Saturday, April 09, 2005

Scaramanga Six + Wrath Records

>Please introduce yourself and your Scaramanga associates, what qualities do you each bring to the band, musically and otherwise?

I am Steven Morricone, twanger of the four brutal stings of fury and torturer of vocal chords. I also write a share of the material, look after the band, produce the records, run the label, book the gigs, do the promotion and generally badger the rest of them into getting stuff done. I am like Emporer Ming in some ways, but also like Aunt Deirdre in other ways.

The rest of The Six:

Paul Morricone – Twin brother of me and more prolific writer for the band. He does all the crooning stuff and treats his guitar like the scum it is. Paul is also in charge of all the creative stuff (cover designs, videos, website etc) and takes some macabre glee from intimidating audiences.

Julia Arnez – Plays the spangliest guitars available and belts out vocal harmonies. She recently got contact lenses so can now see what she’s playing. She is also our ‘secret weapon’.

Anthony Sargeant – Beats the drums like he’s playing one of those arcade machines on the pier in Weston-Super-Mare where you have to twat moles back into their holes. He also sings the really high bits and has been with us just over a year – we poached him from a Queen tribute band.

Chris Catalyst – Our newest associate, mohawked bezerker Chris, picks up and plays whatever is closest to hand, manly the second drums and organ at the moment, but there is rumour that he also plays a mean trombone. When not in The Six, his alter-ego is ‘Robochrist’ which is basically a one-man, painted-silver death-metal pantomime show.

>You and your bro also play as part of Being 747, is there any conflict in terms of songwriting? Do you reserve the ‘better stuff’ for one or the other?

The majority of the writing for Being 747 is done by The Cookster -Dave Cooke. Me and Paul just take it all apart and reassemble it in a more meaty fashion in practices. Dave is a lyrical genius we reckon – he always seems to come up with the situations, concepts and rhymes that you would never expect. The new 747 album will feature songs about having a mechanical wife, sabotaging a love-rival’s microlite, bribery at work involving sexual favours and Do-It-Yourself surgery to name but a few.

Dave’s a more musically subtle writer than either me or Paul, so we pretty much exclusively use all the savage, gnarly and over-the-top ideas for The Six. As far as we are concerned, there is no weak stuff in either bands.

>What inspires you, musically and lyrically?

There seems to be quite a few common themes in our songs – The drudgery of every-day life, work and office politics, autobiographical stuff about the band itself, Human behaviour/animal behaviour and a spot of criminology here and there. A lot of the lyrical content is designed to draw the listener in and empathise with the characters mentioned, or sung from the point of view of – whether they be real, exaggerated or fictional (sometimes it’s hard to distinguish). For that reason we might come across misogynistic, cruel or self-obsessed, which of course is all rubbish. Inspiration for lyrics can often come from people we see milling about trying to live their lives amongst severe futility and obstacles (usually self-made). There’s a lot of our frustrations in there too. People like Scott Walker, Elvis Costello, Andy Partridge etc were all good at this approach – and also managed to get enough pop hooks in too.

On the music side of things, we take inspiration from the teachings of our dark lord Beelzebub and his goated minions.

>If the musical world was ideal, it would…

… come out from up its own arse and reveal its true colours (shit-brown). The problem is (now more than ever) that the music world is intrinsically linked with the fashion world and operates in a similar manner. Everything’s done on a short-term what-goes-around-comes-around basis. Artistic expression is stifled by the fickleness of the media and familiar ideas are recycled on a regular basis. The other problem is that not enough people are arsed to question what tripe they are fed, thus perpetuating the situation.

In an ideal world, we truly independent artists would be afforded a level field in terms of coverage and exposure as the majors have, without having to pay for our coverage in advertising revenue or dodgy deals. I believe that people out there would be less cynical about the music world if they were offered more genuine choice and total transparency about its origins. They could then decide for themselves whether they like the music for its artistic merit – hey, that’s a novel idea!

>Why should people buy ‘Cabin Fever’?

Because it has been written, performed, produced, manufactured and released without the influence of any crack-smoking twats, ‘dangerous’ haircuts, ‘guerrilla’ marketing ploys, advertising budget, buzzwords, genre-association, bandwagons, target demographic, management ‘advice’, consideration of sales figures etc. The funds from sales of ‘Cabin Fever’ will not line the pockets of vast entertainment corporations, but will enable us to carry on and put out more and more mind-bending records.

What you have is an album of exceptional quality hewn into fantastic plastic by our very hands. If you buy ‘Cabin Fever’, you know you’ll be getting an album exactly as it was intended to be – as epic, grand and ambitious as we wanted it, as hook-laden and insistent as we wanted. This will be the most satisfying album you’ll buy this year, even compared to any huge-budget productions that might come out. We know exactly what we are doing. Trust usssssss!

How’s my sales pitch?

>What was it like working with Cardiac Tim Smith, producer of your LP?

Once we’d got over the bizarreness of actually being in his home (it’s just as strange, cluttered and magical as you would expect from a head Cardiac), we found the whole situation most condusive for producing ace recordings. He lives right out in the middle of nowhere – which makes a change from the utter world of piss that it can be when you go and record in city centre studios. I personally found the abundance of wildlife that just seemed to keep wandering into the cottage (partridges, pheasants, HUGE grasshoppers and every kind of beetle imaginable), an added twist to the proceedings. Despite all this nature, our end result was far from ‘organic’ sounding. When not recording, making a constant stream of tea or going down the local pub, there was a multitude of things to pick up and examine around his gaff. It’s like some kind of strange bric-a-brac shop.

We really found a real kindred spirit with Tim – he really seemed to instinctively know what we were after. No idea was too ridiculous or two elaborate – he was up for all sorts of bold production ideas. He’s also extremely meticulous when it comes to engineering (he likes to double-track pretty much everything to get a massive sound). The whole thing was more a joint effort than a straight Tim production, but there were no conflicts/clashes as explained above. Tim is a king among men.

>Suggest a publicity stunt to increase the Scaramanga Six profile in the UK.

It’s a shame that so much of the narrow avenues for exposure are based on how good a publicity stunt you can pull off, as opposed to how good the record is. I have a particular bugbear about the much-hyped trend of doing ‘Guerrilla’ gigs – it’s not the idea of doing a gig anywhere that’s bad, it’s the whole fraud of it all. Most of these so-called Guerrilla gigs are organised and booked through agents, for bands already in the pay of the major labels. The term ‘Guerrilla’ is so mis-used in this situation, it makes me sick. Besides, it’s not a new thing – Beachbuggy from Doncaster were doing gigs on the back of a flatbed trailer with a generator outside every major gig in Leeds years ago. I remember seeing them outside The Irish Centre after a Fall gig – awesome!

Perhaps our publicity stunt could revolve around doing ‘Gorilla’ gigs. We could find out from the PR companies and booking agents when the next ‘secret’ gig by some jumped-up fashionista band is (two weeks in advance of course) and turn-up Beachbuggy-style with a generator and play directly opposite them, but LOUDER – and dressed in Gorilla outfits of course.

Any of your readers got any ideas for decent stunts? – Please email me and let me know!

>What do you consider your best achievements in music?

Our best achievement is simply keeping the band together, despite all the other forces that pull at us in life. Because it’s not an easy ride by any stretch of the imaginations, every gig, recording session, finished record is an achievement - Just getting the band together for a practice can be a real achievement sometimes.

There are no specific things really like ‘getting to meet such and such’ or ‘getting to play such a place’ – every day we are able to carry on is a bonus. I still feel that our greatest achievements are yet to come….

>What more would you like to achieve with your music?

Well, I’d be lying if I said we wouldn’t want any more success than we have now. It would be lovely to be able to reach out to everyone and constantly feed them with astounding new records that deeply affect their lives. It would be nice to also do bigger gigs and not have to struggle. Be even nicer to make a career out of it, but that would take a minor miracle. Perhaps the constant struggle is what makes all of us what we are?

As I said before – our greatest achievements are yet to come. You have to look at each release as a notch on the sides of a pole-vault frame. With each subsequent attempt, the bar must be raised. Perhaps the next one will be a double album. The greatest thing we can hope to achieve with our music is satisfaction.

>You also run the Wrath records label, why did you set this up and what would you like to achieve with it?

There were many reasons for setting up our own label – the reasons and justifications increase as we learn more about the industry we are trying to exist in. I suppose the main reason is that we’re a bit cantankerous really – we like things to be done our way. There’s also a notion of long-term commitment behind it all – in today’s eat-up/spit-out industry, our best chances for a long-term career in music are through an industry built, nurtured and harvested by our own hand. We may never reach the stature of a great Oak, but we shall never become a parasitic vine! It’s also a good way to learn about all the trappings of running (or how not to run) a business. We did start out more like a co-operative with a collective of bands, but things have taken a more traditional structure recently. We were also set up to operate with total integrity.

It would be a great thing to turn this label into a successful business – if anything to show that all the things you dream of as a musician can be done through your own efforts. Many labels have inspired us in the past – we would like to inspire musicians to take control of their own destiny and abandon the supposed holy-grail that is ‘getting signed’.

>Which artists would you sign to Wrath in an ideal world?

In an ideal world, there would be no such thing as ‘signed’ – we need to cast out the old terminology that creates a hierarchy of music. Bands/artists are as good as the music they make – irrespective of status/profile. Ideally, we would like to operate on a mutually beneficial agreement with any artists we work with (that is indeed the case with the whole Wrath roster at the moment) – no signatures, total respect, good communication and the spirit of co-operation. This is all very utopian I know.

In reality, we will probably have to start entering into contractual territory if we are to release records by some artists we want to. What we are finding at the moment is that bands are happy and well into the whole idea of freedom & responsibility until there’s some sniff of interest from some more powerful company. Then, they are off like a shot. This is particularly the case when the band gets a Manager. There seems to be a very adversarial attitude abundant in these manager types – it’s not surprising that they would advise their bands to resist anything to do with us as there’s no cut of any enormous advance for them to take. Most Managers seem to advise their bands to just do nothing – that just doesn’t make sense to me.

OK, back to the question – I would like to release records by a young Captain Beefheart, Cardiacs for the rest of their lives, David Bowie (but only if he was willing to do some gig-swaps) and something that re-embodied the first 4 Stranglers albums. I had always wanted to get William Shatner to record another album, but someone seems to have beaten me to the punch recently. My favourite contemporary band are called The Young Knives – they play pop music as eccentric and simple as it comes – it would be great to put their stuff out.

>If you weren't in bands and running a label, what would you do with your evenings?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t doing all this stuff. I suppose I’d have to take up a hobby or something – perhaps origami or crochet. I’d really like to become an academic in the area of zoology/palaeontology, so perhaps some studying might be done instead of rock. There will be a time when my evenings will be spent enjoying a family life, but I’ve got a few years yet I reckon to rock some more.

>What are your future plans for gigs and recordings?

We’ve hopefully got a real glut of gigs coming up in March/April – depending on availability. Around then, there should be another single from Cabin Fever followed by the ‘proper’ release of the album. We’ve got to do this thing justice, you know. We’re also currently trying to find opportunities to do some gigs outside of the UK. Have van, will travel!

We have an absolute mountain of material that has not yet surfaced in the band – me & Paul are currently sorting through all that to choose the right combination for the next album release. There should be a less self-referential, but more sinister, story-based approach to the next release. Paul had this crazy idea of setting the whole theme around an ordinary cul-de-sac who’s residents have many deeply disturbing secrets – that whole sinister underbelly thing has always appealed to us.

Not sure yet where we are going to record next – it was so lovely to work with Tim Smith and I’d dearly love to go back to his menagerie in Wiltshire for more rock action. There’s also talk of a fully-orchestral approach for some tracks and more stark & spacious arrangements to heighten the drama and suspense on others – creeping up and down stairs music. Having said that, we’ll probably just end up with our usual barrage of noise. We just can’t help making a racket.

>What’s coming up in the future on Wrath?

Some very exciting prospects coming up – we’ve nearly finished a second Being 747 album which will frankly piss all over the first one. Not wanting to rest on our laurels, we are also working on a third, which will be a musical adaptation of David Attenborough’s groundbreaking ‘Life on Earth’ book/TV series.

Stuffy/The Fuses have just finished recording an album with legendary Chicago noise guru Steve Albini – with any luck, we’ll have a hand in unleashing the results. Me, Paul and Chris from the Six went down there recently as a make-shift brass section to out some stuff on one of the tracks and Albini said it sounded “nice” – he said that, he really did. A very serious sort of chap, that Albini – the exact opposite of Stuffy. The end result is going to be extremely unusual – brutal pop!

We’ve also decided to take the plunge with a new season of the ‘Super Sevens’ singles club. We were so pleased with the last lot, that we had to do it again really – by hook or by crook. Still figuring out the line-up for that, but rest-assured it will contain contributions by some of the finest pop music combos around.

There’s also plans for an off-shoot acoustic/more gentle label called ‘Froth Records’. Dave from Being 747 is heading that up with the release of his own solo album.

>What, with regards the UK music scene, upsets you?

Egad! Don’t get me started. I’ll make a list:

No second chances – in the eyes of the media, bands/artists become ‘old news’ so quickly. They are advised to employ lame counter-tactics like a name-change every 6 months or so. I suppose this has got something to do with the utter saturation of the market these days.

Short-term investment – I’ve already touched on this, but the industry seems to focus most of it’s time and money on fad-based acts that no fucker’s going to be listening to a year or two down the line. There is no concept of development these days. It will be their downfall.

Increasing tyranny of the majors/corporate stranglehold – resulting in fewer opportunities for the likes of us and a homogenisation of outlets/formats/output. Yada yada yada…..

People believing the hype – The same old sneaky techniques used to build up and a band are never questioned. Celebrity is valued over art and no lasting contribution to our music heritage is made. People seem to like being manipulated!

The gradual phasing out of all the traditional formats I held dear when I was young – I know this is me not moving with the times, but I do feel that the increase in download culture does debase the classic format of the album. 7” vinyl has made a comeback, but now all the cheap places to get it done have cottoned on a put up their prices, this will soon change. Also, I hear that the last remaining factory that makes 2” tape has finally gone bust – this means no more analogue recording in the near future!

Shorter attention spans – it seems if you make an album longer than half an hour these days, it’s considered too long for the young mind to cope with. I used to judge the perfect album length by its ability to fit on one side of a C90 cassette.

The notion that success is easily achievable – blame Mr Cowell for that one. There are enough muppets out there that are lining-up for their 15 seconds of fame (and a life of subsequent obscurity)

>What, with regards the UK music scene, delights you?

Not a great deal I’m afraid, though I’ve always believed in music from the UK – particularly when it actually sounds like it was made here. We have a heritage of some of the most spectacular and challenging popular music. It would be a great shame to lose sight of that.

The small things that happen make me feel good about things though – when you hear from someone out of the blue you’ve never met before who’s just stumbled across your stuff and really digs it. That’s always a delight.

>What are you passionate about in life, apart from music?

I am fascinated by nature and its inherent cruelty/beauty. I have a basement safari going on in the damp cellar of my house – an unusual variety of arachnids live down there, as well as molluscs, arthropods and the odd crustacean. Surprisingly, insects tend to be a bit thin on the ground down there (mainly due to the abundance of arachnids!).

I also love nothing better than to stuff my chops with lovely grub. Ah, sweet gluttony.

>What is/was your favourite children’s book?

My favourite book at school was called ‘Bottersnikes & Gumbles’ – it was about two races of creatures; The Gumbles were friendly and squidgy and the Bottersnikes were lazy, scheming, ill-tempered and generally pretty foul. The books revolved around how the Bottersnikes try to enslave the Gumbles by stuffing their soft bodies into jam-jars or just sitting on them. Genius.

I also really liked the Moomins books – particularly ‘Moomin Midwinter’ which was very creepy indeed in a Scandinavian way. There was this character called The Groke who used to just appear and freeze things solid with a glance. Very sinister – all the characters used to be totally flawed and some even died. They don’t make kids books like that any more.

>Any other words of wisdom?

How about “MR GRIMSDALE!!!” – sorry, couldn’t resist that.


At 10:52 PM, Anonymous george said...

how was the new year party!!!


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