A wild and stupid ride: To Live And Die In LA

To Live And Die In LA wears its stupidity proudly. It flaunts it’s love of cliches while it turns them on their head.

–SPOILERS — if you ain’t seen it, watch it and come back, sport.

William Freidkin invented most of the damn cliches in the first place with The French Connection. Cops who don’t play by the rules! Car chases in dirty city back streets! Gun fights! Here he basks in his own glory, turning up every dial, taking it up an 80s coke notch or two.

But Friedkin is a man who wants to have his coke and snort it. He wants the car chases, the cop who gets killed just before his retirement, the revenge story. He wants you to settle in for a night with the old tropes.

But then he keeps pulling the rug out from under you. The good guy is blackmailing a woman into having sex with him. The good guy gets an FBI agent killed. The good guy gets himself shot in the face. Imagine if Lethal Weapon killed off Martin Riggs before the final reel. This is what we’re talking about here. The viewer spits out his pizza in shock.

Life flows in aftermath… the good guy’s squeaky clean partner winds up dressing like his idol, eager for some blackmail sex of his own. The story can start again. Lethal Weapon can set itself up, but over there the good guy will never get shot in the face with a shot gun.

To Live And Die In LA: a wild and stupid ride where not everyone gets out alive.

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Bones of the art form: Michael Mann’s Miami Vice

Miami Vice is an action movie with no interest in action. It’s a thriller with no interest in character or plot.  Miami Vice is a distillation of everything that made Michael Mann an auteur. A movie that takes the elements and boils them down to the point where nothing exists any more, then looks through the bones to see what is left over.

Miami Vice understands it’s plot. It doesn’t care if you understand it or not. Cops spout acronyms. Cops speak jargon. They understand each other, they’re cops. We are not cops, so we do not understand. Therefore there is no exposition. They’re cops, we’re observers.

In Heat they stripped Vincent Hanna of his coke habit, here the ‘heroes’ are stripped of any vestige of personality. They’re truly soulless individuals, as empty as the world they populate. Here, cops are cops and they have no other life.

& this world is M.Mann personified. Pastel colours and icy music while vehicles glide past. The heroes look longingly into the oceanic middle distance. Speed boats and planes soar. Cars zip by.

The action scenes are jumbled collages, make of them what you will.

Miami Vice takes the meaningless and turns it into an art form. Here Michael Mann reached the point where making his art is his only interest, regardless of if anyone digs it.

Michael Mann’s art got higher. Or lower.

Rampant brutalism: Teeth Of The Sea live at Soup Kitchen

Soup Kitchen is the perfect home for Teeth Of The Sea. A concrete square down some concrete steps. Exposed brickwork. A neon sign that’s slightly too small for the space it occupies. Teeth Of The Sea make music spawned from the modern age. They soundtrack a dystopian life, a life you would never wish to witness. They make new things. They make shapes appear in front of you that you have never seen before, in colours you have never seen before. Then when the shapes have gone, you can’t remember what they looked like, just the feeling inside to have witness something so special and unique in a concrete box with a too-small sign.

Teeth Of The Sea were ripping the head off their latest album, WRAITH. The first track is death knell operating theatre intro ‘Our Love Will Destroy This Fucking World’ which segues us neatly into the dance track of WRAITH: ‘Gladiators Ready’ in which huge walls come forth to batter you into submission.

The first man has a laptop and some keyboards and wires. He programs shit and drum machines and does mysterious technological stuff.

A man wearing resplendent boots plays a pointy guitar and has more pedals than a BMW warehouse. He issues noises that run the gamut from metal twisting in extreme fatigue, to furious game boy battle chaos, to heavy dread vibes. When the dancing starts he occasionally kicks the stage, succumbing to basic motor functions??

The trumpet player. A king in a world of rust. Where the electro brings horror, the trumpet brings heart. Silver tongued streaks of beauty among the debris. Such melancholy pervades the work of Teeth Of The Sea, meaning their darkest music never gets bogged down in depression. He plays with such heart and soul that he spreads light over the dominion.

The set ends with the epic MASTER-piece ‘Responder’ which drugs (sic) you under with a low-level rhythmic thrumming before the universe expands before your eyes and a vastoid (sic) panorama of rave machinations hit in waves. Sweaty white dudes dance. Grown men freak.

Transmission ends/

Interview – Dead Sea Apes on Warheads

Warheads is a unique collaboration between Stockport’s kings of heavy space noise Dead Sea Apes and the artist Adam Stone, described on bandcamp as:

Classic British pessimism and speculative dystopian fiction entwine with morbid social commentary and a long piss-streak of bleak humour. This is a claustrophobic and self-contained world where paranoid bunker mentality goes for a Pot Noodle with a faded society always teetering on the brink of collapse, ranting street-punk drops bad acid, and Space Station fuses with Bus Station.
Standing their ground in a dirty jumbled junkyard between Robert Calvert’s schizoid Hawkwind monologues, Dead Kennedys’ stinging cranked-up racket, Gil Scott-Heron’s rhythmic social polemic, Butthole Surfers’ deep-brain-fried psychpunk and John Cooper Clarke’s wry wit.

We were lucky to catch up with Mr Brett Savage, head honcho of Dead Sea Apes to go deep into Warheads; where it came from, how it happened and lot, lots more!

While reading, why not listen to the full album on bandcamp, you can listen to it right here and at £8 it’s a bargain for a masterpiece of the modern age.

Ok, tell us about Warheads – what is it and why should we buy it?

Warheads is the first proper full album that we have made with Adam Stone. We had worked
with Adam a couple of times before and thought that this really was a natural progression.
Although it is very much a collaboration, I see Warheads as being an Adam Stone album,
where Dead Sea Apes are his house band. I kinda see our collaborations with Adam in the
same way that Michael Moorcock worked with Hawkwind, or how when Robert Calvert
dragooned in Hawkwind members to play on his solo work, that kind of arrangement. We
don’t share a squat in Ladbroke Grove, though.

How, when and why did you first start working with Adam Stone?

We first met Adam at a show at the sadly now defunct Kunst Gallery (R.I.P) in Belper. The
shows used to follow a loose mixed media approach where a band would normally follow
someone doing a spoken word performance. Adam had told me that his performance would
be a dystopian monologue where he toyed with the idea of analog synth noises burbling
away in the background as he delivers his intergalactic status report. I idly suggested that I
wouldn’t mind adding a few ad hoc noises live whilst he played, not giving much thought as
to what that would entail. As it got closer to the show, I asked Chris Hardman (drums) if he
would help me construct a drone in the background to complement my synthy warbles (Chris
is a sound engineer for the Beeb by trade). So, when it came around to doing the
performance, Chris did some live manipulation of the drone whilst I added some improvised
noises on the synth. Feeling a little left out, our bass player Nick (who has since left for
pastures new) started to pick up his bass and join in. Now, Chris records everything for
posterity and the performance was very well received, so Cardinal Fuzz suggested that we
release it as a one-sided vinyl, which was released as ‘In The Year 2039’.
At the time, we were putting ‘Sixth Side Of The Pentagon’ together. We had discussed
bringing other voices into the album. We had also discussed how ‘Sixth Side’ should reflect
our geopolitical views in some way (which is pretty tricky as an instrumental band, believe
me). Adam is both a political and sociological lecturer. Given how impressed we were with
his stand out performance, it almost seemed like the stars had aligned to bring us all
together.

https://deadseaapes.bandcamp.com/album/in-the-year-2039

How did the full album come about?

After ‘Sixth Side’ was finished, we always knew that we would want to maintain a creative
relationship with Adam (who wouldn’t?), We had done a live version of ‘Tentacles’ with Adam,
so we knew that we could get things together in the rehearsal room and that it did seem that
the next logical step would be to do an album together.
Seeing as Dead Sea Apes have generally worked within the instrumental spectrum,
how was the change to working with a vocalist?
I suppose all of us had been in bands with vocalists before, so it didn’t really seem that odd,
and especially as we had done live stuff with Adam, we were pretty much comfortable in
each other’s presence. Adam really took the bit between his teeth.

Did DSA make the music to fit the words, did Adam write around the music? Just how
collaborative was the process? How long did the album take to write and record –
from a production point of view it sounds like a million dollars.

At the point where we started Warheads (which was originally going to be titled Ancoats
Community Centre Raga Workshop), Nick had left the band to start his own business, so Dead Sea Apes was just Chris and I. Our usual process of writing in Dead Sea Apes is to do
long jams; listen back, pick out stuff that we like, drop in any creative suggestions or
directions and develop it from there. We knew that Adam was only there for a limited time,
but it just seemed to flow naturally. Adam had a few pointers where he wanted it to go but
gave us all the space for it to be processed through the DSA machine and then just picked
up the baton and ran wherever it went. Alternatively, Chris and I would start working up a riff
or an idea, and Adam would conjure something from his big black ring bound book of words
– which was perhaps more in keeping with our usual methodology. Nothing seemed to faze
Adam though, he was always more than up to the task.
I honestly thought that Adam would do a series of monologues and spoken word pieces in
the Moorcock/Cooper Clarke style, but he obviously had a bit of latent vocalist waiting to
bust out of him.

As for how the album sounds, well… that’s all down to Chris’s consummate skill as producer,
engineer and musician. Everything that we record is recorded in the rehearsal room, but you
would never know given how good Chris with his production. Personal biases aside, he is
pretty bloody amazing.

I love the album art! Who designed it and what does it mean? Is it partly a reference to
The Thing?

That’s all Adam’s work. He has a massive collection of grotesque, amusing and insightful
stunning drawings that we could pull from. Presumably, he draws these in lesson times
when he’s meant to be marking exercise books.

The first track is huge surprise, sounding as it does, like the Dead Kennedy’s! Where
did that come from??

Again, some of the steers came from Adam. He envisioned that kind of nexus of psychedelic
punk, punks on acid vibe – Hawkwind, Chrome, Butthole Surfers etc but I think his inner
Jello was maybe activated by the surf-y East Bay Ray-ness of the opening riff? He had the
germ of an idea but it quickly got recomputed by Chris and I.

https://deadseaapes.bandcamp.com/track/inside-of-me

I love the groove on ‘Retreat To Your Bunker’! The bass reminds me of ‘Telephone
Thing’; by The Fall!

Well spotted, that man. We sketched out the song without a bassline, so I had suggested a
sort of Gil Scott Heron type of thing which is kind of reflected in the bass line that Chris (who
is, coincidentally, a huge fan of The Fall) came back with.
I’m kind of put in mind of the beginning of Frankie’s Two Tribes with this song. We resisted
the temptation to record it whilst wearing white vests, though. We are children of the 80’s
after all, and the fear of nuclear annihilation was ever present after being fed the nightmare
fuel of Threads, When The Wind Blows and any number of worryingly sober public
information films.

Parts of the album don’t sound anything like Dead Sea Apes, how was it playing
totally new styles?

That was quite a refreshing break in all honesty. I think that with Warheads, we were given
the chance to play around with styles and themes a bit, whereas with DSA (and without
trying to sound pretentious), the sound pretty much comes straight from the heart.

PiL’s Metal Box is an obvious comparison for me, with Adam as the sermonising John
Lydon.

Well, I think Adam had kind of picked up that PiL are a big influence for us, as I think it is for
is for him. As far as the sermonising goes, especially with ‘Reduced To Zero’, I think that he is
plugging into some real contemporary anxieties with how KPI and ‘target culture’ have
pervaded every aspect of everyday life. That’s how I read it, anyway. I’m sure that he’d be
able to explain it a lot more eloquently.

One of the things I like most about DSA is how a track on an album tends to pave the
way for the album after. ‘The Sixth Side Of The Pentagon’ is the gateway to the album of the same name, on which ‘Tentacles’; sets the precedent for Warheads. I love how your discog is like tumbling down a rabbit hole. Can you tell us about this creative process and how deliberately you set out to make this chain?

There is always a bit of a time lag between when an album is released and what you are
working on currently, so it can feel like a bit like that we are all over the place with ideas but I
like to think that there is some consistency. The idea with DSA is to try and filter our
influences organically and variedly through our music. I like to think that we avoid being
generic or being too keen to hop on whichever vogueish influence comes into circulation. I
always thought that input = output. Opening yourself up to lots of music fills your head with a
wider set of ideas to process and percolate down to your own sounds. We’ve always been
keen to share music between us.
I think a lot the ideas have developed over time, too. Dub is something that cropped up
pretty early with us as a band. I’ve always been interested where that intersects with rock
music e.g The Clash, PiL, The Pop Group etc. We also came of age in the 90’s where
remixes were the norm as B-sides and stuff and they were often pretty dubby, especially
from the likes of Adrian Sherwood, The Orb and Andrew Weatherall etc. Also factor in the
way bands like Massive Attack, Little Axe and others who would introduce quite leftfield
guitar ideas to be reprocessed that through dubby production. At the same time, there was a
reissue label called Blood & Fire, who reissued lots of classic dub and roots reggae albums
(partly funded by Mick Hucknall, I hastened to add. Mick Hucknall clearly played a huge role
in my musical development. I need to let that sink in!) – so a lot of that filtered into my
unconsciousness. I’m not sure about Chris, but I’m sure the innovative production work of
King Tubby would have piqued his interest quite early on. He has pretty expansive listening
tastes in any case.

What was the idea behind splitting the track ‘The Sixth Side Of The Pentagon’; through the album, splintering it in time? That song seems like a real creative turning point. The bass on that reminds me of ‘Love Lies Limp’; by Alternative TV.

The initial idea of doing a full album in a total dub style was Nick’s, after we had released
Spectral Domain, where we’d done an extended dub track called ‘Sixth Side Of The
Pentagon’ (the title of which was nabbed from a short film by Chris Marker. The title seemed
to suggest that slightly paranoid occulty/conspiracy/deep state vibe that shot through Spectral Domain). From what I remember, Chris had started to take little sections out of the
larger jam that became ‘Sixth Side…’ (the song) which became the thematic interludes in the
album. It did suggest itself from there. I always saw it like cutting little cultures off from some
mould and letting it develop in the Petrie dish of the rehearsal room, which is admittedly
pretty mouldy. It is definitely one of my favourite things that DSA have done.

Going back further, Lupus is a bloody bleak album isn’t it?

It is a little! But, if you think Lupus is bleak, wait until you hear our new album, The Free
Territory. It sounds like The Beach Boys in comparison!

How and when did the band first get together and what was the first release? How do
you look back on it? Also… why Dead Sea Apes?

We got together as a band way back in 2009 on one of those internet dating sites for
musicians. So, 10 years ago this year! The first thing that we released was a self-released
EP called Soy Dios, which got re-released on our forever home of Cardinal Fuzz a couple of
years ago. Its hard to get any perspective on looking back on it, as its always been a part of
our set, so never really went away for us. To be honest, that got us quite a bit of positive
attention at the time, so its hard to look on it with anything but fondness.
10 years has flown by at a rate of knots and a lot has happened in that time, sometimes
without us even noticing it. What we have done is built a back catalogue of records that we
are really proud of. We’ve also managed to play lots of great shows and connect with loads
of really nice people in the meantime
One of our founder members, Nick left last year to set up his own business, so that was a
tough time until we could find someone to step into his big shoes. But we’ve found Mr Jack
Toker on bass, whose fitted like a glove. We have also expanded the line up by taking Mr
Alistair Reid (also in Manchester based Surfy-garage rockers Thee Windom Earles) on keys.
As for the name, Dead Sea Apes are a fabled group of Dead Sea dwellers who turned their
ears from God and got turned into Apes for their lack of faith. They then went on to develop
their own brand of instrumental rock on the shoreline. It seemed as good a name as any.

For the tech-heads, what guitars and pedals do you use?

Man, you must be something of a masochist for asking me that question, as I’ve got a fair old
sized pedal board on the go. My favourite pedal of them all is called the Interstellar
Overdriver by Death By Audio which is just divine. Wasn’t cheap though! I do swear by the
Echo Machine by Behringer, I swear by them enough to have two of them on the go at any
one time. They are cheap and cheerful clones with slightly shoddy build quality, but they are
amazing. I’d consider having a third if that wasn’t ridiculous.
I generally have to take 3 guitars with me everywhere we play because I do like to play in
lots of different tunings. It does look a bit extravagant to the untrained eye, but there is no
way I’m doing the silly tuning work that would be required between each song.
If you are still awake at this point, I play a Guild Bluesbird, jerry rigged with a Bigsby tremolo
as my main guitar (which I absolutely LOVE!). As for my others they are Squiers and
Epiphones, which as much as they are budget range guitars, I don’t really see or hear any
difference in them to their more expensive siblings and love them equally.

What’s next for the Apes from the Black Sea?

Well, considering that we had such a long time out of the loop, we are coming out swinging.
We did manage to keep the wheels rolling by releasing a compilation of odd’s and sods called
Recondite and Warheads whilst we were a two piece. We also have been finishing off our
new record, The Free Territory. We started it back as a 3 piece but have worked on it ever
since. It was originally meant to be a cassette release, so we did some of the recordings to
tape and is full of spooky tape hiss for added atmosphere. Tonally, its much more in the
same place as Lupus. It is a lot darker, introspective and a bit more experimental. It has
some full band tracks and others pieced together over time. We also managed to rope in Nik
Rayne from one of our favourite bands, The Myrrors to play on it. He was staying at mine for
a short while, so we made him sing for his supper, so to speak. This album will be kind of an
end piece of the original line up of Dead Sea Apes too. Nick, our original bass player left to
open B’Spoke café in Heaton Mersey (good luck, Nick!).
So, that takes us up to where we’re up to now. We have a new line up with Al and Jack. On
Jack’s first rehearsal, we had a couple of jams with Nik Rayne and those are coming out on
vinyl towards the end of the year for those of you who enjoy free-form extended pieces. We
are also writing new stuff that sees us going off in new directions, hopefully we’ll start to get
that recorded next year – but we are going to be giving them a run out at a few upcoming
gigs that we have in May/June.
We have also got a gig booked in Belper with Adam Stone (does ASDSA sound like a good
band name to you?). We’ve also recorded some tracks for a 7” which will come out with the
next issue of Optical Sounds.
Thank you for asking the questions – and putting up with the long answers!

Lester Bangs would have Creem-ed his pants for the Janitors

Attention all you eagle-eyed seekers of purveyors of righteous rock n roll and drone psych! The Janitors; the real deal, the heavy weight champeens of Nordic noir noise have excavated 23 deep, deep cuts from 15 years of ruling the roost as one of the best bands around. These tracks chart their progress from Black Rebel cavemen rock to epic swells of worker drone monoliths. 15 Years of Fuzz and Folköl is this barricade busting collection of rare cuts that chart the progress of this band, from heavy to dark to fuzzed up beyond recognition.

‘Stumble’ reigns supreme as the ultimate capitulation of music to ur-rock primitivism, shedding all neologisms and giving into to subterranean desires and emotions. This is where drums are clatterings and vox are grunts. This is Stooges regressed to the paleolithic era. Never mind leather jackets as uniform, this is leather jackets as skin.

https://cful.bandcamp.com/track/stumble

‘Firefly’ s dirty machine grinds it’s trouble making rhythm, chewing dirt and spitting oil. Swans slicked in oil copulate. A harrowed voice hollers it’s rock n roll clarion call over dustbin lid drums. A call for teenage supremacy as screaming wails of attention.

‘In Love With The Riot’ bare knuckle fight smashes up as the slowest of slow riffs emerges from some medieval backwater. MC5 on ket.

‘Epileptic City’ has a slow boil start running on bass then drops the dopest, stupidest meathead riff and spits snarling vox. A chorus to kick you in the balls. Death defied. 

‘City’; dragging it’s bass like a corpse down a back alley, shows us a druggier version of BJM’s ‘Straight & Down’ and throws in dubby effects for good measure, flipping the bird to Anton Newcombe from the back window of their car.

On ‘Black Electric’ The Janitors emerge from their grubby chrysalis, having passed over their rock n roll carapace. Now, spreading their resplendent wings, they show themselves as beasts of fervent, heavy psych. The drums are war-like, the guitars reign / rain walls of abuse and the vox deep down wails of anguish. This Lovecraftian beast unfurls it’s horrific mass over the psych kingdom, immolating the lesser beings.

To talk of instrumentation sucks big ones when it comes to the way Janitors rocked. This is adolescent dreams of sex and vice. Uncontrollable ur-ges + shouts… and love came in spurts before these Voidoids killed it with noise, before they killed themselves, they killed their rock n roll… before re-emerging as the king dons; the big swinging dicks of fuzz-psych.

https://cful.bandcamp.com/album/the-janitors-15-years-of-fuzz-and-folk-l

Peaking Lights – The Fifth State Of Consciousness

If one perceives the best dance music as music that percolates and circulates rhythmically, undulating at various frothy tempo’s, then Peaking Lights’ album The Fifth Shape Of Consciousness is the doyen of the art. More a collection of loose shapes and looser colours then a set of songs; it billows and pulses across its expanse. This is an album to wallow in. This is an album to tune in and nod out to. This is an album so committed to its internal groove-world that it insists you leave all your bullshit at the door and have a good time.

‘Dreaming Outside’ opens the album with slow uprisings of steam as electro sizzles over druggy beats and vocals that can’t tell night from day. The Fifth State is here and you’re brain deep whether you like it or not.

‘Coyote Ghost Melodies’ is squelcher, hitting you up with reggae lilts and knocking you down with dubby bass. Beamed directly from inside the mind of Philip K Dick, can you feel the ooze rise up inside you?

The first time I heard ‘Evertime I See The Light’ I made up my own lyrics and sang “I’ve been kicked right down to the fucking edge” in my best Shaun Ryder voice. It was an epic performance. That aside, two striding guitar lines play and flirt furtively with each other, occasionally kicking into a rock- esque solo.

‘I’ll Be In The Sky’ assembles it’s Tetris blocks into a ketamine motorik structure.

“Love Can Move Mountains”, with its clanking percussion, big chorus and insistent bass is the kind of song that Depeche Mode fans think Depeche Mode made.

‘Sweetness Isn’t Far Away’ is the sound of a piano that has escaped its confines of the cocktail bar and gone on an adventure, tinkling its joy every step of the way.

‘Que Du Bon’ emerges from a traffic jam of noise into a sultry, blared at the edges glide like a better version of latter-day Roxy Music, or the Milk Tray man delivering hot sauce. Sleaze all the way, distorted backing vox adding heat.

With breathy acid house backing vox ‘A Phoenix And A Fish’ isn’t too far from The Durutti Column’s acid leaning Obey The Time.

‘Eclipse Of The Heart’ is the dubbiest track of the album; cascading rivulets of percussion, twanging echoes and spacey guitars and what I hope to hell is a melodica. 

‘In My Disguise’ returns to the force and whips up strong, interlocked rhythms to boogie too; instruments working and sweating like race horses. If the middle of the album is trippy, this is focused and gleaming. With it’s mechanised party vibe this isn’t far from a 21st century version of ‘Burning Down The House’.

‘Put Down Your Guns’ epic closer is protest dub; steam room percussion, sirens and arresting vox.

For 12 tracks The Fifth State Of Consciousness never lets up, an all night/day party, music that never ends. Put in on constant rotation. Put yourself on constant rotation. It’s what Peaking Lights want for you.

This absolute beast of an album is available to buy right here!

Interview with Phil Wilson aka The Raft

Phil Wilson, aka The Raft is one of our favourite songwriters here at colourhorizon, combining luscious pop songs with a dreampop veneer to make perfect music for summer. There’s a brand new song out called ‘Xanadu’, so to commemorate, we caught up with Phil recently to talk all thing Raft-y! 

‘Xanadu’ is available right here!

I’d describe The Raft as somewhere between the bedroom and the kitchen sink, which probably puts you on the landing!! … How would you describe your music?

I think I did spend a lot of years throwing the kitchen sink at it and seeing what would stick, but over the last couple of years I seem to have settled into some kind of style.

A while back I was described  as ‘like Cocteau Twins covering The Sundays with lush, layered Beach Boys harmonies’ and I was well happy with that.

I don’t particularly like being pigeon-holed as one particular genre though and I’ve already got plans in the pipe line for something a bit different. I think it’s important to push yourself as a songwriter otherwise you run the risk of becoming boring and stale.

Your new single, ‘Xanadu’, which is excellent, is out now. Why should we get it?!

Thank you for that, I’m glad you like it. It’s a bit different for me in that it was written over loops of backwards guitar chords. In fact, it’s just the same four chords going round and round and dropping out in certain places. The inspiration behind the song was Linger by The Cranberries if you can believe that. Listen to the two back to back and I challenge you to find any similarities!

It’s turned out to be one of my favourites because I was just experimenting and having fun. Huge thanks need to go to producer, JPedro for making sense of it all and Claire O’Neill for stamping her mark on it too.

It’s actually free of charge! Pricing on bandcamp interests me, what is the thought process behind choosing a price to put on a single, album etc?
I’m on a label called Shore Dive records who decide things like pricing etc so I don’t really know to be honest. We decided to do this one for free as a taster for the new album.

On ‘free’ items do people generally download for free, or make a contribution?

It’s my experience that people usually download for free if that’s an option but the odd person will make a contribution.

‘Xanadu’ is available on bandcamp via Shoredive Records. How did this come about and what difference does a label make?

A mutual friend hooked me up with Nico from Shore Dive when I was looking for people to remix some of the Jellyfish stuff. It turned out he had his own label and liked my stuff so we teamed up together.

It’s been incredibly helpful in terms of getting my music heard and actually out there to people. And Nico is a great sounding-block when I’m faffing over some decision or other! He’s also a great guy and a real music nut which is infectious.

I hear a full length album is on the way…

Yes, we don’t have a specific date yet but it’s out in April on Shore Dive and it’s going to be called Abloom.

OK, let’s back up. Why is the band called The Raft and to what extent is it ‘your’ project

‘The Raft’ was actually the name of my mate’s band many years ago and I just really liked it. They split up before even doing a gig so I asked him if I could nick it.

It’s grown to fit over the years because the way I see it is I’m on this raft drifting downstream and certain people jump on and off as they choose. It was almost a collective at one point but now it’s just myself, JP, Claire and Jeremy.

I write the songs but I’ve never really seen myself as a solo act or anything. I’ve always needed good people around me because I’m a clumsy musician at best!

Give us a potted overview of The Raft’s history and which release are you most proud of?

Gave up trying to be a super star in about 2003 and recorded the first Raft album in my bedroom for fun. This was pre Facebook and everything so I used to make CDRs and sell them in independent record stores and via mail order.

After the debut I was hooked so I just kept on recording albums and releasing them in whatever way I could. And that’s basically what I’ve been doing ever since with varying degrees of success.

There’s two albums I’m most proud of. I did one in 2013 as Wilson&Joy called Love Is Happening and I love it. It was recorded at a defining time in my life so it’ll always be special to me. The other one is my debut which is just called The Raft. The playing is terrible, the singing is terrible and the production is terrible but the songs are great and it showed me that I could actually do it.

In the bandcamp/spotify age how hard is it to make and record music? To what extent does it make the art of making music a hobby?

It’s easier than ever to make and record music because you can get decent results from home recordings these days. I still don’t think you can beat working with an experienced producer in a studio but that’s not as essential as it used to be.

It is, however harder to make a living from selling recorded music but easier to get it heard, so it’s swings and round-a-bouts I suppose.

It’s a cliché but I make music and write songs to fulfil a creative need. My attitude has always been if anything comes of it then great, if not, that’s fine too.

The Jellyfish EPs seem to have been a really focused push by the band, tell us more!

I think the Jellyfish EPs were the first Raft release for seven or eight years so it did feel like a bit of a comeback.

I was just hungry to do it again and I started working with a new producer, JPedro so things seemed pretty fresh and exciting. I also had a better grasp of how to use social media so I was able to get it heard by more people.

It was just good to be back and great that it actually seemed to be striking a chord with people.

Available here!

I see The Raft as fitting neatly into the Liverpool music tradition, in both songwriting and attitudes. Would you agree?

I’m not actually from Liverpool but it is the nearest city to where I am from so I guess it does rub off on me. I think scouse bands have this ability to mix melancholy and optimism brilliantly. Listen to anything by Michael Head, it’ll blow you away.

As to where I fit in, I’m not sure. We’re all the sum of our influences and loads of Liverpool bands have influenced me so I guess it must be in there somewhere.

Any gigs lined up?

I’m currently rehearsing with Claire O’Neill for some acoustic gigs and I’m hoping to do some full band stuff later in the year.

Who are you listening to at the moment? Feel free to name albums you would recommend from bands that need publicity.

I’m ashamed to say I haven’t bought any new music for ages. I’ve been listening to an Australian singer songwriter called Hatchie a lot recently and I really like what she’s doing. Other than that, Shore Dive are working with some really interesting bands so their Bandcamp page is worth checking out. And my friend Nax is knocking it out of the park at the moment so he’s worth a look too.

For the tech-heads, which guitars and pedals do you favour?

I’m not much of a tech head but I’ve got loads of chorus, reverb, delay and distortion pedals. I’ve never spent more than about 30 quid on any one though so they’re probably not very good. I find I can usually achieve the sound I’m looking for by blending various ones together, it usually happens by accident and I rarely remember exactly what I’ve done though.

Guitar wise I’ve got a Yamaha acoustic, a Cimar acoustic, a Crafter 12 string acoustic, a Squire Strat, a Squire Jag and an Ibanez bass. I use them all for recording apart from the Cimar because it’s in the loft.

Thanks to Phil for taking time out from crafting pop gems to talk to us, don’t forget to download ‘Xanadu’ and while we’re at it you should all spend a couple of quid on Yesterday, Today, Tonight & Tomorrow which is a tip-top album.