Interviews

Canadian supergroup SNOWSHOE reunite for “F*** C***d” tour – exclusive interview

SNOWSHOE ARE BACK AND WE HAVE THE EXCLUSIVE!

 

The Snowshoe saga continues!  The Canadian punk supergroup that suddenly formed, imploded, and bizarrely settled their differences in the wrestling ring, have reunited!  They call it the “Fuck Covid Tour”, or for tamer markets, simply the “We Really Mean It This Time Tour”.  We had the opportunity to chat with all three members of the band:

  • Billy Sol Hurok (formerly of Dirty Slush) – guitar, vocals
  • Irving Cohen (formerly of Dead Bird on a Wire) – bass, vocals
  • John Y. Schmenge (formerly of the Schmenge Brothers’ Sons) – drums


LeBrain:  You guys had a pretty serious fallout in 2018, leading to the infamous 2019 wrestling match in the parking lot of Deke’s Palace.  Why reunite at all?

BILLY SOL HUROK – Simple answer to that.  We need the money.

IRVING COHEN – That’s pretty much it.  Covid wiped us out financially.  Of course that was the “plandemic” all along wasn’t it?  Make us all broke, living on credit from the banks.  Slaves!

JOHN Y. SCHMENGE – Would you fucking stop it Irv?

BILLY SOL HUROK – This tour is going to be a lot of fun…not.  Me, I don’t give a shit about vaccines and conspiracies.  Irv on the other hand…

IRVING COHEN – Don’t you dare call me a conspiracy theorist or I’ll knock you the fuck out in this interview, I don’t care!

BILLY SOL HUROK – Irv’s not even the worst.  Sure he’s antivaxx, but on the other hand Schmenge over there is so pro-vaxx that he got shot 10 times.

JOHN Y. SCHMENGE – 11 times.  I got boosted again for the tour.  I’m gonna be Superman on that fucking stage.

IRVING COHEN – You see?

LeBrain:  You guys must really need the money.  Back to the music, Eternal Winter is an album you recorded but never released. We’ve received the tracklist and it looks awesome!  [see bottom]  Any chance of it coming out for real this year?

BILLY SOL HUROK – Simple answer to that too.  We need the money.

IRVING COHEN – That would be a yes.

JOHN Y. SCHMENGE – CD, vinyl, cassette, and 8-track.  I’ve been on the internet a lot and 8-track is coming back.  I insisted we release on 8-track, limited numbers.  I’m having my car stereo guy put an 8-track deck in my Tesla so I can hear it as it was intended:  with a break in the middle of every third song.

LeBrain:  Wait…you guys are broke, but John drives a Tesla?

BILLY SOL HUROK – Irv and I are broke.  John made a killing painting houses during the winters in Churchill Manitoba.  He figured out a formulation for the paint not to freeze.  His painting business runs 12 months a year.  He was on Dragon’s Den and everything.

IRVING COHEN – Arlene even hit on him after the show.

BILLY SOL HUROK – After giving him a cool million for 50%.

LeBrain:  So, John, obviously money isn’t a motivation for you.  Are you doing it for the love of music?

JOHN Y. SCHMENGE – No.  I love music but I hate these two assholes even more.  I’m doing it for the Guinness’ Book of World Records.

LeBrain:  Cool!  What record are you going for?  Loudest band?  I hear that record was set by your former tourmates Inushuk in Thunder Bay at Deke’s Palace.

JOHN Y. SCHMENGE – No, no, no.  I’m going for the vaccine record.  Not only am I going to collect as many shots as I can, but I want to be the first Canadian to get one in every province.

IRVING COHEN – I’m not even going to comment.  Keeping my fucking mouth shut as long as it gets us back on the road.

BILLY SOL HUROK – Right, so let’s talk about that.  We start where we left off:  Deke’s Palace in Thunder Bay, then we work our way west, then back east through Thunder Bay playing the Palace again, all the way to the east coast…

JOHN Y. SCHMENGE – There’s a place in New Brunswick called Tim’s 8-Track Heaven that I can’t wait to check out!

BILLY SOL HUROK – (Grumbles) …and then we actually go back through Ontario to Thunder Bay once more, playing the tour closer at Deke’s Palace for our third stop there.

LeBrain:  Why three stops at Deke’s Palace?

BILLY SOL HUROK – Well you know the old saying, right?  The only thing cheaper than the beer at the Palace is the women!  Also the owner, Deke Williams, owes us.  Three gigs is the least he could do for us after what happened last time.

LeBrain:  What happened last time?

IRVING COHEN – Food poisoning.  That’s the real reason I lost that wrestling match to Bill, was food poisoning.  Bill ate McDonalds, I had salad bar.  I have a really grainy video on my phone.  There was some shady activist looking guy hanging around the salad bar.  They cheated and Deke set it up.  I rest my case.

BILLY SOL HUROK – You lying fucking conspiracy theorist piece of shit!

LeBrain:  Woah, woah, woah!  Take it easy guys, or you’ll never make it on the road!  Let’s end it here and…

IRVING COHEN – (To LeBrain) Fuck you too, media! (Punches LeBrain in jaw)

 

 

ETERNAL WINTER – Final Track List (8-track tape version)

The entire original 2018 recordings, newly remixed, with one new song recorded in 2022!

 

Program 1

    1. Lock Up Your Sheep / Irving Had A Little Lamb
    2. Rolling Through the Hay River, NWT
    3. Eat My Poutine, Putin (beginning)

Program 2

    1. Eat My Poutine, Putin (end)
    2. I Love Hating Your Guts
    3. Snoeshow
    4. Thunder From the Tundra (beginning)

Program 3

    1. Thunder From the Tundra (end)
    2. Blowed Up Real Good
    3. The Smell of 1977
    4. Yellow Popsicle (beginning)

Program 4

    1. Yellow Popsicle (end)
    2. Touch My Dink in the Ditch (The Legendary Klopeks cover)
    3. Current River Blues
    4. Three Bloodthirsty Women From the Land of Always Winter
    5. We Cairn A Lot (Inukshuk cover)

 

INTERVIEW: My Dinner With Sarge (2004)

In the summer of 2004, modded people from all over the world gathered in Toronto, Ontario for BMEfest, an annual gathering of like-minded individuals. Some came to be social. Some came to drink. Some came to perform. Sarge came for all these reasons and more.

Sarge is a renowned piercer, and owner of the Metal Fatigue studio in Bournemouth, England. His real name has been lost to time (but is easily readable on his passport if you’re lucky enough to see it). This was his second trip to Canada, and I had the opportunity to speak with him at length, observe him performing an extremely exotic piercing, and get pierced by him myself.

Upon meeting him, it’s obvious that he fits no stereotype. On the hottest days of the summer Sarge was found wearing black leather pants, his trademark tophat, and aviator’s goggles. For a piercer, Sarge has relatively few piercings himself. The only visible ones are multiple gauged holes in his ears. I wondered about this.

“Blimey!” said Sarge with typical zeal. “Over the years I have had different piercings, but I was always into the tattooing side of body art.” Indeed, Sarge has a wonderful pair of wings on his back, and his sleeves covered. “Even though I never made it to that particular job (tattooing), I prefer the look. Body piercing to me is becoming more of a personal goal to strive at. I just pride myself on the job and quality of work the shop is producing. To me it’s more important to give good quality piercings than actually have them myself, plus I’m a big pussy when it comes to piercing pain.”

I got to wear the Sarge tophat.

Can this be true? We’ve all seen people who seem like they’re on the verge of tears when getting pierced. Could Sarge be like one of these people? Could Sarge even be worse than yours truly when it comes to pain? “No really!” he says. “Even worse than you!”

Although it’s impossible to guess by looking at him how old the Sarge might be, it’s clear from his stories that he’s been around for over 35 years. I was curious when he first encountered an “unusual” piercing, and what he thought of it at the time.

“The first unusual body art and modification I ever saw was in a re search book called Modern Primitives. That totally opened my eyes I can tell you! There was a whole world of piercing anthropology out there! I was 18 at the time and getting my first tattoo, which was pretty hardcore anyway at the time as it is a full arm of tribal. So I was pushing the boundaries then, because nobody had those types of tattoos then. Well so I thought! Then I read Modern Primitives and the rest as they say is history.”

From there, Sarge began exploring piercings himself. “My good friend Jenny was a mobile body piercer on the Isle of Wight. She taught me all she knew and pierced my navel, then got pregnant and gave the box of equipment to me. I sort of drifted about for a few years piercing my friends, then moved to Bournemouth UK and started working with various local cosmetic piercing studios. When I got fed up with their bad habits, I opened another. Then another. Then this one, which I called a clinic. I think it deserved it considering that’s a good 15 years of Metal Fatigue.”

Sarge’s first piercing was technically not his navel. He too experienced the dreaded piercing gun at an early age, before he knew any better. “I think my first piercing was when I was 14, I had my ear pierced with a really old piercing gun. It was a bit like a cross between a pair or pliers and a hole punch. I’m serious! And the freezing spray hurt more than the piercing!”

Eventually Sarge began doing piercings himself. His first was in 1989. “I cannot tell a lie, I totally screwed it up. It was a tongue piercing, and I got it off centre. It was on my friend Jenny.” Jenny had been teaching Sarge how to pierce, and continued to give him guidance. “She made me take it out and ‘Bloody well do it again!’ Suffice to say that was the first and last time I ever screwed up a tongue piercing!”

As time went on, the shop currently known as Metal Fatigue opened it doors to the public. The shop now enjoys an excellent reputation, but it was not always easy. “As an Aquarian, I have a total lack of a business mind. I am absolutely hopeless! So money has always been a problem. I have always thought it was always reputation over money anyway, so I’m lucky there, huh? I owned a tattoo studio called White Flame for three years with my ex-girlfriend, but left after we split up. I couldn’t really walk in there anymore after. It just gave me the fear. Although, my friend and housemate, Ana is a tattooist there and she just did a piece on my leg in the shop, so I’m getting better with it.”

Metal Fatigue itself runs on a fairly small staff. Aside from Sarge, “the shop runs two apprentices and two shop cleaner/desk personnel. All of them are friends, which sometimes doesn’t work: Mixing business and friendship is always a mistake. I think that pretty much sums up most piercing clinics, you definitely have to deal with the whole soap opera of this job somewhere along the line!” He must be doing something right despite this, as his shop has proven to be extremely popular.

Sarge is most definitely well versed in many topics. During a sushi dinner with him, pop culture was a topic that came up frequently. I recalled the first time I saw an unusual piercing myself. It was Axl Rose in a music magazine, and he had a ring in his left nipple. I had heard about Axl Rose’s unusual nipple adornment on a Canadian television music program, but seeing it changed a lot of things for me. I was wondering if, In England, there were any pop culture figures who might have had the same impact on people.

“The Spice Girls!” said Sarge with glee. Sporty Spice had her pierced nostril, Ginger had her navel done, and Scary had the most extreme piercing of the group, a barbell in her tongue. “They started the whole girly piercing craze. Before that it was all “alternative” people and middle aged swingers, I swear! It’s true! ” This trend has not changed, even if the pop culture faces have. “Even now, I’m getting people in who want piercings because some famous person or other has one!”

Having been in this business for the better part of 15 years, Sarge has seen a lot of different piercing techniques. When he came to Canada, he asked me how we did piercings here. I had to confess I was ignorant that there would be a difference in technique between the two countries. “I actually employ a cross between Standard American devised techniques and Standard English devised techniques. The difference is in the needles, but if you know what you’re doing you generally get the same result.”

What about attitudes? Are they the same in both countries? “With attitudes, I don’t honestly know, I tend not to get into big arguments about ethics. Lately I have had to really bite my tongue about certain issues. I’m quite happy that I did.”

I tried to pry his tongue loose on a few topics, and Sarge was willing to discuss common mistakes made in the piercing industry. “There are so many! Bad placement, wrong jewelry, trauma on areas caused by holding clamps too hard, the list is large. I personally have had to mop up after a large percentage of local piercers. I have just got used to it now. I learned a long time ago if you treat people with respect after they have been butchered by some backstreet piercer, instead of giving them attitude, they come back to you and tell all their friends. I do despair sometimes, and get downright angry about certain situations, but there’s nothing I can do about it. You can’t fight city hall, and any complaints that I make are deemed as ‘Professional jealousy’!”

Sarge does his best to keep his shop state of the art, and top of the line. In order to do this, he makes sure that he’s on top of sterility issues, and also provides excellent aftercare to his clients.

“Sterility in the studio is something that has evolved over the years. We buy better chemicals and better autoclaves each year, I update my techniques and basically do my homework. This has made the shop the way it is. We have this horrible super bug here called MRSA which seems to be ravaging the local hospitals, I don’t understand why they have it. All it takes is common sense and a proper cross contamination cleaning regime to work safely and efficiently. I swear sometimes I think that Technicare should pay me commission; on the amount of student nurses I have turned on to it!”

As far as aftercare goes, Sarge provides excellent service to his clients. “Metal Fatigue is twinned with a shop called Paradox which is just across the road; they are a jewelry shop, which is where I get all my ‘standard’ piercing jewelry. We have a policy: I use standard sensible pieces in all the different piercings that I pierce, in turn the piercees then come back to change their original piercings for an interesting piece of jewelry of their choice. I in turn change these for free. We’re pretty user-friendly like that!”

This makes Sarge a pretty popular guy. “I can’t move in my local rock nightclub for people the shop has pierced, the running joke is about the scrap value in titanium every Saturday night!”

When asked what his future plans for his studio were, Sarge’s love of Canada was evident. “Metal Fatigue Ontario, maybe? Any sponsors out there?”

Although he has yet to fulfill this cross-Atlantic dream, Sarge has pierced in Canada before. Sarge pierced my right nipple, and did a fantastic job. He made a piercing that, for me, was always extremely difficult and painful the exact opposite of that. It was quick, painless, and I did not even realize it was over until he told me that it was. Even more exciting than this was getting to watch Sarge perform was he calls his “trophy piercing”, the clavicle.

The clavicle piercing, under the collarbone.

A young Kitchener, Ontario resident had seen Sarge’s clavicle piercing on the BME site and was interested. It’s a very unusual piercing that involves going underneath the collarbone. Sarge is one of very few people who do it. This young girl eventually emailed Sarge about getting one done, not realizing he lived across the ocean. However, with BMEfest just around the corner, Sarge was planning on coming and visiting his friends. The Canadian girl could have her clavicle piercing after all.

It was quite a sight to watch. “The clavicle piercing (under the collar bone) is probably my ‘trophy’ piercing now, its really dangerous,” says Sarge. “If I hit anything untoward, someone may die. I have had loads of criticism from various piercers for even thinking about doing one. Saying that, I have now done eight and they all love them so much! I have stopped doing them now, as we are into unknown territory, watching them heal, working around possible problems with them. So far everything has been hunky dory.”

As we were wrapping up our talk, I wanted to lighten the tone a bit. I know Sarge has met a few celebrities in the past. My favourite story involved a bar, a drunken Sarge, and a certain lead vocalist from a certain British heavy metal band called Motorhead. Although he had no way of knowing, Philip Lynott from Thin Lizzy had died that day, and the bar was playing his music in tribute to the fallen rock hero. Sarge, however, was not a fan. When he openly criticized the music of Thin Lizzy with some choice words, a large man with “bad teeth, long black hair and a low gruff voice,” told the young Sarge to fuck off. This was Sarge’s first and last meeting with Lemmy Kilmister. Not all his encounters were this scary. “I met Jon Anderson from the band Yes when I was working at a hotel once! Had a beer with him after work, he was doing some book signing thing, I think I still have his autograph somewhere, he signed a copy of a (Yes cover artist) Rodger Dean art book for me!”

Has Sarge ever pierced a celebrity? “I have, but I can’t tell you her name. She’s more a British music celebrity, quite young and has only just been in the charts here, I don’t honestly know how far reaching her music is. She’s definitely not one of these corporate girly types, she writes all her own tunes. Oh yeah and she’s really cute.”

We wrapped up our talk, half of our sushi still lying on the table. I very much enjoyed having the chance to speak with, and have some work done by the man known in Canada as the “Jedi Master of Piercings”. If you ever have a chance to visit Bournemouth, UK, be sure to drop in and say hello to the extremely talented and friendly Sarge.

 

More on Sarge:  

Storm Force! Greg, Pat and Brian join Deke and LeBrain in the Age of Fear!

Thanks to Greg Fraser, Patrick Gagliardi, and surprise guest Brian Hamilton of Storm Force for joining Deke and I Friday night!  It was a free-form chat tackling subjects such as:

  • The album Age of Fear
  • Memorable impact gigs
  • Canadian Rock
  • New music
  • Secrets to singing
  • Thunder Bay
  • Touring and touring and touring
  • Brighton Rock and Gerry McGhee

And much much more!

In addition I did a CD reveal for this week’s mail.  New music from Amazon and Buried On Mars!  The only thing better than new discs is new discs from friends.  These ones mean something to me, so check it out if you want to know what I’ll be spinning this weekend.

For the CD reveals, start at 0:04:15 of the stream.

For Storm Force, skip to 0:16:50 of the stream.

Thanks again to Greg, Pat, Brian and Superdekes for setting this chat up.  It was the first but won’t be the last.

VIDEO: Geek VLOG 2.0 Time Well Wasted Episode 2.0

Recently I had the absolute pleasure of being interviewed by Mr. Sebastien Munier for his brand new Geek VLOG series. (Long time followers may remember Seb from my short-lived Tyler & LeBrain series of podcasts.)  His excellent new YouTube show features 10 questions for geeky friends.  Thank you Seb for having me on, it was an honour and I hope everyone subscribes to your new show.  I know I will continue watching.

Please enjoy the interview below.

Casual Saturday Live Stream: Uncle Don Don Cutoff Shorts Countdown, new music!

As suggested by Boppin, this Saturday we will be doing a “Nigel Tufnel Top Ten” countdown for my Uncle Don who passed away this week from cancer.

I’ll also unbox some new music arrivals and chat with YOU!

Like the stream from two weeks ago, I plan to pop in periodically through the day, catching people in different time zones and testing new gadgets.

Hope you can catch some of it!  Saturday June 6, Facebook: Michael Ladano.

VIDEO: Dr. Kathryn Ladano ambushed by Ambush Schnauzer Paparazzi!

EXCLUSIVE! Dr. Kathryn talks about new album MASKED out later this year!

RODDY BOTTUM Chats! Sasquatch, Faith No More and more!

Roddy Bottum is a man of many talents.  A multi-instrumentalist, Roddy might be best known for his bands Faith No More and Imperial Teen.  Roddy is also a composer and Sasquatch: The Opera is his first entry on that stage, but surely not the last.

An opera about Sasquatch?  What’s the deal with that?  It’s been a difficult journey. I had the chance to question on Roddy about it and his other projects.  Read it from the man himself.


Mike:  Sasquatch: The Opera has to be the most intriguing three-word title I’ve ever seen. I understand the story is about the misunderstood “monster”, but how did you settle on the Sasquatch for your monster? I’m a bit of a Sasquatch geek, and I’m curious if you are too.

Roddy:   It’s a character I always identified with. The ‘gentle giant’ aspect of him I kind of created myself. It’s a characteristic I always am moved by in literature and film. Elephant Man, King Kong, Frankenstein… the vulnerability of the misunderstood oaf, if you will. I’m also very sexually attracted to exactly that type.

Mike:   Would you ever go on a Sasquatch expedition?

Roddy:  I think I could entertain that voyage in a ‘social studies’ kind of way but I would be hard pressed to putting my best foot forward in the hopes of finding the monster. I want to believe. I really do. It’s like being taught religion as a child. I remain sceptical and needing of proof.

Mike:  Absolutely understood; I hope one day we find that proof.  How would you describe the music, is it a “rock opera”? I have to assume it’s a little different!

Roddy:  The instrumentation is timpani drums, drum machine, two synthesizers and two trumpets. It’s not exactly rock but it’s more rock than symphonic.  I kind of based the musical vibe all around the timpanis. The grandeur of that instruments spoke a lot in the presentation of the piece.

Mike:  Do you perform on stage in the musical?

Roddy:  I did, yeah, I conducted the piece and played a synthesizer. The one with the easier parts.

Mike:  Did you compose Sasquatch primarily on the keyboard?

Roddy:  Yes, first in my head and then on the keyboard.

Mike:   I read about the apartment fire you had while in the midst of working on Sasquatch. You had to recreate the Opera from scratch, replace props and costumes? Are you happy with how it turned out?

Roddy:  The fire gave me the opportunity to create from a clean slate something that I’d already done before. I like that process, actually. The fire was really and truly one of the worst tragedies I’ve had to go through. The cliche of the open window that happens as a result of a closed one, though. That rang true. Still, though I’m spooked by fire and I can’t eat barbecue or mescal or anything with a smokey after taste. Too soon.

Mike:  I can’t even imagine what that is like…I love barbecue.  Can we expect another musical from you?

Roddy:  Yes, I’d like to create another opera that’s about the fall of a nation. Particularly America in this political climate.

Mike:  I’d be into that.  Now, I was going to go and see Sasquatch with my mom. She’s in her 70s and maybe a little old fashioned. Do you think my mom would have a good time, or would I regret bringing her?

Roddy:  I got some of my best criticisms from people older than myself. I’m 55. I like to think of the themes as universal though there are some elements of incest and drug use that seem to disturb people. How open minded is your Mom?

Mike:  She’s pretty cool, I think she can handle it.  Could Sasquatch get a CD or DVD release?

Roddy:  I honestly like to keep the opera in the realm of ‘shrouded in mystery.’ In keeping with the allure and mystique of Sasquatch, the being, I would prefer that the only people who witness my monster and my music are the ones in the theatre who come to see it. It’s too easy for people to listen to something online. I’m not into the lazy attendant factor of that, if that makes sense.

Mike:  It does, I have heard stand-up comedians say similar things.  It should be just in the moment.  Moving on, can you update us on the next Imperial Teen record? I heard it was in the mixing stages.

Roddy:  We just finished the record, mastered it last week and are working on the album artwork. It’s got 10 songs, it’s called Now We Are Timeless and it will come out on Merge Records July 12.

Mike:  I hope you don’t mind a little fan-geek questioning. I am a music collector. I pride myself in having “almost everything” for many bands I love, but one “holy grail” item would be a live Faith No More bootleg with Courtney Love on vocals. I have been searching for years…decades! Does such a thing exist or is that era now lost to the sands of time?

Roddy:  I believe the only audio recording of Courtney singing with us is on a VHS recording of a daytime public access television show recorded in San Francisco in 1984. Courtney wore a dirty white slip and brought into the studio bags and bags of old flowers she collected from the flower mart. We decorated the stage and lit incense and performed in dashikis.

Mike:  If it exists, I will find it one day!  Regarding Faith No More, I think Sol Invictus is a fantastic record.  Among your best. I usually give the rare “5/5 star rating” to Introduce Yourself, Angel Dust, and King for a Day. Now I have added Sol Invictus to that list. You don’t strike me as the kind of band that puts out albums you aren’t happy with, but the reception to Sol Invictus was overwhelmingly positive. With a few years hindsight, how happy are you with Sol Invictus today?

Roddy:  I think it’s a strong record, thank you. I’m glad we were in a position to not have to pander to radio playlist or whatever. We made the record we wanted to make and really didn’t compromise at any stage.

Mike:  Is that you on vocals in the verses to “Motherfucker”?

Roddy:  It is, yes, and thank you for noticing.

Mike:  Do you have any other projects cooking currently that you can tell us about?

Roddy:  I’m in a band called Nastie Band. Our record will come out in April. It features an 84 year old singer, a pair of identical twins, a drummer and guitarist and many theatrical elements. It’s a performance band, very dark. Another band I’m in is called Crickets. We’re going away this weekend on a writing retreat. Michael O’Neil and JD Samson are both in that band and we liken ourselves to a wobbly dance sound a-la Tom Tom Club. We have our first show in New York in February.


It sounds like 2019 is shaping up to be an exciting year for Roddy Bottum.  Be sure to check out the Nastie Band in April, and the new Imperial Teen record Now We Are Timeless in July.  Thank you Roddy for the chat!

Interview: HELLO HOPELESS – November 2018

HELLO HOPELESS CD release – Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures – November 30 2018

At the Boathouse in Kitchener (57 Jubilee Drive, Kitchener, Ontario)

Interview: EDDIE JACKSON of QUEENSRYCHE – Oct 30 2001 – AUDIO

This audio goes with the text of Eddie’s interview with me in October of 2001. Links to the complete text can be found below, but why read when you can listen?  The audio has remained in my dusty archives…until now.  This was a great in-depth chat about the band at the time, lineup changes, and the Live Evolution CD that they were currently promoting.  Give it a listen from the pre-digital age.  Cassette, baby!

Links

Audio

Interview: 1537 Questions

We don’t need no preamble! If you have ever wanted to know how to write the most unique music reviews that this planet has ever seen, then you need to read on as we pick the mind of the one, the only, Mr. 1537 himself. He is one talented music writer that deserves all the praise you can heap.

1537


M: It is a pleasure to speak with you, Mr. 1537.  I understand that anonymity is important to you.  It would matter to me too, if I had any sense.  How would you like us to address you in this interview?

1537:  A simple ‘sir’ would normally suffice, but in order to seem a bit more user-friendly ( I gather the masses tend to like that) you can call me 15 strictly for the duration of this interview.

Actually I sort of ballsed up the whole anonymous thang by using my name as the blog domain; oops, back to spy school for me!   I don’t do any social media at all beyond WordPress and I am basically a needlessly secretive dude.  I admire folk who can bare their souls in their blogs but that’s not me at all, I let bits and pieces of my life seep through the cracks sometimes but not very much.

M: As opposed to me, who built a cottage industry on the minutia of working in a record store.  Now…Lego.  You’ve managed to incorporate Lego in your articles’ artwork, in a simple yet innovative and endlessly entertaining way.  How long have you been a fan of Lego, and is that longer than you’ve been into music?

15: Well, the Lego came first, my daughter got the Lego DJ figure and on a whim I thought it would look good on the circle of the Flying Lotus LP Cosmogramma, then Sleep Dopesmoker and then I started to look at the possibilities of making relevant figures for relevant LPs.  I had a Blogspot thang where I’d managed three reviews years before, but I gradually realised that if you gave people something to look at they might stop by and read my Mighty Rock Words of Power (MRWoP) too.

It took me a while to hit my stride and then when people actually started reading it … wow, it really is the best feeling.

Oh, Lego.  Yup, I’ve always loved it, way before I was conscious of music – although I grew up in a very music-oriented household.  I used to make elaborate Star Wars games and fantasies up through Lego, way before they had brought out space Lego. You used to have to improvise weapons in those days too, because Lego didn’t believe in promoting weapons as toys for kids.

M: That’s right, you used to have to use the “bullhorns” as guns, until Lego started introducing actual guns in 2005.  You seem to have a Minifigure appropriate for every single album review you do, no matter how bizarre or obscure.  Presently how many figures do you think you own?

15: I have a couple hundred Minifigures, which is not all of them by a long way, I’m not obsessive about collecting them and there are plenty of gaps in my collection.  I love it when they produce a new line and one strikes me as perfect for an LP I haven’t done yet.

A lot of the fun is improvising and putting combos of different figures together.  I’ve also drawn on a couple duplicates I have to make an Alice Cooper, a Scott Ian and a Ziggy Stardust; oh and I have also added cleavage to a figure or two along the way; that’s normal behaviour for a 44 year-old isn’t it?

M: I’m not one to judge.  What drives your review?  Do you start with the text or the visuals? 

15: Always the text.  I think wordaciously, not visually.  I’m a slow writer because I edit it all as I go along, most reviews take me at least 3 hours, with another 40 minutes or so on top for the pictures.  If you add in the demands of family life, a really demanding job, a little socialising and even, hey, listening to music sometimes, it all adds up to why I don’t produce as many as I’d like to.  There are never any ‘in the can’, I tend to write them, hit publish and go straight to bed, as it’s usually 1am by then.  I like waking up to everyone’s comments.

Q: Do you use any fancy-pancy camera or lighting equipment?  The images are always very crisp and vibrant, much better than I’ve been getting with my BlackBerry in my home office.

15: Absolutely not.  Everything I do is done on my iPhone (the model before the last one – 6 is it?), I’m not particularly good at it, I just take a lot of photos.  Shiny, shiny covers are the bane of my life.

What I am pretty good at now, by trial and error, is editing the pictures, I use a Windows App called Fhotoroom and another called KVADPhoto.  I have never ever published a picture I haven’t edited for contrast, colour, or cropped and altered etc.  Some of my favourites have been very boring photos before I have messed them around.

M:  I crop everything, but I wouldn’t know what to do as far as contrast or colour, so kudos to you sir.  A two-part question next:  What are your favourite reviews that you’ve done, both in terms of writing and in terms of photos?

15: In terms of the writing I rather like this comparison between Andrew Marvell, English metaphysical poet and a Rhino Bucket song about oral sex – it’s even got my voice on it:

https://jatstorey.com/2014/12/05/to-his-coy-bitch/

I’m also rather fond of doing interviews, that’s been a whole lot of fun when the right person has been on the other side who is willing to engage properly with the silliness of it all.  It’s also a nice way to get to chat to bands when you go see them live too.  Spencer from MFC Chicken was my first and favourite:

https://jatstorey.com/2014/11/18/spencer-speaks/

I have too many favourite pictures to pick a post, but these two have to come darned close – ‘Hatting’ Isaac Hayes and my take on The Shining:

https://jatstorey.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/hot-buttered-soul-02.jpg

https://jatstorey.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/the-shining.jpg

 

M: Ahh yes, The Shining was a personal favourite of mine too.   I find I often have to listen to an album while I write, and it can’t be the first listen either.  I need a fresh listen in order to capture all my thoughts and pass them on to the weary readers.  Your reviews are very different from mine, and frankly far beyond what I’m capable of writing.  Do you use the “listen as you write” technique or something else?

15: I try to give it a good listen the night before, or on my way to/from work (an hour-long commute doesn’t have to be all bad) and I listen to bits of it as I write, or if I’m happy I know it enough – I might be writing about something I’ve been listening to in heavy rotation for 28 years (Christ, I’m old!), I have an ambient playlist I listen to when I write sometimes.

M: What else do you need to be able to write?  I need to be in my underwear with a cold beverage.  No bevvies and no skivvies means no review.  I suspect you prefer warm slippers and oatmeal.

15: I need quiet, which is ironic given that most of my favourite music involves bellowing and shrieking.  I write at a desktop (hate lap-tops) in the room that also has our biggest TV in and so there can be a certain amount of negotiation involved – it’s often why I write so late into the morning, it’s the only time I can.

Other than that my needs are simple, I prefer non-restrictive trouser ware and that’s it.  You really write in your undies?

M: Hey, who’s conducting the interview here? I ask the questions! Is there any one band you really really hope reads your stuff?

15: Nah, although there is a fair chance of some artists tuning in because a lot of the LPs I bought in the late 80’s seem to have only sold one copy, to me – I always try to be pleasant because, you just should be.  If I can’t write anything too complimentary I always add in my caveat along the lines of ‘These guys made a far better record than I ever have I’m just a loser boy sat behind a keyboard’.

Larry Miller from Uncle Sam stopping by was wonderful (I own an LP he signed and bit for me back in ’91) and we’re still in touch – I even helped get their debut LP re-released, that was a real buzz.

https://jatstorey.com/2013/07/20/i-lost-more-friends-than-youll-ever-have/

Oh and (coughs) Mark Wilkinson may have stopped by once too …

https://jatstorey.com/2014/01/19/smiling-vinyl-whores/

M: Do you have any particular influences in terms of writing?  I’ve made no secret that in my early years, I was definitely trying to be Martin Popoff, Jr.  Your style is unlike anyone I’ve read, but surely that didn’t happen in a vacuum?

stan-lee15: I had to really think about this one.  In terms of the character I write in, the tone of it, a lot of it comes from Stan Lee in those 1960’s Marvel comics – they knocked me for 6 when I first read my parent’s copies as a kid, the jokey references to himself and his fellow writers and artists in ‘the bullpen’; it was very playful and irreverent, that stuck with me.

You could maybe chuck in a bit of Harry Harrison and Douglas Adams, they were and are still, the only humorous writers I truly like and I do try to amuse.

Other than that there were all those fabulous late 80’s Kerrang! journalists, who were informative and, again, playful in the way they wrote – lots of irreverence and in-jokes, they painted their own little world and made it seem like the coolest place in the world to work.  I met Phil Wilding at a gig once and was more excited about that than the band (Dangerous Toys).

Oh and I hope there’s enough self-deprecation in there to show I do write in character and I’m not really a megalomaniac with an omnipotence delusion.

M: Sure, sure.  I knew that.  Anyway, do you ever worry you will run out of things to say about music?  Or do you see “1537” as a long-term project?

15: No, mostly because of the format I’ve set up for myself, my blog runs on rails to an extent – jokey title (usually), review of record(s), review count at the end, Lego images.  I have enough of the little vinyl buggers that I don’t have to write about the same artist too often, which would fox me – the closest I ever came to a series, like you, Geoff and Aaron do so well, was spending a month writing about artists beginning with a ‘B’ – I found that really tough.

Anyway I’ve got 809 more records to review.  Not sure where I’ll take it after that, because the whole point of the blog, apart from being an extended diary for myself, was to make sure I took time out to listen to everything I own properly – I have a horror of having stuff I haven’t heard, it makes me feel gluttonous and despicable.

M: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.  The agent who set this up didn’t want me to ask this last question.  But the interview is going well enough so I think I’m going to ask it.  You’re a Lego man — this is clear.  Meanwhile I’m into things that turn into little robots.  With all due respect, I think we both know that robots > bricks, but that is neither here nor there.  If you could transform into something, what would it be, and why?

I know the only reason you feel safe enough to ask me that is that I am currently orbiting earth at a crucial velocity on my space station, so I shall overlook your mortal impertinence this once.  I always wanted to be a farmer when I was little and was totally obsessed with tractors, it was all I ever drew apart from digital watches (they were new then).  So the obvious answer is a digital watch which transforms into a big kick-ass Ford County 1164 tractor (I always loved their colour scheme).

tractor

TRACTOR-TRON 1537 Lego/Transformers crossover set coming soon


Thanks again to 1537 for the chat.  We’ll leave you with a suitable music video…”Rockin’ is Ma Business”…and business is good!