Monday, July 17, 2006


With both of their albums thus far, I have found that Zukanican’s music inspires the imagination, trying to keep up with them in terms of creativity though is possibly a futile task. As such we’ve waved the white flag and decided to find out a little bit more about what makes Zukanican tick. So we asked the questions of Tom Sumnall (electric & double bass), James Pagella (drums & percussion), Harry Sumnall (electronics, percussion) , Phil Lucking ( trumpets) and Ray Dickaty (saxophones & flute). Do check out their stuff at Skif.

>Please introduce yourself and your bandmates, what do you each bring to Zukanican?
Well, there’s Tom who mostly plays low notes, Harry, my brother, plays a mixture of low and high notes plus a fair bit of alien dialogue, James has an OCD of whacking plastic with pieces of wood, and Phil and Ray both blow into complicated engineered brass tubes, although Ray’s is slightly longer. So that’s Tom, Harry, James, Phil and Ray – Zukanican.

>For someone exploring Zukanican for the first time, what one fact about you should they know before they start?
Tom: We make it up as we go along.
Harry: Although the land of Zukania is real and is for everyone, no punks or bullies are allowed..oh and yes, its *meant* to sound like that…
Phil: Nothing is ever repeated, apart from sometimes the head of a tune.
James: We didn’t meet at Fame Academy.
Ray: Keep an open mind.

>Are Zukanican relevant?
Tom: I think that Zukanican are very relevant to the basic human desire to enjoy themselves, both for the listener and us.
Harry: No, not at all. We exist outside, and besides, time and relevance.
Phil: Yes.
James: Yes. To ourselves and I believe a greater public.
Ray: What is relevance? Relevance only works in relation to so in relation to the music industry we are not relevant but in relation to ourselves, of course we are.

>What else inspires you, musically and lyrically?
Tom: The bold musicians that I play with inspire me.
Harry: As Zukanican’s lead singer and focus of attention I have written many volumes of lyrics, all deeply held expressions of myself; resulting from environment, memory, interaction, or experience. However, my microphone is always mysteriously turned off during gigs and recordings so no one has ever heard them. Musically, I am inspired by a replenished sebsi…
Phil: Too many things to even start picking a favourite.
Ray: Too much, and sometimes nothing at all.

>Do you plan to collaborate with others? Any ideal collaborators?
Tom: We’ve done a few ‘celebrated’ local gigs with Damo Suzuki and that has always seemed to work very well. We have lots of musical friends and I think we’d have more in common playing with them than other well-known names. Saying that, I would have loved to play in the 70s Arkestra (as if).
Harry: Regular live collaborators with Damo Suzuki, would be great to collaborate with Jeremy Barnes, mmm big hippie death cult jams tribal next.
Phil: Haven’t thought about it, but would be open to suggestion.
James: I think so. We do well with Damo Suzuki and the fact that we are instrumental helps with the idea of further team-ups. I (James) would like to join forces with Serge Gainsbourg or P J Harvey.
Ray: It has been discussed.

>If the musical world was ideal, it would…
Tom: Electricity for musicians would be subsidised.
Harry: Be on time, be organised, alcohol free, listen to what was going on, and maybe have read one or two hardback books
Phil: Be ideal?
James: Champion the music and demonstrate that it really is the ‘antidote’ to style.
Ray: Probably not exist.

>Why should people buy ‘Horse Republic’?
Tom: It’s (hopefully) quite unlike anything they will have heard before.
Harry: It provides the opportunity to create at least 7 new dance crazes – The Jacques du Kronk is currently a winner
Phil: Because it’s good
James: Because they have not heard it yet and to do so is good fun in a different way than Snow Patrol.
Ray: To make us rich and famous (I don't think so!).

>What do you consider your best achievements in music?
Tom: Passing my grade 4 double bass exam aged 15.
Harry: Playing in several different bands at once, all completely different styles, but pretty much the same people
Phil: Those amazing moments when I can’t believe my ears. These usually occur playing live gigs.
James: Playing in time sometimes – sometimes we play all at the same time!
Ray: Mostly during practice sessions when something happens that was unexpected that sends you off in a strange direction, a series of notes or a particular tone... that occurs..minor ephiany.
Occasionally if you are lucky this can happen onstage in front of an audience and if everyones on it , it becomes like magic.

>On a Zukanican curated festival bill, who would play?
Tom: Medeski, Martin & Wood, Pavement, Beck, The Fall, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Living Brain, the holy ghost of Albert Ayler, The Stairs and Bablicon – all on stage at the same time.
Phil: The Sun Ra Arkestra, which is now led by Marshall Allen, Ornette Coleman, Lee Perry, Die Like a Dog Quartet, Sierra Maestra………………..spoiled for choice.
James: Fela Kuti, The Magic Band, U-Roy, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Tom Waits, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Pavement, Mirrorball, Cubical and The 747s – we would sit off and try and smoke Sun Ra back into existence. And Snow Patrol of course.
Ray: Brian Eno, Peter Brotzman, Ash Ra Temple, Bonnie prince Billy, Stockhausen, Leonard Cohen, Albert Ayler, Ornette ...............................this could go on for a very long time!!! So an eclectic bill of music that had a natural progression from deep earth to outer space so at the end of the bill, all present would no longer exist in the physical world but had transcended.

>What are your ambitions?
Tom: To keep creating the opportunities to record and play music.
Harry: My band Melodie du Kronk needs a record label
Phil: To be happy
James: Mine? Was I supposed to have some after Horse Republic – I thought that was it! Shit.
Ray: To stay alive and healthy enough to continue to play a physically demanding instrument.

>What does ‘success’ mean to you?
Tom: ‘Join another band’
Harry: It’s been so long since we were not so incredibly successful that it’s impossible to give a non relativist response. Other than that, it means being able to install a chocolate waterfall for the new Kif.
Phil: To be able to play the music I like and get paid for it.
James: Getting flown to an amazing location, playing to a select few for an entire night, paid a king’s ransom and delivered home safe without once being recognised as a star.
Ray: To continue being an artist/musician.

>What makes you cry?
Tom: Rolf’s Animal Hospital.
Harry: Poorly cats with cross eyes and broken tails
Phil: Tragedy
James: Usual things, love mistakes and animals suffering. Snow Patrol.
Ray: Me.

>What makes you smile?
Tom: When my cat starts purring for no reason.
Harry: Young children falling over and scraping their foreheads
Phil: Humour
James: Being caked in sweat after an hours playing to a nice crowd knowing that until that point and for the rest of the gig I have had no idea what I am doing.
Ray: Me.

>Has a musical event/musician changed your life? If so, how? Or describe a musical epiphany you have had.
Tom: Watching The Beta Band on their first tour in Liverpool opened up to me the boundaries of what could be done in a live setting. Watching a 75 year old Ornette Coleman at The Barbican two years ago puts almost every musician I have seen to shame. I’ve also learnt a lot from a guy called Ged Lynn who introduced me to the world beyond 4/4.
Phil: Sun Ra, when I realised that his music was indeed multi-dimensional and operating on many different levels.
James: Watching Bablicon after I had spent years of playing in guitar bands. Never seen the future look so relaxed yet intense. Watching people play is mostly enlightening to whatever level they play.
Ray: Massive Attack coming onstage with the biggest earth vibrating bass sound in the history of tents and fields. A free jazz sax player on the streets of Washington DC late one night as I was returning to my hotel after a night out. This made me question my place in the band I was on tour with, what I was doing musically, and where I wanted to be, go with music. Psych Hip Hop Brooklyn based band, New Kingdom on stage at a white upper class college in New England USA. The WASPS were afraid...very afraid... it was war!! Seeing Kraftwerk, closely followed by the original (reformed) Black Sabbath at a festival in Denmark.

>What’s better, singles, LPS or downloads? What do you consider the most useful to Zukanican right now?
Tom: Any really, as long as they make people want to leave the house and watch us play. I’m not opposed to downloads, although a digital computer file doesn’t really come close to holding a heavy vinyl disc surrounded by some great artwork.
Harry: The planned range of Zukanican ringtones is going to be our introduction to the big time. Illegal downloads have swelled my music collection, but bankrupted Zukanican.
Phil: Don’t know
James: LPs and downloads.
Ray: All formats have there time and place, although the digitalisation of music seems to have made it somehow cheaper and more throwaway. I grew up in the age of 12 "vinyl LPs so I still have an unnatural attraction to such an artefact.

>What are your future plans for gigs and recordings?
Tom: We’re recording our new album at the moment – we’ll let the dust settle from this one before we tell Nigel we’ve got something else for him! Gigs often get organised at a moment’s notice, although we have one with Damo in St. Helens in September that I’m especially looking forward to. We’re also looking to re-house ourselves after the demise of our lounge pad recording studio The Kif.
Harry: We tend to record all our jams and these then go on to form the basis of our recorded output. The other band members don’t know it yet but I have written an autobiographical metal funk jazz-fusion opera. This will be our next official release. We plan a death to culture gig on December 31st 2007, and will carry a coffin containing an effigy of Sky Saxon down Matthew Street in Liverpool City Centre
Phil: To get better gigs and make better recordings
James: New album before Christmas – for Christmas.
Ray: To continue playing and recording. Sometimes when playing live you have an epiphany and that makes it all worth while.

>What, with regards the UK music scene, upsets you?
Tom: Present company accepted, it has to be the media as they basically control it don’t they? It’s the same with music venues – most of them think that they are doing you a massive favour by letting you play in their hallowed location, totally ignoring the fact that bands like yourself are paying their wages. Not all places are like this of course, but they’re usually run by musicians rather than exclusively by businessmen.
Harry: The notion of there being a UK music scene is somewhat ridiculous. That is just a tool to provide advertisers with the soundtracks to push their latest product on their core demographics. Whilst this may be culturally relevant, engagement in the creative act should be reward enough and I think will hold greater longevity. It’s a shame there has been a resurgence of dull guitar bands as opposed to mellotron orchestras, which is I believe what the population really wants. I don’t like the lack of self- expression in so called ‘serious’, experimental, or avant garde music in the UK.
Phil: Lots of sound-alikes and safe music that really isn’t much fun.
James: Inane pedalling of the safe-bets among us.
Ray: That it is still controlled by coke snorting ex public school arseholes that can make or break someone as they see fit and when a young band has been chewed up and spat out and are then back to shelf stacking or whatever, these guys still have a life, house, car, freebies

>What, with regards the UK music scene, delights you?
Tom: Hmm. Tough one. The anticipation of Keane’s next record?
Harry: Even though mainstream music is sounding as tired as ever, its delightful that in every little town in the country there will always be freaky dudes wanting to compose, perform, and promote weird music, even if its to an audience of a tabby cat, a hobo, and the local care in the community scheme.
Phil: That people outside (well outside!) of the mainstream persist in making interesting and
challenging music.
James: Maybe I am inane enough to be pedalled also.
Ray: See above....some of these bands deserve it!!!

>Do you consider yourself part of a Liverpool music scene, how do you view the music in Liverpool right now?
Tom: Definitely. We’ve been putting on gigs in Liverpool, in various guises, for years and years and will continue to do so. Whether other musicians consider us as kindred spirits is another matter, but Liverpool is the reason that Zukanican are alive and playing music. Liverpool will always continue to produce a good and diverse selection of bands.
Harry: Liverpool music scene is, as always has been, very exciting. We are certainly one part of it, but do not define it. Like most cities there is a predominance of bands trying to mimic wider trends, and currently famous Liverpool bands leave me cold, but there also exists a real thriving for experimentation. We’re very connected to many other bands in the city, and although our musical styles are quite different, there is a connectedness on a fundamental level of exploration.
Phil: Part of a music scene? Music in Liverpool…. some is good and some isn’t.
James: Our activities make us part of the scene definitely. The scene we most enjoy is the self-created one and that is all there is in Liverpool. There is no scene-championing venue – if you put on a weird band in a venue and door takings are small it will be a year before you can play that space again. The venues want a scene but of course have no interest in paying for it. Shite music with all your friends and family coming to watch – that’s the ticket – and why not? What Zukanican needs is its own venue to demonstrate the art of the scene – best not moan about venues who, not being music players, have a different set of priorities. Liverpool could be pumping out all the next big things in many genres as it harbours thousands of artists – these artists must create the play however – not hope that a city’s gangsters have an interest in music.

>What are you passionate about in life, apart from music?
Tom: I love food.
Harry: Psychopharmacology. East European animation, film, and literature. Romanian religious iconography.
Phil: Scuba diving
James: I love paintings and drawings and designs – from all ages. Says much about people, there associated artwork. UK – look down any high street, what do you see? The same shit, and it is the same because a scientist told said shop owners that the designs were ‘the least offensive’. Not really something to be proud of, or inspired by. Artists in this country must be inspired by the lack of creativity – not by an abundance of it. Interesting? To me, yes.
Ray: Amazing light, architecture, the fact that so much human kindness can exist in amongst so much human shit nature.

>What is/was your favourite book, and why?
Tom: The book that I am in the middle of reading is always my favourite one.
Harry: The first book that made a profound impression on me was Burroughs’ Western Lands. I was very young and it was my first introduction to alternative models of reality and mind
Phil: Very difficult question, too many with different qualities to have a favourite.
James: I thought the jungle book was pretty great. I like the way that the little lad communicates with the beasts and vice versa. Imagine it!!

>Any other words of wisdom?
Tom: Buy Horse Republic.
Harry: Inna su laere..po..po..po
Phil: A quote from Jerry Garcia…………….’’I’d rather be playing’’
James: T.w.a.t.w.o.w.
Ray: Keep on keeping on, ‘cos it soon comes to an end.


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