After our pre-festival coverage of Beacons 2013, we spoke to a couple of the headliners: Fucked Up and Wire. Read on for more from both bands.
Fucked Up/No Warning - Ben Cook
Scene Point Blank: That show just now looked crazy.
Ben Cook: Yeah, I was pretty high.
Scene Point Blank: So what was the timeline for No Warning getting back together?
Ben Cook: It's actually a weird story how it all came to be. I should mention that it's a benefit 7” for an ex-member of our band that kind of has some problems in his life. I'm not really comfortable talking about it, to be honest, but basically all the money's going to his wife and kid to help him out. Me and Jordan and all the members of No Warning have always stayed in touch, all played in bands together this whole time, besides Jordan. Actually Matt had a dream that we all reformed and did a song together called “Resurrection of the Wolf” and then that month we heard about this issue that came up, so it would be nice to hand some money to this cause. So we were like, “Let's do it” and Jordan had some stuff. We pretty much just resorted to our old ways, [went] into a practice space and wrote the song in an hour. We ended up using Matt's title so it was some weird cosmic… I don't know, but it turned out well so that's why we're going to release it. We were like, “If this turns out whack then we're going to scrap it/maybe we can't do this/maybe I can't sing like that anymore,” but it was the easiest thing ever. It was pleasurable.
Scene Point Blank: In terms of sound, which era of New Warning does it come nearest to?
Ben Cook: People that have heard it -- which is Damien from Fucked Up, one of our old friends, and a couple who've sang backups on it or whatever -- say it sounds like the continuation of Ill Blood if we'd never got wrapped up in major label fucking bullshit or whatever. Even if some people are keen on that stuff--
Scene Point Blank: No Ghostface Killah verse then?
Ben Cook: Ha, I wish! It's a bit more of a brutal song, like if Ill Blood was just brutal, metal-ish. Not in a cheesy way, more like an Obituary way, where it's just evil. We've gone for an evil vibe.
Scene Point Blank: Since No Warning split and Ill Blood has gained such a reputation, do you think more has been said about the band after the event?
Ben Cook: Yeah. When we were playing on that album, we only toured a little bit. Like a tour with the Cro-Mags and some of our own shit, but like besides a few shows which have surfaced on YouTube, most people didn't know it or were still on the fence about whether these Canadians were making good music or not. In music, it takes five or six years for people to actually look back and it's safe for their insecure tastes to say, “I like it,” so now there are more fans of the band than ever. It's okay to make a small 7”, a press of 800 one-time to make some money for this cause.
Scene Point Blank: Are you cynical about the bunch of reunions taking place right now or do you think it's cool?
Ben Cook: I'm not into it. I don't like it when older people get up there and do shit they did when they were young. I dunno, I'd see the Rolling Stones, they're kind of the only band I'd like to see onstage that are old as fuck. That's not to say that bands reuniting are old or all bad -- I've seen some cool stuff -- but it's not really for me. That is, unless we get offered a huge amount of money and we'd definitely do it!
Scene Point Blank: Lastly, just to settle my fanboy nerdiness, is it true that No Warning beefed with Chris Corry from Mind Eraser?
Ben Cook: Yeah, I punched him in the face at Posi Numbers. He helped spread a rumour at one point that we were all white power--
Scene Point Blank: Oh, Final Solution demo?
Ben Cook: Yeah, even though most of the band is Jewish, it was just ridiculous, just hardcore message board shit-talking. He was a big part of it, so I saw him once at Posi Numbers -- and this is really stupid, now that I'm 31 and on okay terms with the guy -- but I did hit him in the face… and he had a chain, someone else beat him up… it was dumb!
Wire: Colin Newman
Scene Point Blank: The next concert you're playing is at the Continental in Preston. What drives you to play these small shows?
Colin: Well, the guy asked us if we wanted to play his club the day before we did Beacons and, as Graham lives in Sweden, we just decided to turn it into two gigs instead of one. There's the practical reason, but there's the fun reason that it is fun to play in a club. It's usually impractical to play them because they just sell out and nobody can get to see it, but it's important as it is exciting for the audience and exciting for us as well. It's what people come to gigs for, not for people to come to a stadium to watch a band miles away.
Scene Point Blank: So do you think intimate venues are the best way to see Wire?
Colin: Yes and no. I mean, we do play festivals. We play in medium to very large venues sometimes, it just depends on circumstances every day. The last really big UK venue we played was the Royal Festival Hall and I think by all accounts we were totally amazing, so I think it's about making the venue right for the occasion. It's not good to be a band that could only ever play large or small places, even the Rolling Stones play small clubs because you need to, really.
Scene Point Blank: Do you think keeping Wire varied between venues keeps the band accessible to fans?
Colin: It definitely keeps us fresh. I don't know how anybody else goes about it but, when we come together, it's about what we can do effectively, what we find interesting and exciting to do. Hopefully that's what the audience picks up on, so the fact that our approach keeps it fresh for us means that the audience has more chance of catching something fresh. There are people who go to concerts with completely different mindsets, looking to tick-off experiences they've had in a book. You'll never get that at a Wire gig, you'll get the best we can give you in those circumstances -- but it might not be what you expect.
Scene Point Blank: Do you find that you draw a diverse array of fans, say, people who've been with you from Pink Flag through to fans who mainly like the newest material?
Colin: Oh yeah. It depends on where you play. In the UK there's a strong movement of people over a certain age who go to shows whereas if we play in Italy, club shows will be all under 25 as no-one over 30 goes out. Over here, we have a big range of people--17 to 70--maybe even some younger than 17. Obviously people come with different motivations and ideas, with even some of the most conservative fans the youngest because they might just know the ‘70s stuff. But you can't assume just from looking at somebody in the audience what they're interested in. Over the years we've cultivated a reasonable fan base who know everything and what we're playing so they don't have to be told what going on and they keep coming back.
Scene Point Blank: On that note, you play a real mix of your back catalogue live. Considering you play so much recent material, is it Wire looking to stay as a relevant band?
Colin: I think it's the only thing worth doing. The industry divides music between two camps: there's “contemporary” and there's “historic.” “Historic” is bands over a certain age; they only play old songs and are a part of nostalgia, to which Wire says “Fuck you!” We're a contemporary band, we've been a contemporary band always but the fact that we're older than a lot of bands seen as contemporary doesn't mean anything to us. If it matters to anyone, it's just ageism as far as we're concerned. It is our aim to be current, we're not trying to do the latest street style or anything, but we know what we do is relevant to us and the audience. A lot of people wouldn't consider us to be a contemporary band, so it's a perception we have to fight all the time because once you get over a certain age, you have to work five times harder to make the same points. It doesn't happen so much for women -- but there is still a glass ceiling for women -- but it's the same kind of principle, it's about being taken seriously. “How could you possibly be a contemporary band if you're not 17?” you know?
Nothing that I seem to hear sounds particularly modern, it just seems to me that, in music, we're always waiting for something to come along which is startlingly new, yet not so avant-garde that nobody wants to listen to it. I think drum 'n' bass was the last time that came around, dubstep you could sort of count, but everything with bands and rock music is sort of recycled. It's fresh, people come up with new ways and combinations, but you don't hear anything that's groundbreaking from before. In the mid-part of the last decade, I kind of came to the conclusion that waiting around for something new was going to be a very long wait.
Scene Point Blank: That's interesting, considering there are currently so many bands styling themselves around shoegaze and post-punk, so I just wonder what your opinion is of that? Bands like the XX, bands inspired by Wire…
Colin: It's funny that you should bring up the XX as I actually know them. They were all in the same class as my son at school. I knew Jamie when they used to skateboard together, all that kind of stuff. They sound very ‘80s to me in what they do. It's got a very big influence from the Cure but their attitude is very shoegazey. They've always been shy kids. They've got a little more confidence now but, when they started, they were super-shy, and I feel like a lot of people probably think the second album feels derivative of the first. I feel defensive of them as they are still very new, and whilst their sound isn't the most original thing ever heard, they're more stripped down than a lot of things. It's really quite brave. Two guitars and a bit of voice, it takes guts to do that. Most bands get onstage and make as much noise as possible to cover for the fact that they're insecure live. That goes for every band, including Wire. When I heard Keiron Leonard, who plays solo on record, talk about how he makes as much noise as possible live, I thought, “Fuck, that's what every band does!” Loads of bands wouldn't admit that, but playing something live is hard so you definitely try and blast your way through, seeing what you can get away with. That's what I admire in the XX: that they're minimal and, even if it's called boring, at least they have an approach.
Scene Point Blank: Do you think that sound and fury approach you just mentioned is what Wire brings to the live arena?
Colin: Well, we try to bring some subtlety as well and, at our best, we try to be a combination of quite fierce and also quite subtle. Not necessarily at the same time, but certainly in the same set. I think that by the time we're near the end of the set, we're going full-on and I think we can be quite impressive. I haven't seen it, but based on what other people have said and seen.
Scene Point Blank: Have you checked out the lineup for Beacons?
Colin: Yeah, I have. I really want to see Melody's Echo Chamber. I really like their new album and, when I looked at the lineup, that was the name that leapt out. We're coming from Preston and we don't actually have to be there until quite late, but I think we'll probably come early to check out some of the bands. The idea of the festival is good -- it's not obvious -- with a lot of festivals you get the same bands every time so this one is quite interesting. So doing that and Portmeirion Festival will be a good combination. Seeing us at a festival and a club show are very different things. I imagine Beacons will be a more general audience whereas a fan of Wire will know they can see us in a club. It will be a younger audience for the most part and we'll see what they think of it.
Scene Point Blank: Which concerts are you most looking forward to on your upcoming tour?
Colin: Oh, you can't ask that! I'm really, really dreading playing Scunthorpe and I'll never play there, [Laughs.] There are always places that will be interesting and different, there's always a good reason to play a different place, for someone abroad it'll be special. It's not about the money. The experience they've had is what matters.