Saturday 31 October 2009

Feature: Jaded Playboy

“The only people who are getting ahead in life are these sort of people who are at the top of the ivory tower or whatever, and everyone else just has to put up with that, and that’s what it’s about really, its just being ****ing sick of it”

Rock, in Scottish music today, is a dirty word. Bands will describe themselves as “indie” or even “pop” before they say the dreaded “R” word. It has negative connotations of unoriginality, outdated ideals, and bad AC/DC covers. Jaded Playboy, as a rock band, are fairly unsupported on the Edinburgh music circuit. They wave the flag for Seattle grunge and London punk, even if it means getting disappointed looks from Oasis fans and metal-heads alike.

Edinburgh four piece Jaded Playboy have been together since Winter 2007. The band are made up of three Edinburgh lads: guitarist Ross, bassist Kenny, and drummer Zander, and lead singer Scott, a former metal kid from Dorset and Bristol. “Like all good relationships,” Scott comments, “we got together at Christmas”.

The band are headed up by Ross, who takes the role of songwriter. “I don’t find anything in happy songs,” Ross confesses, “which might sound sort of… y’know”. He laughs as description escapes him. “But at the end of the day I find my inspiration in the darker side of life. So when I write a lyric that’s in that sort of vein then that’s when I feel ****ing alive, y’know?”

When put this simply, it's not too difficult to see where Jaded Playboy’s music come from. Forever focusing on the darker emotions, their music is born of the same spirit that sparked grunge, that sparked punk, that sparked metal, that even sparked rock and roll in the beginning.

Never is that more apparent than on the song ‘Lost Inside’. The lyrics are a political comment on people in power, who break promises and abuse their positions, and how the human condition is to pretend to have a good time and continue regardless. While the band themselves know they aren’t exactly starting a revolution, they use this song to vent their own frustration. “Even though you can’t start a revolt," Ross explains. "That’s our way of getting it out." “That is our pure release!” Singer Scott states. “We ****ing just let go on that song. It’s just ****ing do what you want. Hit your drums as hard as you want, do whatever you want on the bass, sing whatever you want. It’s our ‘get ourselves in the zone’ song… Turn all the shit in life into something decent”.

‘Lost Inside’ is the first track of Jaded Playboy’s new EP, recorded at Red Eye Studios in Clydebank. The four tracks are tied together by a theme that is reflected in the title ‘Broken Heartland’; a land of broken hearts. While the first track is about anger at the politics of our government and our society, the proceeding tracks ‘Hero to Zero’ and ‘I’m Not There’, bring the topic closer to home with an examination of failed relationships and dealing with the ‘why’s and ‘what now’s.

The artwork was designed by Brad George of Love/Hate Tattoos. The front cover is of a satellite view of a country shaped like a broken heart and tinted red, surrounded by a sea of black, representing the dual themes on the album of broken hearts and a country divided between the people in power and those who have to live with it. The CD itself is adorned with a much more tattoo-looking image, as if to prove the designer is used to designing tattoos, of a heart, roses, a gold key, and the band name and album written on the banner that would usually have a girls name or the word “Mum”.

The sound Jaded Playboy create on the stage is highly passionate. Ranging from distorted rock outs to chorus-tinged, lively bass showstoppers, all led by Scott’s very Brandon Boyd-like characterful voice, with all the boys looking like their having a good time up there. Over September and October, Jaded Playboy have been on tour all over Scotland, promoting their release at a grass roots level, and have received praise from the likes of BBC Scotland's Jim Gellatly and BFBS Worldwide Radio.

The final song on the EP, ‘Broken Heartland’, comes attached with a heart melting story too. Originally conceived as a full band number, the track evolved into an acoustic song, with Ross singing lead vocals. Right up until they were recording in the studio, Scott had never managed to nail the track. Ross was on his third attempt at the vocals, with Scott listening. Scott wasn’t in a good mood that day. He had split up with someone he cared a lot about, and something clicked. He finally understood the song, and the way it was supposed to be sung. It finally made sense. “There’s too much emotion in there,” Scott explains. “I’m usually like, all the other songs: massive energy, massive emotion and I put everything into it, and that song is just devoid, it’s absent, of any energy whatsoever. The only way you can sing it is if you just don’t give a sh** about it. Going pure apathy. That song is just pure apathy.”

Scott went into the vocal booth, sang the song, and hit the nail on the head. “That one take is the only time I’ve ever sung it properly. It's the first time I’d ever sung it properly and it's recorded and it's rough as ****: it's out of tune, it's out of key, it's all over the place, but I think it just added something to it. The fact that it was just... it's just someone that’s at the bottom and they can’t sing properly and it doesn’t matter if it's sung in tune. It's like someone’s talking to you over the song; I think that’s what we were trying to convey, it’s not meant to be a song that’s sung to you, it's just somebody telling you a story.”

Now that their promotional months are finished, Jaded Playboy are moving on. Writing new songs, choosing their next steps. More of the same. There’s rumours of an Argentina tour. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing where they take it next.

On his experiences of touring and being in the band, Scott tells me:

“We’re so happy we’re in a band. Don’t care if we make it, don’t care what happens, but its just cool meeting people in these bands, watching these bands for free, most of the people in the world are sat in watching ****ing Casualty or whatever people watch on telly, and we’re out making friends, watching great bands and living life”.

Myke Hall

Thursday 22 October 2009

News: Cybraphon the emotional robot band nominated for BAFTA

I missed this news story the first time around so figured I would give this update the time it deserves.

The blog-reading emotional steam-punk robot band has been nominated for a Scottish BAFTA.

Cybraphon is the creation of the seemingly infinitely innovative glitch-folk nuts-cum-art collective FOUND. Ziggy, the band’s lead singer, calls it “an autonomous, emotional robot band”. Tommy, also from the collective, who presumably knows fewer big words, calls it “a musical cupboard with a personality that’s attached to the Internet”. Cybraphon is a gorgeous one-robot-band built with a combination of electronic components, atypical acoustic or obsolete instruments, some lights and various knick-knacks, all housed in an antique wardrobe. It can be programmed to play certain tunes, controlled via an attached MacBook, or just left to its own devices.

Cybraphon’s mood is shown on a dial on the top shelf, and ranges from desolation through gloom, contentment, and jubilation, right up to delirium. It plays one of many tunes programmed into it by FOUND when the infra-red motion detectors see it has an audience. The tune it plays depends on its mood.

The coup de grĂ¢ce is how it determines its mood. Cybraphon actually goes on the Internet, via the attached Mac, and looks up sites like Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Wordpress, even Flickr to see if people are talking about it online. If they are saying nice things, if it's getting lots of hits, or lots of people are adding it as a friend, Cybraphon gets happier. If they are saying nasty things, or aren’t talking at all, Cybraphon gets sad.

Cybraphon spent the Edinburgh Festival 2009 as an installation at the InSpace Gallery but has since been switched off. What makes it “art” is that it’s a comment on the moody, whiny indie bands and pop stars that are obsessed with their following, not their music, and are fuelled by ego rather than passion.

I can only imagine how excited Cybraphon will be when it is switched back on to discover it has been nominated for the ‘British Academy of Film and Television Arts’ Interactive award. It’s up against ‘The Lost Book’ and the British Music Experience museum at The O2 arena. Perhaps tough competition, but Cybraphon is just about the coolest concept I’ve come across in a long time.

Download its first EP from the Cybraphon website.
Myke Hall

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Feature: Frightened Rabbit, CHUTES, Withered Hand and Broken Records

Its Friday 4 Sept 2009, Edinburgh is celebrating getting their city back from the tourists and production companies over the fest with a good Friday night out. The acoustic show will take in solo performances from some of the Edinburgh music scene's glitterati. caught up with the performers backstage at Electric Circus (or more accurately the little room beside the stage) to ask them about their sets tonight, their experiences of The Edge festival, and what lies ahead.

Danny Chutes (with Adam Chutes and Rory Broken Records)
Front man of moody indie band Chutes

The Edge: Chutes didn't take part in the Edge festival this year, they've been too busy recording their album. Its about half done at the moment. Its not necessarily what you might expect from seeing their live performance, and includes some new arrangements: including strings and acoustic guitars.

The Electric Cabaret Show: Danny played some Chutes songs, and some that are just his own, backed up by bandmate Adam on upright bass and Rory from Broken Records on violin and mini-accordion. With two guitarists already in his band, Danny enjoys the opportunity to play as well as sing.

As a Solo Artist: With Chutes, songwriting is a collaborative project. On his own, Danny gets to play some songs that he has written just on his own. Having been stuck in the sometimes frustrating and labourious process of recording an album, Chutes haven't been gigging much recently. His solo songwriting is a good release. He can play what he wants, make up lyrics on the spot, its much more free and personally expressive.

On the Horizon: Apart from the new album in production, Danny would like to big up The Depot, a rehearsal and recording studio down in Granton run by his bandmates Craig and Stu.

Rory Broken Records
Violist from Broken Records plays "second fiddle" accompanying Danny Chutes

The Edge: Broken Records were worried that all their fanbase would be going to the Frightened Rabbit gig, a day later at Queens Hall too, and so wouldn't bother with their gig. It was also their first Edinburgh show in about six months. But the turn-out was excellent and the show was fantastic.

Accompanying Danny Chutes: Broken Records and Chutes have known each other a long time. Being part of the Edinburgh indie music scene, they've played a lot of gigs together, have gone touring together, and have become friends. Danny and Rory first met at the Christmas Songwriters Club. A group of around 7 songwriters get together and play four songs, often of a Christmas theme, to each other around the 22nd of December.

On the Horizon: From September through to Christmas, Broken Records are going on our a British and European tour with fellow Edinburgh band We See Lights. After that, they'll be working on their second album.

Withered Hand
High voiced solo acoustic songsmith

The Edge: Dan, the off-stage name of performer Withered Hand, supported Jeffrey Lewis at The Edge this year, and his band Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard. The other support act was Jeffrey's brother's band 'Jack Lewis and the Fisherman Three'. Dan is a big fan of both Jeffrey and Jack, and was happy to be supporting them once again. He says its weird playing with someone you really admire, but is happy he's becoming Jeffrey's go-to support act for Scottish gigs.

The Electric Cabaret Show: Unlike the other acts playing, Withered Hand is used to taking to the stage as a solo artist. His set was standard and unaltered.

As a Solo Artist: Although Withered Hand is essentially a solo act, Dan often takes to the stage with a backing band, made up of some of his friends, including Neil from Meursault. His band play banjo, cello, drums or accordion, whatever best accompanies each song.

On the Horizon: Withered Hand's debut album 'Good News' came out on 7 Sept 2009 through SL Records with producer Mark Kramer, known for working with American band Galaxie 500. Fans may notice different versions of familiar tracks compared to his previous lo-fi EPs.

Scott Frightened Rabbit
Main man of Selkirk comma World epic indie band Frightened Rabbit

The Edge: Having a headline show at The Edge festival was something Frightened Rabbit really enjoyed. Now a worldwide band, they play Scotland a lot less often, and so the gig was like a homecoming for them.

The Electric Cabaret Show: Scott played a mixture of classic Frightened Rabbit tunes, to please the crowd, and some new songs. The new songs have already been recorded for the new album, but some of them had never been performed in front of an audience, and this was a chance to see how they go down.

As a Solo Artist: While Scott has done solo shows before, he's now far more used to taking to the stage with his full band. But the band have been working on their new album over the Summer. Scott admires the work ethic of bands like The Hold Steady and Belle and Sebastian, who tour relentlessly and record albums whenever they get a spare chance. Scott reckons recording should be a joy, not a chore.

On the Horizon: The new Frightened Rabbit album is out in March 2010. The as yet untitled LP was recorded at Castle Sound in Pencaitland, East Lothian with producer Peter Katis, who's previously worked with The National and Interpol.

The full band are also back in Edinburgh on the 21st of October for 'Music Like A Vitamin' at HMV Picture House with Attic Lights, and a solo performance from Rod Jones of Idlewild and Teenage Fanclub, in support of a Scottish mental health charity. Tickets are a mere fiver.
Myke Hall

Saturday 3 October 2009

Malcolm Middleton @ The Edge - Cabaret Voltaire Edinburgh 27 Aug 2009

Article originally published by, and property of The Daily Record:

Malcolm Middleton shuffled onto the stage to open his set with Red Travellin' Socks, a catchy ode to his favourite pair of foot warmers. From a lyrical point of view, Malcolm hasn’t strayed too far from his previous band, Arab Strap. His songs mostly deal with dreary mundane reality, in a deep and murky voice. His music tends to play simple melodies over a drone on one of the instruments. The effect is comparable to bagpipe music, a comparison made more apt by the quintessential Scottishness of Malcolm’s casual self-deprecation and ‘f*** it’ attitude. As part of his backing band, lead guitar and fiddle came from a red haired girl named Jenny, who also sang vocals, her well-rounded voice accenting Malcolm’s choruses like a bright red highlighter pen.

After playing a rather slow and anti-climactic last song, in which he forgot the words at least once, Malcolm announced that he had got the set list wrong and that was a terrible song to end on. To make up for it they played a surprisingly rousing cover of Bryan Adams’ ‘Run to You’. Malcolm claimed Jenny had posters of Bryan on her wall. She denied the accusation.
Myke Hall