Roger Houdaille from Ex Norwegian Interview

It’s indie rock, it’s full of Florida sunshine, it is the continued journey of Ex Norwegian. In the softly softly release of their fourth album Crack, Ex Norwegian’s frontman and founder Roger Houdaille opens the lid on music Stateside as Jimbo pulls up a chair to chat.

Jimbo: How much is Ex Norwegian about Roger Houdaille?

Roger Houdaille: Well I’m the groups’ chief instigator, but I would hesitate to say the band is about me.

What motivated the band to re-form and re-release Sketch back in 2011?

It was the decision to re-release of Sketch on Dying Van Gogh Records that got me to come back from New York City, where I had ran off too, to Miami and put some type of band back together to help promote the release.

We’ve just received news that you’ve released a new album called Crack. What can we expect to hear on Crack?

Actually, I’m not sure anymore because I spent 4 days just re-mixing and getting a little more creative with the production than originally intended. It was supposed to be a very stripped down collection of very accessible tunes. I’m not so sure that’s what ended up happening! But at the same time, there’s no drastic departure from the previous albums. I like to think of this one as House Music part two.

What was the rationale behind the softly-softly release of Crack, with so little fanfare of its arrival?

It was a very spur of the moment decision. Inspiration struck again out of nowhere, and thank God because things were reaching a real low point. The quick release was just to coincide with my birthday and have an unrealistic deadline, which I managed to pull off. So it’s available on our BandCamp but probably for a limited time. It will see a bigger release April 2nd on Limited Fanfare records.

We’re based in the UK, but how much UK interest is there in the band and would you ever consider touring here in the future?

Yes, one of our goals is to go to the UK and Europe. Quite honestly, we get much better reception from our music over there than here at home. We’re not exactly what’s trendy at the moment.

How hard is it these days for bands to make a living from making music?

It really depends. I think if one band can do it, than technically anyone can. But it does require a certain group of things you need. And of course, it comes down to perception. Bands have to realize this is a job, and its harder than a regular 9-5 job. There needs to be a good team in place too. No time for rockstar attitudes or closed minds. Anything goes, no rules, a constant hustle.

What’s the appetite in the US for following on from the first African American President with the first female President (whether that’s Hilary Clinton or Sarah Palin)?

I’m not sure if most people are thinking that far ahead yet. There’s still long ways to go and the situation doesn’t look pretty at the moment!

What is it about Monty Python that transcends across the Atlantic?

The knickers. Yes, it must be the knickers! The fact that it’s smart and silly at the same time and forces us Americans to learn a lot of British slang, history, culture…some of us like that. It also has quite a different sensibility than what we are used to. I remember being addicted as soon as I discovered the TV show back in 6th grade.

A huge thanks to Roger for answering Jimbo’s questions and we’ll eventually post an album review, but if you can’t wait that long head over to Ex Norwegian’s Bandcamp page where you can buy Crack now (that’s to listen to obviously!).

Antlered Man Interview

Two albums out in the space of two years and I’d like to think we’re beginning to get a idea of what Antlered Man are bringing to the musical table. So when we were presented with the opportunity for a q&a with guitarist Danny Fury it was one we didn’t want to miss.

Jimbo: If you were to try and describe the band to someone, using Twitter’s 140 character limit what would you say?

Antlered Man: I’ll just say what I say to most people who know very little about music in and around where we’re from – “It’s sorta heavy, y’know? Not like ‘toss me that fucking fruitbat onstage and watch this’ heavy, but heavy, y’know? One song has got a flute on it! Do you know Mogwai? No. We’re a bit like Elvis.”

That’s more than 140 characters, but when did we ever expect you’d play by the rules! Onto your music, how would you say that This Devil is Them has developed from Giftes 1&2?

When we were writing Giftes, we were pushing our own musical abilities in Sam’s bedroom and didn’t know what the end result would be. We knew that we didn’t want to be obvious, but also knew that we didn’t want to be belligerent with our output. Our ‘writing’ was also an excuse to continue our Olympian booze consumption without feeling too surly in the mornings.

With This Devil Is Them!, we had a much clearer idea of how we wanted to be perceived, mainly due to us playing the first record into peoples faces at shows all over the place and becoming better players in the process. We knew that nothing could hold the songs back after that.

Would it fair to use our description that This Devil is Them is heavier and yet accessible to a wider audience?

I agree. About 30% of the huge bits on the album were thought up on the road, orally saved into a shitty Nokia (props on the vintage equipment) and tested, very crudely in soundchecks through a massive sound system. The rest of it was done in between tours while we were very much still in live mode, which would explain why it’s probably more accessible to people. We stopped trying to piss our loved ones off and started trying to shift some merch!

In terms of comparing the self-released Giftes 1&2, how different was the recording, production and promotional process of This Devil is Them?

Well, with the new record – we basically got told at the end of a tour last year that we had 3 months to write and record an album. We had a really good idea of how we wanted it to sound, so there wasn’t any worry on that front. Only thing was/is – when you tour, you put any money made back into the pot to cover any van maintenance, more merchandise, etc….you don’t use it to pay the rent. Compared to the – “Wanna come write some tunes and get fucked up at my parents place?!” approach of the first record, this was an obstacle as we had to hold down jobs as well as kick sonic boundaries in the nuts. Then my house got robbed. Then I got a repetitive strain injury in my fretting hand. And that was just me!

Things started to change as soon as Rocky O’Reilly came on board. We’d already toured/made a blood pact with ASIWYFA, like a year before, and were massive fans of his production and their work. The minute he came into the process, he could listen to a song with 19+ ideas ONCE and say – “You know the 14th riff there? We need to nail that.” His talent confused me. When we got back from Belfast, we were totally exhausted and had no idea of how this could be marketed or compartmentalized….we just knew we’d made a great, fucking album. It was only after our label, New Heavy Sounds, and Simon Glacken, from I Like Press, started to give us a battleplan that we saw how much work goes into all of this when the product is ready. Before, I was willing to flog it from the back of a Transit. This time, a Mercedes Sprinter at least.

Taking the idea that each album is progressional, how would you like to develop as a band? Is there an ultimate aim or vision of what you want to achieve?

The most exciting thing about being in Antlered Man is that we, ourselves, never know how things may develop. We all talk alot before we start recording and this is my favourite aspect of the process. I think, with these 2 records, we’re laying the groundwork for what we see as a long career and many more albums. Without any humour whatsoever, we also want to make mainstream acts/celeb dietitians/Otis Ferry shit themselves when they see us play live.

Based on your promotional photographs (see the banner one for the Giftes 1&2 review this q&a) the band wouldn’t look out of place in the Grumpyrocker offices, are the band grumpy and is your music reflective of that?

I know I’m grumpy. I also know that it’s because of our surroundings. Whenever we make an excursion from our surroundings to the rest of the UK/Ireland/Germany/Austria or even fucking Kensington, we start to gain sunny dispositions. And Kensington has armed cops!

We were slap-bang (dwelling) in the middle of the supposed London riots a while back and it upset me that we, the downtrodden of all races for generations, would use that upheaval to steal TV’s from Comet or Twixes from Kumar’s shop (which actually happened). What a fucking waste. Then some fucking newspaper magnate who swindles elections for his pals gets to print stories about us violent simpletons to keep us in our place and forever ingrained into the public psyche, whilst the EDL ride like (un)valiant, beer-gutted fuckwits on white horses (pun intended) to ‘defend’ our shitty habitat. Your headgear can only be critically fucked when this happens.

As much as I try to escape from all of this by writing music to purge myself and to tour the nicer parts of the world with, I know that my shit surroundings make for violent bursts of creativity. The illness and the frigging cure.

That flows nicely into our next question – much of your music hints (maybe that’s underselling things!) at political commentary on the modern age, where do the band’s political influences come from and if you had any vestiges of power, what would you do to improve the country?

I’m not so dumb that I can’t speak articulately about what I feel, but I’m also not one of those arseholes who pretends to know every political nuance of this country. I also don’t intend for this, but, our songs don’t tend to offer any solutions…just insights into our problems! Self centered, we are. It would be extremely limiting if we were exclusively a ‘political band’ too.

My personal belief is that each person should be able to govern themselves without a book, an L. Ron Hubbard short story or a biased media and if you take umbrage to somebodies PERSONAL beliefs, behaviours, proclivities or addictions that effect nobody but themselves and/or a willing prayer/fuck/junk buddy, then leave them the fuck alone. I don’t understand how people can’t leave other people the fuck alone. Everything needs a fucking formula to a solution.

You’re in the middle of a tour right now, what can someone expect from being present at an Antlered Man gig?

It won’t all come at you at once. But it will come at you. Since our set has become longer, it’s been an absolute joy to have all of the extremes come at you over the course of 45 minutes, or so. I’m a fan of music and I’ve become a massive fan of our live show. It’s the shit.

How do the members of Antlered Man relax?

I stock up on booze and food and lock myself away with my fiance where we start the day watching The Thing and invariably end up watching Predator. We didn’t meet at a sci-fi convention or anything, those films are just factually the balls!

Ollie will push himself to gain another muscle to his already ample collection at the gym before getting drunk.

Damo will phone me drunk and ask what I’m doing.

Sam will be writing an opus on some instrument that he made using a yoghurt pot and tramps guts whilst getting drunk.

What do the Antlered Men want for Christmas?

Sleep through it, wake up in January with an awesome tour booked.

For keeping us entertained, providing thought provoking comment and confirming that Antlered Man are worth spending time discovering, we take our hat off to Danny Fury and salute him for taking the time to answer Jimbo’s questions.

Interview with Butterfly Fan the Inferno

For those who did not click on the link to read the review of Sunset Scavengers / iComa and have never come across Butterfly Fan the Inferno (BFTI) before. BFTI are from Birmingham, have a solid foundation in creating uncompromising rock music, with a bit of ska thrown in and currently lineup with Jase Holgate (bass), Paul Collins (drums), Tony Wilkinson (guitar) and John Kelly (vocals & guitar).

Jimbo: “First question has to be where does the band name Butterfly Fan the Inferno originate from?”

Butterfly Fan the Inferno: “That came from the mind of John; fucked-up weirdo misfit that he is.”

“Do you prefer to think of the band as being born in 1999 or 2006 when you first started gigging? And what is it about the current line-up that encourages the term “settled” to be used?”

“Bands are very volatile entities; you know when you are a settled line-up. The thing about mentioning 1999 is that people compare us to Axl and the “Chinese….” saga…that’s wrong!”

“You’ve had two singles released in fairly close proximity, what are the feelings about releasing an album of tracks?”

“What’s the obsession with albums? Johnny Cash wrote over 1000 songs; how many of those were amazing do you think? What studio album by him is hailed as a classic? None. It’s about SONGS….we believe in quality not quantity. The truth is that at least 90% of bands don’t have what it takes to make a great collection of 10-12 songs.”

“How best would you describe your music and what would an uninitiated individual experience at one of your gigs?”

“Every song is unique so the listener must judge for themselves. Music is personal.”

“You mentioned at one point “We’re gonna keep delivering our music, uncompromised, and then when it’s time, we’re gonna fuck off!” – does this mean there is a plan to what you hope to achieve through BFTI and what would mean calling time on the band?”

“Why go through the motions? We could break up tomorrow if we think it’s right.”

“What are the drivers behind why you are making music?”

“Teamwork, self-expression, communication.”

“What is your view about the current music scene?”

“Pants”

“Which bands influence the music of BFTI?

“Originals. Renegades of Funk”

“Who are you currently listening to and who should we all be looking out for?”

“You need to tell us!”

With a huge thank you to the lads from BFTI for taking time to humour Jimbo’s questions.

Mike Marlin Interview

A little bit of background before we begin, Mike Marlin is a singer songwriter originally from London who gave up music after hedonistic student days to concentrate on a twenty five year career in IT. However, as the big 50 loomed closer and closer, Mike met music producer James Durrant and from this point onwards the rest is history…

Jimbo: Did you ever imagine in your 30s that you would be releasing your debut album Nearly Man when you were nearly 50?

Mike Marlin: No! I had no plans to come back to music at that stage. If someone had suggested that it could happen, I would have told them they were mad.

When you spent those years in computers and technology was music an outlet for the day to day frustrations, or was it a stark choice between a career or music?

It was never a stark choice, because I did not see music as an alternative. Music was a creative outlet – not that I had much time for anything other than work when I was 30.

In light of the line from In the Basement “I would love to have a musical past but I would hate to live with it” – Is there not some regret you didn’t release music when you were younger, or have your life experiences benefited your musical creativity?

I don’t know. Sometimes I regret starting so late. But looking back, I would have been very sensitive to criticism and easily knocked off course when I was younger. Now I am old, I care a bit less and understand a bit more – which I think helps with song writing.

What did it feel like being selected for HMV’s Next Big Thing? Did it daunt you and how significant was it to raising your profile?

It felt bizarre. I was twice the age of the next youngest selection. I was not daunted by it, and it helped – because it gave people a reason to listen to the music – at least once!

Nearly Man and Man on the Ground released in less than 12 months are these songs / lyrics / music that you have had for years and can we expect more albums as quickly as these?

All but two songs on Nearly Man were written in the two years leading up to the release, and all the songs on Man On The Ground are new. You can expect another album in 2013. I have a lot of catching up to do!

What would define a point for Mike Marlin at which you feel happy with your achievements?

I do not have specific goals in mind. My focus is on what I do – I want to keep writing, recording and playing music. I will do it for as long as I can, or want to or am allowed.

There has been talk about your music being influenced by Bowie, Costello and Weller, but which new musicians inspire you?

The much remarked (and accurate) current influence on me is The National – on three levels: their songs; Matt Berninger’s voice and their slow burn success. I just heard Sea of Regrets the new single from I Like Trains and love it – again the voice is a great reference for me, as is their uncompromisingly anti-pop sound. Add Nick Cave, Polly Harvey, Ed Harcourt.

Man on the Ground is tracklisted as being in two halves – having listened to both I can’t make up my mind if the first half is real melancholy and the second half more wistful memories of happier days – would you mind sharing what you were looking to achieve with the split?

I always pictured Man On The Ground as an LP so it had to have two sides, artwork designed for a 12″ sleeve and sonics that suit the warmth and dynamic range of a turntable. I played with lots of variations in track order, but settled on a track listing that I hope makes each side a satisfying musical journey. Incidentally, there is a limited edition LP available, so 300 people will get the album as originally conceived.

The video for The Magician is fantastically cool and reminds me of my youth watching Paul Daniels, but it’s an illusion, a sleight of hand, you talked about deception and appreciation of it, what is it about humans that allow us to welcome more of it?

As we grow up we become cynical and think we know what to expect. We trust our analytical power and our experience to give us answers. Magic reminds us of when we were children – when everything was new and unexpected (and slightly scary). That’s why I love it.

With Man on the Ground being much darker than Nearly Man, which is most reflective of the man who is Mike Marlin?

Man On The Ground is the album I wanted to make, whereas Nearly Man happened to me. So I think musically Man on The Ground is musically closer to me. It is not all doom and gloom though: some of the songs are positively overflowing with happiness – for example Heartbeat and Girl From Chelsea Bridge!

If you could have a wish for 2012 what would it be?

Unlikely as it seems, I don’t have a wish for 2012. I will do what I do, and we shall see what happens. Oh – and world peace of course!

A huge debt of thanks to Mike for taking time out to answer Jimbo’s questions.