Listen: The Mekons live at the 100 Club, London

The Mekons perform “Where Were You?” and “Armalite Rifle” live at the 100 Club, London April 13, 2018

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International Clash Day: Interview with Mike Scott of The Waterboys

With a sound that merges Celtic folk and ’60s rock, you may be surprised to learn that Mike Scott of The Waterboys cites The Clash as an early influence. In this exclusive International Clash Day interview, Scott tells KEXP about discovering The Clash, his song about Mick Jones, and the times he ran into Joe Strummer.

“Well, when I first heard The Clash I thought they sounded like The Glitter Band. And The Glitter Band was a British pop band who used to back Gary Glitter and they specialized in this kind of buzzy guitar sound, dull drums and “OH YEAH! OH YEAH!” kind-of vocals. And when I first heard The Clash doing “White Riot”, that’s what I thought they sounded like. But then I went deeper and I listened to the first Clash album. And slowly it had an electrifying effect on me. And unlike most Clash listeners I had never listened to The Ramones. I was never interested in the Ramones. And I realize now that The Clash really lifted about 50 percent of their sound from the first Ramones album, but I was blissfully unaware of that. And so to me that first Clash album is like a bolt from the blue. All those fantastic short, super fast songs. And then I went to see them live at Clouds in Edinburgh, which is a big disco, and they were the most incredible band I’d ever seen. Now, I’d seen The Rolling Stones, The Who. Lots of the great bands of rock as a teenager, but The Clash blew them all away. The energy of The Clash was so exciting and so dangerous and so unrestrained. And they were like an army on stage. Beautiful in their power.”
– Mike Scott | Read Full Interview at KEXP Website

Mark E Smith: the last of the non-conformists

There was no one quite like the Fall’s post-punk poet.

It was announced yesterday that, after a period of ill health last year, Mark E Smith has passed away aged 60. The only constant member of the Fall since he formed the band in 1976, MES (as his name was often abbreviated) was a true original, a glorious one-off who remained closer to the original post-punk brief than anyone else. His passing is another weary reminder of the fading out of a non-conformist era, a time when public life wasn’t dominated by well-connected head-boy types or pop figures whose idea of being edgy is to endorse Jeremy Corbyn in the Guardian.

Indeed, many of us loved MES precisely because he had an in-built bullshit detector alerting him to the pretensions of petit-bourgeois radicals and their strange ideas. The Fall’s 1994 track ‘Middle Class Revolt!’ was a prescient statement on the shifting direction of British culture and politics. His unaffected persona was that of a cranky old factory worker moaning about students and layabouts. It always made for entertaining copy in interviews, and in real life he was no different. Nevertheless, his proletarian belligerence couldn’t entirely hide his autodidacticism and his role as a genuine artist. For a start, the Fall’s name was taken from a 1956 Albert Camus novel, and MES’s reference points were resolutely literary – Marlowe, Nabokov, Ballard, Gogol and Ellison crop up in various ways throughout MES’s song titles and lyrics. The writer Simon Reynolds pointed out that the Fall’s biggest early influence was not punk rock, but a worn out library card. It clearly showed in MES’s dramatic and vivid wordplay manifest throughout his band’s 40-year existence.

As a precocious teenager, MES was first hooked on pivotal Krautrock band Can, with their motorik chug and expansive drum rolls becoming a mainstay of the Fall’s sound. And yet, at the same time, the Fall never really sounded like anyone else. They may have often given the impression of shambolic chaos, but beneath that there was a tightly honed drive and attack which drew on anything from 1950s rockabilly through to the fizz and squall of acid house. The Fall were always a disorientating collage, but one held in check by MES’s pile-driving energy. The result was hypnotic and compelling. Central to this magnetic quality was always MES’s barked, tumbling wordplay that had its own lexicon and codes. Such was the force of MES’s personality that lesser lights were often drafted in by Smith for guest vocal appearances to add grit, menace and humour [ . . . ] Source: Mark E Smith: the last of the non-conformists