of the pops. It was so sanitised and mindless but every once in a
while you’d get a band like The Stranglers- their sound was so unique and no one sounded like
them, and no one probably ever will. That is what you want in a band, 45 years later and we’re still
doing it, so that’s gotta count for something.

Have you noticed a change in the demographic of your fans over the years?

The teenage fans from 1970s are all parents now so naturally yeh. And a lot of the fans, the
vociferous fans, who and eat and sleep the band have clearly got their kids into us too. So in the
crowd we get men in their 60s, all the way down to small kids down by the barrier who are being
lifted up so they’re not squashed and just eating a bag of crisps and watching the show! There’s
this one kid who’s been coming to our shows since he was a wee ginger lad and now he’s grown
up with a beard and a girlfriend, it’s fantastic!

What do you think about bands moving away from traditional rock music, like Arctic Monkeys’ last
album ‘Tranquility Base’, or The 1975 finishing off their recent round of UK arena shows with a
massive ‘Rock is Dead’ sign?

Ah! Well how do you mean by genre, if you had to use that awful word. They’re just boxes and
pigeon holes so that music is quantifiable. I tell you what lad, you come and see us and you tell us
that rock is dead. In London, Manchester, Glasgow, there’ll be thousands of leather jacket wearing
lads just waiting to rock out. Basically, it’s just about how it makes you feel, it’s not rocket science,
its very simple to be honest- you might catch yourself humming a tune that you accidentally hate. If
you don’t like rock go and listen to some bloody acoustic guy or some Ed Sheeran and then you
can tell me you don’t like rock music.

You’re primary fanbase is in the Uk but you also have big fanbases overseas, such as in France,
do the type of fans or atmosphere change country to country?

That’s what happens when you have a French bass player! Yeh we love playing there and we do
very well in France. When you go to places you haven’t been to in years- like our US shows which
will be the first in 6 years- the venues are absolutely rammed and alive because people have
missed us. We’re also off to Japan for first time in 10 years and one of the things I love in Japan is
the politeness, they’re so polite! The stage times are earlier too so you go on at 6pm and end by
8pm, they literally come straight from work and then go home straight after we finish- you wouldn’t
have that in the UK would you.

How to stay on the straight and narrow having such a crazy job?

We’re about to get in a bubble for 6 weeks recording and its important to not get up your own
backsides. Eating good, not burning the candle at both ends, get up, shower, go to the next town,
play the gigs, done. Its just a pleasure to still do this, I know that sounds cliched but we just feel
honoured to be able to still play to our fans. We won’t have played for 5 months by our next gig
which is too long and in the studio we all have massive smiles on our faces, so if we ever aren’t
smiling thats a sign to stop, but we aren’t there yet!

Doing this for so ling, have you guys developed any traditions?

Well of course they’ll be specific pubs or restaurants in specific towns that you want to visit but our
only major tradition is we all have a nip of rum and blackcurrant before going on stage. It’s an old
working mans club trick- the rum opens up your sinuses and blackcurrant coats your throat; a bit of
medical help works but just don’t do 6 shots of rum otherwise you won’t give a crap what you’re

Did you have any particular inspirations?

To be frank anything with a guitar in it but it didn’t always have to be guitar music. Great guitar
solos used to stick out to me on the radio, like ACDC, Motorhead, Sex Pistols and The Stranglers
but I wasn’t into the Jam or The Clash because they always felt too manufactured for me. As I got
older I even started to listen to Neil Young but to be honest whenI finish work and I go home I just
want to sit with my wife or go ride my motorbike through the Yorkshire dales. Music is my job but
don’t get me wrong it’s also my pleasure and a luxury too.

Do you have any hobbies outside of music then?

I read a lot as I’ve gotten older and I’m a very passionate football fan even if we team [Sunderland]
is now in the First Division; I’ve from a working class background where football was all pervading.
My grandchildren are great- I love being able to play with them and then give them back when they
get too much. Also as I mentioned I ride so maybe when the weather gets better we’ll get the
motorbike out and have some fun!

The Stranglers have dipped into so many different musical styles, what can fans expect from the
upcoming tour, any surprises?

Well you just have to play ourselves, like some old songs that the band haven’t played every or
haven’t played for 30 years; we call them the black jukebox. I could tell you the setlist but I’d have
to come up to Manchester and silence you! There are some secret surprises coming up but
likewise they aren’t public so I don’t wanna piss anyone off by revealing them to you.

The Stranglers play the 02 Apollo on March 30th as part of their UK tour.

Interview by Noah Matthews and Harrison Brown

Live Review: IDLES at The Ritz

A friend of mine has the rather peculiar hangover ritual of writing Facebook poetry. These, at times come across as mad ramblings – a half-drunk students’ stream of consciousness. However, in opportune moments these poems can be a revealing window into the head of a man’s alcohol-induced state of vulnerability. Indeed, upon accompanying me to IDLES’ Manchester Ritz performance he wrote “Joe Talbot changed my life last night.” This remark was perhaps facetious; a frivolous quip slotted into a meaningless poem. After seeing the same performance however, I think he was deadly serious.

IDLES took to the stage. A sold-out room, awaiting, brimming with anticipation. Proceedings were then initiated. Dev’s lingering bass entered slowly, repetitively, like a Blitz air-raid siren. Colossus had begun. This is the band’s opening track from the marvellous album Joy as an Act of Resistance, and it carefully lulled the audience into a trance. Tensions rose. The guitars quietly followed. Anticipation was building. Frontman, Joe Talbot, almost in warning, began his bellow of “it’s coming”, sounding like a man possessed.  And then, it began.

A cacophony of noise; a vibrant rapture of pints and bodies flung across the packed room. All promises were actualised. Like a Jürgen Klopp masterclass or a Tarantino classic, this was organised chaos. And it was fucking brilliant. As they relentlessly churned through a string of belters, from the chimerical Never Fight a Man with a Perm to Brutalism’s Mother, it just got better and better.

Madness ruled the stage. Joe’s ethereal presence reverberated throughout the room. Guitarist, Bobo, a man with the appearance of Asterix at Woodstock, walked horizontally across stage, crab-like, whilst balancing his guitar on his head. His co-guitarist, Lee Kiernan, divided his time between head banging and crowd surfing. Dev, and drummer, Jon, wisely stayed on stage, aware of the need to keep such mischief on a loose leash.  The act was was egoless, and belonged not to one individual but to every member of the band. Each of them provided a spectacle in their own manner, whether through extroverted or introverted means. When it all came together, it was impossible to look away.

IDLES’ adopted mantra – “all is love” – was certainly reflected in the crowd; although at times it was rough and energetic, it never felt unsafe. There was a sense of unity and awareness-for-others rarely seen in a gig environment. Such sentiments were epitomised as Joe Talbot pointed the audience’s attention to representatives of ‘Safe Gigs for Women’, before playfully insisting that more women make their way to the front to “throw some elbows”. The almost malevolent riff of Divide & Conquer erupted, and an automated audience of men and women moshed in unison.

This concept of ‘unity’ was perfectly embodied, when members of ‘IDLES AF’, the bands most loyal group of disciples, were invited to the stage for the set’s euphoric crescendo. At least 50 fans contributed to a chaotic yet brilliant noise, some strumming guitars, others smashing cymbals, a few performing their best Bez impressions. It was cathartic – the band’s moment of gratitude to a loyal fan-base. Not only that, it was necessary. Idles are a band that unashamedly and openly explore taboos, whether it be depression, toxic masculinity or, god help them, Brexit. Through anthems like Danny Nedelko, Television and the fiercely pertinent Great, they articulate sentiments many of us feel but choose not to talk about. A hierarchy between stage and crowd is in turn redundant – we are tackling a similar mesh of issues.  Even if IDLES don’t promise an antidote, they create music that can be reflected upon, music that’s therapeutic as well as didactic.

Few bands neatly reflect upon a moment the way IDLES do, even fewer bands are as prophetic. With IDLES, gone are the days of ‘rock star’ stereotypes a-la Liam Gallagher. Behind a frontier of loud guitars and vocals there is music with sensitivity in abundance played by men unafraid of vulnerability, accepting of their insecurities. Perhaps it’s because of this nuance in their work that Joe Talbot feels the need to reiterate “we are not a F**cking Punk band”. Perhaps this is also why I think my friend was being honest when saying the night “changed” his life. It certainly changed mine. Indeed, IDLES at the Ritz will go down as one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, from the most important band in the country.


Review by Christopher Byfield

Live Review: Scout Leader at Nambucca

August 30th, 2018, and the Fuse crew descended on Nambucca, north London, for our first gig of the year. Proto-post-punk rockers Scout Leader did not disappoint, bringing together a smorgasbord of far flung fans for an unforgettable evening. The atmosphere in Nambucca calmly escalated from relaxed family get-together to a deep-dive mosh, with supports Dreamherbs and Flaccid providing a clean run up to the main event.

Dreamherbs, a Walthamstow based free jazz duo drew the first of the night’s dancers to the stage with their mix of ambient and heavy sounds, blending dreamy guitar riffs into heavy choruses and turning lilting lyrics to screamed solos at the drop of a hat. Hot off their heels, psychedelic punk four-piece Flaccid served up a short but sweet set of headbangers to get the crowd ready and riled up for a good old bit of floor-scuffing – they were, as they’ve often said of themselves, ‘a bit noisy’, and all for the better.

For from the noise emerged first-time headliners Scout Leader, smashing straight into their set with a high-energy heart attack of an opener. Charlie Butler’s thunderous voice merged perfectly with the tightly controlled chaos of Linus Munch’s distorted shredding, and bassist Tom Allan provided a well-placed weight to round out their sound. The crowd surged along to the pull of the music and every head in the room tested the strength of the neck beneath it to the beat of drummer Alfie Blundell’s skintight rhythms.

Where Scout Leader really excelled was in embracing the latent power in their enrapt audience, tapping into the raw energy present and launching themselves into the crowd at every opportunity. Shirts came off and sweat swept the floor right up to the grand finale, a bunker bomb of a banger, over as fast as it began, passing by in a hurricane of stage dives and tossed instruments.

As Scout Leader’s loving fans charged forwards to embrace the band one cautious soul managed to spare Linus’ discarded guitar from the stampede – but there’s no real worry here; even should they lose a few instruments along the way, this lot are going places.


See more from the bands here:

Scout Leader: