Category Archives: Interviews

Getting to know Lyons and La Zel

Given that we’ll soon be hosting this marvellous duo, we thought it fitting that we caught up with them and shared with you, what they do, who they are and why exactly M20 booked them for this FRIDAY 19th gig at AATMA.

So, Lyons and La Zel let the people know what it is you guys do and how you do it?

(James Lyons) Hello!  Léa (La Zel) sings and raps over music created by me beatboxing and playing instruments at the same time.  The majority of our stuff is based around guitar and some of it is flute and harmonica as well.

Tell us a bit about some of the best live music experiences, that you guys have played?

(James)  We did a DIY tour around South East Asia from November 2015 – May 2016 and played just under 60 gigs.  Lots of the performances there were by far the most inspiring and enjoyable as we got to play in some beautiful locations and to people from all around the world. It’s one thing to have support for what you do locally, but to find out that people from all corners of the earth enjoy it is a beautiful feeling! 

lyonsandlazel

(Léá ) We’ve had some really fun gigs at festivals such as Glastonbury, Boomtown, Eden, Solfest etc but a highlight has got to be when we played on the main stage at Beat Herder festival last year to a massive crowd on a big booming sound system. That felt amazing! We’ve also had some really nice times busking to the public in different cites and met some proper characters through that.  

Léá – Who are you top vocal inspirations?

My sister Jules from the band ‘Rumjig‘ has been my biggest inspiration and she has always encouraged me to sing and I love writing songs and harmonising with her. Then, incredible artists such as Sharlene Squire, Aretha Franklin, Esperanza Spalding, Bobby Mcferrin, Nai Palm, Dallas Tamaira, Erykah Badu, Sona Jobarteh, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Marie Daulne and most recently an amazing Swedish artist called Fatima have also massively influenced me. 

James, how and when did you realise you were good at the old beatboxing, to the point that it is now almost your secondary instrument?

My first dip of the toe into music was learning to rap when I was twelve, and I used to hang around rapping with some of my friends and we started to beatbox through this.  I never took it ‘seriously’ until around five years ago, when I started to go out busking.  Through experimenting on the street with flute beatbox and harmonica beatboxing, and the response that I got from it, I started to realise it’s potential for reaching out to people from all walks of life, and how satisfying it is as a musician when combined with playing instruments at the same time.

Are there any running themes in your lyrics, style, musical message?

Musically, we like to experiment and blend together elements from all of our favourite styles, and in terms of lyrics, I think we try to write things that are mostly uplifting and thought provoking. 

What does working and living within the music scene mean for you both?

We’re both very lucky to be able to earn a living from doing what we love which has also led to us meet multitudes of incredible and inspiring people.  As well as playing live, we both also teach music workshops (I teach rap and beatbox, Léa teaches singing), so being able to perform and then pass on the skills to other people, is greatly rewarding. 

lyaonsnlaz

What was the best thing you LAST saw live?

(James) I’ve seen Victor Wooten twice over the last couple of years and those shows are by and large the best displays of music and showmanship that I’ve ever been witness to, he and his band are phenomenal musicians.

(Léa) We saw Fatima play in Constellations 3 weeks ago and she totally blew me away with her powerful yet sweet, fun loving, stage presense. The Eglo band who back her were incredible musicians too and she made everyone at the gig feel empowered and filled with love. It was very special indeed and I can’t recommend her ‘Yellow Memories’ album enough.

Any acts out there that you guys want to give a shout out or pay homage to?

First and foremost we have to shout out to “The Fire Beneath The Sea”, which is the band that we both first played in together, that led us to developing this duo.  Also shout outs to “Rumjig”, fronted by Léa’s sister, who Léa moved up to Liverpool to be a backing singer for.  Both of those bands have new releases out at the minute which we are very excited about.  Massive thanks to everybody else that we’ve played with, jammed with and been inspired by, there are far too many people to list them all here!

Any exciting projects or gigs coming up?

We have a new project in development at the minute that features us both as vocalists, backed by a ridiculously tight, four piece band, playing jazzy, funky hip hop.  It does not have a name as of yet, but we are putting together the finishing touches to our first EP that will be released in a few months time, so please keep an eye on our social media for further news on that.

Where can we see and hear more about you? 

Our main point of contact is through Facebook, which is  http://facebook.com/lyonsandlazel

We have a lot of videos up on youtube, but are currently writing lots of new material that will be going up in video form VERY SOON!

https://www.youtube.com/lyonsandlazel

We are also building a website at the minute which should be going live in the near future, to support the release of our debut EP, which is currently being mixed and will be out in the next couple of months.

For any other enquiries, our email address is lyonsandlazel@gmail.com.

Ask no questions tell no lies: An interview with Ask My Bull

Just ahead of their EP launch, in case you’re not yet convinced that you want to see, encounter or listen to these musicians, we asked their bull some questions and got some answers.

So where is the Bull I can direct the questions to lads?
Next question

 What was the decision behind the band name?
A friend of Fritz once misheard him and thought he was saying Ask My Bull, while he was actually referring to his uni tutor Mike Bull. Now we’re making up for that mistake and are again often mistaken for Ask My Ball while shouting our name to the audience during and after gigs.

So Ask My Bull, how did you get together as musicians?
We congealed in Fritz’ house one musician at a time. You know congealed, like when Mayonnaise has been left on a pizza box for a couple of weeks and it’s now gone hard rather than being soft.

Actually it was only Alex and Fritz in the beginning who had the idea of playing with different guest musicians for different songs. We got as far as Luc on saxophone and Tom on bass when we realised what this did for the overall sound of the band. Elliot filled in for Luc a couple of times when Luc was travelling. We ended up playing and writing a lot with Elliot and decided to have them both as soon as Luc was back. So we started out wanting guest musicians, but kept most of them in the lineup. That’s why Tom Moon on trumpet is appearing on the EP and there might be more collaborations in the future, though the core of Ask My Bull is pretty clear.

How do you go about composing music?
In the beginning Fritz had already written a lot of songs and often the guitar was used as the general foundation. Sometimes that can be a whole tune and sometimes the chords or a riff. That creates a certain mood and in the practice room evolves further and is strung together in interesting ways. It basically starts from one idea and is then free for everyone to play on top of using their imagination.

So far a big part of the writing process has been that all the musicians have joined Ask My Bull one by one, so that for most of the songs everyone has written their parts at different times. Powder Keg and Magpie Manoeuvre came from jams though, and jam definitely congeals. I guess we have a theme there. Congealing music.

 I am feeling some Punk influences in here and I hear some Eastern European/Gypsy Jazz influences too. If you had the choice of tight leather trousers and a gimp mask or an eccentric colourful jacket and silk scarf combo, what outfit would you go for and why?
The problem with gimp masks on stage is that it can often ruin communication and the saxophonists will have trouble playing. Except for Tom who hates communication and wants to be an anonymous machine who doesn’t have to look at any of his band mates who he doesn’t like to listen to anyway. Also no one would understand the emotion of the other musicians by looking at their faces which would result in less overall dynamic cohesion between them, except for Alex who registers emotions on peoples’ elbows.

 Your friend once described listening to your music as being like the mathematical mind of Mickey Mouse playing chess with a sledge hammer. What was he on and where can I get some?
That is our number one fan and cameraman Joao Meirinhos and the substance he was on is just his own genetic material. It’s a bit difficult to get you some, but he does donate his sperm on a regular basis. Which means you could make one that’s kind of like him, but you’d have to wait for it to congeal first.

                                      Above: Ask My Bull Teaser by Joao Merihnos

 No seriously, how do you like to describe your sound?
“Just don’t, we like other people to try. It’s certainly funny to ad up people’s weird attempts.”

“I like to describe it with my body rather than my mouth, because every time I describe it I come up with this boring list and in the act of describing, people lose all interest and I lose all interest in saying it.”

“Trying to find the middle ground between things that are not on the same scale.”

“Rock Fusion with a sense of humour.”

Ask My Bull started as a power duo which was loud and erratic. Once we expanded to the bigger lineup we wanted to keep this big Punk Rock energy, but were really interested in all other genres apart from Rock, like Jazz, Math, Prog, Video Game Soundtracks, Gypsy/Balkan, Afrobeat, Trip Hop and Breakbeats. So we basically try and bring a Punk energy to some of those genres and also blend them together, preferably in the same song.

ask my bull alex and fritz
What song were you humming in the shower this morning?
Powder Keg. 16 tons. Rolling Stones. Didn’t shower. Hyper Sweep. We actually try to stress the saxophonists out with the songs so much that they can never get them out of their heads. So it’s good to hear that this is working, as they were both humming Ask My Bull tunes.

 If you were to be eternally delayed on the M60 between Prestwich and Middleton and only had one cassette, what 10 tracks would you have on it?

Ask My Bull EP twice 😉

No, seriously.
Ask My Bull EP once normal and once reversed.

Okay, now for real.
1. Richard Wagner – Tristan und Isolde Prelude
2. Mr. Bungle – Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz
3. Tortoise – On the Chin

tortoise on the chin
4. Quantic – Time is the Enemy
5. Nobuo Uematsu – Cait Sith Theme
6. Madvillain – Rhinestone Cowboy
7. Glaxo Babies – Christine Keeler
8. Portico Quartet – Zavodovski Island


9. Venetian Snares – Hajnal
10. Too Many Zooz – F.W.S.

Who should we be checking out on the local Manchester scene?
Dirty Flowers
Luna Marada
Turf
Lucy Mae
Apes Grapes (who will be supporting at the EP launch)
Salutation Dub Collective
Henge
Shyfinger
Galivantes
The Peace Pipers
Psychedelic Pirates
Kalakuta
Esmegma Jazz
Salvador Dalai Lama Farmers

What can we expect from the EP launch?
We’re gonna play some songs and you will definitely get a definition of our sound that we might have failed to describe in question 7. And we’re gonna sell the EP. There will be Tom Moon on the trumpet. Live music that’s different. No vocals. Make sure to check out Apes Grapes, who are fucking awesome. Unusual stuff basically, that you wouldn’t find at every concert, like fortune tellers, face painters, visuals and performance of some sort. We wanted live bulls, but we can’t get them up the stairs, so we’ll have loads of invisible animals instead. There’s also a chance of the real Mike Bull turning up.

ask my bull EP artwork

                                Above: Real life, hard copies for purchase on Friday 4th March

What does the future have in store for Ask My Bull?
Eventually we’ll all die 🙂

We’ll have more band members and still be playing the same tunes as two years ago, but with more instruments and a greater arrangement. We basically intend to never play any more songs than we already do. We might have a DJ set and remixes of our tunes. An all acapella version with everyone humming their parts is feasible as well as a session with Ask My Bull songs arranged for five guitars. Some of this might be lies, some of it are definitely good ideas 🙂

We got invited to do a session with Samsara Sessions in February and will record a live video with them. Also, we’re on the list of The Sessions of March.

TSOM.jpg

An interview w/ Chris Knight aka Cervo: Inside Banana hill, the local scene and music

It’s always good to catch up with the purveyors of the left-field  and subcultural music scene to find out what’s happening in and around our town and this guy plays a hand in  pushing music of the world around the northwest and beyond. In a couple of week’s he’ll be gracing the Ask My Bull Ep launch with his vinyl collection, so we thought we’d get to know him that little bit more ahead of this.
So Chris (aka Cervo), what can you tell us about your music events career so far?
Well we started very small doing live music & trying to DJ in a tiny bar in Sheffield, and sort of developed it from there. It doesn’t really feel like career as such, more of a thing that we like to do in our spare time! None of us rely on it as an income so it gives us a bit of freedom to do interesting stuff without worrying about profit margins and things like that. We certainly didn’t set out with any notions of being able to run big warehouse parties in different cities and flying artists in from all over the world but somehow it’s turned out like that.
Any you DJ too? What kind of music styles
Yes, it took me a long time to learn the basics (shouts to everyone who came to early Banana Hill parties and endured the countless clangers) but it has become a big passion of mine. I really enjoy being able to develop different styles so it’s constantly changing but is broadly pinned down by a love of classic & contemporary African & Latin American music of varying styles, combined with soul, hip hop, disco, house & electronic music.
chrisknight
 
When and how did you start getting into music as something that you do in the public eye?
I was in a band for a few years from when I was around 16, so I guess it started around then that I began to ‘perform’ in front of other people and music became a big part of my life.
 
What can you tell us about Banana Hill? 
So Banana Hill was originally a music blog set up by Jack (JVC), named after a small grass verge near his house in South Manchester. We met in the first week of university in Sheffield, instantly found common ground with a lot of music and ended up doing a weekly show together on the student radio station – initially a pretty odd combination of both our tastes, ranging from hip hop, grime and bass music to post punk, garage rock and disco. The nights followed this pattern, so were at that time a little bit haphazard in terms of direction – which was totally fine, but it was during our 2nd year that we discovered what it was that we both felt massively passionate about and that kind of set out where Banana Hill has gone since then.
We were helping with a fundraiser club night for a hospital in the DRC, and set about finding Congolese music to play on the night – which is amazing it it’s own right – and this opened up doors to a load of music we’d never heard before. The stuff that caught our ears initially was the high tempo kuduro coming from Angola  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWr-sJDXbDghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpzzWukSNYw), afro-house and the crossover styles of producers such as Batida.
We started learning all we could & pushing those sounds, along with a whole load of other African music styles on the blog, in our DJ sets and at our parties, and that’s kind of carried on until now.  Alongside this we got heavily into the warehouse party scene in Sheffield that I feel is more prevalent than a lot of cities due to a huge number of disused industrial spaces – we wanted to combine those settings and the house & techno that you’d tend to find there with more wide-ranging sounds from around the globe.
bananahill
 
Who’s been integral to your progression in the events and music scene?
As with a lot of art & music scenes, the community that you become part of is so important. Sheffield is such a good place for that, and venues such as The Harley and the people working for them were really helpful and are still ace to work with. There’s a network of promoters, DJs and artists there that all help each other out – sharing advice is essential for events in particular, dealing with booking agents, what to do when stuff goes wrong etc. In Manchester working with Soup Kitchen has been amazing, and we’ve started to find a great set of people to work with over here.
 
Who’s been you favourite act that you’ve booked?
This is tricky…I don’t want to single anyone out as we have been lucky enough to meet so many artists who have become good friends. If I can dodge the question like a highly skilled politician, I can say the most interesting act (both in terms of music and looking after them) has to be Nozinja (Shangaan Electro) and his dancers. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHgBZ-60i7k)
 
Any one out there you’d like to virtually salute on their efforts in the scene?
Sorry if this a bit of a long list…
In Sheffield – The Harley, Hope Works, Bungalows & Bears, promoters & people like Lunar, Thrillhouse, NLR, Pretty Pretty Good, No Uniform, Bunga Bunga, Tramlines, Semi Detached, Huddle, TTC, SoulJam, Don’t Look Now, Funk Drunk etc.
In Manchester – Soup Kitchen & Dan Hampson, Hidden, promoters & people like So Flute, Heads Up, Hi Ku, Inside Out, John Loveless, Meat Free, Reform Radio, Zutekh, Contours & Werkha etc, and of course M20 Collective.
On a wider scale the crews who are doing amazing stuff include Mawimbi in Paris, No Globe in Glasgow, Samedia Shebeen in Edinburgh, Fiesta Bombarda, Kitchen Street, Africa Oye, No Fakin & Abandon Silence in Liverpool, Brotherhood Sound, Butter Side Up & KMAH Radio in Leeds, Highlife, Huntleys & Palmers, Wormfood, Turf, Tessellate, Lunatick Records and loads more in London. Sorry for everyone I’ve inevitably missed.
 
How do you think the visual arts and music scene can come together?
I think it is and will continue to do so – the two complement eachother so well. There are some artists such as Lone who insist on touring with a visual artist which I really like. We work with an artist called Bethany Porteous who does our poster art and decor on some of the bigger shows, and we’re currently looking at doing more projects to bring both elements together.
bethany.jpg
Above: Artwork by Bethany Porteous
What would you do next if you could do anything, either in the local community or for yourself?
Closer to home, I think something that everyone has noticed over the past year is the amount of homeless people on the streets in the UK – this stems from a whole host of cutbacks across social care and public services that are massively starting to bite. So I guess it would be to make everyone think about other people a bit more – particularly that waxy-faced bastard who calls the shots these days.
 
Anything exciting coming up?
We’ll be working with Thristian from the Boiler Room a lot more closely this year, and I have my first release coming in June. And plenty of shows in Manchester, Sheffield and London 🙂

Manchester Literature: David Hartley’s Spiderseed

Manchester is in need of more literature power houses and look-y here, a new one has sprung. This piece by Alex Webb describes the story of Sleep House Press’s latest release by David Hartley

Just over a year ago I sat down with David Hartley to talk about the Manchester writing scene and his first flash fiction collection Threshold. This February sees the release of Hartley’s third flash fiction collection, Spiderseed, and it is an incredible piece of work! This latest release is fully illustrated by the outstanding Emily Ingle, a local writer and illustrator. I was lucky enough to sit down with Hartley again to discuss the journey from Threshold to Spiderseed and the way his writing has changed since we last spoke.

SHP

The collection is named after one of the stories, it came about after he saw a submission call out for Re:Imaginings where he saw an image of ‘branches of a tree that looked like spiders were emerging from them’. Hartley worked this image into a story about seeds that ‘grow trees that produce animals instead of fruit’ and it eventually became ‘Spiderseed’. For anyone who has read Threshold, this origin story will come as no surprise as Hartley has always been an expert at winding the unhinged and the uncanny into the worlds he creates. Whilst both Threshold and Spiderseed give an eerie sense of unease, the former did so by poking fun at superstition whilst the latter is more focused on nature.

What is creepy about nature? What is there to be afraid of? How can it take advantage of us? These are key questions to ask yourself before embarking on your journey into Spiderseed. When I asked Hartley about this transition, he stated ‘I’ve been writing a lot about animals in the past few years. Some of the shorter pieces that have come out of this impulse have ended up in the collection’ such as ‘Trails’ (a personal favourite of mine which sees slugs gather insects to make one unfortunate home-owner suffer). Some of these darker stories stem from his time as a volunteer with the Manchester & Salford RSPCA where Hartley got a clearer insight into how animals are treated. This ‘messy, complex and frustrating situation’ led Hartley to write more and more about the topic, culminating in Spiderseed.

The realm of Spiderseed is best described by Hartley who calls it ‘inherently weird, without being too weird. Of course “spiderseeds” don’t exist but they sound like they could’ve done, somehow, somewhere’. This sense of unreality is best seen in ‘The Librarian’ which sees the titular man turn his library into a time machine. Hartley’s unique narrative brings every aspect of the time machine to life, you can almost smell the old books as you follow the librarian on their next twisted adventure. When asked how he manages to breathe life into his work Hartley noted that the influence of Manchester in Spiderseed, whilst not as obvious as in Threshold, is undeniable. The difference comes about as in Spiderseed Manchester is not the backdrop for these tales and misfortunes, but their catalyst.

david hartley

     (Dave Hartley Above)

Manchester is a ‘curious, mercurial sort of place’ says Hartley. ‘In the guts of the city it can get labyrinthine, the cobbles are soaked in shadows and histories but that same ground is incredibly fertile, especially for the creative industries’. It is this rich bed of creativity that developed the ‘weird, nightmarish and urban’ world of Spiderseed, and the frequent intrusion of the natural world as backdrops that ‘somehow tie everything together and keep it all from collapsing’. However, the city was not the only ingredient in concocting the cast of twisted characters. The Manchester literature scene with all its characters was fundamental to writing Spiderseed. Hartley says that this collection was ‘tested out on spoken word stages, particularly Bad Language and First Draft’.

Discussing what he did differently with Spiderseed compared to Threshold Hartley says ‘it’s not an exact science, but I certainly get a better feel for a flash fiction piece when I’ve road-tested it on a spoken word stage a few times. I owe a heck of a lot to this city and its creatives’. This is testimony for Manchester’s literature scene. Hartley gave a huge thanks to his writing group for testing and developing his style. Some of the pieces in Spiderseed come with a more performative aspect which Hartley credits to Bad Language’s Fat Roland, ‘the master of prop usage and stage littering’. Another key influence is David Gaffney (one half of the hilariously unsettling Les Malheureux) and his flash fictions which have left Hartley eager to ‘emulate the precision and economy of the best Gaffney stories’.

david gaffney.jpg

 

Moving away from his influences, I spoke to Hartley about the actual process of writing Spiderseed and how this differed from Threshold. ‘The process is more fine-tuned and I’m not as precious as I used to be’, says Hartley, ‘if a story hasn’t worked I’m much happier to ditch it and move onto something new, I’m slightly less concerned about experimentation and more with story and truthfulness now I think’. In Spiderseed there is more a direct connection with the stories, giving a clearer message to be heard/read by the audience. Even the more ridiculous stories, such as ‘Most Haunted’, ‘have something to say about various evils, even if that’s not immediately obvious’. This is what is so strong about Hartley’s new collection. In the world he has constructed things are not always what they seem, your first visit to Spiderseed will be nothing like your next. However, you will keep coming back for more.

Spiderseed is out on 25th February, published by Sleepy House Press and fully illustrated by the outstanding Emily Ingle. Check out Sleepy House Press’ Facebook page for details.Like Sleepy House Press on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SleepyHousePress/?fref=ts

Follow David Hartley on twitter: https://twitter.com/DHartleyWriter

Check out the launch party for Spiderseed: https://www.facebook.com/events/1515540278750798/

Story told by Alex Webb

Catching up with Johnny Sly

Johnny Sly are one of the bands we (M20) have seen emerge and develop over the last two years – and not to sound biased, but we’re very fond of them! We worked with them in their earlier days when M20 were doing regular Solomon Grundy events and local gigs, and they just keep moving onwards, upwards and side ways (quite literally as they get bigger and bigger as an outfit)! It was great to catch up with them on their movements of the last year or so and the Sly journey, thus far.

Tell everyone a bit about yourselves, the story till now…

Jonny: I think the band grew like a plant in that it started with one seed and each new element was a natural progression but also an evolution, so it was organic and no-one feels responsible.

Jack: Jonny started playing and writing music in Brighton when he was lil, and then when he came up here he started playing open mics on his own. Me and Aeve joined three years ago – we used to practice in this little basement room in some upmarket uni halls we sneaked into. It was really echoey and we’d go there at night and get weird. We were a funny lil’ threesome, not quite sure what we were doing, but we managed to get some gigs like Antwerp mansion and open mics.

Aeve: We recorded a video for Mosaic Sessions on this really nice sunny, autumn weekend on Salford Quays. These guys on pit bikes kept appearing on the horizon every time we’d start a take and steadily get closer and louder until all you could hear was engine revs, and we’d have to start all over again. We all look really sad in the video because we were trying to look like serious musicians. But we loved it! Some people in a high rise flat clapped out of their window at the end.

Johnny: Although there are nine of us now it doesn’t feel like an ensemble – it still feels like a family – and that’s because we’ve never really sought out new members, they just seem to come along and it fits.

johnny sly2

 

You performed on BBC Radio 4, how was that?

Aeve: It was great because they gave us breakfast and I got to play a Steinway. We all got really pissed afterwards in the BBC bar and Jack was flirting with Joan Bakewell for ages. And we gave Jennifer Saunders a CD as a christmas present! It was all very surreal and giddy.

Jack: And we met duke from Tracy Beaker! He was a very flamboyant man, I never knew. I remember we watched back some footage that our friend Arthur had video’d from the sound booth and having this realisation that we sounded so much better than we’d heard ourselves before, recorded really clearly, and together and live. That was where the idea for our new EP came from.

What’s been your favourite gig to date, anywhere?

Jonny: We loved Berlin this summer because we were introduced to lots of interesting, creative people who showed us an inside view of the city. We were lucky enough to stay in a beautiful apartment and played a really nice set to an audience of mostly horizontal people. There’s a sense of freedom in Berlin which is inspiring musically. You can drink beer in the street and then put your bottles by the side of the road and people looking for pennies pick them up and recycle them for you. It’s better than some uniformed bruiser tipping your bottle down the drain just because you’re too poor to go to a pub. We saw a rainbow there in the sky with no clouds around it and it looked like the sky was smiling. I have no idea how it did that.

Jack: Also Amsterdam – we felt like we’d dropped into the coolest place to be with these great people that were all creative and cool and way more organised than us. It was inspiring. And sunny. It seems a long way away right now…..

Aeve: Special mention needs to go to Mischief Festival, who booked us way back when we were a three. It was a very strange vibe, really small and everyone looked like gangsters or pirates. At one point we played Deja Vu and the bass from the main stage was bouncing perfectly in time with us. It was a little adventure.

What about in Manchester?

Aeve: We’ve had some really special gigs in the last year or so, it’s so hard to pick a favourite! But one that really stands out is the gig we did at the Roadhouse [R.I.P] before it closed down last January. We put a lot of energy into promoting it, and had two of our favourite Manchester bands supporting us: Kolo Tamam and Oh Man, The Mountain. Loads of people came down and there was a really great vibe, and we all wore wacky hats on stage which is always a winner! We were all on a massive high after that gig, it was loads of fun.

Tell us about the New EP then

Jack: The EP we released last year, Lost Thoughts, was all recorded in my bedroom, with all the parts laid down one by one. It was a cool process, and one I’m really proud of in retrospect, but at the time it felt frustrating. Sometimes the parts just didn’t move together and mixing it all felt like tricks. That’s why we wanted to do this new one live. For me it’s a mystical thing – I just think you can feel the magic of it all being played together, in the pauses and the lifts. And this way we didn’t spend hours getting each take perfect, we had the weekend, and at the end of that weekend the product (and then Andrew Glassford spent two months mixing it… Thanks Andrew!)

johnny sly lost thoughts.jpg

(Artwork for the Lost Thoughts EP released Nov.2014)

https://johnnysly.bandcamp.com/album/lost-thoughts-ep

Jonny: We recorded videos of the live tracks, which we’re releasing one by one. They were stressful at the time but there was a real sense of focus and emotional energy, and although we were all worrying about the little details, I think we took for granted that we were playing a set that had been honed over many months of consistent gigging in Manchester. Our bodies knew what they were doing and the pressure just added to the ‘pizazz’….

Do you have a favourite Johnny Sly tune?

Aeve: I am really in love with White Light, White Lies from the new EP. It’s just got such a lovely groove and makes me go ‘mmmmm’ inside. I’ve always been drawn to chilled music though so I think the feeling of this one just connects with me more than some of the others.

Phil: Totally agree with Aeve. Also really digging our latest song ‘Tryer’ but it’s not yet on record, so you’ll have to join us for a gig to hear that.

Oli: My fav is probably Remember, from the new EP, cuz it’s f****** epic and ends with a bang and I like bangs because I’m a drummer!

How do you guys write your music?

Aeve: Jonny has always been the songwriter, because of the way the band has grown from his solo project. Essentially, he writes his guitar parts and vocals, and then we all mainly write our own parts. But there is always lots of collaboration and discussion: someone will have an idea for how I could play a part on the keyboard, or one of us will find a harmony for someone else, or Jonny will already have an idea of what he wants someone to do in a certain part of a song. So it starts with Jonny’s parts, then is just a process of trying out different things and sharing ideas for the rest of us!

Who are the biggest influences of the band?

Rosalie: Each other! We all have such varied influences and we share them all.

Any local inspirations, bands killing it in the scene (or off the scene)?

Jack: We’ve already mentioned our band brothers / sisters Kolo Tamam and Oh Man, The Mountain, they are both great in different ways. Pareidolia – they’re a bit like us if we were cooler and less weird. John Ainsworth and Rosalie 23 are honestly two of the best and most original musicians I’ve ever seen. And honey feet. I saw Honey Feet play after us at The Hotspur Press once and they were amazing, upbeat fun, with a mama-jama, diva of a front woman with an insane voice. Further afield Cousin Kula are releasing some insane live videos of their new material at the moment – its Snarky Puppy meet Syd Arthur meets Riot Jazz. And The Mouse Outfit, they have some freshhhhh hip hop sounds that I can’t quite believe are from where I’m from. Gigging and attending gigs can be exhausting and sometimes I forget how lucky I am to have seen and heard musicians like these guys. And Arctic Turn, our bassist Phil’s solo project. I feature on a track of his called Bait and he’s got it on the Tom Robinson playlist on 6 music. Great work Phil. We’re going to record a music video where we throw gross stuff at him in slo-mo and he plays the song. I’ve got a cameo in it but I don’t know what to wear… (video now released see below).

If you could describe Johnny sly as an animal what would you say?
Phil: Some kind of flying iguana mongoose. Next question.

See and hear more of Johnny sly on any of these below links

http://www.facebook.com/johnnyslymusic
BUY their new EP here: https://johnnysly.bandcamp.com/

 

The Sessions of March

We got some inside info on one Manchester’s most exciting collaboration projects, and you know M20 collective are all about collaboration. Kris Extance tells us all about The Sessions of March…

TSOM

Header image: Jenna and the G’s

What is TSOM to those who are not in the know?

TSOM is a collection of live music & video recording sessions that took place during the month of March 2015. There are roughly 24 artists involved, with around 80 tracks recorded. It is a snapshot of the phenomenally diverse and talented independent creative scene in Manchester. There is huge variety within the sessions ranging from acoustic singer songwriters to gypsy-punk bands to 9-piece dub bands to cosmic dross space adventurers and that is to describe but a few! There are even a few special one-off improvised collaborations and special renditions of existing material involved as well. In essence, it is a collection of music we love that we want the world to see.

Who makes up the TSOM team?
Myself [Kris Extance], as founder/organiser. Audio recording and production was done by WR Audio, which consists of Dan Watkins and Biff Roxby, working alongside the video guys from Midnight Sounds headed by Dan Jones and accompanied by freelance camera man Matthew Jones. We also have Jason Badiozzaman on board, who is helping with social media and post-production organisation.

How did you come up with the idea?
Up until the beginning of this year, I had been involved with a unique music venue for 5 years and was the General Manager for the final 3 of these. The venue’s history is quite unusual, with constantly evolving family of creative individuals working tirelessly to make a place like no other. A place that supported local talent in all its variety, and a place where like-minded creative individuals could meet and enjoy the music and art they loved.

Our ethos was to support local talent and put on eclectic parties like no other venue. It was one of those places where if you didn’t look up what was on you would never know what to expect. To be honest, even if you did look it up you still might not have a clue! It was as grass-roots as you could get, with too many people to mention who were crucial in its set-up and running virtually all artists and musicians. The tag line I used whilst working there was ‘for creative people, by creative people’. Like a lot of independent businesses, we soon realised that in order to make a living for ourselves, we needed to have a balance between what we truly believed in and what would generate income.

We successfully managed to achieve a balance we were happy with, however at one point due to various reasons we suddenly lost a lot of creative control. We felt like our ethos was being compromised, and we had put too much into the venue to just go on and allow this to happen. The difficult decision was made to walk away from the project, taking our ethos and everything we had learned with us. It was at this point the sessions plan was formulated, everyone had put too much into the venue to walk away without doing something special!

I wanted to create a snapshot of why we put so much into the venue and what we most enjoyed about it, the music! I contacted WR Audio, who had become firm friends through working with us at the venue, and Dan Jones had worked in the venue alongside me already. We put together a plan of action and both teams agreed to do this for “mates-rates” despite being professional outfits, just because they believed in the project and why I wanted to do it. The initial team was formed and I organised as many of our favourite acts we had discovered through the venue into a month of recording sessions.

MONEYSHOT

What is the ‘ mantra’ behind it, so to speak?
Respect for independent musicians in all their variety. To help good people, who make good music, for the right reasons; mainly because they love doing it.

Why do you think it is important for the Manchester music scene?
For me, it’s the showcasing of such variety and talent all in one place. It’s why we used to love the venue initially, because it allowed us to put all the local talent we loved in one building. You can find so many amazing scenes in Manchester however; finding something that links all these scenes together is a much harder task. I love going to events where there is something for everyone, and I hope in the sessions this is the case as well. I also think it’s an important way of helping people discover new independent music. You may look to find one thing, but discover something else as entirely.

How have you developed a personal passion for music?
I love how music can make you forget all anxiety and worry. I love that if the right song comes on, especially when performed live, the world ceases to exist and you are in a serene moment of appreciation and awe. The huge diverse nature of music is incredible, and I feel it is one of the most important and beautiful forms of expressions there is. I play bass myself, and have always been in bands since the age of around 15. Although I have never considered myself a musician, it has always been a hobby not a profession. For the last 5 years or so, I have been surrounded by musicians who surpass my playing in every aspect and I’ve become more a music facilitator. I’m able to get to know a huge creative community both on and off stage, which has been – and will continue to be – something special. I have spent all my time trying to help the people who make music I respect and appreciate, because I want to hear more of it and I want more people to hear it too. I have never claimed to be a musical expert, but I know one thing for certain: I love music and my passion for helping music happen has done nothing but grow and grow. Music brings people together, and allows them to communicate through a beautiful universal language and that is important in this day and age more than ever.

How did you manage to recruit all of these musicians to participate?
I am lucky enough to call most of these musicians’ friends who I have got to know throughout the venue over the years. It was simply a case of calling them up and explaining the reason for the project. We were fortunate enough that everyone loved the idea and wanted to support it by taking part. I could not have more respect for all those involved!

redeyehifilive

Red Eye Hifi LIVE

What does collaboration in music mean to you?

Collaboration in music to me means a world of exciting possibilities of communication through sound. When a person plays their own music, they are expressing themselves and their ideas openly. Collaboration in music is a beautiful moment where people come and express themselves and their ideas together as one. It is a way of bringing people together from any background for a united purpose.

What is the most important outcome for the project?
The most important outcome is that as many people see the music as possible. I hope people discover new music through this project, and it gives some form of exposure to incredibly hard working independent musicians who deserve it. They have made my life so much more enjoyable over the last few years and I want to return the favour.

Noon – ‘I wish I knew how to sing’ live video

Anything else you’d like to tell us about TSOM?
We are also going to try and use this first set of sessions to raise enough money to do a second set of sessions. This will most probably be in the form of a Kickstarter. We didn’t come close to capturing all the artists we wanted to cover in the first round of recording. Due to popular demand by the musicians, we also have a long-term plan to turn this into some form of live event. So please, if you like The Sessions of March and the reasons behind it, then please support us in any way you can as it would mean the world to us.

Follow the journey on facebook: The sessions of march

Interview by Yemi Bolatiwa

Ray Martin – Artist

I managed to grab a few words from fantastic local painter Ray Martin on his journey with art and his inspirations.

studio

                                                 (Above recent work by Ray)

Tell us a bit about your journey with art?
I believe art is inherent, although, until nurtured cannot become more than that. There are many forms of expression, from literature, to music production from which any person can choose to pursue, but personally, I am satisfied most by creating visually. That is not to say that I always knew I was going to end up creating the paintings I do now, and that is also not to say that I will be creating the paintings I do now in fifteen years time. Creativity, in my eyes, is very much a journey. An exciting and surprising one at that. I came to art school 5 years ago, fresh and also naive about the world. Art school is a brilliant place, because it has few rules. It gave me the time and confidence to experiment with my creativity, to learn more about the world outside of Chester (my hometown and shell), and to meet wonderful people. It was quite late on in my degree that I started to paint, and although I have always been drawn to, and created 2D images, I felt for a long time that it was less exciting than some of the other things going on around me. I began to work in sculpture, performance and installation in my first years but I wasn’t truly satisfied until I picked up a paint brush. It wasn’t an immediate fit though, there was a lot of frustration and a stack of terrible work but at some point it did click. I remember the breakthrough painting very well, I was sat at my space, surrounded by a huge (and horrific) mural painting I had created from one of my dreams and I was also working on a small board I had primed the wrong colour (a bright, thick orange) at the same time. I was lazy and didn’t cut the board down to the right proportions first, so just masked it off and started putting in a few loose landscape-y marks. I had a group crit. soon after and unsurprisingly the mural was ignored. There was something much more interesting in this small painting that I had approached, unintentionally, unconventionally. My eyes were opened a little bit wider from then. Since then I have been discovering more and more about the technique, the history of and my personal language within painting. Every new painting, or series is an education for myself and I can’t wait for the next time my eyes widen.

How would you describe your style of art?
My paintings place themselves in the middle of different area. They not entirely figurative, nor abstract. They depict the natural landscape but appear very unnatural in their use of hard-edges and overly-saturated colours. Some are the size of a post card, and others I have had problems removing from buildings. It is the meeting of different visual languages that I find most intriguing.

raymartin

Can you name some things that inspire your art, pieces already finished or works in progress?
The landscape imagery I use is found online, in books or magazines I pick up in charity shops. I guess I am initially inspired by these images; the placement of the photo on the page.

Are there any characteristics of Manchester and its scene that inspire or influence your works?
That’s a funny one as my worked actually stemmed from a rejection of Manchester. I don’t deal with the grey weather too well, so my escape came in the form of my resource books. Don’t get me wrong, Manchester has a beautiful, subtle lighting but I’m not one for translating subtleties. It’s also quite hard to find a place to yourself here, it’s a vibrant city. Back in Chester I used to have a few places I’d go to and know that I could have time alone. On top of a 5 story car park, or a mile down the cycle path. At the time, I didn’t know Manchester so well, so felt claustrophobic. I guess that has something to do with why I moved away from painting people and urban spaces. Even though I rejected Manchester’s scenery you cannot help but take influence from small things that surround you. I get a great deal of my colour choices from shop fronts, peoples clothing or posters around the city. My feeling of Manchester have changed since. I’m intrigued to see how this changes my work.

Any artists (of any genre) right now that are catching your attention in the wider culture of arts? UK, Europe or the rest of the world?
I found a really exciting Parisian painter online recently, Matthieu Clainchard. He employs the palette and formal qualities of video test screens into large public and gallery installations. The work is interesting to me, as it highlights how images can manipulate our perceptions.

matthieu-clainchard

(above Matthieu Clainchard art)

Are there any movements, events or projects going on in manchester right now that you would recommend for local aspiring or working artists in the area?
Check out the ‘Real Painting’ exhibition at Castlefield Gallery, on until the 2nd August. I loved it!
“the exhibition emphasizes the essential grammar of painting, considering not necessarily what a painting means but what it ‘does’”…(Castlefield Gallery)

Do you have any particular or personal goals that you are aspiring to right now with your work?
Absolutely, I’ve used what time I’ve had since graduating to really evaluate what kind of artist I am. I’ve had to remind myself that although I may not be in the studio every spare minute, painting, it’s okay. At the end of the day, graduate life is difficult for a creative. Creating a way of working that is sustainable is very important, as I want to be doing this for a long time to come. I am currently researching ways I can be involved in arts education, whilst applying for funding to work on my own practice. In terms of my work I have realised I need to be more delicate with my surface prep, like I was in university as it makes an enormous difference to the quality of work I make. I also need to use more brown. I don’t use enough brown.

Are there any exhibitions coming up that will be showing your work at?
Yes, I have a show at Sugar Store Gallery at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal in November to coincide with the Kendal Mountain Festival.

Interview by Yemi Bolatiwa