Posted by: martinworster | March 17, 2017

Robbie Williams – Colossuem, Watford (Live Review)

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For the 1800 people gathered at Watford’s Colosseum seeing Robbie Williams perform in such a small venue was bound to be a treat. The gig had not been advertised except for in the local paper and it was billed as a warm up for his headlining show at Ireland’s Slane Castle this weekend.

As soon as Robbie took to the stage you could tell that he’d been missing British audiences due to his heavy US promotional schedule over the last year. “Did you miss me?” he shouts. “I’ve been away in America. I’m glad I’m in Watford.” His career might be taking off in the US – he’s just filmed an American version video for ‘Angels’ – but it’s the Brits who have really taken Robbie to their hearts. They get his jokes, they understand his ups and downs, they live life through his lense and they love him to bits. He’s relishing being at home.

First song in is the showstopping ‘Let Me Entertain You’ which sees Robbie cartwheeling and springing round the stage. As much as it is about his music, Robbie is the consummate entertainer – his routine is full of gags and his repertoire of facial gymnastics would leave even Jim Carey frowning in the shadows.

“I’ve got some brass in tonight,” he quips, referring to his in-house wind section. “I thought I’d get a shag!” The pun is not missed on the audience. Even the younger members – and there’s a large proportion of families here – all seem to get the joke.

His set quickly develops into a selection of his greatest hits with ‘LazyDays’, ‘Strong’, ‘No Regrets’, ‘Old Before I Die’ and ‘Win Some Lose Some’ all getting aired. This is exactly what the people want, stirring up the mass karaoke factor Robbie’s music inspires. In between each track he banters with the crowd, saying hello to his gran in the balcony and even managing ashort skit version of Ricky Martin’s ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’.

It’s obvious his heavy US performing schedule has made his routines polished through practice. His band is tight, Robbie never misses a note and every routine is fixed to the beat. The ballad ‘She’s The One’ – to be the next single – also gets the sort of response that shows he’s the master at touching people where it counts. “It really means a lot when you all join in.” he implores.

Last track is ‘Angels’ – ‘this one made me a lot of money’ – and this gets the whole crowd stretching their lungs and waving their lighters. Like his infamous version of the song at Glastonbury 1997, Robbie just adds the odd line and joins in on the chorus. You know the words. All he has to do is act as vibe conductor.

Thankfully throughout the show Robbie manages to steer clear of mentioning Take That or Gary Barlow. There’s not even the punk version of‘Back For Good’ which has been a feature of some of his recent gigs. It’s good to see he’s moved on and got over that part of his career. The life of a solo artist, even if it does owe a great deal to cabaret, was definitely his calling.

Surprise surprise Robbie complies with the stamping and chanting for an encore. This is when he really gets into cover version territory. First song is Tom Jones’ ‘It’s Not Unusual’, then he does Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’, a raucous version of Blur’s ‘Song 2’, a James Bond version and finally he ends on‘Millennium’.

“Did you get your money’s worth?” We think so. The Watford mob are obviously touched that he chose them for this unpublicised event. He performed here two years ago and obviously loved it so much that he did it again with a crowd who are fully representative of his fanbase. If this was the warm-up for this weekend’s Slane Castle show then the people of Ireland are going to get one heck of a show.

This review was submitted by Martin Worster

Posted by: martinworster | February 13, 2017

Boy George Interview

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When dotmusic hooked up with Boy George at his record company’s London HQ he was dressed in typically flamboyant mode with full make-up and a glittering wide brimmed hat. “I’m really shy,” George told dotmusic. Yeah right! “The great thing about make-up and clothes is they can make you into a warrior.” Er, sorry George – we don’t follow. George continues: “Although in principle you should feel more uncomfortable the more ridiculous you look it works in reverse for me.”

He might have said it himself, but George is looking anything but ridiculous. His career has had more ups and downs than the late Alan Clarke’s backside, but George has definitely emerged at a plateau in his life where he is content, successful and in full control.

A brief run through of his career to date is breathtaking for its colour and breadth of experiences. Club character on the early 80s London nightclub scene, phenomenal global success with Culture Club, late 80s drug addiction and his subsequent dry out, experimentation with Eastern religion, emergent player as a DJ and producer on the dance scene and now – over a decade later – the first new material for over fifteen years from the recently reformed Culture Club. Phew!

Meeting up with Boy George, it’s also good to see he’s lost nothing of his outspoken character and wit. “I’m not one of those people who watches from the sidelines,” George explains. “A pop star has to be about more than just their music.” With that he reels off a list of characters who inhabit his own personal flamboyant gallery of pop – Bowie, Bjork, T Rex and Skunk Anansie, who “if she was a man would be the biggest rock star in the UK.”

Click on the video links above to watch and hear George talking about George Michael’s shortcomings as a performer, 80s competitiveness, Robbie as the clown prince of British pop and the continuing influence of reggae on Culture Club’s new album ‘Don’t Mind If I Do’.

 

(Originally published on dotmusic)

Posted by: martinworster | January 2, 2017

Hepburn Interview

Since their debut single ‘I Quit’ smashed into the top ten back in June it’s been a manic few months for Hepburn. There’s something about their feisty blend of guitar driven pop that’s hit a nerve with the public and they’ve been touring the length and breadth of the country spreading their musical gospel.

When dotmusic meet up with the four girls – there’s lead singer Jamie, drummer Beverly, bassist Sarah and guitarist Lisa – they were still recovering from the photo shoot they did for FHM magazine the night before. The pesky photographer kept them up till 2am so he could get just the right shot. Apparently it’s going to be worth the wait. Jamie explains in her cheeky cockney accent: “When you see it you’re going to be shocked. I’ve still got the evidence in my hair which suddenly grew last night.” Sarah adds: “We were turned into native Indians last night – so enough said really.”

They’ve also recently returned from the deserts of southern Spain where they shot the video for their new single, ‘Bugs’. The video features the girls, who obviously like to live life in the fast lane, jumping around on cars and motorbikes. Things were going well until the shoot was rudely interrupted by mother nature in the form of a whirlwind. “Bev and Sarah were larging it by the pool in the hotel,” explains Sarah. “We were out in the desert doing the video when we just saw this wind coming towards us through the desert – it was pretty scary stuff and we had to stop shooting.”

The defining feature of Hepburn creatively is the different musical tastes and styles that the girls bring to their music. From rock chick Lisa, who likes Hole and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, to the eclectic Jamie who cites Basement Jaxx and Skunk Anansie as influences, this diversity adds a freshness. “It’s good if you’ve got different musical tastes as your inputs are so varied when you decide on stuff in the studio.” says Bev.

They finished their debut eponymous album before last Christmas, most of which was recorded in Cambridge with writers of the caliber of Phil Thornally (Natalie Imbruglia) contributing his talents. Jamie expands: “The album’s all guitar based but there are different styles. There’s no ballads, but there is a Motown feel to one of the tracks. There’s also a dance track on there too.”

“The album has such a wide range” adds Bev. “Some of it’s quite poppy so it will appeal to kids and stuff, but there’s also a depth – it’s not just pure pop. Some of the lyrics are quite deep – especially if you read them from the cover and they have more impact.” Interestingly, their first single, ‘I Quit’, was originally offered to Natalie Imbruglia who passed over it. “When we heard it we jumped at the chance because we thought it was a great song.” remarks Sarah. “We’re really proud of it and it was a hit. Thanks Nat! It was a ‘Big Mistake’ and she must be ‘Torn’!

So what’s it like for the girls, now they’ve suddenly been thrust into the pop limelight? Do they get a touch of the old butterflies before they take to the stage? Lisa, the quietest of the bunch, suddenly pipes up: ” I do get nervous. Two minutes before I go on I think: ‘There’s sixty thousand people out there’. ‘What if I fall over or make a mistake?’ I just feel so sick. But the minute I go on I forget about it and it’s fine.”

The group dynamics of Hepburn make interesting viewing. Like their musical tastes, there’s a wide mix of equally strong yet different personalities entering the mix. So, considering the amount of time they spend together, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s the occasional crossed word. ‘You can get on each others nerves if you spend a lot of time together.’ says Bev. ‘It’s natural. When that happens we start snatching each others mobile phones!”

On this subject Jamie makes her contribution: “It’s usually me who says calm down girls everything’s all right.” With that Sarah retorts “No. It was me who said it this morning.” Suddenly the conversation ups a few notches on the tempo stakes and the girls have a debate on who’s the diplomat of the bunch. The air’s punctuated with cries of ‘No’ and ‘I am.’

There you have it. Hepburn. They’re for real and they play their own instruments. They can write a mean song and they’ve got the right attitude to match. The music industry can be a difficult world, but there not ones to get sucked in by the hype. There’s a whole batch of all girl combos out there – from 21st Century Girls to Thunderbugs – but Hepburn were there first. And, most importantly – the really do all get on like a house on fire.

(Originally published on dotmusic)

 

 

Posted by: martinworster | December 13, 2016

ATB Interview

It happens every year. One song comes out that manages to strike a chord straight to the nation’s heart. Last year it was Stardust’s ‘Music Sound’s Better With You’ which soundtracked the summer from Aberdeen to Sheffield via a quick Ibizan stopover.

This time it’s ATB’s ‘9PM (Till I Come)’, which when heard in ten years time will ignite more than a few mental archives and wistful memories of the ‘I remember back in the summer of 99’ ilk.

When dotmusic met up with Germany’s Andre Tanneburger (his initials make up ATB – geddit?) he was looking more than a little jaded. But from the enourmous grin on his face you could tell the previous night’s festivities – the odd Stein of lager was clearly drunk – were called for after selling a massive 270,000 copies of ATB in one week and hitting the UK No 1 spot.

“Last night was the party of the year for us. It’s an unbelievable chart position in what I think’s the most important chart in the world,” Andre buzzes. For the chart countdown via those trusty folks at Radio One, the Ministry of Sound (ATB’s label) crew hired a Soho watering house where they and Andre and his crew saw in the Top Ten with a vodka shot for each number: Ten, gulp, nine, slurrrp, eight, seven, six, five, burp, four, three, two.~Hiccup.~One: “F***K!~ VOW! ZIS IS UNBELIEVABLE!! UK NUMBER VUN ‘ERE VE COME!! PROST” (Excuse the broken English!)

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The celebration was a double. It’s ATB’s debut UK Number One and it’s the Minstry of Sound’s first national chart topper. The thing is, although Andre’s obviously still pinching himself over the result (the UK is, of course, the icing on the cake), he’s had more than his fair share of number ones across Europe.

In fact in his native Germany, Andre’s a star on a par with Sash!. “I’m still surprised that England caught up three-quarters of a year later.~I thought it was like, ‘that’s it’. But even France is catching up like the UK.” Andre quips.

We might be behind our European neighbours, but it seems the Brits have caught up and possibly overtaken by taking ATB to our hearts. With this in mind Andre is in the UK with his business partner and long term friend Woody van Eyden looking to put together a group around ATB; “For the public demand we want to put together a performance act around ATB so we can tour the world. We’re putting together the group here because for me the most talented people in the music industry are here in the UK.”

ATB’s also been busy with his new album – ‘Movin’ Melodies’ – featuring ‘9PM (Till I Come)’. It includes the next single, ‘Don’t Stop’, and a cover version of Adamski and Seal’s hit ‘Killer’ from the early 90s.

“You’ll be surprised when you hear the album,” Andre tells us. “There’s some very different styles of music. Not all of it’s dancey – but everything is well produced with lotsof melodies and interesting bits.”

Which leaves one thing unanswered. Just what does the name of the song ‘9PM (Til I Come)’ mean? Andre explains how he had just finished building his new studio at his home in Germany and he was showing a girlfriend round. He started turning on the instruments and playing them. He started to show off and got carried away.

“I started playing with the synthesizer and suddenly this amazing sound came out that is now the guitar riff on 9PM.” he says. “I forget about the girl and started playing the instruments and created the track and three hours later, at 9pm, I finished the track and that’s where the name came from. So basically it’s just a working title – nothing more.” A working title that works.

So there’s no sexual undertone there then Andre? “I’ll leave that to your imagination” he smiles.

Posted by: martinworster | December 5, 2016

Where The Seats Have No Name (U2 Barcelona)

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I always wondered what U2’s Bono was looking for after years of not finding it. It’s a staple song in all those ‘authentic’ Irish bars, particularly ones near Las Ramblas, serving Guinness and good craic in equal measures. ‘I have climbed through the mountains, I have searched through the streets,’ Bono sang. Then it dawned on me. Bono was looking for U2 tickets in Barcelona. I was excited at the news that U2 – sorry Ooohh Dos – were coming here (and Madrid, and San Sebastian) as part of their Vertigo World Tour. I got vertigo imagining the big pile of cash they’d earn by the end of it. As long as Bono manages to squeeze in erasing Third World debt in between strutting his stuff then that’s okay by me.”


Tickets for Madrid at the Calderon went on sale on Thursday February 3rd. I thought I’d buy a handful and impress my friends back in the UK and see if they wanted to see ‘Ooohh Dos’ en Espana. Just after lunch I went to FNAC Plaza Catalunya to be met by hoards of disappointed looking punters. Agotadas – sold out. That was quick. Nevermind there’s two dates left and Madrid is a bit far away. Mildly gutted but I will recover.

Next Thursday I had it meticulously planned. I had enough Euros to buy six – the maximum allowed per person – of the best seats. As this was the Barcelona date and we were in Barca, I would get there earlier. I left my house at 8AM thinking the stores didn’t open till 10AM. I cycled up to Plaza Catalunya and was met by a state of pandemonium. The queue for FNAC was six deep and snaked around the block. It was easily two thousand people plus. People at the front had sleeping bags, matts, chairs – having been there for days. Journalists with TV cameras interviewed the hardy types who had braved the night for Bono and Co. I had seriously miscalculated.

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Nevermind. I had done some more planning and had lists of other outlets. Smaller, less known stores like Overstocks and Music World on Caller Tallers, Barcelona’s Camden. Again I was met by silly queues, journalists, teams of security guards and mad fans who had been waiting all night. Okay, the other FNAC outlets will be less busy? At first FNAC Diagonal Mar looked promising as I got to the ticket point of sale, not realising the REAL queue was outside the mall. This also weaved around the whole building with ansty Indie types waiting at the end. Right, FNAC Illia – that’ll be a breeze? Yeah right. Similar crowds. I think I was gripped by the hysteria and utter stupidity fell over me. It was now 11.30ish and I opted to head back to Tallers thinking the queues would have shrunk. They hadn’t. I waited in a painfully slow queue for three hours to be told it had sold out. The quickest sell out in the history of Spain. I went home a cliché of despondency; head slumped, hands deep in pockets and kicking stones. There’s always San Sebastian.

Thursday February 17th 9.23 AM Caller Tallers. Basque Country here I come. There are no TV cameras. The queue is smaller. I feel hopeful. There are a few happy campers at the front who slept al fresco. But we’re in Barcelona and the gigs in the NW so won’t be as popular? A lot of outlets who were selling tickets last week are not this week. Perhaps they’d seen enough of U2mania for one week. I have never been in a slower queue. I think the shop was hand painting each ticket. I started to worry as I thought of similar queues all over the Iberian Peninsular. In Malaga, Bilbao, Villareal, from Alicante to Zaragoza, fans were waiting and getting served a whole lot quicker. I can see the front of the queue now. I remain optimistic. At 12.30 we are told the bad news – agotadas. Another sell out.

I have reflected on the scenario and remain philosophical. I imagine the concert in the Nou Camp. ‘Have you found what you’re looking for?’ I ask as I pass my pair of binoculars to my friend where we sit in the highest tier of the stadium. A small 2 mm figure comes into focus. ‘Yes, it’s Bono! I found him!’. In the distance we hear feint opening chords to ‘With Or Without You’. By the time the sound reaches us Edge is already strumming the second chorus. I will wait till the ‘Live At The Nou Camp’ comes out on double DVD with extras. At least in mi casa there’s no queues for the toilet.

(Originally published in Metropolitan Magazine)

Posted by: martinworster | November 22, 2016

Justin Robertson Interview

justin robertsonJustin Robertson has been a regular face on the UK dance scene since day one. Back in the heady early 90s he started the legendary Spice and Most Excellent club nights which were an early source of inspiration to stars like the Chemical Brothers – regulars at Spice – when they were in their infancy. Most Excellent also hosted great nights at Venus in Nottingham with DJs like Andy Weatherall and the pre-Underworld Darren Emmerson .

Moving forward a couple of years Justin founded Lionrock and enjoyed chart success with their first album ‘An Instinct For Detection’ spawning classics like ‘Carnival’, Rude Boy Rock and ‘Packet Of Peace’ (remixed by Chemical Brothers and Jeff Mills). Aided by the ragga-styled chatting of MC Buzz B, Lionrock found a following with their fusion of, well, almost every genre you’d care to mention – these boys were ‘eclectic’ before ‘eclectic’ became a horrible journalistic cliche.

Six years later and the following is still evident as Justin recalls his latest gig in front of the Homelands crowd: “It was a bit lame being on so early. But then it was good to see people getting down since over half our set was new – so it was good to check the reaction out.” This was the first appearance of the Lionrock Soundsytem under their new moniker Lionrock Superstereo. Justin explains: “We changed tack, there’s too many soundsystems around at the moment!”
Despite having a good time at Homelands, he’s not 100 per cent sold on the dance music festival concept: “It’s a bit too cosmic and hippy for me and I don’t like fields. Dance music’s core is always going to be in the urban setting with sweaty clubs and basements and the like. If you hang around too long in fields it can all go a bit too Goan trance.”

After a long run in the Deconstruction stable, Justin is finally enjoying the freedom of his own independent imprint Master Detective – “its been a real liberation.” Now he takes care of all the Lionrock label business alongside new signings Homelife, Dis-Jam and King Marvel Invention. The first release on the new label is ‘Gentleman Thief’, a groovy and seasonal slice of old school-flavoured house which Justin put together with Lionrock partner Roger.

As well as making music and DJing, Justin‘s doing some detective work and hunting out undiscovered talent for Master Detective as its A&R boss: “We’ve got a band called Homelife who are from Manchester and are a kind of jazz, post-rock type thing. We’ve also got Dis-Jam from Germany and a band from Norway so it’s quite international really.”

The label project provides the perfect opportunity for Justin to trade on his nine plus years of clubland experiences, after all, as he puts it, “I don’t want to end up being the Status Quo of DJing”.
Justin releases the Gentleman Thief single next month (July) and follows it with an album later in the year.
(originally published on dotmusic)

NetAid was dubbed by the organisers as being the biggest charity show since 1985’s Live Aid concerts and in many ways lived up to this hype. Despite worries over the late date – rain always being a threat in October – Wembley Stadium was packed to the rafters with 80,000 enthusiastic punters who lapped up the range of artists including Robbie Williams, George Michael, Catatonia, Stereophonics, David Bowie and Bush. Likewise, simultaneous events kicked off in New York and Geneva with a live link up – ‘The Moment of Unity’ – between the three events at 10.PM UK.

At the UK show a suited Robbie Williams stole the show with his headline appearance which included all the favourites including ‘No Regrets’, ‘Strong’ and a rousing finale of ‘Millennium’. “If you all look under your seats you’ll find hymn mats and prayer books,” Robbie urged the crowd. “Hymn no 108 – ‘Angels'”. With that he let the audience sing the words to ‘Angels’ whilst he joined in on the chorus.

George Michael also put on an inspired show – despite his demands after his appearance stopping the BBC from broadcasting his performance. George was worried that his set was marred by poor sound quality and a sub-standard performance on his behalf. Judging from the crowd response and the fact that there were no discernable problems with the PA system, this looked more like George having an artistic strop. His entrance to the stage was the most dramatic of the evening. First off a thirty strong gospel choir took to the stage and formed a circle as they sang the opening section of ‘Fast Love’. After two minutes they parted to reveal George sitting on a swivel chair looking very cool in wrap around shades. “Thank you for coming this year,” he said. “It’s very late to have a show like this but you’re all here – you’ve braved the weather.” With that he sang ‘Father Figure’, a version of the old music hall tune, ‘Brother Can You Spare A Dime?’, and finished his twenty minute slot with ‘Freedom’.

If anyone was justified in moaning about dodgy sound systems, then it should have been The Corrs. The first half of their early set opener ‘So Young’ saw Andrea singing with no sound. On other songs the microphone gave off screeches of feedback. Highlight of their show included a cover of REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ – “This song is appropriate as we’re here to give back to others,” Andrea urged.

Plug of the night had to go to David Bowie who dropped into his set the fact that his new album is now in the stores. Come on Dave! This is supposed to be about issues more important than sales figures and personal bank balances. That withstanding Mr Bowie banged out some old favourites, including ‘Life On Mars’, ‘China Girl’ and a show-stopping ‘Rebel Rebel’. Thankfully for him his plugging seemed to have not registered with the stadium.

Other acts on the bill included Bush whose sound seemed to be unappreciated by the audience. They’ve got a huge US following but lacked that back-catalogue of UK hits that’s needed on a night like this. Stereophonics on the other hand had no such worries. Fast proving themselves as THE rock band to like, they went through ‘Bartender & The Thief’, ‘Pick A Part That’s New’ and ‘Just Looking’ with their deserved penultimate billing.

Bryan Adams put on a brave face despite the fact that one of his road crew had committed suicide hours earlier. You wouldn’t have known this from his show which included ‘Cloud 9’ and ‘When You’re Gone’ minus Mel C. Catatonia’s early billing – second in after the reformed Eurythmics – also showed the way for their particular blend of pop rock. Lead singer Cerys Matthews caused some controversy backstage for her un-PC comments on world debt. When asked whether the concert would make any difference, she replied: “F**k all. It’s all to do with love that’s why we’re doing it. It will make little difference though but the truth is you have to try.”

In between each set – which averaged at a very short twenty minutes – videos were shown highlighting world poverty introduced by stars such as Michael Douglas, Meryl Streep, drum’n’ bass maestro Goldie, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Ronan Keating. In this day and age, critics bemoan the fact that that society is suffering from a severe case of charity fatigue. If that is the case it certainly wasn’t in evidence at NetAid.

NetAid hopes to raise money through it’s website, which is expected to make it a world first by generating a billion hits.

Posted by: martinworster | October 15, 2016

Catatonia (Cerys Matthews) – Reading Festival (Live Review)

Catatonia

With a female lead as charismatic as Cerys Matthews it’s hard to go wrong. It also helps to have a tasty repertoire of tracks which never fail to cast their magic over a captive crowd. For their second UK gig this summer after Margam Park in South Wales, Catatonia were onto a surefire winner.

Cerys, looking every inch the vixen in a see-through white sequined dress, sailed through a set that was pitched perfectly between gentle ballads and Catatonia’s patented pop-rock. Swigging from a bottle of wine, breathing out the low notes and wrenching her gut on the highs, Cerys oozes personality.

‘I’m spending more time in London. I’m getting used to it.’ Cerys whispers. Cue ‘Londinium’ from their chart topping album ‘Equally Cursed and Blessed’. The fact that Reading is 40 miles west of London goes over Cerys‘ head. Never mind.

‘International Velvet’
also gets an air with its chorus of ‘Every day I wake up I thank the Lord I’m Welsh’- a few people join in and there’s a handful of fluttering Welsh flags. Then it’s a customised version of ‘Dead From The Waist Down’, everyone singing along to ‘Road Rage’, ‘She’s A Millionaire’ and the infectious ‘Mulder and Scully’.

Fortunately, Catatonia were not afraid to move away from just bashing out what you’d hear on their albums. Guitarist Mark Roberts joined in for some of the vocals, new keyboard sounds were added and Cerys ad-libbed more than a few times. The experimentation was welcomed – Catatonia were blistering.

(Originally published on dotmusic)

Posted by: martinworster | September 12, 2016

The Mezzanine Oxford Mayday Ball (Live review)

 

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Brandon Block. Oi Oi!

Ten thousand people, four arenas and enough DJs – etc – to start a small army. Now, where do we start?

 

Walking from the main arena to the Shake It Up tent the 2 step sounds of urban Britain merge into syncopated synth riffs coming from Paul Van Dyk. UK garage wonderboy Jason Kaye is smashing it up with his blend of boggle beats and sub-bass oscillations. Coupled with the MC’s calls for re-winds on tunes like Tuff Jam’s mix of Sisquo’s ‘Why?’ makes for an interactive vibe.

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Paul Van Dyk

Re-entering the Main Arena – light sticks and glowing dummies handed back on the door – it’s clear that PVD is the headline (Oakenfold cancelled due to US commitments) the cyber punks want. He starts of with a selection from his Deviant back-catalogue moving into faves such as ‘For An Angel’. Then, shock horror and mid-drum roll, the sound cuts. For a long five minutes three thousand ravers look around perplexed they can hear themselves think. The engineers find the glitch and the sound returns to a huge cheer. PVD moves into future music and the brief hiatus is forgotten instantly.

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Over in the DJ Arena Goldie follows Boy George – now that should be interesting. Glitter ball house mixed into dirty drum and bass, hhmm. Looking around it looks like Goldie’s another no-show. Then we remember that the Cannes Film Festival is on and possibly – random guess here – Goldie may have other celebrity commitments. Instead Norman Jay takes the helm. No disappointment there. His good time grooves lift the atmosphere as he moves into old skool drum and bass including Origin Unkown’s darkcore classic ‘Valley Of The Shadows’, possibly as a knod to Goldie’s absence.

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Sir Norman Jay in the area

Elsewhere there’s all sorts of mischievousness occurring. Brandon Block gurns to the Smirnoff Arena, Kelvin Andrews gets deep in the Red Room and Dreem Teem’s Mikee B bigs up to the nation via Radio One.

There’s a load of festivals this summer and the Mezzanine crew kick start the season with this packed event. Judging from this night it looks like summer’s going to be long, hopefully hot and probably very expensive for a lot of people. Better start saving.

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Posted by: martinworster | August 15, 2016

Embrace (Interview)

‘Don’t be a fool again/We’re just a bunch of hooligans’ – ‘Hooligan’

Take a cursory look at the current state of the music scene and what do you come away with? You don’t have to be Beethoven to appreciate that ninety per cent of current chart action is pre-packaged pap (read pop) with next to no shelf-life. That’s why, when uprush met up with Embrace’s lead singer Danny McNamara, it was refreshing to come away with the feeling that there are still bands out there for whom musical integrity and connecting with the listeners where it counts are still important.


“I think it’s (the music scene) in a pretty dire state,” Danny told uprush. “I mean you watch MTV for more than an hour and you feel brainwashed. It’s all like girl bands, boy bands, girl-boy bands. It’s hard to see the good stuff in that. Occasionally a transcendent piece of pop comes along but on the whole it’s so formulaic.”

It was with these values that Danny, along with brother Richard and Embrace members Steven, Mike and Mickey, set about the task of following up their half a million selling debut album the ‘The Good Will Out’. The guys locked themselves away for the best part of 1999 along with producer Youth at a country house in Gloucestershire to get down to some serious creative toil. The result is ‘Drawn From Memory’.

“We’ve got more creatively confident,” explains Danny. “This albums more Embrace that the last one. Hopefully people will listen to this album and go back to the first one without all the hype and context clouding the music.”

Around the time of the release of ‘The Good Will Out’, Embrace suffered comparisons to Oasis. This could be seen on a musical level; the Embrace sound was characterised by lazy journalists as being dominated by epic ballads and large string sections, not to mention Embrace’s penchant for direct lyrics. Danny sees the old Oasis comparison as more down to the fact that both bands are fronted by brothers (Danny’s brother Richard also sings and plays the guitar). “I think if we were sisters we would get compared to the Nolans,” Danny quips. “The Oasis comparisons didn’t really annoy or surprise me.”


This is why Danny believes the Embrace sound has moved on. “It doesn’t conform to the box that other people put us in at the time which was big epic strings, ballads – lighters in the air stuff,” he comments. “I mean if somebody lights a lighter at one of our concerts it’s to light a cigarette.”

Fans got a taste of the new material when ‘Hooligan’ came out towards the end of 1999 and crashed into the top ten. ‘Hooligan’ – quirky, shuffling hip hop beats and that distinctive kazoo solo halfway through the track – surprised many with it’s offbeat sound and was an early wake-up call of what to expect from the new album.

Second single to be lifted from  ‘Drawn From Memory’ is ‘You’re Not Alone’ which received heavy airplay and entered the charts at number 14. This was a return to ballad land and underlined Embrace’s status as a band for the people. “We want to be the soundtrack to people’s lives and we want everyone to hear our music. We’re not an elitist band.”

Part of why Embrace work on this populist level is their use of direct lyrics. Although from the critics perspective this lyrical openess can be a double edged sword. “I do listen to the critics,” Danny explained. “But then some of them will hate us for having such direct and honest lyrics and for another person that’s the best thing.”

It’s with this lyrical technique that Embrace can connect with their listeners on such a raw, emotional level. When asked what effect he would like Embrace’s music to have on their fans, Danny replied: “I think of a 24 year old kid who’s split up from his girlfriend and he’s listening to ‘I Had A Time’ in his bedroom and it’s making him cry his eyes out because it’s making him feel a certain way. But then I also think of 7-8 year olds skipping in the park with ‘Hooligan’ on a ghetto blaster.”

Like all good music, the effects on the listener are varied. But it does have an effect. “All we hope for with each album is that we get to make the next one,” Danny told uprush. “So selling half a million copies with ‘The Good Will Out’ meant that we had all this time to do this album. Hopefully this one will do as well so we don’t feel pressurised to do an album in a short amount of time.” Judging from ‘Drawn From Memory’ it looks like Embrace should be getting just the right amount of time for their third album. And that’s something to we can only look forward to.

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