Its been a while since RPM first made contact with Montreals The Dangereens who describe themselves as,
“The most elegant-decadent rock n’ roll unit of the 21st century”. which is quite some boast, However, when we heard their long player ‘Tough Luck’, it was obvious they actually have the tunes to back this up. When everything settles down maybe the world at large will finally have the chance to see for themselves if this just a case of idle promises or The Dangereens are indeed the real deal. What the world needs right now is some glamorous, decadent Rock and Roll so we reached out to lead singer Hugo to find out who the hell are The Dangereens and why should we check em out and for Hugo to introduce us to the world of The Dangereens. So, Read on and get excited for The Dangereens…
Firstly, ‘Tough Luck’ (the album) was recommended by one of the writers here at RPM Online, and when he said the magic words “there is a hint of Hanoi Rocks in here” I knew I had to order the record. I did and he was right. So with that in mind where would you say you sit musically on ‘Tough Luck’?
Quite frankly I don’t believe that Tough Luck should be examined as a whole (in terms of musical genres), but rather as a collection of songs that draw from various influences. There are touches of 70s glam rock, punk, power pop and southern rock, 60s garage rock, 50s R&B and rock’n’roll, 40s boogie-woogie… So, you know… I guess I’d describe it as a “glitter rhythm and punk” effort… Then again, I’m not too good with labeling my own shit. I’m sure you’d do a much better job at it 😉
How long have you been together as the Dangereens?
About 4 years
What about influences and what you wanted to achieve with the ‘Tough Luck’ long-player?
Our influences are as numerous as they are scattered… Some of the guys like 80s hard rock, heavy metal and other types of mustache music that I know nothing about. Personally, I like 3 chords, light-hearted love songs, tear-jerking outcries and obscure rock’n’roll moronities… Anything that moves and grooves, you know? One thing we all agree upon is that it’s gotta be soulful, it’s gotta have that swing, and it’s gotta sound like us. I guess my role as the leader of the gang is to take that harder edge from the other guys and make it snap, crackle and pop so that at the end of the day, every song’s a groover. I really focus on a song as a song, and not as a part of a concept or anything like that. How our album ended up sounding like an album (with a common thread and a continuation in the themes) really beats me! I still don’t know how we pulled it off…
What was the process for writing the record? Is there one main writer and how does it roll as far as jamming the songs in a rehearsal room or is there a set method?
There is a main writer: me. Now is probably a good time to introduce myself. I’m Hugo and I’m the singer. I also play rhythm guitar on the album. That being said, I’m not alone in this band, and I cannot overstate the importance of the role that the other guys have played in the writing process of this album. I like the idea of working really hard in the beginning of a project on elaborating an aesthetic and a sound that gathers (or at least tries to) a common side of every member’s personality. Once you’ve built that core, then you can start slacking and drinking, and still the songs will come pouring like it’s the monsoon.
About the writing process now… So I come up with the words, the chords and the vocal melody and I show it to the guys, and I guide them roughly towards a certain way of approaching the song. Once I see that everyone understands how the song should be approached, it’s really not mine anymore… As long as we all respect the song, I’m happy. Sometimes one of the guys will come up with something brilliant I haven’t even thought of. This is proof to me that the song lives and that it can speak, and that is always a good start. Oh, and this all has to happen in this crappy (but cheap) room we use as a jam space, and as quickly as possible. If too much effort or talking is required to get there you probably oughta let this one slide until the time is right.
As far as the process for recording the songs is concerned, we really focused on how that “core” should sound by jamming 3 times a week and by trying to build it with raw-live-off-the-floor energy. Even there, we still got to the studio unprepared and had to deal with a bunch of last minute freak-outs, but we pulled through gracefully (in my own opinion). How we managed to do that is beyond me as well. I believe in my heart that rock’n’roll is about sensibility, and that’s not something you can prepare or train. I guess that what I really mean is that rock’n’roll is about laziness (haha).
How have you dealt with the release with touring being off the agenda?
We had absolutely no idea things were gonna freeze like that… We figured we’d release the album a bit later than expected (May instead of April), but still in time for the summer. We thought we’d be out of this shitshow by then… we were wrong. I guess that’s why we’re musicians and not global medical analysists… analysisticians?… analysts? (haha)
Is there any music written for a follow-up?
Oh hell ya! If there’s anything good about this pandemic, it’s that it pushed me to write new material. We’ve got about 10 new songs now that we can’t wait to share with y’all!
You preceded the album with a pair of tracks ‘Lucky In Love and Holy Water, why were they left off the album? They are two totally different numbers and show a real maturity in the writing and I love a saxophone in my Rock and Roll and Jay plays a major part in the sound?
The label we’re affiliated with for distribution (ALIENSNATCH! Records) suggested to take them out. They were initially supposed to be on the album. I agree with you that they add a certain depth to the band’s repertoire as they are slower songs. We might reissue the album including the 2 singles one day…
Blue Jay is a wonderful guy. We love working with him. He comes from a jazz background and everything he added on the album came out naturally. We hope to work with him on future recordings.
The album has a classic feel to it but also sounds fresh and versatile. Do you have a particular track that you love? If I was to tell someone about this new band I’m playing called Dangereens what would you suggest I play them and how would you describe it?
Thank you! We love working with old-school material like tape machines and 60s transistor soundboards because they force you to commit to decisions. The entire album was recorded on analog devices and I guess it gives it this naturally compressed and warm sound which we now consider “classic”. I don’t want to get into the details of analog recording because it bores the daylights out of me, but I can say it also made the recording and mixing process a whole lot faster because we’d rarely go back to fix mistakes (mistakes are a crucial part of the Dangereens’ sound) and because we didn’t need to colour the sound with a bunch of VST’s or anything like that. During the mix, it was mostly a matter of making certain things shine a bit more and leave other things in the background and Ryan Battistuzzi made a phenomenal job at that.
About my preferred numbers, usually, my favorite song is the last one I wrote. Having let some time pass now, I’d say my favorite ones are Microwave Boogie for the story-telling type of lyrics and the general delivery of the band, Love Jive for the pedal steel arrangements and guitar works, and Hearse Driving Blonde for the simple, uplifting vibe. Tomorrow I might say something else though.
The band is quite different from the one that released that first EP back in 2018 even if those songs are excellent again showing the versatility within the band both being able to just Rock and Roll on ‘Reign Of your mind’ and then the acoustic side as on ‘Libertine’ and the two tacks you released on Bandcamp that covered show you delved deep into the back catalogue of rock and roll. Why those two tracks in particular?
Yes, the EP marks a different era. As a matter of fact, we were another band back then, literally. We were 4, Yan, who plays piano on the record, was our drummer, and we had another bass player, Miles. After Yan and Miles left, they were replaced with Olivier (actual drummer) and Jordan (actual bass player). As I was saying before I like to write/compose for the band I have. These new cats have different artistic orientations and tastes, and I feel it is my duty to represent that in the songs, you know?
About the cover songs, it’s very simple… We initially booked 2 days of studio to record the 14 rhythm tracks (the 12 Tough Luck songs + Lucky In Love and Holy Water). Thing is, we were so hot on the 1st day, we ended up canning 12 of them, leaving only 2 for the second day. I then decided we’d use the remaining time to record live-off-the-floor performances, 50s style. Break Up was already part of our live set and High Blood Pressure is just a song I love so I showed it to the guys on the day of the recording and off we went!
As for live shows, how long has it been since you last played and what are the plans? Is Europe a possibility when it’s safe to do so?
When the pandemic hit us, we had just come back from a 3 days mini-tour in the US. We played Brooklyn, Manhattan and Boston. All three shows went incredibly well and we made awesome friends (shouts to Muck and The Mires who rocked our socks off)! Man, were we riding high… Also, we were planning a Europe end of summer tour so you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll come around as soon as borders open!
What about promo videos any more planned?
We made the one for Streets of Doom (it’s on our Youtube channel, Dangereens Official) and another one that should be out anytime soon! I can’t tell you for which song though 😉
Going back to the album. I love songs like ‘Thieves’ and ‘Worried Mind’ and would love to hear them played live. When I’ve been playing the record I hear bits of inspiration from bands like thin Lizzy and some traditional boogie-woogie mixed with the likes of Hanoi or a bit of Bolan boogie the whole thing just rocks, and a whole bunch of others that jump out to me, in a sound or maybe a chorus or melody. the way you mix up the influences on ‘1003’ with the sax and some fine piano playing whilst keeping it fresh is something not a whole bunch of bands are doing right now it would be great if success on a big scale was around the corner. They do say it comes in waves and we’re just about ready for Rock and Roll to dominate the charts again. How was the album recorded? songs like ‘Little Uptown Girl’ sound like they were one live take would that be a fair assumption?
Aww, now you’re gonna make me blush (haha)! I don’t know about rock’n’roll dominating the charts, but it doesn’t really matter to us anyway… The way I see it, this band is all about good times, and good times never go out of style (although we all may feel that way these days). All those bands you’ve mentioned are definitely up there in our spiritual altar, but we also listen to more recent stuff. To me, a good song is a good song. It doesn’t matter if it’s rock’n’roll or new age, you know? When I write a song, I think of the melody and rhythm first, then I lay words on it. The fact that they end up sounding the way they do is because of the way we naturally approach music as a band. Rockin’ and rollin’ is part of our daily routine.
About the recording process, we start by recording the rhythm (drums, bass and guitars) tracks altogether, then we do overdubs for vocals and other instruments (saxophone, trumpet, piano, organ, strings, etc.). In my opinion, the more elements you record simultaneously, the better it sounds. Giving that we were working with a 16 tracks tape machine and in a small basement room, it would’ve been impossible to achieve recording everything all at once, but at least we got to work off of our live rhythm tracks, without using a click. Saying that our songs sound like they’re live takes is possibly the best compliment you could’ve given me! A song is like a picture, you know? It’s about capturing that unique moment in time. You can always take a snap of some willow tree by a lake, then photoshop Kate Moss kissing you on the cheek underneath it later, but eventually someone will figure out that shit’s not sitting right…
Ok enough of me waffling, what plans have Dangereens for the future? the next record? Singles?, Tours? and where is the best place people reading this can get the album in physical format from obviously digital copies its Bandcamp right?
It sucks because I can’t tell you much about the future since we are in the midst of negotiations and I don’t want to jinx it, but we’ve got BIG plans… All I can say is you’re gonna see a lot more of us in 2021 going forward! To get a physical copy of our album, you can go through ALIENSNATCH! Records‘ Bandcamp page. They’re also available through Green Noise Records for North America. Otherwise, if you’re in Montreal, hit us on Facebook and we’ll come and deliver it to you. We have black and clear red vinyl. They look and sound amazing! As for digital, you can find us on all platforms (Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Amazon Music, etc.) or buy a digital copy via Bandcamp.
So there you have it, The Dangereens ladies and Gentlemen now hit up some of the links and check out the music. Thanks to Hugo for being so generous with his time.
With a brand new box set ready for release we thought we’d catch up with Boys legend Matt Dangerfield and ask him about his time on Safari Records as we look back on the time the Boys went down to a four-piece and all things Safari. I also ask what’s next for one of the finest bands ever to come out of the United Kingdom.
How was it revisiting the Safari catalogue of releases? Did it bring back fond memories?
Yes it did. Best of all was listening to the “Hell” tracks because this is the first time that it’s sounded good on CD. CDs didn’t exist when the album was released, and later when the first CD version came out it sounded like over-compressed shit. All subsequent CD releases of “Hell” were copied from that CD so I feel sorry for anyone who bought any CD copies of “Hell” prior to this release.
Were there any songs from the ‘To Hell’ record that you have since revisited during remastering changed how you feel about them? I’ll admit I’ve not played the records for a while and when the news came through about the box set I have since given them a good listening to and there are parts of songs that jumped out at me that I feel I previously missed or had forgotten. Was this the same for you?
Very much so. For the reason I just mentioned, I couldn’t bring myself to listen to “Hell” on CD since the last century! So listening to it now for me is almost like hearing it for the first time and it all sounds fantastic from start to finish! We still usually include four of the songs in our live set: “Can’t Hurt a Memory”, “Terminal Love”, “See Ya Later” – and we use “Sabre Dance” as our intro music.
I loved reading your notes along with the specific song playing and was surprised to see you wrote lyrics on the way to the studio, and I chuckled at the thought of it happening due to studio time and schedules, etc did you not ever get worried you wouldn’t come up with anything? Out of this process what would you say were your best lyrics?
Well, that was mainly in the early days when we weren’t given much studio time and I was working on two or three songs at a time. But generally speaking, I’ve always responded well to deadlines and would often leave things until they really need to be done and then work like Hell. There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind.
Your notes for ‘Waiting For The Lady’ and the Beatles reference I hadn’t really put it together previously but ‘Independent Girl’ has a real Lennon feel to it. Some of the harmonies throughout ‘To Hell’ have a certain Lennon and McCartney feel is that fair? They were obviously an influence but more so that album (Not that The Beatles would have sounded like you guys they weren’t that good) 😉
Flattery will get you nowhere, but thanks anyway! The backing vocals on “Waiting for The Lady” in particular, were Beatles inspired. But we were inspired by lots of bands and all the music that we grew up within the 60s which was a great era for musical creativity and innovation.
Who Owns The ‘Junk’ tapes now? How complete was the ‘Junk’ album? How does the process go with masters? If you didn’t own them the label did but they didn’t own the songs did they? If they weren’t finished, Could you have gone away – changed a lyric here or a title there and released it anyway? How involved were you with the day to day business of the band and management and label?
The ‘Junk’ tapes are just the rough monitor mixes on cassette from Rockfield Studios that I took away with me to work on ideas, lyrics etc. with the intention that we would come back and complete the album there. But after NEMS didn’t pay the studio and Rockfield wouldn’t release the two-inch tapes, we finally lost our patience with NEMS and went on strike for a few months until they eventually let us go. Our manager, Ken Mewis, generally dealt with the label, promotion and tour bookings, but we took care of the creative and recording side of things.
How do you look back on the time spent On Safari!?
We had a great relationship with Safari, which was basically John Craig and Tony Edwards. Two great guys who did all the right things for us in terms of albums, tours etc and generally looked after us and gave us the freedom to be creative. What more can you ask for as a band?
I always loved the cover of ‘Boys Only’ whose idea was that?
The designer was John Gordon (I fished out the original vinyl copy to get that detail) who was responsible for the concept. All I remember that it was our longest and most tiring photo session ever and took a whole day to get all the necessary pics.
Going out as a four-piece was it ever not going to happen? Did you think around that time that the band was done? What about the recording process, how different was it?
It was different without Cas but we took it in our stride, I knew that the band wasn’t finished and it didn’t feel that much different playing live. Recording was as easy going as ever and John and myself were writing enough songs but we did have to work harder on the backing vocals and harmonies without Cas being there.
Would you say that John recording with Pete Stride made him a more confident writer and bandmember? He brings quite a bit to the table for Boys only and sings on quite a few. How did you decide who sang what? are there versions recorded say of ‘Monotony’ with you delivering a vocal and Duncan or was that never done? because you say he (Duncan) sang it live.
Yes, John had become more confident and also had become a better singer. As regards who sang what, I usually only sang the songs that I’d written or written with Cas, and Duncan usually sang John’s and a few Steel/Dangerfield songs that we thought would suit his voice. I think “Monotony” was only ever likely to be sung by John on record.
You got to record in some iconic studios such as Rockfield, Pye and Olympic were you aware of your surroundings at the time? Was there a favourite? or a particular song you look back on that you really nailed because of where you were. Rockfield had the toilet at the end of the hallway with a mic in the hall did you ever apply such techniques?
Yes, I was definitely chuffed to be using the same studios where some of my favourite tracks had been made. Rockfield/Dave Edmonds/Sabre Dance; Pye/The Kinks etc; Olympic/lots of Stones stuff etc. Rockfield was probably my favourite for its vibe because you also lived there and could totally concentrate on the recording. “Brickfield Nights” was definitely ‘nailed’ there.
When the band gets back to playing live is there a chance some of the more obscure tracks might creep into the set? You mention songs like ‘Little White Lifeline’ and its solo would sound great live.
We sometimes slip in a lesser known track. We do “Lifeline” at acoustic gigs sometimes but without the solo, because even straight after recording that solo, I was never able to play it again.
When you have writing credits say like on ‘Schoolgirls’ Cas yourself and John how do you decide who gets on the credits?
It’s usually decided on the spot – if anyone added anything of substance to the song they’d get credit.
Changing up songs like ‘Kamakaze’ in the style of VU for ‘Jap Junk’ whose idea was that and was this done on any other songs because it’s quite a departure the saxophone is great on the single mix
The minimalist drums were my idea of a tribute to the Velvets, who first opened my eyed to punk, and I think we’d always had it in mind to get a sax on the song.
How many more tapes might there be with the likes of ‘Cry Tomorrow’ on them? Fantastic stuff, maybe another acoustic album is on the cards with some of the rare tunes mixed with the more popular ones you did on the acoustic album. a live acoustic album recorded at Rebellion because a couple of acoustic sets were fantastic from the pubs almost acoustic stage and then the opera house were real highlights?
Well those tapes turned up out of the blue, so who knows what else might turn up. We may consider another acoustic album – it’s a lot easier to make than a full studio album, as is a live album.
The band always did great covers are there any you think would have really suited you guys? Any you worked on that never got recorded? The other side of it is other people covering The Boys. Who have you particularly admired any jump out as doing a great job or really getting what the song was about? Michael Monroe did jimmy Brown and it must always be great when Die Toten Hosen release a covers album and include a Boys Song.
I love Michael’s version of “Jimmy Brown”. I also like the Hosen’s versions of “First Time” and “Brickfield Nights”, and Nicky Sudden’s cover of “Independent Girl”.
The live album sounds fantastic, I’ve always liked the BBC sessions, from some of my favourite bands possibly, because the BBC always had great engineers and their sound recording was top notch and the live ones always sounded so good what are your thoughts on the live album?
Yes, it’s true those Beeb producers and sound engineers were very good and worked very quickly, which really suited us as we generally record fast. I remember that the BBC sound people always seemed to have beards, maybe it was a job requirement.
You illude to it not being your usual audience. The applause sounds great even after the ‘worm song’ their faces must have been a picture.
They were very polite.
I’ve mentioned it to Steve but it would be great to have these ‘Safari’ recordings as a vinyl set I wouldn’t need my glasses then for the booklet which is great to read your memories of each song. Did you ever keep diaries or is it just a sharp knack for remembering. What next for the Boys? Is there anything left in the archive or what about new material. ‘Punk Rock Menopause’ was such a great album is there going to be a follow-up?
We’d love to get them out on vinyl and a lot of our fans would love it so who knows?
“Anyone buying the Box Set directly from The Boys this month (September 2020) will be given a PDF document of Matt Dangerfield’s full Safari notes along with an unreleased 1979 demo of “New Guitar In Town”. For more information email The Boys at email@example.com“
Special thanks to Steve Metcalfe for always having The Boys corner and doing a sterling job keeping their flame alive and making running features on them such a pleasure.
A UK based sleaze Rock band from the 90s have picked up the baton and began treading the boards again. After a recent return to the stage at Camdens Dublin Castle Paradise Alley are back in the ring taking another swing so we thought it was about time we got comfortable with frontman Stevie Vincent and found out who the hell is Paradise Alley and where do they fit in in 2019.
Can you remember the point when you realised you wanted to be in a band? I remember when I was a little kid being obsessed with Elvis and Glam Rock. My Uncle gave me his old Elvis signature guitar which was as big as me and I would thrash away on it singing Elvis and Sweet songs so the spark probably started there, lol. Consciously though it was probably when I was around twelve and my friends and I started to talk about having a band, it just seemed to make you really cool and I was never one of the cool kids, hahaha.
How did you find your music as a kid?
To begin with, it was just through watching Top Of The Pops every week which when you were a kid in the 70s was the law, you had to watch it. Even your parents watched it just so they could moan about these new-fangled bands making a racket. Then I became friends with this other kid who was a year older and was totally obsessed with music, regardless of the type of music, he was into it so through that friendship I just started trawling record shops for hours every weekend and being exposed to lots of different types of music and bands.
Was it tough putting a band together when you first started out compared to now in 2019? I would say easier back then than now. You could just meet people when you were out at the pub or in record or music stores which was really organic. Plus you had lots of ways to advertise for musicians, local music stores were everywhere and had notice boards and you had Sounds, Melody Maker and Kerrang classifieds so it seemed easier to network then. Strange when you think about social media now but so many “musicians” now seem purely driven by how much money are they going to get paid or when you ask for influences they just blurt out what they like and then say I want a band like that – there isn’t a band that sounds like Guns N Roses mixed with Slayer and Perry Como as far as I know, hahahaha. I mean, I like a lot of diverse stuff, but when it comes to the music I play, all of us in the band know where we are coming from musically.
When or what was the spark that made you want to resurrect the band? Never say never eh? I was actually in Helsinki at the time and was with my friends from Plastic Tears, Miqu and Edu and we started talking a bit about our shared history and stuff and it cam up about how we had never actually managed to tour together which was something we had mentioned in the past. Anyway, by the end of the night I had contacted Taj and asked him if he fancied us putting the band back together and carrying on the legacy.
Did you reach out to the other past members or don’t they do Rock and Roll anymore? Other than Taj, no. We had tried that before back in 2013 and that did not work out at all. People’s heads were in different places, old habits that had caused problems in the past were still there and it just became hard work to be around. In the end we were doing it for fun and certain individuals were making it anything but so we played our last show with a rag tag line-up in June 2015 and just walked away.
You recently returned to the stage. How was it? It felt really good, we had some fire back in the belly and the audience reaction was just like the old days. It was a bit rough round the edges but that’s rock’n’roll and as we play more shows, etc things will smooth out more.
You have finally got all the pieces of the band together tell us about the band in 2019? who what and where did you find them? Well, we are still drummerless actually and relying on session drummers to do the shows at the moment so that’s not ideal. We have a couple of really good guys helping us out on drums but it would be good to have the role filled permanently. Sadly everyone who contacts us either assumes we are signed to Universal Music and expects a massive salary, or just does not get what we are doing musically, so the search continues. Taj has been in the band since 1998 and been a friend even longer (since about ’89 or ’90), I always say he is my Nasty Suicide. We work together well and we both have a shared love of Hanoi Rocks. Ben Webster, the other guitarist we actually found through Facebook. We had been looking for ages and his name kept cropping up and in the end, his mate put him forward for it. We met up and just sat around, had a few drinks, jammed and it gelled right away. He had the right attitude and was under no illusions that we were about to get signed for 10 million dollars or any of that crap. He has definitely helped put the fire back in the belly. Ben Alexander on bass was actually a fan of the band and again we were linked through social media. We knew he played bass so when we started putting the band back together we asked him if he was up for this That was pretty much it.
The music climate has changed massively since the 90s what are the biggest changes you’ve noticed?
How people consume music. I mean, there does seem to be a bit of a shift back to CD and vinyl and actually listening to albums rather than just random tracks which is a good thing, but also, we don’t have the whole tribe culture that was there when we were growing up. There are punks, rockers, mods new romantics, goths in the way that there used to be. I think that is really sad. No one nails their colours to the post anymore and you don’t see people having the same passion for music or bands. Mind you, how could anyone be passionate about Ed Sheeran or bloody Jess Glynne? hahahahahaha
what about new music? Have you picked up a guitar and written any material?
We are right in the middle of doing that now. When we tried back in 2013, that had been one of my hopes but no one showed any real interest. When I first spoke to Taj in 2017 about doing this, I said I wanted to move forward and not just play the same ten songs forever or I would knock it on the head. So, we are looking to release something very, very soon as a bit of a taster and then work towards a full new album sometime next year. So, we ARE writing new songs, we are demoing too and something will be coming VERY soon.
You spent time in NYC and LA have you been recently? They were always great Rock and roll towns but it seems the world is heading to hell in a handcart and not holding a bottle of jack but wearing loafers and no socks with a lovely smelling beard? Do you think sleazy Rock and Roll will ever come full circle?
I think it will always be there as long as there are people out there showing interest. It is very niche but then, I guess it always was. Even when GnR went massive, there were a lot of confused Mums and Das and “normal” people at the live shows because it wasn’t all sweetness and light, hahaha. Look at events like HRH sleaze, there is an audience and a younger audience too. I love seeing another generation coming through wearing cool clothes again and embracing the rock’n’roll world, without that music just becomes gentrified like all our cities and towns. I mean, look at the crap we are force-fed by the mass media, it’s Starbucks /identikit bland rubbish designed not to offend or make you think. I want music that makes you go “holy fuck!”, I want the musicians to look like they landed from another planet, not like they are here to fix a leaky tap. Haven’t been back to LA or NYC recently although I know they are both shadows of their former selves. There are plans to visit both from a band point of view, but I’m not saying more than that just yet, don’t want anyone else stealing my plans.
What new music have you been listening to? (If any) Does the Michael Monroe band count? hahahaha. I try and listen to new stuff but most of it just leaves me cold and even when I say I have listened to something new, it usually turns out to be from the late 90s or early 2000s. I do like The Struts. Got into them when the first album came out and no one here had a clue who they were. Sadly, I can see the rough edges getting chipped away and they are becoming slicker and slicker. I hope they resist it and keep that little British edginess, but I reckon the mighty dollar will win in the end. Can’t blame em, they are there to make money, but I like my artists to have a little bit of integrity.
Will there be any other live shows? who would you like to tour with? Of course, there will, we are back and live is where we shine. We’re back in London at The Big Red on August 10 then off to Y Lew Coch in Mach as part of the Rock’n’Roll Circus weekend on August 25. There are other dates confirmed but we’ll be announcing those soon enough. We will tour with anyone we can. I don’t want to get stuck in the nostalgia circuit though which is very easy to do. It’s lazy on the part of some sections of the industry to just lump you in with certain bands but we seem to attract all types of music fans and we aren’t out to just live in the past.
If you were to explain what your band is all about how would you best describe your sound (we all love a pigeon hole) oooooh, that’s sneaky, hahaha. We’re just a rock’n’roll band that takes influences from all over the place and it comes out sounding like Paradise Alley. If you wanted to narrow it down I guess I would say Aerosmith meets the Ramones….that sound like a good pigeonhole to you Dom?
If you have anything else you’d like to say nows your chance –
Just that we are glad to be back and to be moving forward, if you love rock’n’roll in all it’s forms, check us out, listen on Spotify or Amazon or one of the other streaming platforms. We are here to entertain and make rock’n’roll glamorous and fun again. The world needs a little bit of escapism right now
New album – Glasto appearances – and now an interview with Ben at RPM it’s all happening for Ulysses at the moment check out this cheeky Interview on everything Ulysses.
The new album ‘On Safari’ is a bit of a monster, well-done sir! It has been getting a great response from fans and critics alike, are you surprised at all the positive feedback?
Relieved probably! I didn’t really have any expectation of how it would go down other than I knew people who already like us would have to get their heads around it as it’s a different animal than ‘Law And Order’ and I hoped they would eventually consider it as good, if not hopefully better. Every album we do is different though, we don’t write music to order, we just do what we do and if anyone whatsoever at all likes it, it’s a bonus!
I think I referenced everyone from Kiss and ELO to Supergrass and Super Furry Animals in my review. You have a lot of classic 60’s and 70’s influences going on but there’s a bit of disco and new wave going on, you seem to have branched out your sound more than ever this time?
We were listening to a lot of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers anyway and then he died so were listening to them even more! The Cars we’ve always loved, just feeling the late 70s / turn of the 80s thing really, the English end too, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, etc. ‘Doctors And Nurses’ chorus popped in my head fairly fully formed, I heard it a bit more Grange Hill theme tune, we kept some of that but it also turned into a full-blown Disco smash, maybe I was listening to too much Bee Gees. I did personally stop worrying about being stuck in one or two styles and just did what I used to do which is just do whatever I want and not worry about it.
What song on the new album are you most proud of?
‘Calendar Street’ was a beast – I’m proud to have finally tamed it, I dreamed the Medieval intro and that helped finish it off. I think ‘Bad Tattoo’ is the best overall song in terms of songwriting and conciseness, although I felt uncomfortable with how ‘serious’ it was to begin with. ‘Situation Man’ is a personal victory/breakthrough, it’s a step in a different direction. We’re proud of all of them though really.
How do you approach songwriting?
Just things or a part of a song pop in my head to being with, fairly fully formed. I usually sing something into my phone or grab a guitar or piano and then figure it out and play that into my phone. Then I’ll bash out a rough demo of it where I can throw down some other ideas / parts at it. Takes a while to craft it into a final version, sometimes playing it with the band and doing a band demo of it is when it finally all comes together / Denny and Shane will put their stamp on it etc. There’s no real formula. Lyrics I find the hardest to finish, but I probably enjoy writing lyrics more these days so that’s getting easier.
Have you ever written a song, only to be told it was just a rip off of something else and then scrapped it?
Only by myself. Once when I presented a song to the band they all laughed, but then it turned out to be one of our best and most popular songs – who’s laughing now eh?
The weirdest is when you get a review saying a song sounds like a song by someone you’ve never even heard of.
Like many bands in today’s musical climate, am I right in saying Ulysses is not a full-time thing for you guys. Band members have full-time jobs and families to feed. In that respect, is touring and promoting a new album an easy thing to workaround for you?
It is difficult, but I feel we’ve got to a point where I consider us lucky – we can do the band fairly legitimately and with a degree of success but basically alongside our normal lives with families and jobs, etc – I’d say that was pretty cool really. I think there are too many models in music these days in my opinion, I don’t think you can be model for that corporate shit and be an edgy Punk musician, sorry. I blame Vice magazine, or maybe it’s not their fault, it’s just symptomatic. Music should be made by suburban weirdo outsiders, not rich kids who grew up seriously good looking.
Let’s talk about the fantastic cover art by Caitlin Mattisson. How did that come about?
We had Howlin Rain and friends in common on Instagram and I just immediately loved her work, so I sent her a message and we cut a deal. I wanted something celestial – turned out perfect! Would love to work with her again.
It looks like a page from an adult colouring book. Maybe a second pressing of the vinyl is in order, the cover on matt paper and some free crayons?
We’ve sold half of the vinyl already but alas all the money is going to into the big black hole of debt. Maybe if someone could stump up the money we could do a ‘Ulysses band members’ scratch n’ sniff version?
You recently played multiple sets at the Glastonbury festival. How was that experience?
It was great thanks, probably not as glamorous as it sounds. We played 4 of the smaller stages, so it mostly working out how were going to get our gear from one stage to another etc! It was really lovely though, great people everywhere we went pretty much – one of the best. We also met Steve Frost from The Young Ones / Who’s Line Is it Anyway etc when we played the Theatre And Circus Backstage Stage – he was a total dude.
Who was the best artist you saw that weekend?
We clashed with The Cure which was the only band I really wanted to see alas. By fate, we shared a bill on the Acoustic Stage Backstage with Marla and David Celia, a Canadian / German acoustic duo/couple, and they were fantastic. Great to hang out with too and we’ve stayed in touch, hopefully, do something with them next year. And of course our good friends Magic Bus who were the perfect hippy festival band on the Croissant Neuf stage.
You have toured and shared stages with many bands over the years, who is the nicest musician you have met?
Hmm the nicest. Well apart from the above, Marc Ford was a big hero for me, he was great, very sarcastic though. We drank a lot! Scott Holiday from Rival Sons is a pal and top guy. Richard Thompson was lovely, he had sandals and socks on too. Probably the nicest was either Bobby Conn who I’m a huge fan of (the most humble should-be-a-massive-star mega-talent around) but we fell out as I don’t like cats, or Michael Tyack from Circulus who I don’t think gets enough credit for helping bring in this current wave of Medieval and Pagan influenced culture around at the moment. Oh and also Ed Bazalgette from The Vapors who not only is a magnificent guitar player, he is also a very lovely fella.
I have to say though that as far as I can remember everyone we’ve played with or met has generally been pretty lovely company. There’s a few who have been hard work but they probably have conditions etc.
We have a really wonderful network of DIY and indie label bands that we play with and are friends with and love. I would liken it to a modern version of CBGBs – its lots of disparate and stylistically quite different bands thrown together by basically all having very limited outlets / opportunities, but appreciating each others’ talents and weirdness. That’s what the ‘Indie’ scene is these days for me.
The worst celebrity encounter though was Barry Wom when me and Shane Ulysses went to see The Rutles play in Bristol a few years ago. We went to talk to him after the show about Patto the great 70s band he was in, and he literally just completely blanked us and turned around and carried on drinking his pint with a handle. Pretty cool though.
If you could have one of your heroes guest on your next album, who would you choose and what instrument would you get them to play?
It would have to be Paul McCartney and he’d be on drums, sorry Shane. Or maybe Lindsey Buckingham on whatever he wants, if he’s feeling better.
When people think of Luke Smyth, what do they most associate you as being?
Hairy, like Jeff Lynne crossed with Marc Bolan, like a bearded Marc Bolan basically. Possibly a bit of a weird pervert? You tell me!
RPM: What was your first guitar, and what song did you first learn on it?
LS: God… Um first guitar was my older brother’s I think, and I could play along to the melody of Beatles records by ear when I was about 5, which is kind of weird now I think about it.
What do you think was the best year for music in your lifetime?
I thoroughly enjoyed 1993 and 1995, but during 1997/98 I worked in an independent record shop and there was a phenomenal amount of good albums that came out in that period, Air, Spiritualized, Super Furry Animals, Pavement, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Supergrass, Beck, PJ Harvey, The Make Up, Massive Attack, Primal Scream, an endless list.
If you could have a billboard anywhere in the world, where would you have it and what would it say?
In the middle of the Sahara desert, and to quote The Heads “Everyone knows we got nowhere”.
If you could go back to your 20 year old self, what 3 pieces of advice would you give?
Oh just the usual: make love to as many women as possible, travel about a bit, and stop worrying about everything so much for God’s sake. There’s definitely a few people I would advise myself to avoid.
And finally, if you could have a drink with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you drink?
If it was a man I would share a drink of Peyote and magic mushroom tea with Paul McCartney, or if it was a lady I would share some kind of bedroom enhancing beverage with Winona Ryder, or maybe late ‘70s Dolly Parton, I’m not fussy.
You might not have picked up on the Black Devil Byrds yet, they might not yet have appeared on your radar, do yourself a favour and start digging around, I think your going to be knocked sideways.
The Black Devil BYRDS released the debut album ‘Dead And In Prison’ in November 2017. The album, recorded in Prague at Golden Hive studio in 2016, is raw: as the band says, “a deliberate move away from the modern-day, now-standard, “corporate” recording process;” it was recorded on tape with NO clicks and in an as-live-as-it-could-be way! Late night sessions and a low fi feel were the order of the project”.
The tracks were recorded while the band were touring and playing festival dates in the Czech Republic the group headed up by Long John on Vocals, Guitar and Harmonicas, included long time side kicks: Jules Fly Haffegee on Bass, Rob Poyton Keys, John O’Neil Saxophone, Mark Gilligan Clarinet and Mark Wheeler Drums with additional percussion from Lee Morley.
I caught up with Lead Vocalist Long John, to talk the Blues and hear about the new LP scheduled for release this year
Hi Long John, thanks for taking the time out to talk to us here at RPM, especially when your just about to jet out to L.A. on music related business, for starters tell us a bit about your background/influences?
Yes, I am jetting back to L.A for the launch of the New Black Devil Byrds single ‘Letter to the President’. The record company are having a shindig for the event.. My heart and soul though are in America, I love the country and the people can be amazing. I have lived worked and traveled in the US for many years it’s a huge influence on my music and poetry writing. You get the best of the best and the very worst of the worst in the USA. 370 Million people in one place. Bound to be trouble sometimes…
I played a few tracks from your earlier LP ‘Dead and in Prison’ on a radio program called the ‘Rock and Roll circus’ when it came out and loved the almost Cajun Blues feel ala Dr John/ maybe hinting at Tom Waits, the raw intensity that sits behind the music. For people who have never heard The Black Devil Byrds, how would you describe the sound?
Yes that’s some good ingredients right there! I never intended to sound like waits or Dr John but they are inevitable influences on so many artist. I have seen myself as a Blues musician for many years but now I feel my music is starting to take a more soulful direction. I want soul and I want a message!
(If you want to do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of the first LP you can get it right Here)
Your just about to launch a new single “Letter to the president”, produced by Paul Ronney Angel, how did you manage to keep him out of the studio and behind the mixing desk, once his harmonica duties were covered?
Paul Ronney Angel’s been a soul brother to me for some years now. I have great respect for his music and as a performer, his band The Urban Voodoo Machine really are amazing. (I couldn’t agree more N.B.) He joined the Black Devil Byrds on our short tour in Prague a year or so ago and he really liked some of the tracks we were doing .He kept an eye on the new album and I asked him if he would like to do something on one of the tracks .He put some real hoodoo magic down with harmonicas and vocals and re inspired our efforts on this Black Devil Byrds project. Paul had mentioned to Johnny Sting Ray he would like to produce a mix of Letter to the president. So we sent over the tracks from the studio in Prague to Space Eko, Alex McGowan’s studio in East London. I didn’t know what we would get back but when it arrived back with us Paul and Alex had really stripped it down and put an edge on things. Paul Rooney Angel is a very talented guy and has a very professional approach he is now producing the whole album.. Watch this space..
After hearing the single, I can absolutely say its gonna launch the Black Devil Byrds into the must watch bands of 2019/20 category) Its out on July 4th.
You’ve also dragged in Johnny Stingray to play on the new stuff, pulling him away from The Bad Idea Factory studio, to provide vocals and guitar are either of them going to be joining the band in the live setting?
Johnny is a great musician. Trouble is he’s and even greater artist so his guitar playing talents get over looked. He joined us on tour last your in Czech Republic and again for the recording sessions at Golden Hive in Prague last year. We had a lot of fun in the studio and Johnny did a great feed back version of the Star Spangled Banner… we had to use it. Its featured more on the Alex Limburg (Hipster) Remix, which is a sister, release to the Radio Edit.
Tell us a little bit about the single, my understanding is it came from an initial poem you had written?
Yes most of my songs are written as poems which can be hard to transpose sometimes. I’m influenced greatly by the Beat poets of the late 60S. Ginsburg, Bukowski it’s incredible. We don’t read poetry so much any more and its powerful stuff. Trumps a great subject matter and it was important to me to say something. It’s not a slander song it all factual and simply a protest to his roller coaster approach to global harmony.
It’s coming out as a precursor for a new LP have you got a title and a potential release date yet?
The album will be our later in the year. We are still thinking on the title.
Tell us a little bit about the new LP?
It’s a message album. And the tracks, which we are still working on, have titles such as Syria, Meet My Maker, and a remix of Dead and in Prison… Dark and Soulful with a message you can keep in your hearts!
Any plans in place yet for some UK/European live dates?
It’s funny as I was taking a year off in 2019. Things run over. But yes we will be supporting Jim Jones and the Righteous Minds in Bedford October 5th. And plan to tour and promote the album with a few festival dates for 2020…
Let us know when your playing and we’ll drop in to catch up and listen. Are you listening to anything new at the moment, anything you’d recommend?
Bob Dylan.. Rolling Thunder.. amazing..
Absolutely one to check out people, cheers for taking the time out to chat to us, can’t wait to catch you guys live and looking forward to the new LP coming out
Thanks Neville for the interview….
If you like your Blues with an edge, verging on the Dr. John, dark, Cajun at times at other times raw and emotional with a real undercurrent this LP is for you.
If you’re a fan of real music played with passion you have arrived at the right place, get listening to the Black Devil Byrds.