Sunday, 22 December 2013

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #39: Christmas Special

This week: Christmas is here. As well as plenty of festive treats including the RW/FF Advent Calendar, there are some non-seasonal matters to address, such as an exclusive interview with Mansun legend Paul Draper, a brand new EP from The Fall, and new music from Mark Morriss, The Flaming Lips and the sadly departed The Child Of Lov. As well as all that, there's the 13th edition of The RW/FF Compilation, featuring the finest musical selections of recent weeks. 

 I will get all the non-Christmas stuff out of the way first... What a week it's been. After becoming caught up in a Twitter feud with a former X Factor "winner", I was branded a "tinpot DJ in Melksham, with a beard, who likes Oasis". Hilarious. The "tinpot DJ" bit refers to the fact that as well as being a writer, I have started doing radio shows on my town's local station for the benefit of my friends who live here, and for others if they wish to tune in. My radio career has only really started this year, and you have to start somewhere! You don't begin as a broadcaster and get moved straight to Radio 2! And like I said to the aforementioned talentless karaoke wanker: "i'd rather be a DJ on the local station than being reduced to singing cabaret at the fucking Kings Arms! Embarassing!". More about soon...


What else have I been upto the last few weeks? As well as preparing for Christmas, I interviewed the former Mansun legend Paul Draper. In the interview Draper talked about Mansun's masterpiece 'Six', the events that led to the band's break-up ("I personally would have traded any of that in to just be mates to be perfectly honest, that's all I wanted really, to just be mates in a band"), the possibility of his unreleased solo album seeing the light of day, and of course his new project that marks his return to the music world. The Anchoress is a highly anticipated collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Catherine A.D. which has since become a full band, with an album to be released in 2014. "We both love the collection of songs she's put together and are really excited about people hearing them!" said Paul, "I've always loved her style of songwriting, she's one of my favourite songwriters as I say, it's been amazing writing some of the songs with her." Read the full interview HERE.

Here is the 13th edition of The RW/FF Compilation, which you can listen to via the Mixcloud player below. It showcases the music that has featured in the column over the last few weeks or so. 
I don't have regular dates set for each of these mixtape-type things, instead I just wait until I have an 80 minute CD's worth of great new music to make up each compilation. Contrary to what some ignorant people think, there is plenty of excellent new music out there, as is proved by every one of these brilliant mixes. It works as a talk-less radio show playing non-stop music, and it also works as a far superior alternative to those dreadful 'Now!' CDs. The idea is to buy all of these tracks and burn onto a blank disc, hence why each compilation will be roughly the length of a CD. Alternatively, just sit back and enjoy the best new music of recent times… 

Featuring: The Fall, Mogwai, New War, Sukh, Tess Parks, Drowners, Vladimir, Spies, Gentleman's Dub Club, King Prawn, Avante Juventude, Junip, McDermott's 2 Hours, Black Hearted Brother, Zoo Zero, Temples, and Metamono.



As well as putting together my Top 50 Albums Of The Year list for the RW/FF site, I was tasked with compiling God Is In The TV's writer's list too. A large number of our writers submitted their own personal album lists, and my job was to write down every record mentioned. Next to each title, I recorded the amount of points the records had scored, depending on where they featured in writer's lists, with number one albums winning 50 points, number two 49 points, and so on. After adding up all the overall scores, this aggregate list was created, and an interesting read it is too. Our editor Bill Cummings said: "Democracy always throws up compromise and  the accentuate popular, so just as you reach for that angry diatribe knife to wield against one of this year’s entrants consider this. This poll is such a subjective snapshot of our varied and eclectic taste that wasn’t put together by one writer or editor but a collection of them thus it will always be a subjective compromise rather than a definitive list." Numbers 100 to 50 are listed HERE
and 50-25 HERE. The Top 25 and other 'Best Of 2013' posts can be found HERE.


The Fall's 30th studio album 'Re-Mit' provided 2013 with one of its highlights and proved to be one of Mark E Smith's best works of the last decade. So with the 31st long player already scheduled for release next year, 'The Remainderer' is a six track EP that acts as a gap bridger. I didn't really expect anything more than a few rejects and inferior outtakes from the last LP, but 'The Remainderer' defies those expectations in typical Fall style, offering up material easily as strong as anything they've done in years. But what you can and should expect is something unique and completely bonkers. The fierce lead track that lends the EP its title is classic Fall, as nagging guitars dig into the mighty shuffle and whack of not one, but two drumkits. The superior CD version features what sounds like a gang of Mark E Smiths raving and ranting over each other about becoming a tree, and his views on old groups reforming. Clearly never one for nostalgia, as an artist always focused on the future MES recognises the paradox of such situations: "Never forget, remembrance is worth nothing!" While all Fall lyrics are brilliantly ambiguous, this one seems to suggest that in touring old hits to pay the bills, reformed bands are forgetting the spirit that made them great the first time around.

Smith's growled intro to the brooding 'Remembrance R' is particularly interesting when he delivers the word "can't" in a way that sounds like Chewbacca taking a shit, again "extraordinary" is an understatement. At 2:46 we get his elongated "remembrance RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR" as the vibe slowly unfolds into utter insanity, and the sounds of stuff being thrown about. ONLY Mark E Smith can pull this off. Whether these tracks were recorded after 'Re-Mit', or just not suited to the rest of the album, they provide another fine addition to a fascinating and rich back catalogue. Read my full review HERE.


Mark Morriss, former front man with Britrock heroes The Bluetones, has just revealed a video for his new his new solo single 'This Is The Lie (And That's The Truth)'The track is taken from his forthcoming and rather brilliant album 'A Flash of Darkness' due out through Acid Jazz on Feb 24th. It's his second LP as a solo artist and his first since The Bluetones went their separate ways a few years ago. Mark sums up the track is his own succinct style; "What is the purpose of this song..? Perhaps it is to make loneliness feel like Christmas."


I know this has been out for quite a while now, but the lead track from it has really grown on me lately. Quite possibly the best thing Wayne Coyne and co have released in years. The joyous title track, 'Peace Sword (Open Your Heart)' was written for the film 'Ender's Game', a sci-fi flick adapted from the 1985 novel by Orson Scott Card. The other tracks on the EP were inspired by the film but not accepted by the producers... Despite being officially classed as an EP and only being about half an hour long, this release almost qualifies as the second Flaming Lips LP to be released in 2013.


I was very sad to hear about the very premature death of singer songwriter The Child Of Lov. This artist first came to my attention when he collaborated with Damon Albarn on the track 'One Day', a song which appeared on his self titled debut album from earlier this year. Sounding like a cross between Outkast, Curtis Mayfield and Prince, it's fair to say that The Child Of Lov had a unique sound. Here's an excellent tune entitled 'Heal', a song that was released as his debut single in 2012. The 26-year-old artist was born Martijn William Zimri Teerlinck, and passed away on December 10 following complications after surgery. He was the recipient of the 'Philip Hall Radar Award' at the 2013 NME Awards.


So if you've ventured out to the shops recently, you will have probably heard lots of Christmas music, in fact you will have probably been hearing it since late September. I have been celebrating the Christmas song with the ADVENT CALENDAR feature on the RW/FF site, which will be running up until Xmas with a fine festive track each day. Although I've tried to steer clear of the usual stuff that you're probably all sick of by now, there are some more familiar ones that were too good not to feature... All the Advent Calendar posts can be found HEREThe RW/FF Advent Calendar is proud to support The Trussell Trust, helping feed those in need this Christmas. Also, for every 'retweet' @rwffmusic gets on Twitter this month, 2p will go to the cause. You can also give food to your local foodbank (find yours HERE) and donate money to the cause HERE.


When I was a kid, I was crazy about all the big Xmas hits, even more so when I was playing them at the Christmas discos that took place at the club my Dad used to manage (I was a very young DJ in the mid 90's). Even though my Dad would have disagreed with me, Xmas songs by Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra were the sort of thing I found very "boring" back then. But as the 90's went on, all things indie had took hold of me, and the likes of 'Last Christmas' no longer did the business for me. Then in 2000, a compilation released by XFM took my fancy. Entitled 'It's A Cool, Cool Christmas', it featured some of the indie scene's brightest stars playing original Yuletide compositions, as well as a few covers. Back then it was the only festive thing I'd ever listen to.

By 2003 I had become obsessed with the world of punk rock, so Christmas songs were a world away from my usual listening choices. Of course that didn't stop me from finding lots of punk rock Christmas tracks, which I put together on a charmingly titled homemade compilation called 'Merry Fucking Christmas, You Cunts'. While these tracks were always humourous and upbeat, festive they were certainly not. However by 2009 I had become an all-round music lover, so genres no longer restricted me when it came to Christmas music. Through listening to BBC 6Music, I discovered a huge number of seasonal treasures mostly of the blues, soul and rock n roll variety. But this year, as well as listening to an old John Peel xmas show from 1992, I have been indulging in the warming sounds of Nat King Cole. In an even more unlikely twist, I've been listening to him via a free CD that came with the Daily Mail! But the John Peel show that I talk of is essential Yuletide listening. Broadcast on Christmas Eve 1992, it features (in the great man's own words) "the Christmas songs that Santa forgot". You can download it as a podcast via the Keeping It Peel site HERE. During that show, JP remarks that "it wouldn't be Christmas without The Fall". My sentiments exactly. So here's a little mini-EP I compiled last year entitled 'Mark E Smith's Festive Favourites'. With a band that has been going since 1976, it's inevitable that at some point they would have come up with a song mentioning Christmas. It turns out that there are in fact quite a few... listen to those seasonal delights HERE.


By the way, the photo you see on the right is of my homemade 'Merry Christmas' compilation that I put together last year, made from some Christmas cards and the plastic packaging that they came in. Think I might give it a spin later in fact...

I had tremendous fun with the other Melksham Town Sound (or 'Tinpot FM' as Steve Brookstein calls it) guys when we did a live broadcast from the Melksham Christmas Fayre a few weeks ago. The Strong-o-meter positioned next to our little tent meant that the sound of a bell being whacked interrupted our show every so often, which also added more amusement. In a way it adds to the atmosphere of the show when accompanied by the sound of the brass band and choir in the background, as well as the chatter of the growing crowd. In all, a superb recorded document of a day that turned out to be hugely enjoyable, highly festive and a bloody good laugh too. Have a listen, go on. It could be THE funniest thing you'll hear this Christmas. It'll take some beating, that's for sure. Listen to the show below... Read my blog entry about our day HERE.


During that show, I read out a specially written 'pre-Christmas message" that turned out to go on for longer than I expected. So I thought it would be appropriate to feature it here too... "When I was a kid, Christmas was always the most exciting time of year. When you're young, it's all about looking forward to that big day when you rush downstairs, and as if by magic, all the things you'd wished for were wrapped up under the tree. It was all about the family going to my Nan and Grandad's house in the evening, where my aunties and uncle would also be, and where we would exchange gifts, watch festive telly, play board games and enjoy the epic feast my wonderful Nan used to lovingly and proudly prepare. Even before the big day itself, it was all about making the most of school for a few weeks while all normal lessons were suspended in favour of card making, carol singing and nativity plays. Everything and everyone seemed happier and a great deal nicer when December came. That magical feeling was still something that thrilled me in the glorious mid 90's when I was a few years away from my teens, but by then I had come to appreciate the joy and warmth of Christmas songs and the sparkle of the decorations a lot more. So much so, that by this point I was turning my tiny bedroom into my own comfy little grotto-type place, sitting in the warming glow of my many fairy lights and basking in the optimism of my Christmas hits compilation tape (mostly recorded off the radio). 

There was also an element of looking forwards as one year comes to an end and the next one begins... This is often mirrored in the lyrics of familiar festive favourites: "look to the future now, it's only just begun..." When you're young, you have your whole future in front of you... And as a man in my late 20's, I now know how that future has turned out so far... No wonder that song makes me feel so nostalgic now. So it's somewhat ironic that for me, Christmas is now largely dedicated to memories of years before and the people who made those days so special. It's probably the same for many when they reach their mid to late 20's. 

During my late teens and early 20's, I was attempting to make up for the previous years spent as a loner in my bedroom, by over-socialising and "living for the moment" like a lot of people do at that age. In fact between 2001 and 2008, every Christmas was spent drinking myself into oblivion and not remembering much about it afterwards. 2004 was so bad, I class it as the year that I didn't even have a Christmas. But those years made me realise that family, memories and tradition were essential ingredients for the festive season, and for the last four years my love it has been majorly rekindled. 

I hope kids everywhere are as excited as I used to be about this most wonderful time of the year and I hope that their Christmas turns out as magical as the ones I was lucky enough to enjoy when I was young. To everyone else: have fun experiencing new memories, don't forget the people who made your past Christmases so special, and enjoy every second of the time spent with the loved ones that are still here to share it with you. So with that, let's start Christmas!"

Indeed. Festive greetings to all readers, and may Christmas 2013 be a great one.

No comments:

Post a Comment