Thursday, 22 December 2011

Free Christmas Records

So this is Christmas? And what have done? Only gone and diluted an already over populated internet of endless tunes by endless numbers of bands with a whole new range of Christmas ‘free downloads’. It’s not like bands aren’t giving stuff away for free ANYWAY is it? But at Christmas it seems the nice thing to do.

I haven’t been able to blink on Twitter this year without someone else popping up offering me a new vaguely xmas themed EP or track, some hastily put together acoustic reinterpretation of a old carol or weird remoulding of a ‘modern classic’. But some have been great. So I made a list, like any good boy should at Christmas. All the ones below are free too, so don’t worry about breaking the bank. Just enjoy. As a side note, one that isn’t free, but I have enjoyed all the same is the great ‘Oh! What a Not So Silent Night Before Christmas’ by Aidan Moffat. Brilliant.

St Gregory Orange

Wakefield electro DOOM merchants get in the festive spirit by releasing a free 4 track EP. Ok, so officially it’s a re-release as these tracks were given away individually as MP3’s last year. But hey, you probably missed that right? And it’s not especially festive. But the songs here have featured heavily in their live set for the past year or so, meaning they are well worth getting hold of. Fans of their debut album ‘Things We Said In Bedrooms’ may be surprised by the directness here and this could well be an indication for their long awaited follow up, due in March.

The Birthday Kiss

The Birthday Kiss played their debut gig at Long Division back in June. How they get away with that? Well there’s some previous pedigree here; Sarah from The Research and Ben from The Lodger. Which should give you a fair indication of what to expect; some bloody good pop music. A title of ‘Sentimental Christmas Time’ completes the picture really; it’s a lovely piece of gentle, swinging songwriting, with Sarah’s sweet croon coming over like Mimi from Low, which is ace. Actually, whilst I think, if you’ve not heard the Low Christmas album, you should check that out too.

Napoleon IIIrd

As well as featuring on the Rhubarb Bomb xmas EP (see below), everyone’s favourite…erm… gosh, what the hell is he? Whatever, NapIIIrd has busted out a real banging Christmas tune here. It’s kind of ‘Deck The Halls’ as you know it, but not half as boring as that sounds. It’s huge! Rhubarb Bomb utterly adores Napoleon IIIrd, so I demand you go listen to this now.

Joyzine advent calendar

Wow. Now this is good. I came across this due to Rob Dee’s generous face hiding behind ‘22’ on the advent calendar. This charitble man has allowed download of SEVEN Philophobia Music tracks by several different bands. If his beard wasn’t so ginger I’d suspect he was Santa Clause. But further exploration of the calendar has revealed a whole heap of other festive treats by labels and artists equally obscure and fantastic. I’m not gonna spoil it; seeing what’s behind those doors is all the fun.

The Passing Fancy

Jolly Wakefield Folkster The Passing Fancy will find any excuse for a celebration. This year he released his Valentines single, but way back in 2008 he released ‘Christmas Time At Wrenthorpe Club’, an ode to his tradition of ending up down the local WMC, by way of various drunken disasters on Wakefield’s legendary drinking challenge; The Westgate Run. The physical copy long ran out, but this amusing, silly and entertaining tale can be downloaded for free from his Bandcamp.

Rhubarb Bomb

Hey look! Yes, we got into the Christmas spirit this year too, albeit rather begrudgingly. WAY back in 2007, under more cheery stewardship, Rhubarb Bomb released a 4 track EP, free within its pages. And it was brilliant. An absolutely top set of tracks from legendary, but now departed, Wakefield bands The Research and The Old House, plus two from the still going strong Mi Mye and Napoleon IIIrd. Surely it’s worth it alone for a track called ‘For Christmas I Got Pityriasis Rosea’?


Fellow Zine people PYT, this year newly relocated to Sheffield have released a Christmas treat in the form of a two track EP from Advances in Mathmatics, called Sad Xmas Present EP. Nicely described as the ‘first twee Post Rock band’ the EP is a pair instrumental pieces that weave beautiful paths without resorting to tons of distortion, just smart and organic harmonics, giving off a warm feeling like the atypical open log fire.

The Wind Up Birds

Finally! A simple ode to the poor buggers who have to work over Christmas. I get sick to death of the Facebook updates and Twitter tweets from mid December saying ‘Finished for Christmas!’. Though that’s coz too many of my friends are teachers I guess. The Wind Up Birds, in typically dour mood, but with pleasingly funny lyrics tell the other side of this story in a swaggering, rambunctious style, fitting of the circular grind of another dull Christmas party. It’s free, but if you choose to pay for the track it’ll all go to Barnardo’s.

Zoey Van Goey

I think regular readers will know we’re quite the fans of Glasgow’s Zoey Van Goey at Rhubarb Bomb. We had them down on Bonfire Night for an amazing gig and they’ll be back for Long Division in 2012. That short November tour was based around the release of a remix EP of tracks from their second album (which is popping up on A LOT of end of year lists). As they’ve now given all the physical copies away, the whole thing is now up on their bandcamp. For nothing! It’s not Christmassey. Not even slightly. But it’s bloody good. And haven’t you had enough of sleigh bells yet? I have. Wake me up when all the free Easter themed downloads arrive.

Dean Freeman

Monday, 19 December 2011

Imp - 'Sewerpop! How The Castle Was Stormed' Review

Philophobia Music

Imp are one of the oddest bands in Wakefield. I don’t think they’ll mind me saying that. Despite having seen them numerous times over the past… God, maybe 5 years, I still don’t ‘get’ them. By which I don’t mean I don’t like them, I mean simply don’t understand how they ‘are’.

Live, they are the ultimate expression of the runaway freight train; it MUST fall off the rails right? Any minute now, I’m sure of it. I don’t know how they write songs, they just seem to filter them into existence, each member playing their version of some half remembered childhood nursey rhyme. Or a vicious argument conducted in 5 different languages. The brilliance - and the reason most people cant take their eyes off them - is that it simply works, the perfect wall of reason at the centre of the storm.

Following on from last year’s ‘Just Destroyer’, which was a bit of a direction change, yet a positive one, ‘Sewerpop!’ sees Imp get their pop back. I thought that’d just be the PHOP hype machine churning me a line, but it’s spot on. ‘Just Destroyer’s instrumentals are gone and we are left with a sharp, urgent kaleidoscope of fractious battle to ponder over. The wandering guitar lines find their separate shapes, head out on explorative drives in country but make it back in time for the chorus. Drums and Organ hold it all together really, smart rhythms and lines. The vocals sound better than ever, the sweetly shouted hooks the horse in the glue that ties this band together.

‘The Timings All Wrong’ opens with some odd seaside soundscaping. Suggests they’ve gone real prog on us. But it’s just a warm up. The free flowing tempo and odd beats here break you in to the wandering dynamics across the record. ‘Back From Battle’ and ‘Sharkbay Nevermore’ are the beating core of this quick trip into Imp’s world. Generally, it’s a less riff-tastic record than the last, but better for it; instead a warm glow, a concise widescreen account, a smiling room, a lost letter found.

As with the music, it’s hard to tell what is going on with the lyrics, the ideas, the themes (if there are any) seem to wash over, leaving more of an impression than a firm idea. I think that is what Imp excel at. They are a pop band; the dirtiest most disturbed pop band, that tie the oblique and the half-seen, the half caught conversation and the swamping drunken declaration in a direct and sumptuous package. They don’t do it by stepping into our world, taking a look around and spewing out a reply; it is purely on their terms. You must go to them and step inside their minds. I cant recommend that, admittedly terrifying prospect, highly enough. Sewerpop! Is the best thing they’ve done thus far, though I’ve still honestly no idea ‘what’ it is they’ve done, let alone ‘how’.

Dean Freeman

Friday, 16 December 2011

Post War Glamour Girls - Suburban Barbarian Review

Post War Glamour Girls
Suburban Barbarian
Sturdy Records

Suburban Barbarian, the second single from the Post War Glamour Girls is available now; but the question is, do witty vocals and shimmery, twanging guitars do the trick? Of course, the answer is yes; this has the feel of having been crafted over many a late night singalong and who could complain about that!

The mix of male and female vocals adds to the rich, slowly building air of menace as the track reaches its crescendo and the mood they conjured up in my head is of a scene from Rebel Without A Cause if it had been set in Yorkshire- all leather jackets, girls with dyed black bobs, lipstick stained cigarette ends and spilt coffee in a greasy spoon caff, but that might just be me…

The band is only just a year old but Leeds based Sturdy records have already seen the act receive praise for their first offering, a double-A side single ‘Ode To Harry Dean / Spitting Pearls’ released in October. They’ve got one live show left this year, at the Head of Steam in Newcastle on the 17th of December, so if you can’t make it there, get over to and have a listen for yourself.

Matthew Rhodie

Hymms - Cardinal Sins / Contrary Values Review

Hymms - Cardinal Sins / Contrary Values

Another day, another duo! I was lucky enough to see Hymns live in the Bowery during the Tramlines Festival in Sheffield- heard of it? Small town near Rotherham? No?- this summer and they impressed with their range then as they do now on their double album Cardinal Sins / Contrary Values which builds a sense that any one of these tracks could be on the advert for the impending apocalypse. If, of course, you believe the Mayans!

Samuel Manville and Peter Reisner craft vocals, guitar and drums into an engaging garage rock meets classical meets some sort of cinematic soundtrack, but it works here, maybe more than in the flesh if I’m totally honest. The production is smooth and accents the strengths of each track without allowing one element to dominate, the guitars soar from delicate to brash and Hymns always manage to squeeze more out of it than you might reasonably expect two blokes from the midlands to manage. Worth a listen and another chance live.

Matthew Rhodie

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Do's 'Quick Fix' Review

The Do’s
Quick Fix
Self released

This year, it seems that some of the most interesting bands I’ve seen live have been two-piece outfits who manage to create walls of sound from a drum kit, a guitar and a couple of voices.

The Do’s are one such combo, consisting of Elliot Oldroyd on guitar/vocals with Matthew O’Leary on drums/vocals they manage to create an interesting mix of light and shade. Quick Fix sees them open with a grunge dynamic that then relaxes into a confident slice of fuzzy guitar-driven riffing which is all good clean fun. Leave This All Behind comes in like McLusky passed them the rulebook for killer intros and never fails to please.

Between the insistent rhythm and understated vocals this Wakefield duo hit the mark and for a first outing, this free download, available from: left me hoping to stumble into a boozer on a cold winter night and catch them live. You can do just that on the 11th December at the Inns of Court and on 23rd December at The Hop.

Matthew Rhodie

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Rhubarb Bomb Christmas EP


December arrives tomorrow and with it the countdown to yet another xmas. Under my stewardship of Rhubarb Bomb i have carefully avoided any mention of the C-word these past few years because my feelings towards it are somewhat tainted. I recall an RB issue before my time had a message on the cover that ran 'It's Cliched to be Cynical at Christmas' which i liked, because it's probably true. But Christmas doesnt mean much to me because im always working. I dont mind; someone has to. But i dont get that excited about time off, drinking with friends and kicking back because that just doesn't happen for me.

HOWEVER! Just because my Christmas may suck (which it wont, it will simply be on Boxing Day instead) it doesn't mean that Rhubarb Bomb doesn't wish you a very Happy Christmas. So, as an early Christmas present to get you in the mood, we have re-released our very VERY limited edition EP as a free download through Bandcamp.

The 'Winter EP' was originally hidden away inside copies of Issue 5, released in Dec 2007. It featured some of Wakefield's most highly regarded bands of that time, namely The Research, Mi Mye, Napoleon IIIrd and The Old House. Unsurprisingly, given that lineup, the record still sounds great. Far too good to be gathering dust on a few peoples shelves. So with the very kind permission of the bands, we are re-releasing it.

I am not 100% sure, but i dont think these recordings are available anywhere else. And of course The Research and The Old House are no longer with us. Mi Mye and Napoleon IIIrd most certainly are and you will find links to more of their work on the Bandcamp.

The record is Name Your Price. As it was free before, we thought it should be free now. But if you DO decide to pay something, i can tell you it will go directly into maintaining Rhubarb Bomb and thus helping to support Wakefield music as a whole. We hope you enjoy!

Dean Freeman

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Exclusive Post Reunion Pulp Interview

November 15th
Showroom Cafe

Thanks to the ineptitude of Northern Rail, I arrive at the Showroom Cafe in Sheffield an agonising 15 minutes late. It’s been a 2 and a half hour journey from my house in Wakefield and all had run smoothly, until I got about 500 yards from the station at which point the train decided to stop, and refused to move for a good half hour. As if I wasn’t nervous enough; this meeting had taken over a year to set up and the interviewee was (allegedly) notoriously media unfriendly. Would he even bother waiting for me to turn up?

Cut. Almost a year to the day previously I had returned from holiday in Japan to the news that Pulp had reformed. I was thrilled; perhaps slightly more than most, as prior to my embarkation I had arranged an interview with guitar / violin player Russell Senior. Before the announcement, no one was really that interested in Pulp anymore – despite how most periodicals tried to rewrite the fact after the event. They were well regarded, of course, the general view being that history now declares them as one of the only credible bands to emerge from / survive Britpop. But the mountains of work they compiled either side of that momentous non event? Barely a blip.

And not even the fans expected it. I certainly didn’t when I devised a run of articles for Rhubarb Bomb which would focus on their 1994 release ‘The Sisters EP’, a personal favourite of mine. I was only 17 when they released their final album, ‘We Love Life’, yet I spent most of my university years hunting down their more obscure releases, with especial fondness for ‘His n Hers’ era electro pop gems and those disintegrating descents into ‘This Is Hardcore’ despair.

‘The Sisters EP’, released between His N Hers and Different Class was, for me, a perfect moment in their history. It was everything I wanted it to be. It mixed the dark, desperate vicious nature of ‘Razzmatazz’ with the stretched, slightly sinister pop structures they had found success with on His N Hers. It was the Jarvis of ‘Deep Fried In Kelvin’ and ‘Inside Susan’ honed down to a white hot razor of indignation and exasperation. The music was heavy, emotionally heavy. Most of their work had light and dark, moments of wit and sarcasm amongst the dissections of ‘ordinary people’s lives’, yet ‘The Sisters EP’ was what I wanted; for them to push that darker side even further with no submissions, no backing out, no joke at the end to lighten the mood. That it was wrapped in a perfect pop package made it all the better. Genius.

And so the plan was to try and meet each member who played on the EP (Jarvis Cocker, Candida Doyle, Steve Mackay, Nick Banks & Russell Senior) in turn and try and find out what made that particular record so special. That the record is rarely mentioned in interviews or critical appraisals made it all the more exciting to me and I thought it might be something they would go for; no questions about Common People or Brit Award ceremonies. Something only a ZINE would cover.

Naturally, the dramatic cycle of the articles would mean Jarvis would have to be last. But who would I try speak to first? I chose Russell. He left Pulp after Different Class and is regarded as the more… militant member of the band. Full of ideology with a thirst for experimentation. As my good friend Rob Dee said as we watched them at Hyde Park this summer ‘You’ve got to have a cool fucker on guitar haven’t you?’ So that was Russell; ‘the cool fucker’. He was also furthest from the band and I thought I would have the best chance of hooking up with him.

So in September 2010 I got in touch. To my great surprise he was more than happy for a meet up. Initially we couldn’t find the right time; trips away, bouts of flu getting in the way. Then, towards the end of October it looked like we had it. But then I received an intriguing email.

He told me that if I needed to get the interview done ‘soonish’ it would have to be via email. However, if I could wait a couple of weeks we could hook up in Sheffield and speak in person. Tantalisingly, I was told it’d be ‘worth the wait’.

So naturally I waited and flew off to Japan. Upon hearing the reformation news I was excited, yes, that one of my favourite bands was back together. I was surprised too that Russell was part of it. But I couldn’t help it – inevitably it crossed my mind; did I have some kind of massive scoop here? Would I have the first interview with a member of the reformed Pulp? Or did this mean the interview was off? I was a heavy mix of emotion, but it’s those kinds of moments the zine writer lives for, I reckon.

Cut back to November 2011. It may have taken me 2 and a half hours to get here today, but this interview's been nearly a year in the making. As it turned out, Pulp as a whole decided there would be no interviews at all. Russell had hoped they would speak exclusively to small fanzines akin to Rhubarb Bomb. But the band vetoed the idea. They wanted to maintain an air of mystery. If you wanted to experience it, you’d have to come to the shows. Russell was apologetic when breaking the news, but did promise when it had all blown over, he would still meet with me. So after a year, surely another 15 minutes wouldn’t make any difference?

I fall through the front door of ‘The Showroom’ and glance around. I see a few tables taken but don’t spot Russell. I begin walking up to the counter when I get a wave from the back of the room. He’s there waiting patiently as I walk over. ‘I’d recognise a fanzine writer anywhere’ he says and I sit down, shaking and slightly out breath. But I’d made it.

Dean Freeman

The full interview between Russell and Rhubarb Bomb will appear in Issue 3.1, due to be released at the end of February. Follow RB on Twitter / Facebook for updates, if you are that way inclined.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Constellations 2011 Review

Constellations Festival
Leeds University
November 12th 2011

So Constellations returns for a second year. Last year I made it through Runaround Kids' set before going to home to spend the following week in bed with Flu. I missed a good do by all accounts so i've got high expectations for this year.

Things don't begin especially well as i arrive in time to catch the last twenty five seconds of Hookworms in the alcohol free Riley Smith Hall. Bugger. I then make my way to Mine to check out Outfit. I wish I hadn't bothered. They do nothing for me, seem a bit dull and pedestrian and each song bleeds unrecognisably into another. The beer soaked copy of The Independent on the table soon becomes more appealing.

Back To Riley Smith Hall for Zulu Winter who I know nothing about but think their name is good. They don't sound as good as their name but they do a similar thing to Outfit in a more interesting way. I reckon they probably sound better on record though. Staying in the Riley Smith Hall for Islet. I've been looking forward to seeing these again since they were a highlight at Leeds Festival in the summer. And they don't disappoint. They are quite frankly awesome. I don't suppose you can really say they have structured songs as such which lets face it doesn't matter. Their playfulness and experimentation finally fully gets the day going for me. Perhaps understandably they appear to polarise opinion in the crowd and that really is always a good thing.

Needs to be something good after that, and I could probably do with checking out some of the other venues in this festival. Well wow look at that Stephen Malkmus is on inexplicably early. Surely he should be headlining right? Apparently not and it doesn't matter really does it? I guess it goes without saying working closely with so many bands who have Pavement deeply embedded in their DNA and never having got to see Pavement myself, I was really looking forward to this. Unfortunately I'm not as familiar with The Jicks material so can't sing along even though I feel like doing so. I probably ought to rectify this as I really enjoy the whole set. I would have done so even if he hadn't dedicated a song to the people of Wakefield.

After you've watched the real thing there doesn't seem to be much point in watch a pretender straight afterwards. That's a little unfair as I have enjoyed them earlier in the year and Get Away was one of my favourite songs of the summer. But it's hardly a fair slot to put them in. So anyway, I don't watch Yuck. Instead I head back to Mine for Vondelpark. Interesting ambient atmospheric stuff for sure, very soothing, I like what I hear but I head back to Riley Smith Hall again in time for The Antlers.

After the disappointment of no 'Hospice' material in their festival set during the summer, I was at least prepared but still hopeful of a 'Two' or 'Epilogue'. They didn't make an appearance but the 'Burst Apart' material has become familiar to me now and I don't miss the older songs too much now. After seeing a couple of bands not quite getting atmospheric quite right, The Antlers are a joyous sight (sound, surely) to me. It's a perfect ending to the day for me, anything after that will only be an anticlimax for me. So; taking into consideration I've already missed a good portion of Wild Beasts due to Riley Smith Hall running further and further behind as the day progressed; I decide to leave. I've done better than last year after all.

Rob Dee

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Wilco - 'The Whole Love' Review

The Whole Love
dBpm Records

During their career Wilco have been perceived by many as a contrary bunch, shifting stylistically between albums and line-ups; this stigma is one that frontman Jeff Tweedy has been eager to dismiss whenever the subject of his integrity has come into question, rather he wishes to be perceived purely as a songwriter who is interested in one thing; the song, and how best to serve it. And so when Wilco delivered their 4th studio LP to Reprise Records in 2001, the radio-listener conscious major label decided to pass, deeming the record too difficult to market, dropped the band and sent them on their way. As it happened Yankee Hotel Foxtrot proved to be the bands most successful effort yet, allowing them to drop their Alt. Country poster boy image, paving the way for the band who was to be labeled "America's answer to Radiohead". Fast forward 10 years, and the revolving door of band members seems to have jammed shut with their finest line up yet. Their live shows have bloomed into an all encapsulating experience covering material from nearly all of their previous records (see the brilliant live DVD "Ashes of American Flags"). Sadly this newly founded confidence hasn't always worked well in the studio. That's not to say they have produced bad records, it just seems to me the band were still testing the water, but now with their new self-produced record (and the first released on their own newly formed record label dBpm) Wilco sounds like a band finally firing on all cylinders.

The album's opener 'Art of Almost' is the only track on offer here that really delves into the crazy world of the electronic freak out that has been explored on previous records. Kinetic buzzes, bleeps and glitches flow alongside the rock solid rhythm section of Glenn Kotche on Drums and bassist John Stirratt, who delivers one of the dirtiest, and dare I say it, funkiest bass lines ever committed to a Wilco record. Tweedy croons over the chaos with his cut-up lines and phrases, while guitarist Nels Cline intermittently cuts through the din with chord stabs and arpeggios. Just as the song comes to it's conclusion it starts up again, this time paving the way for the biggest guitar freak out since Sky Blue Sky's 'Impossible Germany', only a hell of alot louder and faster.

After the aural onslaught of the opening track Wilco slide into the acoustic groove of the album's first single 'I Might', this song most of all shows off the talents of this band as a whole and as individuals. Mikael Jorgensen's chirpy hammond organ bounces along side Tweedy's effervescent acoustic work and another brilliant bass line from Stirratt, Cline's sinewy, distorted slide guitar adds the vinegar to this otherwise bubblegum sweet pop number, and much like Johnny Greenwood's chain-saw-buzz-stops in 'Creep', sets this song alight.

The ethereal 'Sunloathe' follows, with Pat Sansone taking the lead on piano while the rest of the band provide a swathe of dream like sound washes and prepared percussion until the 2 minute mark when the drums strike up and Cline's 12 string guitar drops in. There's more than a hint of Sgt. Pepper here, especially in the Lennon/McCartney styled backing harmonies and unusual chord patterns.

'Dawned On Me' possesses the album's first toe-tapping, head nodding, gem of a chorus, with Tweedy professing "I can't help it if I fall in love with you again, I'm calling just to let you know it dawned on me." With it's lush arrangement, instrumentation and heartfelt lyrics this track oozes summer sun and is enough to carry anyone through the coming wintry months.

'Black Moon' takes the album down a step, with a finger picked, country tinged number, complete with sweeping strings and pedal steel guitars, Tweedy delivers a near whisper through the track asking "I'm waiting for you, waiting forever, are you awake now too?".

We're back in sunshine territory now with "Born Alone", again we're carried along through the verse by Tweedy's upbeat vocals and another toe-tapping back beat from Kotche, until the instrumental refrain which sees Nels Cline rioting through a sugar sweet guitar riff until the song ultimately culminates in the band blasting it's way through an ever descending power chord assault.

Once again the band returns to it's country roots with 'Open Mind', Tweedy delivering heart warming lines such as "I could base my whole existence upon the cherry strands of your gold hair".

The next track 'Capitol City' is a bit of an odd one stylistically, even for Wilco. This is a jolly, jazz inflected ditty, replete with the odd Grandaddy style arpeggiator and some barber shop backing vocals thrown in for good measure, immediately standing out and yet fitting perfectly with the albums constant dynamic shift.

Following that 'Standing O' blasts into action with all guitars blazing, in many ways it's very similar to the other more upbeat numbers on the album, in that it features familiar key board punches and Nels Cline rips it up throughout but it still manages to hold itself with Tweedy's penchant for a strong melody, culminating in another huge sing-along chorus.

'Rising Red Lung' is another finely tuned acoustic number, again showcasing the band's unnerving ability to create dramatic sound collages, while Tweedy once again in a near whisper delivers more of his trademark quasi cut-up lyrics: "I want a wig that's been blown by something unknown, buried under a mile of snow."

The album's title track 'Whole Love' slips back into the groove with swung acoustic guitars, shimmering lead lines and Tweedy doubling up his vocals in whispered baritone and cracked falsetto simultaneously, resulting in a group vocal refrain chanting on the song's title, before the band are granted another psychedelic wigout; this one far removed from the opening track boasts delicately tumbling drums, sweeping synths and pitch-twisted guitar lines echoing throughout as the song quietly resolves.

'One Sunday Morning' continues the album's theme of alternating between upbeat songs and slower, acoustic numbers, only this time Tweedy's acoustic strumming is backed up fully by the band with Kotche providing a brushed snare (complete with egg shaker), Sansone back on piano duties (and a spattering of glockenspiel), while Nels Cline manufactures lap-steel like shimmers on his guitar (according to the sleeve notes Mikael Jorgensen provides 'wavetable scrubbing'...? Whatever the hell it is, it's working). The song flourishes into an almost ambient middle section before starting up again instrumentally; pockets of warm free form noise rise up and float along and then drop again until after nearly 12 minutes the song, and the album, fades out.

Wilco are a band I've know about for a long time, but I hadn't really given them much attention until this past year or so (in which time I've devoured all the albums, watched the DVD's, read the book and now I'm about to delve into their bewildering world of side projects), and so this is as a result my first ever brand new Wilco release, one that I'm hearing and holding in my hands for the first time alongside everyone else who has bought into the band over the years. It's a great feeling to finally catch up with a band, and for that matter catch up with a loyal fanbase that have followed them since the beginning. The feeling is made all the better for knowing that this really is the band's best album since YHF, and I can feel justified in pestering everyone I know into listening to it.

Harry Rhodes

Monday, 21 November 2011

Damnation Festival Review

Damnation Festival
Leeds University
5th November 2011

If you went to Damnation Festival on the strength of my preview then I better get my apologies in nice and early. Of the four bands I highlighted only two delivered full sets. To use betting parlance Decapitated were a non-runner, which is quite understandable given that they were onboard this flight only days before:

Cerebral Bore whilst still running, were very much a three legged horse, with the absence of vocalist Som forcing them to take the Terrorizer stage as an instrumental trio. Three, it seems, was the not so magic number as that’s the amount of songs they performed, in a set that was no where near as long as the increasingly tedious preceding sound check. Whilst the band undoubtedly garnered respect from the audience for soldiering on and playing, they were already running late when they commenced their curtailed set. Perhaps they should have just jumped in at the deep-end with little in the way of a sound check, for whilst their death metal is extremely technical, as a three piece everything punched through the PA clearly as opening number, ‘The Bald Cadaver’, testified.

A Man Called Catten fortunately arrived with vocalist Paul Catten present and correct, surely a name change would have been required were he absent. “Are you ready for some nineties rock? I’m sure we can satisfy your needs.” Catten stated prior to commencing a set of songs from the band that initially brought him to the attention of the music world, Medulla Nocte. Curiously the crowd in the room had thinned out somewhat, despite there being quite a buzz surrounding the prospect of Catten plundering the albums ‘A Conversation Alone’ and ‘Dying From The Inside’ prior to the event.

In terms of reminding the audience of Medulla Nocte’s work the set was a success, I found myself reminded of early Deftones at points, although with the exception of ‘All Our Friends Are Dead’ being single of the week/month in Kerrang! and Metal Hammer, the band never enjoyed the high profile of their American contemporaries such as Chino et al. What was missing were some of the more physical elements of a Medulla Nocte gig in the nineties (I once saw original drummer Jammer, a man weighing over 20 stone, get up from behind his kit and punch an idiot in the crowd at a gig), although Catton did perform a ‘blink and you missed it’ back-flip.

Upstairs on the Jagermeister stage Illuminatus were a disappointment. Having not seen them since 2004 their sound was always likely to have evolved, but in my opinion not for the better. Back then I was a massive fan of their Anathema influenced ‘Aborted Revolutions’ EP, which I had purchased on the strength of their set at Bloodstock 2003. They even still use some of my praise for that live show in the press section of their website. Having dropped their keyboard player in the interim the remaining members have gone for a beefed up sound that never really connected with me. Julio Taylor’s stage banter didn’t help matters, with a series of unsubtle shouts of ‘Damnation!’ and the f-word leaving me wondering if this was the same band I had seen all those years ago. Depressingly, with the exception of a new bassist, it was.

Unlike Illuminatus I’ve never really cared much for Turisas and the ‘Battle Metal’ genre they sing of, but I’ll give them their dues they were one of the few bands on the Jagermeister stage who manage to get to grips with the unforgiving nature of The Refectory (A venue I rank as one of Leeds’ worst). It’s quite possible that the numbers watching them had been swelled by Manowar fans still in town after their gig at Leeds Academy the night before. ‘Stand Up And Fight’ went down a storm with the crowd, many of whom had adopted the band’s image (A cross between classic WWF tag-team Legion Of Doom and Mad Max II). By the end of the set frontman Mathias Nygard had the crowd, putty like, in the palm of his hands, splitting the audience in two, with one half chanting ‘Battle’, the other ‘Metal’, prior to the band commencing their closing number. A success all told, and the band didn’t even have to resort to their cover of Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’.

Local heroes Evile’s set saw them alternating between songs from the freshly released ‘Five Serpents Teeth’ and their ‘Enter The Grave’ debut. It’s an approach that generated something of a wave effect in terms of the crowd’s reaction. The title track of their new album is unfamiliar to me, and it seemed much of the crowd, not quite hitting the spot. ‘Killer From The Deep’ rose out of the waters and led to the first serious skirmishes in the mosh-pit. ‘Eternal Empire’ employed a slow-burning intro, akin to mid-period Slayer, before kicking up a gear in true thrash style. The four-piece then raid ‘…The Grave’ again, with frontman Matt Drake getting the crowd to ad-lib the chorus of ‘We Who Are About To Die’, for me this moment, more than any other during the set confirmed that Evile have the staying power to really go onto bigger things. Yes, in Ol Drake they have one hell of a lead guitarist, but I’m sure I’m not alone in being more drawn towards his brother’s down to earth rapport with the fans.

It certainly seems there’s no shortage of prospective member willing to join the band’s ‘Cult’. Having checked out the video (Which has had over 60,000 views in just over two months on YouTube) this was the new cut I was anticipating the most. It was inevitable they would play ‘Thrasher’ (Now over a million views on YouTube!!!), but thankfully, despite garnering a massive reaction in the pit, it didn’t herald the end of their set. ‘Infected Nations’ may not be the finale some were hoping for, I’m sure many were hankering for something else from their debut, but to me it made perfect sense. Despite the death of original bassist Mike Alexander early in the touring cycle for said album, Evile really earned their stripes whilst promoting ‘Infected Nations’ and it seems they are finally getting to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Grand Magus excelled in the great outdoors the last time I witnessed them live. Today they are another band who fall victim to the curse of the Refectory. The room was perhaps only half full when they took to the stage, and despite charismatic frontman JB’s attempts to get the crowd to sing along to the likes of ‘Silver Into Steel’ the atmosphere was somewhat flat. The classic metal drama of ‘Shadow Knows’ (Always a house favourite when I shared a flat) is a highlight of the trio’s set and even the security guard on the balcony is nodding his head in time to ‘Iron Will’, but through no fault of their own today was a case of merely Good Magus.

Due to the running order on the Terrorizer stage being thrown out of the window as soon as Cerebral Bore started late I didn’t catch as many bands down there as I would have hoped. For me the Stylus venue is the heart of Damnation. That it was the main room at last year’s event contributed a lot to the great atmosphere. Unfortunately today’s proceedings never quite live up to the memories of 2010.

With this in mind a conscious decision to catch some of Doom was made, that’s Doom the crust band, not the Radiohead collaborator just in case you’re wondering Bomb readers. They played to a packed room and the d-beats never let up, making for an intense set that was well worth the descent into the University’s bowels.

Ascending back upstairs, I witnessed Godflesh manage to ratchet the intensity levels up even higher than Doom. Much of this is down to the volume of their drum machine; even with earplugs in it was punishing my hearing! In fact after a while it begins to feel like a full body assault and I actually made a conscious decision to leave the hall. It seems it was equally intense for Godflesh mainman Justin Broadrick, who had obviously worked up quite a sweat and was bemoaning the lack of towels onstage.

Prior to headliner Devin Townsend we were treated to some home movie antics, courtesy of his warped mind. In some ways they were reminiscent of the skits Ozzy Osbourne used as an intro to his gigs around the late nineties, in which the double-O inserted himself into clips from films such as Titanic; witness Devin in Star Wars for example. But then he ups the ante somewhat, with a series of clips revolving around his own creation Ziltoid The Omniscient, somehow I can’t imagine “Sharon” letting Ozzy make a concept album revolving around an alien in search of the ultimate cup of coffee any time soon. At the conclusion of this rather bizarre build up Devin has The Venga Boys “The Venga Bus Is Coming” played over the PA, before he appears, cheap shiny suit and all, goading the crowd “If you’re too cool for the Venga Boys, get the fuck out of here!”

What follows is a master class from Devin in how to walk the fine line between the sublime and the ridiculous. I can’t think of any other artist successfully convincing people to part with £15 for a glove puppet, before demanding “Let me see those Ziltoids” and garnering a response that suggests 75% of the audience bought one.

Musically the set leans heavily on the aforementioned ‘Ziltoid’ album and ‘The Devin Townsend Project’ quartet of albums. Although Devin goes right back to his early solo career for set opener ‘Truth’ and it’s a pleasure to hear ‘Bad Devil’, both from his ‘Infinity’ album. When Devin played ‘Supercrush’ from the ‘Addicted’ album he perfectly lambasted the sort of uninspired, expletive reliant, banter that Illuminatus’ Julio had employed earlier in the day. “Do you want to hear something from Addicted? I can’t hear you, anybody want to hear some fucking Addicted shit! Put your arse out to the right whenever you say that.” This song did highlight one of the only downsides of the Devin live experience though, namely that not all of his expansive sound can be performed live, with Anneke Van Giersbergen’s vocals being pre-recorded. Following this ‘Juular’ is yet another example of how diverse Devin’s output is, combining extreme metal with the sensibilities of a musical highlight from a Tim Burton film. Throughout the set the visuals behind the band underline Devin’s own cinematic ambitions, although in truth it’s always the slightly low budget, tongue in cheek videos that work best, with the camp comic strip shenanigans of ‘Vampira’, coming hot on the heels of Halloween, working as a perfect encore.


Monday, 31 October 2011

Damnation Festival Preview

Damnation Festival
November 5th
Leeds University

As alluded to in our preview of Constellations, the festival goer need no longer go into hibernation with the end of summer. You won’t find this particular creature mistakenly taking shelter under an unlit bonfire, which unwittingly becomes their funeral pyre. In fact you won’t find me anywhere near a bonfire on the 5th of November as I’ll be making the trip over to Leeds for this year’s instalment of Damnation festival. Where for £29 you can take your pick from three stages worth of heaviness.

Now entering its fifth year in Leeds, the festival originally began life over the Pennines in Manchester in 2005. Yours truly was lucky enough to play the inaugural event and am more than happy to report that it has very much gone from strength to strength ever since.

Damnation’s organisers have managed to score some impressive coups over the years, Carcass’ first re-union show on home soil in 2008 being an obvious contender. This year sees a plethora of bands who, as with Carcass, have called the legendary Earache Records home. The labels MOSH catalogue numbers grace the spines of much of my CD collection so let’s have a look at their Damnation bound alumni.

Influential Brummie industrialists Godflesh are playing only their second British gig of 2011. Having initially reformed for France’s Hellfest in 2010, they have played only a handful of gigs since, so this is likely to be your only chance to catch them in the near future. Much to the credit of the organisers Damnation largely avoids repeat bookings, one of the pitfalls that frequently lead to the feeling of déjà vu at major outdoor festivals.

Currently one of Earache’s highest profile acts, Huddersfield’s Evile are the only band on this year’s bill to have graced Damnation’s stage previously, and back in 2006 they were still unsigned. In the interim they have released three albums through the Nottingham label and have also had to contend with the tragic death of bassist Mike Alexander whilst on tour in 2009. With the band’s career trajectory unlikely to see them returning to Wakefield’s Snooty Fox anytime soon and hometown gigs a rarity this is an excellent opportunity to see the band on a West Yorkshire stage.

Poles Decapitated are another band who have managed to bounce back from the death of a member. Seeing them open for grind super group Lock Up at Bradford Rios in 2000 now seems like another lifetime. At the time brothers Waclaw ‘Vogg’ and Witold ‘Vitek’ Kieltyka were still in their teens, but they managed to blow the audience away with tracks from their Earache debut ‘Winds Of Creation’. Sadly, Vitek was killed in a tour bus accident in 2007, whilst Decapitated’s then vocalist Adrian ‘Covan’ Kowanek was left severely injured. It was only in 2009 that Vogg announced his plans to assemble a new line-up and this will be their first UK date since the release of their album ‘Carnival Is Forever’.

With Decapitated now signed to German heavyweight label Nuclear Blast it’s down to Scots Cerebral Bore to represent Earache’s current crop of death metal acts. I’ve only caught the band once before, when a larger than life lady supplied guest guttural vocals. Slightly more slim line Simone ‘Som’ Pluijmers, who hails from Holland, is now the band’s permanent front-woman.

For details of the rest of the bill and ticket information head to

Andrew Whittaker

Friday, 21 October 2011

Constellations Festival Preview

Constellations Festival
November 12th
Leeds University

As readers of RB will know, we are very keen in supporting festivals that offer something unique; wonderful memory generators. With summer sadly far behind us, the end of year period was once a long hard slog up til xmas… but not these days. One of the reasons to stay merry is the excellent Constellations Festival which, after a roaring success last year secured its place on RB’s ‘must go to’ list.

This year sees Constellations score a massive scoop by booking Stephen Malkmus (Pavement), which in itself will come close to warranting the £30 or so entry fee. Elsewhere, Yuck and Wild Beasts promise great things aswell as smaller but equally exciting prospects, such as Spectrals, Vessels and Ringo Deathstarr. Some of the bands on the lineup are new to RB but judging by the company they are keeping, it should be a day to remember.

And the Exhibition Hall will be expanded from last year to include a load more interesting diversions. Well, diversions is unfair, with WARP Films no less working with Constellations, it may well eclipse the main event. Specially commissioned works, a pop up cinema and the chance to purchase some unique art sounds like a winner to us

As well as all that, there are several pre-fest shows in the days leading up. Check the website for details, but Los Campesinos! at The Cockpit and a couple of Brudenell shows should certainly whet your appetite.

Constellations really does offer something different. The lineup is a spot on mix of leftfield big names and quirky unknown curios that are surely destined to make their way to the top of your Christmas list. More details can be found on their website

Dean Freeman

Monday, 10 October 2011

Post War Glamour Girls Debut Single, Review

Post War Glamour Girls
Spitting Pearls / Ode To Harry Dean
Sturdy Records

Post War Glamour Girls formed around a year ago in Leeds and this is their debut single on Sturdy Records, also home of The Wind Up Birds.

It’s always a good start when 30 seconds in I’m thinking; there’s nothing else on my ‘to review’ pile that’s going to sound like this. ‘Spitting Pearls’ is a sprawling, subterranean claw through queasy Nick Cave atmospherics, superb dynamics twisting the dark, looping tale round to an epic, screaming conclusion. It takes a few turns to get your mind around what is actually happening, so odd in its construction that it’s hard to know where it is going, a real horrorshow descent into some form of madness.

The flipside is ‘Ode To Harry Dean’ which starts off as a far more discordant beast, crunching, fire and brimstone ranting driven by rumbling tom and snare crashes and super fuzzed up lead guitar. And then it’ll cut to a sweet vocal and guitar part. And with 4 minutes down it cuts to something else that could even be described as an anthemic chorus. It works though. Similarly to SP it’s a journey, unorthodox structures surprising at every turn and it takes a while to settle in. So, a bizarre combo leaving us with; an in-your-face-slow-burner. I’ll take that.

There’s a lovely reverberating sound across the record - plucks and clicks and ghostly backing vocals - mixed with over distorted drums and crunching, abrasive vocals. It’s a massive, full sound that benefits from repeated listens. So, if you splash out for the limited edition 7”, I can assure you, it won’t be one of those that gets played once and sits on the shelf. Post War Glamour Girls just keep drawing you back for more, albeit in a rather sinister and disturbingly pleasing manner.

Dean Freeman


Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Spills 'Occam's Razor' Review

Occam's Razor
The Spills
Philophobia Music

Misconceptions. Rhubarb Bomb works hard to promote Wakefield and its music. A mistake is to presume everyone else is up to speed with the changes. It’s easy to forget people outside Wakefield (they do exist…) aren’t as keyed in. A lot of people I meet still think that Escobar is the only venue in Wakefield (it closed in Summer 2010). A lot of people think Lapels are the bright young things of its guitar driven Indie scene (they split in 2009). On occasion, I introduce myself as editor of RB and people think I am Rob Dee (he departed in 2008). What is all this hard work for?

During Rob’s period at the helm, Rhubarb Bomb released a compilation. My old band appeared on it, alongside many others, including The Spills. Since the tailend of 2007, my band split, side projects were formed and duly split or ignored. I started a record label, disbanded a record label and then restarted it 2 years later. I started writing for RB and then took control – it’s been two years now. I met a girl, fell in love and we’ve lived together for 3 years. It’s been a hectic time. One constant in all that time has been The Spills. Same lineup, just getting better, slowly but surely. The sick thing is, the part that blows MY mind is that they only finished Uni this summer. How they manage that?

Whilst Wakefield has transformed around them, The Spills have simply worked and worked and honed and started over and worked some more. With the wisdom of veterans and the sparkle of youth. And if ever anything was going to change those heavily outdated perceptions of Wakefield, it would be their debut album, Occam’s Razor. Not only does it prove how much Wakefield Music has blossomed in the last few years, but also that it - and they - have a fine future ahead.

Recorded mainly over two days, live on to 2 inch tape, it perfectly captures the wonderful energy of a live band. The drums ring and smash wonderfully. The bass rattles along, the guitars, clean as summer streams or raw as horse flesh sushi, fly out of the speakers, directly into your frontal lobe. But don’t be mistaken, it’s not a live cut of the band. So much care has been taken over every detail. Flourishes appear all over, little harmonies, breaks; it’s a great sounding record.

Things open with the lovely ‘Lockets’. A step on from last year’s opener ‘Fish Eye Lens’ (from Smoke Signals EP) it begins in a relaxed, laid back pose, as Guitarist / Singer Chad warmly draws us in, with an engaging, up close feel reminiscent of Russell from The Research. A couple of minutes in, the more familiar scream of singer Rob Slater arrives and all hell breaks loose; anthemic, bittersweet hell. This moment of interplay between Chad and Rob sets up the record and for me it is one of its greatest achievements. I love bands that have a few different singers. Like Sonic Youth, they bounce off one another with style to spare, yet is perhaps the knowing of that long band history that adds that extra special something to the childhood friends towing and froying.

Special moments are plentiful on this record. ‘Summer Vibes’ – wisely chosen as the free download prior to the albums release – is symptomatic of The Spills great leap forward. Equally hook filled pop and hard rocking melancholy it encapsulates the dusk of childhood summers disappearing into an unknown future; at once terrifying and thrilling. ‘Heat Death of The Universe’ channels some ‘In Utero’ heaviness for it’s grand opening and ‘Newton’s Flaming Laser Sword’ recalls labels mates Imp and the toxic, twisted riffology found across their excellent ‘Just Destroyer’ EP. Other Wakefield signposts are visible in some of the twisting guitar freefalls (Runaround Kids) or the heart on sleeve, big beat led poppier moments (The Old House). But overall, it is the sound of a very confident band making it sound easy and fun.

As with Runaround Kids, also on Philophobia Music, I am equal parts pleased, surprised and impressed that a debut album has been released that is this well formed and thought out. It’s a true ‘record’ – meaning it ebbs and flows over its running order. It has hidden moments, it has immediate rushes; it is effortless yet honed to perfection. Yet this shouldn’t be a surprise because though this is their debut, these four people have been playing together for an awful long time. They have worked their craft. The sense of four people in a room coming together and creating something great is palpable. Each plays their part. On some tracks I would say the drums are almost the lead instrument. It’s a perfect balance of musicianship that adds additional layers of sensed excitement, as well as emotion to the overall experience.

So how did a Wakefield band manage this eh? Are The Spills simply a fantastic, on form band that have totally found their groove? Or are there greater forces at work, a convergence of time and space aligning across this record, beamed across the ether from some far and distant future? As The Spills clearly know, the most obvious answer is usually the correct one.

Dean Freeman

A Collection Of Calamity 3 (Compilation) Review

A Collection of Calamity 3
Various Artists
Rock and Roll Circus

This is a really cool compilation from Rock & Roll Circus, a rehearsal space in Armley, Leeds. Basically the staff there have picked some of their favourite tracks by the bands who rehearse with them. My initial thought was that it seems like a pretty cool place to work if you get to listen to this kind of thing, albeit through the walls, on a daily basis.

‘Men Only’ deliver some C86-esqe scuzzy Indie Pop with ‘Bored Bored Bored’ that is fun and brisk, which is a good thing, of course. ‘Buffalo Bones’ grind out some sleazy riffs, a lot more raw than their recent EP. ‘Black Water’ and ‘Die Hards Divide’ work a much more traditional hard rock groove. ‘Honour Before Glory’ are a definite standout with an organ led, doomy post rock workout, a cross between ‘Scotland’s Shame’ by Mogwai and ‘Videotape’ by Radiohead. Maybe.

There are some great tracks here that are quite out of the ordinary. ‘Post War Glamour Girls’ is at turns dark lounge pop and scuzzy, epic Nick Cave wailing. Really great. Moody Gowns have a much more playful take on weird with their infectious sandbox approach to accompaniment. Things get a little more disco later on, ‘Love Bites’ come on all Ladytron, with less ice and ‘Tsienna’ and ‘Bear Mask’ add their own, less electro based touches to exciting, driving tunes.

As with all comps, it is difficult to take in at once. But aside from the sheer variety here, the consistent quality of all the bands here shines through. I didn’t have to skip one. And I like the thoughtful approach to the track order too. A great little DIY release that is celebrating something great; a community of diverse but great musicians. Awesome.

Dean Freeman

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Protectors 'The Stem & Leaf' EP Review

The Stem & Leaf

Another first for Philophobia Music; a 12 inch Vinyl. Sweet. And Protectors too, one of Rhubarb Bomb’s fave bands. A perfect combo?

Protectors feature members from a range of classic Wakefield bands, but I don’t want to mention them. And hopefully this will be the last time I even mention that mere fact as ‘The Stem & Leaf’ sees them finally move out of those long, tremendous shadows and establish themselves fully as an awesome band to rank amongst their past successes.

The Protectors sound is so ingrained into my understanding of Wakefield’s DNA that I find it difficult to pick apart. That’s not to say they are in any way atypical; rather that they seem timeless and current at the same time. Equally difficult is that they make it all sound so damn easy.

Basically we have beautiful, weaving vocal melodies snaking their way around energised, direct, smart and heartwarming songwriting, delivered in a super sweet guitar pop package. I say ‘basically’… Protectors do a great thing of being incredibly pop and accessible but never, ever boring. You want to bounce around and go nuts, but closer inspection reveals a genuine life affirming heart at its core, working in perfect harmony with a clued up punk Brain. Like I said, timeless and of the moment, at the same time.

There, I’ve tried describing the experience. With more a specific look at what we have, 2 of the tracks here appeared on Protectors debut album ‘Cant Shake The Moves’. As much as I enjoyed that album, it felt rather like a means to release their first batch of tunes – get them out there for people to hear. This feels much more a thought-out, purpose built piece and the 2 tracks already released benefit greatly from their remixes. The new tracks work in the anthemic qualities that made Pylon (oops! I couldn’t resist) such a joy; the pounding thrill of ‘Overtime’, the uplifting drive of ‘The Carousel’ and the gentle melancholy of ‘Shake The Moves’ all combine to successfully convey the essence of what makes Protectors so great.

It’s a great package and I cant wait to get hold of one (Yes I have a promo, but I wanna actually, y’know, buy it too. I’m sure that’s hard to understand). Solid Gold Hit, as they maybe used to say.

Dean Freeman

Monday, 26 September 2011

Zine Culture: The Inner Swine Interview

Issue 2.2 of Rhubarb Bomb features an article about 'The Inner Swine', a Zine created by Jeff Somers based in New York City. Here is the full interview, minus my attempts to twist his words to fit my own blinkered view of the world. For more info on TIS go HERE

Where are you / is TIS based?

Hoboken, NJ, the unofficial sixth boro of New York City. Also, the New Jersey City with the most bars per city block, birthplace of Frank Sinatra who escaped as a kid and never came back not once, and home of the Cake Boss.

When did you start up TIS and has it run since relatively consistently since that date?

TIS was originally conceived by me and three other people in 1993. My friend Rob Gala and I were talking one night and I expressed impatience with the whole publishing thing, how long it takes. So we both sort of said, hey, let's start our own magazine! We got 2 friends and had a planning meeting, and then did a lot of wheel-spinning for 2 years. The other 2 guys dropped off, me and Rob tried to put it together as a duo but we were too different in outlook and politics and vision. Eventually Rob gave up. This was 1995 and I just took all the material I'd created, the cover our artist friend (Jeof Vita) had created in 1993, and put out issue one with no fanfare or production values.

At that point, I just wanted the first issue out. Little did I know that "no fanfare or production values" would become the general philosophy of the zine.

Tell me a little bit about yourself i.e. the neighbourhood you live in, do you have a full time job, do you have an ‘office’ where you ‘work’. Just a little bit of a picture.

Born and raised in northern New Jersey (Jersey City, where I was mugged several times as a kid). I live in Hoboken. Married, 4 cats instead of kids. Day job, sadly, but I work from home. I drink scotch, don't smoke, play guitar and post songs on my blog until someone pays me not to, and sometimes humiliate myself by playing chess.

Thinking WAY back… what inspired / motivated you to start up a Zine?

It's above - I'd never heard of zines at the time. We just suddenly thought, why spend all this effort trying to convince folks to publish us, why not just do it ourselves? It was only years later, when I started putting out the issues, that I realized there was this thing called zines, and I'd started one.

My whole life is like that. Ignorance, smug self-certainty, half-assed execution.

As a fanzine editor / writer I often experience the crushing ‘what is the point of this again?’ lows and the amazing ‘I can do whatever I like!’ highs. Is there a practical method of keeping yourself moving forwards? Or does it take a specific kind of person to do what we do?

Personally, we're talking about endless wells of self-centeredness. I don't actually care much if anyone else likes or enjoys the zine. It's for me, really. I enjoy doing it, and I entertain the hell out of myself while writing it. The fact that a few dozen/hundred/thousand people around the world enjoy it is just icing on the cake, really.

So, I've never had much trouble with motivation. The zine itself has gone from almost total obscurity to having a pretty wide distribution (back in its heyday when both Tower Magazines and Desert Moon Periodicals carried TIS) to its kind of semi-obscurity today, where a lot of people know of the zine but the actual paper readership is modest.

I think if I ever hit a point where absolutely *no one* is reading the zine, I might fold the tent up. But as long as I have some folks interested, I'll likely continue. Maybe as a digital-only kind of thing.

Your tenure at TIS has seen the arrival and dominance of the internet. How easy was it to accept the changes and what importance do you give to the physical format and why is it still relevant?

I never thought too hard about the changes. The Internet was always exciting and interesting to me, and I was super eager to get a web page up, and I remain excited to post old issues on the web page and allow anyone, from anywhere, to read the zine in some form.

The paper format is still the best. This might change. I like e-readers and I like the idea of eBooks, as long as they are DRM free and once they get into a standard format (in other words, fuck proprietary file formats). For the moment, paper still rules. It's the only way to guarantee 100% accessibility (b/c not everyone has an e-reader but everyone has eyes, natch) and the only way to guarantee that the zine you bought at Quimbys in 1998 is still usable, because your paper copy will never run out of battery life or crash and wipe your hard drive or any shit like that.

It could, of course, fall in the tub or catch on fire. This I stipulate.

Some folks wax on poetically about the hand-crafting of a zine, but I don't. Making a zine was always and remains a fucking chore. If I could hire some neighborhood kids to collate, fold, staple, and stuff these motherfuckers for pennies, I would. I would lock them in a room with unsafe working conditions and put on a sash that says EVIL CAPITALIST OPPRESSOR and laugh and laugh as they begged me for food and water.

"Keeping folding!" I'd shout. "If you get 500 done by midnight you each get to look at a glass of cool water."

And the children would cheer.

I’ve noticed a lot of (music) fanzines nowadays really taking hold of the ‘DIY’ tag and bending it to their corporate means i.e. Fake DIY. They are magazines disguising themselves as Fanzines. Although your perspective is a little different, is the line, morally, for you? (example; receiving advertising monies to cover certain issues)

That's been going on forever; advertising/marketing folks are always sniffing out trends and co-opting them. Back in the mid-1990's there was a moment when zines were "cool" and you saw a bit of marketing using the zine/DIY aesthetic.

I shrug at that stuff. I never messed with advertising precisely because I didn't want to have to worry over anything like that. For me, the zine was always meant to be a fun way to get writing out into the world. But then this is why I will die poor and miserable, because I've been losing money on the zine since day one. It never paid for itself. And who cares?

As for a moral line, eh, I don't worry about shit like that. Fake stuff gets found out and left behind. I let the universe sort stuff like that out. More and more these days I think people feel that as long as they are entertained, they don't care about issues like whether you're getting paid to write something with a certain slant. Used to be people got up in arms when artists "sold out" etc, but today advertising is seen as a vector to promote yourself. The culture has changed.

Where does Fanzine writing sit in relation to ‘Art’ and ‘Journalism’?

That's a trick question. "Art" is totally subjective. You can call a zine art, and who can argue? "Journalism" has guidelines and techniques. You can be trained as a journalist. Most zine writers are not trained as journalists, but that doesn't mean their writing can't approach the standards of journalism - and sometimes do.

But, of course, I've used this trick my whole life: My zine is a personal project meant for fun, so if I get anything wrong, if I am woefully misinformed or just plain stupid on a subject, I just laugh and say "Zine!" and I am excused. This allows me to say the most fantastic things and get away with it.

If you want your zine or DIY project to be taken seriously as journalism, you have to be up front about it and adhere to some basic principles. You have to own your ignorance and mistakes. If a zine does that, sure, it can be journalism.

What weight do you give to the aesthetic of a fanzine, as opposed to the content?

None, as a rule. Have you *seen* my zine? It's hideous. And when I come across zines in the wild, the ones I like are the ones filled with text.

That's personal, though. I am a word guy, not an image guy. I have seen some gloriously beautiful zines, visually speaking, in my time. It's just I value words over images and design. Part of this is my inability to create something visually beautiful. Since I can't do it, I don't value it.

Do you feel that The Inner Swine is tied geographically to where you live? By that I mean, if you lived elsewhere, would it be radically different; could it only come from the mind of someone who lies in Hoboken?

No, but of course it *is* a product of a man who has lived his whole life in this area, so of course there are cultural things in there. They're largely invisible to me, of course.

Where else has the fact you produce TIS taken you in life?

Anywhere you would otherwise have never got to? Nope, but that's a product of me being generally antisocial. I always rejected the idea of "community". When I started putting out TIS and I connected with other DIY publishers, there was some sentiment that I had joined a "community" and had resultant privileges and duties, which I always ignored. As a result I don't go to any gatherings or get involved with any zine-related things. I am a rock. I am an island.

I do get quite a lot of letters from prisoners as a result of giving TIS away free to prisoners. This has been universally entertaining, I have to admit. And I wouldn't have done it otherwise.

What has been your proudest achievement since TIS began?

You mean zine-related? Probably a tie between keeping it going for 15+ years and putting out the collection, "The Freaks are Winning". Getting that collection out (with the help of the awesome clint johns at Tower Magazines) was pretty cool!

Dean Freeman