THE BCB INTERVIEWS: Corporate whore

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Brother Spoon
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THE BCB INTERVIEWS: Corporate whore

Postby Brother Spoon » 12 Jan 2014, 07:03

Alright. Before we start, I want to welcome you to our interviewing situation, Martin. Thanks for taking the time.

We've got some music coming up to discuss, but first I want to ask - How do you listen to recorded music? Do you listen pretty much all the time or do you set aside special moments? Alone or not? Late at night, after lunch, first thing in the morning, during work? Do you listen on the go, outside or indoors? Do you sit down? Do you dance? Do you read a book? Do you talk about it? Do you have a preferred format?

What's your ideal listening scenario (for recorded music)?

I invariably listen whilst doing something else - If I try to 'just' listen to music I find my mind wondering. 
Ideally this would be whilst doing something I find relaxing such as reading or messing about on the computer, but usually I am either driving or working. Music is great for doing number work (spreadsheets and such), but not so good when I am concentrating on writing a document.
Out of doors I prefer the sounds of nature, so listening is an indoor activity for me. Although I love music, when I am camping I can go weeks without listening to anything.

Has your listening changed from when you were younger?

It has broadened in scope, for example I have a lot more tolerance for 'pop' music then when I was younger, but the core of my listening was formed during my University years, and that has pretty much remained constant.

In this age of unlimited music collections, how do you decide what you're going to play?

I have a shelf at the side of my study where I put 'all the new stuff', so when I get something new it is easily at hand and its there to remind me I own it. Usually a CD will remain there anything between 6 months and a couple of years before being filed away.

I am geeky enough to have a list of all my CDs, and more and more I select stuff at random just to break out from the tyranny of listening to the same few 'classics' again and again. I recently completed a project which took 5 years(!) to listen to all my CDs. By doing this I found some hidden treasure, but also a load of old tosh as well.

I'm glad I'm not the only one setting forth on projects!

My first musical selection is Nic Jones, 'Canadee-i-o'.

What are your impressions/thoughts about it?

Nic Jones was a lost talent; I love the simplicity of a well-played guitar and great lyrics. Reminiscent of Davy Graham and Steve Tilson and maybe Chris Woods to me. I wonder what he would have achieved if he hadn't had his accident.

At least he is back performing; he played a gig in a club about 200 yards from my house earlier this year (in a series curated by the above Steve Tilson). I managed to miss it as I was away on business (story of my life), but Belinda O'Hooley who sometimes plays with him is another local, so hopefully we will see him again. 

What makes folk music special?

That's not an easy question to answer. What is folk? The English Concertina is seen as a traditional musical instrument, but it’s a Victorian invention. Is Dylan folk? Gram Parsons? Kid Creosote? – in some sense it is too wide a field to have a single answer.But I will give it a go….. 
Firstly, and perhaps illogically, British traditional music is an area of music where genuinely exciting things are happening. Bellowhead, Eliza Carthy, Simon Emmerson (Imagined Village, Afro Celt Soundsystem), The Demon Barbers, Tim Van Eyken, Peatbog Fairies, Blue Horses and many others are stretching the music in new and interesting directions. Much as I love guitar music in all its forms, it seems a bit moribund; its seldom that anything comes along that is genuinely new and exciting, whereas bizarrely Folk is evolving at a tremendous pace. 
Secondly at its best its music that is rooted in a time and place. I love to hear regional accents and lyrics that relate to life as it is (or was) lived. That's why the first Arctic Monkeys album was so good - an accent and lyrics that relate to life as it is lived, and I can recognise, instead of the usual mid-Atlantic fare. Of course this has to be taken with a little bit of salt, the lyrical content of your average traditional song bears no relationship to life as we live it now, but in general it is the music of the people, in a way that seldom appears anymore.
Thirdly, it is probably the last bastion of the protest song. Even when I don’t agree with the cause being protested, protests need to be heard, and music is (or should be) an excellent medium for getting messages across. The new album by Lucy Ward ‘Single Flame’ contains some remarkably adept and mature protest material, yet she is only 24. Sadly she is probably the only protest singer I can think of this side of 40 years old.

I was going to ask if folk music is something to be preserved or something to be altered unrecognizably - but reading your reply it's both, right?

Its got to be a living tradition - I have no truck with traditionalists who want to freeze it in aspic, traditional music always has evolved. Its only when 'collectors' wrote songs down (and sanitised them at the same time) that this process stalled; once upon a time every village would have had its own version of a given song.
In my past life I was a historian and I worked on the social history of popular music in the 17th and 18th century – what popular music meant to people, how they listened to it and played it. Music couldn't be anything else but a social event. Not just music really, but lots of art, theatre, painting, and also news and entertainment. 
All these things have become private enjoyments now, right? Even in a crowd at a show we don't want to know about the person next to us (that we don't know), it's between us and the stage.

For large shows sure, but in small clubs you still get that sense of community, and its not limited to Folk music. We are lucky in having a couple of excellent smallish music venues near us, and you get a sense of community and shared experience even for such un-folk acts as The Beat and James & Scabies.

Is folk music still different in that way? I know that you're a regular Cropredy-visitor, is it more social? Is it important?

Folk clubs certainly are more likely to have a sense of a social experience sure - encouraged by the common practice of having floor spots from anyone who wants to; this can be quite intimidating though if like me, you don't play an instrument.
We purely go to Cropredy nowadays as a social event - I meet up with some university friends and we have been going since the mid '80s. Unfortunately Fairport are a shadow of their former selves, so they are not really an attraction anymore.

I'm going to move on slightly but still in the same field with a second musical selection:

The Unthanks doing their beautiful (I think so) cover of King Crimson's 'Starless'. What do you think?

The Unthanks are fabulous; such pure and distinctive voices, and as I was saying before they are rooted in place by those Northumberland accents. I suspect they could sing the phone book and make it sound good.
As the clip shows, they are also great interpreters of other peoples work. I am a huge fan of the Diversions projects, especially the recordings with the Black Dyke band.

British folk in the early '70s strikes me as a peculiarly placed music with regard to the whole punk vs prog ideological battle. It has that protest side that you mention in common with punk and also the communal importance, the importance of regional differences. But at the same time it was musically quite complex, moving swiftly into jazz and even classical structures, it was busy progressing.
Here's a new folk artist doing a cover of a signature progressive anthem, and it sounds 'right', I think.

In the '70s, the whole punk vs prog thing, was it important for you? Were you on one side? And how did '70s folk fit into it?

Well I didn't really get into Folk until the early 80's when I got to university and was able to raid the rather good record library. In the 70's I was into the Beatles, Kinks (especially), Floyd and West coast bands like the Doors, Jefferson Airplane and the Byrds. When Punk finally got to our obscure corner of Yorkshire I was an easy convert. For some reason I have never bottomed, our school never really divided into prog v's punk; it was acceptable to be in to both.

When I got to Uni in 1981 I made a point of exploring as much different music as I could, and that's where my love of Folk Rock and then Folk came from. The first albums I chose were almost by random, so its a sobering thought that if I had started with some 'difficult' folk like Ewan McColl or the ISB, and some 'accessible' Jazz like 'Kind of Blue' we could be talking here of my love of Jazz. Happily I started with Fairport Convention, Pyewckett, Steeleye Span (and got to dance with Maddy Prior), then I went to a few sessions at the Bridge folk club and got sucked into real traditional music.
I have no idea what Jazz I tried, except it was (to my 18 year old ears) a tuneless mess.

Ha, I'd shortlisted 'Flamenco sketches' from 'Kind of blue' as a music selection, but I thought the better of it!
But tell me more about dancing with Maddy Prior...

Steeleye were playing the university students union, which has a low stage.

Anyway, during the encore it all got a bit jig-tastic, and Maddy was obviously liking for a way to get down into the crowd. So I gave her a hand down and was rewarded with a dance for a couple of minutes.
My other Folk Rock claim to fame is that I have stood next to Dave Pegg in a pissour; twice. The first time we didn't speak, the second (a mere 15 years later) Dave swore a lot and we discussed Dave Swarbricks mandolin.

And no, I didn't look.

Moving on:

Nervous Norvus – Transfusion
What do you think about it?

What music gives you a rush?

Do you think music lost something in passing from the '50s to the '60s? Or was it straight up, up and away?

First time I've heard that, its certainly interesting in a novelty records kind of way, it has a certain innocence that we associate with the 50's. (Does a quick google) Its quite sweet that it was banned from the radio, very much of its time.

The music of the 50's is not something I've explored much. Early Rock & Roll and the Blues are two areas that I really ought to explore further, I often like what I hear when I do hear it. So in terms of the question, the 60's and 70's were my golden age but there are gems from every decade.

Someone (probably loads of someone's) have said that Punk is just Rock & Roll, and I can easily identify with that; the same kind of excitement, the same rejection of the previous generations values, and the sense of something that is 'yours'. Funny how it all comes around again.

The Kinks with 'God's children'.

It's quite a complex song, I think. What do you think is Davies's message here?

Do you hear the song as religious? I've always thought it's something a bit special. He seems to be saying that as bad as religion can be, watch out, man is even worse. And religion can be a safe haven from merciless progress. You don't often hear that thought expressed. Or is it ironic?

I love 'Gods children', a bit of an obscure classic. It's a real pity that this and the superb 'The Way Love Used to Be' are hidden away on the Percy soundtrack, an album that is mainly inconsequential and overlooked even by Kinks fans. Percy is worth owning for these two (plus the decent 'Moments' and 'Dreams') alone.

To your wider question unfortunately I think its a simple answer - the film is about a penis transplant, and the song is just a set up saying we should not mess with nature. Davies is playing with themes about the march or progress, but definitely with his tongue in his cheek. Many of his greatest songs have a hint of nostalgia, but I'm not convinced that this is what is intended here.

Bob Dylan said 'All my religion is in the songs'. Do you think there's a special bond between spirituality and music?

Yes, absolutely there can be. Music at its best works because of its effect on our emotions rather then the logical parts of our brain; and this is the same thing that Religion / spirituality does. To put it another way, Music is the best medium I know of that can express the euphoria or 'lifting of the soul' that great beauty or religious experience can bring.
Worth noting though that personally I get this effect from a clever bit of maths of scientific understanding, so maybe the first part of my answer is not strictly correct!

Were the Kinks your first musical love, the first band that you really took with?

My first musical love was the Beatles I think, my Mum had the 'Red' album which I played incessantly, the first 'proper' album that I bought myself was Sgt Peppers from Baileys in Doncaster.
It was when I discovered that there was more to the Kinks then just the singles that they overtook the Beatles and became the first band that I became really obsessive about; I collected all the albums (including the dross), the first bootleg I ever bought was the Kinks New Years Ever 1979 on vinyl (from a great stall that used to be at the Sunday market on the quayside in Newcastle), and I was desperate to see them live - finally achieved in 1982 at Middlesbrough town hall.

Have they always remained your out and out favourite?

Although I am still a huge fan, they were overtaken as my favourite act by Richard Thompson in his various guises sometime in the late '80s or early 90's: Lyrically I could not put a cigarette paper between Thompson & Davies, but his guitar playing lifts him to a level above.

Since Thompson, Billy Childish has become a contender, not because of his lyrics or playing (which are not in the same league), but more for his passion, attitude and take on life.

What's your latest discovery like that (it can be an old band or a new band)? Does it still happen? A lot?

I 'discover' new acts all the time, but its very rare for one to trigger that obsessive 'must own everything, see them live' kind of reaction. Acts that spring to mind include Eliza Carthy, Portishead, Great Big Sea, Sigur Ros, Chris Woods, The Destroyers, Dengue Fever and Gogol Bordello. Thinking about it, the last band to totally enthuse me are Goat with their strange mix of 'world' music and prog.

The problem is that to totally get my attention an act has to be doing something new and different; and that's increasingly hard to do. This year although there has been some great music, there has only been Public Service Broadcasting who have stood out as doing something new - it remains to be seen if they are a one trick pony.

Lou Reed & Metallica – The view
I wrote this question before the news of Lou Reed's death. I thought about pulling it, but then I figured it may be more interesting to look at this now.

With that in mind, what do you think?
How far in did you get?

I listened all the way through, and that is quite horrible.

To an extent I will defend it though, Lou was pushing boundaries and following his own muse right to the end. It might be a 'failure' to the fans of his music, but its better then producing endless cookie cutters of 'Heroin' for 40 years because its what you perceive your audience wants. I admire artists who follow their vision without compromise.

There are precious few artists that do this - the two obvious ones are Neil Young and Eliza Carthy. Both have long careers, both have pushed the boundaries in different directions, and with both (especially Carthy) I would not lay money against them coming up with something startling and new in the future.
How many established acts can you say that about? precious few.

When artists let you down, does it diminish the glow of the good stuff?

I don't think so - the good stuff will remain good, and the dross will be forgotten. It saddens me a bit when its because an act is on remote control / doing it for the money.

For me the ultimate expression of this is Fairport Convention, who have produced some of my absolute favourite records, but now produce dull uninspired music that they know that many of their core fans don't particularly like.
I wonder what goes through the artists heads with this kind of thing; standing on stage singing a boring song about the local church bells, playing a not very challenging guitar part whilst thinking 'I played on a Sailors Life', and 'Tam Lin', and 'Matty Groves' and 'I Want to see the Bright Lights tonight' and and and....'
The cheers when they play the older stuff must give them some clue that they have lost something. I know this in some ways clashed with what I said above about following your own muse, but generally I don't think any true artist would find being boring and bland a satisfactory outcome.

Name one imaginary badly judged collaboration one of your heroes should never pursue.

That's quite an interesting question, because much of my favourite music nowadays is coming from cross-overs between different genres. whether it is good or bad is generally down to the execution.

So it would have to be something where the artist was selling his soul for the money, for example anyone who can sing paired with anyone who needs to be autotuned. or;

Richard Thompson and Puff Diddy/Daddy/Dogdoo - Shoot out the lights (motherfuckers)

Fun Lovin Criminals and Psi - Korean Bodega (Dance Mix)

Billy Childish and One Direction (actually this could be quite funny and result in violence)

Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson - oh hang on.......

Yeah, which of the two is the hero and which is the badly judged collaboration?  

Getting to the heart of it:

Ace of cups – Music
Music – it's why we're here, right?
Do you think everything is going to be alright?

Sure everything's going to be alright - at least where music is concerned. My only regret is that I can't keep up with the never ending flow of new bands and new stuff; but that's the music fans equivalent of a first world problem.
I do regret what might be the passing of the 'album' as a format, and definitely the disappearance of record stores from the high street; but on the other hand the live music scene is in rude health. As long as kids keep picking up guitars to impress girls we will be OK.

Is music one of the arts for you, or is it something more special still? Is it clearly your favourite of the arts? Is it just one way for people to express themselves?

Music is definitely the most important of the arts - put a gun to my head and I could live without any of the others, but music would be the hardest to live without.
Why that is I'm not sure. I'm from a quite musical family (Mum is a decent pianist, Dad plays brass); consequently music (and more importantly, live music) was the first 'Art' that I ever encountered (if you don't count Radio 2 and the telly). Also, its an art that you can appreciate on different levels, and whilst doing other things; most other arts need your full attention.

What's the last music you've played (apart from this clip) ?

The album 'Folly' by Mary Hampton


A singer/songwriter from Brighton, who does a mix of traditional and self-penned material in an achingly fragile voice.
Also has one of the most pretentious web sites in the music business.
I'm more and more being drawn to this kind of introspective music.

Lets sign off on some music (and an action packed video);

Merry Christmas, Martin.

And a Happy new year to you!

We got there in the end!

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Re: THE BCB INTERVIEWS: Corporate whore

Postby C » 12 Jan 2014, 09:50

Nice. Very nice

Well done lads

Yes, well done

fange wrote:OOOOF! Full of music!

Nice tubs. Good lad!

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Re: THE BCB INTERVIEWS: Corporate whore

Postby Your Friendly Neighbourhood Postman » 12 Jan 2014, 10:44

Yup. Can't say how much I am enjoying all of these.
On the whole, I'd rather be in Wallenpaupack.

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Re: THE BCB INTERVIEWS: Corporate whore

Postby kath » 13 Jan 2014, 10:28

a great read. i thought the idea of using song clips as springboards for discussion was majorly cool.

groovy stuff on folk music, what it means. what living, breathing means. i luvved that version of starless, by the way.

Music is the best medium I know of that can express the euphoria or 'lifting of the soul' that great beauty or religious experience can bring...


Richard Thompson and Puff Diddy/Daddy/Dogdoo - Shoot out the lights (motherfuckers)
Fun Lovin Criminals and Psi - Korean Bodega (Dance Mix)
Billy Childish and One Direction (actually this could be quite funny and result in violence)
Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson - oh hang on......


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Re: THE BCB INTERVIEWS: Corporate whore

Postby Toby » 13 Jan 2014, 14:50

This was my favourite of the interviews so far - a thought provoking discussion and nicely managed by Brother Spoon. Excellent!

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Re: THE BCB INTERVIEWS: Corporate whore

Postby Polishgirl » 13 Jan 2014, 19:47

Bleep wrote:This was my favourite of the interviews so far - a thought provoking discussion and nicely managed by Brother Spoon. Excellent!

Great questions. Very original, and The Unthanks thing is ace.
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Re: THE BCB INTERVIEWS: Corporate whore

Postby Betty Denim » 13 Jan 2014, 22:48

Loved the reasons for love of folk music.

Great interview format too.

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Re: THE BCB INTERVIEWS: Corporate whore

Postby Charlie O. » 14 Jan 2014, 03:57

A fabulous interview, on both sides. Well done, gents!

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Re: THE BCB INTERVIEWS: Corporate whore

Postby Carlisle Wheeling » 15 Jan 2014, 13:54

A really interesting read and new music to investigate!

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Re: THE BCB INTERVIEWS: Corporate whore

Postby Minnie Cheddars » 17 Nov 2015, 00:37

I hadn't read any of these! What a shame as I really enjoyed reading this. I'm off to look at some more.
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Re: THE BCB INTERVIEWS: Corporate whore

Postby Corporate whore » 17 Nov 2015, 15:56

Funny, I was thinking about this the other day, it was very enjoyable to do, although I probably tasked Bro Spoons patience on a couple of occasions with the length of time it took to respond.

Completely as an aside, we saw the Unthanks a couple of weeks ago with Nick and Cath. IN a small venue (it holds 200) they are absolutely breathtaking. Because of demand they played three sets over two days, I wish I had got tickets for them all.