I’ve been contributing reviews and the occasional interview to the magazine for about 8 years now. When I first started writing for Pennyblackmusic I usually managed to write something for every edition. Unfortunately work has increasingly stopped me writing as much as I would like over the last few years. But it’s still one of the main pleasures in life, receiving promos of artists I’d maybe never hear if I wasn’t part of this team and discovering something new.

But I just can’t choose a particular record / interview as one that stands out though. They all do in some way. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some of the musical heroes from my youth like Vashti Bunyan and Steve Ellis. I’ve been introduced to the music of an artist who I consider to be one of the most important musicians we have today, Jefferson Pepper, and I was thankful he took the time to give us such a thought-provoking interview. I was hit by a speeding fine singing along to Perry Keyes, another artist who I probably wouldn’t have heard of and certainly wouldn’t have interviewed if it wasn’t for Pennyblackmusic. And I’d gladly pay the fine again if I had to just to hear more music from the man. When I wrote my ‘Soundtrack’ piece the musician I mentioned whose 30 year old song meant a lot to me and who I knew nothing about actually got in touch with me and sent me a copy of the song. Amazing!

The list goes on; I can’t say who was the best interviewee, nor what album gave me the most pleasure. I have got so much out of each and every album and interview I have contributed.


I was introduced to Pennyblackmusic in 2001 by co-worker Darrell Angus. We chatted on the bus en route to our suburban employer, and he mentioned this website he was writing for at the time in between his own musical projects.

I started writing for Pennyblackmusic with my first articles appearing in December 2001, with a CD review for ambient guitar artist Aarktica’s first album and a bevy of other personal favourites (Aussie rockers Yes-men, Japanese psychonauts Acid Mothers Temple) and where-are-they-knows (lo-fi poppers Santa Sprees, roots rockers the Boxcars).

The best part of being a reviewer has been exposure to groups I probably wouldn’t haven’t looked at twice. The Society of Imaginary Friends was one such recent find, as was Eluvium, The (Australian) Exploders, Grails, Maggi Pierce & EJ and HTRK.

Longer pieces brought an opportunity to revisit the back catalogues of favourite performers.

In at least one case it brought a brief but informative encounter:

I had brief and distant dealings with Nikki Sudden when I wanted to buy some of his albums to fill out my piece. I e-mailed his website and soon heard back from the man himself. There was some back and forth in the following days about how I might pay him. In the meanwhile, the albums in question arrived in a padded envelope that judging by the accretion of postmarks on it had already travelled between Spain, Germany and Taiwan. Yes, Nikki Sudden was the sort of guy who would mail $100 worth of CDs to a total stranger on 24 hours notice. He was either very trusting or totally disorganized.

In another instance a brief mention of a band by the Undead (not the real Undead fronted by ex-Misfit Bobby Steele, but a troupe of young grind-metallers) brought a request from Steele to track them down and tell them to cease and desist using his rightfully acquired band name.

The mock-Undead have never been heard from again, but the website did swing an interview with Steele as a result.

Nowadays Darrell is a father, Sudden passed on in 2006, Aarktica has a slew of albums under their belt, I have at least 30 different Acid Mothers Temple CDs and a tiny stack of CDs (by Larkin Grimm, RTX and others) awaits my consideration.


The 10 bands nights we did at the Spitz were enormous fun. We saw excellent performances from the likes of Baptiste, Saint Joan, the Bitter Springs, Idiot Son, Rothko and Viarosa, most of whom we put on the bill on two or three separate occasions,and Bikini Atoll we liked so much that we brought them back in their various permutations and offshoots a remarkable six times.

Yet it was when things didn’t go quite to plan that they were almost equally memorable. One night we brought the Nectarine No 9 down from Scotland. Having done their sound check, they all, except for their drummer, went out for some dinner. News filtered back through half an hour before they were due on stage through the drummer, after he had taken a call on his mobile, that they had been jumped at a cashline. He thought that it was hilarious. We laughed too, but more out of nervousness as we were worried that we were going to have to pull the show at the last minute. 25 minutes later the Nectarine No. 9 , however, appeared back at the Spitz, covered in cuts and bruises, blood still dripping from one of them, but laughing and joking because in a fight which had followed they had ended up beating off the muggers and chasing them down the street. In what was one of their last performances they then proceeded to provide the Spitz with probably one of the most turbo-charged, adrenaline-fuelled sets it had seen.

The lead singer in Gamine wasn’t well the night we put them on, and spent most of the evening swigging on some kind of cough medicine. It was also the one and only time we decided to run a raffle. Jonjo McNeill, who was acting as a compere, thought that the cough mixture, which she had put down at the front of the stage, was some kind of alcohol and, if the singer who was not amused hadn’t stopped him at the last minute,would have given it away as a prize.

And then there was Lewd....

One of the bands that were going to appear on a bill dropped out at the last minute due to illness, and we were offered Lewd by a friend of a friend. In a panic we accepted not really knowing what we were taking on and who they were. They arrived too late for their sound check, and all our worst fears were confirmed when they hit the stage.

“We’re Lewd, and we’re here because we're FUUUCKING LEWD”, bellowed their pot-bellied, troll-shaped singer as an opening line, before growling his way through a set of songs about the women he had porked, the drugs he had shot up and the nights he had spent out on the town with his mate Satan. His band, an unnaturally tall guitarist twice the size of the singer, and equally sullen bassist and drummer, both of whom looked like they had been given day release from prison especially for the occasion, meanwhile proceeded to kick up the most discordantly tuneless and ugly row behind him. The audience used to the haunting ethereality of Saint Joan, the art rock of Bikini Atoll and the snappy word play of the Bitter Springs didn’t run for the exits as you might have expected, but stood in a state of muted shock as if waiting for a punch line to a joke which it didn’t quite get, while Lewd continued to churn out their racket for over half an hour. Thank God, we had the Repomen, Heist and Bikini Atoll after to restore the balance.

The strangest thing of all is that, while we had never heard of Lewd before, we have never heard of them since. There is no MySpace site and never has been anything on the web. I sometimes think it was all a surreal, nasty dream, but my friends and colleagues at Pennyblack assure me that it was indeed true.

Great times though ! We must do it again.


It’s not supposed to work like this.

For some reason I had agreed to go to the Garage in Islington, London. When it was open the Garage used to get good bands occasionally, despite being an atmosphere-less hole where even the beer from bottles tasted like it was watered down, when it clearly couldn’t have been.

It wasn’t clear that the band playing that night would be one of the good ones. Still, as I had nothing particular to do I had signed up to go and see. As I made my way there though something was not quite right in north London. After a while even my slow brain worked out what it was: all the lights were out.

A power cut had taken out the electricity for the whole of that part of Holloway Road and the people who should have been inside, enjoying (or not) the band were milling around outside wondering what to do. So we ended up sitting in Highbury Fields as the light started to fade, waiting to see if the power would come on and the music would begin.

Eventually it did, but I never did find out if the band were any good as my name hadn’t made it onto the list for some reason. So I went home, cursing in sequence the venue, the band, the PR and the powercut that had taken out the cashpoints (meaning I couldn’t even get money out to buy a ticket).

It’s not supposed to work like that and thankfully mostly it doesn’t.


Interviews are always the hardest part of writing about music. Most of the time it’s easy: you phone up, or turn up, at the right time, hang around for a while as the band finish sound-checking, eating, fighting or whatever else it is they’re doing, and you fire off a few questions.

But occasionally it becomes a lot more difficult for no apparent reason. Much of the time it’s not even their fault – Fonda 500, for instance, could hardly be blamed for having got stuck in traffic, not having eaten anything and having to do the interview inside the venue while a gig was going on. That made for a fun transcription from the tape.

Or you might catch them at a bad time: Adem was doing his laundry but was kind enough to talk to me with one hand full of clothes and the other full of phone, while James Yorkston was doing up his house in remote Scotland and had to contend with losing mobile phone reception every time he moved his head.

There are the wilfully difficult interviewees, either through drunkenness, unpleasantness or sheer bloody-mindedness. Let’s not give them any more publicity, shall we?

It’s not clear into which category we should fit Dan Treacy, the legendary, and infamous, leader of the Television Personalities. I phoned at the time his PR mentioned. He answered and told me that he couldn’t really talk, because he was in Kensington Gardens talking to the squirrels. I left him to it.

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