CHRIS O' TOOLE

It must have been an unexpected – if not unnerving - evening for the statuesque scenesters who filled the Cargo that night in July of last year. When Dan Deacon – relentlessly touring his album 'Spiderman of the Rings' - set off what seemed like a full-blown firework display under the cramped, sweaty confines of venue – there was no place to hide! No dead-eyed stare would be enough tonight.

A flashing green skull scoured the dance floor for non-believers, while the faithful lost themselves in spewing, gurgling shards of electro-noise emanating from a single man the corner of the room. Using just his infectious optimism and belief in shoestring hedonism, Deacon was able to life the room out of itself – if only for a little while – transforming the narcissists into a single heaving mass.

For those fleeting moment all present were willing to break-dance in high heels, challenge total strangers to do-or-die dance offs and high-five the man himself. The result was a wave of euphoria; sweeping back and forward across the assembled crowd – while we entered as individuals we left as one.

All too soon it was over and we were back on the street, talking about what we had seen. The redeeming power of music, its ability to demolish the artificial walls with which we surround ourselves and the prospect of seeing something that vital, that alive again!


MARK ROWLAND

Pennyblackmusic has helped me learn some valuable journalistic lessons over the years, particularly during my first few interviews for the mag. One of my most memorable was my first face to face interview for the magazine.

It was with the D4, a New Zealand garage band tipped for great things back then in 2002. Garage rock was big because of the White Stripes and the Strokes, so any band with so much as a hint of the Stooges were being hyped as the next great band.

I went along to interview them at the Highbury Garage in London, where they were set to play. I was very nervous – I'd never done anything like it before. Only half the band were at the venue when I got there, and that half were not involved with the interview process whatsoever. I had to wait around and got talking to the drummer, who was a very nice guy and helped put me at ease. He pointed out some mistakes that the 'NME' had made about the band, which was a real shock to me – I was very naïve about the way journalism worked. I thought that the music press were pretty much infallible.

A lot of time passed (a support act had been and gone) before I was finally granted audience with the two main singer/guitarists in the band. I had prepared a list of questions and tried to research the band, but I made two mistakes. The first was to get the year that the band formed wrong. That passed by OK. The second was far worse.

The question was supposed to come out as “Some critics have, perhaps unfairly, claimed that yourselves and the Datsuns have jumped on the garage rock bandwagon. What would you say in reply to that?” It came out like this:

“Er... What do you think of the Datsuns?”

“What do we think of them? in what sense?”

“Um...Well, are they bandwagon jumpers or....”

“They are fucking NOT bandwagon jumpers, I'm fucking sick of hearing that...”
And so on. Remarkably, I managed to smooth things over and get the interview
back on track. I think one of them even forgave me for inadvertently slagging off his friends. Not sure about the other one though.

Anyway, with that experience behind me at an early stage, I quickly learned what makes a good interview: clear questions, confidence and a little patience. I now do journalism as a career, and I wouldn't be as good a journo as I am today without the help of Pennyblack.


MAARTEN SCHIETHART

Once upon a time John Clarkson politely asked if he could run some of my reviews from the Radio Rataplan website on Pennyblack Music.

I had first contacted John in 2000. Since then I slowly grew into this biweekly biorhythm of magazine updates. My memories of the magazine must be the odd ones out here alas. I cherish though the moments when I first played CDs from An Albatross and Kultur Shock mailed out by John.

Sadly enough, when Pennyblack Music staged shows at The Spitz I never was around. In fact, I have no vivid memories at all. Fond memories I keep from speaking to John and Richard and finding people equally motivated to tell the world of the music we love. It is beyond me though why record companies do not send me boxes of red wine.

Cheers, Penny baby!


DOMINIC SIMPSON

I’ve got so many great memories from the Pennyblackmusic nights at the Spitz in east London. Memories of seeing Saint Joan for the first time; of the Jesus & Mary Chain’s Jim Reid sitting on a stool while a packed audience looked on as he tried to tune his guitar; the night featuring the Telescopes and Vibacathedral Orchestra, whose intense sonic drones for the last hour and a half drove the woman at the door to the point of tears: “I just don’t understand this music!”

But one particular abiding memory remains of seeing Bikini Atoll play for the first time. After having spent much of the day down the road at a Toynbee Arts Centre all-dayer, I arrived in the dark and gloomy recesses of the Spitz (when was the Spitz ever not dark and gloomy?) to stumble spellbound on the band playing a unique and brilliant set, capped off by a stunning version of 'Desolation Highway'. It was one of the most powerful and intense sets by band that I had seen in ages, and still remains an acute memory from the Pennyblack nights there.

The closure of the Spitz was a sad day indeed; I went back to the area this week, to the Concrete & Glass event involving most of the venues and art galleries in the area, and still felt saddened that the venue is no more. The area’s yuppification storms on regardless.


HELEN TIPPING

My first interview for Pennyblack was back in November 2004, with American lo-fi blues musician, and generally completely mad bloke, Bob Log III.

In case you’ve never heard of or seen Bob Log, he plays dressed in a full body suit and bubble motor cycle helmet which is wired up with a telephone mic for ultra lo-fi sound. Things did not bode well when his PR suggested that he would be dressed like this to meet me and be interviewed. How on earth would I be able to make any sense of what he was saying? It would be like interviewing an American Stig surely ?

This added to my main worry that he wouldn’t be responsive and I would have to work really hard to get any info out of him. On top of this it was the first time I’d used my MP3 recorder. It all sounds now like a recipe for disaster really!

It wasn’t though. Bob turned up out of his motorcycle helmet, and was smiling and friendly. He didn’t stop talking, answered all my questions and added in lots of other information. Unluckily I did have problems with the MP3 recorder, but only because I forgot to turn it on for the first five minutes, but in retrospect this was a good thing – it was five minutes less to have to transcribe out of forty minutes of interview!

What made it nerve wracking was the two Swedish fans who were videoing the interview, but luck was on my side again and their video camera broke down and they headed off for the bar, leaving me to chat to Bob.

As an aside I can say for certain that Bob’s hands are his own. He does not have a monkey’s paw. Claims that he’s sexist as he asks for volunteers to dip their boobs in his scotch are unfounded. He’s as happy for it to be a moob as a boob. Just don’t try and get clever, guys, and dip something else in it – he can tell by the audience’s reaction!







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