Festival Rumours: The week it all kicked off

This week has seen a flurry of activity amongst the music press regarding who will be heading the bills of the major festivals this summer. Most noticeably, Coldplay, U2, and Beyonce have been all but confirmed to be the three Pyramid stage headliners at Glastonbury, and The Libertines are apparently in talks for an Other Stage slot.

The Strokes, who this week returned with their first single in five years, are rumoured to be returning to Reading and Leeds after their headline performance there nine years ago with Muse and My Chemical Romance likely to be joining them.

Foo Fighters have been confirmed for both T in the Park and Isle of Wight festival and will be joined by Blink 182 at the former and Kasabian, Kings of Leon and a reformed Pulp at the latter.

All in all the signs are that the major festivals have stuck to the middle of the road crowd pleaser’s at this years festivals, with Beyonce being the only anomaly. Whilst my hopes of Kate Bush coming out of her self imposed live exile for a triumphant Sunday night Pyramid Stage slot have once again been dashed, at least Beyonce will add a dash of glamour to an otherwise drab set of headliners across the major festivals this summer.

What do you think of the line-ups so far the festivals and who would you like to see heading the bills?

Has the Noughties finally ended?

This week saw the end of The White Stripes, the release of the final Streets album and LCD Soundsystem announce their final gig. Arguably three of the most important and lauded acts of the past decade, does their collective demise signify the end of a musical era?

Although a decade begins as the clock hits midnight and the disappointing fireworks erupt on a freezing December night, arguably the first year of a new decade is often somewhat of a cultural hangover. The year 2000 was characterised by tired and staid releases from the likes of Oasis, Manic Street Preachers and Travis (remember them?) and a slew of mediocre nu-acoustic acts like Turin Brakes and Starsailor being hailed as the saviours of guitar music. 2000 was also notable for the emergence of a group of UCL graduates with a sickly sweet ditty about one particular primary colour, but the less said about them, the better.

For me, the noughties really kicked off, in more ways than one, in late August and early September 2001. Whilst on a family holiday in the States that August I’d read a small piece in Rolling Stone, about a group of New Yorkers on the verge of releasing their debut album. On arrival back in the UK, everyone was going potty about said New Yorkers, Converse All Stars were being purchased by the bucket load and thanks to a campaign in the NME, said band had been moved up to a main stage slot at that years Reading Festival. The band in question were of course The Strokes and their debut album, Is This It, set the agenda for what was to come from countless guitar wielding copycats for the decade to come. Two weeks later, two planes were deliberately crashed into New York’s World Trade Centre, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that the decade just begun was going to be a very different place from the one we had just left behind.

The Strokes arrival was followed by a flurry of interest in Detroit duo, The White Stripes, and a slew of other garage rock acts followed. Although Oasis managed to fill stadiums for several years to come, the rest of their late nineties counterparts were made to look like dinosaurs and inevitably went the way of the dodo (although apparently, Travis’ Fran Healy does still get recognised in Tesco sometimes).

2002 saw one Mike Skinner burst onto the scene, as his debut album as The Streets, saw him proclaimed as the British Eminem in the mainstream media. Although that comparison might have been a little off kilter, The Streets debut did prove that hip-hop could be done with a distinctly British voice and blew the doors open for the likes of Dizzee Rascal, and a whole host of new British hip-hop acts which were to follow.

LCD Soundsystem played a huge part in the revitalization of what had become a stagnant and bloated genre towards the end of the 1990’s, and managed to put shovels full of sentiment back into dance music, in a way that had not been seen since the best days of New Order.

Whilst these acts have left an indelible legacy on the musical landscape, which is clear to see in both the charts, and the new acts touted by the music press, does their collective ends suggest something new is likely to be around the corner? Let’s hope so.

The White Stripes split up

The Detroit garage rock duo, The White Stripes, have called it a day. After over 10 years together and six albums the band have decided to put their matching red, white and black outfits back in the wardrobe and hang up their cut price instruments.

The duo first came to prominence in 2001 with the release of their third album, White Blood Cells, often playing second fiddle in the popularity stakes to poster boys of the time, The Strokes.

The band, who have been inactive since their 2007 album Icky Thump remain ambiguous over reasons for the split stating “The split is not due to artisitc differences or lack of wanting to continue, nor any health issues as both of Meg and Jack are feeling fine and in good health.”

The ambiguity of the split shouldn’t be surprising seeing as Jack and Meg had us thinking they were brother and sister for several years before the truth emerged that they were, in fact, a divorced couple.

The band became known for their ferocious live shows and parred down recordings, eventually proving themselves to be a much more interesting proposition than their garage rock counterparts, The Strokes.

To reminisce over the demise of this once great band, and wallow in the realisation that all we’ll be hearing from Jack White in the future is the sub-standard Racounters and The Dead Weather, here’s a video of the duo performing their breakthrough hit, Hotel Yorba, at the Blackpool Empress Ballroom in 2004.

Jamie XX To Remix Entire Gil Scott Heron Album

The XX’s chief beat-maker Jamie Smith is to remix this years Gil Scott Heron comeback album, I’m New Here, in its entirety. The album, which will be released on XL Records in February, takes the vocals from Heron’s much-lauded release and supplants them over a series of sparse and tetchy beats.

The album will be Smith’s first full release under his DJ moniker after a series of remixes for the likes of Florence and the Machine and Eliza Doolittle. A recent article about the release of the record on The Guardian website incited a series of dismissive comments from Scott Heron fans, but as a die-hard follower of both artists, I’m pretty excited to hear the results.

 

If first single NY Is Killing Me is anything to go by, the album promises the same infectious hooks and dark undertones of The XX’s debut, with Scott Heron’s lived in voice giving the productions some gravitas. I for one am very excited!

 

Posh Rock: Does It Matter If A Band Went To Public School?

 

A growing number of chart stars were educated privately

An article in yesterdays Sunday Times pointed out the growing number of chart stars who were educated privately. The article referenced a recent survey published in Word magazine which suggested 60% of acts in the chart this October were former public school pupils compared with just 1% in the same October week in 1990.

The article suggested various reasons for the growing trend include the disparity in funding for music and the arts in general between private schools and state schools, and also the fact that middle class parents are more likely to have the disposable income to provide the necessary  equipment for forming a band such as expensive amplifiers, guitars and extra space for rehearsals.

The major culprits for this growing trend seem to stem from the new folk movement with Laura Marling and her various spouses of Marc Mumford and Noah and the Whale’s Charlie Fink all attending fee paying schools. Other notable public school alumni to achieve chart success of late include Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine, Jack Penate and all the members of Foals.

Most of these guys now run the country, but they could have just as easily been storming the charts with insipid alt folk music

But does it really matter where a band went to school? Maybe Mumford and Son’s greatest faux pas is making criminally dull music and not attending posh schools. It’s not as if it’s an entirely new thing to have members of successful rock bands coming from privileged backgrounds either. Members of bands as far apart as Pink Floyd and The Strokes all went to fee paying schools.

 

Marc Mumford, far right, attended the £5,560-a-term King’s College independent day school in Wimbledon

The 90’s was largely characterised by a slew of bands from working class backgrounds making it big including Oasis, Pulp, Manic Street Preachers and Prodigy. Maybe the growing number of bands educated privately is indicative of the growing middle classes and the dissipation of class resentments in Britain today.

Whilst I have nothing against people from public schools forming bands per se; it’s hard to imagine that the latest crop of posh pop stars have the same fire in their belly and determination as their 90’s working class counterparts.

Whilst Jarvis Cocker’s career options seemed to be a choice between forming a band or spending the rest of his life selling fish in Sheffield market, you get the feeling that for Florence Welch it was probably a toss-up between going into her dads advertising business or inflicting her sub standard Kate Bush shtick on the rest of us poor unsuspecting souls. Not quite the same make or break decision don’t you think?

So what do you think? Does it matter where a band went to school or what their social background is? Vote now!


Scott Andrews of Exit International and Midasuno Interview

Already on his fourth pint, and sporting a mop of hair that wouldn’t be out of place in a 1980’s hair metal video, Scott Andrews looks every bit the rock star when we meet early one Sunday afternoon in a Cardiff pub.

With tales of a debauched night on the tiles, resulting in the loss of his phone, to explain why he’s been out of contact for the past day, Scott seems to be on fine form.

“I was in Metro’s last night and I’ve left my phone and jacket there. It’s becoming a weekly occurrence.”

Having been a permanent fixture on the South Wales music scene for over a decade, firstly with Midasuno and now Exit International, Scott knows a thing or two about causing chaos.

Before he gets into endless stories of smashing windows with pressure washers and band members offending legendry producers, I manage to settle Scott into a booth and find out about where it all began.

Hailing from Merthyr Tydfil, Scott’s love affair with the heavier end of music began at a young age.

“Matthew, who was Midasuno’s drummer, his brother used to make us mixtapes. He was a very influential figure. Things like Nirvana, the Chilli Peppers and The Cult. I wanted to be Duff from Guns n Roses but my dad bought me a guitar when I was eleven and my bass playing dreams were quashed!”

“I joined a covers band called Hot Rats and went on tour to Austria when I was 15. That’s where it all began really.”

Scott went on to form Midasuno in 1998, at the age of 16. All dyed black hair and eyeliner, the band were unlikely to blend in easily in the harsh post-industrial landscape of the South Wales Valleys.

 

“It’s a village mentality. If you haven’t got a rugby shirt on, you’re fucked!”

“I see guys in Merthyr now dressed like Russell Brand and I think you fucking bastard! I was wearing weird clothes and being a pain in your arse years ago but because some dude’s on the telly it’s ok to dress like that now.”

The band went on to build up a die-hard following in South Wales and further afield. But the big breakthrough, which always seemed to be on the horizon, always eluded them. After two record deals, an on-the-road diary written by Welsh author Rachel Trezise and a string of high profile shows; Midasuno split in 2007.

“We were gutted it didn’t take off. I always thought we could have been the British My Chemical Romance.” Says Scott, clearly still affected by the bands demise

“Towards the end we were writing very big, epic songs and I don’t think they quite got the recognition they deserved.

But Scott didn’t leave it too long before embarking on his next musical venture, Exit International, with local music producer Fudge Wilson.

Exit International, Scott Andrews far right

“I’m a massive Nirvana fan and we heard The Melvins, one of Kurt Cobain’s favourite bands, were playing in the Barfly. We decided to form a band to get the support slot. We got the gig but our slot got cancelled at the last minute. We’d had a lot of fun though so we decided to keep it going.

After a slot at Reading and Leeds this year and a new album on the way things are looking good for the band. But the chaotic nature of Scott’s former band doesn’t seem to have disappeared, as a recent encounter with legendry Pixies and Nirvana producer, Steve Albini goes to show.

“We sent some demos to Steve Albini as a joke really, but he got in touch and was interested in working with us. He rang our bassist a little too early in the morning though and he said ‘fuck off I’m sleeping!’ There goes our chance of working with Steve Albini.”

With Exit International’s debut in the works, and a tour in support of Monster Magnet, Scott also has a Christmas reunion show with his old band Midasuno to think about.

“Somebody told me one of our songs had been used on a trailer for district 13. I wanted to know if there was any money in it so I looked into it.”

“I didn’t tell the rest of the band as I was going to surprise them. They thought I was being underhand about it and we had a massive falling out. Anyway, we all got some money and the reunion came from that really.”

Despite the reunion, Scott doesn’t seem to have let anything slip with his current band. As I ask about their plans for the next year, Scott’s fiery ambition shows no signs of slowing up.

“I want to wind the UK press up into thinking we’re a hype band. You know you get those lists in NME in January. Bands for 2011. I want to be one those bands. You look back at those lists and you’ll be surprised how many of those bands turn into nothing. If we get the chance, we’ll do something with it. We’ll devastate people!”

A shortened version of this interview was originally published on the Guardian Cardiff website.

The Return of Daft Punk

Daft Punk are set to return next month with the release of the soundtrack to the much anticipated Tron: Legacy. It’s the duo’s first new music in five years and the buzz surrounding it has gone into overdrive in the past week.

The first track to emerge from the album is Tron: Legacy (end credits). To state the flippin obvious the song is called end credits, it plays over the end credits of the film and sounds like music which was made to be played over the end credits of a science fiction film.

This points towards the fact that the recording of the album was fully integrated with the film making process, rather than Daft Punk making a record independently and deciding to stick it on top of the movie.

Daft Punk in Dazed and Confused 3D Special Issue

Their return has been celebrated with a Mixmag, Daft Punk special issue, a Dazed and Confused cover story and a career retrospective in Little White Lies Tron: Legacy issue.

Although the leaked track suggest an album which may only really make sense when married with its accompanying visuals from the film; it’s still exciting to have the robots back!

Here’s the track in discussion plus a remix by Hobbz to whet your appetite.

Daft Punk – Tron Legacy (End Titles) by Hypetrak

Daft Punk – Tron Legacy (End Titles) (Hobbz Re-Tron) by Hobbz!