SEEING THE UK THE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL WAY
Leeds band, ¡Forward Russia! cultivated murmurs of success in 2006 when the four piece released their first album, Give me a wall. Now in the middle of touring second album, Life Processes Rosalind Brabner caught up with lead singer, Tom Woodhead and Bassist Rob Canning to find out what life is really like on the road.
I was ten minutes early as usual. I always think there is a better chance of getting a cup of tea when you’re early. Turns out not so much this time, but I was greeted by an awkward guitar manager called Alan. I know his name was Alan because he told me. Twice. Alan and his beard walked me into what he called ‘the dressing room’ but what I knew to be the backroom of the Birmingham Barfly where people go to throw up on a club night. Once the band had finished their sound check Alan or his beard (I couldn’t tell) suggested it was best to find a quieter spot to do the interview so we walked up 3 flights of stairs only to find a room in the derelict club the Barfly adjoins which had seats and pigeon in it.
Rob: “This is possibly the only interview we’ve had with a pigeon in it”. At this point I knew I was on to a winner, Parkinson never had a pigeon.
Having toured their first album extensively around the UK, ¡Forward Russia! are no novices to the grueling traveling schedules, but Rob admits things have changed, “when we started off we had stars in our eyes and dreams that hadn’t been crushed, it was quite an exciting time really, we were quiet young and naïve to it all so it was just a sense of adventure and we’re a bit more boring this time round, the novelty wares off”. Tom adds, “We’ve been thrown by most things we could be have been thrown by so we feel like we’re pretty much prepared for anything to go wrong”. Literally, Tom really has had most things thrown at him on tour, “I got hit by an onion once, a whole onion, and it was one of those really big white ones”.
Unsurprisingly Tom reckons Leeds is the best place in the UK to play, “Leeds is always good, the northern gigs tend to be better although we’ve had a couple of good gigs in Brighton”, whereas Rob enjoys touring Scotland, “there is a certain atmosphere in Scotland that’s quiet unbeatable, you get a really, really good crowd in Scotland”. It seems to me that ¡Forward Russia! are just another northern band wary of southerners but Tom and Rob insist that “in general most bands will tell you the further north you go the crowd just loosens up a bit more, when you’ve been working down the mine all day you just need the escape of live music: being at a bank isn’t the same”, not a surprise that at this point my accent tales off into thicker estuary slurs.
“The worst thing about being on tour is that you get f**king ill, you get really rundown, I feel quite delicate today. It’s a total emotional rollercoaster, one minute you can feel really high and the next minute and can feel really, really low and down about stuff”. Emphasising this point with a sniffle, Rob didn’t do much to convince me that it’s not all just a case of the man flu but I’d thought I’d better give him the benefit of the doubt because he did just offer an alarming insight into the emotional stability of a bass guitarist.
Unfortunately but expectedly Tom and Rob admit they see more service stations than cities in the UK when they’re on tour, “It’s quite hard when you’re on a relatively tight schedule to look around, you arrive at the venue do your bits and bobs and then the sound check so its difficult to fit sight seeing in there, we have seen about a million and one travel lodges though, I could tell you loads about them”. It’s not until a day off comes along that they get to hangout in different places, Rob explains, “yeah when we’ve done a gig miles away, in Brighton or something we’ll stay down there but we haven’t had many days off on this tour”. With such a hardcore traveling programme and just one van for all four band members and Alan ( + beard) I wondered if ¡Forward Russia!’s second tour was riddled with arguments, smelly feet and general misconduct especially as the other two band members Whiskers (guitar) and Katie (Drums) are siblings. “Everyone can be annoying at times, its like being with your family loads of pointless bickering, someone hates someone one day and then someone else the next, its that sort of thing” says Rob. Tom clarifies that touring with siblings “can be nightmare, it’s exactly what you imagine it would be”.
Katie caused a bit of a stir recently after rating how good the different crowds were on the Scottish leg of their tour, “we told her not to do that but she still did it” they both tell me, Rob adds, “Katie’s quite naïve in some ways, she doesn’t realise someone might offended if you call them a shit crowd”. Tom reckons that a good crowd is much more than how much noise they make, “sometimes you can tell when crowds aren’t even moving that they are really into it; it’s all about the atmosphere”. And the best thing about being a British band at the moment?, “it’s really hard to say, we are totally out of any scene at the moment, I guess the touring is much better, in America you have to travel miles and miles to the next venue- that would be hard”. ■
In 2007 I interviewed innovative designer, Werner Aisslinger about his striking Loftcube creation for Kudos Magazine.
A VIEW FROM ABOVE
German design has reached an all time high, Rosalind Brabner reports on the new mobile living space which can be attached to your very own roof.
Seductively luxurious and utterly modern the Loftcube is only for people living the high life. A four hundred and twenty foot see through retreat designed to be tucked away upon roof tops is not only unashamedly cool but can boast a similar frame to a London studio.
THE MODERN DAY TREE HOUSE
Designed by German architect Werner Aisslinger, the Loftcube’s unique design was originally intended to fill the spaces of the flat roof tops of the post war high rises in East Berlin. Providing the perfect space for a modern day tree house Aisslinger’s aesthetic and minimalist designs are strictly grown up.
CHARACTER, ASCETICS AND VERSATILITY
Another attractive prospect about the design is its versatility. The customer can be given creative input on the visual aspects of the interior. “The unique, modular system with its flexible components allows us to incorporate the ideas of our clients. Each of the four facades gives the Loftcube an individual aesthetic and functional character. Transparent, translucent coloured panes of glass or closed panels and different shading devices enable the desired amount of light entry and air circulation”. The mobile unit which can be delivered directly to the rooftop by helicopter or dismantled then reassembled was originally only compatible with flat roofs but its popularity has since encouraged award winning designer Aisslinger and his team to work with some very different landscapes from beaches to riverbeds.
MAKING IT FLOAT
One of the design’s biggest achievements is its adaptation into a floating home. Attached to a pontoon on a Lake in Canada, Aisslinger and his building team managed to get round the forest authorities’s disagreement for planning permission by attaching the frame to a floating foundation.
ONLY THE BEST MATERIALS
To achieve such quality in exterior and interior design Aisslinger uses only the best materials, “we value the quality and exclusivity provided by experience partners as well as the use of high quality materials. We have established exclusive partnerships with renowned brands such as Berker, Bulthaup, Dupont and Vitra”. It is not only the quality of the framework that concerns Aisslinger extra efforts are made to create a feeling of total relaxation. The designer pin points a combination of four factors which create the desired affect “spectacular views, light-flooded spaces, cosy warmth and innovative technology”.
Unfortunately the process to accomplish total relaxation involves a lot of hard work. For the Loftcube to be fully functioning with plumbing and heating it must be connected to the building’s utility lines the team has to check the rooftop’s ability to accommodate the extra weight and the cube’s ability to withstand ferocious winds. It’s a very technical process that can take up to four days but considering the Loftcube can last a lifetime it’s worth every second.
A VIEW FROM ABOVE
Ascetically striking and culturally innovative, the Loftcube is an exciting project look set to dominate the flat roof tops of our cities. In the Loftcube Aisslinger has firstly provided a space to work and play, but with the help of the 360 degrees windows it is also the perfect place for the city goer to sit back, relax and appreciate the birds eye view of the manic world beneath them and not to mention to indulge in the romantic spender usually only captured on a balcony in a five star hotel.
Last year I caught up with BBC correspondent David Shukman at a travel conference in Birmingham:
MY FAVOURITE PLACE
The Isle of Eigg
As BBC News Science and Environment Correspondent, David Shukman has travelled all over the world but one of his favourite places is one of the UK’s best kept secrets, The Isle of Eigg in the inner Scottish Hebrides.
“You’ll probably get sea sick trying to get there, and you’ll most definitely get rained on but if you get the weather it is just fantastic!”
The remote Island which only has 82 inhabitants was introduced to 24 hour power thanks to renewable energy in February. The island which previously ran on diesel generators for only a few hours of the day now has a system which uses a mix of solar, hydro and wind power. Maggie Fyffe, the islands heritage trust sectary explains “the new system has been totally valuable; it’s made a whole world of difference. From everyone relying on their own diesel generators which weren’t at all environmentally friendly to this really has made a huge difference”.
For more information about the Isle of Eigg visit http://www.isleofeigg.org/
A few months ago I caught up with Ian from THE GO! TEAM to ask him a few questions about the band’s busy year in America for WUW magazine.
DIY band, The Go! Team are back! Fresh from their American tour with CSS and a summer of festival gigs the Brighton six piece have returned to the UK ready to make more mish mash music for the masses.
Having had a wave of success with the first two albums Thunder, Lightning and Strike and Proof of Youth, -Infact if you haven’t heard the single Ladyflash you were probably living 2005 in a cave! The band hopes to follow up this success by continuing to experiment with more “cut ‘n’ paste” sampling on their third album which is being mashed, squeezed and purated this very second.
Roz Brabner caught up with team leader, Ian for a lovely chat about the Venga Boys, Grandma’s in kitchens and being second best to Mary J Blige. Bitch.
ROZ: You’ve just comeback from a summer of festivals how was that then?
IAN: Yeah – it was a regular world tour – we’re talking Korea, Japan, Sweden, Russia, Brazil, US, Argentina – hopefully we’ll get to do Guildfest next year.
ROZ: You also co-headlined a tour of the US and Canada with CSS…
IAN: It was a good tour and a good match. I subconsciously saw it as a showdown – some nights we beat em, some nights they beat us. But they’re a hot band – a real unit.
ROZ: Proof of Youth was released too much critical acclaim, The Observer branded you with the term `genius´- do you think the third album can live up to this success and what should fans expect with your next instalment?
IAN: there was a bit of anticipation for the 2nd one but I feel like the heat is completely off for the 3rd record – there is a lot of freedom to go in any direction. I want the next stuff to be even more cut n paste – like your switching the channels on a radio or something – schizo but still melodic. I don’t think anyone has really explored the idea of songs that sound like they’re stitched together from 10 different songs.
ROZ: I read somewhere you have a passion for car chase horn music…
IAN: Things like blaxploitation films, David Axelrod, even the Rocky theme have been an influence – I kinda think of music in images and I always imagine stuff like motorbikes and girl gangs. For me brass can be the worst sound – a la Kenny G – or the most exciting sound with major force and I always thought it would be interesting to combine that with distorting drums and noisy guitars.
ROZ: You’ve received some really positive press from US magazines such as Rolling Stone does this mean your big business state side?
IAN: I guess you´d call us a cult band over there – like we are everywhere – when we first played there 3 years ago we had sell out shows thanks to Pitchfork bigging us up. America is a funny old place – we literally go from playing to 50 people one night in Indianapolis to 30,000 in Lollapolooza the next. We were due to do the Letterman show but got bumped for Mary J Blige the day before. We were gonna have that Paul Shafer prick playing along with us. Fuck em.
ROZ: I read Thunder Lightning Strike was recorded in your parent’s kitchen; did this cause any practical cooking problems?
IAN: My Grandma would occasionally come in to make a cup of tea and I’d have to do the take over again. I’m a big fan of home recording – I think the feel comes through on the recording somehow – I like the idea of recording in garages and gymnasiums and hate the idea of posh studios. I think the `homemade´ feeling is something that carries through everything go team – artwork, videos, and all that.
ROZ: What is your take on the whole download malarkey? What was the reason for releasing Milk Crisis as a free download in July?
IAN: You’ll never beat vinyl – downloading always feels a bit sanitised to me but ya know you’ve gotta get down with da kids. We figured it would be a nice thing to give milk crisis away for free – good karma and all that – and people nick music now anyway.
ROZ: Do you think it is physically possible for audiences to sit down during one of your sets?
IAN: I hope not. We measure a gig by how much movements going on in the crowd. I always want chaos from a gig so I prefer sweaty little venues than festivals any day. I think we jump around so much to make the crowd feel guilty about standing still. Normally by the last song we get ‘em. People call us a party band but that always reminds me of the Venga Boys or something.
ROZ: What bands are you listening to at the moment?
IAN: Deerhoof, Camera Obscura, Blackmoth super rainbow, Venga Boys
ROZ: Musical highlight this year?
IAN: Seeing the My Bloody Valentine warm up at the ICA. On the Go Team front maybe Lollapolooza in Chicago
RO: Your often referred to as the band leader, does this mean you bark orders at the rest of the team?
IAN: I try not to be too James Brown about it. So far I’ve written the songs and the go team sound started off as all my favourite stuff jammed together and I just wanted other folks to take it to the stage with. So it’s kinda my project. Maybe its like challenge Anneka and I’m Anneka.
ROZ: How did you stay trim whilst touring the country of big portions?
IAN: Thrashing around on stage is the nearest I’ve ever come to a workout – I’ve never been to a gym in my life and don’t think I ever will. I used to run away from the ball in PE. When we come off stage the whole band looks absolutely chimped. Maybe I should start taking steroids.
ROZ: Finally… WHAT YOU WANT?
IAN: Musically to do something sonically kickass, plus have a holiday in New England and watch trees change colour.