Consumed: Hindsight, Hopes & Tony Hawks [Interview]

Skate-punk legends Consumed discuss regrets, releases, the modern music scene and how their families are part of it.

Article by Sarah Williams. Photos by JJ Photography UK.

Consumed have been a huge influence for nearly two decades, having originated the classic UK skate-punk sound back in the late 90s. They’re known for their the two records they released on Fat Wreck Chords (Breakfast At Pappas in 1998 and Hit For Six in 1999), both of which showcase their solid, fast, hook-laden punk rock style, which has often been described as quintessentially British.

They went on hiatus in 2003 and reformed in 2015, after much cajoling from Vanilla Pod’s Steve Ford. Since then they’ve been popping up across the country and there’s exciting news of a new EP in the works. As I said when I saw them recently, old-school Consumed fans are in for at treat – then new material sounds like classic Consumed, but it’s even fresher and more exciting.

I met up with guitarist Will Burchell and drummer Chris Billam in the backroom at London’s New Cross Inn, just before Christmas. I quizzed them about their past regrets and future releases, how they’re briging their families into music, and how they feel the punk scene has changed in 20 years.

You reformed for Podstock in 2015 and you’ve done a few shows since. What’s kept you going?

  • Chris Billam (drums): We just enjoyed playing Podstock. Also, when we played Podstock we were shit, so a lot of it was wanting to exorcise that demon! It was awful. Awful. I know the two of us were really nervous and I think it showed. We were out of our comfort zone. I was using the house kit, which was pretty shit, we were rushed for time, we had issues with the sound… we’d built it up to be this huge thing: The Return Of Consumed.

You’ve done a few shows since. I saw you at The Black Heart – that was great.

  • Will Burchell (guitar): That was when it started to feel like a proper gig. After Podstock we were like, “Thank Christ that’s over.”
  • Chris: We even started in the wrong key.
  • Will: Yeah. We started with a song off a compilation that was never properly released. I don’t know why – there were loads of these really weird decisions. We started playing that song in the wrong key and it was just sloppy.
  • Chris: It went downhill from there.
  • Will: We’ve probably done 30 shows since then? 25?
  • Chris: No… more like 20.

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You’ve got a couple of shows lined up, particularly the skate-punk all-dayer in Ipswich in February.

  • Will: It’s murder getting anything booked in. It’s a miracle we do anything because of the laborious internal dialogue we have just to get anything agreed.
  • Chris: Yeah. It’s hard enough trying to get four of us in the same room. It’s not because we hate each other. It’s just life.
  • Will: That’s the reason we’ve only got Liverpool and Ipswich and murmurings of this Japanese jaunt, although I’m not convinced that will happen. I feel like I’m tempting fate by saying it out loud.
  • Chris: Also, we’re a bit jaded with it all. If we did play too much we’d lose interest in it all, and we don’t want to lose interest. As soon as we’re back to the dark side of playing we’ll probably say, “Nah, let’s not do this anymore.” Because why would you? We’re all established in our own lives and weekends are precious. At a weekend you have time to be with your partners and kids, or you can go play in a shitty venue somewhere to five people. You’ve got to get it right.
  • Will: We’ve also taken gigs when it’s been a bit of an adventure. We’ve had a couple of jaunts over to Austria and Germany and those are fun travelling with friends.

You said three of you have kids. What about your taste outside of these gigs? Do you still listen to punk or have you matured into slower, more age-appropriate fare?

  • Will: How dare you!
  • Chris: I’m not going to lie. I put Kenny G on the other day. But then, by the same token, I took it off after about 30 seconds. I do still listen to punk but I’m very selective – I don’t mean that in an elitist way, it’s just that over the years you hear so much that you pare it down into what you’re really into.
  • Will: I think you do reach an age where your music taste calcifies.  When you’re a teenager you just consume music. We always talk about a record shop in Nottingham called Selectadisc. When punk was sort of breaking, you’d literally just devour new music. You’d learn about things from ‘thanks’ lists on record and you’d go in and say, “Right, I want all of the new whatever.” And then it would take three weeks to arrive.
  • Chris: Now with the fact that you can download and stream things, it’s so disposable. Whereas if you’re doing it the way Will’s just described you’d think, “I’m going to like this record, so I’m going to give it as much time as I possibly can.” Whereas now you can just go, “Ah well, it sounds alright,” and move on to the next thing. Propagandhi are still doing it, they’re great. There are always going to be some great bands doing it.
  • Will: There’s a handful. Clowns was the one I was thinking of – Bad Blood was the last album that really made me go ‘fucking hell’.
  • Chris: That album just took my face off. It’s fucking amazing.

Continue reading “Consumed: Hindsight, Hopes & Tony Hawks [Interview]”

Album Review: Actionmen / Dead Neck – Defections (Split)

This split from Italy’s Actionmen and Manchester’s Dead Neck is an exciting and rare fast-punk find. FFO: Strung Out, Millencolin, Mr Bungle and having your mind blown.

Review by Sarah Williams.

Actionmen are a band that defy description. I’ve heard this Italian group called punk, funk, thrash, gypsy and psychedelia, which barely begins to sum up the fantastic, frenetic racket they make. Their sound is a flabbergasting melting-pot of different genre influences, although ultimately there’s the heart of a melodic hardcore band beating fast underneath it all. This is where they converge with Dead Neck, who are a similar melodic hardcore band from Manchester, with more traditional skate-punk influences evident in their intensely fast songs. Although Dead Neck don’t share Actionment’s flagrant disregard for genres, the two divergent sounds gel well together on this diamond of a split.

Actionmen are up first on the CD, which features four songs from each band. Opener Lion is the single they’ve chosen to stream ahead of the release, presumably because it’s the most accessible of their four tracks. The punk element is incorporated via machine-gun drumming under every second, however the guitars and vocal have more in common with trippy ‘indie’ rock sensibilities. There’s a depth in the distorted words, so gentle and slow in comparison to the percussion, that’s deeply appealing.

Born To Be High opens with a slightly mad little guitar riff. The combination of instruments and paces paints an intricate soundscape in your mind, like an artist daubing varied brushstrokes across your cerebellum, leaving you unsure whether to dance or nod appreciatively. Flowers has more traditional musical structure, nonetheless incorporating a variety of slightly disparate sounds, particularly in the higher-pitched guitar. Actionmen have a progressive approach to composition that borrows from a lot of different influences, bouncing between tones and time signatures with abandon, and yet they tie it together in a way that sound completely natural, flowing beautifully. It’s no surprise, considering two of the band are jazz musicians outside of this project, something which is clear in the skill and freedom of their songs.

If there’s one thing that unites the two bands on this, then it’s a love to short, fast songs. Actionmen’s contributions to the record are all within the under-two-minutes bracket, apart from C’est Dada which is by far the strongest (and maddest) song on the record. It begins with a staccato guitar part that grips your ears, before delving into a short punk section. The riff returns later on in an almost call-and-response section, that’s oddly reminiscent of the Mario Kart soundtrack (in a good way). The song descends into odd guitar twiddling that’s unusual but also intensely appealing.

Continue reading “Album Review: Actionmen / Dead Neck – Defections (Split)”

PMX Interview #2: Some Things Always Seem To Change

Part 2: Perth’s perennial prodigies PMX discuss their plans for 2018, X-Factor auditions and lament the loss of Myspace.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

Yesterday, in the first instalment of our 2-part interview with PMX, we got an exclusive look at their history as a band. Check out the article for all the ups and downs that coming of age in the skate-punk scene brings.

As we learned, PMX have been going for over 20 years, although that did include a hiatus and a few variations in their line-up. 2017 has been an especially busy year for them and 2018 is shaping up to be even bigger.

They have just announced the release of a single-session live album, Clochridgestone, on February 26th, the aim of which is to the fund the recording of a full-length studio album later in the year. They’re playing a run of dates with Actionmen in February (including one put on by Shout Louder on February 2nd at The Smokehouse in Ipswich), a handful of festivals, plus a jealous-making jaunt to Japan.

To get us up to speed, singer and guitarist John Harcus and I discussed how they’ve changed and what they have planned for the future.

Your priorities must have changed a lot since you got started 20 years ago. When you first started out as a band, what was your main aim?

To be honest, Pmx has always been about having fun and that priority has not changed to this day. We have always strived to better ourselves as musicians and get our music out there to like-minded individuals who enjoy the music we enjoy playing. It’s always been that way.

What would you say is your main priority for the band now?

To last another 20 years!

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What’s been the highlight of your musical career?

Too many to mention. I’ll put my X-Factor audition at the bottom of that list! We have been lucky enough to play alongside some of our favourite bands and tour in places we never thought we would ever see, let alone play in. We hope to extend that list in coming years.

Hang on, X-Factor auditon?!

Long story short, when I was playing solo my mate Tom filmed this rad video of me playing two of my tracks live (below). At somepoint in 2012 I was emailed by some A&R type who saw the video, asking if I would like to come to London to play my tracks to some music producers at Sony Music. There wasn’t really much more info than that other than it could be for publishing, performing or TV.

I went, and when I got there found myself at the Sony Offices. They took me to this casting couch setup where I played live to them and they asked if I would be interested in going for auditions for X Factor. I thought, “Fuck it, you only live once”, so I went to the Free Mantle Media/Syco Offices, did the audition, then fucked off. Never heard from them again! Continue reading “PMX Interview #2: Some Things Always Seem To Change”

PMX Interview #1: 20 Years of Skate-Punk History

Part 1: Scottish skate-punk legends PMX share their history – embarrassing haircuts, namedrops and hangovers ahoy!

Interview by Sarah Williams.

PMX are overwhelmingly good at what they do: they’ve got melodic mass appeal mixed with the technical aspects of hardcore, infused with a refreshing dose of Scottish humour. Watching them live in the past has left me a little bit awestruck.

I have not been able to take their most recent EP Dark Days off repeat (seriously, it’s getting embarrassing). The band add clever, technical guitar runs and drum fills into songs without overly showing off and, more importantly, without detracting from the accessible appeal of the vocals and song structures. It’s catchy as fuck.

That being said, PMX are somewhat of an enigma to me. Their live shows are like gold dust and it’s been over two years since their last release.

Their reclusive nature makes sense when you consider how long the band has been together. Looking at PMX now, it’s hard to believe that they have been going for over 20 years. They’re still young enough and their sound is vibrant, relevant and forever growing. I suppose that’s what happens when you get started at 14 years old; they have the experience of veteran musicians but they’re still very much in tune current releases.

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I was lucky enough to catch up with singer and guitarist John Harcus to learn more about this mysterious powerhouse of a band. In Part Two you can read about the new tunes they’re writing and the live dates they’ve got planned. Firstly, though, you can learn exactly how you manage to keep a band together for over 20 years…

PMX have been a band since 1997. How the hell have you managed that?

Hey Sarah! How’s it going? Good question! To answer that in full I’ll have to cast my mind back through countless clouds of purple haze and a copious amount of hangovers. I’ll give you some of our backstory/history to put it all into perspective. Matt, our bro Paul and I started Pmx back in high school. We originally called ourselves PMT (Pre-Musical-Tension. Shite, eh?) and recorded our first record as a 3-piece back in 1998.

It consisted of nine tracks that ripped off Kerplunk by Green Day with a hint of Nirvana‘s Nevermind. We didn’t know if we were grunge or punk so we did a bit of both!

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A year later, after countless shows around the Perth and Dundee area, our friend Danny joined on second guitar. Our influences were quickly changing as we started listening to bands such as NOFX, The Offspring and Lagwagon.

We recorded a four track E.P. in 1999 titled The Stroppy Bitch Project. It was the start of us experimenting with more technical and faster songs. Around that time we competed in numerous battles of the bands and started gigging further afield.

 

By 2000, our sound had become what is now considered skate-punk and we recorded our third EP titled Goodbye Normality. This was our first attempt at playing double-time punk rock that the Fat Wreck Chords influence had bestowed upon us.

Around 2001, we played our first mini tour down in London, started getting quality support slots at Glasgow’s metal/rock club, The Cathouse, with Household Name Records bands and international touring bands and generally playing as many gigs as possible.

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Our fourth E.P. was in the bag by 2002. It featured the very first version of our track PmxTV from our first album Rise and Shine and was the start of us trolling the internet far and wide, pushing our music on any guestbook or chat forum possible.

In 2003/2004 I started recording a twelve track demo of Rise and Shine from home. During that period we played alongside bands like as Captain Everything, Five Knuckle, Skirtbox, Route 215, King Prawn and loads more. These were bands that we very much looked up to. While playing a mini tour with Route 215 from London, their lead singer, Rod, told me how much he loved our track Rockstar and basically said, “I’m going to let our label boss hear this shit and get you guys signed.” Continue reading “PMX Interview #1: 20 Years of Skate-Punk History”

Darko: One Year on from Bonsai Mammoth [Interview]

We speak to Rob Piper of Darko / Lockjaw Records about their intentions for 2018 and their sterling album Bonsai Mammoth, ahead of its first anniversary.

Interview by Sarah Williams.

If you have haplessly stumbled across Shout Louder in the past, you may have heard us mention Darko once or twice. They were our Album of The Year 2017, one of the top acts at Punk Rock Holiday and a lot of other shows. Okay, so maybe we’re a little obsessed with them. Shuttup.

We love them enough that we have convinced them to play our birthday party (Feb 2nd at The Smokehouse in Ipswich) as a warm up for their album anniversary party on February 3rd. They are throwing a big shindig at The Boileroom in Guildford to celebrate a year since the release of their incredible melodic hardcore opus Bonsai Mammoth.

Darko have been around for quite a few years and have always struck me as one of the most talented, hardworking and savvy bands in the scene. Their recordings and their live shows are delivered with stark in-the-moment passion, but there’s an intellectual undercurrent that shines in many of their lyrics and their complex compositions.

To get to know them a bit better, I spoke to guitarist Rob Piper, who also looks after the infamous Lockjaw Records, home to some impressive punk and hardcore acts.

It’s nearly a year since you released Bonsai Mammoth. I’m sure I’m not the only one to put it in my top picks of 2017. How have you found the reaction to it?

Well firstly, thanks loads for your support and kind words about the record; it means alot to know people are enjoying the album. This year has flown past. We’ve had a lot of fun touring the new tracks, hearing people’s reactions and seeing people sing or scream along with us.

Darko had been together for a long time before Bonsai Mammoth, so it feels like success has been a slow burn for you. Do you think there was a particular turning point for the band?

For me I think the biggest success with Darko was finding four other members that can put up with each others shit and share the same ‘can do’ attitude to just go for it, unphased by how popular the genre is, just doing it because we love playing our music live. When we first started the band I had no idea we would be touring Japan and touring to Greece and back. Since releasing our very first EP in 2010, we have hit lots of milestones which I would class as successes. I think myself fortunate for the experiences we have shared and hopefully will share in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Where did the title Bonsai Mammoth come from?

From what I remember, the original phrase was coined on one of the many long van journeys across mainland europe, most probably scooting the autobahn. A plethora of seemingly random phrases and noises are produced from the cabin on these journeys. A lot of it is bollocks but some is thought provoking and meaningful… In some opinions.

With Sea of Trees, Bonsai Mammoth and a lot of the lyrical content in a lot of your songs, there seems to be an underlying nature theme. Is that a deliberate choice? If not, why do you think that theme comes across?

From Trust to Conformity and the Sea of Trees EP both follow a concept which involves nature versus machine, so I’d say it was more intentional in those two records than the full length. Nature is a such an epic spectrum; it encompasses the reasons why we are alive and how we interact with the earth. I think it’s important for all of us in the band to recognise this and, when writing, it makes sense to use nature to help describe scenes and relay emotions with metaphors. I think each of our personal ecosystems can be compared to the planet and being aware to treat ourselves with respect, as we need to do to the world, to try and avoid the heavy pressures causing poor health. Continue reading “Darko: One Year on from Bonsai Mammoth [Interview]”

Album Review: Thanx 4 All The Shoes – Another Ride

The intense and heartfelt third album from Italy’s Thanx 4 All The Shoes is a solid skate-punk/thrash offering. FFO: Propagandhi, Strung Out, NOFX.

Review by Jake Jeremy.

Another Ride is the third album from Italian melodic hardcore outfit Thanx 4 All The Shoes, due to be released on November 25th on Disconnect Disconnect Records in the UK.

In their 11 years together, Thanx 4 All The Shoes have toured all over mainland Europe and Japan, building a reputation for their technical skill and thought-provoking lyrical messages. You can expect shades of melodic hardcore and thrash in the style of Propagandhi and Strung Out, however with a name like Thanx 4 All The Shoes I’m slightly gutted I’m not listening to a NOFX tribute band. Either way, I’m jumping in with gleefully expectant ears.

Opening track One Pen One Book instantly draws comparisons to Propagandhi, but I’m actually getting more of an 80’s thrash vibe from the quickly muted guitar attack and vocal approach. Think Anthrax and Megadeth if Chris Hannah wrote their newest tracks. It is a solid opening and a promising precursor to the rest of this album.

Title track Another Ride and it’s much of the same: fast and melodic with a twin guitar attack reminiscent of Propagandhi. What stands out most is the high-flying vocal harmonies and METAL AS HELL midsection where small guitar flourishes embellish another 80’s thrash thrill ride. This is what I want from this band: the sections where they truly let fly and break away from what’s ‘expected’ within standard modern hardcore are what set them apart. Continue reading “Album Review: Thanx 4 All The Shoes – Another Ride”

Gig Review: Punkle Fester [14/10/2017]

Southampton’s skate-punk extravaganza slayed. Featuring Darko, Fair Dos, PMX, Almeida, Grand Collapse and excessive caffeine consumption.

Review by Sarah Williams. Photos by Alia Thomas, video by Rob Piper.

When I first saw the line-up announcement for Punkle Fester, it was an immediate no-brain decision to go. Featuring the likes of Darko, Fair Dos, PMX and Almeida at the top of a bill of thirteen acts, it is conceivably the best UK skate-punk shred-fest I have ever encountered. The bar for this gig is set extremely high; clearly worth the four hour trip to The Talking Heads in Southampton.

We have Lee Warren and local Southampton skate-punks Captain Trips to thank for this monstrously good line-up, and they’re in good spirits when I rock up at Saturday lunchtime. Portsmouth trio The SLM kick things off, turning out silly fast punk reminiscent of The Ergs. They throw some nice metallic guitar licks into the mix, coming across a bit like a drunken NOFX practicing for a Slayer covers set. Or Slayer practicing for NOFX covers set, I can’t decide.

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Their songs cover a range of important topics, with titles like Bitten By A Zombie, Turtle Shark and Here Come The Raptors. Vocalist/guitarist Rob clearly enjoys introducing the songs with rockstar-style flair, although the rest of the band keep ribbing him to keep within their allotted set time. Their new song Paradox Maradox adds a bit of depth to their set with some more earnest singing. They finish off with a cracking song about zombie sharks and a shout along of ‘sword, sword, sword!’ from the small but enthusiastic audience.

Between bands, Rich Mayor (frontman of Captain Trips) plays a quick acoustic set in the lavishly decorated front bar, adding some lovely atmosphere to the smoking terrace. He plays Give Me A Shout from his solo album Decade, which gives his voice a chance to shine without the force of a full band behind him. He’s got a unique sound that’s warm but rough around the edges, and a talent for a catchy songwriting.

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The Bitter-Town Hounds bring a lot of hair and energy to the mix, introducing a welcome metal edge to the day. They make good use of on-stage space, playing off each other’s energy. Their drummer can’t run around but he looks like he wants to, hurling a lot of passion and energy into his kit. The vocalist has the perfect confident rock delivery and the bass really stands out, partly because of the great sound in The Talking Heads. The highlight of their set is an unexpected but deeply enjoyable cover of Suicidal Tendencies’ Cyco Vision. More of that, please. Continue reading “Gig Review: Punkle Fester [14/10/2017]”