12 June 2017


Photos of Youth of the Apocalypse (featuring Darryl McDaniels DMC!!!) + Shiners + Alexis Kings + The RPMs + Harry Pane at Old Blue Last last Thursday






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2 June 2017


Amazing as usual... photos of The Afghan Whigs at Koko, London on 30th June

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26 May 2017


Broken Social Scene at O2 Brixton Academy, London last Friday night

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5 May 2017


Greg Dulli discusses new record "In Spades", memory, mortality and what legacy the Whigs will leave behind them

The Afghan Whigs at Koko - Photography by Eleonora C. Collini

When we meet at the London’s Royal Institute of British Architects, Greg Dulli is radiant, pleasantly chatty, a far cry from the turbulent, moody person he used to be. “It is almost as if my past was predicting the future, and now that I am in the future I am actively able to view the past”, he tells me while talking about the recently-found balance of consciousness and reconnection with the past that inspired the new record of his main outlet The Afghan Whigs. 

In Spades, the second album since the Cincinnati band reunited five years ago, is mainly about memory and how, over the last couple of years, Dulli has been revisiting his childhood through frequent lucid dreams. In one of these dreams he regularly has, he is reliving a memory of a bike ride through a field by a river near his house that he took almost every day as a child. “I would ride up on the river bank and see the river, then I would go back down the hill into the field and while I was there my imagination was where I felt the most free and at peace in my life. In probably an early version of meditation, I could see things, and in my mind I would see this place, which I didn’t realise till about a year ago is actually where I live now. I was basically seeing where I would end up”, Dulli recalls smiling. 

To him, this reconnection with the past is very comforting, but also illuminates on the person he was then, who he is now and how he got to the present. ‘Those experiences made me who I am. They made me smile then, and it is ok for them to make me smile now. I don’t live in the past, but I like to visit it”, he points out.

During the extensive reunion tour, the chemistry between Dulli and the members of the Whigs’ new reincarnation (a.k.a. guitarists Dave Rosser and Jon Skibic, drummer Patrick Keeler, multi-instrumentalist Rick Nelson, and co-founder/bassist John Curley) was so strong that as soon as the tour came to an end in Spring 2015, Dulli invited everybody to reconvene at Nelson’s studio in New Orleans. There, in just a week, five of the ten songs that would end up on In Spades were laid out, while the other half was composed over the following year and recorded between New Orleans, Memphis, L.A. and Joshua Tree.

Though most of the tracks were written in the traditional Whigs way, evolving out from a riff Dulli created at home or in the studio, this time the creative process was approached more collectively. “I wrote all the songs, but the band helped me shape them. I hadn’t done it that way in about 20 years. The new record sounds so rich and textured because of them being so involved”, he explains.

Album opener 'Birdland' (which is both a homage to the iconic New York jazz club and a literal reference to a neighborhood in Ross, Ohio where Dulli went to school) stands out for being the most unique song on the record in terms of instrumentation. Composed by Dulli alone over just an hour “while messing around with an instrument in Memphis”, the track was done by stacking six mellotrons and mixing in a woman voice imitating the mellotron, and then embellished by Rosser on classical guitar and Nelson on cello and organ.

However it’s another album track, ‘Toy Automatic’, named after a band his friend had in the 80s, which is Dulli’s favourite. “Usually my favourite song is never anyone’s else favourite. I can almost predict it”, he jokes. “It’s a short song, with no chorus, just two and an half minutes of pure emotion, and I really feel like it’s my favourite vocal performance that I have ever done. I was singing in a way that I had never felt that free singing before, as if I was almost exploding”.

In Spades is not only about memory and revisiting the past, it is also about mortality and how that affects our lives. 'I Got Lost’ was written just after finding out that longtime collaborator and friend Dave Rosser had been diagnosed with inoperable colon cancer. Currently undergoing treatment, Rosser can’t join the band for the upcoming European tour, but the Whigs are optimistic that he will be able to play shows in America later in the year. After playing around 800 gigs together over the span of a decade, Dulli admits it was surreal to play without Rosser for the first time at the benefit show organised for him last December. “Dave always stands to my left and I always turn around to him, and when at that first show without him I turned around and he wasn’t there… it was really strange, not just to me, but to the other four guys as well. So, once we realised the power we had when all connected, we decided to play as a five piece and not try to replace him”, he proudly tells me.

Moved by the recent passing of many music icons that inspired him over the years, Prince’s death a year ago was a particularly difficult blow to deal with. I remember asking him once to pick a record he wished he had written and without hesitation he told me Purple Rain, and although the two never met, the Minneapolis star was like a family member to him. “I really experienced a loss when he passed away. I felt as if my uncle or my older brother had died”, he confesses. “I followed him since the beginning and I saw him playing more than ten times. I was really sad for a long time and I still have moments when I can’t believe he is gone. “

The mysticism and spectral imagery of the lyrics is cleverly reflected by the monochromatic artwork designed by Christopher Friedman. “Chris and I met on Instagram. We usually send each other stuff that we both like and for this album, he found this woodcutter from Brazil, Ramon Rodrigues Melo who already had drawings of the spirit that is on the cover facing in different ways in a woods, in a Victorian city etc., so I commissioned him what I wanted to be a vision of pre-civilization and civilization”, he explains. “To me the album cover is a piece of art. Out of 15 albums I made, only 4 had written words on them, while the others only had an image that stood for itself, evoking something, while letting you make up your mind what it is about.”

I finally ask Dulli what legacy he thinks the Afghan Whigs will leave behind them. “I am telling you this without any kind of arrogance or lack of humility …. when on stage we feel like we are the greatest band in the world, and we act like we are in terms of playing and giving the audience everything we have”. With so many successful years behind them, it’s hard not to agree with him.

"In Spades" is out today via Subpop

Originally published on London in Stereo

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1 May 2017


Photos of Thurston Moore's "Rock N Roll Consciousness" launch party at Kamio, London last Friday


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31 March 2017


Photos of Jens Lekman at Oval Space, London on 29th March

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17 March 2017


Spoon discuss new record Hot Thoughts, the most difficult moments of their career and their new music direction.

Photography by Eleonora C. Collini
“For this record we really wanted to go into the future”, Spoon frontman Britt Daniel immediately tells me as soon as we start talking. The two of us and the rest of the band are in a Kensington hotel suite with a stunning view on Hyde Park and enthusiasm is in the air. The Austin five-piece have just played a mind-blowing (to say the least) intimate show at the legendary 100 Club the night before as a part of an European warm-up tour in promotion of their ninth record. 

Hot Thoughts is still indie-rock at its core, but new different sounds have been incorporated, ranging from dance-rock and dirty funk, to drum’n’bass and disco. There are also more dramatic orchestral arrangements and less guitar, no acoustic guitar at all. “I had been working on an acoustic ballad, ‘All your mistake’ for quite a while and I knew it was good, but that seemed too rootsy and old-fashioned, and that is not where we wanted to go”, Daniel explains. “We like that kind of stuff too, but this time we wanted to make something more futuristic.”

Lyrically, Daniel feels that his sources of inspiration have also shifted. “I think we are writing about different things now. For example, ‘Pink up’ was written from the perspective of a society menace. As for ‘I Ain’t the one’, the initial idea was a Johnny Cash type of song, as I wanted to write from a loner, tough guy point of view. That was actually another song I had to change because it was originally on acoustic guitar, but it wouldn’t have worked out that way.”

Like for all previous Spoon records, most of the new songs evolved out from initial ideas Daniel recorded on demo and then put on the table to work on with the rest of the band, but this time one of the tracks, 'First Caress' was written by the no-longer-a-secret weapon keyboardist Alex Fischel, who came on board in 2013. “I made a little demo and put gibberish on top, then sent it to Britt and he came up with all the lyrics. We changed the vocal melody a little bit, and we brought it down a couple of keys”, Fischel tells me. 

We all joke that is because Daniel’s voice is too low. “I love my voice, but I wish it was a little higher”, he admits. Apparently, at a Spoon show with Yo La Tengo a while ago they wanted him to do 'Christine' by Souxsie & The Banshes and he was trying to discuss taking it down a couple of keys, but the band thought it was because he wasn’t feeling secure singing that high. “It wasn’t that, I really just can’t sing that high!” he specifies. 

The new album was recorded both in Austin in the studio of drummer and co-founder Jim Eno, and in Cassadaga, NY with producer Dave Fridmann, who has also co-produced Spoon previous full-lenght They Want my Soul. “Dave is so good at achieving that new, unique sound bands are after, and he knows so much about all the different equipment that somehow he pulls out stuff just like that”, Eno points out. Daniel agrees that his contribution in defining Spoon sound is essential. “He has great ideas, he can suggest a melody or put a sound effect on a song that makes it come together like he did with ‘Knock Knock Knock’ [from They Want my Soul], where he created a horror movie effect. And the funny thing is that sometimes he doesn’t even know where that stuff comes from. He cooks up a lot of things like a mad man, then he has to trace them back and figure out what happened.”

To me, all Spoon album covers have always contributed to the appeal of their music. The artwork of Hot Thoughts, a colourful cross section of a human head, is no exception. “It is as if you could see inside that person, see the bones, the skull and these warm colours that represent hot thoughts”, Daniel explains. He found that image on a friend’s Instagram page. “I didn’t even know that she was a painter. When I saw it I thought that looked like a record cover.”

Daniel and Eno founded Spoon in 1993, and despite all the line-up changes (latest of which the departure of long-time member Eric Harvey, recently replaced by Gerardo Larios), if anything their music has got better and better over the years, but back then, they really couldn't imagine still making music together so many years later. The band’s journey from obscure indie darling to festival heavyweight didn’t exactly happen overnight and it took them years and many difficult moments (including being dropped by major label Elektra) to finally gain the recognition they deserved. “I think the lowest point for me was when we played at a Christmas party at a Mexican restaurant in Austin”, Daniel recalls. “Jim had a job, but I was so poor that going out for a Mexican meal was a luxury, so it was so great to have a Mexican restaurant offering us 200-dollar worth of restaurant credits if we played at their Christmas party…. but it was such a bummer gig!” 

Eno felt that the turning point for them was during the recording of the 2000’s EP Love Ways. “While Britt and I were working on a track, I ran the tape machine we’d borrowed, I hit the rewind button, the tape rewound and it snapped in two! We had no idea where it snapped, which was the worst thing that could happen because we had some great stuff. I then put the tape back together, rewound it, hit play and it was going in a song end, then the next song started… it basically happened to cut right between two songs! I felt that we had reached the bottom and were finally going back up.”

Hot Thoughts also represents Spoon return to Matador Records, who released their debut album Telephono in 1996. Back then, they had many major labels taking them out to dinners and trying to sign them, from Geffen, to Interscope, to Warner, but they chose to go with an indie label instead. “We decided that if we could ever be successful with anybody that would be with Matador as they had put out many great records and we just really liked those guys”, Daniel recalls. “And it was kind of the same thing this time too. We are both in a different place now, so we thought we should just try it again.”

For Daniel, playing shows is the most rewarding part of being in a band. “We all say that all it matters is making a record that documents what a band is, and that is what will live forever, but playing shows is hard to beat.” On the other hand, Eno, who runs his own studio in hometown Austin, thinks the recording process is also very gratifying, and he loves producing so much that now he also runs masterclasses for music production students. He first got invited to run a class at the University of Ohio, and then for two years in a row the same professor has invited five students down to his studio for a week to assist while a band is recording. “It is very good because the University pays me, I pick the bands, we record their music for free and then I just give them the songs for them to use if they want, while the students get to see real sessions”. 

"Hot Thoughts" is out today via Matador Records.
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