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One of my favourite recent-ish rock discoveries has been Royal Blood. The band is comprised of two English guys, Mike Kerr (bass, vocals) and Ben Thatcher (drums), both of whom are in their mid-twenties. Though they formed only two years ago, the band already have a fan in none other than Jimmy Page, they’ve had the fastest selling debut rock album in the UK in three years, and they’ve played support for The Pixies and Arctic Monkeys.
I love the album and the lead single ‘Figure It Out’ has been a big hit at gigs. The musical line-up sounds odd I know (what, no guitar?) but they have a huge sound, akin to Zeppelin crossed with The White Stripes. In this interview with MusicRadar, Kerr talks a bit about using a pedalboard and his favourite basses, which goes some way to explaining how a two-piece can have so much power.
Slane is happening on May 30th this year and as I’m sure you know Foo Fighters are headlining. Also on the bill are Hozier (YAAAY) and Kaiser Chiefs (WTF?). Don’t get me wrong, Kaiser Chiefs are a band with some good songs and they have a lot of fans here, but I’d MUCH rather see Royal Blood on this bill. And considering Royal Blood are already supporting Foos in the USA in July and August, I’m at a loss as to why this didn’t happen.
If you haven’t already heard them, get on it!
Jape’s fifth album This Chemical Sea was released on January 23rd and charted at number eight in Ireland. I’ve been listening to it fairly steadily since then and it’s a real grower, more chilled out than previous albums but all the more interesting for it. David Wrench, the producer of the record who’s also responsible for recent hits by Caribou and FKA Twigs, does an excellent job here with crisp production and beautifully layered vocals.
The first single from the album, ‘The Heart’s Desire’, is a stand out track and the video directed by Conor Finnegan is a paint-soaked trippy piece of weirdness.
The video for ‘Seance of Light’ starts with a scene reminiscent of Spud’s speed-fuelled job interview from Trainspotting, set to a trancey electro tune with Hot Chip influenced vocals. Check it out.
Jape play the Academy on February 19th and you can grab tickets here.
Blame Whiplash. Blame my unfulfilled ambition to play drums. Blame whatever you want, but I don’t care, yet again I’m going to rhapsodise about Buddy Rich. If I could be anybody else, ANYBODY who ever lived, it would be Buddy Rich. But even if I had all the drum lessons in the world I could never be in the same ballpark as Buddy; people like him are born not taught. He was the exception, the rare genius, the once in a century talent, the James Joyce of drumming. Buddy Rich just had it. From birth.
Buddy was born to parents who were vaudeville performers and his father noticed that aged just one the infant could keep time. Sensing a business opportunity, he put Buddy onstage at eighteen months old, billed as ‘Traps The Drum Wonder’. In common with many child stars, Buddy always felt that he had been robbed of his childhood and felt a lifelong insecurity about his complete lack of formal education.
Buddy transitioned from child star to jazz drummer, taking the drum chair in the Artie Shaw and Tommy Dorsey bands and quickly made a name for himself as a musician who could really swing. In Dorsey’s band he met Frank Sinatra, who went on to back Rich’s first band in 1946. Despite the fact that he famously never practised, Buddy became one of the best (if not the best) drummers of his generation; he had unparalleled technique and speed, an innate sense of perfect time, he knew when to take centre stage and when to pull back to allow a soloist room to play, and his energy and originality could turn a lacklustre band into a band that really cooked.
But Buddy had a dark side. He was cantankerous, harsh, a bully even, and it all came to light when the audio tapes of him berating his band were publicised. Buddy had described himself as a ‘short-tempered man’ (a phrase which tends to understate things just a wee bit) and he did not suffer mediocrity or laziness at all, which when you consider his talent is understandable. His name was on the band, he was up there ‘working my balls off’, he was world-class, and if a member of the band didn’t come up to scratch, he was (in my mind) right to call them on it. Yes, he could be mean but he was the best drummer in the world! Play accordingly, assholes!
I rarely read biographies these days but I’m so fascinated by Buddy Rich that when I saw this book on Amazon, it went straight into my basket. The author Mel Tormé was a renowned jazz singer and a lifelong friend of Rich, and so he has a thorough knowledge of his subject, both as a musician and a man. The book is warm in tone but doesn’t shy away from painting an honest portrait of its subject. Tormé has some great anecdotes to share, both from Buddy himself and the many musicians he worked with, and he also analyses Rich’s playing in an erudite way. For any drummers out there who are fascinated by the technicalities of Rich’s playing, there are some great sections in the back of the book dealing with Rich’s preferred equipment and playing techniques.
If you know nothing about Rich then (aside from stocking up on his albums) check out this great Michael Parkinson interview. Buddy is aged sixty-nine and it was his last interview before his death in April 1987. Parkinson is the consummate interviewer, asking insightful questions which he allows the interviewee to answer fully, no ego, no interrupting. He’s a true facilitator and draws out his subject expertly.
Buddy gives his opinion on many things from rock music, (he doesn’t really rate it, which to me is unsurprising given that he’s technically and creatively far beyond the ability of most rock drummers), the US government’s attitude to jazz and the ‘high arts’, the dedication that jazz takes from both the player and the listener, and his often contentious relationship with Frank Sinatra. He recounts it all with unflinching honesty (listen to his anecdote about Dusty Springfield!), and his great sense of humour. Enjoy!
‘I can’t think of one musician who ever really paid any attention to anybody standing in front of the band with a baton.’
I saw a trailer for Whiplash with my dad when I was in New York last October and was enthralled. We tried to see it while we were there but it only had a small release and we couldn’t find it anywhere. So when it came out last weekend, we were at the lunchtime showing in the Lighthouse, coffees in hand, very excited.
It’s so rare and wonderful when a film exceeds your expectations and Whiplash is one of those films. Set in New York, it stars Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman, a nineteen-year-old drummer in his first year at Schaffer Music School, one of America’s most prestigious music conservatories. Andrew idolises Buddy Rich and dreams of eventually being in the pantheon of great jazz drummers. His aspirations are realised when he is accepted into the Studio Band conducted by Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons). Fletcher encourages Neiman, faking a sense of camaraderie, before ripping him apart and reducing him to tears in front of the band, the beginning of a destructive pattern intended to break Neiman’s spirit and motivate him to become the best he can be.
Dad was the perfect cinema partner for this particular film; he started playing jazz professionally in his teens in 1960s Belfast. Through his gigs and music around the house, I came to love jazz, and that helped me to appreciate certain aspects of the film. When Fletcher fires a player for being out of tune, I knew the player wasn’t, but Fletcher’s point was that if the player didn’t know whether he was out of tune then he had no business being in a jazz orchestra. Fair point, harshly made. And every time Fletcher calls out Neiman, saying he’s dragging or rushing, in each case he’s right. Fletcher may be a bully, a completely unsympathetic character, but he’s an excellent judge of musical ability and technique.
That said, you don’t need an obsessive interest in the drums or any knowledge of jazz to appreciate this film. The relationship between Fletcher and Neiman is complex; it takes many turns from outright abuse to grudging acceptance yet remains mostly believable, and is compelling enough to draw in any cinema fan. If you’ve ever been passionate about something, if you’ve ever been competitive, you’ll relate in some way to Neiman’s ambition and Fletcher’s insistence on excellence.
Each member of the film brings their own element of musical expertise: JK Simmons has a music degree and studied conducting; Miles Teller has been a self-taught rock drummer since he was 16; Director Damien Chazelle drew on his own experiences in a jazz orchestra to conceive, write and direct the film; and most of members of the two orchestras in the film are professional musicians. (And a special shout-out to the editor, Tom Cross, who cut the last drum solo so expertly that even if you were hunting for flaws they’re hard to find.)
This perfect storm of creativity and experience is evident throughout. It’s a fully realised story; well-written, authentic, inspirational, challenging. Although Whiplash is nominated for the 2014 Academy Award for Best Picture, I reckon it’s unlikely that a niche film like this will win. (I’d love to be proved wrong.) However not only will this movie make it onto my must-see list for 2015, I think it will stand the test of time and have a place in my favourite films list from now on.
The Multiverse wishes you all a very merry Christmas! It’s the time for chilling out, sleeping, reading, watching, partying, and debaucherous fun. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and a well-deserved rest. Here’s some of what I’ll be doing…
I’ll be tackling some of the current pile by my bed. John Niven’s The Second Coming is first on my list. Niven is one of my favourite literary discoveries of 2014; I read Straight White Male in its entirety on the flight home from New York and it made me laugh more than any novel in years.
Also in the pile is Rory O’Neill’s autobiography Panti: Woman in the Making. Panti was one of 2014’s Irish stars. Her speech, ‘Panti’s Noble Call’, in The Abbey Theatre was one of the most powerful things I’ve heard this year, and was described by Fintan O’Toole as ‘the most eloquent Irish speech since Daniel O’Connell was in his prime.’ I couldn’t agree more.
I’m very much looking forward to delving into the best Longform pieces of 2014. For those of you who don’t know the site, Longform provides links to classic and current essays, articles and interviews that are over 2,000 words. It’s one of my weekly reads and well worth checking out.
These inspiring graduation speeches by famous women will provide some food for thought.
I’m going to take the time to watch some of 2014’s lauded documentaries and feature films that I haven’t yet seen. Despite all my best intentions I never got to see Interstellar so that’s got to be sorted out. I’m really intrigued by this documentary about one of my favourite songwriters:
And I can’t wait to see American Sniper. I know it’s a movie that panders to America’s hero complex but it still looks like a great piece of cinema.
My grandmother was a big fan of Nat King Cole and she always played his albums at Christmas. ‘Stardust’ is one of my favourite songs of his.
While we’re at it, this Christmas song always puts me in a good mood.
And if this carol doesn’t bring on the Christmas magic, I’ve lost all hope for you.
My Christmas tree has become rather crispy and droopy so I won’t disturb you with a photograph of it. Instead I’ll disturb you with a photo from last year which I entitled ‘Mad Santa’! Merry Christmas!
Last week I started a thread on Facebook where I asked people what song was guaranteed to get them on the dance floor. It didn’t matter the genre or the decade, it just had to be the one song that would always make them shake their tail feather. The thread is now running at over one hundred comments with songs ranging from ABBA to obscure drum and bass. I’ve been diligently making my way through them and discovering lots of new music in the process.
‘Arp #1′ by Jackson and his Computer Band is a gem of a club tune which was released last year on Warp Records. It’s slightly filthy, very bleepy, and very danceable!
On a completely different tip, I also checked out someone’s recommendation for this lovely chilled-out hip hop tune from 2008, ‘Life is Better’ by Q-Tip (who can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned) featuring Norah Jones. I love the video too!
(And please feel free to let me know in the comments what your favourite dancefloor tune is!)
I’m just home from a gig, a launch event where I got to play some less dancefloor type tunes, and a bit more hiphop and electro. And so I broke out this tune; a great mash-up of Beyonce, Jurassic 5 with Dave Matthews, and Deeelite. It’s years old but I still like it.
Mash-ups are so played out at this stage, and there were only ever a few really great ones to begin with. (One of my favourites here – Christina Aguilera versus the Strokes. Honestly listen to it. It sounds like a perfect 60s pop song!)
This one belongs in my top ten. Both Beyonce and J5 are working it out and it rocks!
The Revelator Orchestra is back with their sophomore album, The Brotherhood of the Flood. When I profiled the band before Peter Murphy explained his intention that the music is integral to the spoken word element and it’s not just an audiobook. That’s certainly clear from the first track released, “The Lost Alice” which features Colm Mac Con Iomaire, violinist and member of The Frames.
The Brotherhood of the Flood contains fourteen tracks that tell the story of nine people who give themselves to the fictional Rua river in the year 1984 and is inspired by frontman Peter Murphy’s second novel Shall We Gather at the River. On this album Peter is joined by Acko Atkinson, songwriter composer and producer, and Paula Cox on vocals.
The Brotherhood of the Flood is released on Devil-Elvis Records tomorrow, October 23rd.
A few weeks ago I was asked by my friend Allen Doyle to be a part of a music video he was directing. I love collaborating with Al and was a guest on his radio show The Magic Number back in April. The video is for an Irish band called Acrobat and the single is called ‘Not Back Down’. Never having been in a music video before, I of course said yes. A week later I spent the day in Barberstown Castle with Acrobat, their mates and some great actors, having the absolute craic.
The video shows a gothic dinner party at a castle, where the host pours some suspicious looking liquid into people’s drinks, eventually turning his guests into reptiles. It was a fun shoot; we were dressed in amazing costumes, some people got to play with snakes, we drank wine and danced, and a fountain was set on fire! You can spot me towards the end of the video, dancing my ass off, and drinking some funny-tasting vino.
(Al also directed Acrobat’s first video for a single called ‘Follow You Down’. Check it out here – great performances from Jack Olohan and Sinead Watters.)
Acrobat’s next gig is on Saturday 4th October in Meeting House Square as part of Hard Working Class Heroes 2014, and you can buy ‘Not Back Down’ on iTunes.
‘Left Hand Free’ is the second single taken from alt-J’s sophomore album This Is All Yours which was released earlier this week. According to a recent Guardian interview, the band knocked the song together in twenty minutes in response to the record company complaining about the lack of singles on the album. Certainly this is more obvious chart fodder than other alt-J favourites like ‘Breezeblocks’ or ‘Tesselate’. Grace under pressure much?
‘Left Hand Free’ is catchy, bluesy, with dirty guitars and a whole lot of heart (even if they didn’t really mean it!) and it’s worked its way into my DJ set already. Enjoy.