Steve Lamacq may not be on the Evening Sesh anymore, and more’s the fuckin pity, cause over the years he’s been one of the few DJs and writers with soul, living with the constant excitement of discovering new music and shouting it out to the world.
Lamacq’s latest trick of the trade is to take his BBC 6Music radio show out round the country to uncover new sounds and maybe have a drink or two on expenses (a roadshow! Great! Where’s Dave Lee Travis!).
DiS an the crazy cat chewed a few together before the 6Music charabanc hit Liverpool.
DiS: So Steve, what’s this Lamacq Live In The City all about then?
SL: The latest in the continuing series of excuses to get out of the office! This one obviously is the biggest one we’ve done actually, so far we’ve done places like London, Middlesbrough, Oxford, in slightly smaller venues like Oxford Zodiac; we did InMe there. We’ve just been up to Middlesbrough with the Rapture and Steel supporting. So this is the biggest of the bunch with Ladytron, who I’ve followed on and off since the Invicta HiFi days, really, and played some records along the way, it’s been interesting watching bands like Ladytron, who’ve almost bypassed the UK, which is quite good. And gone on to sell respectable amounts of records in the States, which I think is really good. I think there’s an interesting thing happening with bands like Clinic as well, who can go and sell records in the States and don’t necessarily have to be feted by the press over here. Know what I mean?
DiS:And Liverpool’s really buzzing at the moment isn’t it?
SL:The wierdest thing is, in a way, how effortlessly and without any particular fanfare, Liverpool has taken over as the driving force of slightly alternative music from Manchester, where there’s been nothing happening for three years virtually. I think the interesting thing about Liverpool is the fact that these days we’ve almost gone back to where it was at the end of the 70s and the early 80s where it produces maverick talent of all different forms. Where Liverpool was struggling - was kinda at that point where everyone sounded a little bit baggy, a little bit La’s-y, a bit Beatles-y, or the other side of it was, there were loads of little punk bands in Liverpool at one point. So it was either a hardcore punk thing, playing in loads of tiny venues but all very sweaty, or it was this kind of baggy, post-Beatles thing – and that was all there was. But now you’ve got this amazing… it’s gone back to that melting pot of musical styles again, producing, you know, characters… I was up DJing at the Krazyhouse at the end of last year, and I went to see Miss Black America round the corner, and I thought, talking to people then, that people were just taking it upon themselves to just start things up; whether it was promoters or whether it was labels, and there were gigs going on in places where you wouldn’t necessarily generally find a gig, and people were starting up their own clubnights, and just – this kind of, well I dunno, ‘let’s just do it ourselves then’
DiS: The good thing is that probably a lot of the people that you met up with last year are still doing it. And have grown, and have found people getting on board with the same attitude, there’s a lot of diversity, it’s quite an inclusive thing and it’s amazing that it’s happening, and it’s amazing that it’s had the longevity.
SL: If there are venues and gigs more people will go. The thing that I’ve found is that musical scenes were driven by healthy venues. As a band the first thing you wanna do is, you form bands cause you wanna play gigs and when there’s nowhere to play gigs the formation of bands drops off – so if there’s places encouraging that… and also it’s where you meet people isn’t it?
And the other thing is, I like the idea that people are making a little bit of an effort. People are dressing slightly differently, they’re being more individual, which is such a breath of fresh air after spending four years or something in the morass of nu-metal bands, who attract the same sort of crowd from around the suburbs. I think it’s what you do when you first get into music, but I like the idea that now people are being more individual, in their tastes, in the way they look, in their attitude, which is obviously the sort of culture that breeds band things.
Supporting Ladytron on the bill for the Liverpool Live In The City gig were Wrexham’s Mountaineers, and ubercool electropoppers Franz Ferdinand
SL:We wanted Franz Ferdinand on this bill cause we thought, this is a kind of a different take going off in a different direction, but it’s still got that 80s influence to it. But it’s people who want to put some eloquence back in pop music, and a little bit of style. I hadn’t seen them for about two months, and I went to see them at the ICA, and they were really rockin actually. Really rockin!
It’s interesting, the Franz Ferdinand thing is, I find it quite fascinating really, cause they’ve almost gone back 20 years. Instead of going back 10, they’ve gone right back to the start of like, Postcard Records. It’s not really yer Gang Of Fours, all the New York bands, but it’s around that same area. There’s some early Orange Juice in there somewhere, and I think that’s great! They seem very determined, they don’t seem scared of being able to string a sentence together.
DiS: Do you think that people are a lot more musically switched on nowadays, a lot more musically intelligent or more receptive to different influences if you like?
SL: To be honest, I think the fans are, possibly more than some bits of the media, I mean, Radio 1 seem to have spent so much time working on the basis that ‘you can’t play old records cause kids won’t have heard them’ that they’ve got this idea, I think, in their head that a 15 year old kid won’t have heard a record before 1997 or something.
Which is just ludicrous, cause we all grew up with our mums’ and dads’ record collections, and now with the amount of back catalogue trade in record shops and on the internet, everyone knows a bit about music which has gone before. And I think everyone’s discovering different parts of it, different bits of it. If you want a barometer of where we’re going musically, flick through the small ads in Music Week or the musicians wanted ads in the NME, and the range of influences – and these are 19 year old teenagers starting bands – they’re referencing everything, going back to things like Wire, Lou Reed, PJ Harvey, just random things.
DiS: Music doesn’t work in a linear timeline does it?
SL: No, if it did we’d all be rich! We’d be able to predict what was going on, we’d have labels set up ready for the Britpop revival, absolutely, it doesn’t.
Inevitably discussions turn toward the internet and certain web-based publications…
DiS: So do you know a lot about Drowned In Sound?
SL: Yeah I do, to be honest, for research purposes I always check to see who people are talking about
DiS: So you nick all your programme ideas from us then…
SL: [laughs] No, no… it’s little things like – it’s very interesting for me, if I’m out at a gig on a Tuesday night and somebody says ‘have you heard of this band’, then you’re out 2 days later and somebody says, ‘have you heard of this band’ – and it’s the same band – and then you go to DiS and they’re mentioned there, then it’s kind of like an endorsement really. To me it’s kind of getting that name as something that’s worth taking notice of as part of a bigger picture. But Youth Movie Soundtrack Strategies just keeps cropping up all over the place and you go and check… and, yup, it’s on DiS.
DiS: With the implications of being able to download music, it’s a lot more powerful than Melody Maker used to be, or NME used to be when it was good.
SL: Yeah, we’ll see with the NME relaunch, and I think from what I can gather, and this may have just been from one of the staff leading me up the garden path… but I was saying, have you addressed the one main problem with the NME, which is… ‘where have all the words gone?’. The NME used to be about having proper opinions, well argued, over the course of 2000 words, and I don’t think any of their articles are that, you’re lucky to get one 2000 word feature a week.
DiS: You’re more likely to get a picture of Madonna kissing Britney nowadays.
SL: Yeah, what’s that about? Well, I know what it’s about, it’s part of the soundbite culture we live in – and you can see that happening all over the media. But it’ll be interesting to see, that’s the thing where they could have a certain amount of power now, I don’t know if they’ve got the writers or the thinkers, the theorists, to come up with stuff. I mean, they’ve lost a lot of people like Jon Harris, who you would actually kind of respect if they said ‘right this is the way I see it’. I don’t understand why they [the NME] are still going so big on news, when news is the one thing that’s so obviously available elsewhere... [laughs] but I’m not the editor of the NME!!! I’m sure they do focus groups, I’m sure they’re far more in touch with their readership that I am…
DiS: Yeah they sit around and run things up flagpoles and salute them, and all that sorta shit.
SL: [laughs] I’m sure they probably do! The thing is, I’d like the NME to be more successful, I’d like them to be back selling the amount of copies that they did when I was there, which was nothing really much to do with us, it was probably more a product of the time, and what we had to write about. But, get [sales] back up to 100,000, a healthy NME would help everyone I think.
DiS: Do you think that things like DiS are filling the gap of, being able to be opinionated, and give people a forum to talk at length about stuff they’re passionate about?
SL: Partly, yeah, but I think there’s so many forums in general that I think that… the thing about DiS is exactly what you’re saying, and it’s doing what the NME ‘On’ page used to do, and a Youth Movie Soundtrack… you go to DiS which links you to another site, which gets you to the band’s site, and – yeah. I went and downloaded some 7 minute piece of post-hardcore comedown rock: cause you can instantly check it. I think what was desperately needed was – the obvious thing about the Internet is that you can get anything, at any time, and all new bands get their stuff up, yeah, but you still need a critical voice, a trusted voice to sift through the shit and give you the best stuff. And I think that’s what Drowned In Sound is, certainly for me anyway.
Y'know, ya just don’t get that sorta honesty unless there’s passion there: Shame on them wot took SL off the Eve Sesh air; but the way he’s talkin’, DiS is gonna be yer next controllers of Radio One, innit. About fuckin’ time, too!