photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
half a decade ago NOISEY had an INCREDIBLE series of interview videos moderated by THE QUIETUS founding editor JOHN DORAN (who also writes for THE GUARDIAN, THEWIRE , VICE and METAL HAMMER and creates programming for the BBC) called THE BRITISH MASTERS that got at the heart of what made a certain cadre of LEGENDARY ENGLISH musicians and songwriters of varying genres so IMPACTFUL and EFFECTIVE. included in the mix were participants like TRICKY (MASSIVE ATTACK), JOHNNY MARR (THE SMITHS), COSEY FANNI TUTTI (THROBBING GRISTLE), JOHN LYDON (SEX PISTOLS, PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED), MARK E SMITH (THE FALL), ROOTS MANUVA, PAUL SIMONON (THE CLASH), BRYAN FERRY (ROXY MUSIC), DAMON ALBARN (BLUR, GORILLAZ), NEIL TENNANT (PET SHOP BOYS), VIV ALBERTINE (THE SLITS), GARY NUMAN (TUBEWAY ARMY), LIAM GALLAGHER (OASIS), GOLDIE and BRETT ANDERSON (SUEDE) among others.
my sense is that there is a certain mix of PAROCHIALISM at play in BRITAIN whereby it is SMALL and DISCONNECTED enough from nearby EUROPE to cultivate an INDEPENDENT arts scene without much outside influence. conversely and completely counterintuitively ENGLAND's recent past as a colonial power allows it to have a DIVERSE cultural population that manifests in organically UNIQUE cultural products that reflect such. just a look at the guests chosen for this series one is confronted with a myriad of sub-genres including PUNK ROCK, HIP HOP, INDUSTRIAL MUSIC, SYNTH POP, POST PUNK, BRITPOP, DRUM & BASS and TRIP HOP. each represents a specific community, lifestyle with an attendant set of values that renders all of them uniquely BRITISH.
the cultural references utilized are now a bit dated, but THE BRITISH MASTERS still very much holds up and is well worth investigation. definitely worth checking out.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
ive come around recently to the AUCKLAND DJ and former long-time BBC RADIO 1 RADIO PERSONALITY ZANE LOWE, especially with regards to his current THE ZANE LOWE INTERVIEW SERIES on APPLE MUSIC. ive watched and listened to his interviews for years and while he always came across as INFORMED and an ardent fan of his subject, there were times his PASSION seemed to stray into straight-up adulation. or so i thought. i believe the dude is fully aware of his role in the wider ecosystem of modern culture as a bridge of sorts for the global public to access emerging and established musicians, and i feel his ENTHUSIASM is a reflection of such. his queries are often the types a hardcore fan would want answered by a favored artist if given the opportunity and the nerve.
and that perspective of LOWE from that as a stand-in for the public was how i judged him until recently. i began to realize that, like HOWARD STERN, he is a great listener. and i think such may be an outgrowth of the long-form format of THE ZANE LOWE INTERVIEW SERIES of podcasts as it gives him time to weave and contextualize competing narratives and informed takes on his subject's career. in essence he isn't necessarily flattering his guests, instead he's creating a SAFE ENVIRONMENT for them to open up. and post-pandemic he is doing such physically as well, often meeting his subjects on their home-court. at their favorite spots. in their cities. sometimes even at their home or recording studio.
i've also noticed that he is shrewd in his interviewing style as he allows his subject to TAKE THE LEAD, with him interjecting only to clarify or contextualize a point he found interesting or needing of clarification for the average viewer. LOWE is the type of interlocutor that is comfortable not being "in the know" at all times and lets it known when he finds something genuinely UNEXPECTED or COMPELLING. i've also noticed he is not afraid of silence. it reminds me of my teaching days where there were sometimes pregnant silences were students or myself were conjuring a response to a BOLD question hanging in the air. the silences in his interviews are ones where people are fully contemplating and thus fully ENGAGED.
it took me a while to come around to the fact that the guy is just a fan of music and art and the processes/ALCHEMY from which such rise from the ether. in that sense it is almost inconsequential who the subject is, from DAVID BYRNE to MILEY CYRUS. i look forward to seeing where his long-form interview series leads him. hopefully he can interview some of my heroes like Q-TIP, JOHNNY MARR, SHANE MCGOWAN, JUSTINE FRISCHMANN, HUGH CORNWELL, MARK MOTHERSBAUGH, MIKE PATTON or even transcendent emerging artists like DRAB MAJESTY and CHELSEA WOLFE.
one can dream.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
from its inception, GORILLAZ was designed as a hybrid multi-media/art/music project meant to provide a creative vehicle with no historical or cultural antecedents for BRITISH collaborators DAMON ALBARN (BLUR) and cartoonist JAMIE HEWLETT (of TANK GIRL fame). in essence ALBARN had long felt confined by the expectations and parlor games of the fickle and often churlish BRITISH tabloid music press and sought a way of removing himself from the equation. the documentary BANANAZ (HEAD FILM, 2008) serves as a behind-the-scenes documentation of notable recording, touring and press circuit madness surrounding the GORILLAZ (PARLOPHONE, 2001) and DARK DAYS (PARLOPHONE, 2001) albums.
given that the presentation of the band was done through cartoon characters, this provided ALBARN with the opportunity to really pursue musical collaborations and multiple musical genres with gusto. this can be seen with his choice of producers in DAN "THE AUTOMATOR" NAKAMURA and DANGER MOUSE, studio musicians in JUNIOR DAN (BOB MARLEY & THE WAILERS), SIMON TONG (VERVE) and DAVE ROWNTREE (BLUR) as well as the litany of notable participants including DAN "THE AUTOMATOR" NAKAMURA, DEL THE FUNKEE HOMOSAPIEN, IBRAHIM FERRERA (BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB), KID KOALA, ROOTS MANUVA, BOOTIE BROWN (THE PHARCYDE), DANGER MOUSE, DE LA SOUL, MIHO HATORI (CIBO MATTO), D12, IKE TURNER, TINA WEYMOUTH (TALKING HEADS), NENEH CHERRY, MARTINA TOPLEY-BIRD, SHAUN RYDER (HAPPY MONDAYS), MF DOOM and even DENNIS HOPPER. and that incredible eclectic list really expands on subsequent releases. it really is an ingenious front that has a definite PINK FLOYD lineage despite what ALBARN thinks of their music (which is a noteworthy scene in the film).
for me the most interesting aspects of this film were not musical in nature and all centered around HEWLETT. watching snippets of his creative process was interesting given that this project arguably produced his most famous characters. just the thought and work that went into something that most people largely passively consume without a second's notice. a virtual band? sure, its not that different than JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS or THE ARCHIES, right? it is a deceivingly straightforward ruse that has a real depth behind it which makes this project continually interesting. you have both character development and an interest in seeing whom ALBARN feels worthy of collaboration.
it was also interesting seeing HEWLETT doing press interviews to baffled AMERICAN DJs on an extended press tour and what total chore that seems. its funny because HEWLETT not being a musician, does not hesitate to take the piss out of them, not caring about alienating the music industry. watching that was beyond entertaining since you know that kids in the know about his career and artistic legacy would appreciate his antics. i cant imagine how lame that must be to talk to drive-time early commute DJs in the midwest. just writing that sentence makes me shiver.
those first two records were especially great so BANANAZ was always going to be interesting no matter the quality. watching ALBARN having his guard down was a joy to watch given that the project was manufactured as a ploy to divorce his music from his public persona.
im surprised more havent followed in his wake. because culture has only gotten more toxic and it has become more virtual. we are all GORILLAZ now.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
JONATHAN ROSS doesn't look like it but he is a bit of a trouble-maker. he is the host of a late-night comedy show that has ruffled the notoriously stoic BRITISH upper-crust and famously he was suspended from the BBC for a prank call gone wrong with fellow muckraker RUSSELL BRAND. his first stint was on the BBC1 with FRIDAY NIGHTS WITH JOHATHAN ROSS (2001-2010) that was followed by the ITV show THE JONATHAN ROSS SHOW which has continued airing to date.
the BRITISH comedian has had some incredible musical guests on both his primetime shows over the years including NIRVANA, DEPECHE MODE, LADY GAGA, DAVID BOWIE, RIHANNA, THE LIBERTINES and GORILLAZ among many many others. definitely check them out these performances.