Hynam Kendall Music and Arts Contributor
FrYars’ family values
He might have Depeche Mode on board, but he’s not too proud to bump session singers for the rousing vocals of Granny.
Text by Hynam Kendal | Published 25 November 2008
Though in the flesh, with his foppish curls over oceanic eyes and awkward, thin lips that nibble between statements, he might be channelling a disarmingly meek, younger Mika, or, heaven forbid, skinny-legged indie kid in the guise of The Kooks, vocally FrYars – or more to the point Ben Garrett – marries a very different genre of artist. Compared to every eloquent rocker that ever graced the charts – Nick Cave, Daniel Johnston, Rufus Wainwright (just don’t mention Radiohead “Someone compared me to Thom York. Now that’s just comparing for the sake of comparing”) – Garrett’s booming voice that cracks in all the right places to tell of a pain far beyond his 20 years (he celebrated his recent birthday watching the victorious Arsenal game) is like heyday Bowie – all sweeping statements littered in the liquor of heartbreak. Disarming prose about heavy wombs and the murder of loved ones – unimaginable when dealt with a face-to-face conversation with the articulate, smart and unabashedly coy comedian whose gentle voice barely registers on the Dictaphone upon replay – has marked him as something of a stand-out figure in today’s charts of 20-something Londoners wailing about their pub-and-grub lifestyle. James Morrison? No. Paulo Nutini? No. Garrett is Jeremy Warmsley. Garrett is Midlake. Garrett is Magnetic Fields. Garrett is the maligned, lovelorn son of Amanda Lear. Why else would Goldfrapp handcuff Garrett into a touring deal before the ink had even dried on his contract, if they didn’t see something of the didactic showman about him?
“I’m compared to serious musicians because of my lyrical content,” Garrett enunciates as we stop for midday Vietnamese. “A lot of attention is paid to my words, I guess because tomes and tomes could be written about the character arcs of a sentence or the unusual use of alliteration, but with music there’s only so much you can do with it – identify the genre then move on,” the words, soft like melted butter – funny considering that room temperature in this joint is sub-zero and butter, in this current climate, would do anything but melt – land on his lap and end. Complete. That’s why serious artists like Goldfrapp have frog-marched to the front of sold-out ventures at London’s Slaughtered Lamb? To witness the incarnation of Johnny Cash’s soul burrowed somewhere in the throat of a modern-day Sufjan Stevens? “I guess my music – which is written as plays first, then turned into songs – is different from other music out there, which piques interest in the industry.”
The hype – and yes, there has been hype – probably boils down to the collaborations. Collaborations evident from the initial hearing of Garrett’s EPs. Ex-Clor guitarist Luke Smith lends his producing touch – most noticeable in the plonky-tonk electro keyboard underscore in The Ides and Olive Eyes. The Bees Paul Butler loans his rousing musical gifts to Garrett’s EPs, no doubt aiding the myriad asides to melancholy life as a loveless poet. But it is Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan’s vocals that have caused the most headlines. His mere participation has garnered Next Big Thing status on Garrett’s curly head before the samples were even available for download. If Gahan’s on board it must be good, right? Though, to ensure longevity, it was never about celebrity status, more about quality of product. “If Gahan’s vocals weren‘t good, as regrettable as it would be, we‘d have to lose them. It‘s about quality.” Doyens of the musical ode aside, it is, however, another collaboration which has stolen the hearts of hot-footing club kids the world over. It is a collaboration between Garrett and his grandmother. HappY sees Grammy Garrett warble about war, Pascal’s wager, politicians and the concepts of good and evil. The reason? “It was cheaper, we didn’t pay her. I just whipped out the laptop and we were done between dinner time and desert.”
The Ides EP and Perfidy EP are out now, FrYars’ debut album Dark Young Hearts comes out March 2009.
Earth to HK119
Bjork’s favourite rock chanteuse makes good with promise for rousing conceptual sophomore album.
Text by Hynam Kendal | Published 26 November 2008
HK119 crawls through the DJ booth of Buffalo Bar brandishing the type of dumbbell made famous by 20s strongmen. One weight is replaced with the letter H in elaborate caps the size of a small child, the other weight K (geddit?). A conical hat momentarily thwarts her demonic attempt to rip through the wires and trample – in Fergie-sized gladiators – across the resident decks to the heavy duct-taped floors of the centre stage. She arcs and shapes her body as though it is made of jagged floorboards – a bag of broken glass. Taking with her a souvenir or two – her left hand hooked like a talon snatches a desk lamp and holds it up to her face so her features become black-and-white silhouetted Escher outlines – HK finally reaches her target: front of house. Walking like a robot with stylised movements in spandex everything – disjointed limbs finding their joints – she screams down the microphone, kisses a boy at the front, and warns, when the projector fails, “We’ve got technical problems, but I’m not going to talk to the audience. You know I don’t do this shit.”
HK119 singer Heidi Kilpeläinen will earnestly say “The debut was a little more like this bitch from hell. Whereas on this second album [Fast, Cheap & Out Of Control], HK119 is still a character but she’s softened up and coming from a different angle. I’m writing from a more personal place,” when she’s sat in borrowed knitwear crocheting scarves (her favourite pastime, go figure). “Of course there’s lots of humour thrown in,” Kilpeläinen will say. But it is not Kilpeläinen that takes to the stage tonight. Projections of eerie 80s psychedelia egg her on, this other creature that resides within Kilpeläinen – she snarls, she roars like a bison at large, and she forewarns “YOU‘VE GOT TO BE HUMAN!” No, it is not Kilpeläinen that takes to the Buffalo Bar stage at all, but alter ego futurist super bitch HK119 (platinum-haired cyber punk from outerspace sent earthward-bound to forewarn of the faults of modern society: love, mobile phones, pollution – it all gets a mention). Tonight, as with every performance night, HK has enveloped Kilpeläinen. Kilpeläinen is nothing more than a vessel, a collection of skin and bones. HK119 is in her soul. And the crowd fucking loves it. During C’est La Vie, her new single, “From the start it was mission impossible to find out what it means to be human,” sets off a chorus of American Apparelled art students. “I have to report this case by tonight,” she booms, curled fists of fingers marrying the mic to her voluptuous lips. “I will take you by the hand and take you home,” her cacophonous Planningtorock-esque wails, well, wail in our ears, signalling the start of yet more theatrics – timed lunges, Velcroed all-in-ones ripped off and thrown to the crowd, feet, legs, limbs climbing across stage furniture.
You Can’t help but love her whole: she is the velvet tones of early-Moloko Roisin, the Roisin that bedfellowed Handsome Boy Modelling School. She is the fag-in-hand flippant disregard for love, life and the universe of Marianne faithful (she‘s the whisky, guttural moan of her too). She is the raucous “Fuck off” and unpolished basement rock of Chicks on Speed. She’s what princess Superstar used to think she was when she toured with cabaret trannies in downtown New York. She’s the best bits and only the best bits of all the art-rockers we’ve ever come to dote on: Nico, Grace Jones, Velvet Underground’s John Cale. Damn, she’s even the best bits of debut HK119 – an art student project that saw original slides, projections and demo disk-sets selling for a grand apiece until Bjork stumbled upon her and let slip the sweet secret of HK119 to her manager. Gone are the hand-cut montages of tinfoil-wrapped Kilpeläinen, gone are the electro-house ditties and nonsensical lyrics. Here to stay is HK119 – art/music and music/arts most unpredictable possession.
HK119’s album, Fast, Cheap & Out Of Control and single, C’est La Vie are both out now through One Little Indian Records.
Anish Kapoor: Big is no longer beauftiful
Famed for gargantuane-scaled sculptures, British art scene stalwart Anish Kapoor does the unthinkable and unveils covetable scale models small enough for pilfering hands.
Text by Hynam Kendal | Published 09 December 2008
How odd then, that the master of grandiose has chosen to take a different approach to his latest exhibit: architectural scale models. To clarify: models no larger than a desk lamp. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) presented this month Place. No Place: Anish Kapoor in Architecture, an exhibition which surveys the artist’s close collaboration with architects and engineers over the last twenty five years. It goes without saying that the exhibition allows for an entirely different experience from any other show by Kapoor.”This show is important because I wanted people to understand the story behind the sculptures,” says Kapoor. “I’m very much studio-based. I employ a few people, because you can’t do it all yourself, but the studio is all; every problem, every issue is here. I can’t solve them in a plane or in my head and I don’t believe that an intellectual practice is enough. Maquettes are an essential tool, because drawings alone just don’t explain it. These models tell the viewer this story. They explain these things that the finished product does not.”
The show includes structural sets and pared down replicas of famous works – included in the exhibition are models for Taratantara at the Baltic, created with Neil Thomas of Atelier One (1999), the Salvation Army Visitor Centre with John McAslan and Partners (2001), the design for two Naples subways with Jan Kaplicky and Future Systems (2003) – most of which have never been displayed before, which offer a rare insight into many of Anish Kapoor’s major international projects that have seemed so unattainable, so unapproachable when looked at as wholes.
Place. No Place: Anish Kapoor in Architecture exhibited at the RIBA.
(The Lady Tigra)
Please Mr. Boombox: Lady Tigra
80s trip-hop legend The Lady Tigra still loves the Cars That Go Boom.
Text by Hynam Kendal | Publised 11 December 2008
I miss L’Trimm. When I chat to founding member of now-defunct 80s trip-hop duo L’Trimm, Lady Tigra, or The Lady Tigra if we’re to remember heirs and graces, I’m like a whiny brat. “I miss L’Trimmmmmmmmm,” I nasally squawk, elongating the mmm’s until there is nothing but the sound of a thousand bees humming In my mouth. “Me too baby,” she laughs in her buttery American drawl that filters to her lips with a phonetic “pop”. “I loved that baby too. I loved L’Trimm. But what can I say? Teen-girl, gum-popping, booty-bass couldn’t sweep the world back then, it was time to retire.” True, they didn’t have Uffie, Santogold and M.I.A back then, cranking up the ghetto blaster, plugging their Commodore 64s into their 808s.
She cackles again, this time filthy, this one comes from the pit of her – very toned, we may add – stomach. “I still really, really like the boys that go boom. What’s not to like? Any busted whip, any ugly boy is so much hotter when the system’s got bottom. I love bass,” she booms herself, voice carrying a little base of it’s own. Reciting L’Trimm’s international hit Cars That Go Boom seems to have gotten us off to a good start. Though right now I pretend otherwise – to me my recitation is the height of wit and geniosity – I’m sure she gets it all the time. It’s not like I’m the only one who locked themselves in their upstairs room cranking the dial to 10. “Baby, have you heard the covers? Some of them really suck and some of them are out of this world. It would be awesome if Bunny and I got a cut. What we love is all the Cars That Go Boom videos on Youtube. Sooo cute!”
No chance of a reconciliation though, whilst Lady Tigra lives in LA, Bunny D lives in Indiana with her husband and four kids, she’s traded in her mic for a nurses uniform – and not even the sexy kind – and spends her downtime writing children’s books. “We still gossip, fight, discuss politics, music, whatever, but we mostly spend our time laughing hysterically.” Not singing? “No, not singing.”
“Anyway,” she squeals, curtailing the focus. “Enough about the past, I’m making new music!”
Oh yeah, Please Mr. Boombox.
Much more party pop than we’re used to. “It’s an evolution of ‘Tigra of L’Trimm’ and how I feel right now. The world’s in a heavy place these days but there’s still a lot to celebrate. I’m celebrating change. It’s a throw-your-hands-up, summertime barbeque, party album.” Well it’s doing the rounds in the clubs, with Switchblade Kitty tearing up playlists. It’s a bitchy R&B Shep Pettibone-type affair – kinetic energy, shuffling drum n’ bass, atmospheric synths. The whole album follows suit, really: squeaky clean R&B Jazz-house production [“Jazz house?” “Yeah, in that 1992 play-with-the-verb sense” “Oh, I get ya”]. And then you get to… a collaboration with Linkin’ Park???
“I was just as intrigued by the collaboration when a mutual friend suggested the idea, so I arranged for Mr. Hahn to do my remix. But I figured, he’s a successful DJ, which probably means he has a vast and diverse understanding and love of music. I wasn’t disappointed! We’ve never actually met or spoken, but he can now count me among his fans.”
At the bookend of our meeting as she shows she’s still got the moves, and I gently put aside my disbelief at her age, forewarning the market is a different beast these years – now, even more so, it’s sex that sells. Ready to be a sex symbol again? “What do you mean by ‘again’ baby? I never stopped!”
You’re Cof and I’m Cof
Valencia’s forward-thinking DIY rockers introduce us to a New Year of Spanish delight, musically speaking.
Text by Hynam Kendal | Published 05 January 2009
Just like 2007 was all about those French electroclashers – Ed Banger and Kitsuné stalwarts unite – and 2008 saw Sweden take hold of the billboard with both hands – namely Gothenburg a la Lykke Li, TTA, Kleerup and The Concretes – in 2009 it’s all about Spain. Where better to start the renaissance than with techno prog-rock/dance-pop home recorders Cof Cof? Regardez…
Dazed Digital: So what’s behind the name, I can‘t figure out it‘s relation to the sound? It’s not even Spanish…Ana: We were going to use a name related with some kind of alcoholic drink, because it’s one of our influences! But that was too stupid. We wanted something serious, but not too serious and I heard “cof cof” on a M. Ward’s song. As we were a duo, it was like, “Alex, you’re Cof, and I’m Cof!”
Alex: It’s onomatopoeia, like “cough cough”.
DD: Would you call your sound “typical” of the sound coming out of Valencia at the moment?
Alex: No. We find it hard to find our place in the Valencia’s scene. I don’t know the reason why, but since the beginning we’ve found more support outside Spain.
Ana: I heard on a TV show here that someone was saying something about “KARAOKE” while we were playing. That really sucks. People find It hard to take seriously a band without a lot of instruments, like a “real band”. We don’t need a fucking drummer or a fat bassist to be a real band. If they don’t come to understand it, that’s not our problem. ( I’m sorry, I think I’m too much aggressive today).
DD: The singles, like breakout hit Infection, are floor fillers. You not in the market for ballads?
Alex: As we make music to have fun, we can’t help making songs that way. We’ve tried to experiment making slower songs, but we always end up bored of it. I’d rather see people dancing.
Ana: I’m trying to convince Alex to make a Ballad, but I think he’s afraid.
DD: Is your sound deliberately lo-fi, or is that just because of lack of funds?
Alex: It’s a little bit of both. If you’re talking about the 8-bits sound, that’s deliberate. But if you’re talking about the sound quality, evidently, it is because a lack of resources. But our economic circumstances are not going to keep us from making music. This has never been an obstacle for us.
DD: In your free time do you listen to the type of music you make?
Ana: the question is: what kind of music do we make?
DD: You have a very Jack & Meg White partnership in that some people report you as brother and sister, others report you as lovers…
Ana: We’re very good friends, that’s all. And our friendship started because of this band. We started adding beer and good wine to our meetings, and that’s how our friendship started!
DD: Where do you make your music, it‘s very DIY?
Alex: We do the recordings in Ana’s room with a Computer (guitar, bass, voices..) and I make the electronic production in mine. Sometimes I think that If we recorded on a professional studio songs will lose their freshness.
DD: The new tracks are less dancey and lean more on your (Ana)’s cute and off kilter voice. Why?
Ana: We don’t know… we are planning our new songs to be more obscure, more dancey, more aggressive.
Why are you now singing in English? Do you think it’s a cop out just to become more successful?
Alex: When you write lyrics in Spanish people expect them to be complicated, involved, deep, and that is not what we want.
DD: Have you made much money from the band yet?