LINE-UP ANNOUNCED FOR RED ROOSTER!

East Anglia’s RED ROOSTER FESTIVAL have announced their line-up for this year’s event.

Faced with Covid restrictions, the organisers fought bravely to save last year’s event, not least because much of their original choice of artists was from the US. However, tenacious as ever, they’re determined that this year’s event will go ahead.

Taking place over the weekend of 27-29 August at their regular location of Euston Hall near Thetford, the festival will be headlined by RICHARD HAWLEY and feature performances by THE URBAN VOODOO MACHINE, DIRTY STRANGERS, SONGHOY BLUES, IAN SIEGAL, LITTLE BARRIE, KITTY, DAISY & LEWIS, HIS LORDSHIP, JIMMY REGAL & THE ROYALS, THE FUTURE SHAPE OF SOUND, BLACK CAT BONE, THE HANGING STARS, 4D JONES and loads more….

Tickets are on sale here.

Red Rooster Festival on Facebook

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ACCELERATION FOR THE NATION!

Punk-jazz supergroup/power trio THE N.J.E. have announced the release of a new mini-album for the first of this year’s Record Store Day Drops.

Formed in Whitechapel, the band features Terry Edwards (PJ Harvey, Gallon Drunk), Mark Bedford (Madness, BUtterfield 8) and Simon Charterton (The Higsons, Alex Harvey).

Following on from 2019’s Afloat In Dub, their collaboration with On-U Sound guru Adrian Sherwood, “Nought To 60” takes its name from the trio’s single released late last year. The release also features the 10-minute ‘Spirit Of Indo’, a tribute to the pub where they first played monthly to an audience of locals and the odd musical celebrity including Matt Johnson, The Undertones’ Damian O’Neill, Reeves Gabrels of Cure and Tin Machine fame and 2 Tone artist Rhoda Dakar. It also includes their version of David Bowie’s ‘Five Years’ commemorating the fifth anniversary of the artist’s passing.

Hear ‘Nought To 60’

Usually held on the third Saturday of April every year, Record Store Day 2021 will take place over two ‘drop’ days – 12 June and 17 July – due to the pandemic.

“Nought To 60” will be available through Sartorial Records on strictly limited 12″ vinyl (with download code) on 12 June. Buyers can find their nearest participating stores here.

The NJE on Facebook

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DAMNED ANNOUNCE TOUR SUPPORTS!

THE DAMNED have announced the full supporting cast for their forthcoming reunion tour.

As previously announced, the reconvened James, Scabies, Sensible and Vanian line-up have rescheduled their July dates for 11-19 February 2022, taking in Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and London. Originally planned to celebrate the 45th Anniversary of their debut gig, the dates will mark another celebration, coinciding with the 45th Anniversary of the release of their classic debut album Damned Damned Damned.

The choice of supports pays homage to the Class of ’77, with performances by PENETRATION, T.V. SMITH and the SKIDS alongside THE WILDHEARTS and fast-rising newcomers SMALLTOWN TIGERS.

Penetration

Formed in County Durham in 1976, Penetration, fronted by Pauline Murray, returned in 2001, and having regained their following finally released a new album Resolution to rapturous reviews in 2015. They’ll be playing in Glasgow O2 Academy (11/2), Manchester O2 Apollo (12/2) and Birmingham O2 Academy (16/2). They’ll also play the second night at London Eventim Apollo (19/2) along with The Wildhearts.

T.V. Smith regularly appeared alongside The Damned fronting THE ADVERTS in ’77. Following the release of his critically acclaimed solo album Lockdown Holiday, Smith will be appearing with his sometime backing band The Bored Teenagers, playing a set of Adverts classics in Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham. They’ll also be appearing at the first London show on 18 February, alongside the Skids.

Smalltown Tigers

Opening each night will be the hotly tipped Italian punks Smalltown Tigers, who made a noise last Summer with their widely praised Five Things mini-album.

Tickets are on sale here. Original tickets are still valid for the new dates.

The Damned on Facebook

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RAVAGERS ON THE HIGHWAY!

Baltimore rockers RAVAGERS have unveiled a new video as a taster for their forthcoming album.

Channelling Class of ’76 pop/punk/rock street smarts, ‘Down That Road’ is taken from the album Badlands which, despite having spent the best part of a decade at the rock’n’roll coalface, is actually their debut full-length. It’s due out through Atlanta’s Spaghetty Town Records this Spring.

Fronted by guitarist/singer Alex Hagen – whom sharp-eyed readers will recognise from Vive faves, Atlanta urchins RMBLR – Ravagers dropped their debut EP Livin’ In Oblivion back in 2014, followed after months of heavy touring by 2015’s Natural Instinct EP. Along the way, they’ve plastered their old-skool hearts on their sleeves by opening for such veterans as The Damned, FEAR and The Adicts, as well as fetching up at Vegas’ annual Punk Rock Bowling.

With Covid putting paid to all touring plans, the band locked down in Atlanta with a productions team of Tuk Smith (him from Biters) and Dan Dixon to record the ten chestnuts that make up Badlands.

Ravagers on Facebook

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MORE NAMES FOR FUTURAMA!

The revamped Futurama Festival has announced a third wave of additions to the line-up, led by Manchester post-punk/dance pioneers A CERTAIN RATIO.

Post-punk veterans CLOCK DVA, SEX GANG CHILDREN and THE BLUE ORCHIDS have also been added alongside newcomers such as fast-rising Norwegian newcomers POM POKO and hotly-tipped Essex punks THE MEFFS, whose new video Vive Le Rock! premiered last week. It’s also been announced that SPEAR OF DESTINY will now be replacing Kirk Brandon’s other band, the previously announced Theatre Of Hate.

As previously announced, the cutting edge festival which was first staged at Leeds’ Queen’s Hall and ran for several years during the 80s will be reborn in Liverpool at the hands of festival founder John Keenan and Liverpool promoter Marc Jones.

Taking place over the weekend of 11-12 September, the festival will feature four stages across three venues – the Invisible Wind Factory, Make Arts Centre and Ten Streets Social in the Stanley Dock / Regent Road area of Liverpool. The main stages will be hosted by Vive Le Rock! and Louderthanwar.

The latest line-up additions will be joining previously announced headliners HEAVEN 17 (Saturday 11) and PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT and THE CHAMELEONS.

The full line-up so far is…

SATURDAY 11TH SEPTEMBER

HEAVEN 17 / SPEAR OF DESTINY / A CERTAIN RATIO / WARMDUSCHER / BILLY NOMATES / BALAAM & THE ANGEL / SPIZZ ENERGI / SECTION 25 /SINK YA TEETH / TVAM

IST IST / GIRLS IN SYNTHESIS / HEAVY LUNGS / WE ARE NOT DEVO / THE DSM IV / TOKKY HORROR / POZI / WITCH FEVER /SPQR / LOOSE ARTICLES / PETE BENTHAM & THE DINNER LADIES / EXPELAIRES / FEATHER TRADE / LIBRALIBRA / SPILT / YAMMERER / DITZ / FRAUDS / GRANDMA’S HOUSE / THE GENTLE SCARS / THREE FROM ABOVE / BITE BACK / DEH-YEY / DRY RETCH

SUNDAY 12TH SEPTEMBER

PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT / THE CHAMELEONS / THE BLINDERS / CLOCK DVA / THE LOVELY EGGS / SEX GANG CHILDREN /THE MEMBRANES / CHUBBY & THE GANG / JULIA BARDO BLUE ORCHIDS / POM POKO / SAINT AGNES / JOHN / BOB VYLAN / EVIL BLIZZARD / TVAM / ZEE DAVINE & THE UNHOLIES / CROWS / TV PRIEST / COURTING

DR DIABLO & THE DEVIANT SHOW / COURTING / LIINES / DREAM NAILS / EYESORE & THE JINX / CRAWLERS / GRAVVES / GENN / THE MEFFS / TWISTED NERVE / THE WEBB / KLAMP / THE PLEASURE DOME / COUGHIN’ VICARS

…with more names to be added!

Weekend and day tickets (including an instalment option) are available here.

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EVER GIBBONS!

ZZ TOP legend BILLY F GIBBONS trails his forthcoming solo album with a new video.

The desert-twangin’ ‘West Coast Junkie’ is the first track to be revealed from Hardware, the Texan guitarist’s third album, following on from 2015’s Perfectamundo and 2018’s The Big Bad Blues.

Hardware was recorded at Escape Studios in California’s high desert, near Palm Springs, by Gibbons with former Cult and Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum and bassist Mike Fiorentino, along with engineer Chad Shlosser.

All but one of the tracks on Hardware are credited to the quartet with the remaining song a cover of ‘(Hey Baby) Que Paso’, a hit for Texas Tornados, the supergroup featuring Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers, Freddie Fender and Flaco Jiminez.

“We holed up in the desert for a few weeks in the heat of the summer and that in itself was pretty intense,” says Gibbons. “To let off steam we just ‘let it rock’ and that’s what Hardware is really all about. For the most part, it’s a raging rocker but always mindful of the desert’s implicit mystery.”

Set for release on 4 June through Concord Records, Hardware is available to pre-order here.

Billy F Gibbons on Facebook

Pic by Blain Clausen

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HIGH ON MEFFS!

Fast-rising Essex punks THE MEFFS have just released their second single and they’re premiering the video with Vive Le Rock!

Packing a severe punch for a two-piece, and clearly taking a lead from the early 80s anarcho scene, the angry ‘Scum’ is the Colchester duo’s second single and first new material since the release of their highly-rated self-titled debut album released last year.

“At just 1 minute 25 seconds long, we try to confront shutterbugs and the media about their perceived right of intrusion,” they say. “‘Scum’ references celebrity culture and the detrimental effects of fake news. Lyrics such as, ‘…oh well, so what, you said it’s worth a shot. If you make a quid a minute then you’re making quite a lot!’ try to highlight the focus on reaching an end goal at any cost, regardless of the damage caused to others.”

Having spent the past year just itching to get out there and play live, Lily (guitar/vocals) and Lewis (drums/backing vocals) have already been lined up for Bristol’s Attitude Festival in September alongside Riskee & The Ridicule, Bob Vylan and The Blue Carpet Band, and a show at Lewes Con Club in January next year with Subhumans. Their diary is filling up fast – make sure you don’t miss ’em!

Stream/download ‘Scum’ here.

The Meffs on Facebook

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MASTERS OF PUPPETS!

London pop-rockers RICH RAGANY & THE DIGRESSIONS are back with a brand new single an video.

‘Heartbreakers Don’t Try’ is a taster for the ex-ROLE MODEL’s as yet unnamed second album which is due out this Summer.

Recorded between lockdowns at the South London studio of producer Andy Brook, the album finds the Canadian-born songwriter joined by a now stable line-up including Brook on keys, guitarists Gaff (Desperate Measures, Hollywood Brats) and Kit Swing, bassist Ricky McGuire (UK Subs, The Men They Couldn’t Hang) and fellow ex-Role Model Simon Maxwell on drums.

“A pretty simple song lyrically about the fight you can have with depression”, says Rich about the song. “But then that great feeling of just saying ‘FUCK IT’ and standing up and taking on the day, week or challenge. Just taking that cloud and giving it stiff little fingers and going out and gettin’ some JOY! The liberation.”

With lockdown still making it difficult for bands to get together in one place, the band had the novel idea of getting their puppet pals to appear in the video…

“The puppets do a fantastic job of raising your spirits, and they are really feeling those lyrics,” laughs Rich. “We love bands like The Faces who are great at juggling beautiful music, but also letting their humour show. It’s in the spirit of that.”

Rich Ragany & The Digressions on Facebook

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K÷ VIDEO EXCLUSIVE!

K÷, the collaborative project between Jaz and Geordie from KILLING JOKE and former NEW ORDER bassist Peter Hook, have a video which they’re premiering exclusively with Vive Le Rock!

The haunting, atmospheric ‘Remembrance Day’ is taken from the trio’s K÷ 93 EP which is out this Friday 19 March, while the moving video pays tribute to Gang Of Four’s Andy Gill, Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, Killing Joke’s Paul Raven and others.

“In recent interviews I have talked extensively about how my ‘precognitive’ abilities have affected my work,” says Jaz about the work. “‘Remembrance Day’ is a good example of this being essentially a song about how Covid-19 has changed our lives but written some 30 years ago! Indeed I remember thinking when I wrote the lyric ‘what the fuck is this about?’ – it’s certainly not the conventional 11/11 Remembrance Day dominated by the poem of Rupert Brookes, The Soldier (and others). However, the prose of K÷’s ‘Remembrance Day’ is certainly about megadeaths and now it’s happening in real time.

“Looking back to early 2020 our colleague Andy Gill (of Gang Of Four fame) died unexpectedly from a respiratory problem. Then a year later I received news that my beloved Uncle Bob Pandy (who was a second father to me) died on Christmas Day. I went into shock and contracted a handful of illnesses including Covid-19 from which I have fully recovered I am happy to say!”

As previously revealed, the three tracks on the EP were the result of a session recorded by the trio at Hook’s studio in 1993, that Jaz descries as “spontaneous and magical”.

Remastered from a DAT cassette that recently resurfaced, the EP is now available on clear 10″ vinyl, limited to just 2,000 individual numbered copies.

“I think these tracks are great. I hope something else happens or at least we play them some time. I’ve missed you lads! “ exclaims Hook, while Jaz adds “When you listen to this rare chemistry, you will understand why I’ve always felt this experience begs for a full opus magnum somewhere in the near future.”

K÷ 93 is available on vinyl here along with various merch items. Get it digitally here.

Read a full feature on K÷ in the new edition of Vive Le Rock! out now!

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NO FLIES ON THEM!

On the eve of the release of their career-spanning anthology Time Lapse, Vive Le Rock talks to Alex Novak from Northampton post-punks VENUS FLY TRAP.

Can you give a brief history of Venus Fly Trap.

I had been in a band called Attrition who were based in London at the time, I had done an album and toured Holland/UK with them. Decided to move back to my native Northampton famous for Bauhaus, Alan Moore and the film Kinky Boots, hooked up with my brother John Novak (Isaws, Where’s Lisse) and Tony Booker an ex art school student, I had also studied at art school. The line-up has changed many times over the years: Andy Denton joined via a local band Crowman, initially as the drummer and ended up playing guitar and has done for many years.

Your new album Time Lapse collects tracks from three albums – Totem, Pandora’s Box and Luna Tide. What was your reasoning for a three-in-one rather than individual releases?

It was basically the time it would take to release individual albums: to promote those albums, and the costs, it just seemed to make more sense. If someone else would like to reissue everything in one go in the future then that’s fine. It gave me an opportunity to pick tracks and create an alternative album for this alternate reality.

You’ve talked about VFTs albums as existing in triptychs. How do these three albums relate to each other?

Well, two came out on Danceteria, the line-up was pretty consistent with the core members being present. I would say Luna Tide was a transition album with members who had joined at the time of Pandora’s Box being retained, so shifts in line-up rather than seismic changes. But generally it was a band line-up with the usual drums, guitar, bass and keys which kept it within certain parameters but with some experimenting in the studio.

There was quite a sonic shift from the post punk of Totem to more organic Luna Tide. Why the constant evolution?

As new members join they add their influences to the pot, also we replaced electronic drum pads with a real drummer (on Mars we had a drum machine) and sequencers with an analogue keyboard player so that will effect the feel.

Despite this they remain easily identifiable as VFT. What’s the aesthetic holding them together?

I guess one thing would be myself: I have been the only constant in all the line-ups and I want the sound to fit certain parameters. Luna Tide was at the edge of those parameters and I didn’t want to continue in that particular direction for Dark Amour but that’s another story.

Certainly not a metal album, Luna Tide nevertheless got a glowing review in the metal bible Kerrang!. What was the crossover appeal?

I think at that time the magazine was covering a lot wider musical tastes not just the traditional stuff but also grunge, alternative rock and goth so we fitted within that brief.

How did you decide what tracks to include on Time Lapse?

Tried to get tracks to fit together and get a flow going, changed the order on some of the tracks from Luna Tide as they seemed to fit together better.

Fans have a special relationship with songs. Were you worried about omitting someone’s favourite when assembling Time Lapse?

This is an alternative album for an alternate reality, those albums don’t exist in this reality, another time and another place the dice would fall differently.

Time Lapse seems a pretty apt title for these strange times.

Time has been changed: are we going forward or are we in limbo?

How will you promote the album in the midst of a pandemic?

Via the net, magazines, radio and whatever portals and wormholes are open to transmit  information.

VENUS FLY TRAP
Time Lapse 1989-1994
(Glass Modern)

Northampton’s Venus Fly Trap, like Killing Joke or Public Image, are a band in constant flux with their discography shapeshifting from it’s post-punk beginnings to a darkwave electronica. The aptly titled Time Lapse selects tracks from three albums which encapsulates the bands evolution.

Venus Fly Trap found great favour on the continent and French label Danceteria released Totem in 1989. Four tracks from that record open this collection beginning with ‘Out Of Your Depth’, an epic of biblical proportions. Opening like the gates of Babylon it finds vocalist Alex Novak wailing, as if the love child of Nico and Jim Morrison, over a tangle of discordant guitars and sombre electronics. There’s a definite cinematic quality to these songs, especially the darker end of celluloid and ‘Rainy Latvian Wedding’ would make the ideal soundtrack to some unsettling film noir such as The Cremator.

Two years later and Pandora’s Box spilled its delights on an unwary public. ‘Shadow Ministry’: a baby’s wail, guitar dripping icicles and glacial synths constantly repositions the listener as it swirls around the room like some unruly spirit. The truly haunting ‘Sidewinder’ is a midnight stroll through the grounds of Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel while the albums lead single ‘Achilles Heel’ skips along on waves of effervescence. Producer Pat Fish sprinkled his magic on proceedings and produced a busy yet uncluttered sound which mirrored the bands frenetic energy.

When they returned in 1994 with Luna Tide it was with a more organic effort that veered in a more rock direction. However, in whatever guise they appeared there’s a dark aesthetic present and no more so than on ‘Storm Clouds Are Gathering’. The Velvet Underground meets Suicide, it takes a sombre turn that jars with the metronomic explosion that is ‘Moscow Menagerie’. Ensuring the album ends as it began the funereal ‘Heretic’ is a dark procession that leads to a haunting conclusion.

Despite the years and genres that separates these tracks they hang together as a cohesive whole and make a deliciously dark that’s perfect for these dark times.

Peter Dennis

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SATURDAY NIGHT WITH THE ANGELS!

THE URBAN VOODOO MACHINE’s genial frontman Paul-Ronney Angel celebrates a year of lockdown with a very special livestream show this weekend.

Since lockdown began, every Saturday night Paul-Ronney and his partner Ane Angel have been staging intimate yet uplifting performances and livestreaming them to the outside world via the Urban Voodoo Machine Facebook page.

Featuring a host of UVM classics and newly-minted and frequently topical songs, making poignant observations about the state of the world we find ourselves in, the shows have also included an array of guests (where Covid restritions allow) such as Rat Scabies, Tamirae Brown and Jim Jones, and of course various UVM colleagues.

This Saturday 20 March, the 53rd episode will mark a full year of broadcasts. Kicking off at 8pm GMT, all are invited to join the livestream here.

In related news, this coming June will see the release of Paul-Ronney’s debut solo album London Texas Lockdown, while The Urban Voodoo Machine’s long awaited new album $nake 0i£ €ngine is due in September.

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THE TWELVE-LEGGED GROVE MACHINE!

HAWKWIND: DAYS OF THE UNDERGROUND
Joe Banks
(Strange Attractor)
9/10

Emerging out of the late-60s Ladbroke Grove squat scene, Hawkwind’s story has always seemed to be one of sheer luck more than design, from being in the right place at the right time, cloistered in a space-rock cocoon of bleeps, whooshing sounds, squawking sax and garage-rock guitars while the zeitgeist – both cultural and political – spirals chaotically around them.

The band’s now fifty-year trip has been told before, through other excellent and insightful biographies, but Joe Banks has, perhaps wisely, given the enormity of the task, restricted his book to the band’s first decade – arguably Hawkwind’s Golden Age – when a bunch of freaks soared to the top of the charts, going on to take on the punks at their own game.

Daunting at first, unlike most biographies Days Of the Underground is comprised of different types of chapter – the standard chronology of events; in-depth album-by-album appraisals; searching interviews with key players; and, perhaps most importantly, essays in which Banks adroitly gets to the nub of the musical, philosophical and historical context surrounding the band, their coterie and their environment, throwing early-70s West London in particular and the post-hippie comedown in general into vivid relief.
Gerry Ranson

Days Of The Underground is available here.

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DOIN’ IT FOR THE KIDS!

Fresh-faced Aussie punks THE KIDS have just dropped a video for their latest single.

Not to be confused with the Belgian punk vets of ‘This Is Rock’n’Roll’ fame, these Kids are a bunch of skateboard-loving 18-year-old hardcore yobs from Sydney, who claim they’re “making music with the sole intent to piss you off”.

‘Go Back To Canberra’ is their spiky middle-fingered anti-anthem to Australia’s capital city and seat of government.

You can stream/download ‘Go Back To Canberra’ here.

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HEALTHY JUNKIES VIDEO EXCLUSIVE!

London punks HEALTHY JUNKIES are back with another video which they’re premiering exclusively with Vive Le Rock!

Unable to gig for a year, the band have been writing new material and making videos “to keep us sane.”

‘Streets Of Olympia’, taken from the band’s Forever On The Road album, is inspired by their 2018 US tour, which took them to the city of Olympia in Washington State for a couple of shows.

“There was a large contingent of homeless teenagers/twenty-somethings in there,” says guitarist Phil Honey-Jones. “They lived in tents on a designated car park. They were so welcoming to us, and then moshed themselves into a wild frenzy during our show with one guy breaking a wrist and another girl dislocating her shoulder. It was a cool scene there back in 2018, it was like a modern day court of miracles. I often wonder what became of them. This song is for them.”

The video was directed and edited by Shogo Hino and filmed at Jumping Sofa Studio in London.

Currently in the process of recording tracks for their next album, Healthy Junkies are in the throes of planning UK shows for the Autumn.

Forever On The Road is available here.

Healthy Junkies on Facebook

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A PAGAN PLACE

Ascendant Belfast band NEW PAGANS have just unveiled a video from their forthcoming debut album.

‘Habour’ is the third single to be taken from The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All, following on from the recent ‘Christian Boys’ and ‘Yellow Room’, released last summer.

“The video was shot on a freak dry day, in between weeks of snow and lashing rain, at St. Cooey’s Well,” says bassist and video director Clare Miskimmin. “Lyndsey [McDougall, vocals] had been a few times and kept it in mind as a stunning and pretty sinister location. It dates back to the 7th Century and the 70s altar actually houses the foundation stones of the old monastery. That lent itself to the basic premise of summoning a world and its inhabitants beyond ours, hidden from our view. Merging two realities.

“I love how the very last line is ‘it’s just you and me’, and how Lyndsey and her summoned doppelganger are swallowed up by the altar,” Clare continues. “Stuart Sloan, our editor, and I are massive David Lynch fans and nobody does the world beyond the veil like Lynch so we just ran with that vibe. Our very own entrance to the Black Lodge in the wilds of County Down.”

With the album set for release through Big Scary Monsters on 19 March, the band have lined up a special livestream event for the same day as a lockdown launch gig. The show will take place in Derry, where they played their first ever show, at the city’s musical hub, the Nerve Centre. Free to view, the gig is a ticketed event – sign up here.

The Seed, The Vessel, The Roots and All is available to pre-order here.

New Pagans on Facebook

Pic by Aaron Cunningham

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SENEX APPEAL!

Suffolk post-punk goths SENEX IV have just released their second album.

Released in partnership with Bat-Cave Productions, Gods & Taboos follows on from their acclaimed 2019 debut Dolls House.

Gods & Taboos was written and recorded between lockdowns at Crooks Hall, West Suffolk, incidentally also a location for the recording of ALIEN SEX FIEND’s recent Possessed album.

Despite the band being formed relatively recently, the band members have a long history on the Suffolk/Cambridge post-punk scene: frontman Dave Middle and guitarist Rob Shaul both served time in Haverhill punk legends 13TH CHIME, and individually spent much of the 80s with the likes of FINAL SCREAM, VANISHING POINT, THE WYNDUPS and THE ANTIX. The band’s line-up is completed by Mark Tingey and Anthony Hitchcock.

Gods & Taboos is available to buy as a download or CD here, with the vinyl edition available to pre order for May delivery.

Check out the band filmed live at Blue Shed Studio last autumn…

Senex IV on Facebook

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RISING SONS!

Vive Le Rock! have been fans of SONS OF SOUTHERN ULSTER for a while now, their latest album Sinners & Lost Souls making our Albums of the Year. We caught up with the boys from County Cavan to get the lowdown…

So the Sons of Southern Ulster have been around for a while. How did you all get together?

Justin: We spent our formative years in the same small town in Cavan. At that time, Cavan would have been a bit of a backwater and while it is part of the province that is Ulster – it was on the southern side of the border – hence the name. At the time it didn’t seem like there was much to do but in retrospect there was loads of mischief to be made. As kids we’d roam around the town until all hours, smoking cigarettes and sneaking in pints at some of the less salubrious establishments. There were 32 pubs in a town of 2,000 people so there was a lot of competition. Seeing a gang of fifteen year olds knocking back pints at the counter was not unusual in a few of them. Remember this was at the height of what was referred to as the troubles and we watched with a certain detachment what was going on up the road. All a bit surreal in retrospect. As David says, it was the music that got us together. Before that we’d have been somewhat indifferent towards each other but a shared love of the Jam changed all that. I remember sitting on a wall outside the Northern Bank with a cassette radio one day playing the Gift (maybe it was Sound Affects) – when David walked by. I think he was put out because I had the album first. We sort of compared notes, as teenage boys do. That would’ve been the start of it.

David: Like many bands we found each other through music, in our case a shared interest in punk music and the inevitable desire that follows to do it yourself. Given that we grew up in rural Ulster it was a real challenge to access alternative music so you really had to lean on mates to find stuff. Don’t forget that albums were a substantial investment back then, so you had to pass them around a lot more! It’s funny how band mates have a special status in your life, there’s a bond that endures, playing live is like going into battle together while the dedication it takes to create decent music requires huge affinity.

What sort of bands were you watching growing up?

David: Predictably we were immersed with all the punk and post punk stuff but in Ireland we also had our own bands like Horslips, Mamas Boys and the Blades who had legendary status here but not so well known in England. Obviously the Rats, Undertones and SLF were really important as they demonstrated how the punk thing could be converted to an Irish setting. Derry, Belfast and Dublin were a million miles from Malcolm McLaren’s sex shop in London but the attitude was the same. Later, bands like Paranoid Visions and Nun Attax kept the punk thing going and then the Virgin Prunes really kicked alternative music in Ireland on to another plane of artistic mayhem.

Justin: Living in a small town in the middle of nowhere meant that “cool” bands playing locally was never an option. Mostly showbands would play in local hotels and occasionally Horslips. Anyone who grew up in rural Ireland back then would have a deep seated love for Horslips because they played in parish halls all over the country. We wrote a song about a Horslips gig in the Farmers Hall in Virginia years later. A big fight ensued and it was obvious Horslips were used to that bullshit. There was a melee on the dancefloor and they just kept on playing. As it got close to the stage they weren’t afraid of throwing in a boot or a fist. We lapped it up. We’d watch Top Of The Pops and buy all the music magazines so here we were in our little town as self-appointed experts on everyone: Adam and the Ants, the Exploited, Dumpy’s Rusty Nuts!! We’d never hear half the records but we’d be well versed on the reviews in NME and opinionated as if we’d heard every note.

There was a big scene in Northern Ireland then with the Outcasts and Rudi. They always seemed more sophisticated because they’d have “youth” programs on Ulster Television. I think the Moondogs even had their own show!! We’d hear Dublin bands on the Dave Fanning radio show like the Blades and the fucking best of all – the Virgin Prunes.

I remember seeing the Undertones on the Old Grey Whistle Test. The docs and the snorkel jacket, and the half-mast trousers. That was my wake up moment – my electric circus

The whole Irish Punk scene has had a lot of attention in recent years. How has the music scene survived? Has it been difficult?

David: It’s a great time for music in Ireland right now with the emergence of real alternative-post-punk ‘scene’. I guess that somewhere along the way people started using real instruments plugged in and turned up proper loud! It’s been flattering how the Irish media have suggested that our debut (Foundry Folk Songs) in 2016 was the start of that post-punk revival but I think there’s been a growing discontent for some time that has pushed music towards having a more abrasive feel with more biting lyrics – a welcome remedy to kids prattling on about (often inauthentic) feelings, usually about themselves! It’s absolutely brilliant that you can now turn on mainstream radio at night and hear decent bands that have something to say. It’s no coincidence that many of the main DJs are heroes of the original punk era – the likes of Mickey Bradley and Paul McLoone from the Undertones have brilliant nightime shows to casually wander into and hear great new music. That platform is crucial to the new scene.

Justin: I left Ireland 30 years ago so in many ways the Irish music scene is as relevant to me as Boston, or New York. I don’t consider myself a musician. I write words. Like many emigrants I have a love hate relationship with Ireland and I realize that my lyrics probably do not speak to the Ireland of today. There seems to be a snobbish view of music, or pop, that dictates that everything is throwaway and bubble gum. I would not subscribe to that notion. When punk first happened there was a sense that it was another fad that would be over in a year or two. Forty years later there is a realization that the Sex Pistols and the Clash and the likes were true artists. No less so than Seamus Heaney or James Joyce. There seems to be a few bands that realize that what we are doing has a value beyond what is in vogue. This shit is important.

You do everything under your own steam and have a real original sound. What’s the secret?

Justin: There comes a point in life when you no longer give a shit about what others might think and I think we hit that point when we decided to record the first album. The Sons are not about converting people into fans. If people like what we do that’s great but were not looking to “make it”. We’re in our fifties – we’ve got a clatter of kids, mortgages, all that shit. Maybe, this is about making a small statement before we die. Maybe, its about producing something of worth – and with meaning. My kids hear us on the radio and they couldn’t give a flying fuck. “Oh yeah Dad – Coool” and they leave the room halfway through. I love that (sort of). I hope someday they listen and think dad wasn’t a total arsehole. He had something to say. Maybe be inspired to tell their story.

That people like what we do is brilliant. It’s like a gift. WE did get a shit review recently – and you realize you’re not always so zen. For a few hours you’re like fuck fuck fuck but you have to deal with the fact some people don’t get it. Remind yourself the world is full of arseholes – and move on (haha)

David: One thing about the Sons is that we make no effort to follow fashion – we know what we like and how to play that. We’ve been lucky with Daragh Dukes (producer) in that he lets us keep the finished product pretty raw even if it’s a bit harsh for more sensitive ears. For us it’s all about the overall package. It’s been great to find an audience who really get what we are doing – Its funny how modern music had become so processed and sanitised that going raw in 2020 seems original! That said, having ‘Yodapunk’ Mr Kelly out front on vox helps to give us an extra edge and at the end of the day you can’t beat good lyrics!

Haven’t you been out in America?

David: We are over and back – the two albums have been recorded in Boston and Ireland. Justin has been out there for decades – i guess that’s how he has such a clear recall for the world we grew up in. Paddy (bass) is out in Australia, while Noel is on the other side of Ireland to me so we could hardly be a more inconvenient ensemble! Funny enough, that makes for very focused time together- the Sons don’t bother with intra band politics cos we just don’t have the time! For gigs COVID has wrecked our short term plans for a tour to release ‘Sinners and Lost Souls’ but in truth we usually play only half a dozen times a year and tend to go for boutique venues that allow us to muck around with the show with lots of storytelling and the like. I have never understood why a band would go to all the trouble of creating a collection of songs and then not speak to the audience between songs – it’s really not cool and actually kinda rude and elitist. No such problem with the Sons as it’s hard to keep Mr Kelly quiet once he gets off on a story. I think bands underestimate the need to have different phases to a gig in order to keep a crowds attention, even for bands that i love i sometimes find myself drifting off a bit after 20 minutes!

Justin: While I’ve lived in Boston for almost 30 years, the Sons is very much a project that speaks to Ireland and dinosaurs like me. Ireland has changed a lot since I left and in most ways for the best. That said, I see a cohort that writes off the history, and recent history, very quickly. It needs to be documented. Someone needs to speak to the powers that be that contributed to the Ireland that exists today. America is so vast. It can be a bit overwhelming to get in contact with people who may be of a similar mind. I’d love to get the likes of Henry Rollins to take a listen but where do you even start.

The album has had universal praise including some comparisons to Fontaines DC. But you were there first right? ha ha!

David: The album is certainly not easy listening – we wanted to make a historical document that will hopefully endure, but time will decide that. It’s been great to see that with all the stuff about ‘Sinners’ that our first album is being discovered by so many new fans. We are a pretty ramshackle outfit and don’t bother with management, so getting it out there is a challenge – it has been great that so many folk have been excited by the album so i guess the secret is to get it to more ears! We are happy to be patient about that as the finest wine etc…

The Fontaines are a real phenomenon and are getting the type of attention usually reserved for pop groups, but i think that they have nailed down their alternative credentials with their second album which is brave and complicated. Yes, we were ‘there’ first but the Sons are very different in lyrical content and have a much more old school punk sound. For me, the best punk music has a sense of humour – although Sinners covers a lot of dark themes – alienation, oppression, depression, alcoholism and death – there is a recurring sense of mischief in the narratives that keeps you on board (a bit like life i guess sometimes instinct alone means we stumble on in the face of overwhelming adversity). Poetry and naughty guitars, you just can’t beat that combo!

Justin: As I assume the Fontaines are in their early twenties and we are heading towards OAP status, I’m secretly loving the fact that some reviewers have painted us as some sort of spiritual godfathers. That said, I’m sure they are horrified and disgusted to be associated with such a bunch of uncool gobshites. I saw a facebook post recently where some guy was explaining what the Sons were like to a workmate. He said , and I quote – “well, they’re kinda like Fontaines, if Fontaines had been on a 24 hour bender and told you they had shagged your sister” – not sure I’d have the stamina for the 24 hour bender or the sister but would love this on my gravestone.

People like to compare everyone to something else. This album its Fontaines – last album was Whipping Boy and A House. If you are going to be compared to other Irish bands I’ll take that.

What’s next and when will we see SOSU live???

David: We are already fiddling about with ideas for our next album – i don’t think there’s much point in trying to repeat Sinners and Lost Souls so you can expect something quite different. The lyrical voice aged between ‘Foundry Folk Songs’ and ‘Sinners and Lost Souls’ and i think the voice for our next album will be still further down the journey of life….or maybe we’ll have a midlife crisis and sing about sports cars, dangerous women, waking up after 24 hour benders…that sort of thing! More seriously, now that Sinners is on vinyl we will be doing the same for Foundry Folk Songs and have an EP done with Pete Briquette of remixed version of tracks from Sinners and Lost Souls that is being pressed as we speak. Pete is originally from the same area in Southern Ulster as us so it’s a perfect collaboration. I think we can really indulge our weird side for the third album which is making for great fun in the composition process. One golden rule in the Sons is that if something is not fun or interesting then we don’t do it – life really is too short and at our stage our tolerance for fake stuff is very low!

Check out Sons Of Southern Ulster’s latest video ‘For The Birds’…

Watch the documentary Foundry Folk Songs

Sons Of Southern Ulster on Facebook

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PET NEEDS VIDEO PREMIERE!

Fast-rising Colchester punks PET NEEDS are set to release their debut album next week and they’re trailing it with a new video which they’re premiering exclusively with Vive Le Rock!

Ever since Boudicca sacked the ancient capital in AD60, Colchester people have earned a reputation for sticking it to the man, from the Peasants’ Revolt right up the Miners’ Strike and the Poll Tax riots. The town has also seriously punched above its weight band-wise with the likes of Modern English, Living In Texas, Big Bird and the immortal Bum Gravy all making their mark.

Xtra Mile signings Pet Needs are carrying on that grand tradition with a string of dynamic performances with bands such as Buzzcocks, PiL and The Undertones and a head-turning spot at Camden Rocks flagging them up as ones to watch.

Described by frontman Johnny Marriott as “the ultimate Fractured Party song”, new single ‘Toothpaste’, is the second track to be lifted from their forthcoming debut Fractured Party Music, following on from last month’s ‘Tracy Emin’s Bed’, and observes how mundane, everyday objects can unlock deepseated memories.

The song, says Marriott, “was penned on the M1 on the way home from visiting my mum in Derby. She has bought exactly the same toothpaste for years and every time I use it, standing in the bathroom next to my childhood bedroom, it throws me right back to being an anxious little lad trying to make sense of things, haha.”

Stream/download ‘Toothpaste’ here.

Pre-order Fractured Party Music here.

Pet Needs on Facebook

Pic by Jonathan Doyle

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