Blow Holy Interview

 

My God youíre getting your non-moneys worth of interviews this time round arenít you? Yeah, well thatís as it should be really. As it should also be in terms of at least some of the interviews being with bands that are not being plastered across the pages of K! and MH every issue. Last time round I was guilty of that, though there was an ulterior motive. That of enticing you to buy the zine and CD. Give you big name interviews and hope youíll buy the zine. Then hope that youíll listen to the CD that came with it, and hopefully like something on there. But now weíre back to where it is. The new. The unknown. And in the case of BlowHoly, the bizarre. Answering to the names Death and Strangely Brown, itís time to enter the world of mystery. Grab a hand, it may be scary.

 

Anyway, this all took place across that ether that is the net. Ethernet. Geddit?!? Nope? Sorry, Iíve been doing too much system admin and network trials stuff in work. Sad techo joke. Anyway, yeah, it bounced back and forth, up and down a couple of cables, probably down some wrong router before realising itís mistake, screeching to a halt and aboutturning in one swift movement, much like youíd no doubt see in a cartoon. So messages went back and forth, from an initial bunch of questions, some deep and meaningful (yeah right), some not, until finally we ended up with the following finished product. Do enjoy.

 

Ok, the first, obvious one is who, or what exactly is BlowHoly? How and why did it come about?

 

Some sad tosser sat in his back room with some guitars and a computer, trying to make some genuinely new and original noises whilst pretending to be a proper band.

 

There seems to be two I guess distinct styles to your music. There's the heavy, distorted Sabbathesque element, and then what I (in my lack of knowledge and understanding) would term the techno-jungle elements. How and why did you decide to bring these together?

 

Basically, I get excited by rhythms and the only really adventurous stuff that's been going on rhythmically for me is in the jungle/drum'n'bass field. Thing is, in 1988, I was the one in the Iron Maiden shirt when all the other teenies were in some field prancing about to Acid House, so I have a big problem with the whole 'dance' genre. On its own, unless you're off your face on the dancefloor, it's all a bit, well, shit really. No tune, no song, no substance. So I just nick their organic non-bleepy-electronic rhythms, chop 'em up and stick 'em in some proper rock songs.

 

I was in the Maiden shirt as well. So, given that we all "grow out of it" anyway, what do you reckon to the "re-union"?

 

One half of me says, why don't they just fuck off and die quietly somewhere and make room for some new bands, they're only in it for the money now, they're not making any real musical contribution. But the other half just can't bring itself to hate a band that was an essential part of my life when I was growing up. There's still 11 year old kids who love 'em, so, I don't know, I wouldn't want to deny those kids anything.

 

But does it have to be a contribution? Or relevent? Isn't music that is just music equally as relevent. Sometimes I just want to relax with something that is easy to listen to, easy on the ears and no challenge.

 

OK, sure, so do I. Just because you're not breaking any new ground doesn't mean you're irrelevant. But don't you think there's something gut-wrenchingly awful about bands who were once truly great still plodding on? Can you really tell me that the sight of Jimmy Page doing his blubbering-mass-of-unsavouriness impression a couple of years back didn't make your stomach turn? I mean, until their last couple of albums, I would have said that Rush or Yes were very rare examples of bands who were still 'up to it' despite being ancient. But now even they seem to have lost it...

 

There currently seems to be a crop of bands that are at least dabbling in this sort of thing, although it seems to be mainly bolting on a few fashion friendly samples. Do you have any opinions on the current goings on and their worth (maybe from the more techno point of view).

 

Who are we talking about here? Arkarna are about the only band I've heard who are making a genuine attempt to merge proper songs with dancey beats - they've got the tunes but their overall sound just doesn't 'work' for me. It's all a bit Crowforce really. I don't know who else is really working in this area; there seem to be a few rock bands, as you say, bolting on a few samples and there's probably a fair few techno kids who are sampling metal guitars. But not many people seem to be really trying to merge the two elements seamlessly.

 

Well, as you can guess, I can probably only name those ones coming predominantly from the rock angle. And therefore the ones that are reasonably popular, so I guess to some purists are the ones that are totally missing the point. But I would say Pitchshifter, who like to call their last album "drum'n'bass with punk". Or something like that. Radiator with their weld on the samples approach. Fear Factory with their "let's do an entire remix album" approach. Atari Teenage Riot with their "totally in your face with a side salad of Slayer" approach. Then the obvious one would be Prodigy from the more dance oriented side. Are any of these doing anything "unique" or that is a real fusion in your opinion.

 

Ok, yeah, I see where you're coming from but to me all those bands (except Radiator who I've not heard) are really doing the 'riffs plus beats' sort of thing, which is great, nothing wrong with that and very good some of them are at doing it. But, I don't know, I just don't see many 'songs' in there. Which isn't a criticism at all - songs aren't the be-all and end-all - it's just something I'd use to differentiate between what they're doing (very successfully) and what I'm doing (not quite so successfully).

 

I've not heard of Arkarna. Care to tell more?

 

I don't know a lot about them - they had a single that charted a couple of years back and did an album called 'Fresh Meat'. They kind of sound like Extreme (yes, really) with a techno backing, which probably explains why I'm not sure of their overall sound. I've not heard anything about them recently but then I don't read the press, so I wouldn't have.

 

How do you see this fusion of music progressing.

 

Very slowly. There's not much commercial incentive to go into this area really and at the end of the day most 'musicians' are only motivated by potential commercial success. The audience is always going to be too limited - junglist kids will be put off by its impurity and lack of coolness, metal people by the inhuman rhythms and indie kids are all scared of anything that doesn't stand in one place when it's singing. I don't know, all those metallers who like Prodigy or NIN must count for something, but there's still a big jump from that pseudo-industrial thing to a genuine 'fusion' of the two styles.

 

But as the people in power are always looking for new "genres" and "scenes" to exploit, isn't there a chance that they may spot this sort of thing. Ok, maybe they won't have artistic principles in mind, but isn't there always the chance ....

 

Who's looking for 'new' genres to exploit? Nobody I can see - they've got enough old genres to keep them happy. And rich. Why take a risk on something new when you can repackage Deacon Blue as 'The New Radicals' (hell, was there ever a band more inappropriately named)? In any case, I'd say there's got to be a well-defined, uniform, target audience before the industry will pick up on any new scene and, by virtue of the fact that it's a mish-mash of other scenes, the dance-rock crossover will never meet those criteria. I mean, it's been going ten years or more now and no-one's done anything other than scoop up the individual bands who'd managed to impact upon another existing scene.

Well, Iíd say the "industry" labels, media etc, will look for "new" genres. Which is to say a new way to exploit people. And Iíd disagree that there has to be a defined target audience. Did the grunge target audience exist, or wasnít that just the industry deciding it needed a new genre to sell and creating an image and an audience for what musically wasnít that different really to what was going before it. None of the Seattle bands were really different (which is different to whether they were good or not). Just metal with some different ideas, or influenced by bands like The Pixies.

 

The music might not have been that different but I always thought the grunge scene had developed its sound, image and fan-base long before the industry big boys ever got involved; it was much, much more 'together' and far easier to pin down than the dance-rock crossover thing - that's what I mean about a target audience. But, coming back to my original point, that nobody's looking anyway -how long ago was grunge, now? It's getting on for 10 years and surely the whole industry's changed a hell of a lot since then? In those happy-go-lucky, pre-Playstation days, 'popular music' was much more important to 'the kids' than it is now. There's far less money to be made these days (in this country at least) which means far less money to take risks on new stuff and a much greater incentive to play things safe. Sure, the media still tries to create new scenes and I take your point about that, but, again in terms of this country, Britpop was about the only remotely successful thing they've managed recently and even that's going back a few years now.

 

The imagery that accompanies BlowHoly's music seems pretty dark and cynical. Is there any deeper meaning to it, or just some general reasoning?

 

I hate almost everybody. I am not prejudiced in that hatred, I apply it equally to all sections of humanity. Simple as that, really.

 

Ha nice. But I just wonder, as someone who doesn't know you but who also uses the term "hate" quite often myself, is that real or just a self defence mechanism that is so easy to use and hide behind. Or do you just don't feel you can really trust too many people. I think I do a bit of both probably. But one thing I'm sure is that I probably don't really "hate" people.

 

That's because you're probably quite a decent, nice human being. I don't think I am. I'm an arsehole. For me, hate isn't a gut reaction. It's a carefully thought-out, reasoned, rational state of mind.

So what is the meaning of life?

 

To be perpetually tormented by mediocrity, incompetence and buffoonery.

 

The Internet / MP3s'. It's "killing music". Discuss.

 

Are you sure you really want to get me going on this one? I don't want to impinge on one of your most excellent rants...

 

Of course I want to get you going on it! Wouldn't have asked otherwise. There's plenty of rants left. But personally, I was wondering your opinion. I have mine, but that's the perspective of someone who doesn't create music, simply listens to it. I was wondering how someone who does produce music regards the situation.

 

OK then. As I see it, there's two sides to this - the 'mp3 piracy' thing and the more radical 'we don't actually need a music industry any more' thing. In terms of piracy, I've always been amazed by the stupidity of the argument which implies that every pirate copy equates to one less album sold. I mean, I've got hundreds of tapes of albums that I'd never have bought in a million years. If someone had prevented me from getting those copies, I just wouldn't have heard those albums, simple as that. To say that I'd have dreamed of paying the grossly over-inflated price for them is just breathtakingly arrogant. Anyway, I bet we can all think of stuff that we've got copies of which we've then gone out and bought because we wanted the 'whole' thing with the sleeve and everything - I've just done exactly that having downloaded a couple of mp3s by No Use For A Name. And I'll then go on to buy every other album the band's done. So, the whole argument is based on a fundamentally flawed concept. Personally, I'd go one step further and say that any artist who allows their music to be exploited and sold at ridiculous prices deserves to have their music 'stolen' from them. You can't blame the labels or the retailers - they're just doing their job protecting their own interests - it all comes down to the people who make the music. A true artist wouldn't be interested in making a 'career' out of their art - they'd just want to get it heard by as many people as possible.

 

Do you really think it comes down to the artist. If they want to get it heard by as many people as possible, as you say, then itís likely it has to be passed to hands more experienced in that. So then the charge is with them as to the manner in which it is distributed.

 

No, come on, you can delegate authority but not responsibility. It's got to come down to the creator at the end of the day - they're the one who has the ultimate power. Sure, loads of bands are 'exploited' but only because they allow it to happen; they're so greedy and hungry for fame that they drop all the principles and sign on the dotted line. You can't blame the capitalist-bastard-exploitative-industry, that's just human nature. And, as industries go, it's pretty honest about its dishonesty, so I don't think anyone has an excuse.

 

If you want the more radical side, the Internet has the capability to completely remove the impurities of the 'market' from the equation and return music to its status as art-form rather than product. Yes, that's pretentious old bollocks but you've only got to wander about mp3.com to see how it can work, legally. Pick a genre. Or don't pick a genre, just pick a random band name. Preview a couple of songs. Hate them? Move on to another band. Like them? Download them, put them on your Rio player or burn a CD. Like 1 or 2 songs by a band but think the others are cack? No problem, just download the ones you want. And it's all free. No more wasting the best part of 20 quid on an album only to find the one good song was the one you'd heard already. I still can't believe how amazing this is, as a concept. It completely bypasses the entire ocean of bullshit and hype and lets people get straight to the music. You can go on an endless voyage of musical discovery and it'll cost you nothing. You don't have to wait to read about a band in Kerrang or NME or whatever - their opinions are (at last) irrelevant, because you can MAKE YOUR OWN MIND UP. 'Course it'll never catch on because too many people prefer having their minds made up for them but it's nice to know that there's real potential for a proper 'underground' to exist on a global scale...

I guess the Ďnet offers a new means of distribution, which can lower the costs, so it will be interesting to see what artists take up that option and then where the blame may lay might become clearer.

 

Yes - that's kind of what I was getting at. There ARE alternatives now. OK,they're not really viable yet in terms of getting millions of people involved. But, as more people get connected, the potential is there. Blowholy's been on mp3.com for less than a month now and over a hundred of our songs have been downloaded. Hey, 'Vegetable Jesus' even got to no. 11 in the 'Unclassifiable' chart. Whoopee. I haven't made a penny from that but I'm happy because people are hearing what I'm doing. After a bit of jiggery-pokery with keywords and text passages, the main web site's getting 300+ hits per week. Okay, most of them aren't necessarily downloading anything but it's getting the name around, like sending 300 flyers out every week, all round the world... all of this is without any input from anyone in the 'industry' and we're still talking about technologies very much in their infancy.

 

From what I understand, and the discussions I guess we've had, you don't do "live" stuff. Why's that, would you change that principle and what would it take to change that?

 

I don't want people to pay two quid to see me 'perform' in some godforsaken den of iniquity, with the Tall-People-With-Unnecessarily-Big-Hair's annual convention gathering in front of them, then waking up the next day with ears ringing, hair matted with other people's bodily fluids, stinking of sweat and fag smoke. It's all so fucking antiquated, it's like it hasn't moved on since the 1950s. Music has always been a very personal thing for me and, even seeing my favourite bands, sharing the 'live' experience with the seething hordes has always diluted the intensity. I know that's not a view shared by many but I'm not prostituting my own principles for anyone else. Especially not when there's so few people who'd actually be remotely interested anyway. No, if you want the Blowholy experience then spend your two quid on a CD and listen to it on your own, with the headphones on and the lights turned out.

 

How could, or should it change then. To some, I guess myself to a degree, that whole live in a cesspit type of thing is enjoyable and essential. Not the only thing, but it allows me to be in touch with it in a way that you can't say via e-mail, or in a big club or arena or whatever.

 

I'm not saying it should change, just that I want no part of it. Although I do think it's about time people stopped >expecting< bands to do the whole 5-lads-in-a-tranny-van-playing-the-nation's-toilets thing. That's not the ONLY way to go, y'know. I know a lot of people get 'in touch' through the whole animal energy of the live thing and that's fine - I'm not knocking that. But it's not like that for me and I don't see why I should have to pretend it is. I guess what it all comes from is that I get riled when the 'press' ignore me because they haven't seen me playing their local shithole - all that, 'you've got to pay your dues, man,' that really is so much bullshit, it pisses me off and I'm just (over) reacting to that.

 

Going with the live thing further, some people DO think that "rock" music, in whatever form, has to be played live. Is there anything that could be done to convince them otherwise.

 

Force them to labour long and hard, crafting their songs, perfecting their sound, getting that prog-rock-stylee syncopated bass drum just right and then make them play 10 gigs in a row in front of a selection of geriatrics, drunkards, other musicians, animals, students and the drummer's mum who all studiously ignore their heartfelt outpourings of musical creation. Put it this way, if you've never suffered ordeal-by-polite-applause, if you've never been verbally and physically abused by ignorant morons who want you to play Oasis covers, if you've never got to the end of a song and heard the gentle murmur of public-house conversation, if you've never had your gear trashed by bikers for refusing to play Purple Haze, if you've never watched from the stage whilst one by one an entire hall empties, if you've never played in fucking Barnsley for God's sake, then don't you dare fucking tell me or anyone else that we 'have to' play live, OK?

 

You seem to offer up a lot of music, on a regular basis, and for minimal costs. How do you do this, and what kind of set up do you think it takes then to produce music.

 

A couple of years back I flogged all my 'traditional' sound gear and got a computer which makes production costs close to zero. It's not remotely intuitive and I'd far rather be twiddling knobs on me 4-track but at the end of the day I can get a half-decent sound for no money. Now, I've got a cheapo 2x CD-writer, a 'borrowed' printer from work to knock out a few inlays and, Bob's your aunt, I've got a CD out. I've been in bands where we've spent 5 or 6 hundred quid in a studio recording 3 poxy songs. For that money you can get a new computer, some dodgy pirate software and record as much as you want. As long as you shoot your drummer and leech all your drum samples off the net instead.

 

If BlowHoly were given a £1 million budget for producing your music, what would you do?

 

I'd nick off with the money, quit me job, buy a nice house, make a few shrewd investments and you'd never hear from me again. Y'see, really, underneath all the pseudo-punk rock proto-philosophy I'm actually as big a mercenary capitalistic bastard as the next man. Mind you, I suppose if I had a bit left over I might try and persuade Rick Rubin to produce some stuff because he is, afer all, the god of guitar sound, is he not?

 

Maybe. As I'm not a musician myself, I find it hard to distinguish between "good" proudction. You can spot "bad" production easily, but I tend to struggle when someone starts to rave about how much better guitar tone A is compared to guitar tone B. Which maybe isn't a great thing for someone who pretends to "review" stuff to admit!

 

No, you're right, there's only two types of production - 'good' or 'bad'. It's just that Rick Rubin is one of the few producers I can think of whose work, irrespective of the band, seems consistently 'good'. Just because you're not a musician doesn't mean your opinion is somehow less valid on these things, either. In fact, it's probably more valid (and certainly more useful) than us musicians getting stuck up our own arses about whether the 4th splash cymbal needs a 'bit more top'.

 

The millenium. Orgasmic or overhyped?

 

Yet another excuse for everyone to try and forget how utterly devoid of meaning their pathetic little lives really are and try to escape the horror of existence by indulging in alcoholic excess and inflicting their 'merriment' on unsuspecting passers-by. I'm going to hibernate for 2 weeks at the end of the year and if any pissed-up, drunken arsewipe dares to disturb my peace I'll tear them limb from limb. Well, more accurately, I'll get a good hiding from them probably but I'll give it a good go. Don't suppose you've got a gun I could borrow...

 

ĎFraid not sorry. Try to favour the verbal blasting instead. Guess I'd best avoid your area on New Years Eve though!

 

Alice Donut summed me up nicely with their 'Revenge Fantasies of the Impotent'. So I wouldn't worry too much.

 

So who is Strangely Brown?

 

Someone hiding from his murky musical past, maybe.

 

Intriguing. So, having mentioned Barnsley previously, I'm guessing as to an ex-member of Saxon. Mind you, Strangely Brown, well, Strangely contains the word Strangle, which is very close to Stranglers, who did a song called Golden Brown. So I guess you could be an ex-member of The Stranglers. Though not Hugh Cornwell, cos he's been playing the local cesspits recently!

 

Ha, ha! I'm Biff Byford and you can claim your five pounds now.

 

Anyway, thanks for the time and the interview.

 

No, thank >you<, Dave. It's been a pleasure. If there really is any possibility of an alternative to the 'industry' growing up, then it's people like you who are going to make it happen by supporting the bands involved, as you are doing now. Long may you continue.

 

So there you go. We must now leave Mr ByfordBrownDeath. Hope you enjoyed it and found it as interesting and thought provoking as I did. Itís nice for someone to actually have opinions on things. Makes a refreshing change. And thatís something that continues with the music. BlowHoly are offering a unique sound in music at the moment, which if youíre prepared to be open-minded about, and just dip your toes in the water, is well worth checking out. And it only costs you 2 quid from the following:

 

Contact: 13 Partridge Drive, Mulbarton, Norwich, NR14 8RL.

 

For the free downloads, go to www.hermetic.force9.co.uk