Monthly Archives: April 2011

Explosions In The Sky

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In the ten years since they formed Explosions in The Sky have continued to bring us emotive instrumental rock music slowly building layers upon layers of guitars to a skull-crushing finale in a way only nearest and dearest contemporaries Mogwai can do and a steady array of unlikely achievements for an instrumental rock-band; touring with The Flaming Lips, headlined a sold-out Central Park concert, performed on the legendary Austin City Limits television program, and curated their own ATP Festival; not bad for a band often seen as a poor relation to Mogwai. Explosions In The Sky is more than that.

Famously not seeing themselves as a post-rock band EITS continue with the quiet / loud dynamics in an evocative way, allowing the listener to drift along noticing the beautiful surroundings of the music itself. Drummer Chris Hrasky drives the album along at the pace of a man knowing he is in control of where he going; with guitars taking a passenger seat allowing them to be guided and lifted.  Only in the first half of ’Human Qualities’ do the guitars take a lead. In ‘Trembling Hands’ Hrasky pushes his already upfront drums with some Keith Moon style drumming, with the guitars weaving in and out in some sort of blissedoutness. There is something of a 1980′s Postcard Records or even Big Country feel to some of the tracks especially in ‘Postcard from 1952′ hmmm maybe a hint in the title!!

‘Take Care Take Care Take Care’ is a great album but nothing new. When you think of how Grails have taken the same starting block and have transformed their style of ‘post-rock’ into something that transcends musical boundaries, Explosions In The Sky appear to have been lost in the way. That said this album is emotive, organic and inspired and has some beautiful elements.

Matt Hopkins

7/10

Oneida Complete Thank Your Parents Triptych With Absolute II.

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The O is back, and this time it’s Absolute.
Absolute II is the final piece in Oneida’s Thank Your Parents triptych of releases, begun in 2008 with Preteen Weaponry and followed by 2009’s acclaimed triple disc Rated O. With this release, the Brooklyn group concludes a challenging and profound long-term project. The Thank Your Parents triptych, totaling around 200 minutes, is intended to be listened to as a whole or in its component parts. Absolute II stands on its own, in addition to serving as a chapter in an immense whole.

The music on Absolute II is startling, rigorous and demanding. Oneida is a band that has been strongly identified with the frenetic, fluid drumming of Kid Millions and the relentless pulse of classic Krautrock, but this release contains neither audible drums nor identifiable “rock” music. The recordings move freely across accepted boundaries of rhythm, harmony, and tonality – not in the form of dramatic, willful experiment, but as a musical distillation of several themes that have emerged in the wake of Rated O’s dynamism: paralysis, entropy, stasis, possibility, and finality among them.

Absolute II will be out June 6.

Yawning Man + Hotel Wrecking City Traders

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A collaborative album featuring two mammoth tracks, one per side: ‘Coventina’s Cascade’‘Traverse of the Oxen’. Deluxe packaging, heavyweight colored vinyl, the whole nine yards……coming May 2011.

Continents collide! Oz’s Hotel Wrecking City Traders and Gary Arce of Californian desert legends Yawning Man reach across the Pacific to combine noise rock crunch with psych guitar bliss.”The Obelisk

Review coming soon.

Check http://www.brofidelity.com/

Important Records – 10 Years on…

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As Important Records reaches its tenth year; Behind The Wall Of Sleep talk to John Brien about his experiences of running one of the most eclectic record labels out there.

Important was started in 2001 in a small house on the beach along the New Hampshire seacoast. The first two releases, from Daniel Johnston and Merzbow no less, stated the breadth of intentions and set out to run a label that would function much like a good record shop with a wide range of interesting records under one roof. After ten years and 300 records Important Records are only getting better.

1) It’s been ten years of Important Records can you tell us how this all started?

I was working at a record shop in Portsmouth, NH with a great customer base and incredible co-workers. It was an environment of sharing and caring and it couldn’t have been better. We were part of a 10 store regional chain and the manager had really insulated us from the demands of the head office which, ultimately, got him fired. I quit the day he was fired because there was no way I was going to work for the office. I had a teaching degree which I wasn’t using and I started Important as I was trying to line up a teaching job. Initially, it was a label and a web-store. I was so busy that the teaching job fell by the wayside and I kept going with Important.

2) What have been you highlights of doing Important Records? And your fave release… if you can pick one? One of mine is Cave’s debut…

Personal highlights have been getting to know artists I really admire and developing layout and design skills. I’ve had to learn a lot of things I didn’t go to school for in order to run this label and this process has been a tremendous source of growth for me.

The highest points have been working wtih new artists and seeing them not only succeed under Important but then continue on to even greater successes.

3) Any low points?

Plenty. I think the weirdest might have been when Nate from Wolf Eyes threatened me physically (via email) over a packaging dispute. I’d used some 10″ inserts for a 12″ LP  and they hated it. They’d recently used almost the same packaging for an Ecstatic Peace! LP so I thought it would be okay. I reprinted the jackets immediately and lost money on the project but still got harrassing emails from them about trying to “capitalize on Wolf Eyes.” The false perception of my intentions and the threats were upsetting enough but  the worst is when artists you admire are upset with your work. Obviously, there have been many tremendous successes and this sort of thing is rare but when it happens it’s pretty rough. Working from home is hard because when you’re upset everyone knows it.

4) Important Records is renowned for having an extremely diverse catalogue – was this something you sent out to do from the start? Or has it changed from your initial vision?

I wanted to run a label that functioned like a great record shop.

5) Artwork and presentation seems to be an important esthetic of many Important releases. How do you work with this?

It’s changed over the years. Originally, I was fixated with the idea of developing a cardboard LP style CD jacket that had strength and quality but over the years my interest has focused more on the quality of the design than the quality of the packaging. I think a great record looks/sounds/feels great if it’s designed well even if it’s packaged in a jewel box or a digi. These days I’m less concerned with packaging and more concerned with quality.

6) Many bands seem to release records on Important and also have a home with other labels – i.e. Grails. How does this work for you?

I’m happy to have a non-exclusive relationship with artists, most of the time. I must admit, however, that losing Cave to Drag City broke my heart.

7) Has having a label become more difficult with more and more people downloading music legally? You now give free download tokens with any vinyl release – has this helped?

Important is structured so that I don’t have to sell a lot of copies to break even. The label started in 2001 when downloading was really picking up steam so I’m not sure I’ve ever really been conscious of the impact of illegal downloads. Important has never sold a lot of any one specific title so I don’t really have any comparative experience.

8) You seem to release a number of records each month – you can’t have another job too?

It’s been my only job for ten years. I’ve never rented space and instead ran it from home with a barn for a warehouse. To be honest, after ten years of doing this all day I’m feeling a bit burnt out. The label is better than ever, I love what I’m releasing more than ever too but I’m really burnt out from all the time I spend in front of a computer. I recently broke ground on a little greenhouse and I felt more satisfied after a day of digging than I have felt after a day of sitting in front of a computer. I started a cassette label recently and the packaging is quite elaborate. It requires screen printing, cutting, scoring, letterpress printing, dubbing and assembly. I do all of these things here and it gets me away from my desk to other parts of my office and it’s helped eliminate some of the monotony of sitting at this desk all day.

Important couldn’t possibly be more engrained in my life. We live within it for better or for worse.

9) Do you hope to continue at this prolific rate?

For the time being I need to continue and there are constantly more and more incredible records landing on my desk but I’m not sure how long I can be this prolific for. That said, I have no idea what other job could bring me so much satisfaction and pride. For the time being, there are a lot of records planned and I’m moving forward while trying to balance desk work with other more stimulating work.

10) What sells best CD’s / vinyl / tees?

We sell about the same amount of CDs as we sell vinyl.

11) Future plans?

There’s a new website coming, IMPREC300 which is an LP only pressing of live tracks from Mugstar, Grails, Master Musicians Of Bukkake, Bass Communion, NHK yx, Bardo Pond and a couple of others.  New records are coming soon from Christina Kubisch, Larsen, Asva, Master Musicians Of Bukkake, Eleh,  Eliane Radigue, Ellen Fullman, Barn Owl.

To celebrate 10 years Important Records present IMPREC300, a vinyl only collection of exclusive live tracks from a handful of Important bands including Master Musicians Of Bukkake, Grails, Mugstar, Cave, NHK yx, Bardo Pond, Grails, Master Musicians Of Bukkake, Chord & Bass Communion.

Cave “Encino Mang”
Mugstar “Ouroboros”
NHK yx “15 hell think i bamboo 5″
Bardo Pond “Absence”
Grails “Back To The Monastary”
Master Musicians Of Bukkake “Iron Age Nativity/Black Moss Invocation”
Chord “C9sus4 NYC”
Bass Communion & Pig “Lost Session Edit”

 

Roadburn 2011

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AWESOME!! Reviews next week…

Calrton Melton / Mugstar

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Monday 18th April sees psych-rock goodness from both yes BOTH Carlton Melton and Mugstar playing two FREE shows together in London – Rough Trade In-Store Show followed by a Free show at The Victory (281 Kingsland Road, London). We can’t wait…

Young Widows

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Young Widows – ‘In And Out Of Youth And Lightness’ out April 12, 2011
Five years and three albums in, In and Out of Youth and Lightness finds the band digging much deeper and further back for inspiration. With their sprawling post-punk blasts shining cracks of lights through pitch black neo-noir fever dreams, Young Widows have clearly become a more sinister and thought-provoking beast.

GNOD

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GNOD – “INGNODWETRUST” Rocket Recordings

Listen up brothers and sisters Manchester’s rhythm and drone psych collective are at it again with another frontal assault, this time in the form of two long tracks.  ”INGNODWETRUST” is an hypnotic, droning masterpiece cruising across the earth like a wave of black death; sinister yet simple and joyous; the soundtrack to the last rave before we all die. First up is ‘Tony’s First Communion’ a song I have witnessed live in a forest deep in the English countryside, I can tell you it seeps into your brain cleansing what has come before, kinda like a fucked up Faust, if there can be such a thing. Simple rhythms from the bass and drums give a dystopian warning, like a soviet factory worker hammering away relentlessly. At 20 minutes long this journey ends to quickly.

‘Vatican’ pulses with energy, a rite of passage and is the sound of a shamanistic ritual. At seven minutes in ‘Vatican’ turns the world inside out bringing forth Bruegel’s ’triumph of death’. GNOD Almighty.

Wolf People

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2010 brought us “Steeple” one of the best albums of the year, bringing together a heady brew of classic English Rock with influences of British folk – Wishbone Ash, Jethro Tull, Cream, Fairport Convention with bit of Neil Young thrown in for an American take. Behind the Wall of Sleep spoke with Jack Sharp who says this was “more by nature than design”. 

For the past five years Wolf People have been making some beautiful music:

 

 

 

 

 

“Me and Tom (drummer) had been making music with samples for years and had gotten into finding weird records to steal bits from, I think we both simultaneously started to want to make records with real instruments again but using the influences we’d picked up listening to a broader range of music; psych, folk, jazz, kraut, funk, surf etc. I made some recordings which got a bit of interest on the internet so we set up a band to play them. That was about 5 years ago.
Interest grew slowly from there and we were having fun so we kept it going. I was mindful that I didn’t want it to stay as a bedroom project with a band attached, and we all wanted a band in a more traditional sense, with a bunch of like minded people all having an input.”

‘Steeple’!

“Influence wise, I think record collecting and sampling opened up a lot of music to us that we wouldn’t otherwise have heard, and meeting people with amazing records who were willing to share their knowledge and love of them (Rich Hero, Cherrystones, Doug Shipton, Andy Votel, the Verygoodplus community). ‘Vertigo Mixed’ had a big impact on me and Tom when we first heard it, we’d been listening to heavier stuff and that just made it click into place. Also hearing Dungen for the first time, when they were very much on the same wavelength. Those things just confirmed we were on the right track.

It sounds clichéd but we listen to all sorts of stuff. Then we try not to think too much about it when we’re writing. Influences inevitably pour in though.

We’ve always kept expectation and planning to a minimum so as long as we’re all still enjoying ourselves, we’re really happy with how it’s going. We’re all fairly similar people but live quite separate lives, so to try to force the band in any type of direction is pointless. We’ve been following our noses so far and it’s worked out pretty well.

We’ve been amazed how well it’s been received actually. We were really happy with it but we were bracing ourselves for the worst when it came out as were weren’t sure how it would come across. It’s done really well in Germany apparently, and we were shocked at the amount of people who came to see us in Holland and Belgium in January. It’s done pretty well over here too I think, better than we expected.”

For recording?

“We used a mixture of old and new for Steeple. We had to make a lot of compromises as a lot of the equipment we’d borrowed broke down the day of the first session. We’re not purist about vintage analogue gear because that just makes it more difficult than it needs to be, but we do like certain sounds that you can only get with specific stuff.

We tracked everything to pro tools, but then most of the guitars were processed onto 1/4” tape, and some of the bits went through an old German echo unit (sometimes for echo, sometimes just for the pre-amp). Most of our instruments are old too. I used an early 80’s H/H mixer for some of the fuzz sounds, it sounded incredible somehow because of the specific way that it was broken.”

How did the deal with Jagjaguwar come about?

“Sea Records and Battered Ornaments put out the early records and basically developed us over a number of years, getting us gigs and press and radio play and offering encouragement, without which we wouldn’t have done anything more than a few scrappy recordings.

Chris Swanson from Jagjaguwar had heard the singles and really liked them, and he happened to contact us when we were starting to work up an album. We’ve always gone on instinct and worked with people who we really like and get on well with. Chris is just such a lovely bloke and we loved the label, so it wasn’t really a hard decision.”

How do you write?

“It’s usually a demo or small idea from me that gets stretched and added to by the band. We work out arrangements together and try things out live. Joe is the go-to man for riffs and hooks, so sometimes I’ll develop a song out of lines that Joe has written.”

Any current bands you feel a great comradery with?

“The Liftmen toured with us and we love them to bits; an amazing and under-rated band and the loveliest people in the world.

There aren’t a lot of bands in the UK doing similar stuff to us, and there’s not really a scene as such, so it’s a hard one. We’re friendly with Diagonal and Soundcarriers, but that’s mainly just because we think they’re great bands.

We got on really well with people we’ve toured with, Black Mountain were great. And the Besnard Lakes, I think we genuinely have a crush on them.

We love Dungen and have supported them and met them a few times but that goes into the realms of fandom, which deviates from the question a bit!

You are about to tour Europe – what are your touring plans after that? Any American dates?

Not this time around sadly. We’re quite eager to start work on a new record so I think we will go quiet for a little while after the summer. We’re really looking forward to playing in Europe more after a little taste at the beginning of this year.”

What’s next?

“We’re really anxious to start work on a new record and see how that fares. Beyond that we don’t have any further plans really. We might put out another single before the next LP as we have got some material left over from Steeple.”

 

Mugstar

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For MUGSTAR, lovers of Paris, Oneida and DW drum kits, “there isn’t enough time in the world”. In 2010 they put out two full length albums “…Sun, Broken…” and “Lime”  they aren’t waiting about…Jeanette Timmons recently spoke with three members of  the band.


1.What role do jams play on the development of your songs?

Steve: They play a big role, usually the beginnings of tracks emerge from jamming at rehearsal, or even if one of the band brings in a rough idea or riff idea, it’s then thrashed about at length – mutating and growing towards something substantial… hopefully. Often thrashing about for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, riding the moment, reacting to what each other throws up. Then over a matter of weeks or months, tracks are replayed and reshaped.

2.How do you derive your compositions? Collaborative brainstorming / performative experimenting or compositions brought roughly hewn to the table for joint working? Do you all pitch in on composing?

Pete: I would say all of the above, there is no right or wrong way of writing. Whatever sounds good and sticks with us. You put stuff together and stuff happens.

3.How do you see your work in relation to Krautrock? Are you developing that tradition in new directions or merely reflecting in your work the importance /influence of Krautrock to your own musical path?

Neil: I think we all have a great fondness for many late 60s/70s German bands, but one of the strengths of that era was the diversity of the music produced. Many of the bands evolved their styles in isolation from each other, so it’s hard to think of it as some sort of stylistically coherent scene; the Krautrock tag was just a label of convenience from the British music press. I’m impressed by the way a lot of those bands built on the example of the more progressive American and British bands and brought in a lot of fresh influences and technological innovation to create something individual. Hopefully we bring something of that attitude to building on the bands who have influenced us.

4.Will you tour America?

Steve: Yeah, we’d love to. We seem to get really positive feedback – particularly from San Francisco area, be amazing to play over there.

5.What was it like to do a John Peel session?

Steve: Just brilliant in every way. Great to know John liked and supported us, a genuine privilege to be asked to do a session, a fantastic day recording at Maida Vale Studios…

After playing the session on air John commented that he was looking forward to following Mugstar’s progress over the coming years, sadly a few months later he was gone. Like many others we still miss him of course, he was a unique and towering presence in all our lives.

6.Are you working on the next album? What should we expect from it?

Pete: We’re working on some new tracks which I think we are going to release as split 12′s with some bands, like Kinski.

Maybe an album will come out of it.

7.If each of you could be one other musician in the world (alive or dead) rather than yourselves, whom would you each choose?

Neil: J. S. Bach

Steve: Say from a drummer’s perspective, from the past? – maybe Mitch Mitchell, being part of that whole Hendrix Experience explosion – pretty good. Or, of course John Bonham, working with Jimmy Page as the majestic Kashmir starts to emerge – just guitar and drums, JPJ then adds his fabulous textures, plus a searing Plant vocal, does it get much better? As for right now, well I love Murph’s playing and wouldn’t want to wish him any ill, but if the drumstool in the currently re-invigorated Dinosaur Jr was available…

8.What does it mean for Mugstar to be a band from Liverpool – do the geography, local culture and current music scene as well as the musical heritage associated with the city in any way inform / shape Mugstar particularly? And if so, how?

Neil: I’ve lived my entire life in Liverpool so undoubtedly the culture has imposed itself on me at some level. I don’t consciously set out to be part of the lineage of Liverpool music though. I think all of us have wide-ranging musical tastes, and Liverpool bands would probably be far less significant than, say, New York bands. In terms of the current scene, there’s a lot going on in Liverpool, a lot of bands trying new things, which can only be a positive. Also, the number of venues is helpful. It’s always easy to get gigs in Liverpool and the audience is willing to listen and support bands.

9.What challenges does the band hope to overcome in the next few years (musically or practically)?

Steve: Something we seem to be saying more and more frequently, we need to be doing Mugstar full-time.

10.If each of you could have one superpower what would you each choose?

Pete: To freeze time, because there’s not enough time in the world. You would be able to do loads of stuff, like write lots of music and go on long holidays. Save children from burning buildings and rob banks.

11.What significance does the work of minimalist composers like Philip Glass – or the Brian Eno variant thereof – have for the musical directions of Mugstar?

Neil: I recently met Rhys Chatham during his stay in Liverpool and it was fascinating to discuss minimalism with someone who is so well connected with that movement. Personally, I’m very interested in minimalism but I’d say the music we make in Mugstar only has a passing resemblance, mostly due to our love of repetition, rather than any use of systems. And repetitive music doesn’t begin with In C. Perotin was writing repetitive organa in the 12th century. I did use some electronic drones in the soundtrack though which explore tuning systems, so that’s probably the most explicit reference to minimalism in anything we’ve done. As for Eno, I’m more interested in his warped version of pop (like Before and After Science and Taking Tiger Mountain…) than his experiments in systems music.

12.Please explain the genesis and motivation behind the Hawkwind tribute project. I understand it was a long time in the making…

Steve: We’d been kicking a few Hawkwind riffs around at practices and soundchecks for a while and thought about recording something. Originally the idea was for simply a split 7″ with someone like Oneida, they were having difficulty in trying to fit the recording into their schedule, so we put feelers out to a few more bands that we really liked and thought would be suitable – and got an amazing response. So the thought was then to go for a 12″ vinyl album, but – pleasantly surprised, – we eventually ended up with over an hours worth of material – so shifted it to CD format. Yes, it took a long time to pull everything together, to allow all the bands to record and get their tracks to us, to organise the Mudhoney track from the BBC, the licensing, mastering, artwork, pressing, distro… But, well it worked out rather wonderfully in the end – well worth the wait to get something right!

13.Have there been line-up changes over the years?

Pete: I would say that Steve was the person who started it all, with the idea of doing something different musically, this current line up has been going since 2002. I think Neil joined, then I joined and Jason in 2002. It’s just developed from there. There has been changes not just to line-up, but with the music. I think you become more experienced with gigging and recording, but I think it never gets any easier. There’s a constant evolving with the music.

14.What was your best gig to date?

Neil: Uh, there have been so many I’d struggle to single out one. It can be weird that sometimes everything is against you, small crowd, bad stage, bad sound but we still play well and manage to have some satisfaction, often more so than some of the bigger and better received gigs. I guess I always like to think the best gig will be the next one. Because I like platitudinous clichés.

15.What’s your biggest fear for the band?

Steve: That we don’t get to realise our potential…

16.What’s your greatest hope for the band?

Pete: For me just to write good music and play it live.

17.Do you make the music primarily for yourselves or for a presumed audience?

Neil: When we’re in the practice room generating new material I think we just try to make the music fit together in a way that satisfies us. Once we’re performing it the situation is very different. The audience completely changes the dynamic and can push you to levels of intensity you didn’t know you were capable of. The challenge when recording is to try to recapture some of that intensity but in a form that bears repeated listening.

18.Tell us about your upcoming soundtrack and film.

Steve: We’d talked on and off about doing a film for quite a while really, with varying degrees of seriousness. Neil was really into it and had written a script “Ad Marginem”, before meeting with film-maker Liam Yates, Liam was keen to do it and the two of them spent much of last year putting it together. The band worked to the images being produced, reworking sections to various scenes and edits until the final version was in place. We premiered it by playing the soundtrack live to the screen images at the Blue Coat in Liverpool and recently have recorded the soundtrack to be released on DVD and audio only (vinyl or CD) versions hopefully.

It’s been really good in that it made us write a set of music that’s quite different to much of what has gone before.

19.Do you have any more European tours coming up in the near future?

Steve: It’s being looked into right now. We’ve just signed to the Elastic Artists roster – they’re working on it for us, we definitely aim to get over there this year.

20.Who would be your dream-opening act if Mugstar were headlining Wembley?

Neil: I’ve always loved playing with Oneida. They generate so much energy when they play, and how they can sustain it when they do their long duration performances (10 hours at ATP) I have no idea. But going on after them would really push us.

21.What is your most treasured piece of kit from your current actual instruments?

Neil: My ’64 Burns.

Steve: My custom DW kit – sounds and feels so good. Just about every sound engineer I work with seems to love it too.

22.Are you all friends outside the band?

Steve: Yes. Well we’ve managed to put up with each other for a fair few years now, – we get along pretty well.

23.Have you ever considered wearing costumes on stage and if so, what?

Pete: A giant pineapple.

24.If you were to organise another tribute album which band would it be for?

Steve: We have thought about possibly doing it again, a few names have been thrown about – Neu!, Sabbath, Can, Fairport… don’t know…

25.Yes or The Sex Pistols?

Neil: I know I’m taking this waaay too seriously, but dichotomies aren’t always helpful. As Derrida said, “unless a distinction can be made rigorous and precise it isn’t really a distinction.” I love punk and it made a huge impact on my attitude to music but the theorising was riddled with bullshit. All the year zero/never trust a hippie stuff was insane. Prog and punk were pitched as polar opposites, but where does that leave a band like This Heat, who distinctly had one foot in each camp?

Yes did some great music but were guilty, like many of their contemporaries of getting pretty carried away into bombast. The Pistols started as a great band too but once they lost Lydon they were just as directionless, self indulgent and overblown as the worst excesses of pro.

26.Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin?

Neil: I love the Sabs, me. Zep were good too.

Steve: I love Zep, me. The Sabs were good too.

27.Hawkwind or Motörhead?

Steve: Of course we love both, but if you want a decision… Hawkwind circa ’72 with the Lemmy, Simon King, Dave Brock turbo engine. Not cheatin’ is it!?

Neil: I only saw Motorhead once and the bass was inaudible in the mix. That made me sad.

28.Ice cream or Sticky Toffee Pudding?

Neil: I went to Cartmel once, that claims to be the home of sticky toffee pudding. And I was born in Cartmel Road. Sticky toffee pudding is best enjoyed with a scoop of ice cream.

Steve: Sticky Toffee Pudding… with cream.

29.Latitude or Green Man?

Steve: Both great festivals on amazing sites, we played the very first Latitude – had a brilliant time. Generally though, I think the Green Man line-ups are probably more interesting now.

Neil: From my experiences of playing these festivals, I can definitely say that Latitude wins hands down as far as weather goes. Although I didn’t get sunburn at Green Man, that was never going to be a problem there.

30.Paris or London?

Neil: London has the National Gallery and Paris has the Louvre, so both cities have a lot to recommend them.

Steve: Paris.