Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Nice to see the return of Blackthorn Music Festival which is coming back to Whitebottom Farm – Etherow Country Park – Compstall – Stockport – SK6 5HZ. The festival goes from strength to strength with each year. Genre -wise there is always a heady mix of styles, rock, indie, acoustic, country to name a few. The line up is always a mix of familiar talent from past & present with a healthy dose of new blood. Chances are if you’re the type to go check out a band you’ve never heard of you may come away having found a musical new love!

Blackthorn Poster 2018

This years top of the bill line up is stronger than ever featuring local, well I should say International hero Peter Hook & the Light, hip hop legendary pioneers The Sugarhill Gang & the Furious 5, the anti-hero that is Pete Dohety, We are Scientists, Oldham’s Twisted Wheel, William McCarthy & The Bluetones. I’m also delighted to see that Tom Hingley & the Kar-Pets are also on the bill alongside various tributes to REM, Happy Mondays. Tom of course is being a tribute to himself!


The setting is beautiful, the beer is affordable, there’s always a great choice of quality food outlets, the mood is relaxed & the vibe has always been family friendly.  See you down the front!

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36 Years Ago Today… Way back in the late 70’s to early 80’s a truly superb band existed making highly original music seemingly following no particular style. They were amongst a small …

Source: Japan – Gentlemen Take Polaroids

The Red-sided Garter Snakes – Endless Sea
The first album release from two ex-members of one of Manchester’s greatest cult status bands, The Chameleons (John Lever and Dave Fielding) in collaboration with, among many others, James Mudriczki with his first public vocal exposure since the demise of his own legendary North Manchester outfit Puressence is going to cause a ripple or two that will spread out far and wide across the world. As it’s been 14 years since a proper Chameleons release and now already 4 years since Puressence’s excellent finale, Solid State Recital and with both former bands having massive following across Europe and in the case of the Chameleons deep into the USA, this is possibly one of “the “ most anticipated albums of the year by people in the know with great taste in proper non manufactured music.

Endless insert
The fact the album itself was recorded over a year in two Manchester studios is only half the story as the original idea was to update some of the Beefpig album that John Lever brought out with the Fishmonkeyman guys (led by Paul Denheyer) from Liverpool back in 1999, Beef up Beefpig was I think the idea, well they certainly have done that and then some. Steve, Dave John 120
The re-recording/recording started at the very talented Stephen Wilson’s ( The Cornelius Crane) Canalside studios in Dunkinfield in Apr of 2014 , With the idea of Stephen leading Production along with Dave and John’s input. Steve was so up for giving his old band mate John a lift he offered his time and studio for free to help the project come to fruition. The only problem with this set up,which no-one fully foresaw, was that the recording schedule would be sporadic at best with all sessions having to fit around a busy recording studio and practice rooms and an even busier Steve Wilson along with the ability of Dave Fielding getting across from Lincoln. John obviously was very keen to get at it and wanted the album done in a week, out yesterday, and as the summer dragged on I think both great friends started to send the other slightly crazy. In fact I know they did.

So after a couple of stop starts when John and Steve struggled to actually work constructively together anymore, Dave stepped in to broker some love and peace and get the project back on the road. Sadly this didn’t last for long as time and work pressures  took their toll. Canalside sessions June 27 14 - JohnSteve had done some sterling work writing and recording some new tunes for the album and his true production  skills came to the fore when he got Mary Joanna Coogan in to voice Feel Alive and managed to get a brilliant recording out of her. In the end though after a meeting in the studio where we all listened to all the tracks to see where we were with them Steve decided he probably shouldn’t be the one to mix the album as friction between him and John and James Mudriczki (who I managed to get involved after playing him some of the early recordings) was bubbling up again. What we didn’t know that day was Steve was waiting on some serious health issue results and he obviously had far bigger things on his mind than an enthusiastic bunch of musicians all trying to get their passionate views into the final recording .
So the whole thing got moved to John Delfs Edge Studio in Alderley Edge. By this time Simon Lawler from Blue Apple Music (the old Chameleons manager and financier) had got on board and he helped to secure some block time at said studio.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThings progressed quickly, Greg Mathews from local band Bauer came along and sang on three more of the tracks and all the final touches and mixing were finished off with the help of the talented young Studio Engineer Mark Winterburn. So the final result is probably pretty different from what would have emerged if the process had stayed with Steve and in his studio. It’s impossible to say which would have sounded best or how different they would have been. That would be an individual’s opinion if they ever had the chance to listen to the two versions. They won’t. But what I can say is, in my opinion, the difference would only have been in the final layer of polish on this album. The structures, tunes and essence of the album has not been lost in the swap over and everyone can be immensely proud of this work of art.

Endless Sea by The Red Sided Grater SnakesEndless Sea starts off with a very powerful intro, a wailing almost Native American chant that is actually Dave Fielding recorded on the night his mother died some years ago. Obviously a heavy start to proceedings and as the sample from

The Wicker Man fades, Steve Wilson’s Shape Yer Spine opens up into a psychedelic monster fueled with Dave’s E-bow, power chords and plectrum sliding antics. All driven along by John’s snare and floor tom pounding out the beat. Steve Wilson’s eerie reverberated vocals pulls it all together and we know within seconds that this is going to be a very special journey.
Crack In A Paper Cup, which before James added his magical vocals was actually called Endless sea where the album title came from, has Dave sounding as Chameleons like as at any other point in the album. Add in Jimmy’s voice and suddenly the many joint Chameleons and Puressence fans out there are suddenly wetting their pants in excitement. A North Manchester super group of epic proportions. It doesn’t disappoint. James’ voice soars whilst Dave’s guitar echoes and chimes away as if Reg Smithies was in the room with him as well. In the breakdown James ponders about smoking cigarettes and the five minute of your life each one is meant to take away from you and then follows up this deep train of thought with, Oh! well, floor needs sweeping, Jimmy at his humorous best.
Feel Alive opens up with some crazy Arabic sounding horns and Didgeridoo and evolves into more sublime Chameleonesque guitar work from Dave and some great production and arrangement from Steve and John. It stood brilliantly as an instrumental before Mary Joanna Coogan was brought into the studio and Steve worked really hard with her to get one of “the” performances of the album out of her. Without doubt the most radio friendly track on the album and should be a worldwide massive hit if justice in this industry were ever to prevail. The jaunty bassline drives this song along with some tempered (for John) drumming keeping the main focus on the guitars and gorgeous vocals.

Love Yourself, a song written by John and Paul Denheyer on the original Beefpig album in ’99 is about people in the music business who manage to change with the times (David Bowie?) Killing off old persona’s,ego’s and changing styles without worrying about who they tread on in the process, something John says he has witnessed a few times in the business. Dave was brought in to add his unique style of guitar and the whole song was beefed up to match the sound of this project and the result is massive. Another masterpiece and we are not even half way through the album.
Found Again is Simon Collier’s (bass for SupaJamma) contribution to the album and finds our first chance to listen to Greg Mathews vocal talents, I have to be totally honest here, I’m not a big Bauer fan. Their soft and gentle brand of indie pop/rock Isn’t my personal cup of tea despite its tuneful songs. That said, given the massive sound of this band Greg’s voice starts to work wonders and he has made these tracks his own. “Discovery is recovery” the lyrics fit in brilliantly with the overall context of this album, a great introduction for the people who have not heard him before.
Gallipoli. “Theres something a wrong with me” Starts James Mudriczki in his second vocal outing “I’m finding it hard to breathe” Maybe the pondering about cigarettes in Paper Cup wasn’t for long enough? Another massive track with Jame’s powerful vocals doing battle against John’s huge drum sound as he beats the toms and snare half to death again. The distorted guitar work by Dave in this song is more reminiscent of early Puressence than anything ever done by the Chameleons and has been pushed up in the mix to add that extra bit of excitement to a song already bursting at the seams with energy.
Go Away. The Quirky one, the one that sound more like early Pink Floyd as opposed to some bits of the rest of the album which does have some post Barrett Floyd moments, based around a Kizilok Track written by Andy Clegg and his brother, its another transformed track that John’s imagination and Dave and Steve worked into a oddball beast of a song rounded off by another fantastic vocal performance by Greg backed up by Andy Clegg himself, thumbs up.
John’s Dream. Possibly my favourite track on the album. The basics written by Steve Wilson specifically for this Album as a gift to John and based around a simple but beautiful riff he made up whilst having a play on Dave’s Baritone guitar in the studio. The warmth and feeling of love flows from this instrumental and when Dave added his guitar into the mix its full of emotion. Johns drums drive it ever onward and it reminds me every time I hear it of sun sets on warm sunny foreign holidays with close friends, sipping drinks and eating BBQ food together. I love going to this place in my mind and love this song for sending me there.
Pistols at Dawn. Based around the original Beefpig track from the Beefpig album this is another magical transformation only keeping some basic elements from the 1999 version, including a sample of Dave’s guitar from The Chameleons Paper Tigers , Steve, Dave and John ripped it a new asshole. With its muffled low-fi intro and Johns explosive snare work the bass kicks in shortly after Greg starts his third and possible best venture in rounding off this album with words and harmonies. Then Dave’s E-bow cuts through it all whilst the Paper tiger sample reminds us of past glories . It breaks down only to blast off again with an early Edge like echo filled riff that seems to get lost in Greg’s fantastic finale …
Trancer. The basics of which were recorded by Dave some years ago when he had his CDF didgeridoo player, Paul Didge, available to add to his initial idea of this track, The low end didge and synths are brilliant and Dave’s playing style on guitar is so unlike Dave its actually surprising to hear its him. John sat down and played his floor tom with his bare hands to beef it up that bit more and I was passed the final version and asked to add some film samples. I played about with adding samples from Blade Runner and a couple of other ideas but when I added samples from Apocalypse now I knew I’d got it spot on. After playing them all to Dave we trimmed the Apocalypse Now sample down in the studio and the ending line by Dennis Hopper hopefully works just right…

Gaz Tops

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Facebook page – RSGS

I’ve been a longtime fan of the work of Andy Whitaker & his lifetime musical collaborator Andy Clegg. For the uninitiated they are the backbone songwriting team of the excellent Manchester underground  post punk/early indie innovators Music For Aborigines, along with Weaveworld. They were recruited to team up with Chameleons drummer & their frontman, respectively John Lever & Mark Burgess to form the post Chameleons Geffen-signed band The Sun & the Moon.  The work of The Sun & the Moon is, without doubt, excellent but I’m left wondering what Music for Aborigines might’ve achieved in their own right had they not taken that detour!

Like many unsung musical heroes of Manchester & indeed the wider world they kept on writing & performing, delivering excellent songs & live performances. This current offering is Andy Whitaker working inependently of Andy Clegg & sees him teamed up with Oz Cooper – Guitar (Paris Angels collaborator), Dug McCleod – Drums (Dead Tapes, Herbalizer, Slow Readers Club + many more)  with Colin Smith – Keys (Weaveworld MFA). On the evidence of these five tunes I am looking forward to hearing the full album which is entitled ‘ALBUM’. A letter from Mr Lydon is in the post.

For people already familiar with the work of the two Andy’s there is enough familarity to keep you very happy with some of those identifiable chord changes. The additional influence of Oz Cooper on guitar & in the production chair has brought in a more familar Mancunain vibe – think Stone Roses meets the Beatles jamming with Hawkwind on a trip. The songs all connect but for me the stand out song of this 5 track FREE offering is ‘Colour Coded’. There are a couple of tougher sounding tunes here, along with gentler moments that will appeal to the sensitive fans of the Nick Drake sound.

Check it out people, it’s a well worthy offering, support the underground & keep non-corporate music alive.

For fans of The Beatles, Music For Aborigines, The Sun and the Moon, Stone Roses, Hawkwind, Slowdive, Nick Drake & all things psychedelic.

The physical version of the album can be bought direct from here – £8.00 UK inclusive of post and packaging or £11.00 overseas also includes post and packaging.

For those of you who might be wondering about the whereabouts of Andy Clegg, he was last seen working alongside John Lever, Dave Fielding & Steve Wilson contributing to the forthcoming RSGS (Red Sided Garter Snakes) album due on Blue Apple late Spring / Summer 2015.




I have been watching the development of this band for a while & have witnessed them live. I can’t think of a better debut than this song. ‘Wasted’ has an infectious ethereal dark quality mixing up post punk with psychedelia & electronica which draws the listener in & leaving them wanting more. In a fair world this song would be a hit. Here’s hoping.

The band are fronted by the enigmatic Mary Joanna Coogan, the band are a unique blend of dark synths, biting guitars and gritty bass lines interlaced with Mary’s soft yet irresistibly sinister vocals.

Formed in Manchester, Mary Joanna is backed by Rikki Turner (Paris Angels) on keys, Steven Tatji (Paris Angels, Rude Club) on bass, Spencer Birtwhistle (Interstella, The Fall) on drums, Stephen Evans (Twisted Wheel) on guitar and newcomer Zack Davies also on guitar.

Mary Joanna & The Southern Electrikk release their new single ‘Wasted’ on September 22nd with a launch night at The Tiger Lounge, Cooper Street, Manchester on Saturday September 20th, 8pm.

Tickets are available from Skiddle for £6 including booking fee from this link:

So 2014, it’s another bank holiday weekend so that means Strummercamp. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be this weekend. Strummercamp is, without doubt, the friendliest, coolest & most unpretentious festival I’ve ever attended. The key ingredient is the fact that it’s run by music fans & the emphasis is resoundingly ‘not for profit’. Like Glastonbury, the regulars here don’t particularly worry about who’s playing, it’s the festival that matters. Having said that the line-up is always well worth the entrance fee & contains enough variety for the most discerning listener (that is except the listener who wants radio-friendly candyfloss pop vomit, which is fine if you like that sort of corporate production line McMusic but then V Festival is probably more your style.)
The quality this year is no exception so I am here to share just a few of the aural & visual delights I witnessed.


Dub Sex – this band is a welcome return, a long lost Mancunian gem, post- punk made in the moment & re-delivered today & sounding as fresh & edgy as it did back in the day. The band line-up still contains original members Mark Hoyle on vocals, Cathy Brooks on bass & Chris Bridgett on guitar. The two new members are Mark’s son Stefan on guitar & Kev Clark on drums.

The bands opening salvo is ‘Caved In’, with Mark’s wonderfully individual & awkward vocals riding over the dub intro into the sonic assault of the chorus. The audience certainly know this band are here. We are then treated to a further 10 Dub Sex classics including ‘Underneath’, ‘Push’, ‘Over & Over’, plus the truly awesome ‘Instead of Flowers’. The band finish with what is probably their best known songs ‘Swerve’ & ‘Tripwire’. This is the third time I’ve seen them in the last few months & I will be coming back for more. Listen up youth of 2014, emulate this lot & you won’t go far wrong.

After wandering around sampling a pint or two of the Strummercamp festival ale in the clubhouse, at affordable prices I might add, we checked out the art tent. There are some wicked stuff on show & we bought a couple of pieces of Dr Freakinstyle’s wonderfully way out work to add to our growing collection, as well as having a great chat with their creator Victor. Also in the clubhouse was the TNS Records stage which, as ever, delivers some feisty punk rock mayhem. On the merch stall by the TNS stage I was accosted by a member of Black Volvo who was selling a his own band’s branded beer. I just ha to have the bottle with its 8.2 gravity dark ale & was assured the band were even better than the beer though I didn’t get to confirm that as I had unfortunately already missed them.


I caught a few tunes from The Rotten Hill Gang who served up a heady mix of funk-laden hip-hop melded with some reggae vibes. I should’ve taken a head count of this lot given how many band members were crammed on the stage.
Next up we were treated to a very diverse offering from Jah Wobble ranging from some cracking dub standards& a fabulous version of the Get Carter theme, in dub of course! It definitely had me hooked & perfectly painted the picture of the final scene of the film with Michael Caine on the beach.

Halfway through the set he was joined by Aziz Abrahim on guitar. I’d heard this was going to happen & was anticipating that something magical would develop & boy did they deliver the goods. The fusion of Wobble, his band & Aziz was stunning. Aziz went for it 100%, bringing in elements of his Asian Blues style & every conceivable guitar trick in the book, making it a visual as well as auditory treat. This was one of the finest virtuoso guitar performances I’ve seen in years & believe me I’ve seen a few. Anyone who regularly checks out Jah Wobble will know there’s always some new flavour to take on board & this was no exception. It was a truly magical point in the festival.

The final act of the night are the mighty Dreadzone. Here’s a band that have been on my Strummercamp wish list for years & they didn’t disappoint. I’ve seen this band around a dozen times over the last few years & they always blow me away. Put succinctly, they are the perfect festival band. Every album is better than the last & their current offering ‘Escapades’ is permanently on the CD in my car competing with the brilliant ‘Eye on the Horizon’ for airtime ‘. It’s the kind of record that should be all over the radio but, for whatever twisted set of criteria they use to choose to play music to the public, is not. The tunes from that album really shone through with a magical performance of ‘Fire in the Dark’ & ‘Too Late’. ‘Too Late’ features Leo & Greg’s old band mate Mick Jones who didn’t make an appearance, despite the rumours, which is his loss as he’s missing something very special at this festival dedicated to his mucker Joe. Dreadzone did, of course, play several of their crown pleasing favourites & had the crowd bouncing from start to finish. A crowd that, as ever with Strummercamp, was a mix of kids & teenagers through to 50 & 60 year olds. Really going for it next to me was a school headmistress & a bunch of 14 years olds. The vocal interplay between Spee & Earl 16 was as magical as ever and was a climatic end to another brilliant Saturday night at Strummercamp.



Northern Star is widely renowned for its infamous live shows. The first ever Northern Star show launched the label at SXSW and evolved into AUSTIN PSYCH FEST. LIVE REVOLUTION is a live document featuring highlights of the 2013 Northern Star Weekender. The album was recorded over the 22nd-24th March 2013 at the Windmill in Brixton, South London. This limited edition vinyl record features live performances from Soundwire, The Early Morning Satellites, The Carousels, The Greencoats, The Electric Mainline, Deep Cut (featuring ex-members of Death In Vegas and Revolver), Air Cav and 93MillionMilesFromTheSun. Northern Star is a record label dedicated to psychedelic, independent and underground sounds. The label launched back in March 2006 with the first volume of the now legendary Psychedelica series which featured an eclectic selection of the very best in contemporary psychedelia from across the world.

This latest offering, an instant incredible collectable, chances are you might be too late already to get hold of this very limited edition vinyl only release but I highly recommend you go & check. I have massive respect for labels brave enough to make this move in this digital age of ours. This is putting something very special back into music, ‘exclusivity’. This isn’t a release that will end up on random shuffle on your i.pod, this is a release you will savour on more than a superficial level  If you want to listen to it you will have to interact with it, choose it from the shelf, carefully extract it from the sleeve, dust it if needed, choose which side to play & get that needle on there & take a look at the cover which should be works of art to covet in themselves. Nortern Satr Liverevolution A large part of what’s missing from music these days (besides a lack of decent new music that is) is the nescessity to interact & care for the format. To love music is to interact with it, not just an endless soul-less random soundtrack endlessly flowing in the background. The digital age has caused music to be a disposable item, this release definitely does not fall into that category.

Yeah I know, I’ve gone on extoll the virtues of vinyl porn & not told you about what this record sounds like. From the moment the needle hits the grooves it’s a winner, ‘Liverevolution’ is the name & there definitely is a revolution going on here. It’s totally punk in the spirit of 76/77, a no compromise in your face wall of sound & the listener can be forgiven for forgetting this is a live album because of the quality of the performances here. Just goes to show MC5 did the right thing with their debut.

Side A – Opening band on this release are Swansea’s Soundwire who combine the space ritualistic sonics of Hawkwinds with the menace of Killing Jokes spikier moments.  Hailing from Glasgow we have Early Morning Satellites who increase the pace with a harder space rock vibe. Another Scottish band – The Carousels bring a lighter Byrds-esue flavour into the mix with their infectious melodic tune ‘Mayflower’, sounds like a single to me! In fairness I think the bands would think I should be referencing the likes of MBV for the vibe of this record but being a mature music fan I remember Hawkwind who are for me the granddaddy of this scene. That comparrison I can fairly lay this at the door of The Greencoats who take that vibe & dirty it up hardcore style.

Side B – Well I’ve reviewed this lot before so I’m already a fan, Electric Mainline bring some Joy Division to the party with their spindly guitar riffs,  kicking up an interstellar flight of vitriolic fantasy.  London based Deep Cut bring some female vocals to the proceedings with their tune ‘Something’s Got To Give’, which reminds me of some of the 80’s US new wave bands with a Jesus & Mary approach to the guitars. Air Cav hail from my hometown of Manchester, bassline reminiscent of early Hookey with the music alternating between the haunting violin melody & wall of noise, guitarist vocalist Chris Nield reminds me a lot of Brian Molko but Air Cav are a much more consistent sounding band than his. Placebo should take notes. Last but not least is the aural assault of 93 Million Miles From The Sun, a massive wall of driving sound, a perfect soundtrack to compliment exploding stars. Nortern Star Liverevolution image

Whilst writing this I keep thinking of my Nuggets,  Pebbles & Crypts’ Back From the Grave comps & that’s firmly places this live compilation into the truly magnificent company of the best garage rock compilations on this planet. A must have release for any psyche, garage, shoegaze fan.

Simon Collier (Planet Earth 2014)