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They agreed to tour with Radiohead despite having heard just one of their songs. They described their first album as ‘fucking awful’. They want to make ugly music with Phil Collins. Just what are THE BETA BAND up to?

Words: Brian Donaldson

0! Shots 2. It‘s either a brave or stupid name to give the

follow-up to a disastrous debut album. lt's like digging

your own grave. Setting yourself up for a brain-

tumouring fall. Making a very heavy rod for your awfully frail back. Whatever. having recorded an album which even the creators themselves described as ‘fucking awful' and ‘the worst record of the year“. a little bit of humility may have been in order.

But The Beta Band have never been the most unsure-of- themselves group in the world. These are men who really don‘t give a fuck. And sometimes seem keen on inviting the notion that they are aware of even less. ‘I don't know why it‘s called that.‘ confesses frontman Steve Mason who came up with the album title. for heaven's sake. ‘I just don‘t have an answer. But then. I suppose we see ourselves as hot shots: doesn‘t everybody."

At least they seem to have their touring philosophy sorted out. They are. after all. tagging along with the once-mighty Radiohead on their current all-conquering trip across America. and giving an opportunity to a trifling 2().()()() people per night to hop aboard the Beta Bandwagon. ‘At the moment. to play in front of l()()() people means we‘ll each spend about fifteen to twenty minutes on the toilet.‘ calculates Mason. ‘So. 2().()()() works out at a good hour each. at least.‘

Still. it‘ll be well worth it to say that you‘ve toured with what must be one of your favourite contemporary bands'.’ ‘None of us own a Radiohead record.‘ lih‘.’ ‘I think I may have heard one Radiohead song on the TV or

. . _ ~ , 13:3, is]. ("I-j ;:.,.‘ something. What .’ I don t know much about {a their music. but I do know about their political Eng .53 my

- . . Er” 'i -': U“: views and the way they carry themselves within “1" L

g. . y ._ . .fipfiv‘a“,.‘7‘.75“:{”~fi the music industry. And anyone who s standing Tl"ka it .24: «12:;- up and paying attention to what‘s going on onlv #42 W. 0:7,;"913

. _ g . ' \‘JJ' '-= (Sat. L; ‘. deserves to be patted on the bottom. J During recording of their last two albums. 3 $53}! Thom Yorke and his chums from Oxford V. _, "gm: . . . f7 2. admitted to having ‘a Beta Band phase . It seems 3/

unlikely then. that the sentiment will be reciprocated. But who are The Beta Band influenced by'.’ Their sound has been squeezed into some non- existent pigeonhole where resides experimental folk-rock trance- funk. Yet they have cited their direct influences as being hip hop and trad jazz. And not Primal Scream. Pink Floyd or limerson. Lake & Palmer. the acts you may think of when hearing all their good. bad and ueg bits.

Hot Shots 2 meanwhile. has more than a few shades of Julian C ope's post-Peggy Suicide wired waywardness and. as a passing

14 THE LIST 5—19 Jul 2001

hint of their desire to create more mainstream. ‘21.: shorter pieces. the Portishead of Dummy. But even those comparisons are getting far away from

l the place the band feel themselves to be. One

"‘33., reviewer of their I998 La Belle Angele show

described them as a ‘category clusterfuck‘. And that'sjust the way they like it.

7L.— f ‘The whole point of The Beta Band is that you

make up your own mind rather than wandering about the place listening to what you‘re being fed.‘ says Mason. ‘Find your own path. That‘s what we‘ve always tried to do with the music. The influences aren’t obvious. so when you hear The Beta Band you hear something that hasn‘t been made before. So ifl said that it‘s one thing. then someone will say ’ait a minute. I didn't get that from that. I must be listening to it wrong". But there‘s no right way or wrong way to do anything. Iixcept when you have sex of course.’

()r in the course of making that difficult debut album. Not that this was exactly the first time they'd seen the inside of a recording