What is it about X Factor that makes millions of people watch it on a Saturday night when they could be out actually having a life instead? I mean you could even go out and watch proper musicians who write their own songs and can play them live without the help of dozens of session hacks. Within a 5 mile radius of the X Factor studios in Wembley there are dozens of venues where great bands are playing to tiny audiences while a bunch of minimal-talent C-list wannabes are performing to a live audience of hundreds and a TV audience of millions.
So, what’s the point of X Factor? Is it to give someone the chance to become pop star? How many previous winners are in the charts at the moment and how many can you remember? Can you remember the first winner in 2004? It could be about trying to get a guaranteed Christmas No. 1, but they haven’t always managed that; if anything, the show has made bands and the public get online and creative about beating the X Factor acts to the Christmas No. 1 slot.
What it’s really all about is viewing figures on Saturday evening and you get those by giving the public what they want; bread and circuses. In this case it’s bland processed bread full of unhealthy additives and a circus featuring a bunch of inept clowns (and that’s before we even get to the contestants). It’s the same as any other reality TV show and it takes its lead from Big Brother; the longer it goes on, the more outrageous the participants and the content have to be. It was bad enough with Jedward (they’re twins called John and Edward, see) but this year we’ve had judges falling out and contestants involved in sex and drugs scandals. Look out for Phil Spector and Gary Glitter as judges next year; it should be fun when they fall out. It might be interesting to see Phil Spector’s motivation techniques at work during the boot camp section.
Be honest with yourself, you watch it because it’s car crash TV. You want to hear deluded egotists who couldn’t carry a tune if it came shrink-wrapped telling snide judges that they don’t have a clue and that they can become stars without X Factor. I’d love to see a follow-up study on those wannabes. And once you’ve got those out of the way and you’re left with the ones who have some knowledge of the concept of melody (and way too much knowledge of vibrato – thank you very much Mariah and Whitney) being given totally inappropriate material to work with by their “expert” mentors. What we’re being sold here is nothing to do with music; it’s a soap opera with characters that change year by year. Even Leona Lewis and Alexandra Burke are pretty difficult to spot these days and they were really successful during their 15 minutes in the spotlight.
Do yourself a favour, go out and watch a band this Saturday; you might even like it. And, on the off chance that you care, the winner of the first X Factor was Steve Brookstein. How many of you will remember Little Mix in 2018?
It’s a foggy night in London town (Whetstone actually) and I’m sitting backstage at the All Saints Arts Centre, which is a rebranded church hall where The Who (in their High Numbers era) played in 1964. I’m chatting to the ever-approachable Billy Walton under the eagle eye of Plus One, who’s trying to make sure that I don’t morph into Lynn Barber mid-interview; as if. This is roughly how the conversation went.AM I’ve been following the tour on Facebook this time and it seems like it’s been a bit of a blast.
BW It’s been great; the turnouts have been wonderful and the shows have been going fantastic and it’s nothing but happiness all round.
AM The UK’s interesting because it’s always been a good territory for bands like yours hasn’t it?
BW Yeah, guitar rock’s still alive and rock ‘n’ roll’s still breathing.
AM It’s been nearly 2 years since we last met up, what’s been happening in that time?
BW Actually, with my band we’ve been playing gigs and we’ve just recorded a new album called “Crank It Up!” and we’re very excited about it and we’re doing this tour pushing that. Myself, I’ve been playing with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. I didn’t do the UK tour this time because I was doing my tour and finishing the album and I fly back next Thursday and play with The Jukes again up in Rhode Island, so it’s been a very busy summer, it’s been wonderful.
AM You mentioned the album, I’ll come back to that in just a minute but I’ve noticed that you’ve become really popular with the Jukes fans as well.
BW It’s been great, Jukes fans are music lovers and the Jukes are a unique band where nothing’s polished and you never know what’s going to happen and that’s what’s great and the fans dig into that because it’s happening in real time; even we don’t know what’s going to happen next.
AM As a guitar player in The Jukes, there are some big shoes to fill there when you look at who’s been there in the past.
BW Yeah Little Steven (van Zandt) and Bobby Bandiera who’s a great, great player but we’re the next evolution of The Jukes, so it’s a cool thing and to hear Southside sing every night is a pleasure.
AM And Southside seems to be pushing outwards again with The Poor Fools.
BW He’s always on the go, which we all are. We all want to do different projects, do different things and evolve musically still, no matter what.
AM So, tell me about the new album then.
BW The new album; I’m very proud of it. It’s a little bit more laid back than “Neon City”; the songwriting is a step up. I’ve been doing some writing with this guy Randy Friel from Scullville Studios; he’s a good friend of mine, a great piano player and we’ve been hitting it off and writing, we just come with ideas and magic happens.
AM With the kind of touring schedule that you’ve got with The Jukes and the Billy Walton Band, how do you actually manage to fit in the writing and the recording?
BW I’m still trying to figure that out. We did it and after we got the project done, you realise you can’t believe you made the time to do that. It’s just constantly working and then we’re going to be on to the next album and on to the next Jukes show and the next Billy Walton Band tour, constantly moving, constantly evolving and trying just to get out there and play guitar.
AM So, have you got a home studio that you use where you put ideas together?
BW No, I don’t personally because I like being a guitar player and a songwriter instead of an engineer; I know a little bit about it and I have done it in the past to put ideas down but when you’re in a creative mode, you want to capture the creative mode instead of trying to get this take. You want to stay in that creative mindframe, for me anyway.
AM You and William (Paris) have obviously been together for a while now and I’ve seen that on stage it’s almost telepathic sometimes, so do you come along with an idea for a song and you work on it together?
BW Yeah, constantly. He has ideas he throws at me and I throw them back and they evolve. We do some jamming in the middle of songs and sometimes that sparks something; every song comes in a different way. It’s not like it’s cut and dried; okay, next song.
AM It’s a bit like that that Keith Richards quote that you don’t write songs, they’re just in the air and you have to pick them out.
BW Well, he had a few. We were talking earlier about Randy Friel, where the magic was happening. If you like somebody and you surround yourself with good people, have a good time, pop open a beer, have some fun, do some writing and just let it go then you’re creating instead of just champing at the bit trying to put a song down to get it out there. That’s what’s different about this album. Not running out of time, just doing it.
AM So is most of the material on the new album your own songs?
BW Yes, it all is; no covers.
AM That’s great, I’ll look forward to hearing it. I understand there was some original financing on the project as well.
BW We did the Kickstarter programme, which is a great, great programme not only for music but for all the arts; for people who want to put movies out or artists. You’re preselling your album and offering alternatives and people really dig in to it and it’s great for the artist because they don’t always have the money upfront and it gives you the ability to create more instead of being held back financially.
AM That’s great, thanks for your time Billy.
BW Thank you.
And that should have been the end of it; get a few photos, have a couple of Buds and enjoy the bands for the rest of the night. I’ve done a live review of the band already and I’ve seen them a couple of times so there’s no reason to do another review. Okay, I was wrong; I’ve seen the Billy Walton Band twice doing support sets and tonight they’re headlining which is a whole new ball game.
The support band is The Stone Electric who play a steady opening set which brings to mind early 70s British bands like Free and Stone the Crows or, more currently, The Black Crowes and they feature the powerful voice of Noni Crow. They get a fairly good response, and the audience are pretty nicely warmed up for the headliners.
The nucleus of BWB is Billy Walton and bass player and co-writer William Paris joined on this tour by drummer Simon Dring and tenor sax player Richie Taz and from the moment they take the stage it’s a bit like being hit by a hurricane. We’re only halfway through the first song when Plus One makes the observation that Billy’s an incredible guitar player, which is an understatement if anything but I’ll come back to that later.
Billy and William have played together for several years now and could add any other competent musicians to the mix and it would work out pretty well. This time, however, Simon Dring and particularly Richie Taz (who plays on Billy’s new album), add many different options to the usual BWB power trio set, including the opportunity to throw in a couple of Springsteen covers, “Badlands” and “Rosalita”. For most bands these would be brave choices but the quality of the playing, particularly the interplay between guitar and tenor sax, is so good that the band produce stunning versions of these songs which have all the power of the E Street Band originals.
The set lasts for a couple of hours and is a mix of material from the new album, older Billy Walton originals and a few covers thrown in. Although Billy Walton is a great rock player, he’s capable of a lot more besides; the set tonight includes the live favourite “Soul Song”, the country blues of “Deal with the Devil” and the early Springsteen feel of “The Deal Went Down” (both from the new album) and the band sound tremendous in all of these styles.
What makes BWB so special live isn’t just the outstanding technical ability; the band know how to entertain and to sell the songs as well. They play with a huge sense of enjoyment and aren’t afraid to inject a bit of humour into the show. The solos and jams can lead anywhere; how about breaking into the Surfaris’ hit “Wipeout” or the “Peter Gunn” theme during a solo or throwing in a verse from The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” in the middle of “Badlands”? The band knows how to pace the set, picking the moments for the slower-paced material before building up a head of steam for a barnstorming finish and then it’s all over, leaving the band and the audience completely drained.
Do yourselves a favour and go out and see the Billy Walton Band next time they’re in the UK; I’ll even let you know when it is. Any band that can make such a glorious noise with an audience of about 150 in a church hall in Whetstone deserves to reach a bigger audience.
Here we go, it’s summer again. John Major once said that summer was about drinking warm beer and hearing the sounds of leather on willow. What did he know? He probably never even watched Buffy. Anyway you know what summer’s all about anyway, don’t you? It’s all about people everywhere trying to impose their lack of musical taste on you.
It’s bad enough trying to deal with the year-round annoyances like teenagers on trains and buses listening to music on their phones or the ones who very considerately use headphones then turn the volume up to ear-bleeding levels to annoy us anyway. It sounds terrible and it’s usually something that you would rather eat your own toenails than listen to. Then along comes summer.
Half a day of sunshine and the rules change completely; suddenly everyone thinks they have the right to assault the ears of the rest of the world. I was woken up at 7am by some moron who had parked his car outside, left the engine running, opened the doors wide and had the radio up to 11. Which artist do you think gently eased my passage into wakefulness? You’d expect Rizzle Kicks or David Guetta or Calvin Harris, wouldn’t you. No, this leader of the mild boys was waking up the neighbourhood with John Cougar feckin’ Mellencamp (“Jack and Diane” if you must know). Every car either has the windows open or the roof down so that every motorist can show the depths of their musical appreciation. And the mainstream radio programming is so predictable; whether it’s DJ Sammy or Don Henley, you can get too much of “Boys of Summer”.
But it gets even worse. Sunshine in the evening and at the weekend means it’s barbecue time and vegetarians get the double whammy of the smell of dead animals being cremated to the accompaniment of your neighbours’ music collection. But there’s another refinement to the torture; you don’t think anyone uses a music system designed to deliver a good sound outside do you? Of course not; it costs a fortune to hire the expertise to produce a decent sound outdoors (and even then, there are no guarantees), so it’s much easier to just stick the speakers out of the window. It can go 2 ways from here; either you can’t get it loud enough to hear it or someone cranks it up so it distorts so much that it could be anything by the Jesus and Mary Chain. When someone does get a decent sound system for a special occasion it costs so much that they decide to get full value by playing till 3am. It’s a lose/lose situation.
Can things get any worse? Afraid so; reach for the ear defenders when the teenage DJ Wannabe turns up with his (they’re always boys) laptop and mixing software. You can do all sorts of clever stuff with software now, and this kid will do the lot to impress his mates. If you look really closely at any Hieronymus Bosch painting you’ll see a spotty adolescent with a laptop and headphones in a corner somewhere. Seriously. Roll on winter.
“When are we playing?”
“Who are you?”
“Oh, you guys will be on last.”
Not something a band with but two gigs under their belt expected to hear, especially considering the fact that at both of these gigs we had been first on the bill. Everyone outwith the band thought the prospect of performing last was brilliant: everyone will remember us! We’ll be the last thing they saw so we’ll stick in their memory! And for a while, it was a great feeling. It was as if we were headlining, despite this being a Battle of the Bands, and so we were filled with an air of confidence, an imaginary strength, like we had something that put us above every other band.
This was reinforced by our surroundings. We considered Studio 24 our home: it had been the site of our first gig and so, as silly as it sounds, that night felt like a homecoming. We had to outdo ourselves, this was going to be our best performance following a successful first gig and an ever so slightly disastrous second gig. Having decided to play it straight, our setlist consisted of seven original compositions (including our apparent signature song, “Disheartened”. A demo of it had been uploaded to YouTube, garnering some recognition among our friends) and no covers. Pretty much every other band on the bill had some sort of reinvention of some hit or another up their sleeve (with a curious performance of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” arising at one point) and so we chose not to pull out one of the few covers we had actually mastered.
We were at ease, which was reassuring yet slightly worrying. Complacency had been a major factor in the disappointment of our second gig with the success of our debut making us relaxed. If you’re not nervous before a gig, there’s something wrong so luckily (or not) as the night wore on and more and more bands performed anxiety crept in. Of course we were excited to perform but the longer we had to wait the more we began to dread it, especially after seeing some of the talent already on display.
During the band two before us, it arose that there had been a mix-up with the times of performances and for a moment it looked like we might have to shorten our set, making matters worse. Quickly, things were sorted but even the mild stress of that incident had been jarring and by the time we were heading for the stage I was particularly nervous.
However, stepping on the stage any nerves were quickly forgotten and we powered through our half-hour set in what seemed like five minutes. As far as I’m aware, the only mistake made was by yours truly during our opening song, Back to the Fire, and was resolved quick enough so as to be fairly unnoticeable. The audience reaction was incredible , particularly and predictably during our finisher, Disheartened. To be honest it was all a blur at this point. All I could hear was my cymbals and Amber, our singer and at the same time my vision was considerably impaired by strobe lights: I couldn’t even see my drumsticks in my hand.
It was incredible.
Once we had finished, all we had to do was wait for the verdict which wasn’t long. It was announced before I had even made it off stage.
We came second to a band called Lost Weekend. It was decided by the audience who wrote their favourite band of the night on a piece of paper however, according to many people we invited, a lot of people hadn’t had a chance to vote. A longer voting period could have benefited anyone.
Regardless, we were overwhelmed with the result. In all the excitement I ended up knackering my ankle as I jumped off the stage but, to be quite honest, it was worth it.
It was a night of ups and downs but the high points outweighed the lows. The concert as a whole was brilliant and we, Modern Misfortune, came off more than pleased with our performance. We’d done exactly what we’d hoped we would.
AM – How did the European leg of your tour go?
SSJ – Well, we missed our keyboard player, he had some family things, but Amsterdam was great . The best part of Amsterdam is that The Paradiso’s a great venue. We started off with the Solomon Burke stuff because I grew up with listening to that and some of the songs with the early band were Solomon Burke songs. We started “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” and the audience started singing before I did and I thought “That’s great man” because it really felt like they were attuned to what we were doing and it was a great moment after Solomon had died a couple of days before in Schiphol airport (on the way to a show at The Paradiso). Then the next night was good and the third night was a disaster.
AM – Is it a bit strange doing the London show so close to the start of the tour?
SSJ – No, you know it used to bother me, London, but we’ve done it enough times that at the end of the tour my voice is completely shot, so I’m glad to get it out of the way. It is still a big thing, an important thing, for us because London is one of those places that you read about when you’re a kid and you can’t believe you’re actually there, but after this we go to Holmfirth and what could be more exciting than that? Read more
Last Friday the hugely successful U2 played a (mildly) secret gig outside Broadcasting House in Central London. Despite being secret the short session was watched by ….. fans, some of whom had been waiting around for hours beforehand waiting for a glimpse of their heroes.
Here is some footage from the gig. The next two parts are access by clicking the “read the rest of this entry” link.
The new album has proved to be a success so far, but what can you promise fans who haven’t heard it yet?
The idea behind it is that it’s back to the blue print that we had for the first record, but it’s more straight forward and it’s simpler. And it’s played harder and faster and it’s louder than our previous albums.
How would you describe your style and who are your influences?
The fundamental elements of what we do are four part harmony punk rock band, where the live show depends on a lot of energy and a lot of crowd participation. As far as influences go, we put the band together in the beginning, because we loved the likes of Wire and The Clash and all that sort of post punk stuff. Now, because that’s all in your DNA, you get more influences from a story you read in the newspaper or a person you meet at a show.
You’re under your own record label now, is this a welcome change for you?
Yeah, it’s the best thing we’ve ever done, because it’s fifty percent less people who come and steal the rider at the end of the day! Truthfully ever musician is a control freak and it’s easier to keep an eye on things when you’re on the label. Read more
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As MusicRiot grows so does our ability to get the latest CDs, guestlist access to the best gigs, and more. But we don’t always have reviewers available in the right locations – but maybe you can fill that gap? Do you need to get journalism experience but are finding it difficult to get enough?
If you are interested in writing for MusicRiot then go to the Contact Us page, drop us a line with your details and we’ll see if we can’t help each other!
It’s the sixth MusicRiot Presents podcast – and we’ve got a couple more great artists.
Have a listen, enjoy and let us know what you think.
Download Title MusicRiot Presents… Episode 6
Kill Cassidy join us on the MusicRiot Presents podcast episode 6, and here they give us a bit of background type info!
Tell us a little bit about each of you.
Tim: My name is Tim Sensation, I have my parents to thank for that. I sing in Kill Cassidy and am half of the song-writing team.
Martino: My name is Martino. I play the guitar in Kill Cassidy and am the other half of the songwriting team. I am 6′ 4″. I like long walks, reading, European cinema, drinking till I’m drunk and talking about the universe and most of all going somewhere ordinary and listening to music that makes it feel unusual. Cat-lover, GSOH etc, etc…
What’s the story behind the name?
M: Simply put, it’s the title of a song from a long lost band, who were gigging friends a few Summers ago!! Read more