Romans Interview

Romans Profile

This is the second in a series of follow up interviews with the “Five British Rock Bands that Could Use a Break” featured here:

Each band is giving me their perspective on the difficulties they face at the ever tougher, no success – no money, arse end of the music biz. It’s eye opening stuff and really shows just how much impact the internet has really had, besides highlighting the importance of supporting new bands and giving them a chance; after all, today’s new talent is tomorrow’s headliner. In between, however, there exists a kind of twilight zone which sooner or later comes to a point where you either accept your position in the hierarchy, give up or just keep pushing for that one big break. Romans seem to have taken quite a philosophical attitude, which I find admirable, but it is actually quite depressing to hear about the futility of the predicament of these young bands.

Romans are a four piece alternative rock band from the Midlands, whose recent album, – = + (less is more), is stacked with melodic hooks and hard rocking riffs with an upbeat vibe. They’ve certainly put some nice songs together showcasing some serious guitar talent; check out the smoking solo on ‘Mary’. Each track on the album is curiously named after a person, because, according to Tom, in the interest of keeping things simple, during songwriting he asked the others to shout out the first name that came into their heads; which despite being just a bit of fun, has actually served to give the songs an air of personality.

As with Blind Wives, the guys in Romans balance their time between band and work; Tom working as a Stock Administrator for a Skate Company, Mike for a stage and sound equipment distributer, Will as a personal trainer/life guard (also studying to become a Teacher) and Josh at a local Fish and Chip shop; which they tell me is “Far from glamorous, but it pays for us to do the stuff we want to do in the band. It’s hard to find companies that are flexible for things in a band, I’ve been very fortunate with my employer, not everybody gets as lucky though.” The overall sensation with Romans is that they are interested in music being fun and this really comes through in their hard groove; there’s an infectious positivity to their well arranged songs, and given more resources to help develop the production side they have the potential to achieve so much more.

What is making the music scene so difficult for new bands?
This is always a funny question, because I feel that not only has it never been harder to become noticed, it’s also never been easier. I’m fully aware that makes no sense whatsoever, so bare with me on this. The introduction of The internet and social media has lead to a complete flood of bands in every genre. Bands are trying to clamber over one another just to get a gasp of air, while the others are doing their best to drag their competitors back under the water in order to get their own foot hold and a chance at breathing. But, with that being said, it’s amazing that there are now so many platforms for these great bands to showcase what they’re about!

How competitive is the current scene?
As far as the ‘Scene’ goes, we’re a midlands based band, and as far as we’re concerned there are some incredible bands out there, you just have to put the time in to seek them out. We aren’t a group with an abundance of band ‘friends’ so to speak. We’ve always been thrown on different styled line ups because of the type of music we play, which has enabled us to meet some great people, we aren’t competitive in that sense, we just like to play with ace bands. We played with Palm Reader a few months back, and it instantly made us want to get back in the practice room and tighten every screw in our performance. Just for the record, Palm Reader are fucking incredible and deserve your time and attention.

Do you see the internet as a positive aspect to life in a band/the scene?
We have so many platforms on which to promote our band that its hard to know where to start. Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Band-camp, Spotify and the list goes on and on. It provides anybody with the chance of creating their own music and unleashing it on a ‘New Product’ hungry world. While its easy to look at it like a drowning pool, we shouldn’t forget that this also brings forward the opportunity to provide free (to a certain extent) publicity to you and your band. To almost anybody around the world. It has become an actual possibility to become a rising act overnight, and in some cases, you don’t even have to leave your bedroom to manage it! So, i can’t give you a solid answer on this, as I feel it does work both ways.

Do you have jobs? If so, how do you balance the time? If not, how do you survive?!
All four of us work full time, so balancing work is possibly the hardest part of being in a band, that, and keeping all four members happy all the time. We recorded the majority of our album in our practice room, which is essentially a shed in the middle of a field. Studio time is so so expensive, that it just wasn’t possible to book two weeks off work, and then spend literally thousands of pounds on making a record in a top end studio. If we could have, then believe me, we would have, but it just wasn’t possible. It was nice to have our home comforts and record, but we couldn’t ever really immerse ourselves in the whole experience as we still had to work and carry on the 9-5 life whilst recording on top. It was a really positive experience, it made us better players as the majority of the album is recorded live, but in an industry that favors crystal clean, precise and essentially shit hot production, it may in some respects not worked in our favor.

How often do you rehearse?
We practice twice a week. Sundays and Wednesdays. We have done ever since the band started. Unfortunately we practice as a three piece on weekends as our bass player has other commitments then, not ideal, but, it’s part and parcel of being in a band. It’s like being in a long term relationship with three other people. You have to learn about how each of you tick and work to your strengths. If we have a show coming up, we’ll up the practices in the run up to the date.

How many gigs do you get a month? Is it difficult to get a gig or is it limited by other difficulties?
Again, this is nowadays limited by our private lives a little. Tours and shows up and down the country are becoming harder to take, time off work keeps us out of pocket, so its about taking the right shows. We’ve played some of the best shows this band has ever had through 2015, and I think it’s due to us learning to take the right things and not just say yes to the first email in our inbox. We were younger and had less to worry about when the band started, but I’m now 26, and looking to put a deposit down on a house early next year, leaving work at 12 O’clock to go and play in Leeds, doesn’t help pay for that unfortunately. I wish I didn’t love playing and writing music as much as I do, my bank balance would be a lot healthier, but its something that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake, I just have to think about the bigger picture a little more than I did 5 years ago.

Are you making any money? If so, how?
Romans have been going for 5 years. No member of this band has ever made a penny, but we’ve put thousands and thousands of pounds of our own money in. We’ve never had a label, management, booking agent, or anything of that kind. Everything we have done has been self funded, which is probably a testament to our love of playing music with our friends. We have T-shirts on sale, but they just fund themselves, and any ‘profit’ made from those goes into a small kitty for petrol money and back into making more shirts. If we were in a band to make money, we’d have stopped years ago. And to be honest, if your in a band just to make money, you’re more than likely going to end up disappointed.

What do you think of streaming services?
Honestly? If you’d have asked me a few months ago I’d probably be giving you a totally different answer, but with the release of our album, its been a real eye opener into the world of streaming. The most obvious example for us is with our physical sales. When we’re at shows, we find it so much easier to move copies of the album as opposed to online. I totally understand why people wouldn’t pay the money for a physical, when they can pay a monthly fee and essentially have it for free. People work hard for their pay, and its hard to let your money go. But coming from a band’s standpoint, we’ve not even covered 5% back of the overall costs of recording, printing and then releasing our album. We make nothing back from the streaming sites, so although its brilliant that people can get hold of our music so easily, it makes self recording and releasing music even more un-sustainable. So again, we probably share a mixed view on this side of things too.

How do you promote the band?
Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, Instagram, Youtube and through word of mouth. We’re definitely at a stage where if you aren’t up with the competition regarding social media platforms, you run the risk of being left behind. It’s still possible to run up a buzz about your band through shows and word of mouth alone, but its becoming more of an online based set up nowadays.

What are your short term and long term plans?
To make sure whatever we do, we have fun. We used to have these grand ambitions of playing Reading and Glastonbury, huge Tours and sold out shows, which I suppose we still harbour a little, but as we’ve got a little bit older and a little bit wiser, we know that if it stops being fun, you’ve got to stop. So for us, as long as people keep turning up and asking us to play and write music, and we’re having fun doing so, that’s all we’re fussed about. It’s really easy to become very negative about a lot of the things going on within music at the moment. With the introduction of the internet, everybody now has a voice, everybody’s a pro, and everybody will let you know exactly what they think. As long as you’re having fun, and you don’t mind RIFFROCKER3764 saying your music is shit, you’ll have some of the best times of your life. Just enjoy the ride and whatever comes along with it!

A review of Romans’ album can be read here: and it is available to buy through all the usual outlets.


Blind Wives Interview

Blind Wives Press 5 Web

I recently did a piece on ‘Five British Rock Bands that Could Use a Break’ which highlighted young British talent at the hard end of the music industry. This piece came about from reviewing the bands in question and a personal interest in where and how future talent will come to the fore. As a follow up, and after having read an article by Hannah Rose Ewens on Vice about big bands that still had day jobs (or night jobs as the case may be), I decided to contact the bands to find out a little more about just how hard the hard end really is, so as to shed some light on what you have to go through to make it. Blind Wives have very kindly given me a superb interview offering startling insight into what it’s really like on the music scene and just how little money is finding its way down the food chain.

Blind Wives are a three piece from Lincolnshire, in the UK, who play a delightful mix of noisy, indie tinged, slightly poppy, vaguely punky, alternative rock. They manage to sound pretty individual and have a great dynamic to their sometimes quirky, sometimes aggressive songs. Lead guitarist/vocalist Luke Pickering works as a sound engineer (and a part-time lecturer), which as well as saving some valuable cash on production, gives them a little extra artistic freedom to experiment soundwise. They do this to good effect on recent release ‘Recovery Positions’ whose guitar sound meanders between dirty transatlantic, hard pack riffs and downbeat fuzz, whilst maintaining a melodic feel with hooks a plenty. The rhythm section of Charlie O’Neill and Will Clark, who work with the mentally disabled and in retail respectively, are extremely tight, shifting effortlessly between the measured and the frantic on the unpredictable tempo changes coming in the twists and turns of their intricate numbers. All in all,Blind Wives make for enjoyable listening and if they continue the development they’ve shown on their latest release, their first LP will be a cracker. Anyway, here’s what they had to say about the tough end of the UK music scene.

What is making the music scene so difficult for new bands?
It seems the best way to get noticed now is to establish yourself as a strong, head-turning live act. It’s live shows which bring people together, get a ‘buzz’ and word-of-mouth going. So the ongoing closure and therefore lack of small venues I believe is one of the biggest issues for new bands trying to make waves. I would argue the Internet has had a massive effect too – it provides people with that instant gratification of finding new music without having to venture out, pay entry for a gig, and then watch a half an hour set.

How competitive is the current scene?
I think whatever music you play, the pool is always going to be overcrowded, but it’s a bit weird for us as we’ve never really managed to fit into a ‘scene’ as such. We’ve been on metal bills, plenty of math-rock bills… lately we’ve got better at finding and playing with acts that are on the same wavelength as us, swapping gigs, shouting out on social media, spreading the word – so I think it’s more a case of helping each other out, rather than ‘competing’, at least in our experience so far.

Do you see the internet as a positive aspect to life in a band/the scene?
The internet is brilliant for all the stuff I just mentioned! We also really enjoy having a say over the marketing, design and promotion of our own stuff, and being self-sufficient would be more difficult without the Internet. It’s difficult… there are pros and cons with everything. People can discover you easily, but then forget you 5 seconds later as they’ve clicked on something else – and a lot of the best music doesn’t necessarily hit you straight away.

Do you have jobs and how do you balance the time?
We all work, yes. We don’t make a profit from the band, so currently it’s a labour of love! We are all thankfully in flexible positions with our jobs, which means we can put the time in to make it worthwhile – there’s been a few changes in that department in the last year or so and it’s resulted in the best year for us as a band. We’re saying yes to a lot more gigs, essentially!

So, how often do you manage to rehearse?
It really depends on how many gigs we have around that time… so if we have a tour or weekender coming up, we might rehearse twice that week. If we’re just focusing on recording on the other hand, maybe every 3 weeks!

How many gigs do you get a month? Is it difficult to get a gig or is it limited by other difficulties?
Lately we have had more luck getting gigs by making friends and swapping gigs with other bands of a similar genre. We don’t have a lot of luck just emailing places out of the blue. Going to gigs, helping each other out and making contacts seems to be the way to go. As for how frequent we gig, it really varies – a couple of months ago we had 4 shows in a week but lately because of holidays and work related stuff we haven’t gigged in a month.

Are you making any money?
We don’t make any money from the band putting it simply. Occasionally we will sell a lot of merch or get a nice pay from playing a gig, but when you weigh up how much you spend on getting that merch made up, CDs duplicated, petrol, food, practice money…

What do you think of streaming services?
Simply put, artists aren’t being paid enough, and I don’t think enough bigger artists speak out about it. It’s brilliant for discovering artists – for example I’ll use Spotify to see if I like the sound of a new album, and then if I like it enough I’ll go out and buy it. Perhaps they should limit more the amount of plays you get for free, or charge more for membership.

How do you promote the band?
By playing as many gigs as we can, and utilising all the usual social media outlets.

What are your short term and long term plans?
We want to push the video side of things, as we’ve just released our new EP and feel all 5 tracks could potentially have some visual accompaniment! Not to mention our 2 music videos are for a song we don’t play anymore and an old recording of a new song, respectively. We’re also intent on getting on the back of a bigger band for a tour probably early next year. Finally, there’s an album to write.

In the meantime, ‘Recovery Positions’ is available for the ridiculously cheap price of three English pounds for the download and four for the CD, right here:, the review of which can be read in the following link:

Rock in Rio – First Weekend Reaction

The first weekend of Rock in Rio’s nostalgia fest came and went in fairly spectacular fashion, with Queen and One Republic camping up the Friday night, Motley Crue and Metallica the Saturday and Rod Stewart and Elton John the Sunday. Judging by the euphoric reactions of the crowds in the crush at the front of the stage and the outpourings on social media, a good time was had by all.

On the Friday, a highly competent performance from One Republic was followed by the improbable combination of Queen & Adam Lambert, which was surprisingly spectacular with some truly spine tingling moments; notably those with video footage of Freddie, although Adam proved himself more than up to the task. In fact, hats off to the former Idol contestant for being one of the bravest men in rock, not only is he one of the few openly gay performers around, he has had the courage to step into the biggest gay shoes ever, and rather than it turning into a crass imitation of a hero, Adam has put his own identity onto the band, whilst maintaining respect for the past. Ok, so maybe to some it doesn’t feel quite right hearing another singer do Freddie’s songs, but they were well sung, and interestingly, Adam’s youth brings a freshness to the performance that other older acts, particularly Elton, were seriously missing.

It would be easy to critisize Roger Taylor and Brian May for continuing Queen as a band; I mean they took the easy way out and John Deacon wanted no part of it, but when you have the material and the possibility of playing to enormous crowds at the drop of a hat, the temptation must have been too great. Sure, it would’ve been far more admirable for the trio to continue with a new singer, in a new band, under a different name, with new material, but maybe they just didn’t feel up to it creatively; it must be difficult to conjure up that kind of hunger; but by getting a much younger singer involved it has given the project a little more vibrance than the previous incarnation with Paul Rogers, and in the meantime, Adam Lambert is taking the opportunity to get himself known worldwide; they even showcased one of his own tracks, the hard rocking ‘Ghost Town’, which slipped in effortlessly alongside Queen’s own material. Obviously, haters gonna hate, but he’s setting himself up for future stardom, so fair play.

Saturday was the first of the three metal days and Korn certainly rocked the Sunset Stage with a fine performance. The British duo of Royal Blood came, saw, and though they didn’t exactly conquer, put on a quality show to win over some new fans, their closing song including an off the cuff ‘Paranoid’ riff that got the crowd going.

Motley Crüe brought their R.I.P tour to South America for their first and last show in Brazil and, musically speaking, nailed it. They worked the stage like pros with plenty of movement and some entertaining pyrotechnics; Nikki and Tommy were as tight as a rhythm section can get and the walking cadaver that is Mick Mars was nothing short of superb. Mötley Crüe really are underrated, their image often overshadowing their technical abilities and their songwriting skills; that most of these songs are from the height of hair metal yet still stand up is testament to their talent. However, Vince Neil sadly let the side down. At first I thought it was down to a poor mix, the vocal being almost inaudible, but once it was sorted it was apparent that he wasn’t actually singing all the words; he’d skip prepositions, or kinda mumble more difficult sections, or just not even try, leaving it to the back up girls. Sorry, but it is definitely time for the band to call it a day, that way Nikki can concentrate on the exciting Sixx A.M project and Mick can finally get some rest – I love Crüe, but it’s time to let them go.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Metallica, last time they were here they were pushing ‘Through the Never’, so we got brand Metallica, this time round though, thankfully it was band Metallica. They gave a high quality well honed performance and rocked the Palco Mundo hard! There was plenty of power on display and you could sense their enthusiasm, although now and again they do come across as a little too contrived; kinda scripted. For instance, when James screams “Please God, help me!” in the middle of ‘One’ it’s like he’s doing it because that is what he’s supposed to say at that point, perhaps some new material will help keep them fresh, otherwise they are in danger of going down the Elton John road.

Unfortunately, Elton and many other performers are precisely that, performers, like actors reciting their lines, they are showmen delivering precisely what the crowd expect, which is perfectly ok, the crowd go home happy and Elton and co. get the adulation they so rightly deserve, as well as the pay check, obviously. What is seriously lacking though is that bit of fire that adds some real emotion to the show; there’s no hunger, no conviction. Put it like this, Elton’s drummer is a smiley white haired gentleman in a suit and tie; highly competent he may well be, but he sure as hell ain’t hungry for this. I don’t blame Elton and his more than able band, people want to see them, so they play and everyone has a good time; but as a casual observer, the only thing sending shivers down my spine was my A/C. I watched 10m of John Legend, who I don’t even like, and got goosebumps 3 times. Elton delivered the line “rolling like thunder under the covers” in such lukewarm fashion all I could imagine was the thunder as his gargantuan frame creaks the springs as David rolls him over to stop the snoring, not quite the intended sentiment me thinks.

Thank god then for Rod, surrounded by the young and eager and still pretty sprightly himself, his show was fun, energetic and well worth watching. He managed to breathe some life into old material, he gave space to showcase the talent around him and he worked the stage ceaselessly. Just goes to show that the highly lucrative nostalgia circuit needn’t be stale, as Rod and Queen proved, with a bit of young blood and a rethink of how things are done there’s life in the old dogs yet.

Latest Twitterings

In the current musical climate use of social media has become an imperative marketing tool for, well, pretty much everyone really (me included!), and like U.S senators the adherence of musicians to Twitter is somewhere in the region of 100%. So, since I started this site and started being much more active on Twitter, I have been getting more and more musicians following me and whenever possible I’m featuring them. So here goes the latest batch. Enjoy!

Tairrie B.
For those who don’t know, she is the voice of metal band My Ruin, one of the guest vocalists on the Teenage Time Killers project and a totally badass rapper. Also, from my contact with Tairrie so far, she seems like a really fucking cool human being – sharp, honest, intelligent and extremely courteous, oh yeah and her husband plays a mean guitar. Here’s a remix of the first track from her recently released and thoroughly enjoyable rap album ‘Vintage Curses’, a free download of which is in this link to my review.

Blind Wives
This is another band I’ve also had the privilege of reviewing and have previously featured in an article on upcoming bands. They play a cool blend of indie, rock, punk and pop and write some fine tunes. Well worth checking out.

Gavin Mikhail
Bit of an internet sensation this talented singer songwriter. He has a fair whack of original material but also seems to like getting behind a piano, stripping down a song and putting his own spin on it, his cover of Death Cab for Cutie racking up over a million views. He’s also covered a whole slew of British artists as diverse as Bon Iver and One Direction.

Romeo Crow
Super positive singer, songwriter, producer, film maker, family man, already has a stack load of followers and is infectiously upbeat. What I listened to was blues tinged pop/rock with some fine guitar playing. Head over to his site and he’ll give you six songs; be inspired!

Neal Hoffmann/Amphibic
Neal is a singer songwriter fusing his love of indie pop and Americana into his own atmospheric sound.

Color Theory.
Not really my thing but if you like your pop music heavy on synths and melodies with easy on the ear vocals this may well be for you.

Faded Paper Figures
I will admit to starting out with the intention of checking out a couple of tracks to see how they sound, expectations were low after a long day, but six tracks in and I was still uncovering surprises. Their brand of instrumentally rich electronica heavy indie is kinda quirky and makes for interesting listening, no two tracks sound the same and they have a real ear for a hook; cool vibe.

Slightly chaotic thrash that is not afraid to experiment with song structures and tempos, with an impressively tight rhythm section and plenty of hard hitting riffage. It’s nice to hear a band put a twist on the traditional bay area sound and make it sound fresh and exciting – well worth a listen.

The Uppercuts
Good time British rock band playing an upbeat blend of punky rock n’ roll with a hint of SKA. It’s an enjoyable listen as it’s all very boisterous and good fun, live shows must be a riot!

Leah West
Easy listening country tinged acoustic rock/pop with an atmospheric laid back vibe. Leah has a lovely voice and composes a nice straightforward tune with a penchant for romantic storytelling.

Rock in Rio 2015 – Preview

The sixth edition of Rock in Rio kicks off this Friday for its now biannual shindig since coming back to home turf in 2011 and there’s plenty for the discerning rock fan to look forward to, or totally avoid(!), during its seven days spread over two weekends.
The Rock in Rio franchise is now one of the biggest and most successful shows on the festival circuit with editions in places as diverse as Lisbon and Las Vegas, but it’s the Rio edition which holds all the kudos. There’s a kind of nostalgic charm about it that never fails to capture the imagination of the Brazilian public, even though São Paulo’s Lollapolooza may be better organised and consistently puts together a far superior line-up.
RiR is Brazil’s Woodstock; with previous, often chaotic, editions talked about with an air of mythical awe, it has become a kind of rite of passage for the youth of today, if only for them to be able to say “Eu fui” – the trade mark T-shirt which announces to the world that you were there. I’ve got mine from 2001. But it’s not just for the youth, the often old fashioned bill also attracts a somewhat older festival goer maybe aiming to recapture a bit of that inexplicable nostalgic feel. Why else would they pay through the nose to get to the arse end of Rio on a freighted bus (no cars allowed) to stand under the burning Rio sun to watch bands as diverse as A-ha and Lamb of God? Because it’s Rock in fucking Rio baby!!!
Anyway this year the organisers have outdone themselves in the nostalgia stakes, there’s Queen, Rod, Elton, the aforementioned A-ha, Faith no More and Metallica, for the third consecutive edition, just in case you missed their merciless self promotion last time round when the plugging of ‘Through the Never’ was at fever pitch. You can’t help but feel the organizer are short changing the Brazilian public just a little. Even so, the festival does actually give a chance to more recent successes like Slipknot, System of a Down and One Republic, while pop icons like Katy Perry, Rhianna and Sam Smith also get their shot. There is also the occasional younger band like The Script or Royal Blood, but they are gonna have to work their asses off because more often than not the crowd are there to go mad for their heroes or just for the occasion, it’s not the same hardcore indie crowd of Lolla; throw in the local obsession for constant cell phone use, the banning of selfie sticks notwithstanding, and the scalding heat and you have a recipe for early evening apathy. Royal Blood in particular will have their work cut out this Saturday, people won’t have heard of them and basically everyone will be there to see Metallica, so even Motley Crüe will need to be on top form, especially with Korn likely to pull a big crowd over to the second stage.
So after Queen, One Republic and The Script kick things off tonight, it’s full on metal on Saturday, with Metallica’s repeat performance likely to take all the spoils, before Sunday’s very British, very old line up of Seal, Elton John and Rod Stewart on the main stage, while John Legend and Magic, who just might steal everybody’s thunder, take on the Sunset stage. More to follow…

What’s Hot in my House – September

I listen to an awful lot of music by virtue of the fact that I spend a great deal of time moving around from one side of Rio to another, it’s not unusual for me to get through two or three albums before I even start work. As I also write for alternative music website I occasionally have to listen to stuff I maybe wouldn’t have chosen to; some good, some bad, some nnhaa. So it was quite a relief this month to have reviewed the steaming Luna Sol.

‘Blood Moon’ is a hard riffing badass album of doom rich stoner rock, straight out of the Colorado mountains, packed with smoking solos and hook ridden choruses. It was love at first sight and I cannot put this sinisterly grungy record down. My massive 4.5. star review can be found here:

Also on heavy rotation as a result of a review I have done is the Live from Metropolis soundtrack album by Public Enemy. Chuck D, Flavor Flav and co. are on top form on this intimate show of greatest hits. Chuck gives a masterclass in flow to the younger generation while him and Flav work the room tirelessly. It’s a lesson in rapping and performing that makes for superb listening.

I finally gave the Jamie XX album a chance after it was recommended by a friend and was not disappointed. Believe the hype, this is a thoroughly engaging hypnotic chunk of well thought out electronica.

I’m not entirely sure how I discovered this, maybe Deezer recommended it, can’t really remember, but whatever, in Before we Forgot How to Dream this teenager from Derry has made a quite beautiful album of atmospheric indie folk of surprising depth and sophistication that is packed with haunting melodies and moments of tenderness.

Beethoven’s 9th Symphony by the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain – The Proms 2013.
I’ve had a lot of translation work of late and as it monopolizes the language function of my brain, I like a bit of classical when I’m working. I discovered this spectacular performance from the 2013 Proms on YouTube and it has been my first choice work music ever since. That Beethoven is the master is nothing new, but there is something about this performance from these teenagers and their delightfully animated conductor, Vasily Petrenko, that is very involving; maybe it’s the innocence of the young or their youthful enthusiasm that gives it an added vigour. The third movement, Adagio molto e cantabile at 25:10, is especially beautiful and Ode to Joy takes on a whole new dimension; truly moving.

Public Enemy – Live from Metropolis

Public EnemyBack in 2014 a handful of lucky fans had the privilege of witnessing a one off show from rap legends Public Enemy, backed by a full live band, S1W, in the intimate setting of West London’s Metropolis Studios, in the very room where Amy Winehouse recorded Back to Black. Tickets were trading for somewhere in the region of $7000 for this exclusive gig and based on this 1h20m soundtrack to the DVD/Blu Ray, it was money very well spent. To put it simply, Public Enemy absolutely kill it.

We are treated to a selection of career spanning tracks from ‘Miuzi Weighs a Ton’, through ‘911 is a Joke’ and “Bring the Noise’ to the surprise hit from the London Paralympics ‘Harder than you Think’; they are all here, barring one or two personal favorites from Muse Sick, so it’s essentially a ‘Best of’ played live in this awe inspiring performance.

Twenty-eight years into their career at the time of recording; “He’s 55, I’m 54, that’s a hundred an’ nine fuckin years”; and Public Enemy are still at the top of their game. Chuck D’s flow is as sharp as ever, his baritone bite on every syllable the perfect foil to the insouciant style of partner in crime Flavor Flav. Not that Flav is found slacking, on the contrary, he works the crowd tirelessly and is a superb counterpoint to Chuck’s relentless attack. There is an almost telepathic understanding between the two, born of nigh on thirty years prowling the stage together, which reflects in their interplay; Flav conducting the small crowd like an excited pied piper while Chuck challenges them to keep pace. It’s a lesson to any performer in how to work a room, whatever its size; there’s only 125 people watching the show but PE are blowing the roof off.

Public Enemy may be old school but everything sounds as fresh as the day it was pressed, hitting the spot time and again. ‘Rebel Without a Pause’ is the first to really get things rocking, with DJ Lord scratching some serious vinyl, before Flavor turns up the heat on ‘911’ and Chuck piles on the pressure on ‘Terrordome’ – you can almost feel the room heaving through the speakers. S1W add a whole new depth and flexibility to PE’s sound, with some serious shredding on ‘Hoovermusic’ and ‘Black Steel’; the house is rocking and the show has barely started. “Real Hip Hop is here!”

Bring the Noise nails it, the rapping urgent and on point. There’s a funky bounce to the vibe on ‘Don’t Believe the Hype’ as Chuck and Flav work it; is that Liam Gallagher in the house? The temperature just keeps on rising as ‘Can’t Truss It’ struts out to some badass beats. Chuck D described ‘Man Plans, God Laughs’ as the most intense Public Enemy record of the century, sorry Mr D but you were way off, Metropolis is destroying it dude. ‘Fight the Power’ actually provides a slight breather after Chuck nails Bring the Noise a’capella. Flav brings it on again for 31 flavours before Shut em Down and the stunning climax that is the uplifting ‘Harder than you Think’, Public Enemy’s biggest UK hit; the horns actually give me goosebumps before some badass guitar rocks the midsection. Chuck D and Flavor Flav then bring the show to an intense close, “Just like that”.

The truly remarkable thing about this record is that the intensity and vibe of the performance comes through loud and clear; it’s rare for a live album to live up to the memory of a great show, but here you have the finest possible document of the Public Enemy live experience imaginable.


Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls

Iron MaidenThere is a tendency among fans of great bands to live in the hope that the object of their affection will somehow recapture whatever it was that made them great, so making comparisons with a band’s peak period is inevitable, and, as such, totally unfair. Music is very contextual and lets face it, it’s not 1985 anymore, so even if they released Seventh Beast of a Powerslave in Time, it just wouldn’t be the same. That said, after a five year break, Iron Maiden have “come back” with a very strong album, and in terms of quality, in terms of Maidenness and potential future classics, it doesn’t get much better than this.

There is air of excitement about The Book of Souls, possibly down to the live element of the recording process at their “special” Guillaume Tell Studios, Paris, or possibly as a result of the on running theme of death, both on the record in the numerous references to the Mayan belief that souls live on after death; and off the record; Steve Harris having suffered two significant losses, while Bruce Dickinson discovered a lump that would turn out to be a tumour. With Steve contributing a little less than normal, albeit in stirring fashion on the likes of ‘Tears of a Clown’, Bruce was involved extensively with songs on subjects as diverse as the 1930 R101 airship crash, ‘Empire of the Clouds’, and stories of WWI triplanes on Death or Glory’. Throw in further contributions from the three guitarists and you’ve got a monster of an album, 92 minutes all told, packed with epic tunes.

‘If Eternity Should Fail’ gets things underway with an atmospheric spaghetti western style opening, but then the riff kicks in with that dum dada dum bass line and it’s pure Maiden heaven. ‘Speed of Light’, the first single, follows with a real old school hard rock feel to it and suddenly the Irons are sounding as fresh as ever.

There are more atmospherics on ‘The Great Unknown’, with its unhurried riffs and air of drama; it’s good intense stuff and is a formula that is put to good effect elsewhere, the epic ‘Book of Souls’ being not dissimilar in structure. In fact Maiden have a number of instrumentally complex tracks weighing in on the lengthy side on offer here. At times it does border on the indulgent, three guitar solos where one might do, but I guess they’re working on the premise that what Maiden fans need is more Maiden, nowhere more so than on ‘The Red and the Black’. Here a familiar riff bounces along atop a rumbling bass line like a derailed locomotive to a chant of “whoa o oh oh oh” and a never-ending instrumental break brings the song to a massive thirteen and a half minutes; and it’s not even the longest track on the album!

It’s not all epic bombast mind, some of the most effective tracks being the shortest; the lyrically reflective ‘When the River Runs Deep’ is classic hard rock, as is the frantic ‘Death or Glory’, which has instant classic written all over it; while ‘Tears of a Clown’, reportedly inspired by the Suicide of Robin Williams, is a slower, more thoughtful, measured rocker and one of Steve Harris’ finest moments.

You don’t get to this stage of your career without a bit of recycling going on though, the intro to ‘Shadows of the Valley’ sounding very much like ‘Wasted Years’; and haven’t we heard those ‘woah oh oh’s somewhere before? Even so, the gargantuan eighteen minutes (yes EIGHTEEN!) of ‘Empire of the Clouds’ is all new territory, with Bruce going all Axl at the piano; still it’s a fine melody and is a grandiose finale to a grandiose record.

So basically we have got as much Iron Maiden as you could possibly squeeze into a double album, ok, so it’s overly long, very overblown and more than a little over the top, but there is plenty of extremely strong material to get your teeth into, die-hard fan or otherwise. It would be a fine swan song to the band’s career, should they decide to call it a day, or it could even mark the start of an exciting new phase of creativity. I can’t help but wonder how they’d sound if Rick Rubin were to get hold of them and strip them back to basics, maybe then it would sound like 1985 again.


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Eight times Madonna Totally Nailed Being Madonna

Love her or hate her, there’s no denying that Madonna’s constant presence in the industry over the last thirty plus years has generated some memorable moments that only she could’ve pulled off. Along the way she’s entertained people, let her ego and imagination run beyond wild and managed to rub more than one section of society up the wrong way. Ever controversial, ever changing, ever pushing boundaries; when it comes to popular music, will we ever see her like again? Ok, there are better singers, better performers, better everything really, but lets face it, Madonna is the last of the greats – when I was young a new Madonna song was an event; there aren’t many artists around today that could make the front pages with a new song/video/live show – and do you know what? Every now and then she actually came up with a killer tune.

Like a Prayer
She’d already played the sex card on Like a Virgin and she’d already had number one singles, but Like a Prayer was THE defining moment that would shape the years to come. The madcap, pseudo arty video with its sexual and religious imagery and the black Jesus masterstroke upset conservatives across the board, throw in the gospel choir and the superbly executed tempo changes in the mid section and you’ve got perfect Madonnaness.

The whole concept was vaguely ridiculous with the cone shaped bras and the silly poses but, somehow, god knows how, she actually got away with it and came up with one of the most enduring pop songs of the time. It looked as though it could have come from a Saturday Night Live skit poking fun at the star but at the time she could do no wrong, amazing how far a little confidence can go.

Justify My Love
Actually written by Lenny Kravitz, who also provides the moany na na nas of the backing vocal, this one made the front pages for its excessive sexual content. Strangely though the most memorable image is the theatrical giggle from Madge as she rushes down the corridor at the end. Perfect Madonna marketing.

After all kinds of reinventions to keep herself in the public eye throughout the nineties; being controversial and then enlisting top producers to stay one step ahead, what does she do? Reinvent herself as herself. It was pretty much back to basics just singing songs and in Music she totally nailed it, it was fresh, had groove and was instantly catchy – perfect pop song….”Is you Madonna?”

American Life
The Ray of Light/Music/ American Life trilogy was arguably the most creative of Madonna’s career and on the title track of the latter she was way out on a limb being Madonna. Live, it had war theatrics, gun shots and helicopters, metal guitars and that rap about drinking Soy Latte and doing Yoga, I mean, what the actual fuck? It’s as mad as a box of frogs but totally kills it; this multi-faceted track chops and changes and goes places where no other pop star would dare to go – she had Michael Moore gushing and upset the entire Republican establishment of George W. Bush’s Iraq invading America.

Into the Groove (American Life tour)
So you’re a forty something pop star with a string of number ones behind you, how do you breathe new life into a classic? A five minute bagpipe intro with your dancers kilted up as a marching band plus Missy Elliott, all executed with a supreme sense of timing of course.

Hung Up
Just when we thought there would be no more reinventions, back she comes as a marauding disco queen with a hook so sharp and a sample so genius that she inadvertently came up with one of the best pop songs of recent years.

Bitch I’m Madonna
She may be pushing sixty, she may be playing catch up rather than setting trends, there may well be just the vaguest air of desperation about her latest guise (the outrageous “S.E.X” totally lacking the cool of Justify my Love) but is it catchy? Yep. Is it current? Yep. Has she still got one butt cheek on the throne of queen of pop? Not really. She’s given up that fight but I think she’s showing that she can still slug it out when she wants to and would maybe be a strong note to finish on.

Maybe now it’s time for Madge to call it a day, not that she is too old to make music, I don’t believe in the ‘too old’ ethic, but maybe it’s time for something different before she becomes a parody of herself. After years of shaking things up how about a break, one last bad ass tour then an MTV unplugged before mentoring the next big thing?

Free Downloads

The more I have explored music outside of the mainstream the more acutely aware I have become of the difficulties of upcoming artists and recently came to the conclusion that I was no longer comfortable with illegal downloading. People can make a case for it, I’m sure there are valid and compelling arguments, but what it basically amounts to is stealing a musicians hard graft – would you steal a table from a carpenter or a painting by an artist?
Even so, many artists do, for whatever reason, actually make their music available for you to download freely and legally, si as a result of bands that I have featured offering stuff and then stumbling around on bandcamp, I’ve put together a list here, which will be updated occasionally in future, but in the meantime here’s a whole bunch of stuff worth checking out.

Already Heard Compilation

Of Allies

Tairrie B.

Wolf Alice Wolf Alice



Lux Lisbon



Five Grand Stereo




Age of Atlas

4 Dead in 5 Seconds

Noam Bleen EP

Forever Still Scars EP

I Talk To Strangers