Friday, 28 October 2011

Vittorio Mazzoni

Like a hypnagogic soundtrack to a retro-future of disjointed voices, lost guitars and haunted dub, the Vittorio Mazzoni cassette is the one thing I would urge you to purchase this year. They're a two-piece, and they create their music hundreds of miles apart. Dan lives in London, and Josh lives in Cumbernauld- a town recently voted the worst place to live in the UK- yet this geographical juxtaposition seems to suit their creative process perfectly. This interview took place on the afternoon of Josh's 20th birthday.

If you got reviewed in the Wire, what section would it be in? Assuming they're going to change it back to the old catagories...
J: Possibly somewhere inbetween 'Avant Rock' and 'Outer Limits', I'd like to think. 'Avant Rock' just because it's so guitar driven and influenced via not-just-guitar-playing but offcut noises, and the tape experiments used. 'Outer Limits' mainly because I like to think that the project of the tape we made was more of a one piece thing. We used a lot of field recordings and noises and voices ripped from films and whatever else we could find. We didn't want there to be any silence unless it was intentional. In the same mind, we put all the pieces together so that it was like a smooth trip through various atmospheres or imaginings. 

Have you ever met each other?
J: Yeah, we hung out in the summer and did some rioting... We tried to do some music then but it's hard to force stuff out, especially when we mainly only had a mate's Jen SX1000 synth which makes mostly terrible noises. But we had fun trying to make Eurotrance on it anyway. Plus it was easier to get distracted by dodgy mixing and drinking Rubicon. 

What were you listening to when you started making music? Have your influences changed?
J: Probably a lot of Not Not Fun records. And Ghostbox releases interested me, and made me want to explore that sort of aesthetic. The warped atmospheres that still had an interest in being pop influenced.
D: I love really drums-based music so with everything I make I'm always trying to jam in loads of different percussive elements. So I guess people like Sabu Martinez, Art Blakey and people on the Hessle Audio label might have all influenced me in some way.
J: Plus when we started doing this we were both really into lots of French and Italian library records, mixed with the score work of Ennio Morricone and Piero Umiliani. Which we've sampled a few times, and obviously been influenced by in the name... In terms of 'have these influences changed much since then?', then no, probably not that much. We've actually thought about trying to go deeper into our jazz influences and trying out what Underground Resistance and James Stinson could do with electronic jazz, but still mix it up with our previous influences and some sick Grant Green guitar lines. Haha! 

Kaiser Chiefs just won a Q award for 'Innovation in Sound'. Pretty cool, don't you think? What's your favourite era of Kaiser Chiefs?
D: I'm so chuffed for them. I can only see them as modern-day prophets after so accurately predicting this year's riots. Ricky Wilson is something of a messiah. 

Josh, how the fuck do you cope with life in Cumbernauld?
Ahaha! I don't. Although it has the best undercover skatespots in Central Scotland in my opinion. 

Do you get a chance to see much stuff live?
J: Yeah, as much as I can afford anyway. Lately it's mostly been clubs, the recent highlight of which has been DJ Stingray. He pretty much just played solid 140BPM bangers all night, was crazy. Gig wise it's been sort of quiet this year for some reason... Thinking back, the best think I've seen has- surprisingly- been Ducktails who was just unbelievably tight and super fun. Mega hyped for Actress soon.
D: Since moving to London I haven't been going out too regularly, but I got to see Ben UFO play all night at Plastic People the other night, where I really got my groove on. He started off playing Herbie Hancock on Blue Note and ended several hours later playing some pretty hype dubstep and grime. I like eclectic DJs. I also saw Trim recently, which was a laugh. In terms of live music I havent seen anything recently, but there's lots on. I should go out a bit more. Oh, and over the summer I saw and really fucking loved DJ Stingray too, that was something special, I'd never really heard much Detroit electro like that before.

Practicalities aside, do you have any plans to play live?
D: I think we would both love to do something live together, even to DJ together would be fun.
J: Yeah definitely, I think it could be a lot more impressive live too if we worked it out right. A lot of the sounds- and the general vibe- of a lot of our stuff lends itself to a more volume-expressive and bassy environment than it does within what we can record.
D: Yeah, It's just a logistical nightmare, but it's definitely something I've always wanted to do, and we will figure out a way of playing somewhere, sometime, be it in London, Glasgow or Manchester. 

What's coming up next from you?
J: We're both chilling on working together right now, but with winter incoming we'll probably get going again.We seem to work together most then.
D: Yeah, plus we're both working on other projects just at the moment. Hopefully sooner or later Josh will be able to move down here for a bit and we can do some stuff in one place.
J: Hah, yeah. I just need some of dat cash.

Tell us about that your solo stuff then.
J: Well I'm always doing little bits on my own, but I struggle to fully get into something that way too. The band I'm getting going with some friends is gonna be a sort of 60s/80s/90s sort of indie pop affair, mostly based on guitar jams, which I'm gonna try and make as weird as possible but it's hard when the other people ain't into doing that stuff as much as you. I'll see what can be done whilst mostly trying to jack Felt tunes anyway.
D: I've been trying to make dance music for quite a long time now. I've only just started to put out a few things I like onto my Soundcloud, and I'll be self-releasing a CD-R very soon. Haven't been trying to nail down any particular sound with this stuff, I'm just making stuff I would dance to myself, so it's all quite rhythm based. (Listen to Dan's stuff at 

Anybody you'd want to collaborate with? Who do you think is on the same musical wavelength as you just now?
D: I'd love to do something with Konono Number 1, they seem to have a pretty amazing array of homemade instruments. It'd would be a dream to have access to all those sounds.
J: Umm... We're open for collaborating with anyone willing to send us stuff to be honest. Even one of the tunes we made, it was all based on a song we liked by another friend of ours. I'd like to think it's a pretty open project that anyone can get in on. Although if you want a highly masturbatory fantasy level probably Actress who is pretty much the best dude in the world. On a slightly less fantasy level maybe Moon Wiring Club, or anyone who's released something on Housecraft Recordings.
D: Yeah, I'm also pretty open to collaborations, it's fun seeing what other people can do. On a realistic level I'd love to do something with Panabrite, that stuff is really deep and textured, plus they have some lovely synths.
J: As for wavelength, I'm not sure, we take inspiration from lots of stuff so we're hyped on anyone trying to pan over several influences with no money. 

Where can people get your tape?
J: Gis ya money please.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Dark Captain

What with having been compared to the likes of Stereolab, Fleetwood Mac, Nick Drake and even a 'folk-Fugazi', Dark Captain's (formerly Dark Captain Light Captain) music probably holds something to intrigue most of us. Having recently scored a number one on the US iTunes chart, they prepare to release their second album, 'Dead Legs & Alibis' on the always-excellent LoAf Recordings label. Moving onwards from the alt/psych-folk label they earned with 2008's debut LP 'Miracle Kicker', we're expecting big things from this London five piece. We arranged an interview with guitarist/vocalist Dan Carney to find out more.

Tell us a bit about the music you make.
It's quite folky, a bit dark, psychedelic but hopefully without too much of a 'retro' feel, bit krautrock-y with electronic tinges. Lots of smooth vocal harmonies, like butter dripping down your face. And hopefully hooky and memorable. 

                                                                         Photo by Will Morgan

Who was Light Captain? Did he leave or get thrown out?
No, nothing like that. We just felt that the name Dark Captain Light Captain looked good written down, but was a bit lengthy and repetitive to say out loud. We always referred to the band as 'Dark Captain', and so did loads of people, so it seemed like the obvious thing to do really.

When were you skating?
From about 1988 to 1998, a good solid decade of throwing myself gleefully at, or off, concrete and wooden structures. I wasn't very good, but I could do quite a lot of no-comply variations! We could usually be found at Wanstead High School, near the north-east London suburb where I grew up, Romford or South Bank. Skateboarding is an extremely noble art- I still keep up with what's going on in the skate world a bit, although nothing like I used to. Skaters who had a big effect on me were Ray Barbee, Gonz, Neil Blender, Ricky Oyola, Tom Penny, Jamie Thomas and Rodney Mullen. 

What do you remember about the music you were listening to then? Did the stuff in the videos influence what you do now?
I remember reading in the old 'Skateboard!' magazine about all these hardcore punk/indie bands with exotic, slightly nihilistic-sounding names, and realising excitedly that there was a densely-populated musical world beyond Metallica, Guns & Roses and the like. Back when I started I remember skating as being more synonymous with that type of music (the hip-hop thing, as far as I'm aware, was more a 90s thing), so my being involved with it led me to investigate things like Black Flag, Minor Threat, Fugazi, Sonic Youth (still relatively obscure at that point) at a much earlier age than I would naturally have done had I been into stamp collecting, snooker or falconry. So skating and music listening were two pretty inseparable activities when I was young.
As far as musical moments in skate vids, nothing I would say really 'influenced' me as such, but there's a few classics. That Aerosmith song to Rodney Mullen's part on that Plan B ('Dream On' in Second Hand Smoke) vid is always one I remember. And after seeing 'Public Domain' I remember covering 'My Weakness' by Chuck Treece's band McRad in a number of pre-pubescent punk bands I was in. And Toy Machine always used to have great music on their videos - isn't it 'Welcome To Hell' where it goes from the Misfits into a jazz-fusion/funk cover of one of the songs from 'Jesus Christ Superstar'? Marvellous stuff.

How did you get hooked up with LoAF?
The old 'put CDR in envelope' trick. Early on we didn't really think much about gigging, but were quite adamant that we wanted to put records out pretty quickly, and not just drift along. So we thought of about 20 or 30 record labels that we really liked, and were hopeful might like us, and sent them a few demos and bits and pieces. We had about five offers come back, which I was amazed about, but chose to go with LoAF as they seemed really into what we were doing, or trying to do at that time, and are clearly doing it for the right reasons, coming from the right place. They've consistently shown faith in us, and have trusted us to do good stuff without interfering with the creative aspect, so we're well happy with that. 

What's the new album like? How is it different from 'Miracle Kicker'?
It's more of a full band sound; some songs are a lot more full-on, or full-on by our standards anyway! But there's still a couple of whispery ones like we used to do. When we played in the Czech Republic earlier this year someone told me that they thought the new songs sounded happier, so maybe that's a difference as well!

Why did it take so long?
Well, it's a cliche, but when you make your first album you can pick from all the best songs you've ever written. Once the second album comes around, you've inevitably used all that stuff already- we had a couple of bits kicking around, but were pretty much staring at a blank piece of paper when we started. We were also a bit stricter - as we were mainly recording at home this time we weren't so time-pressured; that enabled us to follow various creative whims to their oft-unsatisfying conclusions, but that in turn meant quite a few songs didn't make the cut, or got ditched along the way. So the set-up this time definitely helped from a quality-control point of view. There's a couple of songs on the first album (won't say which ones) which wouldn't have made it on there if could do it again, but we didn't have the luxury of time the first time round. And then with this one we weren't sure who was putting it out, who to have mix it etc... The actual writing and recording of about fifteen songs in total (album, b-sides, couple discarded) took about nine months, which I don't think is too bad! And we've got 14/15 new demos on the go for the third one already! We're quite prolific and work pretty quickly when we get going, but we also want to be sure that what we're putting out there is the very best we could have come up with at that point.
Also, I was doing my PhD throughout the making of this one, so that was pretty time-consuming, as you can imagine!

What were you listening to when you were making it? I'm hearing some kosmiche stuff in there...When we're knee-deep in lyric sheets, chord changes and overdubs I try not to listen to anything, as I find I get too easily swayed by anything which I'm significantly impressed with. Like, "I want to sound like this, now!" But in general, German 70s/psychedelia is never far from the equation. Also lots of folky/acoustic stuff (as I guess is obvious), bit of drone and soundtrack stuff, Canterbury stuff like Soft Machine and Robert Wyatt, as well as no small amount of questionable heavy metal! But I'm just as likely to be found listening to grime or hip-hop as Pentangle, Neil Young or Elliott Smith.

What are the best and worst bands you've played with?

We've been lucky enough to play with lots of great bands in the last couple of years. Highlights were maybe touring Germany/Austria with Sophia (the current project from Robin Proper-Shepherd of God Machine fame), who also featured Adam Franklin from Swervedriver on guitar. Also playing with Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab) this year. And in London we've put on shows with people we know and love- Jess Bryant is an amazing singer-songwriter- kind of dark, swirling and beautifully unusual folk-pop with a voice which can silence a room in under two seconds. Check her out!
As for worst bands, I'm too nice to single anyone out here! Just because I don't like something, it doesn't mean there's no value in it. This is an outlook I'm forcing myself to adopt as I hurtle towards middle age. But I don't think it's nice to be negative about anything, or anyone, in print.

The Lo labels are known for their amazing artwork. How does the design process work out? How much input do you have?
Yes, that was one of the things which made us want to go with Lo in the first place! Shallow lot, aren't we? A company called Non-Format are the ones responsible for the LoAF "look", although we get quite a bit of input. Our drummer Chin did the last album cover, while this one, which features a parachutist, is a collaboration between Chin and Giles (other guitar player).