The Best Dressed Chicken In Town

Dave Graney has been written about, at some length, on this blog over the years, so regular readers will know of my admiration for his work. Indeed, I do see it as a bit of a crusade on my part to get his extensive back catalogue known about, and shared with other like minded music loving souls out there. In light of my ramblings, and regular features on podcasts and radio broadcasts, there has been contact between he and I over recent years. So, when he advised me he was coming over to the UK to play at All Tomorrows Parties and asked could there be the chance of a gig in the Manchester area I was, of course, keen to do something. The chance to actually see Dave play live in this part of the world is rare,  so a few messages were interchanged and the wonderful Una Baines made it happen.

dg Eagle 1

Another by-product of the trip was the chance of a session on Radio 6 with Marc Riley and through the sterling work of Ian “Moet” Moss this was also put in place. Dave had played two nights in Scotland the preceding week and arrived in Manchester, and at Salford Quays more accurately,with the ever present Clare Moore and Stu Thomas, and, special guest, Malcolm Ross, to play three songs in session with Marc. A nice aperitif for what was to follow on the Thursday night in Salford.

The Eagle Inn nestles just of the Inner Relief Route between Manchester and Salford, in an industrial area. The pubs’ proximity to the Blueprint Recording Studios makes it a haven for post recording session musicians wanting to whet their whistle with a beer before heading home. It is a relatively recent edition to the selection of well run music venues (alongside Gullivers and The Castle) and it is one of the best small venues on the fringes of the city centre area. It seemed to be the perfect place for an intimate gig with Dave Graney and the mistLY.  The unique concert room ,which is essentially is a hollowed out Victorian terraced house, adding to the experience.

With regular band member Stu Perrera back in Australia old sparring partner Malcolm Ross (Josef K,  Orange Juice, Aztec Camera)  was brought into the band to create the essential second guitar sound which makes the mistLY band so vital.  Malcolm’s history with The Moodists and the early line-up of the Coral Snakes allowed for a set-list which covered most of Dave’s career.

dg Eagle 2

But i’m getting ahead of myself. The evening kicked off with a solo set from Franco Bandini. On acoustic guitar and piano Franco worked through his recent EP release on German Shepherd Records, a cover, and a couple of newer songs. Franco’s intense delivery and passionate tunes were received well by the crowd. He is working on parallel material at the moment and news of his forthcoming ventures will be shared in due course.

Having seen Poppycock the Saturday before at Dulcimer in Chorlton I knew what to expect. Once again they did not disappoint. The eight strong line-up worked its way through recent material, the latest single,  tracks from The Fates album, and an excellent cover  of Lou Reeds “There Is No Time”(from the New York album). The collective gets increasingly stronger with, notably, excellent vocal performances, and memorable tunes. The beauty of the band is their mix of stripped back VU style rock with a traditional music edge running alongside.  If you are in the Greater Manchester area and you have  not seen them live yet I suggest you ought to go out of your way to catch them.

dg Eagle 3

On stage promptly at 10pm the incredibly dapper Dave Graney lead us through an hour and fifteen minutes of his best material. His assured and witty delivery, and a rhythm section with a clear telepathic understanding was wonderful to witness live, the added bonus was the unique opportunity to see Malcolm Ross working with the band. With two Moodists songs “Chad’s Car” and “Frankies Negative”, a number of Coral Snakes tunes, including a personal favourite “I Got Myself A Beautiful Nightmare” and a spine tingling “Night of the Wolverine”, plus a good selection of Dave’s “solo” material including a sultry “Body Snatcher Blues”, “Death By A Thousand Sucks”, the excellent “Everything Was Legendary With Robert” from the “Fearful Wiggings” album, and recent single “I’m A Good Hater”, Graney fans were treated to a special evening. Closing song “Rock ‘n’ Roll Is Where I Hide” and encore “You’re Just Too Hip, Baby”, a special request for Una, brought out the best in the band with two classic Graney compositions closing a very special evening.

Those fortunate enough to be attending ATP in Prestatyn are in for a treat. After that Dave and the band  are off to France for a run of gigs, then Amsterdam, and then back to the UK a couple of nights at the Betsey Trotwood in London, before heading home to Melbourne. If you get the chance to catch any of these gigs I suggest you make the effort.

Thanks to Dave, Clare, Stu, Malcolm, Una, Sam and Moet for making this happen.

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Fascinating Things : Issue 48

It has been strange old week with winter overstaying its’ welcome a little too much for my liking, i’m grateful therefore for the veritable cornucopia of new things to listen to . And in the light of that  lets start off with some shameless self-promotion for the parallel universe that inhabits this space called German Shepherd Records…..

Franco Bandini released a stunning EP last year which I waxed lyrically about. Since them Franco has been to Spain and back, done a handful of live shows, and an informative radio appearance with my good friend Mr Stephen Doyle. The outcome of the latter is an impressive four track EP with an FB tune, two covers and a traditional blues. It’s a free download so why not fill your boots? His version of ‘St James Infirmary’ is particularly good with the lyrics changed to reflect the local landscape.

Whilst we are on matters of a German Shepherd nature I am pleased to record that the new Taser Puppets EP ‘Fossil’, which is rather special and which I featured a video of last time out,  is now available for pre-order with the title track being there for your listening pleasure……

Summer Heart is the solo project of Swedish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist David Alexander. Best known for a nostalgic low-fi sound, David’s sun- bleached latest track ‘The Forbidden’ is “just the thing for those pesky winter blues” according to the promo people. This drifting dream-pop transcends the usual fodder that we are fed as hip and stands on it’s own Cocteauish reverb soaked feet. There is an interesting mixing effect in parts which increases the density of the soundscape and provides an intriguing listening experience.

I’ve been neglecting local turn Eugene The Oceanographer, mainly I guess because I was put off by the name, which is a little remiss of me. However I couldn’t really ignore the latest Bandcamp release which is a fascinating amalgam of sound collage, plunderphonics, sampling and such like. Themed around the 1988 Seoul Olympics the collection is in the spirit of the latest rush of found sound escapades mixed with a Manc (Sub) Pop sensibility, and some great, and sometimes surprising, guest vocals. It all takes me back to the early 80s in parts with nods towards Heaven 17 and Eno. Well worth a look and it’s pay what you want.

Following the success of Ulver‘s ATGCLVLSSCAP and KKKMO‘s Are You Land or Water, newly established UK label House of Mythology will soon be putting out their two next releases, Laniakea‘s A Pot of Powdered Nettles (featuring members of Ulver and Zu), and multiple award-winning Norwegian guitarist Stian Westerhus‘ (recently seen with Nils Petter Molvaer) new solo album, Amputation. Both albums are scheduled for April 29th.  HoM have commissioned a set of teaser videos, the first installments of which can be found below.

I featured The Boho‘s great new single ‘Leaders Don’t Love You” on the Aural Delights Podcast a couple of weeks back, the video has turned up and is worth a watch. It’s out on March 14th.

London four-piece, The Lazlo Device who are a dreamy indie mix of melodic guitars and contemplative vocals have a new single. Taking inspiration from the likes of Radiohead, Joy Division and Arcade Fire, they count Dominic Howard (Muse) and Howard Donald (Take That) amongst their fans already, not that influences my thinking in any way. Band member Ross works as a studio manager at Radio 1 and Dan has been a successful filmmaker for the BBC over the last few years, with their music set to be featured on a forthcoming BBC documentary about the Black Panthers. ‘Looking Glass’ is their latest single out March 4th from album ‘Duelism’ which will be out later in the year. A catchy little chorus gave it the edge in this instance but generally I wouldn’t go for this sort of fey four skinny indie kids type of stuff.

 

Turning to things that will be emerging on future editions of the Sonic Attack podcast there are a few things to attack your lugholes with:

  • As Southern Lord prepares for the March release of ‘II’ — the second LP from  Chicago-based, described as a death metal band,  Like Rats – founded by members of Weekend Nachos, the initial single of the album’s final track, “Grief Incarnate.” has been shared but it is not embeddable so you’ll have to leap over there yourself – impressive hard sound and have listen. Doesn’t sound like Death Metal to me – more hard rock with a gritty edge. On the basis of that album is something to look forward to. Interesting contemplative solo piano coda.
Like Rates
Like Rats – photo by Peter Nelson
  • Swedish band , Extermination Temple, release their first vinyl with the ‘Lifeless Forms’ 7” EP in early March. The band is another project from the same artist who creates the music for  hardcore band Broken Cross. The self-titled 2014 cassette demo was an equal mix of black and death metal,  but the impending Lifeless Forms 7″ is undoubtedly overall more death metal. There’s a good punk speed to it mind you.

Extermination Temple promo photo

  • Oakland-based old-school death metal band Necrot, which features current and former members of Acephalix, Vastum, Saviours, Watch Them Die and Atrament, has joined the Tankcrimes Records roster for the release of their ‘The Labyrinth’ full-length. Featuring eight tracks garnered from three hard-to-find and long out-of-print demo tapes,the album was recorded at Lennon Studios by the late great Jef “Leppard” Davis (Abscess, Acephalix, Vastum) and at Earhammer Studios with Greg Wilkinson (Brainoil, Annihilation Time, Noothgrush), mastered at Mammoth Sound by Dan Randall (Ghoul, Toxic Holocaust) and will see release on April 15th on CD, digitally and deluxe, foil-stamped LP. They make a lot of noise for a trio, it’s abrasive and unforgiving stuff, and rather enjoyable.

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  • Tankcrimes are also putting out  the new LP from long-running Stockholm hardcore band, Victims, with the April release of the band’s sixth album, ‘Sirens’.  With twelve tracks in just under thirty minutes this high quality, solid, punk metal at its’ best, although the drums could have been mixed a tad higher for my tastes. There are some good fist pumping anthems here!

Victims

  • Ventura, California-based technical death metal unit, Inherit Disease, release their third full-length on April 8 via Unique Leader Records. Titled ‘Ephemeral’, the follow-up to 2010’s seminal Visceral Transcendence was recorded at Seahorse Sound Studios by Samur Khouja (Condemned, Arkaik, Flesh Consumed) and features mixing/mastering by Sasha Borovykh (Epicardiectomy, Cerebral Effusion) from Tsun Tsun Productions. This is mad stuff, completely stone bonkers insane, the drumming is d-beat in extremis and the vocals sound like the plumbing in my bathroom when the pipes are blocked up. The guitars are mysteriously way back in the mix as the gurgling vocals dominate, and the drum sound is most peculiar. Not sure I get it and want to listen to the thing all the way through but it’s certainly unique.

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  • Highlight of this recent slew of metal is the new one from Mannheim’s Black Shape of Nexus called ‘Carrier’.  A fantastic album continuing the bands run of quality releases. Balancing pretty scary intense doom with more restrained passages of bluesy guitar figures it’s a series of stylistic contradictions which work perfectly well in the round. This is a band willing to explore new corners, and avenues, and able to put the disparate elements together to create a compelling soundscape.

 

100 not out

Various Artists

100

German Shepherd Records

30th October 2015

100

So let’s be clear from the outset, this is shameful nepotism of the highest order, but I can’t find anyone else willing to review it so I may as well take up the cudgels and have a go. Given I have a rather thorough inside perspective on this compilation, as I actually compiled it, I am in a position to be both honest and accurate, and perhaps somewhat effusive. If I am breaking some sort of record industry kayfabe by doing this so be it, but German Shepherd was set up to be doggedy (pun intended) independent, and to operate outside of the norms of the music biz, so in that spirit here goes.

Set up in February 2014 the label was originally intended as a vehicle for the work of co-owner Ian Moss, who had vast library of unreleased material he wanted to share with the world. Once word had got around about the endeavour other like minded souls expressed interest or were dragged into the inner circle of the label.

The manifesto is very simple, if the music that is offered to the label is sufficiently different and does not ape current trends and fads then it will probably find a home in the German Shepherd kennel.

21 months in and the chance to mark the milestone with some of the current and future artist on the label. Requests were sent out and a delightful pot-pourri of styles and genres emerged.

For German Shepherd virgins and, for those DJs who need accurate information(you know who you are), here’s a run down of all the tracks and the artists.

Loop-aznavour – theremin toting Loop, also a member of the remarkable Adventures of Salvador. offers a single from earlier in 2015, a remarkable distiller of styles and influences Loop is a captivating live performer and a consummate songwriter. From – Bury, Greater Manchester.

Pearl Divers ; the first band I ever “discovered” in radio land they have been through many line-up changes since 2009 but always centre around leader Carl Lingard. The tune on the album is a radical -reworking/second cousin to the bands “I Love The Music” – mixing Barryesque chords with a cold war soundscape one could, and should, argue that this would be a far better Bond theme than the odious one being used for the latest movie. The band are currently working on an album. From – Eccles/Irlam, Greater Manchester.

The Get – we love this band. They are great live, they write memorable songs, and they have a unique, sometimes unashamedly ramshackle sound. From – Bournemouth, Leigh on Sea etc, down south somewhere

Bouquet of Dead Crows – some folk will have been surprised about this band being on German Shepherd, one of aims is not to be complacent around what we are about,  dealing with any preconceptions of our mode of operation by throwing a curve ball in every now and then.  On first hearing, Bouquet of Dead Crows are conventional rockers, on deeper exploration the nuances emerge, from Toni Cooper’s excellent vocals, through the great rhythm section, to the multi-guitar talents of Neil Bruce. This is a band with a lot of depth. A single and cut from the new album “Of The Night” due out soon. From – Cambridge, east of Northampton.

Loop-azznavour
Loop-aznavour

Poppycock – working with Una Baines and her collective of musicians is always a pleasure and she offered up a live recording of the band from The Crescent in Salford. Recorded by Jim “Jedi” Watts, thus perpetuating the “every other musician you meet in Manc-land used to be in The Fall” myth this lovely tune first appeared on Una’s The Fates “Furia”  album. From: Manchester.

Franco Bandini – the buzz about Franco’s recent release of the label “2014 was a bad year” is increasing daily. Perhaps slightly less dark than the tracks on the EP this offering is from the same sessions and indicates his ability to create an epic sound. We predict great things. From –  Atherton/Manchester.

IKMRAO – the two label owners don’ t consider themselves to be musicians as such, they play with words and sounds and sometimes it comes out as music. Always making a point whenever they can this one has a much needed dig at the scenesters that hang around in clumps reeking of their own self-importance. From – Ashton Under Lyne/Eccles, Greater Manchester.

The Junta
The Junta

Captain Black – once a member of the aforementioned Pearl Divers and the main writer behind the much missed Positronik, Captain “Jeff” Black is adept at creating perfect pop tunes, and this is a sublime example. From : Swindon/Manchester

The Junta – it’s obligatory to say “aah yeah” or “shabba” at this point. Also once in Pearl Divers but now in Kit B, John “Monty” Montague brings an encyclopaedic knowledge of electronica  into play for  his tunes. Also a DJ on Salford City Radio Monty is a very busy chap. From : Salford, Greater Manchester.

Staggs – probably the most fascinating duo on the label in that they continually create tunes that both amaze and confound. Main vocal man Michael T Scott has a wonderfully acerbic outlook on the world at large. Music man Ridley is able re-invent well known sounds and turn them into something new. Staggs Disco is from one of their releases before they joined German Shepherd. Deserving of international acclaim I reckon. From –  Newcastle Upon Tyne,

Passage of Time – sounds influenced by 1969 Miles Davis together with more contemporary electronic textures. The closest thing to jazz on the label. From – Eccles, Salford. Greater Manchester.

Rose Niland and Mark Corrin
Rose Niland and Mark Corrin

Ion-Morph with three albums of the man’s spoken word releases on the label it would have been remiss to exclude a performance. The featured tune is a reworking of an old song and a hearful paean to Manc-land. From – Ashton-Under-Lyne

Moff Skellington – a genius, an iconoclast and a dealer in optical creosote. Moff creates music which defies description other than to say it hangs precariously between The Residents, Tom Waits, Pere Ubu, The Fall and Hank Marvin. His wordplay is completely unique, the aural equivalent of Salvador Dali.  As I may have said before, on many occasions, my crusade is to get him much more exposure and recognition. From – Abstercot

Rose Niland – we love Rose. She has a magical voice, she writes breathtaking tunes, and her words are memorable. Soulful, psychedelic and bluesy. From – Manchester

Monkeys In Love
Monkeys In Love

The Electric Cheese – captivating alternative rock with a unique sound. This trio is gaining a growing reputation as a must see live act. From their first EP with the label.  From – Chorley, Lancashire

West Coast Sick Line – Dusty Moonan, another genius, a man who can write memorable songs. The band has recently undergone a line-up change and the track on the compilation is an indication of things to come perhaps, a more powerful more rock oriented sound. New album “Europee” is imminent i.e. when they get out of the pub. From – Deganwy, North Wales

Monkeys In Love – a special band, they have been with the label from the start, helping and supporting. The track on the album is, dare I say it, one of their best yet. A remarkable live act and a lovely bunch of people. From – Manchester.

The track-listing

  1. Loop-aznavour – Ed’s Place
  2. Pearl Divers – Smoking Gun
  3. The Get – Say You Love Me
  4. Bouquet of Dead Crows – Just A Little More
  5. Poppycock – Ceaseless Effort
  6. Franco Bandini – Side B
  7. IKMRAO – Art
  8. Captain Black – Lost All Sense
  9. The Junta – Carnival 80
  10. Staggs – Staggs Disco
  11. Passage of Time – Round About Now
  12. Ion-Morph – Manchester (Slight Return)
  13. Moff Skellington – Potato Pickers
  14. Rose Niland – 5 Times
  15. The Electric Cheese – Gold Divers Under The Ice
  16. West Coast Sick Line – Best Lost In Translation
  17. Monkeys In Love – Installation Song #1

The album is a digital only release, is priced at £5, and all proceeds will go towards the Emmaus Homelessness Facility in Salford.

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Bouquet of Dead Crows

What’s In A Name?

Franco Bandini

2014 was a bad year

German Shepherd

23rd October 2015

FB Cover Original Sharpened

It’s a strange old world. Full of coincidences and serendipity. Packed full of highs and lows, sideways steps and reversals. No more so in the world of music.

A couple of years back I was in a bar in Castlefield in Manchester, July 2013 to be precise, a place I don’t normally frequent, mainly due to the serious lack of pubs selling decent beer in the area, no Holts = No Go for me. For those of you that don’t know Castlefield, it’s a new City Centre development of flats, restaurants and bars nestling between the east Salford border at Ordsall/MIddlewood, and the northern edge of Moss Side/Hulme, a sorry testament to over-development and embourgeoisement, all middle class and aspirational and frankly mostly depressing.

The Courteeners were wailing away in the Castlefield Bowl a few hundred yards away, it was packed out, young girls were vomiting on benches outside the Bowl entrance, there was a heavy police presence. We moved round to Barca to get away from it all.

The sun was shining, the beer was flowing, what a perfect scenario for a  young rock band called Sam Smith & Co to stamp their identity on the middlemass of Manchester, you would have thought. I reviewed it all in a gushing fan-boy way and prophesied in Landau-like manner some sort of epiphany.  The epiphany, no matter how deserved, never occurred. Names got in the way.  Mostly notably, to quote Neil of Bouquet of Dead Crows, “is that the bloke that sounds like a cow mooing?”, “Sam Smith” the brand  got in the way, and record company lawyers got a bit involved.  Sam Smith & Co got lost in the miasma of Cowell-world.

Move on thirteen  months, a change of plan, a change of direction and a new name. Excitement ensued,  New tunes were revealed and they were special.  Teasers on video and bandcamp were excellent. Sam become Franky (Jameson) and a gig was planned at The Castle on Oldham Street. They were called The Parish Church Fire.  And then it went quiet, the gig was cancelled. Life had got in the way.

14 months after that hiatus the talent that is Sam Smith/Franky Jameson/Franco Bandini emerges from a dark chrysalis with a new sound, a new manifesto, and his best work to date. There had been discussion about the potential for German Shepherd to release something, and then things went quiet for a while,  However September saw the arrival of some demo songs which were remarkable. I often get quite jaded sitting listening to some of the material I get asked to review and play – but these songs were very special indeed. They made me stop and think, they moved me. We had to release these songs, no question about it.

And so you have four new tracks from Franco Bandini. Now all of these names can be quite confusing so for the purposes of the rest of this piece please assume I am talking to and about Franco.

What we have hear is a remarkable set of songs which mark a huge transition from the punk/rock approach of the previous two bands to a stripped back, angst ridden, tortured blues soaked ballad format. If you are not immediately grabbed and impressed by this music then I fear for your eternal soul.

You can pre-order it now and it will be released in full on 23rd October. There’s no vinyl or CD version so don’t bother asking if there will be one. Unless of course we sell a lot of these digitally and we can afford to fund it.

The promo prepared for the EP says the following:

A twenty first century outsider figure, Franco Bandini possesses a style of deceptive simplicity, full of emotional immediacy and tremendous psychological point. Among the releases that have comprised his career, Bandini’s crowning accomplishments were, for many, his hard rock work under the name ‘The Parish Church Fire’. An impoverished young Lancastrian-Mancunian, Bandini, armed with no high school education and the insane desire to write music, escaped his suffocating hometown of Atherton to seek glory in a dystopian millennial-era Manchester. He arrives with big dreams but he finds the reality; a city gripped by nostalgia. He now makes music for the people who lurk in the outskirts of this commercial hell.

An ‘Acoustic EP’ containing no acoustic guitar, ‘2014 Was a Bad Year’ is a record made by an outsider for outsiders. After achieving a modicum of success with a string of punk musicians, Franco Bandini has retreated on this record to explore a sound more in line with his dark, depraved inner voice. Tales of murder, abandonment, alienation and suicide adorn the 15-minute extended play and the music reflects these lyrical themes. Recorded over just two days with no other musicians, the four songs are a nod to the great-underrated author John Fante (his novels ‘1933 Was a Bad Year’, ‘Ask the Dust’ and ‘Wait Until Spring, Bandini’ providing obvious inspiration). The artwork depicts John Fante himself, with an added semicolon used a symbol of hope for those suffering with depression, anxiety and thoughts of self-harm, the underlying engine room of the themes presented on this record.

Of the 9 songs recorded by Bandini in the session, 4 appear on this release courtesy of German Shepherd Records. With the idea of creating something raw, all songs were completed with minimal accompaniment, no overdubbing and no more than 2 takes were attempted on any of the tracks throughout the recording process. The result is a broody EP that provides a true representation of the emotions felt within the recording process; no glitter, no sparkle, just Bandini in a room with a microphone.

Keen to learn more, and so some things could be clarified I asked Franco about life music and, naturally, football, given his abiding love of Manchester United FC:

Where was the EP recorded? and when? Is it just you performing?

I recorded it one Sunday morning in my home studio. In total, I recorded 9 tracks, 5 of which have been delivered to German Shepherd Records (4 for the EP and one for a compilation) and I’m still mulling over what to do with the other 4. I wanted to do the entirety of the recordings in one take, which didn’t work so I stretched to no more than two, which thankfully did. I didn’t want to involve anybody else at all so I dug deep into my vaults, found some songs and completed them and also wrote some new ones. I also didn’t want to use any acoustic guitar, just to see if it could be done initially. This worked out and I’m so glad it did. Even the sketchy solo on ‘Ask the Dust’ wasn’t done with an acoustic, it is my unplugged telecaster with the microphone gain turned right up to pick it up from across the room.

What led you from the harder rock/punk sound of Sam Smith & Co and The Parish Church Fire to this new sound? The Parish Church Fire had a lot of promise and I was genuinely excited by the sound – it seems a pity it wasn’t taken further?

Those two bands and the way they faded to black are what happen when you rely on other people, especially in the case of the latter. Obviously Sam Smith & Company could go no further because of Universal Music Group’s ignorance, which is regrettable in itself but with The Parish Church Fire, just as we were finding our feet, I had a full scale mental breakdown and just couldn’t go public with any of my music for over a year. The new record is about mental illness so it is important that I talk about that. The semicolon I placed on the artwork is a symbol of hope for people suffering with depression, anxiety and thoughts of self harm. I physically couldn’t go public with any of my music during that period as a result of my own conditions, despite trying. I joined a thrash metal band at one point during that period which just didn’t work (The Whiskey, Guns & Bridges Blues and Videotapes have their roots in those sessions) and then I made ’2014 Was a Bad Year’ to draw a line under it. I made it completely by myself because I didn’t want to work with other musicians.

My new sound is still “hard” in my eyes. I found this great quote from Tom Morello when I was in Nashville last year which helped me see everything differently. “Folk music – the music of Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs, early Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger – could be as heavy as anything that comes through a Marshall stack. The combination of three chords and the right lyrical couplet can be as heavy as anything in the Metallica catalogue”.

Being where I was both geographically and mentally certainly helped me make more sense of it and I’ve carried it with me since. I’ve recently sold my massive guitar rig that I carried on tour with Sam Smith & Company and am I at all restricted from making “heavy” music as a result? Absolutely not, the songs speak for themselves musically and lyrically.

There is a lot of raw emotion in the songs, quite angst ridden in places, where did this come from?

It came from the place I was in; reading a ton of dark literature, drinking too much beer, eating too much pizza, taking too much valium and listening to heavy metal all night in a chair in the centre of a dark room. The lyrical content and the subsequent meanings are to be decided by the people that listen to them, the music is where the story is for me. Channeling that Morello quote, I tried to get the essence of something you’d hear on a Slayer record without using the same tools as Slayer. In my mind, I delivered this in spades. I’m proud of this record, it has been, by far, the easiest to make by virtue of how it was made and also because it was no labour of love like my previous two. It had to happen like that in hindsight.

The last track ‘Ask the Dust’ presented itself unbelievably. I have absolutely no recollection of writing that song, I was just trawling through hundreds of songs in my “demos” folder and there it was. I “blacked out” for a period of about 7 months in the pits of that depression and I barely remember anything from it. Now I’ve found a ton of songs that I don’t remember writing from that period and Ask the Dust seemed to fit better than any of the others.

Franco Bandini Base Image

Are there any specific artists that inspired this new sound? in terms of a stripped back change in direction the obvious comparison, knowing your fondness for the man, is Springsteen’s Nebraska. But i’m also thinking of Steve Earle’s album of Townes Van Zandt covers, some of the rawer Americana that Southern Lord have put out recently (Steve Von Till etc) and Mark Lanegan – when he is on form.

Obviously Nebraska, as Springsteen is the centre of my universe. I’ve always loved Country, Americana, Blues etc but something about spending a lot of time in the southern states last year really rammed it home. I did a road trip in the name of Springsteen which took me to Chicago, Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia and Washington D.C. You can’t visit those places as a musician and not be inspired to make something similar. This was supposed to be a Country EP in honour of that but rather than force that style upon it, I decided to just let it flow when recording and the result is ‘2014 Was a Bad Year’. It isn’t country at all!

Other influences, as always are Greg Dulli & Mark Lanegan. The album they did together as The Gutter Twins has always been my own personal Magna Carta on how to make music since its release in 2008. It seeps into absolutely everything I do somehow and this was no exception. And of course Cash of all incarnations. When I was in Nashville, I blagged my way onto the stage at the Ryman Auditorium (where they used to record the Grand Ol’ Opry and of course, the Johnny Cash Show), grabbed a guitar and performed Folsom Prison Blues which was incredible. I hope that one day, I will headline there and tell that story to an audience that probably won’t believe me! Good job I have a video of it…

Are you planning any more Franco Bandini projects?

Of course. This is me now. I legally cannot be Sam Smith anymore so I am Franco Bandini, wherever it takes me, for better or worse. My next releases may not follow in this vein, although I can’t really say at the moment. I wanted to make a statement with this record and it was relatively easy because my remit and my resources were in line with each other. If I wanted to make a bonafide country record (something which I have the songs for & did consider), I may struggle as I don’t own a pedal steel guitar and I don’t live in Nashville. I’d also need other musicians for more ambitious projects and I’m in ‘camp sound engineer’ when it comes to this…musicians are all fucking cunts

You’ve indicated that John Fante’s writing has been a big inspiration. Could you tell us a bit more about him.

In my one-chair-pizza-beer-heavy-metal sabbatical, I read a lot of fiction by a lot of great authors and nobody struck me harder than Fante. Bukowski cited him as an influence and, being an avid fan of his I checked him out and was mesmerised. I’ve read his works in the last 12 months which was a bit of a challenge as some of his novels were out of print but I got there in the end and to quote Bob Dylan “every one of them words rang true and glowed like burnin’ coal. Pourin’ off of every page like it was written in my soul from me to you”. That’s how I felt about Fante and his limitations and I identified with it all. He is greatly under rated and despite losing his sight to diabetes, he continued to write by dictating to his wife before his death in 1983. Everyone should read ‘Ask the Dust’, the story of Arturo Bandini & Camilla’s non-romance. It’s so good that I wrote a song about it. I’d never do that for The Great Gatsby or The Catcher in the Rye but then again who would? Overrated toss.

You have said this is a studio project, although I think a certain DJ wants you to so some songs when you go in to see him. Have you abandoned live performance completely?

There will be absolutely no live shows (in Manchester at least) ever again. I tentatively accepted a gig in London in September which never materialised and looking back I’m glad. I struggled to captivate the smartphone obsessed wankers that stain my generation with the loudest punk band in Manchester so the odds of me doing it on my own with my guitar and piano are slim to none. Either way, I’d rather not find out. Besides, I’ve sold all of my gear so I couldn’t do it anyway.

I’ll probably knock out a couple of covers on the radio as I always do. Thrasher by Neil Young or Idiot Wind by Dylan…something long, designed to bore people to death so I never get asked again (I jest)

What music are you currently listening to?

At this present moment I’m listening to Seasons in the Abyss by Slayer as today is its 25th anniversary and with it being my all time favourite metal album, I couldn’t resist. More generally, iTunes tells me I’ve been listening to a lot of Neil Young, Afghan Whigs, Mastodon, Glen Campbell & Ernest Tubb this month which is just a snapshot of course. I recently fell in love with Chopin again, drunkenly declaring his style the invention of punk rock (in my eyes of course). I stand by that and I listen to his music more now than I did when I fell in love with him first time round. I went to Warsaw last year, maybe that has helped although, I must say that when I drive through Middleton it makes me dislike The Courteeners even more than I already do so its swings and roundabouts.

Louis Van Gaal – yes or no?

I absolutely adore him. I must admit, at the time, I wanted Ancelotti as I absolutely love that guy too but I read a book about van Gaal and I just bought into the whole thing immediately. He only runs into trouble when people lack ambition, work ethic and the discipline to succeed and because his methods are entirely built around total immersion in that “philosophy”, he has occasionally come unstuck. Incidentally, it reminds me of my two failed bands in some weird way. Had everyone else shared my drive & ambition they’d have had to bring back Top of the Pops just to indulge how successful we’d have inevitably become. I joke of course, but there is a shred of truth there. I’ll settle for a European Cup

Are you worried about Jurgen Klopp?

No. He got Mainz relegated, failed to get them promoted back into the Bundesliga, resigned, went to Dortmund and had a questionable record, spent half a season in the relegation zone, resigned again and somehow they are calling him elite. Had he got the United job after Moyes I would have been very disappointed and there is a reason why he didn’t get that job…because he isn’t good enough. He will fit in very well at Liverpool.