Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Chorlton Arts Festival 2012

Chorlton Arts Festival launched on Thursday 17th May and if you haven’t yet attended an affiliated show then you’ll have missed the likes of Stuart McCallum, The Tourists, Jesca Hoop and the preview night for Liz West’s curious Trolleys exhibition, as well as promotions by Manky Poets, Chorlton Film Institute and Playback Theatre. But there’s plenty more to follow during its second week, as the festival director Philip Hannaway describes.

Now Then: Last year Badly Drawn Boy opened the festival from the precinct balcony overpass; are there any plans for similarly inventive spectacles?

Philip Hannaway: Well we launched this year with secret performances from Alan Cochrane and John Bishop, which was pretty special. Coming up this Sunday [27 May] we have an outdoor performance on [Chorlton] Green complete with grand piano. There also are a few surprises over the Chorlton Weekender so keep a look out on the streets! You should also look out for the work of our Digital Arts Collective; there will be happenings all over Chorlton as the festival comes to a close.

Badly Drawn Boy

NT: One of the more complex multi-arts shows was the gig featuring Swimming, Dallas Simpson, headphones, video links and a detached audience at St Ninian’s Church – can you explain how this worked?

PH: This was a really amazing night. The band actually performed in the Church Hall away from the audience who were in the main church. We watched video of them performing live in the other room. Dallas Simpson (a sound artist) moved around the room and we pick up through our earphones what he is listening to. He used all kinds of tubes and equipment to pick up various sounds of the band. It was a totally unique event and a first headphone only gig in Chorlton. If you had walked into the church there would have been complete silence. It sounded amazing.

NT: The festival is also about highlighting the local arts and music in the area and many of these shows will be free entry. For those spoiled for choice, could you personally pick out and recommend any of those to attend?

PH: There have been so many great events in the community this year and in the last few days of the festival there is even more to look forward to. I’d make sure you check out our street art exhibition by local artist Trafford Parsons – you’ll find his work on shop shutters around Chorlton. Perfect for a stroll in the evening. There’s also our visual arts exhibitions in Electrik, Marble Beer House, Battery Park and Oddest and a really bold art installation at Creative Corner Café from award winning Elysion Productions. There’s also loads of free music going on around Chorlton over the weekend including some parlour sessions at Dulcimer. All the information can be found on the festival website. Of course you would not want to miss the Weekender headliners as well, including Dutch Uncles, The Handsome Family, Chew Lips and Lanterns On The Lake.

NT: How can the festival benefit local artists and musicians?

PH: I think by firstly providing a platform for local artists to show their work. But also the festival provides an opportunity for their work to be seen alongside artists from around the country and the world. We try to be an outward looking festival, which never forgets that it has the community at heart. We hope that local artists will be inspired by what other people are presenting at the festival as they develop their own practice. As for music the festival gives an opportunity for local bands to perform alongside some of the best talent from around the UK and beyond, giving them an opportunity to be part of a great line-up right on their doorstep.

NT: Venues such as Dulcimer are locally renowned for staging regular and dependable live music; what can we look forward to there during the festival?

PH: There’s loads going on in all our venues. Over the Weekender at Dulcimer you’ll see local bands Blind Atlas and I Am Mechanical perform, there will also be an all day event on the last Sunday of the festival [27 May] with loads of local musicians performing. Also in Electrik on the last night of the Weekender you can enjoy a One Deck Session from club night Pop Till You Drop.

NT: How closely do you work with venues when deciding the festival schedule?

PH: Very closely, the festival would not be possible without the support of the venues.

NT: Are there any less frequently used venues to look out for?

PH: There are loads of events at Creative Corner Café this year for the first time; it’s a great space, with great people running it for the right reasons. Everyone should check it out.

The FlashTag team

NT: How important is it for the festival to accommodate initiatives such as the FlashTag flash fiction writing competition into the programme?

PH: Really important; any event that allows people to take part creatively is really important to the festival. It’s a fantastic way for people to get into writing and as a festival we are all about people getting stuck in and trying new experiences. FlashTag flash fiction delivers on all of these.

Words: Ian Pennington
Images: Courtesy of Chorlton Arts Festival

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Interview: The Calimocho Club

Bluesy rock duo The Calimocho Club may be named after a drink whose ingredients of Cola and red wine seem like chalk and cheese, but as a band they’re a cohesive unit despite the project’s nascent age. For Gary L Hope (vocals, guitar) and Tommy Pickford (drums) are no strangers to the live music circuit around Manchester and Salford, having appeared until recently as the stylish and memorably suited The Black Knights.

The shift into a new gear was a result of pure “gut feeling”, amongst other reasons, but a host of live shows and an accomplished debut EP have seen them accelerate since.

Conversely, debut EP Whoa Whoa, Hey Hey seems to want to slow down in title at least, but its content is juxtaposed with such an interpretation. Staccato grooves, screaming riffs and soulful rhythms are delivered with the force and unflinching starkness synonymous with the very best of electric blues and all with an urgency that keeps the fleeting running time under 15 minutes.

Musically, Tommy’s drum rolls are reminiscent of The Black Keys’ early records – in particular Pat Carney’s stick work on Thickfreakness – while Gary’s guitar and lyrics fit with the spirit of blues that they define as “raw, sometimes violent, melancholy, sarcastic, wry, hopeful and hopeless [and] mostly governed by feel”.

Their next show is a headline slot at the next Now Then Manchester show at Dulcimer bar, bringing the curtain down on another folk and blues showcase and they shared a few thoughts with us in anticipation.

Now Then: Why did you change your band name and aesthetic [from The Black Knights]?

The Calimocho Club: It felt right to do it – a combination of musical reasons, where we sat in the universe, a gut feeling and other behind the scenes issues definitely pushed us toward it.

NT: Do you have a favourite musical reinvention?

CC: Bowie has been the king of reinvention, killing Ziggy and going all 80s cocaine kid is up there for me.

NT: What have the experiences of support slots with the likes of The Jim Jones Revue, Those Darlins and Dave Arcari taught you?

CC: It helps break you out of your own bubble. They all tour like beasts – Bog Log III is the same. Band of Skulls have gone on to support The Black Keys. It’s a reality check that no two acts do things the same way. Some have more backing (team, press and monetary), some go totally DIY, some sit between the two. What is clear is that it is still a slog - you still have to be great.

What else has it taught us? That we can sit comfortably in that company. It forces us to raise our game. We always get a better reaction at these types of shows – to put it into crude numbers, we sell more CDs, and get more fans. It’s also good to see how other acts do things; you can always pick up something useful.

NT: You’ve just finished a tour of your own; which show was the pick of the bunch and why?

CC: They were all great shows but I’d say the Puzzle Hall, Sowerby Bridge for the performance and audience reaction. Bristol for the aftershow party!

NT: Lightnin’ Hopkins or The Black Keys? Do you prefer the blues of old or new – or are they not comparable?

CC: They are all the same ballpark. It’s more the spirit of the blues that draws me in – by definition it is raw, sometimes violent, melancholy, sarcastic, wry, hopeful and hopeless. It’s also mostly governed by feel rather than robotically learning patterns. Same ballpark then, but, like anything, if you can add your own personal twist onto it you’re away...

NT: What do you have planned for the near future? Are there any new recordings lined up?

CC: Unfortunately/fortunately our imagination exceeds our budget at times. We are putting together another tour at the moment, UK, but may look at some European shows.

We will be getting some new photos done, do another music video – not too concerned with having new recordings at the moment, there’s the artist in me that wants to record, fighting the businessman in me that says: “create more demand first”. We have a good EP that has still got legs and have some acoustic demos floating around.

In fairness the world is laden with recorded music; it’s ten-a-penny. It might be fighting a losing battle, but we want to try and keep music special, an experience. It’s another debate entirely, but the series of 0s and 1s that the digital marketplace has squeezed that thrill somewhat.

However, a great live show cannot be beaten. Playing live has always been our forte. You experience it in the moment and you can change things around in a way that a recorded artifact literally cannot. Yes, there are an ever-growing number of people who spend the show recording it on phones for posterity, sharing and using at as an honour/social ‘badge’ (and so miss out on the immediacy of being in the moment), but there’s still loads who long for that buzz that a live show can generate in them. That’s the fucking money!

Words & edits: Ian Pennington
Flyer design: Craig Brown Beards Club Illustration
Photos & logo: courtesy of The Calimocho Club

The Calimocho Club headline Dulcimer bar in Chorlton on Thursday 17th May. The free entry blues and folk showcase will also feature performances by Rory Charles, Eleanor Lou and Mathew Gray.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Interview: Death Vignettes

It’s easy to forget in the age of mp3s, laptop DJs and vocoders that modern recorded music dawned to a soundtrack of the blues. The blues in an emotive sense has certainly never left through the subsequent years, even if the sound itself has been largely discarded in favour of polished production gloss.

The Abattoir Blues nights at The Gaslamp bar seek to redress the balance by curating live blues line-ups and recording the results to capture the unrestricted sounds of musicians including Old Hands, Tyler Hatwell, Jackie O and bluesy garage rock duo Death Vignettes.

Death Vignettes headline the next Now Then show at Dulcimer bar and their guitarist Dave Brennan, who runs the Abattoir Blues nights, took the time to tackle our teasers.

Now Then: Can you give us a potted history of the Abattoir Blues nights?

Death Vignettes: Ourselves and Amelia Dean started the night back in October last year, we wanted to play a gig with artists that we respected and complemented our blues-inspired sound. The quality of the acts is very important to us. The atmosphere at each Abattoir Blues nights has been different as we have carefully considered which artists would work well together. We have tried to create each night to stand out and to have its own identity.

NT: What made you start hosting those nights and do you have any standout memories?

DV: There is a serious shortage of blues based nights in Manchester and we wanted to put a night on that we would want to go to. Our friends also have a passion for the same genre of music. We wanted to use the night as a platform for us all to perform our separate projects. Every night has had a standout moment due to all the great artists that have played. We strive to preserve these moments by recording each night. Listening back to the recordings also highlights our resident compere and his ability to get the crowd involved and creating a unique atmosphere in a small, unique venue.

NT: Who or what encouraged you to pick up an instrument?

DV: An inherent passion for the blues.

NT: Are there any blues musicians in particular who inspire you? Do you take ideas from other genres of music as well?

DV: Everything from classic blues musicians such as Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins right through to contemporary blues artists such as Jon Spencer, Nick Cave, Iggy Pop, Johnny Walker and Jack White.

NT: Where does lo-fi blues stand in these days of increasingly hi-tech music production?

DV: The blues will always be relevant. We believe that capturing the live raw sound and energy is more important than a polished recording. This sometimes gets overlooked in favour of a radio friendly production. We take inspiration from the way that the old blues artists used to record with a single mic. The recording techniques used back then would not be considered hi-tech yet captured the raw emotion of the music.

NT: Since reading High Fidelity, the messages in blues music often remind me of this quote: “What came first; the music or the misery? Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” Can you answer it?

DV: The misery inspires the music and the music inspires the misery.

NT: When is the next Abattoir Blues night and what else do you have lined up?

DV: The next Abattoir Blues night will be the end of May and we are also hoping to put on a festival around September time. Check our Facebook for details.

Interview & edits by Ian Pennington
Now Then flyer design: Craig Brown Beards Club Illustration
Posters: Courtesy of Abattoir Blues

Death Vignettes headline the next Now Then Manchester gig at Dulcimer bar in Chorlton on Thursday 10th May. Family Wolves, The Acoustic Conquistador and Dan Melrose are also performing at the show focussing on blues and folk music. Entry is free but any donations to support the musicians will be very welcome.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Interview: Cyril Snear

Manchester experimental rock quartet Cyril Snear headline a show at Chorlton’s Dulcimer bar on Thursday. We have a quick to and fro of words with them on the subjects of genres, venues, praise from The Mars Volta and the merits of musically induced blindness.

Now Then: Superstar Destroyer Records recently said before a gig that you headlined that it was “a line-up so hardcore it'll rip out your eyes and piss on your brain”; is that your intention?

Cyril Snear: No! Who was it out of SSD? Alex? He’s a wordsmith isn’t he! But, no, it’s not what we intend to do – if you ripped out someone’s eyes they’d never be able to see again and they wouldn’t be able to come to the next gig so it’d be a lose/lose situation.

NT: Your last record seems a while ago now. Is there any news on a new one?

CS: Yes there is… It’s going to be called The White of Colour and it’s definitely coming out this year, definitely!

NT: Is it full prog ahead as with Fluent In Seven Types Of Monotone or will the acoustic guitar style of Four In Hand – One In Face feature at all?

CS: Well there is a bit of acoustic guitar but it’s a bit different. I’d say it’s more prog – maybe more classically-sounding than the lo-fi, indie sound of the early stuff, which sounded like that because we didn’t have any money and recorded it for free! But it does have strings and piano – even has a sitar.

NT: Do you see your music as prog or prog (or neither!); is there a deeper meaning behind it or are genres just for list-makers?

CS: We always get asked questions about genres; they’re just for list-makers really aren’t they? They’re useful for people to get an idea of the music before actually listening to it, but we never set out to be prog; it’s just been applied to us.

NT: You’ve played at all sorts of venues, large and small, from The Castle to Antwerp Mansion to Kraak Gallery. Do you prefer larger or smaller settings for shows and which has been your favourite venue to play at?

CS: I think it’s Academy 3 because it’s not too big but it’s not too small either and you feel professional when you’re on there. We like playing at the Deaf Institute as well – there’s a good vibe there; good decor. I think with Sound Control we’ve never played when there’s been enough people to get that vibe. So we like medium sized venues, but wherever is full really. If you have a small venue that’s full then it’s going to trump a medium sized venue with about two people in.

NT: What has been your favourite memory in music so far?

CS: That’d be last week actually when Juan Alderete – the bass player out of The Mars Volta – complimented the whole band, but was mainly commenting on the bass guitar.

The album launch was mint just because it was the first album. We still don’t feel like we played amazingly at it but that’s probably the busiest gig we’ve had even though we arranged it ourselves with help from WotGodForgot, plus the light show was extreme so that made you get into it a bit more.

NT: Do you have any festivals lined up for the summer?

CS: Well we’re doing Eurocultured at Sound Control on 3rd June but we’d like some more festivals so someone get us some more festivals!

Interview & edits by Ian Pennington

Cyril Snear’s next show will be at Dulcimer bar in Chorlton on Thursday 3rd May. They will be supported by Outer Dark and Neko Neko.