Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Heavy Trash...Interview with Lee Fisher

Second prize !

Big thanks to Lee Fisher who managed to catch up for a quick chat with Matt Verta Ray of Heavy Trash, currently touring the UK......and we finally get the info on the 'Missing' album direct from the horse's mouth !
Was supposed to be there for the Brighton gig but an unfortunate series of events including my car deciding to take a sudden break from starting put paid to that ! Did get a small consolation in that the ever gracious Mr Chris Moore got the guys including Bloodshot Bill to sign up a poster of the event for me which shall be framed and up on the wall double quick read on ! 

Too often perceived as simply a hobby band for Jon Spencer in his downtime from the Blues Explosion, Heavy Trash are so much more than that – an explosive and raw rockabilly outfit with a perfect set of influences but the nous not to simply mimic them, and as much Matt Verta-Ray’s band as Spencer’s. They haven’t released anything since 2009’s fabulous Midnight Soul Serenade and tour rarely. Why the lengthy downtime?
“We’re not very goal oriented. Part of that is the fact that we have NY Hed Studio (my place in New York) to treat as our personal sonic playground. Jon’s been pretty busy with Blues Explosion and I have other projects going such as a band with my wife (Disturbios) and one with Mama Rosin and Mick Collins called Broadway Lafayette. I think we tend to take for granted our sweet studio setup since it’s always there. In our minds, we’re always just kind of plugging away at things, writing songs, recording, mixing, so there’s not such a conscious effort to get active again. When the oil flows to the tubes in the Heavy Trash section of the machine, that part of the equipment springs to life.”

Album number 5 for 2016 !
There’s a new album imminent called Noir – a vinyl-only collection of unreleased oddities coming out on Seriés Aphōnos. “We had originally wanted to have something auditory or audible to hawk at our shows, Elvis back-lot-out-of-the-car-trunk style. It’d been a while since we´d released any records. We have reels and reels of recorded material lying around the studio and it seemed feasible to release a quick single for a tour we had coming up in France. But as we were putting it together, a full length album started to emerge – I guess like most artists, we feel we have a lot to say! – so then it was a question of format. We were going to release it in a blank white sleeve like a disco 12 inch record and maybe make a rubber stamp with the pertinent info. Actually we’re still probably gonna do that someday, so no stealing kids! Jon had done something with Aphonos before, I think with Boss Hog, and one of my favourite artists, Gemma Ray had an SA release. Jon and I both loved the artwork and the unified style (all the jackets in the series are done by the same guy) so we asked Andy at Bronze Rat, who also heads up Aphonos, if they’d take us on. Andy was great. Gave us free hand with everything, the weirder and artier the better, which is good because we have a lot of weird stuff in the vaults!”

Get yourselves along !

One of the standout tracks is Jibber Jabber, which seems to be a plea for authenticity in a synthetic, mediated world. But Heavy Trash have always embraced a certain amount of, if not pastiche, then at least a kind of exaggeration in what they do. So is the plea itself a little ironic?
“Well, it’s showbiz! There’s built in artifice and so looking for authenticity, while a compelling endeavour, is one that will remain unrewarded. I personally really love poetry in which the speaker is using a criticism of some outsider to take a look and a poke at him or herself. Sometimes the critique is unconscious. A lot of the punk tradition is pretty accusatory, which stems from the energy of rejecting a power structure that’s squashing poor little us. But when you’ve been around as long as we have, it’s difficult to claim perfect innocence. We’ve all been attracted by money, legitimacy, sex appeal, creature comfort, tons of not-so-flattering indulgences. So yeah, pointing the finger can have its ironic side and we’re not exempt. Jibber Jabber started from a great groove on the standup bass that our drummer Sam Baker came up with.”
As for the vinyl only release, will Noir ever appear in anything other than this vinyl edition? “We’re on the same page as Aphonos as far as vinyl goes. We love it, it sounds looks and feels great, it’s less ethereal than some wispy digital file and so why not? We’ve no plans for any other format for this record. We’re holding out to release it on the next technology that replaces digital! As far as making it a bit harder to get one’s paws on, well, that can have its appeal. Why not make the kids work a bit to get it on the old mp3 player?”

In a recent Quietus article, Jon was quoted as saying that the ‘missing fourth album’ will stay missing, should we expect any new Heavy Trash releases any time soon?
“I heard about that article and asked Jon about it. ‘Hey, is there something I don’t know about that I should?’. He said that he was just being silly and kibitzing as he sometimes does in interviews for shock value. We have the album about 90% done and will probably get back into it in earnest around December of this year. What’s the rush? We don´t plan on dying anytime soon but if we do, I´m sure there’s a competent mixer out there who can put the album together from the recordings we have already!”

Muchos Gracias to Lee Fisher and Narc Magazine. Cheers Guys.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Dr Bontempi's Snake Oil Company.......A cure all for those musical blues !

My God, Got Mine !
Yeehaw !  My oh my oh off the press and hot on the heels of his last slice of genius that was 'Witches, Spiders, Frogs & Holes' comes this beautiful slab o' opting to release this fine opus through those eternal purveyors of quality 'Squoodge Records' Dr Bontempi has guaranteed an amazingly desirable obeject, containing what is probably some of the most inspired, if not exactly original, takes on Hillbilly, Country inspired Western Swing and even Blues......not to mention the inclusion of the Surf standard 'Misirlou'.
Better than The Soggy Bottom Boys !
I suppose really it's best to give it the full rundown from top to bottom....the packaging conceived by Roland & Ele at Squoodge is just simply fantastic, from the sepia toned image of The Snake Oil Company members on the front of the cover to the printed, heavy-weight die-cut inner, complete with added 'Snake Oil' (I always wondered what happened to Jagermeister empties). The vinyl is the usual quality you've come to expect from a Squoodge release, 180grm+ with the first 100 copies on red vinyl and then just 350 copies on black vinyl which means that if you are reading this after the end of July's long gone !  Side one sets the tone and kicks off with 'Franny Lee Stomp' a fiddle driven stomper with some pretty decent guitar work thrown in for good measure. Next up 'That Is Why She's Gone' is classic C&W subject matter of which no self respecting album of this genre should have missing, lovely steel/laptop work and a smattering of 'lonely cowboy' harp playing give it that authentic feel even though it's a Mr Bontempi original !  'Dixie Fried' should be familiar to most of you who bother reading this blog and if it isn't....may I suggest you go get yourself some Carl Perkins albums forthwith. 'Apache Cry' was written by Marcel & Paul Sheahan and rests firmly in that Indian lament style complete with the classic 'injun' rhythm.....Hmmm, The Doors classic, a Ouija board and someone channeling the spirit of the dearly departed Johnny Cash......this just has to be heard, Spooky !

A rather ltd edition of just 77 copies !
Much Ink has been used over the years regarding 'Misirlou'...Greek, Turk or even Egyptian in origin ? 150 years old ? probably older but frankly this is a great version with a distinctly Arabic/Flamenco(ish) feel to it and not a surfboard in sight, Adagio.....Allegro....Adagio !  Finishing up the first side is a bit of happy, hillbilly hoedown, 'Pistol Boogie'....Great stuff indeed. 
Side two starts off with a great version of the Shorty Long song 'Burned Toast & Black Coffee' with who, I'm assuming, is Ira on lead vocals....class. Bit of Bo Diddley is always welcome here and this is no different, countrified 'Who Do You Love' anyone ?  'Ghost Memories' starts out with a nod to Ennio Morricone but quickly slips into classic fiddle and steel guitar combo, nice melodies too.
'Matterhorn' evokes that kind of 'Marlboroman' cowboy image, rambles along with a rhythm you could ride a horse to, although it's about the perils of mountain climbing !
The next track is Warren Smith's brilliant 'Uranium Rock' probably better known to a lot of you as being covered by The Cramps, The Snake Oil Co tear this up and put a hillbilly spin on it making actually closer to the original than later versions.
I'm a little confused about 'Working Girl' is it about the fact that his girlfriend has a job or that she is a 'working girl' ?  either way, great song and the album comes to a close with 'All I Can Do Is Cry' showcasing what a great vocalist Marcel is. This is one hell of an album and the strange thing about it is that you don't even have to appreciate country styled music, per se, to like it.....Weird that !  A way cool album, superbely packaged and full of surprises......AWESOME.