Snapped Ankles – Interview 2017

Snapped AnklesEmerging from the London performance art scene and allies with the likes of The Comet Is Coming, they’ve just dropped their debut album, a high energy organic-rave that features home made wood synths, bits of hand crafted percussion, plus some old school analogue synth action, as well as your customary drums and bass. Dressed up as a cross between paganistic Christmas monsters and Nordic, their live shows are a wild enticement to get your best party-on whilst the world drags its sorry arse into the abyss. We spoke to Paddy from the band.

Hi! What’s happening?
Just polishing up the logs and the set; the synth, the guitars, trying to get tight for our tour.

How many are actually in the band?
There’s four in the band and there’s a few floating members, a kind of family. Saul makes our videos and used to play with us. Other musicians sometimes jump on stage. Four is the core, we need four to get the machine going.

Tell me about the costumes.
The costumes, the suits, the idea behind referencing the pagan, woodwose (mythological wild man) and Krampus monsters, it’s not so much about a disguise, as a uniform to help the performance. Like in Padstow you get these weird characters who represent the devil and the sins of the past. They kind of come and tease and almost clown.

What a traditional band should be, of course, is to have a get-up. Something that is a bit dangerous, or a bit futuristic. Kraftwerk were a rock band and then they played these new synths, became techno and thought they were robots.

What about these ‘log synths’?
We started making these instruments, putting these primitive synths on the crappiest bits of wood, as a reaction against the fact that you can make any type of music – garage, rock, incredibly lush drum’n’bass – on an iPhone. So, we’ve got to start from somewhere again. We’ve got grooves with guitars and drums, we love that, but we want to bring something else in, another element like bands like Kraftwerk, who flew off in another direction. The suits are all part of that performance device, really. And it’s not about us individually, it’s a good way of unifying us. It also enables us to walk down the street now that we are huge.

The band essentially came out of a performance installation?
We run a night with a group of friends, called London Topophobia, in a slightly underground, crunchy warehouse. Which is why it is called London Topophobia; the fear of a certain space. London and most cities are seeing their warehouses and art spaces, essentially derelict or cheap spaces, disappear rapidly. in London we’re at the blunt end of that. And what was once a vibrant scene is on the wane and galleries and warehouses are all closing and being turned into luxury flats. We were in one of the last old decrepit buildings with a community of other artists, paying cheap rent and having parties. But in the unit we had we couldn’t have parties because we were next to a block of flats. There were quite a few dancers and artists involved in the unit and we started doing these mixed media performance nights and inviting other artists and performers with really good thought-out pieces. In-between that we would try out our own little installations. Because we had the venue to ourselves we could spend the week setting up and building the perfect band installation. We did one show where we collected all the log synths, which are old logs with a vintage percussion synth attached to it that are really robust. So, you just hit the log. You can make anything from a disco siren to a low dubby, grime kind of tone that shakes the room. We made a little forest of them. Naturally, the wood man and suits and these dangerous monsters come and play these grooves. We then tried to write songs on top of those concepts.

The Comet Is Coming are allies of yours in this alternative universe?
We’re all brothers from another mother. Dan (aka Danalogue the Conqueror, keyboardist with The Comet Is Coming) mixed our tracks. He’s responsible for getting the performance side of the band, which is fierce and full on and turning it into something aurally palatable, I hope. He did actually do a couple of gigs with us, in disguise, unbeknownst to anyone there. He is one of the busiest figures in town. He’s a brother from another mother.

Come Play The Trees, the album, sounds like an invitation to come and play.
Definitely, It’s an invite. It’s an invitation to our world, basically. To engage, to have a good time. At the same time we are trying to destabilise you, in some way. The lyrics to the song are inspired by the African voodoo cards you get. ‘Let me help you’ and ‘I will solve your problems’. In the area where we are, there’s a lot of these cards lying around in the street. There’s an element of that we bring to the show.

I love the song ‘Jonny Guitar Calling Gosta Berlin’, can you tell me about it?
The last EP we released, The Best Light is the Last Light, had this on it and other tracks inspired by cult classic cinema. It comes from a phase where we had done a performance piece called ‘drum cinema’. We put triggers on the logs which triggered clips from films. Normally, we take three films and then using the sound of the film through a massive PA, as well as the collage of the visual, we pitched those films together with musicians improvising. They are almost tapping out clips of the films. It’s a relatively easy set up, but it brings together the mash up element of different films, almost like a kaleidoscope of imagery. We’ve been doing theses experiments of using cinema as an instrument. And within that there’s this period just a few years ago, before streaming services all took over, DVD shops were still going strong and they often had all these really good libraries of world, classic cinema, rather than the usual blockbusters. Weekend is a classic film that I’d encourage people to see. It’s a hard film to sit through but, sometimes, like all great films, it’s not all about that journey. Weekend is a film about film. Gosta Berlin the classic Great Garbo romantic mid-30s film.

And what about the song ‘True Ecology’?
When we started the band we looked at a lot of outsider artists. We also had two reference points; a friend of ours had seen the film Misery (which famously features a scene where the psychopathic Kathy Bates character uses a sledgehammer to break James Caan’s ankles), which is where our name came from. The other reference is Ferdinand Chavel, who was a postman and spent 33 years building, stone by stone, Le Palais Ideal, this mausoleum. It’s a tourist attraction down near Lyon. For us, that’s what we’re doing! Picking up bits and making things, including from bits of trash. And that’s what ‘True Ecology’ is about.

Jeff Hemmings