Expressway Through My Skull



A Column

If a saxophone falls and there’s no woman there to abuse a pedal steel guitar, is it still jazz? That’s a question I found myself pondering last week in Salford, as I witnessed free-jazz legend Peter Brötzmann misuse reeds alongside unorthodox pedal steel sorceress, Heather Leigh. Promoting the duo’s remarkable debut release, ‘Ears Are Filled With Wonder’ (Not Two Records), this unlikely pair enraptured a packed Islington Mill with their stunning concoctions of improvisational beauty, expanded from 2015’s ‘On The Road’ material. As Leigh veered from clean to distorted plucking, Brötzmann blew tenor, bass, and B-flat clarinet. Leigh’s pedal steel made like Rhodri Davies‘ harp circa ‘An Air Swept Clean Of All Distance’ at the front of the set, morphing towards ‘Wound Response’ by the close. Mesmerising throughout, this was a performance of majesty from masters/mistresses of their respective arts. Brötzmann is enjoying yet another renaissance: idolised in the mid-90s by the likes of Thurston Moore, seemingly seduced by Hamid Drake’s ear-shattering backbeat; later by the 3rd generation NY/Chicago avant garde (Vandermark, O’Rourke, etc); and later still by his old euro-mates, veterans from the glory days of free musics, the man has made more comebacks than Billy Childish! It was both a pleasure and a privilege to meet a true evolutionary hero of the counterculture, keeping it real into his 70s! Old is the new young, whippersnappers.!mw940/klg52

Having been glued to my television set for weeks throughout the early months of this year, enthralled by Icelandic noire gem, ‘Trapped’, I was beguiled enough by the program’s soundtrack to engage with it’s creators: Jóhann Jóhannsson and  Hildur Guðnadóttir. Jóhannsson, an Icelandic composer, works in minimalist, neo-classical, drone and electronic disciplines, and has scored a host of impressive movie soundtracks, most notably for ‘Theory Of Everything’ and ‘Sicario’. Guðnadóttir, on the other hand, is a fellow Icelandic cello player and singer who emerged from the forefront of the experimental pop underground, originally as a member of Icelandic envelope-stretchers, múm. Her solo work draws a broad spectrum of sounds from her cello, ranging from intimate simplicity to huge Icelandic soundscapes, augmented by her unique vocals, and subtle shades of electronica. I’ve been immersed in Guðnadóttir’s fourth solo long player, ‘Saman’ (Touch, 2014), as a consequence of all this, and I find myself trapped in a vortex of resonance.

Both artists will be appearing at the Conway Hall, London, on 16/04/16, for a performance of Jóhannsson’s ’12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmann’ by a quartet comprising: Thomas Gould (violin) Sara Wolstenhome (violin) Ruth Gibson (viola) and Peter Gregson (cello); and ‘Prepared Listening’, a solo contemplation composed and performed by Guðnadóttir.

Meanwhile, in another conceptual universe, alchemically created by welding Guðnadóttir’s ‘Saman’ to Áine O’Dwyer‘s ‘Music For Church Cleaners: Vol. I and II’ (MIE), Vanessa Amara, the duo of Birk Gjerlufsen and Victor Kjellerup, follow-up their 2014 vinyl debut, ‘Both of Us/King Machine’ (Posh Isolation), with ‘You’re Welcome Here’ (Posh Isolation), a work that exponentially exploits the already massive potential of their previous efforts to forge a veritable galaxy of wanderlust. Gainfully employing church organ, a string quartet, tape hiss, and a bank of justified but ancient synthesizers, ‘You’re Welcome Here’ is a suite of seven compositions that break new ground for contemporary chamber music. If much of Posh Isolation’s output has been dubbed ‘bubblegum industrial’, then this is ’emotional drone': immediate; arresting; intimidating; engaging; emotive; overwhelming; intense and affecting. This would already appear to be sold out direct from Posh Isolation, so do yourself a favour, and grab a copy from Boomkat, before it’s too late:

Finally, April is a month pregnant with expectation for this soldier, as I avidly await the arrival of the third long player from Fire! Orchestra: ‘Ritual’ (Rune Grammofon). When I met Mats Gustafsson briefly following the recent Fire! performance at Cafe Oto, he was positively gushing with excitement at its impending release. Earlier on stage that night, his self-depreciating sense of humour had lumped both the trio and the orchestra’s work into one homogenous basket, but that’s blatantly a massive over-simplification. According to Gustafson: “this one is the bomb!”. According to Rune Grammofon: “Fire! Orchestra have outdone themselves, and produced a beast of beauty and power: extremely well executed; beautifully recorded; and produced from only two days in the studio! Free improvisations, spontaneous horns, keyboard frenzy, abstract electronics, guitar mayhem and not to forgetting those glorious twin voices of Mariam Wallentin and Sofia Jernberg. It´s about mysteries and rituals; in music and in life”.

Jean Encoule - April 7th, 2016

Fire! – Cafe Oto – 26/03/16



Fire! And Water!

Fire! and water. Opposites. Attract. Sunshine. Friday. Stormy. Saturday. Two seasons in two days. The planet warming. Someone’s lying. Rain lashes. Across the central reservation. Small orange Toyata. Speeds south. Relentless. Eating the M40. Like tarmac spaghetti. Digesting miles. Cranking Miles. ‘Bitches Brew’. Spills from the speakers. Clipping the edges of distortion. The hangover kid slumbers. Somewhere in our molecules. The anticipation. Of something. Of something special. Something radical. Something radically special. Crawling. Past Euston. Past Marylebone. Onwards King’s Cross. Station to station. Heading due East. To the land of beards. To the land of cereals. Acres of tweed. And plaid. Fields of golden nuggets. Somewhere near Capital Radio. We cross the Tottenham Court Road. Rapid burst of what sounds like automatic gunfire? The hangover kid. At once alert! Shock! Awe! Two hearts. Skip beats. As one. Browning M2? An engine? A pneumatic drill? A Kango? Nothing on the radio. Silence is the code. Static strafes the airwaves. We. Will. Never. Know. Tension mounts. The traffic. The fucking traffic. Even at 8pm at night. Does this need to be somewhere sooner rather than later never end? Through Highbury and Islington. Further East. Past the Macdonald’s where the drunken lady pretended to be sober. Deep into Dalston. Up the junction. Last few hundred metres. On foot. Satnav locked onto Cafe Oto. Twenty yards. Ten yards. In the yard. In the door: 8.30pm. Digging through the crates. I could drop a pony. Easy. Coke in bottle. The hangover kid smokes. Out on the veranda. Two hundred sharp dressed shadows flit across the backlit brick walls. Mingling. Expectantly. 9pm: stage time. Polite house introduction. Ladies and gentleman: Fire! And then they are here. Mats Gustafsson (saxophone and electronics), Johan Berthling (electric bass guitar), and Andreas Werliin (drums). Attack! Attack! Werliin drops a beat. Berthling assaults his bass. Switching from pick to thumb. Dexterity personified. Gustafasson skronks. He howls. He barks. He huffs. He puffs. He blows the house down. From time to time. Squiggles. Bleeps. Sonic punctuation. Squall. Recognition. Jams lifted from ‘You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago'; much from ‘(Without Noticing)'; a soupçon of ‘She Sleeps, She Sleeps'; a cover vershun. A homage.  A tribute. A first. Apparently. ‘Would I Whip’ antagonises the audience. To sway. Perchance to groove. Caps doff. Hats at an ever-jauntier angle. Sweat drips. Heads nod. Chins be-stroked. Eyes closed in wonder. Imaginations fired. As the notes run. Wild. Fire! And skill. Placing much of what has come before on this soldier’s journey firmly in the shade. Hold on. Hold on! No more rock’n’roll. What a con. Silly little leopard skins on. Les Paul singy-song-song. Nah. Up and beyond. Over the wall. Gonna break out of this city. Another world. Another planet. The time has come. There will be no more looking over the shoulder from here on in. The future lies ahead down the highway. The past is another county. Fire! is here. Fire! is now.



Jean Encoule - March 27th, 2016

Not Bored!




A column

We’ve gone on holiday by mistake!

Fire! are a Nordic psych-jazz power-trio, comprised of Mats Gustafsson (saxophones and Fender Rhodes), Johan Berthling (bass, electric guitar and Hammond organ), and Andreas Werliin (drums). Together, they weld free-jazz to post-rock with molten noise, soldering psychedelic flirtation to improvisational menace with freeform abandon.

Formed in 2009 in Stockholm, Fire! debuted on wax later that same year, with the five-track album, ‘You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago’ (Rune Grammofon). In 2010, Fire! collaborated with Jim O’Rourke, birthing ‘Fire! With Jim O’Rourke – Unreleased?’ (Rune Grammofon), twelve months later in 2011. 2012 saw further collaboration, this time with Australian multi-instrumentalist, Oren Ambarchi, resulting in the album ‘Fire! With Oren Ambarchi – In The Mouth – A Hand’ (Rune Grammofon). 2013 subsequently delivered ‘(Without Noticing)’ (Rune Grammofon), my current favourite Fire! LP, recorded and mixed at Summa, Stockholm, in the winter of 2012/2013, inspired by Bill Callahan‘s letters to Emma Bowlcut.

In 2013, Fire! were augmented by a further 28-mucicians from the Scandinavian jazz, improvisational, and avant-rock scenes, supplementing their core sound with vocals, trumpet, trombone, alto sax, tenor sax, bass sax, baritone sax clarinet, bass clarinet, guimbri, guitar, synthesizer, harmonium, piano, organ, keyboards, electronics, electric bass, acoustic bass, and drums . . . Fire! Orchestra was born. This expansion has so far born two long-players, ‘Exit!’ (Rune Grammofon, 2013) and ‘Enter!’ (Rune Grammofon, 2014), with a third, ‘Ritual’, due on Rune Grammofon on 29/04/16.

My own entry came recently, via Fire!’s 2016 album, ‘She Sleeps, She Sleeps’ (Rune Grammofon), a four-theme excursion on the flexibility of free-jazz parameters, re-imagined as drone-core. Their sparsest work to date, ‘She Sleeps, She Sleeps’ is an intoxicating abstraction, one that acts as the perfect introduction to this criminally underrated outfit.

Further digging around in the metaphorical crates led me in turn to The Thing, Gustafsson’s main squeeze, and another power-trio, this time with Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). Blatantly, I jumped straight in, immediately tracking down The Thing’s most recent two-disc set, ‘Shake’ (The Thing Records/TROST). Recorded in June 2015 by Jørgen Træen at Duper studios in Bergen, Norway, and mixed by Gustafsson’s Fire! compadres, Johan Berthling and Andreas Werlin, ‘Shake’ is The Thing’s most expansive and varied album to date: a veritable smorgasbord of experimental jazz toppings.

Further immersion in all things free-jazz finds me washed up on the northern shores of Swedish label, Omlott, home of NeutralAnna Högberg AttackPeeter UuskylaKonstruktSpjärnsvallet, Peter Brötzmann (he of ‘Machine Gun’ infamy) and Dog Life. My research into their roster is still in it’s infancy, admittedly, but I have already fallen for Anna Högberg Attack, whose s/t debut album is described by Mats Gustafsson thus:

“Attacking the now. The instant. The music. Attacking your image of what. Is. Music. Attacking the past. The history. What is now. Attack is all. Don’t hold back. Ever. Curiousness and initiative is all. And attack. The attack mode. 6-Swedes attacking it all, with a front of 3-sax players, not holding back. Attacking the mystery of it all. 6-defined personalities and creative voices with feet and minds in jazz, improvised music and related experimental matters. Togetherness. A real unit of creativity. Of poetic beauty. Anna Högberg as a modern free jazz standard bearer keeping it all together – her rich alto sax leading the ensemble into layers of high octane outbursts and sensational melodic variations. Her tone being able to cut landscapes open, to melt your brain as we know it. Check the two tenor sax axes out! Elin Forkelid Larsson and Malin Wättring knows how to attack matters – how to structure solos and ensemble work with intense warmth and melodic beauty. Seldom have I heard such warm and rich sounding tenors in Scandinavia. The time is here. The attack attack! Drummer Anna Lund punctuating the flow… attacking it all. Laying fundaments of possibilities for the others. The attack attack! Pianist Lisa Ullén adding her thorny, but detailed phrases to the picture. The picture of the attack attack.
And last but not least. The attack attack of deep sounding bass maestro Elsa Bergman. With an unusaul imagination of how to position her own language and bass lines into a collective
of attacking free jazz. Freeing the jazz. Attacking the jazz. The attack attack!”

Elsewhere, I’ve been banging away at Kamasi Washington‘s suitably titled ‘The Epic’ (Brainfeeder), the three-hour, triple-vinyl colossus I’ve been dipping in and out of ever since it dropped, back in May of 2015. Washington’s involvement with superstar MC Kendrick Lamar‘s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ unsurprisingly intensified the shower of ‘End-Of Year’ plaudits that rained down on ‘The Epic’ come close of play 2015, and it’s taken me the best part of 9-months to fully digest the depth and breadth of this monster of post-modern big band jazz. Encapsulating elements of the Coltranes (John and Alice), Miles Davis, and Pharaoh Sanders, ‘The Epic’ embraces choral embellishment, sweet soul music and R&B suss, at roughly the point in time where jazz first fucked funk, as it touches every base on the way to classicism.

Finally, I’m being released into the community again soon to witness Fire! live at Cafe Oto on 26/03/16. Maybe I’ll see you there. Maybe I won’t.

Jean Encoule - March 14th, 2016

Heavy Souls

What Can’t You See?

HS cover


Eighteen months ago, power duo Heavy Souls unleashed a raw, sprawling debut album that established their credentials as fat free, no-frills blues rock exponents of some merit. A testament to their creative fecundity, the sixteen track set crackled with enthusiasm and ideas. A year and a half down the line, those ideas have had time to mutate under the lambent glow of Guy Harandon (Guitar/Vocals) and Phillip Dolbear (Drums/Voodoo)’s dustbowl radiation.

A half dozen screaming mandrakes have taken root; the disc’s eponymous opener roars in like a barroom brawl between Blue Cheer and the Seeds, this kinesis producing a powerhouse garage rocker that snakes across the space between speaker and ear. Dark light flashes of dirty rock’n’roll are further illuminated by Guy’s eyeball-rotating vocal as the track slithers toward its climatic boiling lava instrumental break. ‘Addiction’ is equally serpentine, insinuating itself into the consciousness and creating a sense of encroaching claustrophobia by compressing space and time through a series of assured tempo changes. Any sense of restraint is abandoned as the track’s sonic attack lead break detonates ahead of the home straight.

By contrast, ‘Three Dog Night’ is an exercise in subtle shading. Supported on a propulsive bed of rhythmic mortar charges, the number uncoils as a loose-limbed boogeyman boogie that reaches periodic peaks of pulsar grade mass and impetus. Standout track ‘Haunted’ begins at the church of Dr Phibes, the organ giving way to a reflective groove, before the gas hits the flame and globs of white striped ectoplasm are ejected by the ghost in the drum/guitar machine.

Less of a blues, more of a sultry bump’n’grind, ‘Tuesday Blues’ is a voodoo rhythm shakedown that thunders, skitters, rocks and rolls its way toward a towering climax. Billed as a bonus cut, ‘Fun Loving Girl’ stands proud on its own merit. A sawdust floor twister that kicks up a dust storm of savage desire, the track pays testament to Phil’s witchcraft rhythms. The dust settles on our sweaty bodies…

Engorged by such sex beats, trakMARX cornered Phil and Guy at the crossroads to find out more:

For the uninitiated, tell us about the Secret Origin of Heavy Souls…

Phil: Like most modern romances we met online. We were both looking to start an original project but our influences and what we’re into are a bit odd for our age range. It’s tough to find a bunch of relatively young people that are into old school rhythm and blues. Went for a pint, had a jam, and recorded 26 tracks about a month and a half later. It was all weirdly easy.

That first album was something of an epic, how do you perceive it now?

Phil: We recorded the whole thing in two and a half days. It was a great experience but didn’t really reflect our sound at the time. Guy was playing through a monster bass cab called ‘Bertha’ and my kit was a lot more complicated than it is now. There was monstrous bottom end but it just didn’t come through on the recording. We were both still finding our sound. That’s something we’ve both worked really hard on. Listening back to it now it doesn’t really sound like us. We’ve moved on. Guy’s vocals have changed tremendously.

Have you kept much of that material in the set?

Phil: Our set is pretty much a lottery every time. We try to play the new stuff and the odd older song like ‘Tea’ or ‘No.7’, but often jam out something new on the spot or play something only one of us knows. It meeps us both on our toes. We do have printed set lists – but we don’t read them. Fun Loving Girl is kind of a staple though. It’s a good warm up.



How do you feel you’re developing in terms of the live show?

Phil: Anything can happen on the night really. We don’t think through what we’re going to do: who takes a solo and when etc. It just sort of happens. We should probably start considering pyrotechnics and dancers though. Possibly more orange as well.

Do you feel that the gigs have contributed to the development from the album to the new EP, or has that primarily been achieved through rehearsals?

Phil: We gigged tons last year though so we’re really comfortable live. It’s the whole point really. We only record what we can do live. Not big fans of overproduced stuff.

Guy: Especially with vocals. Live I would say; practicing live – trial-by-fire style.

How did the recording process for the EP play out?

Guy: Literally, we turned up at John Cornfields place, set up and started playing. Everything on the EP as you hear it was recorded live in one day. It was awesome, John’s a legend, although we got lost trying to find his place.

Phil: John was able to do everything we wanted with almost zero prompting. Nice and raw. No effects or overdubs. Just a quality live recording.

The new EP seems to have more garage influences, was this a conscious thing?

Phil: I was just having fun hitting stuff, though the new EP is much more reflective of the pace we play at live. We tend to go flat out a lot of the time. Sometimes it gets hazardous.

Guy: I don’t know if it was a conscious thing or not. With me, when it comes to writing I have no genre in mind, it just flows – as arrogant as that sounds.

What kind of reactions to the EP have you been getting?

Phil: EP reactions have been universally good. I’m waiting for the savage mauling. We just need as much feedback as possible. It’s good to get peer review and comments to work with. People love the cat. We should definitely have a greater cat focus.

Guy: The reactions are uplifting, to say the least. I had a dream the other night that we had to change the artwork so we just changed it to a portrait of my cat.

What’s up next?

Phil: I’m trying to arrange a mini tour of the Midlands via Bristol. It’s a way off yet though. We’ve kind of missed the festival boat this year. Our talents aren’t in sales and promotion unfortunately. We need a Patrick Bateman to do that stuff for us.

Heavy Souls on Facebook 

Heavy Souls on Soundcloud

Dick Porter - March 3rd, 2016

Rash Decision

Headstrung / Seaside Resort to Violence



In the three-and-a-half-decades or so since ‘Realities Of War’ essentially ushered in the subgenre, hardcore has mutated into a panoloply of forms. This post-millennial corpus represents a vast spectrum of opprobrium, encompassing that which is imaginative and/or innovative, through to the cliché-ridden or just plan laughable. Rash Decision know their history – They’ve been around a fair old while. They come from where the wall is cracked and they know how to defenestrate a good thing when they see it.

The dozen tracks that make up their latest release (limited numbers available in delicious red vinyl that also includes 2014’s ‘Seaside Resort to Violence’) is indicative of a band that have mastered their discipline. A taut exercise in restraint and release, ‘Headstrung’ is a lean beast – Free of the glutinous fats of wailing lead solos and Cookie Monster vocals. It hits the fast lane early, ‘Rumble Strip’ accelerating past its opening drum solos, then jack-knifing into strafing guitar crossfire, twitching and twisting as it spasms through death trip tempo changes.

The literal viscera of ‘Frenulum’ is made corporal, fists are raised amid its jackhammer kinesis, savage intent a metaphorical skin bridle linking the opening track to the high-octane sonic tornado of ‘Dogsbody’. Again, gears shift, and between the changes momentary bass detonations achieve impacts far outweighing their brief timespans.

Among the disc’s standout tracks, ‘Iago’s Labours’ machine guns its call and response etiquettes, before a dreadnaught dredge provides ‘Empty The Pits’ with its brutalist launch platform. A manic panic of power and fury, the track is suffused with subtleties, effortless transuranic sparks that glisten and vanish amid the firestorm. After the brief shrapnel burst of ‘Learning 4’, ‘Sunburst’ erupts like a black supergiant. A force of nature, relentless and uncompromising, its superheated energies deliquesce exotic transient guitar motifs.

As the nova fades, the darkness encroaches. A twisted wah-wah riffmare worthy of Rudimentary Peni, ‘Inanimate’ searches and destroys all light in its path. ‘Blinded By Leaves’ is the aftershock, jerking with percussive trepanation, before the stratospheric vapour trails of ‘Cunt’ are ejected. In turn, these compact into a superdense forced death march. The ballistic ‘Gloryhole’ slingshots us around the rim of desolation, gaining speed and mass. ‘Chin Chin’ is the lightspeed climax; a bass driven mutation wherein all components display their devastating power. Something has been lain waste to here.

Aware that we are long overdue a Rash Decision feature, trakMARX ambled into action and loomed up at of founding Mainstay Dave Decision to get the lowdown:

Rash Decision have been going for some time – How has it all evolved?

I started the first incarnation of the band sometime between 2004 and 2005, while I was studying. We put out first EP ‘Hey Shithead Brush Your Teeth!’ in 2006. We changed line-up numerous times and gradually just got more and more experienced and toured more and more. I think we’ve probably done something like 600 gigs at this point. I’m the only original member left from the initial gang but our current line-up is great. Simon also plays in Monolithian, Swansong and The Mishits. I also play in F.Emasculata and The Mishits, me and Tom used to play in Distortion UK and Kev also plays in Goatorcycle. We’re all pretty experienced now and I think that’s reflected in the music. Back in 2006, I just wanted to play in a grotty punk band and we’ve evolved from there. Musically I’m still fairly illiterate but I got better and faster at playing punk rock and that’s kind of dictated the pace that we do things.

Has this longevity surprised you?

I’d hoped for us to achieve certain small scale things, but I never realistically expected our run to be this long. Personally, I keep moving the goalposts so there’s always a new goal to focus on. At one point I thought I’d strangled the fun out of the band by pushing too hard, and we took a 6 month break or so in 2009/2010 before recruiting new blood and it re-energized us – That’s when we started touring more seriously. We did 90 gigs in 2010!

What have been the highlights?

I think every time we play somewhere new, a new town or a new country, or any time we get to play one of the UK’s best underground DIY Festivals. European tours. The fact that we have made so many friends through this band is a massive highlight, the fact that labels like us enough to help us out with pressing costs and distro for our records, it’s all massively humbling. We’re lucky. It sounds cheesy but genuinely every day we get to do this feels like a highlight. Not everyone gets to travel, party, and create with their best friends and have it all justified with the excuse of a punk band.

You’ve got a fearsome hardcore sound, has it been that way since the start?

I think the hardcore element has become more distinctive with the line-up changes. When Simon first joined the band, his influences were more thrash metal than thrashy punk. I think over the years we’ve settled into our groove. It took a while for us to get the thrash/punk/hardcore ingredients in the right quantities. There are three song writers and vocalists in the band now, which is great. It adds variety to the new records and keeps anything from feeling stale. I think we have a good grasp on what type of song we’re good at now. I think vocal melodies and nuances often get overlooked in hardcore and we like to try and keep those bits as interesting as the rest of the instruments.

[Photo: Dale Walker]

[Photo: Dale Walker]

Are you drawing upon any particular individual / collective influences?

I don’t know, really – We listen to a lot of both old and newer hardcore; some nineties skate punk, some melodic punk rock, a fair amount of crossover thrash. Iron Reagan are a pretty big influence. I’d cite The Casualties, Zeke, Municipal Waste, Assholeparade, Iron Reagan, Black Flag. I grew up on a lot of old school punk rock – Chaos UK, Crass, Subhmans, the Misfits, Bad Brains, Nirvana. Kev was more into the eighties thrash scene as he was there to see it all. Simon listens to bits of everything, so does Tom. It just kind of gets spewed out a certain way with us – Some influences are more obvious than others though.

Are there any recurrent lyrical themes?

Yeah, ‘Seaside Resort to Violence’ is about the perception of Cornwall by tourists, versus what it’s like living here all year round. The picture postcard of Cornwall only comes to life for a couple of months every year. People don’t see the illiteracy, the drug addicts, the homeless, the victims of extreme poverty – These are all things that are very much part of Cornwall, but they’re missed out of most people’s holiday experiences down here. They don’t see the struggling businesses during the winter rain and the pissing rain when they come down for a few weeks in August. That album is about that juxtaposition – the way Cornwall sells itself to holidaymakers, versus how down-trodden and hopeless this place can be.

‘Headstrung’ is more about our own personal health issues. Some physical, but mostly mental. Some of us have struggled with some severe mental health issues – I’d say we’ve all been affected by it individually over the last year or so. I don’t want to give too much away about the other guys, but I was in a bad place for about five months myself and it did shape the recording process. I think you can hear it in the vocal takes. It’s a cathartic record. Having said that we did some less serious ones on the album too, to stop it sounding too heavy and personal: ‘Gloryhole’ is about a true story involving the public toilets in Camborne, ‘Blinded By Leaves’ is about Tom’s eye injury, ‘Chin Chin’ is about drinking Somerset cider, and ‘Iago’s Labours’ is inspired by a short story my brother wrote, he’s an author.

Did you go into record ‘Headstrung’ with any kind of agenda?

The only real aim we had in mind was to make the best record we could, in a more relaxed atmosphere than before. We recorded Seaside in Batter St Studio in Plymouth – It was a great experience, but time is money in the studio and there was a lot of pressure to get everything done very quickly. Technically, I think ‘Seaside’ is a bit trickier to play as a whole body of work as well. With ‘Headstrung’, we recorded in a home studio with a friend of ours after he did some amazing work with Monolithian. We didn’t feel as pressured for time, so the process was pretty stress-free, for once. We knew we wanted to put these two releases out as a double LP, Seaside had gotten a great response but we had only released it on CD-R, we knew both would fit onto a twelve-inch record and we hadn’t put anything out on vinyl before – It seemed like the logical thing to do!

Are you pleased with the end result? Where would you place it in the Rash Decision pantheon?

We’re all really happy with the record. Particularly the ‘Headstrung’ side, I feel like we’ve learnt to play to our strengths while also making measured steps with each record to become better players and songwriters. We’ve let some of new songs breathe a little bit, we’re not strangling them with guitar work like we used to. It just feels like our most focused effort, and we’ve pushed all three vocalists on this album a bit more; it makes for better variety and better quality of takes, too. In the past I used to scream for hours on end to get the right takes and would end up having to settle for a record that featured half blown-out vocal takes. On this record, I couldn’t be happier with everyone’s vocals, or any of the instrument sounds or the takes. I usually start to hate a new recording after about a week of it coming out, all I hear is minor mistakes that ruin it for me. This hasn’t happened with the new album – that’s got to be a positive sign!

What’s up next?

We’ve got a run of gigs next week; including a day of double-duty in both Manchester and Leeds. 4/3 Nottingham, 5/3 Manchester (afternoon) + Leeds (evening), 6/3 Basingstoke. We’ve got another weekender in April, 23/4 Southsea, 24/4 Hastings, 25/4 London, and we also get to play Europe’s Biggest free entry festival which Is in France at Frenchtek 2016, on 30/4. It looks absolutely nuts!

In October we’ll be doing a Scottish run of gigs with our buddies Boycott The Baptist, as well as some one-off dates in Bournemouth, Ipswich, Plymouth etc. It’s all go really! It would be nice to get a new recording session done by the end of the year as well. We’re trying to focus on playing newer towns and cities and varying our tour route this year, so far it seems to all be falling into place!

Rash Decision on Facebook

Rash Decision on Bandcamp

Dick Porter - February 25th, 2016