8/27/2014

Review: indianandajonas - "Outsider Music's Greatest Hits"

indianandajonas - Outsider Music's Greatest Hits
(Heavy Baby 2014)

Though I often try to listen to music in a mental vacuum of sorts - free of context or distraction - it's hard to ignore the backstory of indianandajonas' first and only release, Outsider Music's Greatest Hits. The CD contains a compilation of the duo's freak-folk improvisations recorded in their first year attending school at The University North Texas. The collection of recordings, nearly five years old, comprises an audio diary of loose, organic compositions, each captured in its own time and location, from the university practice room to an airport in Germany. Though the spontaneous nature of the album's nine tracks makes for a jarringly noisy effort, the two multi-instrumentalists overcome their lo-fi limitations with their knack for texture and attention to detail. 

Channeling the vibe of fellow Texans This Will Destroy you and Explosions in the Sky, indianandajonas impress me with their ability to keep lengthy compositions interesting without sacrificing a minimalist aesthetic. "The Waves of Norm in D" and "Texas" both cross the eight-minute mark and make up the core of the album. The former manages to sound ethereal despite its crunchy aesthetic, flecks of piano barely escaping the gravitational pull of throbbing guitar distortion. The piano then takes its turn at the helm on the latter track, slowly evolving in its bassy, Reich-ian drone, a harmonica cycling between two notes. The shorter songs remind me more of Panda Bear's Young Prayer, "Hey Ready" and "Robopatriot" teeming with Dadaist folk energy. OMGH is a fascinatingly organic effort that gets better with each listen, and it's exciting to see it finally get a physical release.

8/23/2014

Cassette Corner: Mooncreatures - "Sand Maps"

Mooncreatures - Sand Maps
(2014 Balloon Festival)

Only a summer's passed since their sophomore outing, Gaslamps, but UK-based shoegaze outfit Mooncreatures has already returned with another dose of ambient pop. This time around, the duo have decided to press their tape on a brand-new label of their own, Balloon Festival, named after a track on their self-titled EP. The cassette's design is stunning, its black sleeve stark against the tape's shell - the neon green hue of a stick of mint gum. It's a fitting aesthetic considering the signature blend of dream-pop patented by the band; translucent, yet impenetrably minimal.

The vaporous lull of opening tracks "(sea cure)" and "Salt Sea" hangs foggily, forever expanding into obscurity against sparse percussion and distant vocals that echo like whispers in a cathedral. Taking cues from Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins, a glistening chorus effect lines the overcast ambience that seeps from Mooncreature's guitars. Following those two tracks is a surprising outlier in the duo's discography, a gnarled and distorted cut that captures the craggy tone often associated with Dinosaur Jr. and Superchunk. It's a welcome change that does a good job of splitting the album in two. If you've followed Mooncreatures over the past couple years, Sand Maps is a must-have release, further improving upon their unique brand of songcraft. If you haven't, this album is probably the best place to start, offering the most variety in the band's trilogy of tapes.

8/18/2014

Half-Gifts Issue 10 Out Now


Issue 10 of Half Gifts has finally hit the printers! This edition includes interviews with Tobacco Magazine and Alex Calder (Formerly of Makeout Videotape) as well as the usual smattering of lo-fi, hip-hop, punk and shoegaze reviews. Buy it at https://half-gifts.bandcamp.com/merch/half-gifts-issue-10

8/13/2014

Review: Michael Cera - "true that"

Michael Cera - true that
(Self-Released 2014)

The burgeoning "lo-fi revival", tinged with tape hiss and cozy twee sensibilities, is a scene that thrives on lowercase anonymity. In a few minutes' time, an album's worth of crunchy tape recordings can quietly be uploaded to Bandcamp without warning or hype. Its recognition or lack thereof is left solely up to the subculture's hardcore devotee's: those who bravely browse the site's tags by "newness" rather than "popularity". Listeners are often reeled in solely by word of mouth, making their success, in a way, more "pure" than that gained due to a backstory or persona generated by a PR firm in hopes of catching Pitchfork's attention. That's why it's pleasantly surprising for me to see Canadian actor Michael Cera drop a lo-fi release like true that so discreetly and so well, blurring the line dividing the world of celebrity and that which the rest of us live in. Without announcement of his own, Cera has put out one of the year's most charming DIY efforts: it's an album that evokes the warmth and whimsy often evident in the soundtracks of films he's starred in while also mixing in bold experimentation that recalls Modest Mouse's Sad Sappy Sucker

Aesthetically, the album covers large area, borrowing Belle and Sebastian's hushed yet hip jazziness, the shimmering twang of Neil Young, and even a bit of possible influence from Erik Satie's minimal and entrancing piano compositions. Cera's fragile vocals warble against brittle and glistening instrumentation, they are buoyant, bobbing up and down atop percussive strumming and watery splashes of piano on "Steady Now". "Ruth" could be mistaken for an early Elephant 6 Collective recording, intimate and delivered intensely, propelled only by the steady rhythm of spaced-out chords and the occasional pulse of buttery slide guitar. The more complete tracks are complimented by cute instrumentals. "2048" is an overwhelmingly chipper cut, its vibrant keyboard hum dances to handclaps and stomps. "Gershy's Kiss" is a quiet and soothing piano piece, the calms space between each note like the black alcove in the center of a candle's flame. If you enjoyed Alex G's DSU, released just a couple months ago, true that will blow you away.

8/07/2014

Cassette Corner: How To Organize Your Life and Get Rid of Clutter

How To Organize Your Life and Get Rid of Clutter
(2014 Memorials of Distinction)

Recycling old tapes isn't a completely new concept. Since the dawn of cassette culture, fledgling garage punk bands and avant-garde experimentalists alike have, in true lo-fi fashion, engaged in the act of auditory hubris, blotting out hit singles, mixtapes and old sermons in favor of their own vibrations. It's a stark act of post-consumerism, and at times, I'm weak-willed enough to feel a twinge of guilt when I come in contact with such a product of iconoclasm. While How To Organize Your Life and Get Rid of Clutter, the first tape compilation released by British label Memorials of Distinction, is pressed onto a self-help cassette of the same name, it's extremely inventive in that in incorporates spoken word selections from the original audio into the album itself. Musically, the compilation is a cohesive mix of artists that share the same dreamy sonic pallet, yet no two bands apply them to the canvas in the same way. 

Opening the tape's A-side is Sophia Deville's "Hidden", a spacey track that isolates tender vocals in a vast, empty expanse of shoegazey warble paired with a slinking, exotic drum machine loop. Between it and its successor is the foreword to the self-help book, complete with canned applause. This sort of footage is not just used as an accessory though; it is what glues the compilation together and helps it flow, incorporating itself into the opening drone of "Lame" by Smiling Disease and is sucked into the tornado of noise that is sAtAnic rituAl Abuse's "Above Calvary". Sampling aside though, my favorite moments on the tape include Lizzard Bleach's surfy avant-punk and Mewlips' growly noise rock, which at times seems to be influenced by experimental hip-hop. Compilations can often feel a bit confusing and overly diverse in texture, but this particular one is perfectly cohesive.

8/03/2014

Interview: venoSci

venoSci
Name: Aaron Gelblat-Bronson
Location: Chicago
Genre: Chiptune/Kawaiistep

I just witnessed your set live at Ecchi Party, which was a live stream of you playing at your birthday party. How was your big day?

The party was a ton of fun! I had three of my other friends perform as well! The first was Discipline Jar, who is a noise artist, Nobility, a rapper, and DJ Dustoff/ScreenSavior who played a righteous deep house set. The party was a blast with a lot of good food and all of my best friends there dancing and going hard.

Also I'm an adult now, which is still sort of weird.

How did you first get into chiptune music? Any particular favorite artists?

I first heard about chiptune from this old magazine called "Anime Insider" which Wizard used to put out. They talked about a group called YMCK, which made NES style music. I looked them up and instantly fell in love. After that I found out about other artists like Tugboat, Anamanaguchi, and I Fight Dragons. It wasn't until a friend of mine my freshman year of high school showed me his LSDJ cart that I really felt a desire to start producing.

My favorite artists right now are Knife City, Slime Girls, Space Boyfriend, Snesei, Shoujo Eyes, and the always fantastic Anamanguchi.


When writing a song on Gameboy, where do you begin? Which song are you most pleased with so far?

Typically I start with an Chord progression in the bassline or the countermelody. After that i just sort of look at the notes I picked and write all the other parts out. I typically start with more of a particular sound in mind than a melody, but it quickly evolves. Also having 9+ years of classical training (oboe, but now bassoon) doesn't hurt from the music theory department.

My favorite songs right now are Bonafide Cutie off of my new album or, strangely enough, my Justin Bieber cover because the crowd reception to the latter is really hilarious and fun, and I'm really proud of the breakdown in Bonafide Cutie.

Tell us a little about your newest album, Picopop and Pocky. Who did the artwork? Will it get a physical release?

Ok, story time: 

Acen is this big anime convention that happens every year in Chicago, and this year I showed up and busked along with Snesei, Shoujo Eyes, and Volcano Themed Bathroom from Detroit. We drew a crowd and I noticed that my songs I was playing were not as dance-y as the other guys tracks and I felt my songs didn't really capture the fun spirit of these conventions I have been attending (this was my 7th Acen). So, I set out to write an Anime-powered super up-beat dance album inspired by the new friends and memories I had from that weekend. The first song on the album, Milkis, was actually written the week following that convention. 



About a month later I met some people in a chat for a Zoom Lens netlabel web show, and the dug my stuff so they asked be to play at an Ecchi Party, which I did. After that show, I asked on twitter if anyone was interested in doing remixes of my old songs for my new album. Many of the artists I had played with that night were interested, so I emailed them some stems of my songs, and the remixes came into being.

The artwork was done by Lady Fiona Buchanan of Sealand (by way of Chicagoland). She is a close personal friend of mine and IRL anime thug.

Right now I have about 20 home made physical copies that I'm gonna be selling or giving away at shows, but If enough people show interest, i might do a professional printing of it.

What's the best live set you've played so far?

My best is probably my set at my "201X" launch party, but my favorite is the one I played on my Birthday!

the 201X show was very tight and well mixed but it wasn't as upbeat. This one, was super exciting and fun, and I was less worried about making mistakes (which notably, I did make several of).

What non-chiptune music do you listen to?

I listen to a lot of non-chiptune artists, but most of it is either electronic or dance music. or K-pop.

Right now I've been listening to Kors K, Die Antwoord, Grimes, Blood Diamonds, Porter Robinson, Diplo, R.I.O. , Spazzkid, Super Junior, Big Bang, Yelle, Starfucker, Kitty Pryde and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

Outside of music, what do you enjoy doing?

I play a decent amount of video games. Lately its been Melee/Project M, Wind Waker (again), and Mario 3D World on Wii U.

I like to go on hikes and explore. I used to rollerblade a lot, but I fell and hurt my arm recently so I'm staying off of those right now. I like to swim, I like to tell stories with my friends. 

I like to sleep and eat pop tarts and watch movies.

8/01/2014

Review: Julia Brown - "An Abundance of Strawberries"

Julia Brown - An Abundance of Strawberries
(Self-Released 2014)

It seems strange that a release so understated could have had such an impact on the year's music climate. Julia Brown opened 2013 with their debut effort, to be close to you, an offering that wasn't quite long enough to be classified as an album considering its meager length (16 minutes), but was also too fleshed out, too complete to be recognized as a mere EP. to be close to you existed its own quaint, lowercase reality where punctuation and capitalization were optional and cellos melted into brute, acoustic strumming like hot fudge in a bowl of tape-recorded ice cream. Over the course of the year, many similar outings blossomed across Bandcamp's vast musical landscape, each of them beautiful and fragile in their own way. But none of them could quite live up to the chill-inducing warbliness that was to be close to you. As I waited for Julia Brown's follow-up album, An Abundance of Strawberries, to download, I wondered if even JB themselves could live up to their own lofty standard.

I like to think of Julia Brown's frontman, Sam Ray, as Charlie Brown searching for meaning in South Park's cruel, eternal winter. Somberly, he recites free verse over blustery instrumentals, drawing out the coziness in "the old stone church and kids selling coke". He meditates on the mid-2000's. His friend's older brother shows him his guns and pills on a snow day. He stares out the window on Halloween. The lyrics are beautifully observational; Sam's imagined hands stay rested in the front pockets of his jacket while he looks on, emotionally detached, but sensory-wise, he's absorbent. The scene is spit out at the listener, and it's up to him what to make of them as waves of twangy guitar and tape hiss crash in the distance. Instrumentally, An Abundance of Strawberries isn't as consistently breathtaking as to be close to you, but it is more varied and experimental. "Snow Day" pairs piano with a whirring drum machine, similar to Ray's work under the Ricky Eat Acid moniker. The title track features the band's lushest arrangement yet, marching band drums and droning ambience creating a hugeness unparalleled by any lo-fi song I've heard in recent years. Though I didn't find Strawberries as immediately satisfying as previous Julia Brown output, I think it just might be their finest work to date. Just give it time.

 https://www.dropbox.com/s/tmshiscfsocpxs3/strawberriesmaster.zip

7/26/2014

Cassette Corner: Proto Nova - "Modern Renaissance Man"

Proto Nova - Modern Renaissance Man
(Hair Growth/Kerchow 2014)

Maybe it's just the fact that I've been on a Depeche Mode/Pet Shop Boys fix lately, but I feel like Proto Nova's debut EP could easily be titled The Best Synth Pop Jams of the 80s. With cozy production and spacious minimal-wave instrumentation, each song on Modern Renaissance Man plays like the product of a one-hit wonder, buoyant synth pulses floating over flickering hi-hats and shuffling snares. Each of these tunes, however, comes from a single source, making the effort as a whole all the more impressive. "Beautiful Person" is the most immediate tune of the bunch; its soaring melodies trudge forward as if they were running in the shallow end of the swimming pool. Proto Nova's vocals are monotone, but delightfully so, their reverb-y residue blending perfectly with the dreamy soundscapes they reside in. "Watch Me Move" is another winner. It's layered with multiple synth loops, each sparse but contributing to a tapestry of nostalgic bliss. It's ultra-remniscent of Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough", very dancey, but still artistically sound. Well suited for cassette, Modern Renaissance Man brings together the experimental and poppy sides of early synthesizer explorations.  


7/22/2014

Record Label Roundup: 1980 Records


On Friday I had the pleasure of attending Pitchfork's Music Festival in Chicago, marking not only my first trip north of Columbus, Ohio but also the first time I've gotten the chance to explore a true music fest to its fullest. I came to Union Park to witness the throbbing, industrial dance epics of Factory Floor and The Haxan Cloak's hissing intensity wrought of bassy minimalism, but it turned out that the record fair that took place in the tennis courts was what made the day most memorable. Hidden among American Football beanies, "Rad Dudes" trading cards and Vampire Weekend records were rare treasures: out-of-print LPs, small-run cassettes, even entire labels I'd never heard of before! My favorite discovery: Chicago's own 1980 Records. They're a non-digital cassette label, a bold stance to take in a bandcamp-driven DIY climate, but that makes them all the more special. Such an ethic invites potential listeners to take risks, to buy a copy of something they've yet to hear, to check out a booth peddling unfamiliar music, to judge a tape buy its cover. The label's name doesn't evoke an abstract nostalgia, it truly embraces the magic of old-school record collection, the allure of the unknown. I took home a handful of selections from 1980 in my backpack. I'll write about a few of my favorites.

Miki Greenberg - Piano Music

What I really enjoy about 1980 Records is that they can honestly claim that they put out all kinds of music. In perusing the label's discography you can jump from bruising hardcore punk to anthemic psych-pop to relaxing, yet engaging tape's worth of piano solos. As you can guess from the title, Miki Greenberg's 1980 Records offering is the latter of the three. Intelligent and often upbeat, Greenberg's pieces evoke the chipper bounciness of 18th century chamber music, Satie's spareness and sometimes even the fauvist abstraction of Schoenberg throughout the album. It's a surprisingly fun listen that's as artful as it is pop-conscious ---Greenberg has cited the Beatles and the B-52s as influences in other projects he's worked in. If you liked Aphex Twin's work in the Marie Antoinette soundtrack, you'll probably dig this.

The Clams - Self-Titled

Sure, The Clams might be your friendly neighborhood garage-rock band, but under that lo-fi exterior hides an immensity that could fill a stadium. Their self-titled tape opens with a bang: wailing lead guitar atop a trudging rhythm section. It's a bold move, essentially opening your album with a three minute amalgamation of towering guitar licks, but it's worth listening to for the transition into "Jim Song", a song that is initially sparse and folky, but borrows the intensity of its predecessor for its thrilling climax. In a way, The Clams mimick Godspeed You! Black Emperor here, balancing quiet, restrained sections with enormous instrumentation in the chorus of the track. The rest of the album channels Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees, bringing a surfy psych rock assault to the table. Totally tubular stuff!

F*ck Everlasting - Kenswick Cycles

I love a good cassingle, especially a hardcore punk cassingle! The whole tape is just over two minutes, and makes great use of its time. It reminds me quite a bit of the raw fury heard in Minor Threat's first two EPs. Loud and fast punk that focuses on delivering a knockout blow of fuzz and little else. Each side of Kenswick Cycles is bassy and dizzyingly furious, yet somehow also catchy and memorable.

7/17/2014

Cassette Corner: Order Anura

Order Anura - Order Anura
(Self-Released 2014)

In the biological field of taxonomy, the Anuran order includes all types of frogs and toads, which would explain the amphibious artwork printed on Order Anura's debut cassette cover, as well as the project's Bandcamp profile picture, clipped from the pages of the popular Frog And Toad children's book series. In a way, the name also illustrates the music that wafts from Ivan Heemskerk's apartment: cold and dewy, far removed from the influence of the rest of the world. Liquid organ melodies drip from morning leaves into the a crystalline basin of reverb, while Heemskerk's misty vocals bubble to the surface, coated in hiss. It is processional music that echoes through an empty cathedral, one that occupies a plane of reality that we do not. There are no bodies to absorb it, no obstacles for it to bounce off of. It is alien and haunting, in the vein of another keyboard-pop favorite of mine, Bevo Francis' Sun City Welcoming. Following the brief, but powerful set of seven original tunes on Order Anura is a spare and surprisingly emotion-inducing cover of "Overworld" from Gargoyle's Quest, a Game Boy title from 1990. Perhaps one day, Heemskerk will team up with California's Morgue Toad to create the ultimate collection of amphibious lo-fi melancholia.

7/15/2014

Linden Pomeroy To Debut New Album Saturday; Details Below

Linden Pomeroy - Hypnos
(2014 Little League Records)

Judging by the two singles already released from it, Hypnos, the debut album by British slowcore singer-songwriter Linden Pomeroy, is sure to live up to its title and then some. The name is taken from the Greek personification of sleep, a supernatural being that lurked in the underworld, hermit-like in a cave surrounded by opium poppies. Pomeroy wields a similarly somnolent power present in his music, creeping and sinister. He's shared the album's opener, "Chokehold", which stumbles persistently along on its own spindly legs, as well as "Russian Dolls", a minimalist lullaby that recalls The XX. Hypnos is slated for release on the 19th via Little League Records on cassette, vinyl and digital formats. Check out the track list below:

1. Chokehold 2. Dirge 3. Empress 4, Starlings 5. Russian Dolls 6. Overboard 7. Opium 8. Implosion 9. Insufficient 10. Something New

7/13/2014

Review: Indian Bummer - "Bummer Wars"

Indian Bummer - Bummer Wars
(Self-Released 2014)

When he's not fronting his goth-tinged noise pop trio, Acab Rocky, or sitting behind the drum kit for Jackie Trash, Canadian lo-fi all-star Sam Wells channels his creative energy into Indian Bummer, his solo side project devoted specifically to "cool music for [his] friends to hang out to". There's nothing particularly weighty about anything on the latest Indian Bummer album, sonically or thematically, but that's the beauty of it. Bummer Wars goes down easy like a Pixy Stix: 8 tracks' worth of pure sugar pleasure, grainy against your tongue. It burns off quickly, but at around a minute per song, repeat intake isn't a problem at all. The album's opener, "Bud", and "We Don't Hang Out Anymore", its immediate successor, bear the velvety, melt-in-your-mouth texture of Belle And Sebastian's mid-90s masterpiece, If You're Feeling Sinister. Wells strumms peppy acoustic chords, matched by smoggy tufts of electric guitar on the former; the latter is marked by a homogenous, gooey ambience set in motion only by sparse snare hits, which makes me think of a vat of chocolate ice cream being churned by whirling metal fins. "I Need A Car" is driven by the blotchy leads that drip over the tinny combination of twangy strumming and the buzz of a hi-hat, a breezy track that I can never truly grab onto before it gets away, however beautifully spare it is. Indian Bummer is an intense sugar high sure to get you through the doldrums of summer, minus the calories! 

7/10/2014

Review: Gingerlys - "Jumprope"

Gingerlys - Jumprope
(Shelflife 2014)

There doesn't seem to be any active label that puts out dreamy, indie-pop bliss quite as consistently as Shelflife Records. The Portland-based imprint has quietly pressed records for some of my favorite purveyors of reverb soaked and jangle-frosted songcraft, from the smoky lull of The Radio Dept. to the cozy yet calculated electronica crafted by Thieves Like Us. The latest addition to the label's impressive roster is a rookie prospect that shows heaps of potential. Brooklyn tweegaze outfit Gingerlys first showed up on the radars of seasoned Bandcamp hunters with the release of their 2013 demo EP, a handful of jittery acoustic tunes laced with the tender whispers of vocalist Maria Garnica, which often seemed to verge on glossolalia, and the airy howl of her keyboard. The band's debut for Shelflife, a 4-song record titled Jumprope, brings the lo-fi demos to life, surrounding the raw, vulnerable tracks with full, fleshy arrangements. Now a quintet, Gingerlys pack a sprightly punch recalling Heavenly's 1993 "P.U.N.K. Girl" single, only more heart-meltingly pretty. In the studio, tracks like "Jumprope" and "Better Hearts" are more abrasive, but pleasantly so. The keyboards are icy, the lead guitar riffs warm and jangling. "Summer Cramps" displays Gingerlys at their best, brittle guitars, a prominent, growling bass and a ska-like refrain. One might call Jumprope a one-dimensional EP, but when that single dimension of mid tempo pop is this cozy and beautiful, who really cares? Jumprope is a must-have for twee diehards and casual fans alike.
 

7/07/2014

Whitman Announces Upcoming Album, Shares Video



In the new music video for his song "Golden Days", Californian singer-songwriter Whitman (aka Christopher Payne) sits among rotting garbage in an alley while reminiscing on, or perhaps just imagining, an overcast day spent listening to tapes and catching some waves at the beach, a band of bikini-clad models in tow, a rather surrealist take on the kitschy machismo often seen in lite beer advertisements. The juxtaposition of despondence and decadence pairs well with the woozy, frail atmosphere of Whitman's brand of baroque pop. It's a visual and auditory treat, a video that just might be enough to tide me over for the release of his upcoming album, Restoring Darkness, dropping on Cassette, Vinyl and CD on December 30th via Folktale Records. Check out the cover artwork and track listing below!

Whitman - Restoring Darkness

1. Darker Days
2. Departure
3. Blister
4. Portland
5. Last Summer
6. Dust
7. Golden Days
8. Hope
9. Dresden

You can pre-order the record at folktalerecords.com


7/04/2014

Interview: Martin Newell of The Cleaners From Venus


Martin Newell is the prolific and outspoken frontman of DIY-pop icons The Cleaners From Venus. Stretching over a thirty year period, his body of work is vast and consistently satisfying, from the humble homemade cassette releases of the early 80's to Return To Bohemia, a brand-new effort slated to be released on CD on July 7th by Soft Bodies Records. Also, considering the thorough re-issue project of Newell's early material, it's a great time to be a Cleaners From Venus fan, and it's easier than ever to dive into his colossal discography. I had the pleasure of sending him a few questions, answered below.

The new Cleaners From Venus music video, "Imaginary Seas", is a wonderful pairing of live-action footage and watercolor paintings. Who was behind the underwater artwork and what was the process of filming it like?

Jodie Lowther and Rob Britton must take the credit for this. Jodie is an animator, artist and filmaker, working very much in a the same tradition as The Cleaners from Venus have for many years now: with more inspiration than budget. If you treat financial and technical restriction as 'a cage to be brilliant in' you can get some very good results. I was amazed by how well the vid went with the track. We did a brief morning's filming up here with two phones and a camcorder. It was quite painless actually for such a beautiful end result.

 "Imaginary Seas" is one of two singles that have officially been released from your upcoming album, Return To Bohemia. What should listeners come to expect from this new effort? What is the significance of the album's title?

A Return to Bohemia? I had a bit of a bad year for health last year. Two eye operations and a freak seizure which almost killed me. As I was recovering, it occurred to me that perhaps over recent years, despite my alleged rock'n'roll life, I'd actually become quite grown-up and responsible. Lying around last summer in a dark room for a fortnight, I thought, "When I get out of here. I'm going to do what I used to, just record music and write songs..take some time off and be nice to myself. I'd become rather a workaholic, I suppose. I needed to get back to what I was in my early 20s...and yet with the guile and experience of middle age.
I wanted to make yet another of my 'front room Rubber Souls.' I always try to do that...but this time, I think I really have.

Captured Tracks has recently re-issued a great portion of your discography over the past few years, which is actually what led me to discover your music in the first place. What has it been like to look back at your body of work as a whole?

It's been an extraordinary experience. Captured Tracks have done a brilliant job. They're very good people to work with. They're a strange cocktail of friendly enthusiasm and ruthless efficiency. If I'd had a record company like when I was in my mid 20s, I could have conquered the universe. Looking back at the old records, I can't believe I did so much in what was, actually only about a ten-year period. Some of the tracks are clumsy, lo-fi and shoddily recorded it's true...but so many great ideas!  For a long time, I looked back at that period affectionately, but with the view that they were actually only the sketch books of a still immature artist. Now, I sometimes, think, " Wow. How can I get that back again?"  The truth is, it was the soundtrack of me struggling through life on a small budget, but with a lot of hope in my heart, If I didn't make it really big at that time, I think it's been a very good thing, because I'm still as enthusiastic as I was then...maybe more so.

Much of your earliest material was originally released on homemade cassette tape, a release format that has regained popularity in some circles in recent years. What was it like putting out your first few releases? What inspired you to start making music?

Well, when I was a 19 or 20 year old Glam rocker, I just wanted to make records, be a pop star and meet girls. Actually, I'd loved music since I was a very little boy and since first seeing the Shadows and a bit later The Beatles on TV before I was ten, I kind of knew that this was going to be the job for me. I'd made records before I started putting out cassettes. The cassette thing came about because having dealt with the people in the London music industry, I just thought they were a bunch of bastards and decided not to deal with them. I thought that maybe , with the invention of the 4 track portastudio, now I had a cheap means of recording myself, that maybe I could make my own records and just sell them myself. What we didn't have were the means of distribution or promotion. I still concluded however, that if I sold only one or two hundred of my own things, it was still better than selling two hundred thousand records and having to deal with those soul-less bastards. I thought at the time that DIY cassettes would destroy the music biz as I knew it. I wanted to be one carcinogenic cell on the carcass of that dinosaur. In the end, the Internet destroyed them. The music biz is only just beginning to reconfigure itself. Soft Bodies and Captured Tracks are two examples of new rather more human face of the music biz.  

 Do you approach songwriting any differently now than you do then?

I'm a sly old wolf of a songwriter. I've been writing songs since I was 14 years old and am absolutely at the top of my game. There are not many songwriters working today of whom I will say, "Yeah. I could learn a bit from him / her." There are still plenty in the past who scare me though.

I love song-writing. I don't think it can be work-shopped or taught, as such. You must listen to it. You must do it. There are some real twats out there making money from teaching songwriting and most of them, I could write off the table. It may sound arrogant but that is how it is. The fact that I am unapplauded in music biz circles is more to do with my unwillingness to engage with the Big Dinner and Awards brigade. I don't care about them. I don't respect them. Why would I care about their judgements. Who are they, exactly?
And then they (all your favourite rock 'rebels') smile nicely, say thank you and put on bow ties. Bow ties! The  sartorial equivalent of a swastika, the bow tie is.  The industry awards the industry. The mugs...

What music are you listening to these days? 

A load old old 1960s pop. Zombies, Hermans Hermits, lots of Hollies. Radio 3 Late Junction
Marin Marais..early baroque sort of stuff. Loads of continental songwriters. Jazz: Art Pepper, Stan Getz Vince, Guaraldi. Oh, and a really great merseybeat / doo wop band from Liverpool called The Chants. Check out a track called Sweet Was The Wine.  

Besides music, what else do you enjoy doing and taking in?

I got rid of my TV two years ago. It was like having a shit-pump in the living room. Now I just watch films and Family Guy, I just love that! So witty, inventive and strange. I cycle round country lanes a lot. Oh, I forgot I'm a poet and columnist for various papers Best of all at present I'd like to plug Mule TV. Google Mule TV/Facebook. I'm doing a year of trying to crash the Eurovision Song Contest. We're on show 4 at the moment. If they won't let me in, I'm going to hold my own on video and write and perform all the entries. That includes dressing up as German woman if necessary.

Check out another sample of the new record from the Soft Bodies Records Bandcamp page. You can pre-order the CD there as well: