Friday, 29 October 2010


"Basement Music On CRMK", or "A Short Article About Something Really Great"

Words by: Phil W.

Back in January 2010, I attended a small launch party for a new show on Milton Keynes's internet based local radio station CRMK. The show was Basement Music, the brain-child of budding radio DJ Michael Andrews. The Concept: to promote original local music from all over Milton Keynes, covering all genres. Every week he'd get a different act in the studio, interview them and get them to play a few songs... and in-between he'd play nothing but music recorded by Milton Keynes bands and artists, and talk about and plug everything from open mic's to gigs at the Sno!Bar. It’s a home-grown Milton Keynes story of a passion for local music, rather like CRMK itself.

CRMK (Cable Radio Milton Keynes) has its roots at the very start of Milton Keynes along with the Milton Keynes TV station. The TV station is long gone but CRMK still struggles along with unpaid DJ’s and local volunteers, and a criminally small listenership. At some point, around the time that local radio began its slow extinction, CRMK was taken over by Horizon. Under Horizon things weren't too bad really but once Heart took over CRMK lost its analogue signal and was only accessible via the internet. The upshot of course is that they can basically broadcast what they like (though if you go on the show you have to try not to swear!). It’s still broadcast from the same studios as it was back in the 80's and stepping inside the small, wood-panelled studio with the huge mixing desk and the red "On Air" lamp is an exciting experience for any aspiring DJ or artist - and the first stop for numerous DJ hopefuls over the years including, from January this year, Michael Andrews.

"The Milton Keynes music scene is so separated into lots of different groups and each one is very insular," commented Michael. "If only we could bring them all together in one place." And that’s pretty much exactly what Basement Music does. Since January over thirty acts have walked through his studio doors including Footswitch, Project Wolverine, Roses & Pirates, Phil Sky, Dusque, Seeking Salvation Through Love, The Further Adventures Of Vodka Boy, Scribe, Bine The Peg and Tombstone Bullets to name a few. When Dusque performed live they arrived an hour before their set and carted their entire arsenal of stage equipment into the tiny studio for a fully plugged in set. This really is a great thing going on. And there's more to come, Michael tells me he's fully booked with acts until January now.

I was in the CRMK studio again in October and have been a regular listener throughout the year. In the 21st century, a show like Basement Music is a more relevant thing than ever before. Macbooks have given every aspiring artist studio-quality recordings and across the board the standard of the tracks Michael plays is universally good. And there really is something to be said for the diversity of the Milton Keynes music scene, even if it can be a little insular. There’s something about this being a new city - that so many different groups of people have come together relatively recently into one place that gives Milton Keynes such a thriving arts scene, music included. In a world where bands big and small are more and more frequently going it alone, free of the record labels, an independent radio station like this just makes sense. Never before have so many high quality recordings been available to capture a thriving local music scene.

But despite this, The Man is always lurking round the corner. Rumour has it that Heart FM, CRMK's current owners, would like to close the studio down, ending the last bastion of local, independent radio in Milton Keynes. And to lose it really would be a sad thing. If you're in a band, it’s unlikely you'd be able to get your song played on Heart, let along drop in the studio and play a live set.

So if you can find the time, tune in to Basement Music, 7:30 till 9 every Thursday evening and support local music and local radio.

Monday, 18 October 2010


Gig: Lecarla, supporting Evarose
The Craufurd Arms, Wolverton, MK.
Phil W.

It was cold and dark in the back room of the Craufurd Arms but it was impossible to repress a thrill of excitement in seeing the stage set up and ready for a local band I was genuinely excited to see. Looking at the stage bathed in purple lights, I couldn’t help thinking it had been too long since I’d seen a gig in here. For the first half hour DJ Michael Andrews and myself had hidden with the locals in the main bar but stepping into the backroom immediately took me back into the magical world of gig-land. For all the hundreds of acoustic open mic nights, there’s still something special about basses and drums, and smoke machines, and the smell of burning amplifiers, and the bright lights, and the pitch dark auditoriums.

Matthew and I discovered home-grown Milton Keynes band Lecarla back in April when we reviewed them for Dudebox Track Of The Season with “Where Do We Go?” and then again in September with "DILLIGAF". Both tracks are tight, well-written slices of metallic pop rock with an awesome guitar sound and strong female vocals while "DILLIGAF" comes with an impressive music video. In fact when we first discovered them, the band seemed too good to be true; still unsigned, they already seem like the complete package. Their well-produced, polished songs already sound like singles, they have professional-looking music videos and they already sell a range of t-shirts branded Lecarla Armour. Besides the MySpace and Facebook, their own slick website boasts past tours with the likes of The Blackout and We Are The Ocean. According to their MySpace, the band even have clothing sponsors. It seemed high time I made an effort on behalf of the Dudebox to check them out live.

Two things are immediately apparent when Lecarla start to play: firstly every member of the band is stunningly musically proficient, and secondly they are very, very loud. Their sound is truly awesome, landing somewhere between pop rock and metal. In fact the Deftones is just as much a comparison as Paramore. The duel guitar sound is huge, the massive guitar distortion punctured by softer moments of refrained melody. Lead singer Lizzy Dent's vocals are strong and melodic while drummer Steve North adds just a little screaming while he pummels the drums, driving the songs forward with a impressive barrage of beats. All five members of Lecarla seem at ease and enjoying themselves on stage, the guitarist and bassist pulling out every rock n roll pose and grinning the whole while. This is a band that already looks and sounds like they are ready for a bigger stage, they are tight and cohesive and confident. But in the end it’s the songs that really shine; interesting, hook-laden and original. "DILLIGAF" already sounds like a radio hit while all the other songs stand out well in the set. If you’re looking for the next big thing in music to come out of Milton Keynes, Lecarla might very well be the place to start.

So DJ Michael Andrews and myself headed back to the bar and accidently missed most of the set from Oxford-based all female four piece Evarose which was a shame because what we caught we really liked - but this evening was really all about catching Milton Keynes’s very own Lecarla live and it was well worth it.

Saturday, 2 October 2010


Venue: The Coronet, London.
Words: Phil W and MMT.

For years I just never really GOT Nick Cave. I know that that’s a controversial statement but I just didn't GET it. Most of all I just didn't really think it was my thing, in the same way I'm still not sure Bob Dylan is really my thing. I am fully aware of all the things that are there to appreciate and I can hardly knock either artist, they are both very good at what they do whether I like them or not, but I just wasn't sure I really GOT Nick Cave.

Then one evening a few years ago while loafing around the Monkey Kettle offices, Nikki told me if I didn't really GET Nick Cave then maybe I'd GET Tom Waits, that might be more my thing. Apparently people often like one or the other, but in that moment my brain knotted the two artists inseparably together despite them both having wildly different styles and backgrounds and yet I still wasn’t sure EITHER was really my thing.

In fact it wasn't until I heard Scarlett Johansson’s solo album that I really began to appreciate the genius behind Tom Waits’ songs and I began to suspect it MIGHT actually be my thing. It was the lyrics; it was all about the lyrics, and suddenly Nick Cave's “Red Right Hand” entirely made sense; the words, the imagery; he was creating his own world in the lyrics, he was telling stories, drawing out characters and it was his lyrics that often provided the strongest hooks rather than the guitar. And now I got it all. Of course Matthew had been talking about Nick Cave for years; I'm a relative newcomer to his work.

Dude, I GET Nick Cave. Oh man, I GET him. Right about here.

The first time I GOT him was in 1992, when I saw him on “The Chart Show”, of all places! It was the video for “Straight To You”, the first single off “Henry’s Dream” – coincidentally my favourite album by yer man Cave & The Bad Seeds. And when I dug deeper and BOUGHT that album, I was hooked for ever. Intricate and evocative lyrics, like you mention. An accomplished writer who was also cool enough to be the stick-thin suit-wearing frontman of an astonishingly tight band of stick-thin suit-wearing hench-musos. And my avid love for his – and their – recorded output subsequently stretched out in both directions to span now more than 30 years. From the sinister garage thrashings of The Birthday Party, through his clattery blues phase, his indie-goth darling phase, his razor-sharp pop rock phase, even his mournful religious piano ballad and his upbeat gospel phases! I have dug it all, and been lucky to see him play live several times over at least two decades. I’ve got his novels, his books of poetry, even him reading his own latest novel across a 7-CD box set. He is, in a very real sense, one of my absolute heroes.

Anyway… can we go and see Grinderman now please?

There's no support tonight, at least none that we come across. We got in early and grabbed a couple of seats on the front row of the balcony with a perfect view of the stage. It’s exceptionally dark and mellow inside the cavernous Coronet, a former music hall and cinema that was converted into a music venue in 2003. We're several beers down when Grinderman take to the stage with riotous opener “Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man” that’s also the first track of their new album “Grinderman 2”. Up to now I've only heard the first Grinderman album but the new material sounds fantastic live. The exceptionally tall, waif-like figure of Nick Cave darts around the stage, gleefully attacking a guitar or craning over the adoring audience while the impressively bearded Warren (Ellis) constantly threatens to upstage him and even sets off chants of "Warren, Warren" at one point during the set, which Nick Cave joins in with. I've not seen Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds live but tonight Grinderman defiantly felt like a complete band with all members met on equal terms. The anthemic “Get It On” barrages through like a steam train, “Depth Charge Ethel” rocks the pews while “No Pussy Blues” sounds triumphant as well as helpless. The evening closes fittingly with the eponymous “Grinderman”.

If I’m being totally honest, I almost don’t count Grinderman as a separate band – despite what Cap’n Caveman clearly wants us to think. All four members are, after all, IN Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and for all the fuss about the loudness of the guitars on their two albums, it’s still not a million miles from their other recent albums – except with slightly louder guitars. Even the NC&TBS album which comes in between “Grinderman” and “Grinderman 2” (“Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!”) sounds like Grinderman. But none of this is the point.

The point is the smiles on the heavily bearded faces of these men in their forties and fifties. The point is the FUN they’re having, the playfulness in Cave’s lyrics – his best in years, and that’s saying something. The point is that you CAN do both, be BOTH the best writer of mournful religious piano ballads of your generation AND rock out with a ridiculous moustache. The most telling moment of any of Grinderman’s output is the self-revelatory “Damn!” in their best song, “No Pussy Blues”. Says it all.

If I was looking to fully understand Nick Cave then in the live setting I found what I was looking for; it’s Nick Cave's self-mocking humour that really steals the show in the end. That he can be both cool and funny, self mocking and serious all at the same time is at the heart the genius behind his act. “No Pussy Blues” makes not getting laid cool, he tells you he's tried sucking in his gut and he’s trying to stay up late and he's still just so cool about it and we end up smiling about the problem of growing older and still wanting to rock. From the way he leaps around the stage on his impossibly slender frame, you'd never know he was in his fifties and yet his lyrics don't pretend he's still twenty and angst ridden. He's middle-aged and coping fine, he's the Grinderman but that’s okay. It’s a better place to be than six feet under, he sounds like he's okay with it. He's not hiding anything and he still looks so damn cool about it. And now I know this is definitely my thing.

Man, I hope I can still leap about like that when I’M 53 years of age. I bet he feels it in the morning. But yeah, that’s it in a nutshell – he’s clever enough, talented enough, and shrewd enough to surround himself with way talented kindred spirits to do BOTH. Absolutely fantastic – a great gig by a great band… DAMN!