ROOTS ROCK BEN HARPER Carling Academy, Glasgow, Mon 28 Jun

‘l’m not saying that if you’ve not seen me your life will be incomplete. I’m not that in touch with who I am and who you are and where we are on this journey we’re on. But if you’re a fan there’s no substitute for the live show.’

Ben Harper, just out of the shower in a hotel in sunny Strasbourg, plainly takes his music seriously. He’s certainly not alone: while mainstream success has never quite been his, the Californian has a dedicated worldwide following.

His career certainly hasn’t been harmed by his fifth album, Diamonds on the Inside, an impressively varied collection of blues, rock, folk and funk. Harper’s music has always been a well- blended (if traditional) cocktail, but, from the spare gospel of ‘Picture of Jesus’ to the angsty rock surges of ‘Touch From Your Lust’, his latest work packs a fine kick.

Harper’s enthusiasm for music plainly remains undimmed. During our interview, he raves about Peter Gabriel, the Verve, legendary gospel act the Blind Boys of Alabama and a band called the Juan Santo Combo, who apparently sound like ‘a mix between Soundgarden, Jeff Buckley and Queen’.

He seems keen to keep pushing himself. ‘You don’t want to be too comfortable,’ he explains. ‘You need to walk a tightrope - and there's always a chance you’ll land flat on your face but it’s that grey area between things where growth happens.’

There’s often something equally vague in Harper’s protest songs, which lie at the core of his set. With a few notable exceptions (‘Like a King’ Iambasts the LAPD over the Rodney King

beating), they often seem more likely to rely on platitudes than on specifics. It’s not an analysis Harper concurs with. ‘You’re not listening,’ he says, after a disappointed pause. ‘I don’t mean to bust your balls but I gotta ask you to take a listen to these songs, to ‘With My Own Two Hands’ and ‘How Many Miles Must We March’. And listen closely. The beauty is that it’s all how we interpret it; I don’t want to tell you what to think. But you’ve got to listen to the songs.’


‘You don’t want to be too comfortable’

I’m not entirely convinced (‘l’m gonna help the human race/ With my own two hands’ is not the most incisive piece of politics put to paper) but Harper’s evident passion is reassuring. It’s not too long before he’s cheered up. ‘The [Scottish] crowds have been great, even for the quiet songs. The last time I played, at the end of the gig the owner broke one of the oldest bottles of whisky I’ve ever seen out of his safe. It tasted great.’ (James Smart)


Uncovering the hidden gems in the Ratner's of rock’n’roll. This issue: THE SECRET MACHINES

Who? Hotly-hyped NY-based triumvirate the Secret Machines have been described by the New York Press as ‘the best live band in the City'. and now they're coming to show you. Scotland. Just what the hell you've been missing.

Cynical Observer Secret Machines. huh? They must be pretty bloody secret if I've never heard of them.

The List Well now. my morose amigo. it's only a matter of time. The Machines' second album Now Here is Nowhere s. quite simply. a work of spine tingling magnificence. Deseribed by the band's PH as the Juncture between Pink Floyd. Can. the Band. My Bloody Valentine and many others (it's not quite ~— otherwrse you'd never need listen to another band in your life). it marries the epic grandeur of

early Radiohead to the deep. rhythmic sensibilities of Can and MBV's floaty atmospherrcs. CO But they're from New York that's so passe! TL Only if you're a pleb. mate. Besides. they're not . . . Dallas. Texas is the lvlachrnes' point of origin. .Josh (Bar/a (drums) and brothers Brandon (vocals. keyboardsi and Benjamin Curtis (guitar) only recently moving to NYC. They did return home almost ~ to Austin. lX recently. where they blew away the crowds at SXSW. CO So they're a product of the hype machine, then? (Ian we expect them to be famous for a fortnight then disappear? TL Not if there's any justice. Upcoming single ‘Nowhei‘e Again' is a bona frde summer anthem. while the album suggests they can follow it up. Anyway enoughquestions. 7he list is off to play it again. I King Tut's, Glasgow. Tue [35) Jun. The a/hu/n Now / {ore is Nowhere is out Mon 98 .Jun on (5/9.

l lli) l tot)


Carling Academy, Glasgow, Tue 29 Jun

He's not exactly Eminent or Jay-Z when it comes to sheer rapping ability. but DMX's ferocious delivery and signature canine growl rhyme style have helped lllll‘ remain one of i'ap's most interesting and enduring personalities.

Although he'd put out a couple of singles during the early 90s. it wasn't until 1997 that the erstwhile Earl Simntons fully registered on rap's radar. At a time when New York was hooked on the sugar- coated pop drivel being peddled by P Diddy and his Bad Boy Entertainment empire. DMX dropped hardcore. intense raps that dealt yrith death. depression and. er. dogs. Delivered over screeching. synth-heaw soundscapes courtesy of New York producer Swr// Beats. DMX was an instant sensation. Despite the absence of syrupy hooks and obvious pop samples. his work still scored considerable (J()ll‘,lll(}l'()létl success. After he famoust knocked Garth Brooks off the top of the US album charts in 1993). he became the first artist ever to have two number one I Ps in one calendar year,

While many ridicule the slightly Oil hardcore persona inot to mentzon the gimmicky canine obsession ~ he even has a giant intage of his dearly departed mutt. Boomer. tattooed across his backi. DMX's inipact on hip hop can't be denied. Along with SWIX/ Heats. he's crafted countless hip hop club classics i‘liulf Ryders' Anthern'. "Party Up'. ‘X Gori' (‘irye it to Ya'i. and even collaborated with Marilyn Manson on l/esh Of My l-l’esh, Blood ()i‘ Mt Hood. a dark. tense album which featured a bloodsoaked [)MX on Its outrageous slasher lt‘(>\.l(? inspired sleeve. ll lugh leaski

His bark is worse than his bite