A rum do
Salsa Celtica: sauce and salsa
Salsa Celtica, Edinburgh's fast-rising, Latin-veined groove machine, managed to take time off recently from what must be one of the busiest band schedules in Scotland, to head for the musical Mecca of Cuba. Although they had the slimmest of contact books and no gigs lined up it proved an experience that exceeded even their high expectations.
‘Everyone there plays an instrument.‘ enthuses trumpeter Toby Shippey. ‘On the way to Havana we were passing bars and you could see a few musicians inside. Outside. even the kids were playing congas on the street. Heaven.
‘Through the sheer kindness of people. we met up with some ofthe finest musicians in the country — guys who play New York or Ronnie Scott’s.’
Shippey ended up taking lessons from the man who taught Arturo Sandoval. the great high-register Latin trumpet player. earning affectionate if qualiﬁed praise from the master, who admitted ‘you have wonderful tone and play with beautiful feeling. But my granddaughter. who is six. can play higher than you.‘
Doug Hudson. Salsa Celtica's percussionist. (actually. they all play percussion to some extent) was born in Tanzania and trained in African drumming techniques. He was amazed to meet up with and take lessons from Santiago Rodriguez. one of the great bata players. a drum tradition which is tied up with the Santoria cult. a secret religious sect transplanted from West Africa. which sanctioned violent penalties for those accused of betraying its sacred drum rhythmns and patterns.
Things have mellowed somewhat, and the lads found more similarities than differences with the people in Cuba. The Cubans‘ attitude to Salsa Celtica’s Caledonian take on their national dance music was encouraging. ‘They insisted that we shouldn't follow the traditional line too much. They felt that we had something lovely and quirky,’ says Hudson. ‘The young bands over there are doing their own thing anyway. They‘re playing a hip hop salsa. simplified, in heavy grooves with rappers on top.’
‘We‘re doing the same,’ says Shippey. ‘You take a tradition, study it and add something of your own.’ (Norman Chalmers)
Salsa C eltica play Assembly Rooms. Edinburgh. Sat 2]; Cafe Graﬂitl. Edinburgh. Sat 28/Hogmanay.
rm— All the world’s astage
Fiona Shepherd swaps make-up tips with Brian Molko, lead singer of Placebo. Without the least trace of irony.
‘I think there‘s a lot of macho posturing and hiding behind irony in music today. i think that perhaps people are starved for a certain honesty and vulnerability and a fragility; music that carries this emotional weight that’s also quite personal and naked and I think our music is very human because it‘s so turned in on itselfthat it could be nothing else but very emotional.’
Phew! The young man delivering this eloquent analysis of his ariless an is Brian Molko who. for all his protestations of genuineness and naked truth, still opted to call his band Placebo, after the false ‘cure‘ handed out to ailing individuals to fuel their belief that they are getting better. Add to this Molko’s history as a drama student in London and it does actually seem ironic that he abandoned a life of role-playing to stand on a stage and be himself.
‘I decided it would be more fun to play my own part on stage.‘ he says. before elaborating romantically. ‘rock ’n‘ roll is a circus where all the freaks go and it gives you the freedom to be everything that you always wanted to be. The normal rules don’t really apply and it gives you the freedom to take aspects of your personality which you particularly like or think are interesting and bring them to the forefront.‘
Given Molko’s very distinctive appearance, voice and presence. it can only be assumed that the aspects of his
personality he seeks to magnify are the .
ones which tally most closely with Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction, Family‘s Roger Chapman and Geddy Lee from Canadian progrockers Rush. His idiosyncratic combination of high, quavering vocals. sleek raven bob. eyeliner and black nail varnish have proved as provocative as he no doubt envisaged.
‘Yeah, but the people who at the beginning of a gig are screaming “homo!” by the end ofthe gig are the people who are screaming for more.’
Placebo have just returned from a Weezer support tour of the US east coast and Canada where such reactions were regular occurrences. in Britain, with a well-received and ﬂuent debut album already well under their belts. the trio are on a firmer footing.
‘There’s some sort of crossover quality to our music.‘ says Molko. ‘What we have is a lot of experimental dissonance and punk adrenalin and it can be quite discordant at times, but what the album is is all this noise crushed into a pop structure which is probably what ends up winning people oven‘
Not a bad report card for a band who
.came into being two years ago after
Molko bumped into a former
Placebo: the perfect care for fiery
acquaintance from his days at an American school in Luxembourg (Molko has American parents and an
American accent but has never lived in I
‘There was a certain very tall Swedish person called Stephan at school. He was the youngest to play varsity basketball. so he was in the jock group and l was into the drama club and making smuggling trips to Holland so I was more in the loser group. so we never mixed.‘
A chance early morning encounter in a London tube station years later revealed that the two had far more in common than in their schooldays and with drummer Robert (also Swedish) Placebo were to be formed.
‘All of us grew up in countries which weren't of our own origin and all of us moved around as kids. so we all share a certain rootlessness which means you get exposed to many cultures. but it also means that you don't deal with stupid concepts like patriotism and your national musical lineage, and all that stuff which bores the pants off me.’
With Placebo. it’s more a case of chamiing pants off. Try them — you'll feel much better.
Placebo play King Tut's, Glasgow on Sat 21 Dec.
ma:— lieal to reel
The Oallaghers, the Everleys and the Jacksons. Just when you thought you couldn’t trust brothers in pop to work together for ten minutes without wanting to puncture one another’s lungs, along come the Griffiths’ and all appears lovely in the sibling garden.
The Griffiths - who they? Good question. Tony and Chris are the writing minds behind liverpool’s The lteal People, former baggy wonders and currently in the midst of an exposure-friendly tour with Ocean Colour Scene. ‘When we have fights, the others usually put bets on who’s going to win,’ states bassist and vocalist Tony, not altogether seriously. ‘Although we live separately now, we’re still a writing partnership. At least we don’t have to share a bedroom anymore.’
What the band does share is a fair
amount of record-shop space with combos having the same over-the- shoulder attitude towards their musical heritage while aiming to inject their material with a 908 fix. Having finally got round to releasing their second album, a mere four years after their debut, The Real People are getting a leg up from those they were namedropping in interviews way back when - namely Ocean Colour Scene and Oasis.
‘It doesn’t matter who namedrops you, you’ve still got to be good enough,’ believes Griffiths. ‘If people are entertained by what we’re doing then they’ll buy the records and pay for the tickets. It’s up to us to impress them rather than rely on what anyone else says about us.’
What people may well be saying is that in What’s On The Outside they’ve made a damn fine record which consolidates the Scouse tradition for having an instinct for the melodic and uplifting three and a half mlnuter. So has their moment come?
‘We don’t see it as the time for us to take off or anything,’ views Griffiths.
The iteal People: on the loslde with What’s On The Outside
‘llothing’s really changed for us - we’re not getting rave reviews in NM! or getting overplayed on ltadlo 1 so we can’t expect overnight success. Ovemlght success takes a very long time.’ (Brian Donaldson).
The Real People play OM”, Glasgow, Fri 20.
The List 13 Dec 1996-9 Jan ‘r'9‘97 45