Wednesday, 1 September 2010

I'm well aware that I'm never going to be on the 'Cool List'.

Well, well, well!

Sorry it's been so long. Life rolls along whether you're rolling with it or not... Salut to those that came over to the UK shows recently, we’ve really enjoyed pulling a lot of the old tunes out of the box and giving them a play with. We've been recording our version of 'Totally Addicted To Bass' with our old pal Christophe this weekend which has been great fun and the first time that we've actually recorded with James. I can't wait to hear it mixed actually. There are tons of dates coming up including France, India(!) and a European tour with Less Than Jake so we're certainly keeping ourselves busy. Anyway, enough of my yackin, let's get into those questions...

Tim Johnson asks…

Aite man! so, what was the story with Grimace?

The story of Grimace! OK, Grimace was a ska-punk band that lived from 1997 – 2001 and involved Laila, Neil and I and had our good friend Dave Kelly on guitar and a parade of different brass sections (Ben C ended up on sax in the final line-up) We started out when we were in our teens and friends at school and were playing funk-rock, ska, pop-punk stuff influenced by Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, No Doubt etc. We were playing general band nights rather than punk nights but we started to get a few gigs at ska nights and with bands like Vodoo Glow Skulls and Spunge which introduced us to the ska and punk scene and really turned our heads. As we got into more US ska-punk like Dance Hall Crashers, Less Than Jake and Save Ferris we went more into a US sounding ska-punk thing. We had a couple of songs on some compilations like Know Your Skalphabet and Compunktion, from which the tune ‘Push You Back’ is probably our best tune. Laila actually sung a duet with Alex from [Spunge] on their second album after playing with those guys. Cos we’d just been rock kids who kind of fell into the ska and punk thing by mistake, we didn’t really come from a punk place so we had difficulty fitting in with the scene at the start and by the time we’d figured it out, we had become a bit burnt by it and felt very disillusioned (which is what ‘Play Inna Day’ was about). Musically, we’d discovered hardcore punk, reggae and drum n bass and I got really into hip-hop so Grimace quietly died a death. We were adding these elements into Grimace once Ben had joined and some of the stuff on the final Grimace demo ‘Demonstrate’ is re-recorded on the first SB6 EP. I think we needed to go out and figure out what we were then come back to the punk scene and do something different.

The rest of the story can be followed just by going and checking out the discography on the Sonic Boom Six site HERE! If enough people ask for it I'd be happy to upload the Grimace discography at some point.

Aaron Lohan asks (well, challenges!)

I've loved a lot of the support bands you've toured with but I
challenge you to take a hardcore band on tour, and if you do, which
hardcore band would you like to take on tour?

Hmmm, sorry to be ‘genre-dude’ but it depends on whether you mean hardcore-punk or hardcore hardcore. We did a tour with Chief in support in 2008 who are my favourite hardcore-punk band around. I think that hardcore-punk bands work really well alongside us and it’s great to play festivals with bands like Strike Anywhere and Paint It Black. We asked The Steal to come on tour a long time back and they couldn’t but one band I’ve really got my eye on at the moment is Our Time Down Here. Those guys supported us in Southampton and we leant our gang vocals to their album and we’d love to take them out one day if we could. You can hear them HERE.

If you mean more in the realms of ‘proper’ tough hardcore like Madball and Judge and stuff, I don’t know if that kind of band would be right for our crowd, much as I love it personally!

And finally, a couple off Kev H

Managing your own label between you guys, being all self-reliant, and constantly touring and merching, doing all that full time, if it's not in bad taste mentioning money, you guys must crunch alot of numbers?
 
Hell yeah. At the moment Neil actually does the accounting but the whole thing is very much run by us. The operation is divided into a division of labour. In theory, we divide like Voltron and we all do different things within the unit that divides the work into manageable chunks and makes sure that we’re all playing to our strengths towards a common goal. And all that. For instance, I'm shit at business and can't drive so I don't go near the money or the steering wheel but I write all the lyrics and lots of the music and Neil does the opposite so, in theory, we all meet in the middle somewhere... in theory. :)
                            
Double Header! It seems this band you're in, more than any other I've ever seen, are totally open to talking to fans & wasting time listening to drunk people tell you they loved the first album. You've got all this vault stuff on your website and are the 2nd most prolific poster on your own forum, and are merch standing it at every gig... Why and how do you put up with it?

Well, I can only speak personally here but I think it’s basically to do with the whole idea of Sonic Boom Six, which was to be a punk band that embodies a lot of different ideas without trying to draw too much attention to that fact. I personally just think the ‘rock star’ mythos is out-dated, corny and narcissistic. I don't dig on that whole Motley Cru thing in terms of that kind of hokey rock-star image, even when people do it ironically. I remember being totally bummed out meeting Red Hot Chili Peppers outside their gig back in 1995 and I’d made a birthday card for Flea and he basically just pushed past and knocked it on the ground. And this is someone who always likes to go on about how punk he is. I tried to give it to his security but they all just shoved past. Who knows whether he got it. Whereas, not long before that year, at the same venue Pantera had come out and hung with the kids and Dimebag was a proper nice bloke and that meant a lot to us.
I don’t see that remaining aloof brings any mystique or air of mystery to a band in this day and age. I like to interact with our fans because being pragmatic and down-to-earth was definitely always an aspect of what SB6 was about. Pricking the bubble of ‘the cool’, which is generally just something that reminds me of 6th Form common rooms. Like the ‘cool list’. Something journalists write about for kids to read that need to re-affirm their coolness by liking something that a magazine that they sell in Asda tells them is cool. I’m not losing any sleep over it but it’s total bobbins isn’t it? Fuck it. Act like a nice bloke that you’d like to hang out with, not ‘cool’.

As Babar Luck so consistently points out, it's nice to be nice.

Rightio, I'm aware there are another few questions on another specific subject but they'll have to wait until we've got all our ducks in a row to be able to speak about the thing they're asking about! As ever, keep those questions coming in to barney@sonicboomsix.co.uk


I'm off to see Inception in a bit. I like Leo DiCaprio but Christopher Nolan's Batman films - apart from the odd flash of brilliance - haven't been for me. It remains to be seen what I think about a film that he isn't making about a character that I'm irrationally demanding about. I'm ready to be pleasantly surprised!

Barney x

Friday, 9 July 2010

Questions that demand answers!

Alright then.

All is as busy as ever in the land of the Boom. We're currently getting ready and rehearsing the set for the new tour, dusting off some old classics and spring-cleaning the tried and tested. We're gonna have sax on as many of the dates as we can manage and we're raring to go. Come and check out the dates HERE and grab a ticket if you haven't already. These could well be the last UK dates of 2010.
So, I've had a nice little mailbag over the last few weeks, time to get through some of these here questions!

First, I've got a few from Joshua Parker...

"I saw on your MySpace page, on the animated banner advertising City Of Thieves that it "includes the singles The Concrete We're Trapped Within (It's Yours), Back 2 Skool and Strange Transformations". Does that mean at some point you guys will be releasing Strange Transformations as a single?"

Hey Joshua. There was a plan to do that and make an elaborate video but unfortunately the timing/plans/budget simply didn't allow it at the end of last year. It would have been really cool to follow up 'Concrete' and 'Back 2 Skool' with it but, alas, it was not to be. We may well make a video for another tune from 'City Of Thieves' but it would be unlikely to be 'Strange Transformations' as I think only a really ambitious video could do that tune justice. We're going to be releasing the 'Rude Awakening' compilation on CD in France and Germany so we're thinking about doing a video for one of the tunes on there.

Also, in regards to your new sound, with the introduction of Jimmy T Boom and synths, will it be going the same sort of way that "Charge!!" was for The Aquabats, dropping the brass section or will it integrate both? I have a small idea after seeing you last at the Camden Barfly, playing "Bandito" and "Shockwave"?

This is a funny one because it was the plan to move in that direction with absolutely no brass but after playing with Robin from Random Hand at Slam Dunk and our sax player Alex in France we decided that we really loved having brass in there. We're actually rehearsing with a sax player this coming week (Dave from Kid's Can't Fly) who will be playing with us on a lot of the dates on our forthcoming UK tour and on the gigs that The Hostiles are playing with us, Lynsey will be helping us out. Our ideas change everyday but me and James have been speaking a lot about the new stuff incorporating a cross between heavy rock and ska with drum n bass and dubstep while using a lot of very minor hornparts inspired by the Latin American ska-core bands like Voodoo Glow Skulls that we played with over in the US. So on the one hand there is going to be more samplers and synths but still as much brass as we normally use. Anyway, our ideas change from day to day but one thing is sure, we're definitely very pro-brass section at the moment, whether it's deemed cool or not!

What will Ben C's involvement be with the band now? Will he help with songwriting or recording, or just general support of the band?

In terms of what we're doing at the moment, nothing really, but the door is always open. He isn't involved in terms of songwriting or recordings... Ben's living in the US and doing his own solo thing so there isn't much time and we're all happy and getting on with things. I'm sure we'll work together in the future again. Maybe sooner than people think actually! But that's all I'm saying for now...

Hey man, just a short one, but i was wondering if anything new was happening with Babyboom or if you guys were done with that as a side project.


Hmmm, that's a very well-timed question, nudge, nudge, wink wink. ;) We're playing a Baby Boom set at Rebelllion and that's it for now. We really didn't think of Baby Boom as a side-project anymore, it was really just Sonic Boom Six acoustic. But who knows what's going to happen there, we certainly aren't done with it but time and financial constraints make it a very difficult project to put the time into at the moment. In fact, it's nigh on impossible.

Farran Key asks...

With regards to militant anti-fascism, which i am in support off, do you think anti-fascism should widen its scope to include the unfair immigration policy toting Conservative Party?


Wow. Personally, no. I'm loathe to get too into politics because I always wanted our lyrics to speak for themselves and be taken how they're taken. But in a nutshell, no, I don't think it should include the immigration policy of the the Conservative's because, although it's not my idea of the appropriate take on immigration, I simply don't think it's anywhere near extreme enough (especially within the context of other country's immigration policies in Europe) to be deemed 'fascist'. I'd go as far as to say I think that deriding any attempt to regulate the entry of people with different citizenship into any country as 'fascist' is probably a bit idealistic and hysterical. But, much more than this, blaming immigrants for taking jobs, rising crime and anything else that the dim and feckless use them as a scapegoat for is ignorant beyond belief.

A big one from Николай Волков (!)

I fetl curious, and wanted to ask just this: what do you think of anarchy? (An' overall anarchy, not just the anarcho-communism "anarchy", which itself is something I dont like.)

I think it's an interesting concept to speculate about and use as a notion to build discussion around but, ultimately, I think it's pretty clear the boat's already sailed on that one and there are more relevant things to improve within our current way of life. A solid, academically-sound concept of humanity without church, capitalism and the law as we know it is useful as an ideal to strive for and maybe the thin end of the wedge in terms of the presence of civil liberties in the minds and hearts of the decision-makers of the world. However, in my head, it's our ambition that is at the heart of the way we live, not necessarily greed or bloodlust or power-hunger, just ambition to do something more than the next man. And that ambition is ultimately what has allowed us to sit behind computers and pontificate about anarchy... But yeah, I like the thought of it and will put my fist up in the air and weakly shout it but I don't really think of it as a legitimate possibility. In a nutshell, I think if the world had a little more anarchy, it would be a better place but I'm not holding my breath on seeing it as a full-on human reality any time in the next aeon and nor would I really want to.

Here's a few of Henry Raby!

It's been puzzling me for many years now, and I keep meaning to ask you whenever I bump into you or any of the other guys/gal. In the song 'Tell Me Something That I Don't Know' from Arcade Perfect, what does the line "I'm not a fucking hippie 'cos there's races I don't hate" mean?

Maybe it's just a rubbish lyric! The song is about my observation that in the UK music press, any bands that have a slightest message that deviates from songs about love or dancing at a disco are pigeonholed as 'political' bands, almost always in a negative way. I meant, "the fact that I don't hate other races doesn't make me a hippie" ergo, "just because I don't write songs about love doesn't make me political".

Also, what's your favourite comic book/comic book author. Mine's Neil Gaiman and 'The Sandman' (specifically 'Season of Mists')

Wow. Neil Gaiman and the Sandman 'Season of Mists', literally! It's as great as any great novel. I like Neil Gaiman's prose books too but nothing comes close to Sandman. I also love all the usual Vertigo suspects; Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run, Garth Ennis's Preacher (the best ending to any comic series ever), Jamie Delano's early Hellblazer and Fables. I love stuff by Peter Milligan, Brian K Vaughan, Frank Miller, Alan Grant, and generally love Batman stuff. More recently, I enjoyed Y The Last Man and Grant Morrison's All Star Superman. If you want something that hasn't been overly-lauded, I think Grant Morrison's work on the first 50 or so issues of Animal Man in the late 80s is amazing, ahead-of-it's-time stuff. And I loved Watchmen obviously, first time around, but that's been somewhat played out now.

And 3rdly....what band that are still gigging that you have never played with would you love to play with?

I'd love to do some shows with Gogol Bordello because to see their live show every night couldn't help but inspire a band to work on that side of their show.
Alright then. That's it for now, please keep those questions coming in at barney@sonicboomsix.co.uk

If you haven't checked them out yet, I've just posted up the full series of 4 tour vids from our recent US tour below. They took me ages to do and I don't know if I'll bother again unless I get a bit more feedback you buggers. Please watch them with your head-balls and laugh at the abject ridiculousness of our little troupe...

Till next time!

Barney x




Thursday, 17 June 2010

Izzy, Wizzy, bloody well busy

Hey Droogies.

We're mad busy over here in the land of Boom. Although things may appear calm and correct on the outside, there are lots of changes happening behind the scenes and over at Rebel Alliance so these have been some of the most busy and testing times we've ever had. But what is life for if not for living?!

Anyhoo, nice little video diary here. I'll be blogging again very soon. We've got a weekend of rehearsals in front of us so I'll let you know what's going down in Boomland as and when I get the chance.



Barney x

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Wigga than Punk Rock.

Well now!

It's good to be here in the US. The weather is treating us great and the gigs and the people have been awesome. Knock-Out have been an amazing help to us and a great bunch of friends to boot. Wish you were here! Rather than writing a big War and Peace style tour diary, I've decided to make some video diaries which present our little troop in all it's technicolour (or should that be technicolor) glory. I've put up a video diary of our first few days on Youtube. I'll be compiling another video very soon. Check it out and leave us a comment!



On the first show we played we dropped in on the Ultra Violet Social Club in Los Angeles, a venue that also incorporates a clothing store as well as various art projects. The whole co-op vibe of the set-up was amazing and Raul and Daniella, who run the boutique, were kind enough to show us round. You can check out the stuff they do from the shows to the shop over at their SITE. The threads all have a strongly DIY vibe as well as some really cool designs from Raul and clothing by independent labels like Bishop Park. There were also skatedecks designed by the Mexican artist Benjamin Estrada who has worked with a whole host of punk and ska and hardcore bands which you can see HERE. All this stuff is great independent stuff and well worth checking out. We also need to thank Clemente from Evokore promotions for helping organise the whole shebang and giving us such a warm welcome to the States.
















 Also worthy of comment is that Neil has finally got his first tattoo over in the Everett, WA parlour Sunken Ship Tattoos who also did some designs on Knock-Out and have inked such celebrated punk rock royalty as Micheal Graves. Check them out HERE.
















Awesome. I've had a few questions coming in which is amazing so please keep them coming. A few of the more political ones I'll have to get my head around soon but it's been a bit sunny here for pontificating upon the finer points of political reform.

You must get called a "wigga" a lot Barney, as do I. Please, in your own special way, tell me a bit about what you think about all this colour in music shenanigans, like have any silly mings ever found you offensive and maybe about your habit of (almost oxymoronicaly) speaking/rapping patois?

My immediate reaction to that question is that it always seems to me that it's the people who make this into an issue that have the problem. Without putting too fine a point on it, I've never had anybody black or asian come up to me after a gig and complaining that I'm not authentic or whatever yet I've had kids write stuff on the internet about it and in the end, when you eventually meet them, they always seem to be white and from the home counties and the whole thing kind of answers itself. It's really their hang-ups about race, it's the belief that different races should act in a particular way. It's not really something I spend much time getting bent out of shape about. To put it another way, if someone was to utterly dismiss say, Eminem, simply because he's white most people would look at that person and say 'well, that's their loss and their problem'. Whilst I'm not going to compare myself to Eminem, I still think that it's pointless to dwell too much on the mindsets of people that you're never going to reach.

I think that ultimately pop music is powerful when it's an expression of one's self and the only way that's ever going to be potent enough for other people to be swept along in it is for it to be a true expression of something unique. In the sense that I am who I am and if I can express that through music, it's going to have to be in a way that relates to how I speak and behave. I personally don't think there is anything at all 'wigga-ish' about anything I do, but I do see that it incorporates stuff that has melted into my approach to music that came from living in a city and feeling comfortable in being involved in the hip-hop scene and emceeing at parties and things like that. If that's in any way remarkable, it's still part of me, so it's something worth expressing. I'm always going to be myself. If some people don't like that, it probably means that others will.

British music has a strong history of bands that mix different styles, sounds and patious, none more apparent than my favourite bands the Specials and the Clash. If people were scared of ridicule, then you'd never have the self-expression that places like Bristol, Coventry, Manchester and all these other cities that have had times that they have been breeding grounds for extreme periods of creativity have done so because of the mix of different musical cultures coming together and creating something new. The reason that Massive Attack, the Specials, the Happy Mondays, the Streets, the Prodigy and even Gorillaz work is not because they express simply a crossover of black and white, they work because they express something that is uniquely British in the social and cultural things that are going on there. So if I'm a 'wigga' to some of the punk scene, I'm glad of the fact that the part of that that is offensive is paradoxically the part of self-expression that I associate with simply being British. Not white and not black and something unique and interesting. It's great that within music is one of the places where those kind of barriers can drop down so when people go out of their way to put them back up, it's a little sad.

To be honest, it isn't only us. I've seen the same things thrown at other bands in the past. Sometimes it does bother you, just the other day I saw someone talking about the Skints and saying they are awesome except for the drummers ridiculous Jamaican accent. It's criticising the form not the function which, in art in general, is missing the point. Jamie may have a ridiculous Jamaican singing voice(!) but it happens to be absolutely amazing - one of the best voices I've ever heard - so to dismiss it because you're uncomfortable with it because of the hang-ups you have about your own sensibilities about race, it is really your loss. And it's not just ignorant, it's really sad.

Also, how many caps do you own, and why the transition from trucker to New Era?

Ooooh, a fun one! I've got, or at least had, about 14 different Boston Red Sox hats and various others but I do like my B on my head the best. I guess the transition from Truckers to New Era was just following fashion. It's like saying why did I used to wear baggy jeans and now I wear tight ones? I don't know, but everyone else is.

Yeah, keep them questions a coming at barney@sonicboomsix.co.uk

Love ya!

Barney x

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Rebel Without a Stamp.

Alrighty then

I hope everyone is well out there! It’s been good to be back on the road and after an interesting month or two for the band things are definitely coming together. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel of the writing and performance of our new stuff and we’re confident it is all going to take us to infinity and beyond. It feels great to be sure of ourselves again. So thanks to everyone who has come to the recent shows and given us feedback about the new stuff. Good or bad!

As I've travelled up and down this country over the past few weeks I’ve had quite a few questions, online and in interviews, about the subject of the election and I’ve found it difficult to explain my perspective on the whole thing. I’ve found it unusually hard because this time I’ve become that thing that I said I never would…

A non-voter.

Rest assured, through a combination mulled-over campaign manifestos and officious registry practicalities, I have my own valid reasons. I shouldn’t be ashamed. But I can’t deny it still feels wrong. I don’t really know what to say about it all. And while I agree with the intention behind the surge of voices intending to empower and stimulate the ‘non-voters’ who have literally given up on the politicians and system as it stands, I’m still racked by a vague guilt about my self-imposed role as the martyrd malcontent. It’s just not me. Hasn’t my ‘thing’ always been to stick up for the everyman? How can I agree with letting that hatemonger go and hang himself by his bongo-eyed neck on Question Time when I won’t be part of the democratic process that can ensure he gains as little power as possible? I really don’t know. But there we have it. And, truth be told, there really is nothing out there that’s making me regret that decision apart from my own nagging doubts.

It's very difficult for me not to reflect upon the contrast between the media's treatment of our election with that of the circus over in the US that we witnessed on a US tour during Obama’s rise to power. On the one hand, the US’s media-conglomerate festival of political infotainment was hard to stomach, what with its Wrestlemania-style campaign promos and sound-bites reduced to the cerebral content of the prose on your average lolly-stick. But, golly gee, at least there was passion. People stopped you in the services and were ready to tell you who and why they were voting. The dayglo election campaigns were booming from every TV and radio and the neighbourhoods bore the images of their political Hope on t-shirts and in shop windows. There was something happening. There was the feeling that whatever happens on the day would be vital and palpable in everyone’s life. Whether such engagement with the pageantry was misguided or not, it’s hard not to be sheepishly swept up into the sport of it all. It’s hard not to wholeheartedly condone the concept of giving a shit.

Here in the UK, is anything happening? We wear our cynicism on our sleeves and sit comfy in our know-it-all chair with an air of deflated pessimism and prod at it lazily with our famous British sarcasm. But is it really that funny? Footlights in-joke traditions of a ‘groan being as good as a laugh’ loom large in our collective psyche. How easily we’re swept into pointing and braying at our beloved public gaffes and seeing the papers the next day in a game of who-blinks-first in declaring the most outlandish omens of doom for our current leader. Who cares what their policies are? He called a woman bigoted with his mic still on! We chortle at the Americans propensity for earnest cheesiness whilst wallowing in our peculiar obsession with public manners. We fold our ballot papers over in case anyone sees. The most impassioned display of campaigning I’ve seen has been a yellowing ‘I’m Voting Liberal Democrats’ poster in a bungalow in Kent. I’ve read columns by politically contrasting popular pundits from Jeremy Clarkson to David Mitchell that are unified in that they centre more on the fact that we don’t care about voting than anything about the campaign at all, eyes-rolling with a tone more akin to Charlie Brooker reviewing X-Factor than an examination of the political parties ready to seize or lose power in our sceptered isle. And I'm not knocking it, I recognise that is the way a lot of us feel, essentially sneering and curling top lips at the whole thing because we’re so at a loss to our total, burning indifference to the options being presented.

Is apathy the right word? It’s a judgmental epithet to be saddled with to be sure; an image of a slovenly Kevin the Teenager with a ‘can’t be bothered’ mantra, sat in front of the PlayStation wanting to engage in nothing more than the boss of level 3. Maybe this widespread denial of the ‘civic duty’ of voting is empowering in itself. Maybe we have simply had enough?! But where to from here? Many of the more left-wing groups are actively promoting the notion that not voting is the first step into galvanising the individual into pro-active political action beyond the remit of our flawed system. You’re free to not vote if you do something constructive instead to curb the system that stands. I hope that this works, I hope they can channel the collective guilt of the creaky old ‘someone died for that vote’ into something powerful. Unfortunately, I’m not particularly sure that there are enough people who are aware of any symbolism or statement that not-voting makes as there are Kevins who can’t be bothered. However, I wholly agree that there is a difference between pushing your plate away and sitting there grumpily and actually leaving the table and going to find something else to eat.

I heard it enough growing up that ‘someone died for that vote’ is tantamount to the Catholic Guilt I never had. It’s hard to argue with a catchphrase you heard bandied about through your entire childhood and teenage years and had the unflappable belief that those families that didn’t were either roguish philistines or aloof bohemians. But at some point you come to realise that there is a difference between respecting these conventions and being dictated by them. We’ve been stuck in the rut of this 2-party race for so long now that it’s almost comical to trace back from David Cameron’s airbrushed face to Emily Pankhurst’s days of suffrage. But nonetheless, there it was and here we are.

If what you’ve just read sounds like I’ve used a lot of words to essentially say nothing that’s probably because I’m as much at a loss as anyone. Perhaps I am a political rebel, rejecting the shackles of his enforced governors by his symbolic denial of their need for valediction. Perhaps I’m a lazy Kevin who can’t be arsed dealing with the bureaucratic nightmare that registering for mail voting would have entailed for me. Maybe the truth is somewhere in between.

If any of you guys are thinking about who to vote for, and more power to you if you are doing, there is a great page HERE detailing the fundamental differences between the main party policies. Ironically enough, I’m going to be in America anyway when it all goes down so we’ll see how much they give a damn about what’s going on over here.

Frankly my dear, I doubt it will be much less than we do.

Barney x

p.s. If you've got any questions about anything, band-wise or anything else, bang them over to barney@sonicboomsix.co.uk and I'll answer them on here. Throw us a bone you buggers, otherwise I'll have to do more of these ponderous artifacts.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Bye bye Bomb Ibiza!

All good things must come to an end as they say, and it’s with a heavy heart we wave goodbye to Manchester ska-punk institution Bomb Ibiza. With the club-nights and the gigs, over the last six years Em Johnson and the gang have provided countless great memories and times and showcased and helped out a ton of bands, from the jolly madness of Sunday’s Ska Bars to the bigger gigs held at Satan’s Hollow. It’s hard to overstate just how important Bomb Ibiza was to SB6 in the early days so I feel like writing something about Bomb Ibiza for those of you that are interested. The most I can hope for is that someone might read this and think about promoting gigs and all that it entails. I know firsthand what a difficult, thankless task it is and I know that promoters don’t get nearly enough credit when things go right but always (often rightly so!) get the kibosh when things go wrong. So anyway, here’s my memories of Bomb Ibiza and my own little tribute to something that me and Manchester are gonna miss, more than we probably realise right now…

Back in the days of yore of early SB6, 2002 or so, the Manchester punk scene was a different beast. Whilst there were punk gigs (there was the more cider-punky gigs at the Star and Garter and the hardcore scene catered for by Marios at Say it To My Face and some others) the ska-punk scene never really got a home. A lot of the bands and people from the DIY punk scene, where the likes of Capdown had played their early Manc shows, had gravitated to Leeds. Whilst we were going down south and playing our first Sonic Boom Six shows for amazing, up-for-it punk crowds with bands like Howards Alias, No Comply, Adequate 7 etc in Manchester the promoter to make those kind of shows work hadn’t appeared. Apart from the odd decent gig of that kind here and there, and the odd band, there was no focused place or promotion for it. Hell, we even promoted gigs ourselves and got bands like Lightyear, Shootin Goon and Captain Everything over because it was the only way we could think of to try and get things going. It just turned, spluttered and wouldn’t kick into life.

You could see that there were enough people into that kind of stuff, and enough local bands to make it work (I remember us, Rhythmic Coughing, Harijan, Minions of Jeffrey, Echo Freddy and others all jockeying for gigs) it just needed a focus. That came largely in part through a website that Mackie from a ska band from Yorkshire called Milk 2 Sugars and his friend Si started when they came to Manchester. It was called MancPunkScene and, although it was met with a lot of understandable skepticism by parts of the punk scene, it did slowly but surely build up a dedicated user base.

There are a lot of different takes on how much difference MPS made. I understand that people that had previously felt at home in parts of Manchester’s punk scene would feel affronted that MPS ‘created’ anything. But to me, and others like me, and to Sonic Boom Six, which means a huge deal to me, it was simply very important. It was the epitome of what is good about the internet; a tool to communicate. Personally, I know I never really felt properly at home dipping into Thursday nights at Rock World, dipping into the hardcore gigs, dipping into the DIY bands scene. It was good, but I still liked silly bands that skanked and played trumpets and everyone at those places had hated that for a good few years now. From my perspective MancPunkScene meant that a lot of the kids that liked different punk bands started being friends but most importantly to me it meant that the kids that liked the bands like Lightyear, Five Knuckle, No Comply etc finally started speaking together. And when I say ‘being friends’ I don’t mean e-buddys that you speak with online but then can’t say boo to a goose when you see them in real life (I’ve met a few of them…) but genuine, dyed-in-the-wool, speak on the phone, this is what life’s about friends that I still have. A lot of people who I’d seen about and said nothing more to than ‘hello’ previously you’re suddenly planning to meet up before a gig with for a drink. And then you’re waking up in their spare room with a coat over you not remembering much of the night before but knowing you had a good time.*

So, with the vim and vigour of a place to speak about strange things like Antimaniax and Aquabats, suddenly gigs like the HouseHoldName tour 2004 at the Star and Garter that Rhythmic Coughing put on were totally rammed. The one we put on the year before literally had about 30 people paying in. An all-dayer at the Star and Garter which had No Comply, Howards Alias, Sonic Boom Six and a bunch of other bands on was rammed and really exciting. People were talking, people were meeting new people, something was happening. I remember speaking to Em at that gig and she was definitely inspired to capitalise on this crowd (in a good way!). With this new-found little community developing, Em with help from Gail and Mina decided to do a skapunk clubnight at the Squirrels Bar in Owens Park Student Halls of Residence in Fallowfield and they decided, after a Lightyear song, to call it Bomb Ibiza! I remember pompously telling them it was a bad name because there was nothing wrong with Ibiza (I was big into going out to dance music nights at the time so was wounded by any perceived sleight from my punky cohorts) but over time I grew to like the name because it was silly and fun and unpretentious which is something I always liked about the ska-punk scene. Whilst every other scene, from hip-hop to hardcore to dance I’ve been a follower of has a capacity for pretentiousness and cool cliques in every club, Ska-punk is so geeky in the first place that you never get any of that. People don’t look you up and down when you come in and check your trainers. It’s the outside world that has the hang-ups about ska-punk and all that. When you see a load of kids jogging on the spot to ‘Ska Wars’ it’s easy to see that none of them give a flying fuck about that and none of them are looking at each other to see how each other is dancing either. It’s just silly, trivial fun, which is, to me, a huge part of what rock music is about.

That first night was a good little laugh. I can probably name everyone there, but it was something new. There was another one that followed at the Brickhouse (maybe there were a few at that venue…) and more people started turning up. I remember Alex from Reading ran the PunkerMentality website turning up with some competition prizes. Em had also started promoting some gigs under the Bomb Ibiza banner. Forgive my memory but I can’t remember many but I do remember the Toasters at the Roadhouse with us and Zen Baseballbat and the ensuing chaos that followed because Fandangle’s drummer had a problem with the kitshare organisation. It turned into a shitstorm and I remember the woman at the Roadhouse screaming at Em and calling her an amateur which was well unfair. That venue has a great atmosphere and some of the best gear and dimensions for live music, it’s just a shame that the staff there didn’t give a shit about live music. But that’s another story.

However, it was when the night moved to Satan’s Hollow that it really got moving because you had the mutually beneficial relationship of a venue and club that needs both gigs and a night to bring students in the week with a promoter who can provide it. Marios from Say it To My Face was a great help in those days and helped the Bomb Ibiza guys through their steps into putting on bigger touring bands and the organisation and professionalism that takes. The first few club-nights were - in the echoing truth that a large dance-floor declares - relatively empty but the dedicated few always trundled their way over, happy to drink beer and engage in drunken conversation with the omnipresent Miller. However, with heavy heavy flyering over the freshers period, I guess it must have been in 2005, the first club-night of the student year was absolutely rammed in Satan’s and had an amazing atmosphere. The music was more varied too, with a more student-pleasing indie bit (with Ordinary Boys, Dead 60s etc) to a punk set courtesy of Jess (who dropped NOFX, Against Me! and all that) which worked well and kept a lot of the people who weren’t just there to hear ska coming back for the social element. From then on, Bomb Ibiza was up and running and, although attendance does go up and down, never returned to the empty-room-with-the-dedicated feeling of the first few club-nights.

The first gig I remember being really rammed was Suicide Machines, Howards Alias and us in January 2005 (actually Dave Kelly’s last gig!).We went down really well and I speak to a lot of people who say that was the first time they saw us. It was a great night and I got to sing a bit of ‘Nervous Breakdown’ with Jason from Suicide Machines and he did a little ‘Sound of The Police’ shout-out which I was stoked about. The gigs started to get bigger and better over time and soon it became the place for the punk and ska gigs in Manchester, even with its stupid fucking round stage. Tons and tons of memorable gigs from Bomb Ibiza followed as it got established over the years with Streetlight Manifesto, the Slackers, Voodoo Glow Skulls, RX Bandits and the Aquabats being some that spring to mind. In the summer of 2006 we did a launch gig for Ruff Guide and played ‘Saw Red’ by Sublime for Em which is on YouTube somewhere… There were just a ton of good gigs for a good few years. And I guess the thing that I need to impress upon the reader is, in general, before Bomb Ibiza these gigs were missing Manchester.

Once the club-night and gigs had been established Em didn’t rest and, as I remember, borrowing an idea from a Bradford gig that she co-promoted with another lad she brought the Ska Bar to the Retro Bar in Manchester. There simply weren’t enough big supports to go around all the smaller bands and with Satan’s being over-sized for the littler touring bands the Ska Bar at the Retro Bar was the answer. Essentially a developmental territory for the bigger Bomb Ibiza gigs and a chance to keep prices low and music-business politics out of the equation as much as possible, the Ska Bar quickly became a whole little life of its own, with bands like Stand Out Riot, the Fractions, Harijan (RIP!) and coming into their own as part of this in a way we had been lucky enough to do in the early days of Bomb Ibiza. The small community that was built here is awesome with the fun of nights like the charity Karaoke (which is always blessed with a star turn from another of Manchester’s omnipresent gig barflies, Mikey Wong) to the rapport that has been built with the staff. Francis from Stand Out Riot will be continuing the good work Em and co started in the Ska Bar after Bomb Ibiza is lain to rest.

Over the last few years, with Em leaving uni and getting a job that takes up a lot of time and with the inevitable ebb and flow of lives and people, Bomb Ibiza has slowed down a bit and the Ska Bars have really taken on a life of their own and become a little institution. They’re always proper good fun so if you’ve never been down to the Retro Bar on a Ska Bar Sunday, keep your eyes on the forum and go and take a look, it comes recommended. It’s great that

So, all that’s left to say really is to Em and everyone that helped her (shouts to Gail, Francis, Jess, James, Marios and anyone else that lent a hand) THANK YOU! and goodbye to Bomb Ibiza. I’ve met a ton of great friends through Bomb Ibiza! and had some amazing times there and it really meant the world in the first few years of the Boom to know that a local promoter that was helping out the music scene that we were a part of had our back. It was a massive help. All the effort and time that Em and co put into Bomb Ibiza was massively, truly appreciated. I need to give a shout-out now to TNS, Slit, Say it To My Face and everyone else that will continue to provide Manchester with quality punk nights and does the tough job of being a promoter and bringing us these shows time after time. And maybe if you’re reading this and you have some time and passion on your hands, maybe it might inspire you to go out there and create a little Bomb Ibiza of your own?! The world needs you!!!

Bomb Ibiza are having one more event. Come and check their forum HERE and come and support the cause. I hope that we can be part of it one way or another!

Your dearest pal

Barney x x x

* Not in a sex way.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Waiting for God. D'oh!

Hey guys, Barney here.

So, I'm currently waiting at home for the rest of the band to get here for rehearsals and I've just been informed they are gonna be late so I think I may as well do something useful. I've been toying with the idea of using this blog as a semi-personal actual blog that goes more into what I think and do on a day to day. That way, it might blur the lines between the tour diary type thing it normally is and the mailing list and news thing I do but I can also ramble on about other things in here that might be a bit too broad or weird or personal or daft or controversial or political or all those things at once than any of those more 'official SB6' type things entail. I think maybe that's a little self-indulgent and stuff and maybe I should separate it from the site but then I was reading a few blogs of people like Tom Gabel and see the amount of fans that are following him on there and how interesting it was to get that perspective that I thought I might try something similar here. Let us know what you think anyway. Give me questions and thoughts and all that. But don't ask me to do a Formspring like someone did a few weeks back. That's just another password to forget... :)

Anyhoo, as far as SB6 goes, things are exciting and nerve-racking at the moment in equal measure. Since Ben left, we've been filling in for him and, live-wise at least, we've managed to pull it off one way or another but now we're lumped together in my house stood around a PA and wondering how to proceed, the fact that we have to get used to working in a different way is all too apparent. In terms of writing songs it used to be unusual but we built a formula that worked across the albums. Basically, Ben would write a couple of songs in their entirety or thereabouts, I would write a couple of songs in their entirety or thereabouts and, for the majority of the rest, Ben would bring in an idea and I would add to it and turn it into a song and Laila would add bits and bobs. So, now, that way we wrote pretty much most of the songs (just for example seven - over half - of the songs on City of Thieves follow that formula) has gone out of the window so we're all in a new place. On the one hand, of course, it's hard to know exactly how to go about everything. But on the other hand, no one is going to deny that we milked the formula for what it was worth across three albums and several EPs so a change is as good as a rest. And a change in the Boom is going to keep everyone excited.

Laila has discovered a new sense of vim and vigour about stepping up into her role as a songwriter and, for the first time in Boom history, she's stepped up to the plate with a finished full song idea that just needs bits and bobs on top of it. The good news is that it's great. The hard part of the whole thing is that it's possibly more poppy than anything we've ever attempted to do and to keep the fans of the 'old Boom' happy while bringing in something more in a dance/pop type vein is a challenge. But we're getting there and we're definitely going to be playing this song on the forthcoming tour. I hope that people get what we're doing and that it stands up as something new but also something ‘Boom’.

And in with the new, James 'Jimmy T Boom' Routh has joined the band with a whole host and collection of synth noises, bleeps and grooves to slot in alongside our previous dalliances with the electronica side of things. I don't think I'm going out on too much of a limb to speculate the more dance-crossover side of things are going to be coming out within the newer material and we've got a tune that we've been working on that we're really excited about - a kind of cross between punk and jungle in a way that leans harder towards the synths and stuff. Just to do it in a way that's coherently mashed up in a way that sounds futuristic and makes you want to dance is what we're after but I definitely want to avoid it sounding like those god awful metal/electronica crossover acts that kind of ape the worst of both genres. Props to Skindred though, they do it brilliantly. I think a listen to 'Road to Hell' is probably the best clue of the sound we're going for but we really want to blow that out of the water in terms of where we're pushing it.

So! Between all of us, we have the blueprint for a new Boom (where the mash-up side of things come from the sound of the band rather than jumping from genre to genre every single song) it just finding the right approach to get the song ideas flowing and bouncing rather than being forced through. It's hard, but we shall prevail! At the moment, we all felt that the old set was beginning to stale (James joined mid-tour and has never actually rehearsed them!) so we've gotta get a full one set ready for April. There's gonna be as much new stuff and as much clues to where the Boom 2.1 is going in there so I wish they’d all hurry up and get here and we can get to it.

Speaking of live gigs, I got the chance to go and see my pals Crazy Arm supporting Frank Turner this week at the Academy in Manchester and what a gig it was. It's funny because the Crazy Arm album got recorded so long ago and we used to listen to it in the van and everyone absolutely loved it. But the guys were finding it hard to get appropriate gigs (they came on tour with the Boom for a bit...) and it felt like they were falling at the first hurdle of getting 'out there' into the music scene. I felt really bummed out because such a brilliant record might not get the crack of the whip it deserved. There was even talk of doing the album on Rebel Alliance but we felt it was too early for us to be bouncing around different genres and that the record was simply too fucking good to be on a label that doesn't have an expertise in the field that they play in. Lo and behold, our buddies at Xtra Mile eventually picked them up and, slowly but surely the quality of the record meant that it was a release that made the majority of 'best of 2009' lists and has garnered a ton of acclaim from word of mouth and Crazy Arm are up and running hard with the ball. To see Darren and Simon up there on the Academy stage with Chuck Ragen, massive grins plain for all to see was a bit of a lump-in-the-throat sight to behold. It kind of goes to show that good music will get you noticed in the end, despite all the other bullshit that goes on.

Speaking of good music getting you noticed, I was gratified to see that Frank Turner more than justified his current wave of popularity. I remember hearing his early EPs and enjoying them greatly and then having the misfortune to catch him at Rebellion 2006 (I think) sarcastically grumbling about 'punx' onstage, looking miserable and singing a song about 'the Day that Dance Music Died' which wheeled out a string of strangely peevish 6th-form-rocker stereotypes about the followers of various types of dance music that was so insulting I was offended to the extent that I left the gig. Over the years since, I stayed in the loop with Frank's albums and have listened to all the stuff and it's just gone from good to excellent. I’ve always missed him live though, even at festivals where we’ve both played. I've also noticed a lot of the underground scene turning against him (ridiculous comments such as 'there are so many more talented artists playing in squats and front rooms everywhere' are a common example of such errant buffoonery) which is generally a good indicator that someone is talented enough to make it in the 'real world' thereby decrying the flimsy myth that everyone playing in squats and living rooms is better than those on daytime Radio 1 but just don't want to because they've got too much integrity. Anyhoo, I was ready for him to be good live and was wondering how it was gonna work with the acoustic but I was treated to a masterclass in audience/artist interaction, good, pop songwriting and extremely talented musicianship. Anyone that has ever picked up a guitar and strove to write a song that a lot of people like is gonna see the talent in a bloke that has one and a half thousand people shouting every word at him with no gimmicks, image or trend holding it all up. And, as with Crazy Arm, it's heart-warming stuff. I never want to be one of those old guys who looks at what I do and go 'we couldn't get any further because we didn't have a big deal or we didn't kiss the right arses or we didn't look right' or whatever. Walking round thinking that every band that is famous is shit and lucky. Bitterness gets you nowhere. I'm totally happy with what we've achieved but I also know that I'd love to headline the Academy 1 and if we do, we need to look at the artists that do and see what it is that they do that has got them there. Not snipe at them, look at the negatives and say 'there but for the grace of God go I'. That being said, I'm glad he didn't treat us to 'The Day that Dance Music Died'

Anyway, wee Jimmy Boom jumped in for a photo with Big Franky T which I'll leave you with cos Laila and Nick have just got here.














Maybe we just need to be taller?

RSVP!

Your oldest pal.

Barnold x