Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Everett True speaks...

This man is one of my heroes and I was lucky enough to meet him. I'm pretty sure I messed it up though- I was nervous and very self-conscious, although he was very patient.

It took a long time to write up the following article, I kept thinking of what he would think if/when he read it.
I was worried about making it seem to similar to his own writing- what I definitely didn't want was to become a second-rate tribute to him, so instead this original article was stilted and with a lot more dialogue. Even at the best of times, I'm bad at expressing myself and how I feel about things. I'm even worse when I know someone I respect will judge it, and I managed to do what i had try and avoided which was to upset him in some way.

How it appears below is not how I first wrote it - the version which True read. It's a shame, as this copy below is probably most like how I wanted it to sound.

“IN INTERVIEWS you try and make people feel special. It’s a bit like flirting. You pay attention to them. You hold eye contact. You smile. And you’re like ‘Yeah you’re all right. You’re kind of interesting.’ And that kind of makes the other person feel all right.”

Everett True is sitting across from me and I’m literally lost for words. It is a funny feeling being told to flirt more by someone you’ve never met before, especially when that person is old enough to be my father. Music journalist, performer, ex-alcoholic, radio DJ, former editor of cult music magazine Careless Talk Costs Lives, the list of True’s achievements is endless, and here he is, next to me, handing out interview tips. It seems unreal.

“My only advice is to not care what other people say. When I started writing for NME I was a complete social retard. I was completely shy and couldn’t speak or relate to anyone, I was still a virgin at the age of 23.

“I can remember talking to David Stubbs [a former colleague], when I joined Melody Maker, and I was asking him what I should do about my insecurities. He said ‘you should just drink’ and it was like this massive awakening. I then noticed – you start drinking and everyone is bragging about how out of it they all are and how wasted they are. And then you meet these bands and they are bragging how rock and roll they are and I was like, ‘well, that doesn’t seem too hard’ so that’s what I did for seven years. Get fucked up.”

THROUGHOUT this monologue I am quiet, smiling nervously and nodding just a little too much. Giggling for no apparent reason, I can’t help it – True is a legend of mine. It was his name that first drew me to him- it seemed to speak volumes about the writer it portrayed. In my fifteen-year old mind the only people called Everett were rock stars. Or those who wrote about them. How right I was. Much has been made of his time with Nirvana, rumours still rumble about his, supposed, sexual dalliances with Courtney Love. Did he or didn’t he? Does it really matter? The fact is the rumour is there, only adds to his street-cred. Right?

I ‘discovered’ True the way you find out about anyone you love, by accident. I brought a copy of ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’ – issue 11, if memory serves me well. Little did I realise then how important that magazine would become – how it would talk about the bands that, at the time, only I thought I’d heard of. How it was trying to change the music industry from the inside out, one issue at a time, starting at number 12. How this would fail, instead becoming an uphill struggle battled out through every beautifully crafted article and every carefully drawn illustration – the thick, rich paper binding my formative teenage years with a love for music. And, most importantly of all, how the magazine was thought of and created by True. Who else indeed.

It was his writing – bright, fluid pictures painted of bands and their members; how their music came alive with a few simple adjectives and an anecdote (the story of a time and a place that non of us, his readers, have ever experienced but yet share intimately with him) – it was his writing that made life seem more vivid. Real, even. And – for a brief second, a little less chaotic. His passion for music compelled him to write. A need to express his views on yet another pop group- except this one is different. It has girls in it. Or more notably one, and she has been in the charts (for a change). She’s pretty, and has a voice like nobody else…

“I INTERVIEWED Kate [Nash] and she had no idea who I was. Towards the end of the interview we were talking about weird live shows and I was saying how I once, before I did a gig, I stood next to Naomi Campbell in the VIP area, waiting to go on stage with Nirvana. At that point she did a double take because until then she had been like ‘your just some journalist’ and then she was like ‘You knew Nirvana!’ and she made damn sure she knew my name after that.”

It would be naïve to deny the fact that for many, True’s friendship with Nirvana is the reason for his notoriety, yet for me at least, I was oblivious to this fact until a year ago. The story goes a little like this: True was sent out to America by Melody Maker to cover the exploding grunge scene in Seattle. He became friends with the band, then, years later wrote a book,‘ Live Through This’ about what went on during these times.

Somehow I had managed to skip these constant Kurt references, the hints of this forthcoming ‘definitive’ biography on the band and its subsequent plugging, flagrantly advertised and alluded to at every opportune moment throughout the pages of Plan B. I only realised all of this after falling onto his Myspace, and reading the hundreds of comments littered across it from fans declaring him as their hero, simply because of his association with Kurt.

“I miss the fame sometimes if I’m honest. Although I suppose you can miss something without having it. When you meet up with people, especially as you grow older and your circle of friends widens the first conversation gap is filled by people you’ve got in common. Now, when a lot of people speak to me for the first time then they are going to touch on people that they know I will have heard of, such as Kurt - it’s a conversational gambit. I don’t necessarily like this though as you kind of feel like you’ve been relegated to a footnote of history and that people don’t want to speak to you because of who you are, but more because of someone they will have heard of.”

When he talks True strokes his beard and fails to catch my eye. His answers are smooth and well rehearsed. It is not the first time he’s spoken about his life, his story is well known. His writing is littered with anecdotes about himself and people he has hung out with. Countless websites are dedicated to him, not only because of Nirvana, but also in tribute to his work. They all describe how True became friends with Alan McGee, the head of Creation Records, after speaking to him at a Laughing Apple gig in 1982 (at the time, McGee was the lead singer of the band) and how True then started compering at clubs in London, under the name The Legend!, the same pseudonym he used for his articles in NME.

“I was the anti-legend, that’s how I got my name,” he explains. “But then I quickly discovered that if you got on stage and if you acted really arrogant and acted all funny – it’s a bit like being at school when the only way you can stop from being bullied is by being foolish the whole time and by making every one laugh, then, you can’t get out of it. My names used to have individual personalities, but they all pretty much amount to the same thing now. The Legend! was very naïve, or at least I always thought he was. He always had a heartfelt, unable-to-communicate side of him that was underneath his arrogant side.

I had to change my name when I stopped writing for NME but I found that I wanted to keep The Legend! for my live performances. Recently though, I’ve started using Everett True for performances so that people would know who I am. It’s a bit pointless otherwise.”

THE MAN sitting opposite me looks like the opposite of a legend. An old man in a beige fleece. A shock of grey hair, a grey beard, bushy grey eyebrows above horn-rimmed glasses (or am I making that up? I can’t remember). Nothing to distinguish him and the other grey haired men living in Brighton. But appearances are deceiving. When True speaks another world comes alive. Bands are name-dropped left right and centre, mental double takes are frequent and soon become ignored. I’ve heard most of these stories before, I do read his articles after all, but it’s still good to hear them spoken in person. In the flesh as it were. He becomes animated and his eyes shine, and the world around me becomes brighter than Technicolor.

We speak for hours. Literally. He cooks me lunch and then we speak some more. I’m still nervous, but less so. I’ve noticed my name on the fridge written out in magnetic poetry. I ask, and he says it’s for me. Only much later, do I realise that it may not be so. His wife is called Charlotte after all. It’s easy to get swept up in his nonchalant arrogance, the casual way he will pick up a subject and then drop it when he becomes bored. When True dismisses his whole career with a simple wave of his hand, it takes a few seconds for what he says to sink in.

“I’m not a happy person – if I was I wouldn’t be Everett True. I’m a failure. I don’t make a living from my job. 10-15 years ago, hundreds and thousands of people would read me every week and now they don’t. I guess strictly speaking that shouldn’t matter but it does.

“I know I’ve been instrumental in the change of several large musical movements but I still think I should have changed things more. I don’t feel I should have grasped all the opportunities I could have grasped. You don’t always recognise them and I don’t think I did that. I’ve always been very insecure - someone always has a better time than me but I thought ‘fuck that’ when I started writing for the NME. I thought, ‘I’m going to make every one jealous of me through my writing and if I have to exaggerate or lie then so be it.’ I didn’t see it like that at the time: I saw it as making my stories interesting.”

Sitting in his Brighton home, childrens’ toys littered around the room, it is hard to know if this is the real side of True talking or simply an extension of one of his personalities. Later he will tell me it was the truth – but who am I to tell. I’m just another fan after all. But, in a way it doesn’t matter. Who cares if it’s the ‘real’ Jerry Thackray talking or just one of his personalities? As long as there is still music, True will be there putting into words what musicians can only make you feel, in an attempt to make sense of his life and ours.

Human Interest: Interview with a Samaritans Volunteer

YOU can’t help but feel at ease around Kate Russell, she simply radiates warmth and kindness. Calm and collected, she sits in her Samaritans office, gently explaining what it is like to be a volunteer at one of Glasgow’s busiest branches.

“I started 21 years ago,” says Russell (57), “and I enjoy it a lot. It sounds like a silly word to use but it’s true. You get to meet incredible people at the Samaritans and sharing a worry helps make everything seem right.”

“Christmas is the busiest time of year, as it is a time for family,” says Russell. “There is pressure for people to be happy over this period but for a huge percent of the population this is simply not the case.

“We are there to offer confidential, emotional support to callers, and you will be surprised that people will talk about the most painful and intimate things within the first minute of conversation. I think that sometimes they just need to get things off their chest, and that is what we are there for.

The Samaritans is unique in the way it is run. There are 164 volunteers at the Glasgow city centre branch, and between them, the centre runs 24 hours a day, all year round.

“Work can get hard, especially when the calls are distressing or the person is actively suicidal. But we get training on how to cope in these circumstances and we get a lot of support from each other at the centre as well. Its like being part of an extended family.”

Not everyone contacts the Samaritans by phone however. “More and more people are getting in touch through face-to-face meetings, emails and letter writing. Texting is increasingly popular amongst teenagers too,” explains Russell. “We sometimes we get calls from people who contacted us, letting us know what’s been going on and people also ring to wish us a happy Christmas, and that is just wonderful.”

Grizzly Bear- Friend EP 10/10/07

The new Grizzly Bear EP is one of those magical gems that come along every so often to brighten up an otherwise unremarkable day. ‘Friend EP’ is a series of covers and remixes (in the loosest sense of the word) of the group’s first two albums. The record features the likes of CSS and Band Of Horses and will firmly ensure that you will never hear the band in the same way ever again.

From the theatrical choral dramatics of opening track ‘Alligator’ to the final whistful strains of ‘Deep Blue Sea’ it is an album that will weave you into its delicate tangle of familiar and new. The collaborations are the culmination of three years of touring with other bands and hours of painstaking reworking of old material. The well-known three part harmonies and lazy, shimmering guitars are combined crashing symbols, heavy bass and in the case of ‘Plans’ plucked banjos.

It is a wonderful album, a must for fans of The Bear and a wonderful introduction for first time listeners. The covering bands have done the group justice, building on, rather than destroying the original material and adding their own trademark quirks and ticks to produce something unique and utterly special.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Someone called me a sad whore for one of my reviews. What the fuck?!

Whats the point in being so maliciously rude and insulting to someone who you've never met. Fair enough, you can disagree with what I think- I'll be the first one to admit that I am hardly ever right about things- let alone be so arrogant as to think that my opinion is the be all and end all on a certain point.

But to be so outraged to the point of calling me a whore. Jeez. That's sinking to a new level of petty insults that I never thought previously possible. Especially this review of an album:

The world at large is increasingly unimportant to Anthony Reynolds. Or at least, that’s what he claims. Who cares about Big Brother or The Office when you can name-drop authors into song lyrics and get drunk in the pub. It's experiences like that which make live worth living and albums worth recording. Right? Well apparently so.

So Reynolds sings about going to the pub and the peculiar quality of pub lighting; two typically British experiences (obviously) and Vashti Bunyan and Dot Allison are persuaded to join in, addding honeyed vocals to a couple of tracks. After all, what sits better with brooding piano solos and deep expressive vocals than pretty women, breathy harmonies and a veneer of almost trendiness.

Although a whole new plateau of self-indulgence is achieved through this way on Reynolds debut album, the record does have some lovely moments. Opening track ‘I Know You Know’ is a smooth and soulful song featuring Reynolds' deep, rich voice purring over violins and Dot Allison singing like she was born for no other reason. It is all downhill, and the euphoria experienced in ‘Leaving Song’ is more to do with it being the last track than the easy-listening rock song it claims to be.

Anthony Reynolds- British Ballads

Thursday, 6 December 2007


Ben Chasny’s latest release, ‘Shelter From The Ash’ is one which he has, reputedly, always wanted to create। It features well-picked folk and some surprisingly restrained noise for balance, and in doing so produces, arguably, his most focussed album to date. Opening track “Alone With The Alone” appears to have simply followed on from ‘The Sun Awakens’ with Tim Green of the The Fucking Champs squeezing in extra guitar chords in the gaps between Chasny’s madly plucking fingers, – the drone in the background serving as the sonic glue, holding the song together.

If you haven’t yet stumbled across this awe-inspiring band then start taking notes. Six Organs will rock your world. There is no question about this, no room for discussion. Live, Chasny (former member of Comets On Fire and Badgerlore) and, well who ever he can persuade to perform with him will conjure up a wall of sound before your very eyes. Layer upon layer of noise, reverb and intricate melodies build before your eyes, threatening to engulf you in their midst and then, at the last minute, ebb slowly away.

‘Shelter From The Ash’ is no exception to this. It is an album packed with slow-burning, horizon-seeking journey’s from the freeform improvisation of ‘Coming To Get You’, to the mellow acoustic strains of ‘Strangled Road’ featuring Elisa Ambrogio’s (The Magik Marker’s) honey-soaked vocals; a fluid combination of electric and acoustic signature Six Organs of Admittance styles.

Minimalist, dreamlike passages of sound sit next to squealing guitars, seemingly plucked straight out of a Western whilst subjects from love to the end of the world are covered in a gruff, straight talking masculine manner, accompanied by distant howls and blurry harmonies. Clearly a lot of love and effort has been put into this album, and it is this that is more endearing than anything else.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

IN AN article in last weekend’s the Guardian Guide, readers are told in minute detail how Eric Clapton was an unoriginal composer. His so called, ‘best’ songs are stolen from the work of other artists, Dylan’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door and Bob Marley’s I Shot The Sheriff, are two examples of which immediately spring to mind.

Now I’m not the biggest Clapton fan on the planet, in fact, Tears In Heaven is a song which gets me frantically grabbing nearby objects that I can use as padding, in a bid to stop the sugary sweet, over-the-top blub fest from reaching my ears. But enough is enough.

Like it or not Clapton is a Legend. Spelt with a capital L. The Yardbirds were the epitome of 60s cool, their signature sound spawning countless spin offs and tributes. They even appeared in the art-house film Blowup. His time with Cream inspired countless teenage boys to pick up a guitar in a bid to form a band. So what if those bands were never very good, that’s not Clapton’s fault. As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water…

Ok, his poodle white boy perm of the late 60s may invite mocking laughs now, and some may say rightly so, but at the time was seen as the height of fashion; so what if this meant that Clapton copied Hendrix, I defy you to name someone who came up with an original idea.

What upset me most about the article was how it has become socially acceptable in Britain to slag off cultural icons in a bid to be down with the kids. This started when the cultural trendsetter that is Davina McCall, appeared on Room 101 claiming she wanted to incarcerate Frank Sinatra to its fiery depths. Her reason… apparently ‘he’s annoying to listen to’. So is she, but you don’t see me wanting to lock her up in the darkest dungeon and throw away the key, however much it would be of benefit to society at large. Sinatra had it his way; let me have mine.

Since then though celebrity singer slating has become a free-for-all। Now you can only like Take That in an ‘ironic’ way, whilst NME snigger derisively at anyone musically ignorant enough going to The Spice Girls concert at the O2 arena early next year.

The only bands you can admit to liking are the obscure ones no one has ever heard of। ‘They only have a limited, white vinyl release of 150 copies and they hang out in a crack den.’ Oh wow they must be good. Remind me to listen to them then, especially if Kate Moss has snogged one of them. In our image and celebrity obsessed culture, Paul McCartney is becoming better known for his messy divorce to Heather Mills than his time in The Beatles whilst Ozzy Osborne’s ‘the bloke from that TV show.’

Groups listened to and worshipped by millions of fans at the height of their fame, twenty, thirty, forty years ago are now being shunned by spotty 15 year olds who, if they spent half an hour on Google would come to realise that any current musical darlings like Babyshambles, The Kills or even the electronic, neon buzzings of CSS, all pay musical acknowledgements to their muse। Clapton.

My point is this: leave them alone। So what if Sting annoys the hell out of you? No need to broadcast your apparent ‘good taste’ to the world in the form of a snotty, self righteous article about how he is an affront to musical decency. Just turn off the radio and walk away. Or, if he annoys you that much, take it up with him.

Listening to music is like Einstein’s Law of Relativity. For every Genesis fan there is a hater, every jazz enthusiast there is one who thinks that the whole genre is musical masturbation and an excuse to sport black polo-necks. Music is special to so many people for the simple fact it is a purely individual listening experience. This may sound like jumped up marketing speak, but it is also true. The break in a voice or the feedback of the monitor may get my pulse racing, whilst you simply race for the exit, but whatever your experience, there is no need for the petty bitching. Just sit down, shut up and count your blessings.

Anthony Reynolds- British Ballads

The world at large is increasingly unimportant to Anthony Reynolds. Or at least, that’s what he claims. Who cares about Big Brother or The Office when you can name-drop authors into song lyrics and get drunk in the pub. Its experiences like that which make live worth living and albums worth recording. Right?

Well apparently so.

So Reynolds sings about going to the pub and the peculiar quality of pub lighting- two typically British experiences (obviously) and Vashti Bunyan and Dot Allison are persuaded to join in and add honeyed vocals to a couple of tracks. After all, what sits better with brooding piano solos and deep expressive vocals than pretty women, breathy harmonies and a veneer of almost trendiness.

Although a whole new plateau of self-indulgence is achieved through this way on Reynolds debut album, the record does have some lovely moments. Opening track ‘I Know You Know’ is a smooth and soulful song featuring Reynolds deep, rich voice purring over soaring violins and Dot Allison singing like she was born for no other reason. It is all downhill, and the euphoria experienced in ‘Leaving Song’ is more to do with it being the last track than the easy listening rock song it claims to be.

Micheal Dracula

Welcome to the electrifying world of Michael Dracula where sinister, one-fingered horror-show keyboards worm their way into your head to sit alongside a deep rumbling bass and dancing beat. Stiff-fingered piano riffs and minimalist drums; this is music that kicks out, doubles back and repeats itself once more.

The Glasgow based four piece are signed to the legendary ZE Records, the label that captured the no wave and punk-funk scene of 1970s in New York but it’s hard to see why. Old, yet new, punk, but then quite the opposite, Michael Dracula defies classifications appealing instead to a primal yearning for rockabilly guitar riffs.

A tinny echo of an old-fashioned saloon piano marches hand in hand with rough sounding production, adding to the debut album -In The Red- scruffy charm. The iridescent title track slouches through blues rock, whilst ‘Two Wrongs’ ventures further a field, into spooky, atmospheric textures and all the while Emily MacLaren’s voice, sexy and breathy sores above the dirty rock grooves luring you into a sense of security before grabbing you by the throat leaving you unable to breathe in its heady feminine haze.