Desert songs: Willard Grant Conspiracy (with Robert Fisher far left)
Willard Grant Conspiracy
Glasgow: Riverside Club, Mon 21 Jun.
The ’Alternative Country‘ label on this article is surely something that would make Willard Grant Conspiracy sigh: to their mind, many bands shoved under this banner are neither truly 'alternative' nor ’country’. But although based in Boston, WGC's music is very much of the American West, reaching back across the States and founded in country-folk roots. Hence an album (perhaps the hidden gem of the year so far) called Mojave and lyrics that aren't averse to the odd bit of tumbleweed blowing across the landscape.
'A lot of my songs have a geographic core to them,’ admits the band‘s singer and co-writer, Robert Fisher. 'Boston is where I live, but I grew up in California in the desert area. It‘s an incredibly large state, the biggest farm state in the US. Where I grew up, it was very much a rural neighbourhood, and I spent a lot of time as a kid out amongst the wide open spaces. So l write about what I know. Songwriting is 30% inspiration and the rest of it is observation and personal disclosure: you try to make a certain amount of it universal and a certain amount of it personal, so it becomes unique.’
The beautifully melancholic love songs that Fisher and
WGC guitarist Paul Austin excel at writing would touch an emotional base with listeners anywhere in the world - ‘I can still feel the shape of your body like a bruise against my side,‘ sings Fisher on ’I Miss You Best‘ - but this is no mournful collection of miserablists. When playing live on home territory, their line-up can change on a nightly basis, keeping the sound fresh and exciting for musicians and audience alike.
‘The band is a loose aggregation of people,’ explains Fisher. ‘When we started, Paul and l were inviting people over to the house to play on Tuesday evenings, hang out, drink coffee. We just started playing these songs, then someone suggested we take them out into a live situation. When we do the live thing, there‘s a bunch of different elements that choose who comes, who‘s not available and who is available; everything from budget to scheduling, because most of the people who play in the band play in other bands too. But the songs are strong songs, so ultimately the way that we choose to present them with instruments is flexible.’
Three albums down the line, the core quartet of Willard Grant Conspiracy are about to make their first visit to Scotland, but it‘s not an alien land for them. ’The Delgados are a cool band - they played Boston a couple of weeks ago,‘ says Fisher. ‘And is that Radio Sweethearts record out yet?‘ (Alan Morrison)
Amber: State Of Vigilance
Scotland's Secret Bunker, Troywood by Anstruther, Fife, Sat I9 Jun.
The whole concept of 'underground' music promtses to take on a brzarre literal mm as some of the UK's most extreme musiCians play a concert in a disused nuclear bunker in File for the second year runntng. Buried deep amid a complex of endless concrete tunnels and blocked-off rooms, it's a truly
40 THE lIST 10-24 Jun I999
Contrast switch: Scanner
haunted, claustrophobic setting In which to experience some of the darkest of modern psychoacousttcs Main, formed by ex-Loop lrontman Robert Hampson, explore peaked, organic electronics while elsewhere Janek Shaefer works wrth sOund vra hrs bizarre invented turntables 'East Kilbride’s Dl Hooker presents an installatron whrch includes proiections and tape-loops while Drsinformation and Mount Vernon Arts Lab reprise last year's feats of electronic alchemy. Scanner, aka Robin Rimbaud,
completes the Irne-up and he's excrted about the opportunrty to play in such a bizarre setting. 'There are so many attractions to playrng in a place like
thrs,‘ he says. 'The very expenence of
travellrng all the way out there, the fantasttc ac0tistics and the sense of danger and securrty, of comfort and dtscomiort.'
This Idea of 'secret geography’, of explortng covert culture, is central to Rimbaud‘s art, which often centres on his use of a telephone scanning devrce to snatch phone conversations from the arr, mixing them straight Into his electro-acoostic compositions. ‘I often speak of my work as like maps of the city,' he explatns ’I take the "wow and flutter". of electrtcal interterence from the Clly air and weave it Into a tapeStry Of SOtiiid In such a way, I'm atternptrng to Create a new language for the Crty, and in so dorng reveal its beautres and Intricacies Ill unusual ways '
It's thrs obsession wrth the manipulation of raw sonic data, a heightened awareness of the musical potential of ambient sound, that unites the various artists on the bull
This issue: former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock reveals that it was never all just anarchy in the UK.
What was the last record you listened to?
The Bestiality Of The Bonzo Dog Band. What was the last single you bought? ‘Would You Sleep With Me' by Touch And Go.
What was the last album you bought?
John Barry The Best 0/.
Name a great new band you‘ve discovered?
Name an album that's an unrecognized classic?
Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates Of Dawn.I
Which artist or record first made you want to make music?
The Faces or the Dave Clark Five. Name a song you wish you‘d written? 'Heroes’ by Bowre.
As a teenager, which pop star posters did you have on your bedroom wall? The poster for The Faces' A Nod's As Good As A WINK
In the film of your life, what‘s playing over the closing credits?
'See You Later Alligator’ by Bill Haley and the Comets.
Name a band or artist who has influenced you that people might be surprised by?
Name a non-musical influence on your music?
Who would be on your dream Top Of The Pops?
The Faces, The Bonzo Dog 000 Dah Band, John Barry Seven, Can, The Spiders From Mars and Anthony Newley.
What do you play when you're getting ready to go out?
'The In Crowd‘ by Dobie Grey.
What do you play when you're in the mood for sweet Iovin‘?
'Hurry Up Harry' by Sham ’69.
What do you sing in the shower? ’Give Me The Moonlight'.
Who would you be on Stars In Their Eyes?
ta Glen Mat/ock plays E dinburgh Citrus Club. Thu 77 Jun; Glasgow Community Centre Hall. Mary/it'll Road. Fri 78 Jun.