Apr 022019

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

The Men in Black returned to the Beach Ballroom for another triumphant performance, albeit one with a few teething troubles including a couple of false starts and one song being stopped half way through.

But, as lead singer Baz says apologetically “it’s only music, only a band” before pausing and adding:

“Not just any band – it’s the fucking Stranglers.”

And he’s right, it’s not just any band. It’s a legendary, critically acclaimed, punk band that scaled commercial peaks, influenced everyone from punks to Britpoppers and still sells out venues across the world nearly 50 years into their illustrious career.

And, as it’s only the second date of their 2019 tour, then any teething troubles can be as easily forgiven as the exuberance at seeing such a seminal act in front of a sold-out crowd.

Before the self-proclaimed Men in Black take the stage, however, there’s an opportunity to see another classic rock act ply their wares as Britain’s premier Rhythm & Blues act, the mighty Dr Feelgood, open the night’s proceedings.

It’s a very different Dr Feelgood that started in Canvey Island 1971 and became mainstays of the then burgeoning pub rock scene – long gone are original members Wilko Johnson, The Big Figure, John B Sparks and late, enigmatic frontman Lee Brilleaux.

Instead, present members Kevin Morris, PH Mitchell, Steve Walwyn and Robert Kane have been keeping
the band’s name alive as a going concern for a few decades now. 

Between them, they provide a competent, nostalgic and talented run through of some of the band’s finest moments – ‘Down by The Jetty’, ‘Milk and Alcohol’ and
a cover of ‘Route 66’ being stand out songs of their all too brief set.

The Stranglers themselves have a few line up changes over the years too and the only remaining members from their early years are bassist JJ Brunell and keyboard player Dave Greenfield – although drummer Jet Black is still part of the band when recording in the studio but no longer touring due to ill health.

It’s a typically eclectic set from the band that stretches back to their 70s beginnings right up to their most recent releases.

Chart hits such as ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Peaches’, ‘Always the Sun’ and closer ‘No More Heroes’ are well received by the adoring crowd as are fan favourites such as the pile driving ‘(Get a) Grip (On Yourself)’ which, as always, gets the crowd going wild only three songs in.

Humour is never far from the band – whether it’s JJ’s huge grin throughout the set, or lead singer and guitarist Baz Warne’s between song banter.

But the comedy moment of the night surely belongs to their poor guitar roadie, tonight celebrating his 40th birthday and getting the opportunity to dance topless on stage whilst wearing a tutu. Quite a sight, to say the least.

The Stranglers return to the Granite City in October as primary support to Alice Cooper in an eclectic three band bill that includes the surviving members seminal rockers The MC5, celebrating 50 years and billed on the night as The MC50.

It’s sure to be another unmissable night of live music that, one suspects, won’t feature any false song starts, early tour teething troubles and, most importantly, dancing roadies in skirts! Miss it if you dare.

Sep 062018

Review and photographs by Dod Morrison.

P.I.L hadn’t played Aberdeen since the mid 80s, so this was a highly anticipated gig. The gig sold out about a week after it was announced.

The shows starts off with “Warrior” and the crowd gets excited to see a punk legend.

He now has a book in front of him to read the lyrics and doesn’t move around so much, but still pulls silly faces and grimaces as he puts heart and soul into each song.

This was a no nonsense show, no rants ( well a wee one when he asks the lights to be turned down a bit ) , no banter, just a song after song.

There is a lull in the crowd when a few new songs are played but once the hits are played. 

“Flowers of Romance” and “This is not a Love Song” perk the crowd up again, but it is “Public Image” that really gets the crowd in a frenzy and singing along..

I think the crowd may have been mostly PIL fans but I felt there was quite a few who were just there to see John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten in their home town.

Here some comments from people on the night.

Margo McCombie:

“Transported back to my youth. Last time I saw PIL was in the Capitol over 30 years ago.”

Jeff Bruce: 

“Debut PIL gig for me, wasn’t disappointed!, great sound and visuals!”

Paul Reid:

“3rd PIL gig, once again pure class. No nonsense, we we’re treated to pure PIL.”


“From the moment I walked in and saw the backdrop I felt the hairs rise. Memories of The Capitol and bouncing down the front. This was to be a nostalgic experience for so many.

“From the second the band emerged I felt a sense that something special was about to be witnessed. John Lydon’s presence on stage is mesmerising and his voice intoxicating. A tour not to be missed by any Lydon fan. Feeling blessed, still smiling.”


“Absolute stotter of a gig , I’ve seen them a heap of times but last nights rendition of Flowers of Romance was the best I’ve heard them do it, got me duncin like a neep!”

Micheal Foreman:

“Great gig same as Hen I’ve seen them loads, great gig, loads of new versions of the classics with Lydon ad libbing throughout.

“He said at rebellion he used the music stand cos he couldn’t remember the lyrics. Maybe he should have consulted his lyrics before writing them down. Great show though didn’t disappoint.”

Billy Aitken:

“No Lydon psycho-drama – just let the music do the talking which is always a good move. Lu is the dude like.”

Donna Bruce: 

“The Public Image gig last night was fantastic with some old favourites and some new gems and I have not seen a gig so well attended at the Assembly. Cracking night.”

May 032018

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, Arkells and The Homeless Gospel Choir @ The Garage, 20th April 2018. Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

It’s gig number 2155 for Frank Turner, as announced by the man himself from the stage.

However, for the venue, there’s only one number of gigs that matters tonight – and that’s zero. That’s how many are left at The Garage once Frank exits the stage after his encores.

It came as a shock to many of the Granite City’s gig goers and clubbers when it was announced that the venue was to close early May after 6 years of being one of the mainstays of the Aberdeen live music scene.

However, any notions of this being an evening of mourning are dispelled as soon as the first act takes to the stage in front of a healthy number of fans, despite the 6:30pm stage time.

The Homeless Gospel Choir is the nom de plume of Pittsburgh born folk-punk singer Derek Zanetti.

The punk aspect of his music is influenced by Green Day and the 90s explosion of US day-glo stadium acts rather than the original ’77 spirit of punk however.

By his own description, he’s an ‘overweight rock singer’.

With lyrics revolving around politics, mental health and angst, but delivered with a jokey aside he proves to be a popular draw, particularly to the younger members of the crowd.

Canadians Arkells are a different proposition – the lyrical themes may be similar but live they are much more polished and professional stage performers than Zanetti’s looser style.

Lead singer Max Kerman has the looks, moves and attitude that have been honed to perfection on larger venues in North America rather than the small stage he finds himself on tonight. In fact, the stage isn’t enough for him as it takes him only a few minutes to find himself on the barrier hanging over a willing audience who succumb instantly to his charms.

And the very notion of crowd and audience is blurred completely on a couple of occasions during their 40-minute set.

Only two songs in and he has pulled a young female fan out of the audience to play guitar quite competently alongside the band.

And another fan is hauled onstage for the final song where he sings with the band perfectly.
It’s possibly a bit gimmicky and cliched but it’s also quite touching and endearing and it will have won them new fans tonight and provide unforgettable memories for the young fans that performed with their idols.

Arkells play an energetic and fun set that serves to ramp the crowd up into even more frenzied anticipation for the night’s main act.

Frank Turner is another polished live act. After a couple of thousand gigs in venues of all shapes and sizes, festival stages and stadiums he’s a man with no fears treading the boards and honed the skills to the work the crowd into a frenzy.

Not that the crowd really require worked up – the sold-out venue is boiler room hot with a packed floor full of devoted Turner fans, almost wilting in the heat.

His new album – his eighth – ‘Be More Kind’ might not be released for another couple of weeks but that doesn’t stop four of its cuts getting an airing tonight, all of which go down a storm with the devoted crowd.

The rest of the set spans the full gamut of his career – reaching as far back to 2007’s ‘Sleep is for the Week’ as the track ‘The Ballad of Me and My Friends’ is given as a solo performance by Turner during a 3-song acoustic interlude in the middle of the set.

The crowd aren’t here out of curiosity – this is a crowd of devoted fanatics of all ages here to see their hero. They know every word and sing along to every song, fully immersed in his performance.

It’s an unusual sight and sound to see 700 people hollering ‘There is no God so clap your hands together’ – they might not engage in worshipping a holy deity but, then again, there’s maybe no need to tonight whilst they worship at the altar of Frank Turner.

So, gig number 2155 for Frank Turner, and it’s a roaring success for him with a sweaty, joyous crowd fully immersed in his 100 minutes on stage.

But, by the time the clock reaches 2155, The Garage is emptying slowly as the night concludes and live music at yet another Aberdeen venue ends for the final time.

Turner would not have reached that amount of live performances if not for venues such The Garage.

So it not only leaves a gap in the Aberdeen scene, but in the UK scene as a whole. If venues keep on closing where will the next Frank Turner learn their trade and spread their message?

Apr 132018

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

Three of the UK’s most highly tipped bands brought their unique talents to the Granite City as Manchester’s Cabbage, She Drew the Gun from Wirral, and Glasgow’s own Rascalton performed rapturous and well received sets to an appreciative crowd at The Tunnels.
Opening tonight’s triple bill were Rascalton.

The young Glaswegian’s performed a short, punky set that drew heavily from classic punk bands such as The Clash or the Sex Pistols but a post-Libertines indie aesthetic also shone through.

The band are no strangers to Aberdeen having played The Tunnels before – previously playing there as support to Baby Strange – as well as playing a headlining set at Café Drummond just before Christmas.

Frontman Jack Wyles is engrossing – his chiselled features hidden behind an unkempt mop of hair, whilst the way he attacks his guitar makes him look not unlike Wilko Johnson in his prime.

He has angelic features but a devil’s stare that makes his barked vocals and the bands shouty choruses compelling to listen to and hard to forget.

The band are back North in June to support Idles at The Tunnels.

It is highly recommended that if you’re going to that then make sure you’re there early to see them.

She Drew the Gun are a different proposition. No less intense, but in a quieter, subtler way.

Singer and guitarist Louis Roach performs a mix of poetry and psych-pop that has brought her and her band Radio airplay – championed by no less than Steve Lamaq on Radio 6 – and accolades such as winner of the Emerging Talent Competition that saw play the John Peel Stage at Glastonbury on 2016.

Roach is front and centre on stage, glad in a blue, sparkly hoodie with the hood drawn up which gives her an aura of mystery that suits the music perfectly.

She is a compelling, virtuoso guitar player – picked solos break through the dreamy, fuzzy riffs that anchor the music whilst she half whispers, half sings the lyrics. The music is dark and swampy reminiscent of classic PJ Harvey.

There’s only one slip in an otherwise flawless set as Roach forgets the lyrics to ‘Poem’ half way through. But she recovers well, acknowledges the mistake and wins the audience on side at that moment.

Headliners Cabbage are on a roll just now.

New album ‘Nihilistic Glamour Shots’ has been released to critical acclaim and has made it to number 21 in the BBC Album Charts as well as no.1 on the Official Cassette Charts.

Live in concert, they are fantastic – energetic and exuberant, never staying still as they blast through their own unique post-punk sound.

Frontmen Joe Martin and Lee Broadbent control proceedings from the front of the stage with different styles – Martin is icily cool and more detached whilst Broadbent is more manic and deranged looking.

Their song titles are compelling and confounding in equal measurers – ‘Arms of Pleonexia’, ‘Molotov Alcopop’, ‘Postmodernist Caligula’ and ‘Uber Capitalist Death Trade’. Those alone will have you reaching for the dictionary.
Beneath the sometimes-perplexing titles, there’s political discourse and juvenile humour in equal measure in their lyrics – ‘Dinner Lady’ might sing about having a ‘w**k in the quiche’ but is also a comment on the class divide, in this case in a private school.

Closer ‘Necroflat In the Palace’ has the chorus that will be ringing in their ears as they head home – ‘I was born in the NHS, I wanna die in the NHS’. There’s no encore as the sweat drenched band collapse off stage after their exhilarating set, a gesture of punk defiance against pop crowd pleasing acts.

Three bands then and all, to quote the title of Cabbage’s collection of EPs, ‘Young, Dumb and Full of…’. Maybe not so dumb though and if they are full of anything it’s life, exuberance and lots of promise.

Apr 022018

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

Stiff Little Fingers yearly St Patricks gigs at The Barrowlands in Glasgow are stuff of legend.

For 27 years they’ve played the iconic venue on the fabled night of Irish celebrations that has become a pilgrimage for their fans.

For fans in the North East, however, the Irish punk legends trip to the Granite City, around the same time of the year, has also become a regular pilgrimage as a sell out crowd tonight can testify.

This might have been the smallest of the three venues the band are playing in Scotland this tour but that didn’t stop them from giving a memorable show that pleased the energetic and loyal crowd.

Before the influential Irish punk legends hit the stage another bunch of influential punks step up to warm the crowd up.

Ruts DC have a long, and sometimes complicated, history that stretches back to the original punk days of 1977. But their music is more varied and eclectic than straight ahead rock with a strong reggae influence shining through in songs such as the mighty ‘Jah War’.

They run though a strong set of a dozen songs with punk classics ‘Babylon’s Burning’, ‘In a Rut’ and ‘Staring at the Rude Boys’ all going down a storm with the attentive crowd.

Headliners Stiff Little Fingers last couple of shows in Aberdeen have been at a different venue – The Garage – but they are no strangers to the Lemon Tree having played here numerous times to sell out crowds.

It’s a partisan audience that greet them as they walk out to the regular intro tape of ‘Go For It’. The crowd are a sea of SLF t-shirts and hoodies – and anyone not wearing one could have bought from the dozen or so on sale at their merchandise stall.

Singer and guitarist Jake Burns tells the crowd that this is going to be a set that explores more of the deep cuts from SLF’s ‘forgotten’ albums but that doesn’t stop them singing and pogoing along to tracks that cover all eras of the bands four decade career.

However, it’s the bands first three albums that made up the bulk of the set – ‘Tin Soldiers’, ‘Nobody’s Hero’, ‘Roots, Radicals, Rockers & Reggae’, ‘Safe as Houses’ and ‘Barbed Wire Love’ from that era are all given a blast.

As with Ruts DC, reggae is also an influence on the band and there’s a nod to that with cover versions of Bob Marley and the Wailer’s ‘Johnny Was’ and ‘Doesn’t Make it Alright’ by The Specials.

Completing the night with a finale of ‘Alternate Ulster’ the band walk off to triumphant applause from an adoring crowd that will already be planning to see them again next year, whatever the venue.

Mar 312016

Roughly 39 years ago some bored teenagers in Surrey started making music together. They became The Members.  Their first new album in 8 years was released recently.  What’s this new album like? Suzanne Kelly reviews.

300onelawThe punk anthem ‘Sound of the Suburbs’ summed up suburbia in the seventies. ‘Working Girl’ is a USA poppy but punk cult classic.  ‘Chelsea Nightclub’ was a fun, laddish, cheery youthful drinking song with a twist of sarcasm.  But time’s moved on, and we’re preparing to celebrate 40 years since punk started.  What would the new record ‘One Law’ be like?

Am happy to say The Members have come up with a solid, varied, enjoyable studio album which is a worthy addition to their body of work. They’ve mixed elements of their own sound while time travelling through the ’50s to the present, while pounding on the door of the future of punk as well.

There are tracks that evoke 1960s guitar bands (the sound of the Kinks comes through loud and clear; sometimes very hauntingly).  There are moments when they’re channelling surf music; then the next track is reggae.

It’s a punk album from punk stalwarts – and it’s also an evolutionary step for the band – possibly for the future of a kind of punk as well.  There’s something about the overall feeling of ‘One Law’ which is some kind of new grown-up punk – but not too grown up thankfully.

It must be great to sing / play / write / be cute – but however talented or good looking you are, if you’ve nothing better to say than ‘Bitch better have my money’ or ‘There ain’t no party like an S Club party,’ what’s the point? The Members have quite a lot to say.  People might have different takes on what punk is/should be – but many hold that if it’s not got anything to say about the messed up state of affairs we’re in, it’s not really punk.  If you think that way, this album should find its way into your collection.

The current line up is JC Carroll (a host of instruments and vocals), Nigel Bennett (guitars and vocals), Nick Cash (drums) and Chris Payne (bass, vocals).  JC Carroll wrote or co-wrote all the tracks (there’s 15 on One Law), and he’s certainly not short of social critique or things worth saying. ‘Emotional Triggers’ starts the album – it also has a great video that goes with it – find it here.  If you’ve never considered how cynically we’re all being psychologically played by the media/advertising/marketing powers that be, or if you’re angered/pissed off/a bit sad when you hear The Ramones used to sell you something, or David Bowie (RIP)’s ‘Changes’ used to make you want to buy a car, Carroll’s got it covered.  The song starts with a nostalgic description of the music he grew up with, and takes us to where we are today:  “The songs that meant so much to me are adverts on the tv… we’re social networking; on YouTube we’re twerking; our iPhone are beeping, we’re constantly tweeting… emotional triggers are making us bitches.”

‘Chelsea Aggro’ is a punk song with guitar, harmony, and a beat that evokes the early 1960s. Nigel Bennett’s guitar work might well make you want to do the twist.  Or something.  It’s got the kind of laddish London feeling that ‘Chelsea Nightclub’ had – just not in a cheery way.  A cracking track.

membersFor a nice piece of political commentary, ‘Robin Hood in Reverse’ delivers a nice attack on the powers that be with vocals that are restrained but clearly quietly angry. I thought of the song when ‘Robin Hood in Reverse’ was a newspaper headline this week.

‘Apathy in the UK Part 1’ is just as apt an anthem for 2016 as ‘Sound of the Suburbs’ was in its time.  Again more great guitar work from Bennett.

Tension and stress are given a darkly humours treatment in ‘Incident at Surbiton’, a tale of rat-racing commuter 9-5 stress ending in tragedy: “I never thought my life would be like this.. I worked hard for my GCSE… don’t push me ‘cause I’m way too close to the edge.”

“It really is a shame to live your life like a machine.”  You can easily picture the scene at the train station Carroll’s painted.  Nice syncopation too.

A further video is out for ‘Working The Night Shift’ which comically uses the dark world of voodoo and its mystical figure Baron Samedi.  Carroll’s accordion playing adds atmosphere to the piece – it’s a most unusual fusion of calypso/reggae/ and maybe due to the accordion – there’s something Eastern European.. something Tiger Lillies – something different going on.

The Members have things worth saying which they get over in a straightforward way, using great music, and drawing on their – and our – emotional triggers.  There was one complaint on Facebook about it, amid a large group of compliments from fans.  Someone fumed that ‘…they hate it when punk bands take years to put out an album.’  A bizarre criticism, especially for a band that’s been touring, exploring many avenues and individual projects all this time, and for a band that still managed to play when Bennett was up to his thigh in a leg cast with a nasty, nasty break not that long ago.  If there is a punk work ethic somewhere that albums have to come out frequently, it’s a stupid rule.  You can’t dictate when inspiration will find you, or write on a schedule. This is a great album for 2016.  It’s a thinking-person’s diverse collection of evocative and thought-provoking track to be enjoyed.

On a personal note

This little review, brief as it is, has taken ages to get out. It’s not that I wasn’t listening to it and enjoying it.  It’s one thing writing about straightforward news stories, but I find it a bit hard to write a critique of people who are professional writers.  Some music critique makes me cringe.  A local reporter just wrote ‘rock idols wowing fans’ ‘stomping’ and clapping, having ‘witnessed a masterclass in musical manipulation…’ Other reviewers delve into detail that only the band’s guitar tech would know (but likely wouldn’t appreciate), and still others review with a view to doing as much name-dropping and sophistry as possible.  I’m trying to avoid the pitfalls.  I wonder whether I am.

Aside from how I feel about writing reviews, there were other things going on.  First, I got bogged down in a story I was working on that took over my life completely for a month, which still hasn’t died down yet.  The ‘One Law’ CD I bought went missing.  My iPod also disappeared, leaving me without the album for a bit.  I had two talks with JC and Nigel, and my meticulous notes wound up in a watery pulp when my roof flooded (again).  Then I decided I’d wait until The Members played a show at Aylesbury to hear the new work live (NB – was a great line-up – Kirk Brandon acoustic, The Members, and Big Country).  However, the sets that night were short, and not much of the new material was aired.  A million and one other things got in the way of getting this simple review out as well, not least the passing away of David Guthrie, an Aberdeen Voice founder.  He was a musician who very much cared about where our insanely greedy government is taking us and social ills.  He’d have loved ‘One Law’.  So, apologies for the late running of this service.  It’s not nearly as worth waiting for as this album was I know, but there you go.  The bottom line – you ought to get this and you ought to go see them.  SK  PS – it’s on orange vinyl too.

Mar 172016

A Multi-millionaire leading a charmed life due to commercialisation of punk has denounced the commercialism of punk.

“just by focussing a little bit of money in the right direction you can make things happen and that’s amazing” – Joseph Corre C 2009

As Joseph Corre, son of Malcolm McClaren and Dame Vivienne prepares to destroy £5,000,000 worth of punk memorabilia, Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly asks What the actual?

Fire (6)Whether or not you believe that punk is now 40 years old because of the pending anniversary of the Sex Pistols’ God Save the Queen, various celebrations are going to take place in the UK.

The establishment has acknowledged punk by having the odd event as have several museums, businesses and artists.

Some people hate this idea passionately; some are bemused that punk’s attack on the State is now something to be looked back on fondly.

In November in Camden, people will drink at the Underworld. They will listen to bands at the Dublin Castle. They’ll buy Ramones t-shirts in the market. Knox Carnochan and his band of volunteers will run Rock ‘n Roll Rescue, the charity shop selling music memorabilia (and then at closing probably spill into the Dublin Castle for some pints of Camden Hells).

Somewhere in Camden this November, Joseph Corre has announced in Rolling Stone Magazine that he will be burning £5,000,000 worth of punk memorabilia. This is a protest, or so we’re told, at the commercialisation of punk and by the state’s endorsement of same. Well, Corre would know a tiny bit about both, wouldn’t he?

Meanwhile, Knox will be doing his best with the donations that he can get.

Rock ‘n Roll Rescue’s mission is:

“We are trying to help local people through supporting food banks, then helping the womens’ refuge up in Kentish Town, helping people at the bottom end of the welfare system, and have been helping Jennie Bellstars’ Hari Krishna food van, etc., etc. An ever growing list of stuff that needs help. (Look around you!)”

Looking around you seems like good advice for at least one of us.

What Other People interested in Punk, Music and Compassion said:

“He [Corre]could have flogged it all and given the money to a charity or a good cause like Saving The Music in Denmark St. Twat! I’M FUMING!”
– Henry Scott-Irvine, ‘Save Tin Pan Alley’ campaigner

“I will just say that in my time volunteering at the shop [Rock ‘N Roll Rescue], I’ve seen a lot things that led to my little rant on why it’s not good to burn the punk memorabilia in Camden in November and why Joseph Corré is a plonker. First, because it’s history. I’ve seen the eyes of men and women light up and watched them become teenagers again as they rummage through the old vinyl, posters and magazines on offer at Rock ‘N Roll Rescue.

It isn’t long before they start telling stories of their first concert or the first time they heard a song. For many, items of punk and music memorabilia are deeply personal and in the broader sense, are a record of a brief, albeit very important part of musical history. Second, because, like it or not, we live in a Capitalist society wherein the material items we place historical or personal value on also carry monetary value.

It’s not very punk, but it’s how things are and we must deal with reality as it is. It is also true that currently, the divide between rich and poor is greater than ever. All you have to do is walk through Camden to see this. It serves no purpose to burn these items other than to prove to the ego of a millionaire, that he hasn’t sold out and to gain publicity. All of the anarchist posturing is bullshit. His parents packaged it and sold it.

He grew up wealthy, on money made off of the musicians and fans of that movement. How about giving back to the community that bought what his parents were selling? Ever have the feeling you’ve been cheated?”
Jennifer Upton, volunteer, Rock ‘n Roll Rescue, Camden

I asked his press people a few questions by email:

“How you square your decision to destroy material with the knowledge people (including many punk musicians) have serious financial problems which a sale rather than destruction of your goods could do much good?

“Do you think that your own financial success is in any part due to your parents’ financial success in the punk era?

“Had you looked at alternatives such as sales/donations of your old punk memorabilia and decided that it was better to announce a public, theatrical event rather than doing something beneficial to others? (you could have given it all to Knox Carnochan of the Vibrators for his shop Rock N Roll Rescue in Camden – or done one of a thousand other beneficial thing).

“How supportive is your mother, Dame Vivienne Westwood, of your action, given her titled status?

“Ideally Mr Corre, I’d like to get you to reconsider what to me is the act of someone who’s never know what it’s like to have to go without. It seems as if a slap in the face to the poor is your response to the establishment’s acknowledgement of punk’s place in UK history.”

If an answer is sent, you’ll hear about it. In the mean time, we’ve someone who’s made their point – there is no need to follow through with the destruction. Punk is commercial. It went commercial when his dad steered it that way – for some groups. Show me how TV Smith, just for one instance, has gone commercial. Punk was commercial when Vivienne started sheltering her fashion income from taxes using overseas avoidance schemes, took a title, and paid low wages to those making her garments. I missed the part when Junior objected to these instances of punk commercialisation in his own family.

It would be good to know how and when Joseph got elected to teach us lessons in what punk should be all about. I’d really like to know that he’s just making a joke to get a story (the Rolling Stone reporter would be pissed off, but there you go). In fact, when it comes to ‘punk’ there are as many different opinions as to what it means as there were bands and fans.  Maybe his cosmetics venture isn’t selling as many £19 pound lipsticks as he’d like it to (although good on this venture for being cruelty free).

I’ve read about his hard life while researching this. He had a bad time at a boarding school in Wales (has he helped expose the school’ alleged cruelties so no one else has to suffer?). He had a tough time of it because of his parents and had a failed marriage. I guess no one else could relate to this suffering.

“My new job won’t even take my phonecalls; my mother’s throwing me out of the house; I’m at my wit’s end.”

– someone with a serious, nearly untreatable syndrome that makes work nearly impossible posted this on social media today; this woman is doing all she can to earn money and stay as healthy as she can. What would £5,000,000 do for people like this? For animal charities, the hungry, children in poverty? What message does burning clothing send to the refugees and the people who don’t have £30,000,000 in the bank unlike our patronising, would-be philosophy instructor? Not a particularly kind or punk one.

The Rolling Stone piece continues to quote our man:

“People don’t feel they have a voice anymore… The most dangerous thing is that they have stopped fighting for what they believe in. They have given up the chase. We need to explode all the shit once more”.

‘They’ might seem to have stopped fighting – if you’re Corre looking out over the battlefield from a castle. People haven’t stopped fighting – but they could use a bit of financing. Not a bonfire of the vanities.

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Jan 302015

TV Smith is about to tour Germany with the UK Subs, and looks set to spend most of 2015 on the road as per usual. The recent album ‘I Delete’ contains all the observation on society you’d expect and is doing well. He continues to write his tour diaries; the latest is Book Of The Year, another candid account of a year touring, warts – lots of warts – and all. In between dates, merchandising, and admin, he talks with Suzanne Kelly.

 The Warm Up.

24_Credit Steve White

TV Smith Live – Credit: Steve White.

The Adverts dissembled a mere thirty something years ago, but Tim Smith doesn’t seem to have stopped touring or writing since. Before we speak, I watch a particular video of ‘I Delete’ again that I particularly like. The song speaks to me of our surveillance-happy society, personal memory overload, and the little acknowledged fact that sometimes the camera does lie or can be made to lie.

Smith’s vocals vary from quietly controlled but edgy to powerfully angry. ‘I Delete’ is the title track on the latest album – you can pick it up here as well as the tour diaries.

Around nine years ago he began publishing his tour memoirs; there are five books out now.

Aberdonians may be interested to know the latest one ‘Book of the Year’ closes with his date at the Moorings in December 2013 and his meeting Fred Wilkinson, Hen, Flash, and Flash’s sick parrot. The diary entries provide an insight into a life spent in music with a matter-of-fact humour and plain speaking, direct prose.

It’s perhaps a bit of a paradox, Smith’s music can convey such anger and frustration, yet he keeps his calm and keeps his head in situations that would tax anyone else to breaking point and beyond. For those who don’t know, life on the road for any musician is hardly one glamorous adventure after another.

Smith’s put up with late-cancelled shows, vehicle breakdowns, freezing cold hotels, disappearing sound people, kipping on floors, lack of edible food, lack of inedible food, and on more than one occasion amazing rudeness, daftness, incompetence and/or a mix of all these. If you wonder why he bothers, he’s written five engaging tour diaries that spell it out.

The Main Act

5_Credit_Minna Waring

Credit: Minna Waring

I call Tim; he’s at home after 4 UK dates with a luxurious two days to relax “surrounded by boxes of merchandise” before he joins the UK Subs European tour.

I tell him Fred Wilkinson’s tried to get Atilla the Stockbroker down here; and we both hope Tim can make it back to Aberdeen sometime soon.

He’s friendly and polite – he always seems to be.

I will say he sounds a little tired; he’s for one thing answered pretty much the same questions in interviews for 30+ years.

Added to that, his schedule would make anyone else exhausted.

We briefly talk about the phases the music business goes through, and I suggest that anyone who wants to have a career in music on their own terms is managing their career themselves.

“It’s not that far from the way punk started.” He explains.

“it’s the DIY ethic. Right back when that’s how it was. The original punks are older and smarter now. You did what you wanted to do then; that made it new and special. Gradually that DIY spirit got consumed by the industry – people see how terrible the business is now.”

We fairly naturally move to the subject of the ubiquitious TV talent shows and what that’s doing to new music and the more unusual artist.

“It’s an entertainment industry; it’s not about the music. It’s not like the ‘60s where there was at least the pretence of pushing good music.” 

I ask about this new tour he’s to start with the Subs.

“I’m on a never ending tour,” [ which of course he is now I think about it a bit more]

“Another thing that’s changed – you put a record out, went on tour, did nothing for a bit, then did another album and then the record company put you out again. I do 130 dates a year. The subs tour is a bit different. 5 weeks on the trot. For most of the rest of the year it’s 4 or 5 dates here, a trip to Finland or Switzerland, then back to the UK.”

I’m thinking about his accounts of cars breaking down in the middle of nowhere, of vans laden with gear with flat tires on the way to shows, getting lost on the way to clubs, cancelled trains, planes and automobiles. Then, as often as not, the problems start when he gets to a venue – no PA, missing engineers, strange people, malfunctioning equipment – it’s enough too give anyone nightmares.

‘How do you keep your cool on the road?’ – I genuinely wonder. I think of artists I’d worked with in the past who’d get threatening if their dressing room wasn’t to their liking.

“When you set your mind to do something and it becomes increasingly obvious there will be obstacles.. equinamity takes over and you can either just get on with it, or moan and give up. There is a tendency to start moaning and whinging but then the atmosphere gets even worse. It is hard; it is soul destroying and it is irritating. 

“But you have to try in retrospect to see the funny side. Re-writing what happens later is therapeutic. When the van’s broken down and it’s 25 degrees below zero in Finland and you wonder how you’ll get to the show, it’s not fun at the time. But if you lack confidence in how to achieve what you want to do, you’ll just sit and home and become a bedroom artist.”

3_Credit_Anne Schelhaas-Wöll

Credit: Anne Schelhaas-Wöll

His music has touched on virtually every modern social ill I can think of – Lies (senseless, cruel animal experimentation), March of the Giants (which I always associate with Trump), Straight and Narrow (our ‘justice’ and ‘class’ systems) and so on.

‘I Delete’ speaks to me of our CCTV surveillance society (it’s no secret I don’t think Aberdeen Inspired should track us by our mobile phones, by imagery and know how long we spend in any shop – it’s a blatant infringement of our privacy all in the name of ‘footfall’ and marketing – but is a handy tool for anyone wishing to get our details and routines – but I digress); we are apparently the most spied on nation on earth ever.

I spout a rambling question of sorts at Tim about this new song, about writing, about social commentary.

Somehow he’s made sense of where I was trying to go:

“I’m a bit shy about describing lyrics… if I could tell you where it came from I’d be doing it all the time; it’s kind of a mysterious thing. Every now and then you get a snap of an idea, you grab it roll around with it and see if something comes out if it. It’s as much a mystery to me now as it was when I started in 1975. 

“I’m always getting people saying thing to me like ‘that would be a good idea for a song for you.’ But the ones that filter into your brain and spark something off and you get some poetry out of it is a completely different thing than someone demanding to know why ‘I’ve not written something about the aborigines yet’.”

“It’s not my ambition to correct injustice but to write poetry – if I can combine the two, then I’ve done the job.”

It’s not a matter for me of ‘if’ he can do the job of mixing social commentary and poetry – but how often he’s managed to masterfully do so over the decades. Another look at his website and I find the archives offer a list of some of his songs ranked by fans.

‘Immortal Rich’, ‘Gather Your Things And Go’, ‘Generation Y’, ‘Only One Flavour’ – all of this material ‘does the job’ of mixing the issues and concerns of a bewildering world with poetry. I can’t remember which tour diary book (it’ll be the first or the last) this quote is from, but at one point Smith recounts a fan saying to him “You sing about what we’re all thinking.”

All I can say is – absolutely.

It must be these kinds of reactions that makes TV Smith go out year after year on tour. It’s not the food or the hotels. But I ask him about touring all the same.

“You’re a bedroom artist if you don’t get out there. At the end of the day if you see that people have responded to your songs it makes the whole journey worthwhile. If I get to a gig after going through manic situations [and some of them sound very manic indeed] – that’s the fuel that keeps me going. When people go home motivated with their eyes shining you can’t ask for anything else – except maybe heat.”

I mention Fred Wilkinson and that Fred’s keen to try and get both TV Smith and Atilla the Stockbroker back to Aberdeen asap.

“I remember Fred – he gave me two Toxik Ephex CDs after Rebellion last year. Give him my love.”

I will do – Fred will be over the moon.

I mention that when we next get him up here, we’ve got a great place for him to stay near the Moorings; a luxe B&B where he can stay up and drink all night if he so wishes.

“I have stopped the staying with the friends scenario – I’ve stopped it because it becomes a non-stop party. People assume you’re the life and soul but when you’re doing it 130 times a year…”

I’m not surprised. In his diaries he seems to always be hunting out the friend of a friend he’s meant to stay with, finding that he’s got a kids’ bedroom to sleep in and the kids have been sent off elsewhere; dogs and cats barge into what little sleep he gets; and everyone expects that he can wake up, travel for hours, not eat, sound check eventually, play, socialise, merchandise, pack up, and then stay up all night drinking and talking.

One hundred thirty plus nights a year.

Before I let him get back to the mountains of work that undoubtedly await, we discuss a few upcoming festivals, and that TV Smith and the Bored Teenagers will play at Rebellion this year. They’ll do two sets; and TV will quite probably do an acoustic set as well. I’m just hoping that he’ll find time to get back up this way soon.

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Nov 042014

ANL__Aberdeen__October_2014_by By Dod Morrison.

The League has been going for an impressive 34 years now, but despite this they have never played Aberdeen.

It was a sold out show at the Moorings, the best place for punk music in Aberdeen.

The band came on stage and Animal screamed “We are the League!” but nothing happened… Tommy’s guitar was not working!

A couple of minutes later we start again, and the lyrics of this song sums it up:

“You criticise us, you say we’re shit
But we’re up here and we’re doing it
So don’t you criticise the things we do
No fucker pays to go and see you”

and a couple of hundred people had indeed paid to see them.

It was like a sauna in there with people jumping all about from the off. We got 9 songs from the “We Are the League” album, which is in my all-time top ten albums. The band did things differently from other groups, and played the big hitters early, instead of leaving them until the end.

“So what”, their most controversial song back in the day and now covered by the likes of Metallica, was their fourth song in, and “Woman” which all the women love too, was a couple of songs later. They both had the crowd going berserk.

Animal commanded the stage in his usual leathers, complete with menacing look, scowling at the crowd, dropping to his knees and thumping the ground: the crowd loved it. These guys haven’t lost any of their energy over the years. Shady and Tom came to the front during some of the songs, playing guitar and bass like rock stars, meanwhile Nato on drums was banging away like a man possessed.

They were a tight outfit and a great live act. Catch them if you can.

Jan 132014

Julie Thompson continues her series on photographing bands in Aberdeen taking in Malfunction and KWEEF at Downstairs @ The Malt Mill and the Complete Stone Roses supported by Dave Winston Brown at The Lemon Tree. 

malfunction1As I sit here typing these words, Christmas is past and a new year is very imminent (in, oh, 25 minutes in fact). Between these two events I have had 3 successive nights at The Lemon Tree – with a quick dash over to an album launch at Downstairs after the first of them.

The first of the 3 Lemon Tree gigs was Big Country, supported by Dave Sharp (formerly of The Alarm).

As this gig has been reviewed by Suzanne Kelly, I won’t be saying much about it.

George Mackie was the only other tog there, which surprised me. I would have expected maybe at least one of the local newspaper photographers to have been there.

Once the first 3 songs were over, George Mackie suggested we head over to Downstairs @ the Malt Mill, where there was an album launch gig for a local band, Malfunction. It turned out that he was also going to be shooting the next two nights at the Lemon Tree, so this gave me an excellent opportunity to get to know him a bit better and to get our interview done.

KWEEF, the support band, was just finishing their set when we arrived and Downstairs was looking very atmospheric – the smoke machine had been on overtime by the look of it. There was a decent sized crowd there, which was good to see so close after Christmas.

Using KWEEF for a camera settings check, I found a boost on ISO was needed – up to the scary 5000-6400 level. The images would be noisy but if a focus lock was achievable and a lucky light was shining in the right direction then I should hopefully get some reasonable results.

From a previous visit here, I knew I could get an almost drummers-eye view of the band so I decided to see how it looked from there with a fisheye lens. I think foggy might be the best way to describe it – so much so, the other side of the small stage was impossible to see.

However, it’s not often you can get close enough to the drummer for photos so I stuck around waiting for the end of the last number and a flourish from the drummer.

After a short hiatus, it was the turn of Malfunction, who were there to promote their new album.

I have to say, crowd watching is always fun at punk gigs, which is handy when you have tricky shooting conditions – you can, for example, crowd watch when waiting for the smoke to clear or even see possibly shots building up; crowd interaction with the band is often interesting.

A flashgun would maybe have made the shoot easier but, as I’d not originally planned on going to Downstairs and couldn’t use one at The Lemon Tree, I had not brought one with me.

KWEEFSome planning and patience (and a certain amount of luck) was needed for photographing the band – mostly waiting for one of the lights to swing around for illumination and hoping it coincided with a good shot and a lull in smoke output. Now I have some experience of them, a challenge like this is always good fun – it keeps you on your toes.

Malfunction will be one of 32 bands playing for the chance of a record deal at the Battle of the Bands, organised by Fat Hippy Records.

The first elimination heats kick off from the 10th January at Downstairs. The Facebook link above gives a list of the bands (4 per heat) and dates they’re playing so why not go along to provide some support.

On chatting with George Mackie I discover he has been photographing live music for some 3 and a half years now – starting with a standard DSLR & kit lens and on camera flash.

Not knowing any different at the time he took his photos in fully automatic mode. His first foray into the live music world was at a UK Subs gig in Drummonds, on a night when Dod Morrison & Andy Thorne, both established music togs, were there to shoot.

The reason he began shooting gigs? Well, I’ll let him tell you in his own words:

“There was a lack of reporting online of smaller gigs in Aberdeen that I’d attended and it annoyed me a bit. Some shows were just great but only attended by thirty people and my friends all said they didn’t know it was on blah blah, just one excuse after another. That, and reading then Explodes (now New York Johnny) lengthy write ups on his My Space page of gigs he’d attended made me wonder if we could create something ourselves; like a paper fanzine of old, but online.

“Godzilla Blues is another person who can put his learned thoughts into words and give you a detailed account of a show. Both these people are experienced musos who write as it was, not as `all the roses are blooming` type reporters.”

george_mackie_TV_SmithThis is what led to the formation of Flares n Seagulls – described as An alternative music magazine for the Kingdom of Aberdonia – where George shoots (sometimes doubling up as reviewer) the images to go with the reviewers words.

I asked him what he found the most difficult in live music photography. Frustration, mostly, when he doesn’t nail the shots he was wanting at a gig.

He’s very self critical and as a big fan of live music feels the need to justify his place in the pit by getting that 9/10 shot he was after.

One of the things he finds most challenging is when a band or artist looks disinterested:

‘Trust me, if you look disinterested on stage then it will show in the photographs. Make an effort, look good, and do those songs you practice justice. You get one chance to capture (or lose) that audience so don’t bore us with endless `banter` but lose yourself in the music, whether it be pin drop silence and an acoustic guitar or a 100 mph amp busting set. I know what set of images I’d rather look at.’

One of his early gig shoots (with aforementioned kit camera/lens & flash) was remembered when I asked about one of his more exciting shoots:

Cancer Bats and Vera Cruz at Drummonds. I’ve never seen the place rammed like it was that night and the bands and crowd were intense to the max. Loved it.”

I’ll continue with this interesting interview next time, but for now we go back to The Lemon Tree.

Dave Winston Brown was providing support on my second evening there – local lad, with a pleasant and very gravelly voice, also plays with a local band called The Smokin’ Bugler Band. I was actually quite impressed with his performance – an acoustic set which closed with a cover of the T-Rex classic, Get It On.

By this time the place was packed to the brim with Stone Roses fans, some brandishing rubber bats – no, I don’t know why, either.

Complete Stone Roses soon had the place bouncing. There is something about the Stone Roses – they have passionate fans and looking into the crowd you could see they knew all the words and were singing along.

The lighting was tricky at the start – red lighting is hard to photograph as it washes out a lot of the detail and makes the photos look mushy. This can be fixed for some images – to a certain extent – in processing.

completeSR1One of the reasons I shoot RAW files is for that added flexibility during processing. It’s not ideal though and can make for some time consuming sessions at the computer.
Quite often the only option is conversion to black & white but many people prefer colour images. It’s a fine balance to find.

One thing that is not commonly known is that photographers will spend more time working on the photos than actually taking them – a lot more time.

One 3 song shoot (anywhere from 10-25 minutes) of an active band can leave me with some 200 or more photos to pick through.

With experience, the numbers taken do decrease and the hit rate increases. Indeed I have noticed that happening – at the start, my trigger-happy self would come home with 500 or more photos per band (most of them rubbish). It can take hours to go through them all, remove the chaff and pick out the best ones. Then you add on processing time for those you finally pick out.

When our time in the pit was over, it was time to grab a drink, relax a bit and watch the rest of the show – at The Lemon Tree we hang out by the security guy at the pit entrance, where there is usually some space.

It’s not the best place for a good view of the band but you can crowd watch and – something that I think is no bad thing – become familiar to (and with) the security people at a venue. It’s just good manners after all.

Sadly, the enjoyable evening came to an abrupt end. I noticed the security man, stationed at the other end of the pit, move forward and leap over the pit wall into the crowd. He had spotted that someone was down – a woman appeared to have collapsed or fallen and was not getting up again.

CompleteSR4Up on the stage, the lead singer noticed the activity and stopped the band playing, calling for the house light to come up.
After it became apparent this was not going to be a short hiatus, the band said they were leaving the stage, as this had to take priority – full marks to them. 

An ambulance was summoned – it was very quick to arrive – but in the meantime a first-aider from the audience came forward to help and security cleared the immediate area.

It appeared that she may have banged her head when she fell, so she was taken off to the ambulance and, I assume, onward to the hospital to be checked over.

I can’t fault the reaction of the band, The Lemon Tree staff, the first-aider and the ambulance service in their response to this. Well done everyone.

The last of the three Lemon Tree events of the weekend was for Terry McDermott & The Bonfires. You can read about this, along with the second instalment of the George Mackie interview, next time.

Earlier, I totalled up the number of gigs I’ve attended and photographed since mid September. It came to 34 – all on top of my day job. I guess that explains why I was pretty knackered most of the last 3 months. Now I’m on my way up the learning curve I think I can slow down a bit. So far, January is shaping up to be a fairly quiet month, as far as gigs go.

Happy New Year to you all – I hope your 2014 is full of joy and excitement. Oh and feel free to come and say hello if you see me at a gig one day – I don’t bite, honest.

 More photos:

Complete Stone Roses
Dave Winston Brown

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