Tag Archives: garage rock

Interview with Mike Kiker from St James & The Apostles

St James & The Apostles are a garage blues band that veers from giddy, stomping rock n roll numbers to bruised ballads. Instead of a lengthy description, here is the video for the resolutely filthy ‘Rent Boy Blues’:

and, freshly released, the brand new video for an extended and thoroughly bad-ass ‘Shavonne’:

In September they released their second album, Via Dolorosa:

Via Dolorosa cover art

Which is available for streaming and download right here, along with other goodies…

http://stjamestheapostles.bandcamp.com/album/via-dolorosa

Without further ado, I caught up with organist (and much more) Mike Kiker to pose him a few questions:

How would you describe the music of St James & The Apostles?

Loud! And quiet.

What’s your music background and how did you come to be involved with Jamie Mahon?

Well, I did the typical music geek thing in school. Marching band, jazz band, etc. I started just picking up whatever I could by ear on whatever instrument I could get my hands on, but I’m glad I eventually picked up what music theory my brain could handle.

As for getting together with Jamie and Jeff, we’re all actually cousins. We’re similar to the Wu-Tang Clan in that respect (If I have to compare, I think I’m RZA, Jeff’s GZA, and Jamie is Ol’ Dirty Bastard, but that’s another topic in and of itself). We all came up in different music scenes, but the family connection eventually brought us together, musically and personally.

Is there a conscious effort to not sound like his former band The Three 4 Tens?

Well, the Apostles pretty much picked up where Three 4 Tens left off, it was a slow and steady transition for sure. I played with that band for about a year and a half before we became St. James & The Apostles, even doing some songs at that time that would eventually end up as Apostles material, but we really didn’t “become” St. James & The Apostles until Jeff became the drummer. During my time with T4T, we had a bass player and like 7 or 8 drummers revolving in and out of the line-up (yes, a lot like Spinal Tap, even a spontaneous combustion or 2 was involved). But we did want to be heavier, louder, and dirtier than anything Three 4 Tens ever put out, but I still love the Three 4 Tens music. I pretty much grew up on it.

Which songs are you the most fun to play live? I bet ‘Let The Right One In’ goes down a storm…

I always love playing that song. That one’s been there almost since the beginning, and I never get sick of playing it. As for new songs, I love doing “Via Dolorosa” and “Lazarus”. We’ve got a new song that was written after the record was finished that Jeff affectionately calls “Golden Axe” that I’m quite fond of.

There are religious themes and sounds at work within the band’s music – is there a story / message behind this?

Well, I used to be church organist. While I’m no longer a religious person, I certainly don’t regret that experience. I learned a lot in the way of bass pedal technique, and theory, but I realized that I really only wanted to play “rock keyboards”, and be more daring and experimental than what the Catholic church would allow. I wouldn’t say we have a particular “message”, other than, do what you like, as long as your not hurting anybody else, but there is a lot of love, loss, regret, but also salvation in our music, but not the same kind of salvation that we keep hearing about. More like, salvation by any means necessary.

What is your view on the current psych scene and the plethora of bands around? Any favourites?

There is some great music coming out now that could be considered psychedelic. I’d like to think that tag is very flexible. What I’m not a fan of is genre purists. I love bands that are experimental with their genre and style and are hard to pinpoint. We’re kind of in that same boat, and I always look for that quality in other new music.

As for new bands that inspire me, off the top of my head; 

Black Mountain, I loved Tame Impala’s first album, GOAT, Ty Segall/Fuzz, The Mad Doctors, Electric Citizen’s album is killer, Little Barrie, Wolf People, The Budos Band, and probably my newest favorite is Hedersleben. They tour the States with Nik Turner from Hawkwind as his opening act and backup band. Their new album is stellar and they play the Hawkwind material with such gusto. I absolutely adore their keyboard player, Kephera Moon. We were lucky enough to play with them last year. Hands down, still my favorite gig that we’ve been lucky enough to be apart of.

Does the internet make it easier or harder to find an audience?

Both. There’s too much noise and it’s hard to filter out that noise so you can find the good stuff. I will say it’s helped me discover a lot of my newer favorite bands. We can only hope that it will help people discover us in the same way.

Once you’ve toured Via Dolorosa, what next?

We’ve already got maybe 4 or 5 new songs that we’re working on already. We never, ever stop creating new material. If we did, it would definitely get boring. We’re going to spend the winter months dialing back the gigs to start work on record #3, but we plan on continuing promotion for VIA DOLOROSA into the spring and summer of 2015, hopefully doing a more full scale tour either relatively close to home or hopefully go out to the west coast or the UK, depending on how things go over the next few months.

On a personal note, I happen to know you’re a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fan, what are your favourite episodes?

“Pod People”, favorite episode hands down.
The recording studio scenes are near and dear to my heart. “He is really good!” “Good? He’s the best!”
It’s like the filmmakers did absolutely ZERO research into how to make a record, and I love it for that!
The “Idiot Control Now” parody and “New Age Music” sketches get me giggling every time.
“It stinks!”

For anyone bewildered by any of this, this may provide some answers (and possibly more questions). Brace yourself for ‘Idiot Control Now’…

Thanks to Mike for the interview and don’t forget, Via Dolorosa is available now on Bandcamp…

http://stjamestheapostles.bandcamp.com/album/via-dolorosa

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Three Dimensional Tanx – Live at Fuel Cafe Bar

The heady combination of Stooges and E-Numbers that is Three Dimensional Tanx dropped into Withington earlier to play Fuel Cafe Bar. Bright, fun and insistent, they are a lot like the title sequence to a 60s ITC spy show.

‘I Am Go’ continues to be 2 minutes of intense solar energy, like pressing defibrillators against your temples. It’s a similar effect to what Joy Division achieved with ‘Transmission’, which again leads me to the view that vocalist Spacey shares a vocal trait with Ian Curtis in having that sense of automatic language: the vocals being spewed, not formulated. It’s that inkling that the words are controlling the man, not the other way about.

Not having seen The MC5 live in the 60s I can’t testify to this, but guitarist Pete has the kind of wild anarchy that I associate with Brother Wayne Kramer (from the scant scintilla on live footage available on You Tube). Loz on drums was a firebrand as usual and achieved a machine gun delivery on ‘King Of The Country’ and cheekily started the set by teasing the crowd with the opening splashes of the Roses’ ‘She Bangs The Drums’. Commenting on the logic of shutting the windows garnered laughs as well. Meanwhile, Sean and Richard quietly hold the vortex together. Well, not quietly.

The set was a hearty chunk of the album they released earlier this year. Pleasingly, ‘Caterpillar’ has had the lyrics put back in and the keyboards were higher in the mix than the last couple of time I have seen them and Spacey was in fine fettle. Ending the set was a surprise visit from golden oldie ‘The Man With Silver Hair Used to Call Me Speedy’.

I’m pretty sure Fuel Cafe Bar was literally rocking under the onslaught of Three Dimensional Tanx. Both loud and electrifying enough to wake the dead, they are, of course, essential.

The Movements – Like Elephants 2 (2014)

Like Elephants 2 sees the dark side of The Movements put under scrutiny following the lighter side’s display on Like Elephants 1. Hands up, I had luke warm reaction to Like Elephants 1 but the follow-up is simply excellent.

‘Six Feet Under’ has a gorgeous, soul slicing riff. This is sandwiched between dry tribal drums and spaghetti western twangs. “it’s just another destination down the road” croon the vocals, inviting the listener into a road trip. Drums kick up a notch and the guitar continues to glimmer its ghostly hue. ‘Icecold’ is a stark piano lead piece where the keys hit like fingers up the spine. ‘Give It To Me’ has bonehead drums and long keyboard drones. There is an emphasis on riding these keyboard notes that reminds me of the contrariness of The Fall. The Movements seem more willing to take chances and ask questions of their listeners on this album and impress because of it. ‘Everybody Needs Something’ flits between moods like a butterfly that changes into a lion. ‘Redemption’ is a slowly pitched ballad that could almost be Suede-esque. Incidentally, David Henriksson’s vocals are top notch throughout. “Yesterday, Now And Forever” blasts out like a dodgem powered with uranium, a sterling piece of garage rock. The title track is a droning meditation. The multiple vocals weaving throughout ‘Winter’s Calling’ give a folksy psych feeling that could be a long-lost cousin of a Kinks track. The squalls of noise at around the 4 minute mark highlight how being braver pays dividends as the noises resolve themselves into recognisable shapes (one of a few occasions in which passages sound like they may have escaped from a Tom Verlaine solo album). ‘What Would Happen If I Tried’ finishes with sleepy psych with a rare moment for the bass to shine. The vocals score another winner.

The album attacks more than it’s predecessor and the guitar work is ace, at times within touching distance of Marr and Verlaine. Bold, confident and classy.

St James & The Apostles – Via Dolorosa (2014)

Jamie Mahon’s three piece dirty garage rock / blues outfit continues to sleaze its way through the genre. While there’s a fair few bands mining this sound, St james & The Apostles stand out by the sheer filthiness of their music, making to make most of their competition look sexless. That’s not saying the band has a tedious rock machismo or laddishness, just that the music is filtered through the sweat and sin that makes rock ‘n’ roll great. The heavy use of organs and keyboards gives a Doors sense of teetering on a see-saw of class and excess. The band know how to drawl their songs in the languid, louche manner that Morphine used to possess. It’s late at night, the liquor is flowing and the sex is appalling.

Via Dolorosa is split into a schizophrenic two sides: the dirty, raucous first side then the bluesy second side. Euphoria then regret? Party then hangover?

‘Gimme Some’ starts the ball rolling with a short, stylish, Stones-y gateway to the album that sounds like Devo at a roller disco. The audio equivalent of a rum and coke, it’s cool and over far too soon. ’90 Day Chip’ combines a Morse code signal with a riff raunchier than the dancing silhouettes at the beginning of a Bond movie and Mahon carousing like Jon Spencer on heat. ‘Shavonne’ is where things get filthier: imagine Mick Ronson playing with Roxy Music and soundtracking The Girl In Gold Boots*. Rollicking drums, lascivious keyboard licks and hand claps, it sounds like the kind of parties you wish you were invited to. ‘Rent Boy Blues’ has a rough, bilious, creeping, slow building vibe, like a kerb crawling Komodo Dragon.

‘It’s A Shame’ heralds in side two with a plaintiff ballad ornamented with interesting guitar effects where acoustic plucking would normally be. ‘Paradice Slaves’ is slow, methodical and dangerous: like a crocodile eating a chicken jalfrezi. Employing a sickening lurch it inexorably rattles like a cement mixer full of loose change. ‘Via Dolorosa’ sees Mahon crooning a late night ode. An entrancing midnight trip to a place where the only thing cheaper than life is the moonshine. ‘Lazarus’ wails and caresses in equal measure before kicking into higher tempo jagged riffs and organ shrieks.

The only complaints are that ‘Til Yr Gone’ is too reminiscent of ‘Kill & Tell’ from Baphomet, which could generously be called exploring a different side to the original song but to these ears sounded like a regurgitation. Meanwhile ‘Cool Yr Tongue’ is a segue between songs, which doesn’t really do much (which was probably the point) but ultimately feels a little redundant.

Not a band to overstay their welcome, St James & The Apostles have delivered a short, intoxicating brew of guttural blues and jagged garage rock. This is a tightly coiled piece that shows a band highly skilled at taking essences from the past but delivering in a way that sounds fresh. Impressively, they sound quietly commanding while sounding provocatively impassioned. If you like your riffs filthy and your blues battered then Via Dolorosa is highly recommended.

*If that reference was too obscure the original was “soundtracking the bit in Duke Nuken: Time To Kill with the pole dancing pigs”. If you weren’t there, don’t ask. Which could almost be the morale behind most of the songs on this album…

Three Dimensional Tanx – Live at The Castle Hotel 22.10.2014

Trippy garage rock outfit Three Dimensional Tanx (3D Tanx for short) were back in town last night, continuing to tick off Northern Quarter locales. They were playing in the back room of The Castle, an odd room with a high ceiling that makes you feel like a Borrower inside a piano.

Drums were insanely (and gloriously) loud with the trademark keyboards being barely negligible. With the other instruments fighting for space around the drums the overall effect was one of cows being flung around a twister. This would not work if it wasn’t for the fact that with Loz, they have the best rock ‘n’ roll drummer around. But then, what makes Three Dimensional Tanx special is the sheer fucking enjoyment they take in playing. Most psych bands simply play their songs, 3D Tanx detonate their songs. Guitarist Pete throws moves like Johnny Thunders and vocalist Spacey embodies essences of Iggy Pop, Lux Interior and the solo work of Clint Boon (‘White With No Sugar’ is one of the best Manchester songs ever).

Highlight (as always since ‘Psychedelic Sun’ was retired) was ‘I Am Go’ which explodes like The MC5’s ‘American Ruse’ except with more dynamite rammed up it. ‘King Of The Country’ and ‘Here Come The Flies’ were dispatched like fighter jets. Curiously, ‘Caterpillar’ was again performed as an instrumental. This seems like an odd choice as taking out Spacey’s vocals is like removing the flake from a 99. However the song was still blasted out, reaching fever pitch to end on a high.

What puzzles me is how anyone who sees 3D Tanx live doesn’t immediately rush out into the street and start singing their praises from street corners. The small back room of The Castle was packed and everyone there was digging it so fingers crossed there are converts to the cause.

Once again, Three Dimensional Tanx effortlessly proved themselves to be the most vital band on the circuit.

St James & The Apostles – Baphomet (2012)

Too much garage rock and dirty blues bands around these days? Quite possibly, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t space for another one. Jamie Mahon, formerly with The Three 4 Tens (their album Taking Northern Liberties is worth tracking down) is now operating as St James & The Apostles and they released the album Baphomet in 2012.

‘Kiss & Tell’ starts with a crunching garage rocker. ‘Let The Right One In’ is a simply stunning piece of simplistic, but stirring rock ‘n’ roll boogie, the title is pretty much 50% of the lyrics, which provides the song with a startling immediacy, if you can sing along to a song the first time you hear it you’re on to a winner. This bleeds into ‘Garmonbozia’ with a ramped up punk pace. ‘St James’ Infirmary’ is where the bruised blues of St James creeps in. ‘Still Waiting For The Son’ could almost be Dandy Warhols-ish pop. ‘Down The Way’ has a glam era Bowie riff before kicking into a stomping, late night rave up. ‘My Strange War Days’, the obligatory closing jam starts with tightrope guitar that forms a dazzling, neurotic interplay with the organ while Mahon shrieks and yelps from behind somewhere, hollering like a lost street-corner evangelist. Overcome by washes of organ it descends into silence… then returns with jazz brass wankery.

At 34 minutes Baphomet is an album that manages to sound tight and loose at the same time, no mean feat. It stings and caresses in equal measure. Influences are apparent but at no point does it feel like rehashing the sounds of yesteryear. Vocals are strong throughout, no effects laden shoe-gazing here. Mahon is leading his band from the front and very good at it. Piano and organs are well to the fore, giving a Spacemen 3 / Spiritualized religious vibe. Baphomet is a dirty, lascivious album though, so if there is a religion at play it’s closest to the one preached by Robert Mitchum in The Night Of The Hunter. Trashy, primal, debauched and illicit, if you like your blues and garage rock as sleazy as an Errol Flynn trip to Mexico then Baphomet may be for you.

SEARCH IT: ST JAMES & THE APOSTLES ‘LET THE RIGHT ONE IN’

The Movements – Like Elephants 1 (2014)

The Movements are a Swedish band, though you never would have thought it. Here on Like Elephants 1, sister album to the follow up, (Like Elephants 2) they successfully evoke an old-world sun-kissed psych.

The general vibe is one of The Kinks style pop meets 60s American garage rock. ‘The Death Of John Hall D.Y.’ is a hazy, late evening sun delight. The middle tracks bring out keyboard orientated garage rock, with ‘The Great Deceiver’ being a standout. The title track is a smooth, folky run out. Best of all is ‘Boogin’, a ‘Marquee Moon’ display of crystalline guitar interchange.

Not the most original of bands and maybe a little shy to stand out from their heroes shadows, The Movements are a beautifully slick, well honed band with an impressive control over their art.