Saturday, August 18, 2018

Radio Brain Drain: An Interview With Colin Newman of Wire & Show # 736

Wire formed in London, England in 1976. And although they were inspired by and emerged from UK punk music scene, they approached music differently and were often difficult to categorize. They were post-punk before that was even a term that people used in a significant way. Their roots grew out of the Watford Art College. Colin Newman and George Gill formed an early incarnation of the band with guitarist Bruce Gilbert. They were initially known as Overload, but once bassist Graham Lewis and drummer Robert Gotobed (Grey) were added to the lineup, they would change their name to Wire. When the band was a five-piece, their sound was quite different. It was more aggressive, had more guitar solos. When George Gill was kicked out of the lineup, new material was written and a new sound began to take shape.

Wire first appeared on a live compilation album Live At The Roxy London WC2. The album was a compilation that compiled bands from the then burgeoning UK punk music scene and featured two early versions of the Wire songs “12XU” and “Lowdown.” The album was produced by Mike Thorne and through his connection to EMI, Wire would eventually get a recording contract with EMI and have music released through their Harvest label. Thorne was also on board to produce them. In fact, he would produce their first three albums. Influenced by music such as the Ramones, and early Pink Floyd, Wire pulled in different moods and tempos to create what would become known as Pink Flag. Mixing it all together, it created a combination of noise with a bit of prog rock influence, psych rock and pop. “Reuters” opens Pink Flag. The song evokes a certain mood, it pulls in elements of prog rock with an undeniable attitude. Yet the sound is difficult to describe as any one thing because it is many different things at once. With its dissonance, catchiness, crescendos and lyrics such as “On the borders, there’s movement/In the hills there’s trouble,” Wire paints a gritty picture for the opening moments of Pink Flag. Throughout the three minutes and four seconds of tension, it reaches a climax before we are taken through the rest of the album, which is a mix of songs cut to their essence sometimes lasting no longer than 28 seconds.

Pink Flag explores a landscape with 21 songs totalling about 36 minutes that deal with lyrics about media and perceptions that surround it, among other topics. “A Field Day For The Sundays” is just 28 seconds long, musically it rumbles with elements of garage rock and pop as the listener is subject to a witty, sarcastic blast of music and words dealing with suburban life. “Three Girl Rhumba,” “Brazil” and “It’s So Obvious” are some examples of Wire’s minimalist approach to the songs on this album. These songs seem like fragments, shards of music that are catchy, yet not over played. They end before they overstay their welcome. “Ex-Lion Tamer” is loaded with jagged guitar stabs and static-sounding guitar distortion. Lyrically with words such as “Next week will solve your problems/But now/Fish fingers all in a line/The milk bottles stand empty/Stay glued to your TV set,” Wire makes a comment of disillusioned people living their lives through what they see on television, instead of finding their own real life excitement. “Mr. Suit” is a barrage of music with satirical lyrics about rebellion, while at the same time celebrating it, “Strange” borrows from the fuzzy sounds of The Velvet Underground, as lyrically the song explores darker themes.

“Fragile” dives into pop with basslines that dance with melody in between scratchy guitars, minimalist drums and lyrics about a broken relationship, “Mannequin” is in a similar vein, as Newman sings lyrics about someone who “Is an energy void/A black hole to avoid.” “12XU” deconstructs rock music and lyrically seems to attack pop culture in an abstract, clever way, “Feeling Called Love” sounds inspired by the catchy roughness of The Troggs, and “Lowdown” is a slow dirge. This song was one of the first songs that Wire wrote together after George Gill left the band. The music was written by Newman based on lyrics given to him that were written by bassist Graham Lewis. The band then completed the final arrangement. This process has been one that has endured throughout Wire’s career, and while they did change up who did what for a particular song, a large majority of the songs within these three albums and in the band’s catalog have been written this way.

If 1977’s Pink Flag explored a musical landscape, 1978’s Chairs Missing ventured out into new, icy waters. Wire has always been a band that would experiment with new things and on this album, guitar pedals influenced many of the songs. Synthesizers are also featured throughout the songs. On Chairs Missing, Colin Newman was also added as another guitarist, in addition to being the lead vocalist. While he did play guitar on some tracks on Pink Flag, he primarily sang. This change was due to the textures and atmosphere that the band created on this album. Recorded once again at Advision Studios with Mike Thorne, “Practice Makes Perfect” starts off the album. The song builds with sonic landscapes as the basslines plunge into deep syrupy melodies amongst duelling guitar textures and lyrics such as “Practice makes perfect, yes I can prove it/Business or pleasure, the more that you do it.” With these words Wire displays an ethos, and an undeniable creative atmosphere in the opening moments of Chairs Missing.

“Another The Letter” is a short track, but one that features a prominent analog Oberheim sequencer that was played by producer Mike Thorne, while “Men 2nd,” “Marooned” and “Sand In My Joints” continue the ongoing nautical lyrical theme that is present throughout Chairs Missing. “Marooned” is a great idea of the atmosphere that Wire is able to create. With lyrics by Newman and guitarist Bruce Gilbert, this song floats with slow pulsating basslines, ringing guitar chords, drums that feature only hi-hats and cymbals and synthesizers/keyboards that dominate this songs landscape. Lyrically, the song tells the tale of a sailor “Adrift from Arctic waters” that captures a sense of madness that the character is experiencing in the song. “Sand In My Joints” is a fast punk song with jagged guitar sounds, grainy basslines and a guitar solo that consists of noises, the song is the first song to be recorded with bassist Graham Lewis on lead vocals. It references a theme of drowning in the physical and mental capacity with lyrics such as “I’m King Canute’s daughter/Like a lamb to the slaughter” and “I’ve got sand in my joints/I’m counting the grains/And they’re so sharp/I’m feeling the pain,” the song could take on many meanings, it is both witty and serious at the same time.

“Heartbeat” replicates an actual heartbeat and is loaded with atmosphere and lyrics that were inspired by being reviewed on stage. Additionally, the song features Flautist Kathryn Lukas to add more layers to the track. “Mercy” adds further dark textures and a sense of unease with its prog rock influences within almost six minutes time, while “Outdoor Miner” drifts into pop territory. Another Newman/Lewis composition, “Outdoor Miner” tells the story of a serpentine miner, an insect that lives in a house made of leaves. Lyrically, it may be as simple as that, but this song features abstract lyrics that can pull in different meanings. The song was extended and made longer for a single release and reached number 51 on the UK singles charts at the time. “I Am The Fly” features guitar effects that seem to replicate the movement of a fly. The song, also released as a single, was inspired by guitar pedal effects and Newman’s anti-blues obsession. It features lyrics such as “I am the fly in the ointment” and “I shake you down to say please as you/Accept the next dose of disease,” that make up this abstract outsider theme said to also have been about how punk was over. “I Feel Mysterious Today” touches on a witty lyricalness and music informed by pyschedelia and progressive rock, “From The Nursery” is a heavy hitting track in the vein of Pink Flag-era Wire, while “Used To” is layered with fuzzy guitar, melodic yet icy basslines and drums that feature only hi-hat by Robert Grey, “Too Late” ends Chairs Missing with its punky dynamics and lyrics that take on multiple meanings. It could be seen as a reference to Wire’s forward looking musical future.

Wire’s 154 was released in 1979. The album was different from its predecessors in a number of ways. The songs were longer, the tempos were slower and the experimentation with synthesizers and electronics were used in a larger way. The atmosphere that was explored on Chairs Missing was executed in more detail here and has a cohesiveness to it. Musically, that album started out similar to 1978’s Chairs Missing. Early versions of these songs can be found on the DVD/CD release of Wire On The Box: 1979, and also in the demo versions of songs found on the 2018 deluxe edition of 154. At the time of creating this album Wire had just completed a stint of live shows in Europe and the material was road tested. Tensions amongst the band were also high. They would split up shortly after this before returning with The Ideal Copy in 1987.

“I Should Have Known Better” opens 154. Sung by bassist Graham Lewis, this song is executed with cloudy sounding synthesizers and weightless sounding bass that mixes in with the guitars and precise drums. With lyrics such as “I’ve redefined the meaning of vendetta,” and “Your bite is worse than my aggression” this song also evokes an epic feeling and an emotional depth. “Two People In A Room” is a more aggressive song, while “The 15th” is more laid back with fuzzy guitars, bass that seems to levitate in between the drums as the synthesizers that come in add a sense of unease and eeriness. “The Other Window” is sung by Wire guitarist Bruce Gilbert. Lyrically the song draws on a theme of travel, which is prevalent on this album, while musically it revels in its dissonant locomotive rhythms. “Blessed State” also sung by Gilbert, deals with another ongoing theme of troubled relationships.

“A Touching Display” clocks in at almost seven minutes. Sung by bassist Graham Lewis, the song seems to concern itself with a lack of communication as it creates a heavy atmospheric complexity. The later half of the song features electric viola from avant-garde musician Tim Souster. “On Returning” follows next. This track is a more upbeat, energetic track sung by Newman as the synthesized sounds of a Yamaha CS80 is played in the background by producer Mike Thorne. The synthesized signals sound distressed as Newman sings on the topic of travel, holidays and sunburns. This song seems to pull from the opposite of the nautical theme that was prevalent on Chairs Missing. “Once Is Enough” creates its own world, mixing elements of layered vocals, the banging of various pots and pans and discordant sounds. “Map Ref. 41°N 93°W” is perhaps one of the strongest moments throughout the sonic journey of 154. When listening to the track you can hear its transcendent quality as the chorus hits with the lyrics “Interrupting my train of thought/ Lines of longitude and latitude/ Define and refine my altitude,” one can’t help but think of the lines that intersect in this song. This pop psychedelia influenced song has been described by Lewis as being a “travelogue” inspired by his travelling from L.A. to New York in 1978 and crossing the Midwest. It’s coordinates lead to Centerville, Iowa. “Indirect Inquiries” attacks with brooding, darker tones as “40 Versions” ends 154. “40 Versions” explores the idea of multiple personalities, but this song with lyrics such as “I never know which version I'm going to be/I get the feeling my mind is deceiving me” and “In between are where only edges can be seen of the spaces,”  takes on further context when considering the band’s artistic evolution from 1977-1979.

About a year after 154’s release, Wire would go their separate ways, exploring different musical projects and solo careers. They reconvened in 1985 and returned with the album The Ideal Copy in 1987, which explored more electronic sounds. These first three albums, however, show the evolution of a band driven by an undeniable creative ability. They have received critical acclaim for many of their more recent releases such as Object 47 (2008), Red Barked Tree (2010), Change Becomes Us (2013), and Silver/Lead (2017). From the early jagged sounding Pink Flag rhythms to the post punk sounds explored on Chairs Missing and finally to the atmospheric creative exploration of 154, Wire proved themselves to be different than the rest. They have continued to make interesting music that proves their ability to push creative expectations into new directions.

Checkout this interview that Dave and Adam of Revolution Rock did with Colin Newman of Wire:

Wire Play List:

1. Wire - Prove Myself (Demo) (1976 Demo - 2010)
2. Wire - After Midnight (Behind The Curtain - 1995)
3. Wire - It's So Obvious (Live) (1977.04.02 - Live At The Roxy, London - April 1st & 2nd 1977 / Live At CBGB Theatre, New York - July 18th 1978 - 2006)

Colin Newman Interview Part 1

4. Wire - Low Down (Pink Flag - 1977)
5. Wire - Mannequin (Pink Flag - 1977)
6. Wire - Ex Lion Tamer (Demo) (Pink Flag: Special Edition - 2018)
7. Wire - 12XU (Pink Flag - 1977)
8. Wire - Culture Vultures (1978 Peel Session) (The Peel Sessions Album - 1989)
9. Wire - I Feel Mysterious Today (Chairs Missing - 1978)
10. Wire - Two People In A Room (154 - 1979)

Colin Newman Interview Part 2

11. Wire - Ignorance No Plea (I Should Have Known Better) (Demo) (154: The Special Edition - 2018)
12. Wire - Once Is Enough (Demo) (154: The Special Edition - 2018)
13. Wire - Outdoor Miner (Demo) (Chairs Missing: The Special Edition - 2018)
14. Wire - French Film Blurred (Version 1) (Demo) (Chairs Missing: The Special Edition - 2018)
15. Wire - On Returning (154 - 1979)
16. Wire - Another The Letter (Live) (Wire On The Box: 1979 - 2004)
17. Wire - The 15th (Live) (Wire On The Box: 1979 - 2004)
18. Wire - I Am The Fly (Chairs Missing - 1978)

Colin Newman Interview Part 3

19. Wire - Map Ref. 41°N 93°W (154 - 1979)
20. Wire - The Other Window (154 - 1979)
21. Wire - Our Swimmer (Notre Dame) (Live) (Document and Eyewitness - 1981)
22. Wire - Song 1 (154 EP - 1979)
23. Wire - No Romans (Demo) (Chairs Missing: The Special Edition - 2018)
24. Wire - Love Ain't Polite (Demo) (Chairs Missing: The Special Edition - 2018)
25. Wire - Sand In My Joints (Chairs Missing - 1978)
26. Wire - Three Girl Rhumba (Pink Flag - 1977)
27. Wire - Dot Dash (Dot Dash Single - 1978)
28. Colin Newman - Alone (A-Z - 1980)

Colin Newman Interview Part 4

29. Colin Newman - Not Me (A-Z - 1980)
30. Wire - Read and Burn (Send - 2003)
31. Wire - Stealth of a Stork (Change Becomes Us - 2013)
32. Wire - Blogging (Wire - 2015)
33. Wire - Short Elevated Period (Silver/Lead - 2017)

Download this episode here.

On August 25th, 2018 a repeat of an episode featuring an interview with Television's Richard Lloyd aired. That show (episode 737) can be downloaded here and the play list can be found here.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Richard Lloyd Interview: Radio Brain Drain Edition & Shows # 733, 734 & 735

Richard Lloyd is perhaps best known as being the guitarist in the influential New York band Television, however, his involvement in music goes back further than that up to the present day. Prior to playing guitar, Lloyd studied and played drums. In his teens, Lloyd became friends with Velvert Turner, who was the only person to ever get guitar lessons from Jimi Hendrix. Through Turner, Lloyd learned guitar secondhand from Hendrix’s lessons. At a young age Lloyd also made his first public appearance on stage with blues legend John Lee Hooker. After a stint in LA, Lloyd relocated to New York to check out the music scene at the time, which featured the New York Dolls. By 1973, he had met Terry Ork and through Ork it would lead to an encounter with Tom Verlaine (then known as Tom Miller). Television formed not too long after with their early lineup featuring Richard Hell on bass, Billy Ficca on drums, Lloyd on lead guitar and Verlaine on guitar/vocals. The first thing that Television recorded was “Little Johnny Jewel” which would not only be their first single, but the first single on Terry Ork’s label, Ork Records. By the time this single was recorded Hell had quit the band and was replaced by Blondie bassist Fred Smith. With Smith on bass and the solidness that he brought in terms of bass playing, the band found the right elements to make their sound work in the way that they wanted.

The album Marquee Moon was recorded in New York and released in February of 1977. Recorded with no special effects of the day and with basically just a band playing in a room sound, the album did well in the UK upon its release, but sold poorly in the US at the time. Now, Marquee Moon is viewed as not only a highly influential album, but also as one of the best albums recorded from this time period. The band was embedded within the CBGB’s music scene in this time period alongside bands like Talking Heads, Ramones, Blondie to name a few. They were also one of the last bands to release an album from this early music scene. The music of the band on this release has been described as having elements of 60s garage rock and elements of jazz, especially in the guitar work of Verlaine and Lloyd. Television released their second full-length album in 1978 called Adventure. Despite featuring two songs from their live repertoire, the album was not as well received as Marquee Moon. Adventure was not as straightforward as its predecessor in terms of production and the songs, however, it has since become more appreciated than it was upon its original release. Following some live dates, Television split up later that year. Adventure did do well in the UK once again reaching #7 on the UK album charts, but success in the US eluded Television at the time. The band reunited many years later recording a third album in 1992. They played live occasionally for many years following this, but Lloyd left the band in 2007. The band still performs live, but with a different guitarist, Jimmy Rip.

In 1979, Richard Lloyd released his first full-length album entitled Alchemy. This ten-track album featured many New York musicians such as drummer Vinny DeNunzio (formerly of The Feelies), James Maestro on guitar (of The Bongos), and Fred Smith of Television/Blondie on bass. The album was intended to have more of a personal/sentimental and pop feel, as stated by Lloyd on his website. His second solo album wasn’t released until 1986. It was released in the US in 1987. The album was recorded in Sweden and features primarily Scandinavian musicians. The album is a much heavier record than Alchemy, featuring some blues elements. Fields of Fire was reissued in a deluxe album format in 2007 featuring a second CD of an alternate/revisited version of the album. In addition to solo material Richard Lloyd has been a session musician and has played with Matthew Sweet, John Doe (of X), Rocket From The Tombs and others. In 1987 Lloyd released the live album Real Time, The Cover Don’t Matter (2001), The Radiant Monkey (2007), and The Jamie Neverts Story (2009), an album made up of a collection of Jimi Hendrix covers. In 2016, Richard Lloyd released the album Rosedale. An album in which he played the majority of the instruments, Billy Ficca (of Television) and Chris Frantz (of Talking Heads) are featured on drums on some tracks as well.

In 2017, Richard Lloyd released his autobiography Everything Is Combustible. As stated in the subtitle of the book, it covers being in Television, involved in the CBGB’s music scene, and being in rock and roll for five decades. A forthcoming album is coming out in November 2018 on Plowboy Records called The Countdown.

Check out this interview that Dave and Adam of Revolution Rock did with Richard Lloyd below:

Show 735 (Richard Lloyd Radio Brain Drain Special)(Originally Aired On August 16th, 2018):

1. Television - Venus (Marquee Moon - 1977)
2. Television - Ain't That Nothin' (Adventure - 1978)

Richard Lloyd Interview Part 1

3. Richard Lloyd - Blue and Grey (Alchemy - 1979)
4. Richard Lloyd - Watch Yourself (Field of Fire - 1986)
5. Richard Lloyd - Summer Rain Alchemy (Alchemy - 1979)

Richard Lloyd Interview Part 2

6. Richard Lloyd - Should Have Known Better (Alchemy - 1979)
7. Television - Horizontal Ascension (1974 Ork Rehearsal) (Poor Circulation - 1998)
8. Television - Double Exposure (Demo) (Double Exposure - 1988)
9. Richard Lloyd - (I Thought) You Wanted To Know (New York New York: Ork Records Box Set - 2015)
10. Richard Lloyd - Connection (Get Off My Cloud/Connection - 1981)
11. Television - The Fire (Adventure - 1978)
12. Television - See No Evil (Marquee Moon - 1977)

Richard Lloyd Interview Part 3

12. Matthew Sweet - Sick of Myself (100% Fun - 1995)
13. Richard Lloyd - Fire Engine (Real Time - 1987)
14. Television - Little Johnny Jewel (Little Johnny Jewel - 1975)
15. Richard Lloyd - Wait Till Tomorrow (The Jamie Neverts Story - 2009)
16. Television - Marquee Moon (Marquee Moon - 1977)

Download This episode here.

Show 734 (Originally Aired On August 11th, 2018)(David Byrne, Motor City Muscle Festival, Ox, Mink DeVille):

1. David Byrne - Gasoline and Dirty Shirts
2. Sextile - Paradox
3. Poisoned - It Won't Last
4. Ultravox! - Hiroshima Mon Amour
5. Teenage Fanclub - Metal Baby
6. The Jam - All Mod Cons
7. Supergrass - Caught By The Fuzz
8. Pontuation - Ciao Bye Ciao
9. Go Four 3 - Someone
10. Zoom - They Only Come Out At Night
11. Actual Water - Open Votes
12. Mexican Knives - Wait 4 Ever
13. The Gories - Boogie Chillun
14. The Gories - Chick-In
15. The Gories - There But For The Grace of God
16. Death - You're A Prisoner
17. Iceage - You're Nothing
18. The Locusts Have No King - Shotgun Wedding
19. Bruce Springsteen - State Trooper
20. Condition - Rancho Deluxo
21. Ox - Brand New Key
22. Dead Ghosts - Summer With Phil
23. It's All Meat - You Don't Notice The Time You Waste
24. Steely Dan - With A Gun
25. The Unusuals - Measure For Measure
26. The Sonics - Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
27. X - Soul Kitchen
28. Mink DeVille - She's So Tough
29. The Clash - Red Angel Dragnet

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for August 11.

Show 733 (Originally Aired On August 4th, 2018)(White Stripes, Pow Wows, The Dirty Pretty Things):

1. The Seeds - Pushin' Too Hard
2. The Creation Factory - You Be The Judge
3. The White Stripes - Let's Shake Hands (Live)
4. The Dirtbombs - Headlights On
5. The Walkmen - The Rat
6. Carlo - Meathead
7. Fitness - Physical Copies
8. Electricity - Cool Thunder
10. TOPS - Dayglo Bimbo
11. Pow Wows - Killing Floor
12. Pow Wows - Killing Me
13. Dusty Mush - The Ostrich Effect
14. White Lung - Vegas
15. Chad VanGaalen - Static Shape
16. John Lennon - Tight A$
17. Stompin' Tom Connors - Love's Not The Only Thing
18. Greg Cartwright - Love Won't Leave You A Song
19. Johnny West - Wicked Town
20. The Spooky But Nice - Everytime
21. Spoon - All The Pretty Girls Go To The City
22. Patti Smith - Kimberly
23. Radio Birdman - Man With Golden Helmet
24. Nerve Breakers - I Can't Help You
25. Wire - Men 2nd (Fifth Demo Session)
26. Jawbox - Cruel Swing
27. The Dirty Pretty Things - Gin & Milk
28. The Dirty Pretty Things - Gentry Cove

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for August 4.