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Falenizza Horsepower interview

In bands, havana club, havienda, jersey, music, punk on August 21, 2008 at 8:35 pm

On Wednesday night I met Dave and Steve of Falenizza Horsepower to talk about their band’s music, the activities of Function Records, how they came to work with Planet Brain, the local music scene and much else besides. I started by asking them about their involvement with Planet Brain at La Hougue Bie, this Saturday, the day after both bands play at Havienda.

Dave Spars and Steve Hutchins

Falenizza Horsepower: Dave Spars and Steve Hutchins

Steve: I spoke to Cassie at Heritage, gave her a CD, told her about Planet Brain and sent her a link to their MySpace. I said I wanted to bring them over because I wanted to get them on at Guernsey on the Sunday. She said ‘Oh, wow, they sound great.’ She really liked them. It’s a lot more tuneful than we are, easier on the ear basically. I said I won’t give you our stuff because we’ve just done some recordings that are a bit more mellow. I said we’d write stuff for the gig rather than play our normal stuff because it’s heavy and lower and noisier. I gave her a CD with two mellow songs and I put one of the heavier ones on the end just so she knew what I was on about because I’d been banging on about how heavy we are. She sent me an email saying, ‘It might be a problem …’ She thought I was saying these are our softest songs. She said, ‘I put it on in the car at the weekend and my ears started bleeding, and you might have to take out some of the swear words and stuff.’ All I’m telling her at the moment is don’t worry, it’ll be fine, but as far as she’s concerned I might be a complete liar and just turn up and … massive noise!

Dave: The chapel falls down!

Steve: It’s heavy in places but mellow in places as well.

Dave: Not heavy compared to us being heavy.

Steve: No. But generally our normal stuff, like the stuff we’ll play on Friday, is not flat-out death metal or anything like that.

Dave: It’s just dense. It’s not like just going ‘Raaa!’ down the microphone for forty minutes. There’s a tune there but it’s loud and it’s really low and heavy and dense.

I’ve been telling all the bands who are working with us here that they can do anything they like.

Dave: You’ve got to do that I think. It’s different in, say, London, where you can have specialised nights. Like Blue Note over here with blues and now they’re doing reggae and stuff like that because they haven’t got the crowds.

There is a great variety of musical styles in the island. Blues has always featured prominently and also a seriousness about punk aesthetic.

Dave: But at the moment it’s all these guys with tight jeans and big hair. Even though they’re in a style and they’re doing a slightly different type of music they’re still bracketed as punk because it’s trashy music. But they’re not punk in the true sense of the word. The young bands I’ve seen play here and bands that I know of, and I know some of the guys, like, to me it’s their version of the Arctic Monkeys and so at the moment it’s that scene. But it’s inevitable because they’re young and impressionable.

When you’re young you sound like your heroes because you haven’t had time to develop your own voice.

Dave: Exactly. My first band did Ramones covers and Nirvana covers.

Both the bands at the Havienda launch played really well but they sound a bit like their heroes. They will find their own style.

Steve: That’s it. I think it’s something you get out of your system in a way. I remember I was in a band when I was sixteen or something like that and I was convinced there was absolutely no way I was going to be in any other band ever again. This was my one band for life. Never did anything. I think we played the fête twice.

Dave: It’s pivotal moments, isn’t it? I remember when I first thought about writing my own stuff trying not to sound like anyone else was when I heard Fugazi. That led me to where I am now. That’s the only band made me do what I’m doing. [To Steve] I can hear a lot of Pixies in what Lebatol do so it must be a massive influence on you.

Steve: Yeah.

Dave: You don’t sound like the Pixies but it’s made you do your own version of something. But yeah, they’ll get there these youngsters.

Do you find as writers that you are still interested in what other musicians are doing?

Steve: I’ll hear an album by a band of the minute that could have been around years ago and think that’s an absolute belter. Influences come in here and there. But definitely I’ll always listen out for new stuff. At the same time the stuff that we do and with the devices that we’ve got has a lot to do with how the stuff comes out anyway. Because there’s only two of us we’ve got to make sure it doesn’t sound like we’re missing a guitarist. So I think you’ve got to write songs that actually work with what you’re working with. Because of the setup and the sparseness of what we’ve got is why we have some songs with other elements in the background.

The new songs that you posted on your site are amazing. You have your own studio don’t you?

Dave: Steve’s got a Firepod and I’ve got one so we can have sixteen channels and I’ve bought a couple of decent mics and leads.

So you’re your own engineers.

Dave: Yeah. We do a lot of reading up and it’s a lot of … learn as you go along. The first time we used that box was with s-ro that time. That’s the first time I’d ever recorded. The second time we did it was a little bit different, with Dave Neil who used to be the guitarist in s-ro, going through the computer. I learned a lot from watching Dave. He knows computers really well. And then reading up on how to position mics and what mics to use for certain things. You try to develop that in your own way. We got a text from Stef, a friend of ours who has been mastering our stuff and is going to do us a version, saying ‘This is so well recorded I can push it right up to the top and it sounds wicked.’ I know what he’s gonna do, he’s going to make it sound amazing! You should check out his band Shield Your Eyes. Normally it’s one or two listens but I’d give these guys five or six listens, and then you start seeing the patterns and understanding how the songs work, because they’re quite frantic.

Steve: Among all these weird bits an epileptic fit turns into a heartbreaking chord change. All of them are just brilliant. But yeah, recording-wise, we did that stuff at Christmas.

Dave: I do a mix and then send it to Steve and he’ll send it back saying ‘I think this needs doing …’

Steve: I’m useless at doing any of that. I tried. I went round to Dave Neil’s house for an evening. I was going, ‘Yeah, not too sure, give me that a second’, started fiddling around with this thing and I just made it sound so shit. There’s a video, actually, of us doing the recordings at Christmas with Dan, whose Dad owns the hotel where we set up in the dining room, who filmed it all and edited it. He speaks to me and I’m saying I spent about a day and a half trying to tune this snare drum. I’m just useless when it comes to that. I thought it sounded fine but when we came to the mixing stage it was, like, loads of horrible noises in there. I was trying to make it sound quite good and it sounded like someone flicking a bit of baking paper. So that’s when I completely wiped my hands of it. I think I should be banned from any involvement in that.

Knowing your limits is a strength I suppose. I see when Justin does the sound for us here and the way he works with drummers especially, because he is a drummer, he’ll spend two hours getting the drums sounding right and fifteen minutes with the guitarist.

Dave: He’s a good mixer.

Incredible. But the way he gets the gates working on each drum mic and it all comes so naturally.

Dave: He’s done it for so long, since he was about seventeen in Australia. It’s a natural ability but also experience. I remember one day an AC/DC cover band played here, and they brought their own sound man, and Justin said ‘I know you say I’m good but you want to see this guy work.’

Steve: We played at this biker festival in Guernsey –

Is that Andy Lane’s crew, the Green Man Motorcycle Club?

Steve: Yeah, that’s the one.

He came down and met me last week. Some friends of his are in a band called Nemesis, a really great, over-the-top metal band. They’re working on new recordings to be released in February and Andy wants them to have the launch party here. They have this release called Unleash The Beast and the cover’s got this picture of a male torso with female hands ripping at the zipper. It’s so funny.

Dave: The thing is, that’s just Guernsey. I haven’t seen an album cover there that doesn’t have some kind of cheese on it. Which is good.

Look at the promotional stuff for Vale Earth Fair, which is kind of light with a friendly, cartoony style, and compare it with Jersey Live with its highly corporate approach.

Steve: They’re absolute opposite poles.

Dave: I think Guernsey’s easier-going in most aspects. Say you wanted to put a gig on in a field here, you’d have to have a security fence, a security team, someone coming in to make sure the fence is sound, a police presence, someone inspecting all the equipment to make sure it’s safe, someone to inspect the stage, someone to put the stage in because you wouldn’t be allowed to do it yourself … In Guernsey you could put a makeshift trailer in there and everyone could come in with their own booze and have a whale of a time with no trouble.

If you give people space and trust to do their own thing there won’t be trouble will there? When you start imposing lots of regulations –

Dave: You’re asking people to break them. One thing I’ve noticed here, and in England, as opposed to Guernsey, is the nippers are trying to be extreme. Nearly every gig I’ve played in Jersey where nippers have been involved something’s got broken. In St. James when we played there someone ripped the door off and someone punched the mirror.

Steve: It happened in The Havana.

Dave: Jamal Brown, yeah.

That was Jamal Brown, was it?

Dave: Well, ex-members. They were Jersey Motherfuckers then.

That led to the manager saying no young bands in the club for a while.

Dave: I can sort of understand because if someone’s coming in to your premises and wrecking your stuff … I’d be fucked off.

That incident led to a difficult issue for this night because people started to think about this place as being not for bands and their fans.

Dave: I remember doing some stuff when I was a kid. Sometimes I got in really bad trouble. But if I was in someone’s property I wouldn’t abuse it. It was always that grey area where you don’t know whose it is and there was no-one around. Nowadays they’re still doing that but they’re doing it publicly to other people’s property. I think that’s why it’s so hard for young bands to play over here. Unfortunately there’s a small element that wreck everything. We all do stupid stuff when we’re that age. It’s just a way of growing up isn’t it?

There’s a kind of madness to adolescence that is natural.

Steve: I heard La Motte Street studios have had a lot of attention recently.

Dave: Yeah, Ivor who’s running it really knows his stuff. He knows about engineering as well. Actually we need to phone him because any band can go down there, pay twenty-five quid and they get three hours recording. They’re going to put one song from each band on a disc to sell to make money for La Motte Street. You have to buy five of the CDs at a fiver, and then sell them so they get out there which I think is a brilliant idea. I remember he came to talk to us when he first took it over. I said you need to open it up for all bands and he said he had to stop it at twenty-five and under, something like that. I said you’re not going to fill that every night because young bands will be around for a month and then they’ll be gone and you’ll have a quiet spot and you won’t make any money. Now he’s got over twenty-fives playing there. He’s realised this place is small and you’ve got to cater for everyone to make money. I’m glad he’s done it.

Steve: Obviously you’ve got to give young bands priority because it is a youth centre. I find a lot of young bands have got parents’ garages to play in whereas older bands haven’t. These days decent recording equipment is a lot easier to come by anyway. I imagine Deimos [La Motte Street’s engineer] would say it has impacted on their business. Now people do their own stuff. You certainly get varied results, a lot of people do awesome jobs, but then a lot of the time, certainly with MySpace, people are just desperate to get something up, they’ll be like, ‘Wack it up quickly,’ and it’s got this terrible sound.

Dave: What it comes down to is people do it themselves because they can’t afford to pay someone to do it for them. The main reasons we do it ourselves are I like to be in control of it because if there is anything wrong it’s my fault, and we ain’t got the money. If we could afford someone great to record us I would do that. It’s a lot less hassle, we’d just turn up and play.

Steve: But then this Christmas stuff we did we must have had thirteen or fourteen songs down. To do that in a proper studio is going to cost a lot of money.

What are your plans for that whole body of recordings?

Dave: One’s going on a 7″ soon. House That’s Burning which is on the site. That’s split with a band called Death Of London in Leicester. They used to be in a band called Team. They were doing fucking well, weren’t they?

Steve: Death Of London are doing really good as well.

Dave: Yeah, getting good support slots. They’ve supported Part Chimp, Sepultura, and a few other really good bands.

Steve: So that’s the plan for that. We decided we want to do as many small parts as possible. We said ages ago about never wanting to put anything out with over five songs just because it’s nicer to have short bursts. On the other hand Planet Brain’s album gives a journey from start to finish. Well, journey sounds a bit wanky but you can really get into it, it’s quite atmospheric whereas our stuff’s a bit more stabby and to the point. I think in small doses it works a lot better. It’s down to us how we put it out anyway. It’s not like there’s a label saying ‘Right, you’ve got an album and two singles.’ Yeah, so we’re going to do a split 7″ with Death Of London and another one with Dredlunadare.

Dave: The next time we go we’re trying to get a couple of days where Shield Your Eyes and us set up together, create two songs and release that. That’s initially how we started.

Steve: We used to come with nothing, yeah.

Dave: The first four or five songs were from us jamming in the practice room. I’d say eighty percent of the stuff we’ve got has been jammed.

Steve: It’s a starting point but then as you go through you work it into a different shape.

On your recordings there are quite a lot of different instruments but when you do your live show is it purely bass and drums?

Dave: No. Steve does a bit of harmonica.

Steve: We’ve got looping pedals and so for some songs we build up layers of bass, looping harmonica in the background, or there’s vocal loops.

Dave: Bit of delay on the bass, delay on the guitar … We just mess around to layer it really.

Planet Brain and Falenizza Horsepower

Planet Brain and Falenizza Horsepower

So let’s talk about Planet Brain who are sharing the bill this Friday.

Steve: This will be the third time they’ve been over.

Dave: They played with us last time and with Lebatol the time before.

Steve: Yeah. Lebatol is the other band I play in and Shane the singer was speaking to this Italian girl who used to come to some of our gigs in London and she said ‘I’ve got a friend in Italy who plays in a band,’ so then he got in touch and they said, ‘We’ll sort you out some gigs in Italy.’ The rest of us didn’t know too much about it. Shane said ‘We’re going to go over, we’ve got a few gigs booked in Italy and radio stuff as well.’ Marcello, the singer, is a really nice guy. They’re all really nice but Marcello is the only one who speaks decent English.

And how’s your Italian?

Steve: A little bit ropey! Obviously we got on regardless.

Dave: [To Steve] Were you surprised when you saw them though?

Steve: Saw them playing? Yeah. We were driving down to the first gig and Dan our bass player said ‘Have you got any recordings?’ and they put a live recording on. We got to this venue and they did a sound check and it was amazing. I couldn’t believe this guy’s voice, just incredible. And so we did a few other gigs and some radio shows, interviews and a couple of acoustic sets which was a bit random because we’d never done that before. In Lebatol we set up our own label which is Function Records and that’s what we put the Planet Brain album out on. Five hundred was the initial pressing and they pretty much shifted all that. We haven’t done anything with it in England yet, it’s all been in Italy.

Dave: Shane wants them to come over for a stint to promote it, doesn’t he?

Steve: Yeah, I think so. We’ll kind of see what the plan is. They’re still writing and recording loads of stuff and there’s talk about doing a split release with Planet Brain and Lebatol, maybe a side each of a 12″ or something like that. I think it’s an awesome album. I’d really like to put it out over here. People would love it. It’s strange because a lot of the other stuff on the label is a lot more alternative so you kind of know the crowds and the venues where you can put bands on and it will go down well. Because these guys are a bit more mainstream and bands of that nature will generally be on bigger labels, and getting a decent support slot on a big tour, they’ll have all the backing with the plugging and getting loads of airplay with people badgering all the playlist managers which is not something we can do because everyone’s got day jobs and we can’t actually do that the whole time for the label. So you want to get it out to as many people as possible.

Dave: In Guernsey they were really impressed. There were very good reviews and every time we saw people they were, like, ‘Planet Brain were wicked!’

Steve: Yeah they’re really good. It is more broader appeal so you do think … I would have liked to have got them on Jersey Live because they’d go down really well there but I think it’s better for them to get on the Earth Fair. Jersey Live is a bit more of a closed shop, that’s the impression I got, as far as where the earlier bands come from. I think they go through booking agents and I don’t know if this is the case but I imagine they say we’ll give you the big band if you put on some of the smaller bands on our roster. At Earth Fair their whole collective have got their feelers out all year round and someone might see a random band in London and get them guys for the Earth Fair. There’s a real passion there and it feels more methodical for Jersey Live stuff. But they do it strategically in Jersey and I think they do it well. They have bands on the bill that people haven’t heard of when they announce it but by the time the festival comes they’ve got a couple of singles out because the labels and the booking agents know what’s planned for the next few months.

I’m interested to hear a little more about Function Records.

Steve: I sent the artwork today for our seventeenth release. That’s by a band called Munroe Effect that we put out a 7″ of and this new one is a CD. We set the label up initially to put out the first Lebatol single, then there was the second single, then these bands we met we put out a split CD of theirs, put out the Lebatol album and the Lebatol EP that followed that.

Dave: Caretaker

Steve: Yeah, Caretaker, Menendez, Meet Me In St. Louis … Then we did a Function sampler as well which had s-ro and Bulletproof on it and so there was a few Jersey bands and a few English bands.

Dave: Push To Fire …

Steve: Yeah, Push To Fire which is a band that Stef was in. And Toby from Shield Your Eyes was in Meet Me In St. Louis. So you could draw this family tree with plenty of links around and that’s a nice thing because you see all these bands change and grow.

Dave: They’ve got the first Run For Your Life single on their as well, haven’t they?

Steve: Oh yeah.

Dave: Cats And Cats And Cats, Bottlenose Dolphins, Guns Or Knives, and us.

Steve: Yeah so we’ve done that. Stef and Toby from Shield Your Eyes have got their own label called Run For Your Lives and they put out a 7″ but then they’ve put it through Function as well.

It’s intriguing that 7″ vinyl is still such an important, resurgent format. I’m interested to know where they get pressed, how much it costs, what kind of volumes, all that kind of stuff.

Dave: This one we’re doing they’ve priced at £680.

Steve: Yeah, for five hundred records and that’s with the sleeve. I know Stef gets them cheaper because they purely get the record then they photocopy the sleeves themselves to keep the cost down.

Dave: It works really well all that black and white. That’s proper punk aesthetic. That’s why all the old punk albums are black and white with red pen, ’cause it’s cheap.

Steve: I think it lends itself to a bit more innovation as well. There’s a band called That Fucking Tank who did a 7″ sleeve which is two pieces of card with a little nick at the top and bottom with an elastic band to keep it together. You see it and it’s brilliant. It’s one of the best sleeves I’ve seen because it’s just really unusual. Because you’re trying to save money you get people do these screen print jobs and sparing with colours. If you work with less you get a lot more.

Dave: There’s an Italian band called Morcobot and they did a six-track mini album called Mostro. The whole thing is handmade. They even make their own vinyl.

I find the revolution in mp3 blogging very interesting. What do you make of it?

Steve: I’m amazed at how much stuff is available. You can pretty much find anything you want. Basically, say you want an album by Mclusky Do Dallas you put ‘Mclusky Do Dallas’ and the word ‘blog’ into Google it will come up with a whole list of people who’ve set up their own blog site and just put on albums that they like.

They usually upload to a free storage service like zShare or Megaupload.

Dave: I go through btjunkie.org

That’s torrents which is slightly different. I mean hotlinks to mp3s and zipped folders of music. I use btjunkie as well for torrents but, in many cases, stuff I can’t find on btjunkie I will find on someone’s blog because you get bloggers who are just interested in one genre or era. There’s one I found the other day The Commercial Zone which is purely post-punk albums and the blogger is uploading their entire music collection with very erudite articles about the music and reviews of the records.

Dave: That’s really cool.

Steve: That’s what I think is so good about these blogs. It’s not just a random splurt of whatever it is.

Dave: People forget that music for centuries was in the pub. Someone would bring down their drum, others would sing along, and that’s how it is. It’s meant to be for everybody. It’s meant to be entertainment. The only reason it gets sold now is because originally to get it out there more you’d put it on a medium, you’d have artwork designed and you’d pay some money to get it out there. So, fair enough, you’ve got to charge a small fee. But it’s all been added on and added on. When I was working in Virgin Megastore in Edinburgh, which was eight years ago now, that Dido album, you know the silver one, made her a millionaire. It was coming in every day, new boxes, and there were thousands upon thousands of them. They were buying that in for £1.75 a disc and selling it for £14.99.

Steve: Tell me about it. We sold our Function stuff through HMV and the mark-up’s just obscene.

Dave: I don’t expect to make money. I’m just putting it out there because I love what we’ve done and I love the band we’re going on there with. When we played Aldershot, at the end of the night, I was talking to these guys from a young band we played with called Cables and they said ‘Yeah man, that single Killian,’ on the Run For Your Life thing, ‘that’s the best fucking song on there. At every party we ever go to that’s the last song we play and everyone goes nuts.’ I thought, that’s fucking really nice. I just felt, really, like, fuck yeah!

Killianthenameofvideo

Planet Brain and Falenizza Horsepower

In bands, havana club, havienda, indie, jersey, music, punk, rock on August 17, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Planet Brain are an Italian band currently on a tour of the UK including not only The Havana Club with Falenizza Horsepower on Friday 22nd August but also La Hougue Bie, Jersey, on Saturday 23rd and Vale Earth Fair, Guernsey on Sunday 24th. Their membership is Marcello Batelli on guitar and vocals, Nicola Zangrando on bass and Claudio Larese Casanova on drums. Planet Brain at MySpace features videos, songs and news of forthcoming performances. A recent interview with the band can be read at The Only Thing I Know For Sure in which they talk about their musical influences and how they feel about connecting with British audiences.

Planet Brain

Planet Brain

Dave Spars and Steve Hutchins

Falenizza Horsepower: Dave Spars (bass) and Steve Hutchins (drums)