Tuesday, 20 July 2010

UFK..2nd Interview with Terri Saunders

Some of you may well be aware of my interview of 2007 with the enigmatic Indo-European Pop-Punk band, Unlucky Fried Kitten. Well...fate finds me on the UK shores again and I'm back for another bite at the celery with Andy...in the pub...drinking English beer and whistling at the passers-by. I messaged Andy a few months ago and asked him to prepare for this interview with a his thoughts on The Perfect Pop Song. Not only has he stored up some thoughts on the subject..he has created, for me, what he believes is The Perfect Pop Song. He's coming back from the bar now...and I shall commence with my interrogation. I look forward to seeing his delightful wife, Rio, whom I have missed dearly since she upped sticks to the UK 3 years ago. She'll be here soon, I'm reliably informed. We are in The Cherry Tree, Tonbridge Road, Maidstone.
Andy is resplendent in a crafty t-shirt imprinted with the words "JUST F**CKING GOOGLE IT", which is rather anarchic. (it's ok...I'm taking the piss) Here we go:

TS- So...first of all, Andy, examples of perfect pop-songs please?
AE- Well...there are many. They are not always great songs..some of them are songs that grate. Off the top of my head I'd include...
Be My Baby- The Ronettes
Ticket To Ride- The Beatles
The One I Love- REM
You've Lost That Loving Feeling- The..oh..someone Brothers
Don't You want Me?- The Human League (does anyone like the HUMAN League...snigger..Young Ones joke)
Sugar Sugar- The Archies
I'm A Believer- The Monkees
and anything NOT by The Scissor Sisters.

You also have to have a thought for the perfect English pop-song. In that camp I'd stick...
Senses Working Overtime- XTC
Waterloo Sunset- The Kinks
Ever Fallen In Love- The Buzzcocks
anything else by The Kinks...really.

(Rio walks into the pub...buys a Snakebite and Black...she's decadent! Hello Rio. Kiss kiss.)

TS- You missed My Sharona by The Knack. Surely that's a given?
AE- Oh yeah...goes without saying, baby....but I can't give you a definitive list. We'd be here all day. Oooh..Oliver's Army...by the Costello guy. That rolls with the flow.

TS- So..what makes the perfect pop-song, Andy?
AE- I like to think it needs an optimum conjunction of brevity and passion. Yeah.
Someone once said that it should be something that your average milk-man can whistle...do you have milk-men in the States? Oh..silly me..The Dead Milkmen. Great band.
TS- Yeah..they are
AE- Hey...they wrote a great pop-song..Punk Rock Girl
TS- Why your 'average milk-man'? Why not a very superior milk-man? Or a wack-job milk-man?
AE- lol....I can't believe I actually said lol
(more drinks...more loose change at the bar)

TS- So...Andy...how did you come up with what you feel is the perfect pop-song?
AE- Good question...I done my research.
TS- Internet?
AE- No, actually. I asked people on the streets and at a few festies...cos I wanted it straight from the horse's gob, so to speak.
TS- Is that an English catchphrase?
AE- Uh..dunno...don't you have horses in America?
TS- lol...I can't believe I said lol
AE- get yer own catchphrase...bitch (he winks)

TS- How were the answers...from the people?
AE- I have in my hand...a piece of paper...it lists the criteria. Remember..these are not necessarily my opinions..this is the feedback from people.
( he unfolds it..and reads aloud)
The Perfect Pop-Song......
*has gotta be catchy
* has gotta have hooks
* has gotta be about love
* has gotta be about un-requited love
* has gotta be not too difficult for the general public to relate to
* needs to showcase the depression/happiness of the listener
* has to burn a melody into your brain
* has to be a song your Mummy would love
* can be played on an acoustic guitar
* has gotta be sung by Kylie
* has to exude honesty

TS- Quite a list?
AE- Yep

TS- When I interviewed you...in the MySpace Years...you said you wanted to write a perfect pop-song...which is why we are on this theme. Did you achieve that?
AE- Absolutely........not. It can never be done. The whole point of creativity is that whatever you do it can never be bettered...or worsened, in fact.
As a person..you will never ever reach your aspiration. It doesn't matter who you are. You could be Paul Mc-Fucking-Cartney...but you'll always wake up in the morning knowing that you could do better. That's why people don't give up in music. Old pop-stars never die..they just piss people off by playing their un-welcome shit in pubs and bars near you.
TS- Ha ha
AE- lol...can't believe I said lol again.
TS- Has anyone ever tried to get you sectioned?
AE- Get on with it, Terri...it's a good job I know you're joking
TS- So..where's this ALMOST-perfect pop-song of yours?
AE- It's here..on a silver platter..for your delectation. It's called "I WANT 2B WIV U" and we made it very scientifically...in a lab, in fact.

TS- Tell me more
AE- Did she put up a fight? Sorry..Grease reference.
TS- lol
AE- I can't believe you actually said that.

TS- What was the process to get this almost perfect pop-song?
AE- OK...firstly I used the tried and tested chord structure of C Am F G. It's like playing the Joker in It's A Knockout. I also used my closed circle style of song-writing. It's not particularly clever..but it's effective. I tend to use it a lot anyway. It just wraps up the content at the end of each verse...sometimes at the end of each line. I can't explain..it's like a bouncing ball. You know where it's gonna go. You close that circle and people relate to it.

TS- How does that work?
AE- Well...I'm not certain it does..but I like it. I just don't like to leave things in isolation at the end of a phrase/line/verse...musically, I mean. Isolated melody tends to sub-consciously piss the listener off...so no(potential) perfect pop-song should employ the lone shoot of a melody flower.
No rogue lupins in my garden, baby.
The song is about un-requited love..a true staple of the perfect pop-song...and one which, tragically, most people can relate to. Having said all this shit, though, Terri, there is one MASSIVE part of this song that I have worked upon. It is the inclusion of ONE word...simply the best word a songwriter can use in a song. Trust me. If you are a songwriter and you are reading this...take it from me...this is the high-performance word to use. That word is "CHANGE"..or a derivative of it. Changed/changing etc.
It is an all-powerful word. I noticed a few years ago that whilst singing a UFK song called Shooting Star...live, I mean, I got such a buzz out of the line "You said to me..sorry but...something CHANGED" It lifted me to a euphoria. It's the best word ever..to enunciate. I've used it in other songs. In this new song it is in the 3rd verse. " I love you...you CHANGED me, you turned me into someone new"
It's a huge compliment, too, to the listener. It feeds on the subject's horrifically fat ego...lol
TS- I can't believe you said lol
AE- pmsl...lmao...rofl..what-fucking-ever
AE- It also dawned on me that most of my favourite songs included that word...if not in the title..certainly in the lyric....

* Something Better Change- the Stranglers
* Change- Sparks
* Change Your Mind- Numan and Sharpe
*Change- Tears For Fears
...and the majestic...Changes..by the mighty David Bowie.
The best EVER use of the word in a song was by Dean Friedman in his wonderful song, ARIEL. Lemme set the scene. He's singing about a girl he met...and she's collecting for charity on the streets. He's obviously at a shit stage in his life. The line goes "She was looking for change..and so was I" God...I hope he meant that. I'm sure he did. That song affected me. It's set in New York. First line goes WAY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HUDSON, DEEP IN THE BOSOM OF SUBURBIA. Well..I recently wrote my OWN Kentish version of the song...just so I can say I've written a song with Dean...sort of...lol (another one for luck) My first line goes WAY ON THE SLUDGED-UP SIDE OF THE MEDWAY, DEEP IN THE BREASTPLATE OF TONBRIDGE ROAD. It was a very Morotovian moment for me.
TS- Morotovian?
AE- Valentina Morotova...my muse. She was the beautiful Russian Princess in the opera The Church of the Electric Street-Lamp. Allegedly THE most stunning girl in the world. She inspired me...Made In Russia, To Whom It May Concern...just two of my songs about her. Can we talk about Dean Friedman again? Ariel...much as I love my Russian girl.

TS- It's a great song...but people just remember him for Lucky Stars.
AE- Well Well Said The Rocking-Chair springs to mind..and Lydia...yeah
I always thought he was arrogant for not name-checking the girl singer on Lucky Stars...but my biggest aspiration is to write a song with him
TS- Really?
AE- Oh yeah...on the strength of Ariel. It also had this little fucking beauty of lyric. "She wore a peasant's blouse with nothing underneath, I said 'Hi' she said 'Yes, I guess I am' I kept that for my Medway version...sod it.
I swear...if that had not been out in '77...with the explosion of punk...it would have been massive. The melody is amazing...but on that note..the best EVER melody in a song comes from a lesser-known Kinks track called Shangrila. The line goes "Here's your reward for working so hard...gone are the lavatories in the back yard" That makes me cry. The second-best melody in a song is from Bike by Pink Floyd. The line goes
"he's getting very old, but he's a good mouse" Fucking classic. Rest in peace, Syd.

TS- Absolutely...any other song-writing tips for the masses?
AE- Yep...bottles of cider...big bottles of cider...pens and bits of paper. Basically...you gotta write in pubs...it works.
Sorry to fuck this interview up, Terri, but can you get hold of Mister Friedman for me?
TS- Sure
AE- Don't say it...do it.

TS- What else went into the mix for your almost perfect pop-song?
AE- If i can stick with the word 'change' for a moment....I actually studied the phenom of the word. I felt it had special connotation . With the help of some UFK friends at Warwick University...I found that the sound 'ainge' is the sound that you hear in the womb for the first 9 months of your being. It's the sound of the blood rushing around the mother's stomach...fired at you for 9 months...or, at least for the duration of your sentient existence. That's why it is all-powerful. No shit.

TS- So..is 'strange' as good?
AE- It's good..yes...but not quite as good as 'change' cos it hasn't got the ch-ch aspect....which is the cornerstone of the consonant-switch. Having said that...'strange' is wonderful for it's connotation. People Are Strange by The Doors really shakes me out of my Orgasmatron....so...we'll call it a draw.

TS- Well...we shall hear the song then...your almost perfect pop-song.
AE- Yeah..but..I have to thank Domino N Philodox for arranging and playing guitar on it. We employed a clunky feel to the whole sound cos that also plays to the acceptability of the structure. People don't like songs and arrangements to be too clever. They demand vulnerability.

TS- Andy, you are wise..beyond your beers.
AE- lol
TS- Get your own catchphrase.

Thereby hangs a tale...and we end this interview with a peck on the cheek for my old friend, Rio, and a huge bottle of Metaxa for Andy.
As I make my leave Andy insists that I mention another great pop song YOU'RE SO GREAT by BLUR.
"That one makes me cry, too" he says
On that note....see ya UFK-dians.

Friday, 13 March 2009

15 Albums of Unlucky Fried Kitten

15 albums to have inspired Unlucky Fried Kitten
Think of 15 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of musically shaped your world. When you finish, tag 15 others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good. Tag, you're it!

1. Never Mind The Bollocks by The Sex Pistols- It's the first one to spring to mind because it really did change my life. Bought the album...cut my hair...started to write songs instead of poetry. I was 15 years old...a good impressionable age, I guess.
2. New Boots and Panties by Ian Dury and the Blockheads- I was astonished that such a raggedy bunch of misfits could produce such a beautiful sound. Every track a winner.
3. Tanx- T.Rex- I always loved Bolan...and although most people who know me would expect me to go for Electric Warrior or Futuristic Dragon...I'm plumping for Tanx. Such charm.
4. Kimono My House by Sparks- This album definitely shook me out of my slumber. Amazing vocals...wicked lyrics...stunning harmonies...it had the lot. If this band didn't exist...I'd have to invent them
5. The Queen Is Dead by The Smiths- My favourite Smiths album. Dark...but sarcastic. Extremely well produced...with just the right shade and light.
6. The Holy Bible by The Manic Street Preachers- The last album with Richie before he disappeared(still missing after 15 years) and for my money...their best...by a country mile. Uncomfortable listening for non-Manic fans...that's why I love it.
7. Dirk Wears White Sox by Adam and the Ants- Just a wonderful album of delicious little dark ditties
8. Black and White by the Stranglers- The men in black at their ballsy best...in my opinion. I'm such a fan of every element...bass/vocals/drums/keys/guitar...each part unique
9.Diamond Dogs by David Bowie- The title track alones justifies this inclusion. Bowie on top form
10. The Human Menagerie by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel- Some of the vocal inflection on this album is incredible. Great, dark, swirling masterpiece
11. Tubeway Army by Tubeway Army- I know it's not the greatest produced album in the world but there are some nice songs..from which I took a great deal of inspiration. Fascinating, for me, cos I'd heard a load of Numan demos...with guitars...and this highlights his transtition to synths and shit....playing with the same melodies.
12. Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd- Syd Barrett had the most beautiful way with construction and delivery. Effortless...dreamy....but manic at the same time. Tragic
13. The White Album by The Beatles- I could go for Sgt Peppers but my over-riding sense and appreciation of chaos wins the day. Messy...chaotic...spikey...mishy-mashy....genius.
14. London Calling by The Clash- The energy in this had me jumping up and down for ages. If albums grew legs this one would walk to China...with a Fridge-Freezer strapped to it's back.
15. Fegmania by Robyn Hitchcock- I could have chosen any of a clutch of RH albums. I'm constantly inspired by his collection of work. Brilliance...with huge dollops of wit.

That's my lot. I've already realised that I've missed The Kinks...and The Buzzcocks...and Elvis Presley...and I'll no doubt think of tons more once I've posted this. Sorry...got to have another.

15 and a half (what a cheat) Even Serpents Shine by The Only Ones- One of my favourite ever albums. Listening to The Only Ones is like injecting a lorry-load of misery into your bloodstream...but fkn rocks.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Terri Saunders interviews Andy Export

ANDY EXPORT (Andy Fraser)

Abrasive folk-punk-rocker Andy Export has done several albums since the late 1970s that reflect an interest in, and even affinity with, social outcasts and maladjusted behavior. Plenty of critics have assumed that Andy was as mad as his music. It's doubtful that any madman, however, could keep up the hectic pace of work that Andy Export has. In addition to his numerous albums, he's churned out collections of short stories, plays, and poems. His sardonic vocal delivery and black-comic portraits of misfits gave him a semi-cult appeal in the 1970s/1980's. Since I spoke to him in early 2007 Mister Export has performed only in sporadic fits and starts and seems to have gone the same way as stage-shy Andy Partridge, of XTC.
Previous Andy Export-fronted bands include Acceleration, Basement Mania, The 'Ansome Wilfs, The Martini Slutz, The Hedgehogs, Death In Venice and Harmonica Lewinsky.

Were you doing much music before you recorded with your first band in the 1970's?
When I first started in bands, this was in the late 70's. We were doing glam...and punk...really...cos although I only started playing AFTER punk took off...my interest was in glam..Mott The Hoople, Sparks, Steve Harley etcetera..and Bowie and Bolan...naturally. It was very much a punk rock'n'roll thing, pre-post-punk thing. Does that make fucking sense to you? I got into that, as opposed to being directly sort of connected with rock and roll, so the two things mixed together. My first proper band...to gig a lot, I mean, were called Acceleration. I still have a stash of old Acceleration cassettes in my loft....I kept them for flogging off when I got famous. The flaw in my reckoning was that I never got famous. I got drunk though...and had a laugh.

I was always singing in pubs. My sister's a club singer, amongst many other things. And music was around the house a lot. I sang with my best pal, Nick Hughes (ex Cenet Rox) sometimes, too. A fairly broad musical education. But I started out as a poet really. My first collection of poetry was called "Fifteen Short Stories for Squirrels" Ha Ha. I bound it all up myself into a proper manuscript and I buried it in a small forest...well...more a copse. So...if you wanna go get it you gotta look in a small bit of woodland in the valley of The Hilly Fields at the back of Brenchley in Kent. It's probably a poxy housing estate now. I can't remember much of the content...don't expect Rudyard Kipling.

Even from the time you started with Unlucky Fried Kitten there seemed to be an affinity in your songs with social outsiders.

You've got to remember that around that time I was working in an asylum, basically. I left school, and I went to do art and other things in a mental hospital in the south of England. This coincided with a lot of things I was doing on record, or taping with Nick. And the things were very much on my mind. I was very concerned about what went on. I guess I do have an affection for outsiders, but I got much of it when I was working, just over three years, in this hospital. I was going up to London at certain points, doing some recordings, bits and pieces, with Nick. This is what came out. A lot of the things were to do with the day-to-day events that I was dealing with in the hospital. It was quite natural, I guess. I like to use music and whatever I do as a source of therapy as much as anything else, to get some of this out, and it was a good opportunity. Partly...this is why the recordings have been mainly lost. Because of the complications I had about the source of my inspiration I destroyed my whole catalogue...of what I had in my own hands. You gotta remember that only die-hard friends and idiots bought my stuff...so it's probably all long-gone. Don't know if that old rascal [nick] still has any of it. He always was a tight git so I can't see him giving it to me.

Was there much of a change in your approach when you stopped playing with Acceleration and became a solo artist?

Um...nope...why should there be? I never became a solo artist. Is this a trick question? The trouble with you hack-school journos is that you think you can get by without a little research.

Have you given up writing consciously?

How do you mean? I do write. I write books and things. I write things on paper, and have a concern for language, the written word. But when I do songs, I tend to be very spontaneous. I like to mirror the moment and the time. That all sounds very idealistic, but I'm a great believer in that. I learned something from the bluesmen, this kind of attitude. Very open-ended and responding to whatever the day brings, really, or life at that time. Sounds all very grand. I think at best it really works. It doesn't sound so manufactured as some pop music efforts sound.

When Mickey Apples died you played his bass parts instead of recruiting a new player...which stopped you from playing live. Is it bad to replace dead musicians..in your opinion? If The Doors came calling would you slip into Jim Morrison's role?

Ooooh...sounds rude...as well as fucking stupid.....but....such are the machinations of the record industry. Not much sentiment around. What I found astonishing now is this awful band from England called Bush, who are basically a copy of Nirvana to the last degree. Enormously popular in the States, and not only that, the lead singer was going out with, or I suppose was having some sort of relationship with Kurt Cobain's ex-wife. I find it astonishing. No sentiment or taste anywhere, and I think this scenario you've just created about the Doors is somewhat similar. There isn't any question of, you know, poor old Jim, let's give him a bit of a rest now. It's like, got to keep the money wheels turning, keep the cash registers going. But anyway, as I say, such is the music business.

How did you end up being one of the first punks in South East England?

What a load of old twaddle. Who told you that? I could name a fucking thousand people who were at it before me. God almighty...what about The Milkshakes, Billy Childish, Gash, Pop Rivets...that's just a few. I walked out of school in 1977...cos I couldn't stand being tortured (they called it punished) by the teachers...cos of what I was wearing. I remember it clearly. It was 7th July 1977...and we were all huddled together for our assembly...conducted by the headmaster. I won't say the school...cos the teachers were all c**ts...and the headmaster is dead. So...he went on about it being 7/7/77...and how we've not had such a quirk since 6/6/66...and how we'd not see the likes of it until 8/8/88. It pissed me off cos it was like saying we were thick...like we could never have worked that out on our own. I just got up...walked out...stuck my fingers up...and within about 18 hours...no bullshit...I was 1000 miles away in Scotland. (haven't checked the mileage...you do it...From Maidstone to Aberdeen) It felt good....like David Essex chucking his school books into the stream in Stardust. Or Sid Vicious shooting the audience in My Way.

Which were your favorite bands, of the punk era?

I love 'em all. It was a great time. We were wild and idealistic and younger, and I thought there was a great passion in what we did. A little misguided on occasion. I suppose old age and getting older makes you say things like that. But no, I'm very proud of my choice in music. Seems daft to single them out...cos it'll be the usual suspects. Pistols, Clash, Damned, Buzzcocks, Ramones, Wire. Fucking Hell...Wire were awesome. Check them out now if you ain't heard them. Adam Ant was emerging...he was dark and interesting. The Buzzcocks were great cos their songs were powerpop love-songs...they weren't afraid of going against the punk principal...of grumbling about society. The Clash...fuck...they were the biz mate. Then this funny little dishevelled character poked his Dickensian head through the swirling clouds of punk...and I thought...you can't be a pop star, mate. I'd found Ian Dury...he was a fucking revelation...even a revolution...to me. The thing is...I get comparisons to Ian all the time. I have never intentionally tried to sound like him...but you will always take sub-consciously....elements...of the people who you like. If you love Gothic Architecture...and you become a builder...you're gonna be building 3-bed semis in Milton Keynes..with gargoyles and towers knobbed up the side. If you loved George best...as I did...you're gonna play...try to play...in his style. (or you're gonna drink yourself to death) If you admire the sartorial finesse of Jonathan Ross...you're gonna go out dressed like a twat.

And since the punk era?

What? Bands, you mean? Ah...I like bands that say something to their fans...if that makes sense? Bands that like to keep a level. Not many have fallen into that role since The Clash...but I'm sure you can name a few. I'd say the only ones who have done it have been The Smiths (Morrissey), The Manic Street Preachers and The Libertines. I'll stick with my Ian Dury, of course, that goes without saying. It's like Ian is your mate down the boozer. One of my favourite bands is The Only Ones. Every song comes from a place where Pete Perrett has been. I used to go to sleep with The Only Ones pumping through my headphones all night. People said The Smiths were depressing. With The Only Ones it was like pumping a lorry-load of misery into your veins. John...their guitarist...is an awesome stringsman too. Saw them live and the lead from Another Girl Another Planet was note-perfect. Or did you fix an mp3 unit inside your guitar, John? ;) Even Serpents Shine is one of my all-time favourite albums. Who else? Always a place in my heart for Syd Barrett....eccentricity in abundance...leading me onto Robyn Hitchcock. Wonderful. I love people who create characters. XTC do it, too. The you got the fucking almighty Ray Davies. Still love The Kinks. I've missed loads out, no doubt. I played a bit of guitar with Brian Pendleton from The Pretty Things...just before he died a few years back.That was an honour....cos I always loved TPT's. They had the first concept album, "S.F.Sorrow" , don't ya know? Reportedly..it inspired Townshend to write "Tommy" A little pop fact there. Don't buy Smash Hits...read an Andy Export interview. Ha Ha. I still like what Morrissey is doing now...his backing band is superb. It rather peeves me that Boz Boorer has been with Moz now for well over 15 years...but he never gets a mention in Morrissey interviews. Very occasionally he is referred to as Morrissey's "musical arranger" I think that means that he writes the music and Morrissey writes the words. Humming is probably involved on Morrissey's part. Great little rockabilly backing band. Boz was, of course, part of The Polecats...so there's your pedigree. He also played some wonderful guitar ...co-wrote some of the songs...on Adam Ant's 90's album "Wonderful" Boz Boorer...you are one of my heroes...ha ha.

Are reports that you were going crazy, yourself, around the early 1980s true?

Next question...shoot your question-writer.

I write my own questions

Then shoot yourself

You also write fiction and work as an artist, in addition to doing your music. Are you going to be focusing on one field more than the other?

Wow...am I an artist? There's a busking element to my rudimentary pencil skills...let's put it that way. Nah...I like to draw kinda cartoony things but it's neither a skill nor a vocation. As for the writing...yeah...a few books. The Tragedian, The Pedestrian Protagonist, Wheeling The Old Metal Chair Towards Me. Loads of poetry. Isn't that what being a songwriter is about?

What's next for Unlucky Fried Kitten?

Dunno really. I'm just happy to be still active. We're setting up an umbrella type thing for other bands...as well as for us. It will be called The UFK Dollshouse...with different rooms for different purposes. bands on board include The Bolans, V2086, I Am A Spider, The Cemetry Gaes, Mickey Apples, Penny Dreadful.
It's under construction as we speak.

Thank you for your time Mister Export