Blank Maps originally formed in 2010 and have been making encapsulating cinematic music in Newcastle ever since, performing across the region and further a field. The band has since gained a number of plaudits including airplay on BBC 6 Music and played the Olympics Hyde Park Event in London.
However it was only last year when they released their self-titled EP on Tiny Light Recordings, which received much attention from regional radio stations/blogs.
Now in 2013 they are starting the year by releasing their new single ‘Everything Ends’ along with their B-side ‘Ornament’ both of which this time are been released by the band themselves.
Eager to find out the inspiration behind the new recordings & to discuss the single launch we chatted to the band: Thom Piddock, Ben Trotter, Jake Longly & David Ellwood.
Q&A with Blank Maps
You are kicking off 2013 with the release of your new single ‘Everything Ends’ what inspired the recording of this new track & its accompanying B-side?
We really wanted both of the songs on the single to flow into each other and although the tracks are very different in feel; they are both made up of the same sounds and themes, like two different takes on the same situation. The music feels like it comes full circle so the lyrics reflect this; everything ends and starts again and ends again. It should be seen as a positive thing.
The band formed in 2010, do you feel now with your second release that as band you’re developing and have found your sound?
I’d always be wary of a band saying that they have found their sound. It sounds as if they have no plans for their music to develop anymore. Our music has certainly changed but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for it to go further. I always think that if any musical idea isn’t an option purely due to whatever genre you see yourself in then you’ve fenced yourself in a bit creatively.
As a band is there any particular musicians/films/experiences that inspire the music that you make?
We are planning a band road trip up to see Sigur Ros play in Glasgow in two weeks. We don’t share many influences as a band but that is one we most definitely all agree upon. The feeling of immense space, beauty and fragility in their music is something that I think we all aspire to and are inspired by. I personally remember lying on my friend’s floor when I was 16 listening to them for the first time and thinking it was some of the most beautiful music I had ever heard. That and Batman. We all like Batman.
Your single launch is been support by Crooked Hands and Lionhall why did you choose these local artists to support you?
The simple answer is that they are both great. The slightly less simple answer is that we love them for the same reason we love Sigur Ros; they are both brilliant at taking you into vast spaces with their music. They can make the quietest, sparsest, most personal songs sound atmospherically massive, which is something that we certainly aspire to. We really lucked out that they agreed to play with us.
Now you have released your new single, and after the successful year you had in 2012, what else does 2013 hold for Blank Maps?
We’ll be releasing some new music over the summer for people to get their party on to, but what format that will be in I can’t say just yet. We’re not slowing down though; there will most definitely be a lot more partying from us. I’ve bought a t-shirt that says party on it five times. I have to live up to that.
The single launch
‘Everything Ends’ will be released as a digital download along with it’s B-side ‘Ornament’ on the 4th of March and on the same day it’s launch party will be taking place at The Cluny2.
On the night they will be joined, as explained in the interview above, the haunting harmonies of Crooked Hands and the experimental electronic duo Lionhall. It is a night not to be missed, especially if you enjoy atmospheric, melodic indie pop.
You may know Mark Hammond as been the founding member of The Dhamma Brothers, a Newcastle band who have previously supported We Are Knuckle Dragger and Nately’s Whore’s Kid Sister, however recently he has taken a new direction with his music.
Mark recently has created his own solo project called Studpuppy which has got off the ground and looks promising for the forthcoming year.
His lone musical venture started with his debut performance at Central Bar Gateshead which has now lead to the opportunity to support So What Robot in January, at the Cluny. This was after The Dhamma Brothers sadly went their separate ways after their formation last September.
“Our bass player relocated to Devon to get well,” says Hammond, “I then had an episode and I found myself in hospital one Friday morning. I followed Gary down to Devon and we began to write some songs.”
The former bandmates soon discovered the music they were writing had deep meaning for both of them. ”We wrote about our experiences with various forms of therapy, suicide and finding peace. It was a very potent time; in the space of one week we’d written 5 complete songs. Gary put down guitar parts and then I’d work on vocals or keyboard overdubs. It was very stripped back and organic. We used a trusty old four track and did it all from home, just like The Dhamma Brothers. The in-built mic was picking up all the wildlife on the Devon coast. I just left it all in.”
Then the two of them stopped speaking as Hammond explains “It’s sad because we each endured some deeply unsettling things this last year or so and we kind of diarised it together with these songs. It really helped me. I can’t speak for anybody else”.
As the listener we can hear fragile nature of ‘human condition’ documented by two former friends who, as Hammond states, couldn’t find peace with another. ”I finished up three of the songs that we wrote together and then whilst on long-term sick, trying to figure out what the hell to do with my life I just started to record my own stuff. I took my gear up and down the country; relatives put me up and supported me and I just recorded there. ‘The Blood’ was written and recorded in my brother’s house, in Winsor. I was reading ‘Shakey’, the Neil Young bio. He had this credos; ‘overthink and stink’, so I just bashed these songs out.”
We have to say thanks to Mark for his honest and in depth explanation about the meaning and creation of his music. You can listen to his tracks now via Soundcloud and if you enjoy what you hear come January 12th he will be performing at The Cluny.
It is a very exciting time for the Teesside based artist and producer Rejections aka Michael Hann. After a succession of releases through the Gateshead label Tiny Lights he is now releasing a new single, Receding Zones, the first one via his new label Reject and Fade.
The label has been setup to “create a platform for artists to explore through the use of music, image and media their interior worlds and obsessions.”
This is reflected in his new release, Receding Zones, which explores the relationship between the urban environment, the power of nature and mans imagination in an interlude of mystifying beats and epic soundscapes.
In the run up to the release, on 7th November, I caught up with Michael for an in depth chat about the ethos behind his music and to find out more about his new label.
What is the ethos behind of Rejections?
Well, I settled on it as it seemed kind of fatalistic, which I suppose is part of my personality. Who hasn’t been rejected by someone at some point in their life and been left scarred by the experience?
Aesthetically and artistically Rejections stands for rejecting received notions of what music and art should be. When I was growing up music tended to get pigeonholed into one kind of genre or another and if people were not largely into that ‘scene’ they would dismiss the music outright (I was just as bad). What is so great about music today (thanks to the internet, online streaming etc.) people have greater access to stuff so the barriers are coming down. So now artists can be multi disciplined and faceted, experiment in different genres and combine different styles and no one bats an eyelid. For me that is the most exciting place, working in a melting pot which combines all forms, all disciplines, taking risks to hopefully find something new/fresh to express.
How did making music under the name Rejections begin?
The music got started last year as I was in a multi media, spoken word group (King Ink Collective) and we were really into combining performing poetry, theatre, visuals etc. and I kind of took it on myself to start putting some music together for our shows.
As a lark I one day remixed some demos my brother sent from his band (the now defunct) I Concur. I say remix, I sampled and elements and turned them into tunes which kinda retained the initial vibe of the originals but were closer in form to stuff I enjoy (i.e. dub, techno, noise).
That got released on Tiny Lights and around that time I was in conversation with Alt Vinyl about some original stuff I had put together which became the Clone EP. So, fast forward to the present I’ve released two EPs on Tiny Lights (Concur EP in Dec 2011, Whiteout in 2012) and the Clone EP (2012).
What inspires you to make the style of music that you do?
Other music, I do listen to a lot, whether for articles/reviews for NARC magazine or while I am at work (I work from home so have spotify on fairly regularly) but also because I am a writer I am always looking around me and trying to find narratives which I can turn into music or soundtrack.
So, for example, The Whiteout EP was a kinda soundtrack for a concept for a Scifi film and how the world was one day plunged into a modern day ice age. The idea came to me as I was working on it around winter time, I have three young kids (two at the time) and the previous year we’d hardly got out at all due to the snow and it was like something out the Shining; we were just bored and sick of the sight of each other, trying to get out and do the usual family Christmas stuff and was it was just hell. So I just kind of pictured what people would be like if that was the modern, ongoing reality.
So the environment around me kind of largely informs my sensibilities, particularly around where I immediately live in Stockton and Teesside. I am really interested in psychogeography after reading books like Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital, the notion that modern suburbia is built on the physical and philosophical same lines as mad houses and prisons but also how there are pockets of relief such as green belts, parks, wildlife preserves but to a greater or lesser extent they are all man made and controlled. Again, if we were turn our back on nature it would probably rip us to shreds, I certainly don’t romanticse it.
I suppose when you come right down to it I am really into artists who are ‘world builders’, who sonically, artistically etc. are into creating versions of reality which are distinct and idiosyncratic and what I am trying to do with Rejections is create this self contained world which people can peek into, if they want to.
I suppose I was consciously aligning myself to certain artists like Coil and Throbbing Gristle who see/saw themselves very much as producers rather than musicians. I can’t play the guitar for toffee but if you gave me one, possibly some hardware/software like a bunch of evil FX pedals and I’d probably knock you up something, I wouldn’t be phased by it. Anything that can produce a ‘noise’ is fair game and most of my stuff is made using field recordings (as opposed to samples from other records like Demdike Stare etc, who I love) via a MP3 player which has a record function. Hardly the most high tech approach and I am starting to look at what I can use to get the production up to a greater standard but my ethos is very much if it is laying around use it.
Same for visuals, which are important part of my live set. All I use currently is a flip camera and the bog standard software you get with Microsoft. Intention is everything for me, using limited facilities can force you to be economical with your approach (e.g. using one image and keeping on it) which in turn teaches you to be pragmatic and not fear experimenting.
Saying all that, I am really into improvising live and ‘remixing’ live tracks on the hoof at gigs. It probably doesn’t come across too well at the moment as I tend to be bent over a laptop shaking my head but it isn’t just a case of press play and to step back, make a cup of tea and move on to the next track. I intentionally build in variables, eqing, re-pitching stuff and there is a element of risk, which I really enjoy, plus I am a massive jazz fan (Davis, Coltrane, Mingus, Monk). Now that I am starting to collaborate with people when playing live (like Mark Hammond from the Dhamma Brothers) I am really looking to push this further, without going all prog rock on it and bringing in a massive set of gongs etc. but I am continuously looking at what equipment, processes and approaches can improve both the live set up and the recording side.
In the past you’ve mentioned your working on some collaborations, who is on the cards?
Well, apart from using the label as extended means of collaboration I have started working with a number of people to move my music forward and also as part of separate projects. So, for example, Mark Hammond from the Dhamma Brothers has been helping me out with my live set and played the last gig we had at the Cluny but we will probably work on a joint release at some point. I am also working on a spoken word/music project called Western Eyes with the supremely talented Claire Murphy-Morgan. We did one gig at Blue Rinse – Culture Lab but it was kind of a piece written specifically for the night so it will morph into something else, no doubt. We keep looking at other modern boy/girl band, fxxked up pop stuff like Hype Williams, King Midas Sound but also stuff like Ectoplasm Girls which again blurs the edges without straying too far into (dreaded) Witch House territory.
I also want to put a shout out for Blue Rinse, which is a monthly music night out of Bar Loco and Culture Lab in Newcastle. Charlie Bramley who primarily organises it is a great guy and it is a great platform for bands who are more of an eclectic persuasion (and not bothered about who else is on the bill) to try stuff out with a great and loyal audience. It deserves local support and people should get along, it is always a cracking night.
Fans of the new label can look forward to another release planned for early next year. As well as this Michael will be looking to release other peoples music and has already some artists lined-up.
But with each release it will be different to other local labels as Reject and Fade strives to make each record an ‘event’. With bonus elements such as “gigs, videos, artwork, extra tracks, accompanying short stories and poems to tease out the themes of the music.”
To achieve all of this Michael explained, “I am keeping close to me people who have already support me, such as John Louis Higgins (Project 17), who will continue to lead on artwork and support me with film stuff, and Jack Laidlaw and my brother Tim Hann, who have helped me on engineering and mastering the tracks.”
With such high and adventurous ambitions in pushing the boundaries of music and art we arehighly intrigued for what the future holds for both Rejections and the label Reject and Fade!
These guys are as energetic and crazy as a box of frogs and that is why we love them!
BiG Beat Bronson are a new Hip-Hop group based in Newcastle who are made up of Baron Von Alias (BVA), MistaBreeze (MB), Eliza Lawson (EL) and DJ LKP (LKP).
We caught up with the group in advance of their gig at the 02 Academy on August 18th – for the gig we have a have a pair of tickets for you to win on our Twitter ! (look out for the BBB post to re-tweet)
Instead of giving you a load of facts and info about the group, from their interview you can clearly gauge this bands persona and either madness or genius.
How did each of you get into Hip Hop?
LKP – I can’t really remember, I used to like garage and then suppose got into it from clubbing and DJing.
BVA – In 1830, I was deeply involved in poetry and I use to scribe poems of a rhyming nature as I tapped out beats on my stone cold bedroom walls that were adorned with sketches of rappers of the day such as my idol MC Darwin. Little did I know at the time I was developing the first and earliest music that you all now know as ‘hip hop’. I effectively got into it by creating it.
How did you meet at first – when you were working on the “Overload” track?
MB – That had nothing to do with me. I’m not bitter about it….next question please.
LKP – Ditto
(Silence and guilty looks from BVA and EL)
What made you decide to become a crew rather than keeping on making music as under solo names?
BVA – It was all part of a bigger plan that began even before the rest of BBB were born. They were chosen at birth and from afar I created their destiny. I harnessed their individual skills and trained them until they were at their prime as individual artists…and then they were ready for formation.
How is it different writing, recording and performing as a crew rather than just under your own individual Hip Hop names?
EL – We all still write our own verses which means we are able to keep our own individual styles and our own take on the music. We normally just start with a theme or an idea of what the song is about and then go from there…and then Our Lord Jesus Christ produces it.
What do you think makes you stand out as a Hip Hop crew in the North East?
ALL – B COZ W3 IS DA BOMB!!!!!!!!!! hashtag FORREALbitch
What inspires your sound as a group?
MB – We ask ourselves, What would Jesus do? And then we get his primary contact Steesh (who a strong atheist) on the phone and see what he has come up with….
LKP – and if that fails we dress up in drag or onezees, eat haribo and travel to space in our quest to stay ahead of the game.
When did you start working on the “May Contain Nuts” EP? Did it come from a natural progression from the “Brace For Impact EP”.
BVA – About a year ago I was contemplating making more music with MistaBreeze during one of our regular phonesex conversations we came up with the idea of involving a female…but not just any female…so we started, well lets just call it a conference call…with Eliza
What inspired the Haribo front of the EP?
LKP - h…a…r…i…b…o…Breeze is a diabetic and we hate his tiny sharts. We eat sweets because he isn’t allowed….end of.
You will be releasing your debut EP as BiG Beat Bronson on 18th August what do you have planned for the rest of the year?
EL – Actually the EP is available for download on the 6th of August via itunes and all good online retailers…but the cd will be available on the 18th. In September we will be releasing a double A side single which will be all over the radio, in your face, on your chest, stuck in your hair, clogging your throat, under your nails and in your ears. I hate hip hop…(starts to cry)
LKP – I want some strawberry pop.
(BVA and Breeze kiss)
Bands are usually a group of like-minded creative people who share an ambition to make music and share it with whoever will listen. This is certainly the case with Newcastle’s garage rock band “The Green Hour“.
In the back of a empty but warm Blue Bunny Café in Newcastle, on a particularly rainy day, which is where I caught up with a third of the band.
Unfortunately, Steve Gordon The Green Hour’s drummer was unable to make it. However vocalists Scott Young, Guitarist Nick Hodgson and Bass player Dan Murray were happy to talk, for what turned out to be more than an hour and a half about the ins and outs’ of the band.
Amongst the banter and occasional off topic tangent the various points of discussion were of course the EP and future plans for the band as well as an unexpected revelation.
First off some background, The Green Hour formed in 2010 and since then have been perfecting their garage rock sound by playing anywhere and everywhere in Newcastle.
Currently they have released their debut EP “Dance The Pony Blues” which showcases the sound they have been striving to achieve as the band explains, “ We have our style now, we wrote a load of songs but the last five are the ones on the EP.”
However they are not planning to stop just there but are instead thinking about acquiring a keyboard player to further develop their psychedelic and garage rock sound.
As well as this fans can expect a range of music from the members of the band from blues to even electronic music, “We have been discussing the idea of spending the summer recording loads of stuff under different names as well and try different things. “ And they have already started with Dan and Steve forming their side project 15:47 and promising a release in late August.
They went on to say, “but we still want to play a lot of things as The Green Hour but that’s the best part of The Green Hour, playing live…the music sounds its best live.”
This need to make more music and be create has made the band more aware that they want to be heard not just in their patch, “ It would be nice at some pint to spread out through the North East first. We have played everywhere in Newcastle, probably twice, we want to do a bit of Sunderland and Middleborough before starting to think about London but Scotland would also be a good place to start.”
Although they sound cautious about spreading their wings and moving out of the local music scene just yet it is clear they have their sights set on London. As they explain to me why, “The thing about London, it’s the way forward, some bands have come out of London make us think we should be down there.
“Playing down there is the only way of getting anywhere. Bands from London who play up here like Milk were abit boring but because they were from London they got the exposure and that’s just what we need. You gotta go there eventually – Manchester as well.”
Yet as well as the music each member is or has plans to go back to University, Scott studies Forensic Science, Nick wants to go back to English Literature and Dan to do Music Technology. This leads us to the title of the interview, “Hip-Hop loving scientists” technically that makes Scott the mad rapping scientist. However when asking them who they would to support I stumbled upon their love for rap, “Kayne West, that would be sweet … we are mad about Hip-Hop, don’t know why we bother with guitars.”
I am glad they picked up their guitars rather then the mic but it just shows you the diversity of the bands tastes. For if it takes singing to Kane West in the music booth to record the new music they are planning then each to their own. As long as they keep producing music like the tracks on their EP “Dance The Pony Blues” I am sure London one day will be calling.
You can read my review of the EP Here.
Words Ruth Edmundson