I really love to rock the funky beats
3D House of Beef / Scarabeus interview and gig review
The return of the Beef/Scarabeus alliance. Or Beef Vs UK round 2. Whichever way you look at it, they still pick the time of the year when it all starts going cold to tour the UK. But they're back, and so what are they up to now. Before, during and after the gig at the Wheatsheaf in Stoke, I tried to find out. But let's face it, the UK probably never stood a chance anyway.
First things are the visual changes. Phil (Petrocelli) the drummer is still the same, still as amiable as ever, and still trying to collect every CD ever issued, but there's a different face on the bass, and Nial is dreadlocked no more. Maybe I should've said some different first words to him, but I was genuinely shocked when he and the rest of the bands recognised me from last year. So instead of being friendly I was in shock, so you retreat into defensive mode, and stupid things come from your mouth, which means I also manage to make a hash of things meeting Danny, Phil and Andy from Scarabeus again. Like Duh Dave. Anyway, "Sold out to the man" Nial grins about the lack of dreadlocks, before explaining that they went one evening when he got home. Actually it seems to have been pretty hectic for this man recently, as well as recording new material, finding a replacement bass player, he's just spent the last 2 months gigging around Europe with Deathline International, and had flown in from Germany to join the rest of the band for this tour. After being treated like a rock star, it's now "Back to reality" he says looking round the Wheatsheaf. But at least this time it's warm, and there are people lurking at the back, unlike other times.
While Scarabeus get ready, Nial and I have a bit of a natter about Neurosis and basically how great they are, and the Alternative Tentacles record label and the Virus 100 album (a great album, includes Dead Kennedys tracks recorded by Neurosis, Faith No More, L7, Sepultura, Napalm Death etc). And then Scarabeus take to the stage, to be blinded by lights and smoke, and cries of take your cap off from both Nial and Phil to Rich (Scarabeus guitarist/singer).
Scarabeus run through a decent set, which seems to be culled mostly from their latest demo, Southern Magnet. And pretty good it's sounding too. Since last year, they've progressed their sound, "updated it" to reflect our tastes as Rich said later. as well as the Seps like crunch, there's a Kornesque new metal flavour to it now. Phil joins the band to add vocals to their customary cover of Sepultura's Slave New World, and stays to perform another new Scarabeus song, Nucleic if I remember correctly. As ever it seems, there's not much reaction from the crowd, but when is there ever a reaction from people if it's not in response to the latest media induced frenzied future of rock, so the band finish off with the delicate song, dedicated to all lovers, Gargoyle. The band seem happy enough afterwards, especially given that they sold all the shirts that they brought with them. And a few demo's too I expect, which isn't surprising, as their demo's as some of the most professionally packaged that I've seen. They put A LOT of bands to shame with that. You should have a look and take a listen. Find things for yourself. It's fun.
So, to the Apocalypse Now theme, sub sonic sludgers, (damn, I knew there was something I forgot to ask), 3D House of Beef take to the stage and once more hammer out a sound that 3 people should not reasonably be expected to make. Given that this isn't my first experience of the live Beef sound, I think I know what to expect. I'd forgotten though that they are, in my opinion, even more powerful live. Songs live Sedition and Crawl seem to come alive that little bit more. The new track, Biffo doesn't sound overly different to the old stuff, and is powerful as hell, and in spite of the lacklustre crowd response, of which I'm as guilty as the next person, the band still seem to give it their all. A professionalism which is admirable. The lead off track off the new sampler tape sounds excellent. It sounded a little more accessible than some of the older material of the self titled CD, but the absolute highlight is still Live Coward Live. That is one classic song.
So how do you describe the sound, I guess sub sonic sludgers sums it up. It's heavy, it's distorted, it's slow, it's challenging, it's not The Spice Girls, it's 3D House of Beef. And that's the best way to describe any band, as having their own sound. From a listeners perspective, if you can listen to Neurosis and like it, first, well done for having some taste, and second, listen to 3D House of Beef, cos you might just like it. They're not the same, but they pose similar challenges and questions to the listener.
"It's just too surreal". Says Nial. I thought he meant the place, but really it was watching the video playback of the gig about 5 minutes after it had finished. Which is fair enough I guess. Not too sure that the video will be seen on Top of the Pops, but that's their loss. But anyway, while others break their backs lugging all the equipment downstairs, Nial and Rich sit down at a table at the bottom of the stairs and allow me to make a fool of myself in trying to interview them. And then others join and stare and intimidate me. But still, ever onwards.
The first thing to find out, is that after last year and the snow, rain, dodgy attendances and venues, why in hell did the bands decide to do this all over again?
"Because we had such a great time last time" comes back the enthusiastic answer from both of them. "It was a natural thing to happen. When it finished last year, we knew we had to do it again, it just had to happen" says Rich before asking Nial "Do you think it's better this time?". "Yeah, because we don't have whining bass players from hell this time."
"I think we know what to expect more this time round, and for that reason I think you milk the good times a lot more and get more out of it. And the shows have been better this year than last time", offers Rich. According to Nial, the bands have "wised up this year."
Diplomacy fails me once more, so I manage to bring up the subject of Drew, as it turns out, former bass player for 3D. This is met with a deep laugh from Nial, before he goes on to explain "well, we sort of had a big old argument. It was one of these escalating things and finally he was like Fuck you, and we were like No, Fuck you, and so, we said that's that, byebye, and he said my involvement with 3D House of Beef is now over."
So no musical differences then?
"No it was just a gradual personality conflict thing, and it kinda detracted from the dynamics of the band. We recorded that tape (the sampler tape), and if you soloed his bass tracks he just didn't give a shit, and didn't care about his playing, it was sloppy, and he didn't want to learn his parts. He just didn't want to be there." Right, think that explains enough there then.
At this point, right on cue, the new bass guy wanders down the stairs, and after being introduced, we shake hands. course me being me, I missed the name, and I can't figure it out off the tape. Well, I never said I was good at this. But anyway.
The night before all this took place, the band were scheduled to play in Leeds, but due to the minor problem of the venue claiming to know nothing about it, and having other bands booked instead, a quick re-arrangement was in order, and so, after a few phone calls, the band played in Nottingham instead. A slightly more successful outing than last years according to the bands. "It worked beautifully" claims Nial, before both bands crashed out at Bekkis for the second time on this tour. The halfway house as they call it.
They go on to explain more about the tour.
"This time round I think actually arranging the tour has been harder work, trying to get shows out of the UK. The whole setup for the scene seems to have changed so quickly, places that we played last year that were really good and gave us decent deals didn't do it this year, so it was difficult. But that's just one side of it. The whole thing of just going away, knowing each other so well now after last year. The amount of laughs and fun we have, that's probably more to me than the actual gigs " offers Rich. "The amount of strange Wurzel fanatics we meet in Birmingham" laughs Nial. "And this year, there's been no sleeping in the van, and Phil's loving it because the weather isn't so cold."
"So we're drawing to a close really. Only two more days to go. Reading should be the highlight, we're working on some quick collaboration and get everyone on stage", says Rich, with Nial explaining further, "we're going to try for like a Tribe of Neurot thing, just like some ambient, tribal, aggressive weird like thing. Just try it, we've got the resources."
"I mean, we've done the Slave New World thing with Phil, and Nucleic off the new demo, so he's going to do the whole fucking set next year" Rich laughs.
So there'll be a next year then? the UK Vs the Beef round 3.
"Yeah, we're going to try and do Europe as well"
But is Europe ready for 3D House of Beef?
"No" offers Nial with a wry grin. "It's never going to be ready" according to Rich. Nial explains. "We just have to do loads and loads of work. Press, radio and college. trying to find out which countries are more beneficial ones to bother touring with."
So is the press getting any easier then
"Well for us at least it's kinda of like this tidal wave that keeps building and building, and we've got like these press kits that are ridiculously thick with all these other reviews that people have sent. So we just send the whole thing out."
For Scarabeus however, it's a slightly differnt story as Rich explains. "For us being a UK band, it's pretty thin on the ground. We had a favourable review in Terroriser and various bits like that, so there's a bit, but only as much as you can expect from the UK really. So there'll be a 98 if we can. I'm cursing it half the time, but it's like a drug, and you end up missing it".
So then, the chances to play are somewhat limited.
"Well we only really started playing again this June. We've done a number of things, writing and recording. But we can't tour every 3 months, it's something you need to be able to do with another band."
Ah, talk of new material, so what's going on with it. The 3D stuff sounds like a fairly natural progression on first listen.
"Really?" is Nial's response. Which probably means that I need to clean out my lugholes, and listen to the tape a bit more. Although in fairness, since this took place, I have listened to it, and there does seem to be a bit of a change, with the songs sounding a bit more accessible and even maybe conventional than previously.
Scarabeus on the other hand, have obviously been updating their sound somewhat. And in excellent fashion it must be said. The new demo, Southern Magnet is a fine piece of new breed style metal or whatever you wish to call it. And supremely well presented. Get a copy.
At least Rich agrees in part with me when it comes to the new Scarabeus sound. "We just basically updated our sound and followed where our influences lie he explains. A few people said to us why change direction, but we haven't, this is the direction we were naturally going in anyway. That's how we've gone, that's the sort of thing we're into and that's the way we'll continue to go." Nial adds "it's disheartening to realise that you work and work and work at something and then you look at the destination and think, fuck, it's a dead end y'know."
But do you carry on with that then because it's where you want to go?
"It depends where your interest lie. Ultimately if you're satisfied with the music you're playing that's what matters the most, not what it is. But you know, your tastes can change as well, i don't listen to the same music this year as I did a year ago, or even 3 months ago. What I find excellent music today I might not find cool 6 months from now. There's things that carry on through the music, like standards you should strive for, and ideas that you should change, but the actual music itself can be anything."
So, on your new tape, are the songs long and drawn out.
"No, the longest is actually 7 minutes, the other 2 are under 5. No epics yet."
Because with the CD there was some long stuff, and I was wondering where you think the line lies between being creative and something becoming self-indulgent.
"It's mostly a feel thing, but when you're playing live in front of people also, it helps immensely because if an audience are really keyed in but don't know your material its really easy to read the feedback from the audience, like when you feel they're listless and bored it's like, hmmm, maybe I should cut that part a little shorter or not build it up, or do the dynamics differently to keep their interest peaked. I mean there is the whole gradual thing, maybe when you get to be the size of bands like Neurosis, you can take those luxuries, but for us, you've got to get peoples attention and grab them and shake them, otherwise it'll be like, well they were great, BUT. We want people to go away from the shows thinking oh fuck this is the greatest thing I've ever seen in my life. End of sentence. I don't know if it's happening, but hey".
So, talk turns to the music scene in Britain, and how both bands see it. We seem to disagree.
"Dire" is Nial's verdict. "I just think it's not a problem with the bands, but with everyone else" opines Rich to much laughter before continuing, "there's 2 aspects, the whole money side, which when you come down to it, to make music work, it's got to have the money behind it and that's only from the business side of things, it's only going to make sense if you can sell the product. And that's corrupted anyway, everyone knows that. And also I think the punters are a bit lazy, you know in coming out. But with all the live stuff at the moment, it's really saturated. I mean if you look at the metal scene, or what was the metal scene, there's a few bands that have survived but ..."
Amen to that, at least in the apathetic part. I disagree on the state of the music scene, but maybe there's the difference between being in a band and not. At this point some girl asks if someone can look after the skull on a stick that she's carrying. Which kinda detracts from what I'm trying to think of and everyone else is saying. And around this time, my interviewing technique, such as it is deserts me once more, and I end up talking of nothing really. Except seeing Voivod in London the other week on their only UK date.
"It's a common trend with a lot of bands, that you can try and play 10 dates in the UK and not really get anything out of it at all, but if you're up for doing 2 dates or a date in the UK and then going over to Europe" offers Rich, before someone comes down the stairs selling off 3D t-shirts for 1 pound.
"The live scene is really dire these days, and I can't put my finger on why, but my opinion is that people have become so saturated with major label stuff that I can't tell what's good and what's crap, and the cost of music at the retail, people aren't taking the risk anymore. Y'know, I can either eat or buy this CD. So people are being a little more fickle instead of being like, cool, it's on this record label. The other thing I'm hearing too is that a lot of the big distribution houses are kicking out a lot of the small indie labels because they're just not profitable anymore, so a lot of really cool music, which should be made, and released and sold and heard isn't. And it's becoming very polarised, and there's very few tiny independent bands, and then there's masses of Pearl Jam's and Symposiums."
Once more I start plugging bands like Human Waste Project and System of a Down. I've gotta learn to stop that, and we get into a discussion about clone bands and bands being railroaded down one direction, and being labelled with a tag which often isn't really warranted.
Rich says, "at the end of the day it's all down to money." At which point a few more people join in the argument and blame everyone from Andrew to someone's mum. And still we watch the others shifting the gear. Phil arrives, and in search of a decent quote, I ask him to say something.
"I really love to rock the funky beats" is the offering. I promise to use it as a title, and so there you have it. Anyway, back to wherever we were. Ah yes, that's right, the interview technique rapidly falling apart, so it's time to turn to those trusty questions saved for such a crisis.
If you could put together an ideal bill, what would it be. Ok, so it's cheesy, but what the hell.
Anyway, come on Nial. "Slint, Big Black, original Godflesh lineup, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd when Syd Barret still had brains." Phil adds in "Aphex Twin".
The skull starts to become the centre of attention, so it's time to ask, Spice Girls, good or bad.
And I'm not even going to mention the banana and what you could do to it and still eat it.
And so outside into the cold night air. A quick chat with Phil to find out how the CD quest is going. "I need to visit a shop for some. I have a list of what I'm after, mainly electronic music. But we've not really had time with Nial joining up and rehearsing and everything. But hopefully soon". We share a few experiences of recent good gigs, and a mutual admiration of Far. King Prawn get a mention, as of course do Gorilla, and the awesome Voivod gig in London the other week. Phil mentions a few bands who I must admit I've forgotten now, but one I remember is Mindset. And then talk turns back, as it did last year, to Mr Bungle, and a promise that I will send that copy of the OU818 demo. And I will, honest. And then it's time to find the car, find Nottingham and face the realisation that interviews don't get typed automatically. Git.
So, same again next year then everyone. Europe, take cover.