The Great Escape 2015 Interviews

Amazing to think that this annual showcase for music from around the globe is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. Firmly established, it has grown to become one of the premier events of its kind, anywhere in the world, with over 450 acts performing in 30 venues across the city, from midday to the early hours. And, as always, it will feature loads of new music, some old favourites, and tonnes of secret shows and street gigs, which won't be announced until the festival actually kicks off.

A new feature for this year is the pop-up restaurant, The Plate Escape (geddit?), taking place in One Church Brighton for Friday night supper and Saturday morning brunch, where refuelling will be at a premium… Other highlights include Great Day Out, a mini multi-venue festival for ages 14+ on the Saturday, Brighton's first International Record Label Market, the new artist and delegate hangout space in Jubilee Gardens, open to all festival-goers from 7pm each evening, and of course, the The Alternative Escape, which features an additional 200 artists.

Brighton's Finest asked a number of this year's acts to be so kind as to answer some questions, and here are their obliging answers…
Demob HappyOne of the most exciting bands to have come out of Brighton – or anywhere in fact – in recent years, this Newcastle-raised four piece distill the essence of Nirvana and early Queens of the Stone Age, in making some of the finest stoner grunge/rock you're likely to hear this year. The boys live and breathe raucous, yet intelligent, rock'n'roll, and as well as a fast swelling fanbase, even The Guardian are admirers, naming their debut single Succubus, Single of the Week. Following a roadblock of a gig at The Haunt just last week, expect some thrilling shows as part of The Great Escape.
How's it going and what are you doing? How has the tour gone?
I’m in a tiny, dirty hotel, watching some s**t TV, wearing damp clothes, tired out of my mind, drinking flacid wet tea. The tour has been rad though, great fun, great energy, great crowds, great.
Is it rock'n'roll?
Yeah, it really is the best. I’m not joking! Actually, rock'n'roll is too much for us, we prefer rock and/or roll, that's a lot more comfortable. Yeah, much nicer, much more pleasant, nice, you know? Comfortable. Great.
Can you give me a little potted history of the band?
I like the cut of your jib. We all met at a Newcastle self help group and we grew so dependant on each other, that our team leaders suggested we start a band as a way of unifying our lives as fully as we desired, while satisfying the boundaries of social norms. I don’t think the world is ready for us just yet?
Why did you guys decide to come to Brighton together? What is it about the place you find (or don't) find so attractive!?
We stepped off the train one day and weren’t shouted at. That pretty much sealed the deal. We all miss Newcastle though, it keep you on your toes. We’ve gotten soft we have.
Why the name Demob Happy?
Our mum came up with it.
Some people think your music is pure filth. What do you say?
I think they need to wash their ears out. It's music for the clergymen and the holy folk. It's worship pop. They’re the filthy ones.
Tell me about your musical heroes, and what's on your radar at the moment?
Not a lot. My radar's been emptied by being locked away for months with no connection to the world and no reliable internet on tour. This came to me via fire signals. What's good? Can you recommend anything?
I see you're doing some Great Escape shows, first time playing?
First time playing ‘officially’. Third time we’ve taken part. I think after two years of using our parties to fuel their PR fire they had no choice but to put us on…
Have you experienced the GE as punters?
Yeah, 4/5 years ago. It was (Matt) my FIRST TIME in Brighton!!!!!!!!!
Tell me about your plans for the rest of the year
It's April 16th, so we're 106 days in, and we’ve got 259 left. If we minus the amount of days spent in service to the lord, which is 258 obviously, then I have 1 day left to fornicate and gamble.
Patterns, 16 May, 7.30pm
Latest Music Bar, 15 May, 9pm
Django Django
Django Django are one of those bands where you go, yeah, that's why you sound so distinct, so interesting, because of the way you evolved and developed, almost a throwback to the old days of rock n roll, when you learnt almost from scratch, and used whatever you had to hand. Their 2012 debut certainly caught the imagination, getting nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, and the new album continues their journey into uncategorizable electro psychedelic pop. Bassist and backing singer Jimmy Dixon fields the questions.
How's it going?
I'm in London, we're in the middle of rehearsing for a few weeks before a UK tour, practising and working out new songs.
How did you guys get it together?
Even though we knew each other up in Scotland, the band really formed in London. I was studying painting in Glasgow. Dave, our drummer, used to come to Glasgow a lot to visit old school friends, get involved in the music scene. That's how I met Dave.
Dave (Maclean) and Vinnie (Neff) knew each other over in Edinburgh. But it was easy to procrastinate and put things off while up in Scotland, and go to the pub. It wasn't until we all moved down to London (with Tommy Grace, synthesisers) that we really started focussing on it. Vinnie was pestering Dave to produce some songs, and he started writing songs, and it developed from there, and people started getting touch with us to play gigs. It snowballed from there, but really organic.
So, people were asking you to play even though you hadn't done that before?
No, we hadn't played the songs live. The way Dave recorded the first demos, we didn't have a bass guitar, no drum kit. we used one floor tom, tuning it right down to make it sound like a kick drum, and then snare patterns. We didn't have any equipment. It took us a good two years of doing really small shows and gradually learning how to play songs. It was a backwards way of doing it, but it worked for us. I think it would have been a disaster for us if we were suddenly signed to a major label. We weren't really a band!
You got nominated for your debut album, out of the blue it seems?
We'd just starting touring our first record and the response had been really positive, but once we got nominated we had to go TV and not make mistakes! All these journalists, pretty nerve wracking! Until we did the TV things we didn't know anything had changed, we were still travelling around in a Ford transit, eating MacDonalds… playing gigs to a couple of hundred people.
The new album has finally arrived, what is different about your approach this time?
We made the first one on a shoestring, in Dave's bedroom, on a PC. For this one we went into a studio, we had everything set up. The first one we cobbled things together, the drum kit, etc. So this time we were able to really concentrate on the recording process. It's sounding a lot bigger, and in terms of the song writing, listening to the first album we always fell short when it came to choruses, we always ended up bodging it, putting a middle eight in there… This time around we were listening to a lot of Harry Nilsson, a lot of 70s songwriters, and we tried to push ourselves to work on the structures of songs. Our first album was mainly Dave and Vinnie, whereas this time around its a four-way effort. It's been a really good and enjoyable process.
What's the album's name about?
Dave was doing a soundtrack for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and he was in a bookshop in Stratford, and found his book, an early 19th century art theory book, and I think the term refers to someone who has an artistic temperament.
Back in 2012, you made your debut at the Great Escape, a road-block affair…
I remember it was a really good show, it was absolutely roasting. alt-j were on just before us, and it was just after we put our first album out. Within 30 seconds of walking on to the stage I was completely soaked. I really like Brighton, the more I go there, the more I like it.
And New Years Eve, 2013, in Edinburgh, must have been pretty special…
We went on at 11pm, there must have been 30,000 people. Totally unbelievable. Absolutely freezing cold… We had to get off one minute before 12, so if we got it wrong we could have completely ruined Hogmanay. But as soon as we got off stage the fireworks went off. It was an amazing way to end all that touring and the year.
Where does the band's name come from?
We've had a lot of people presume it was something to do with Django Reinhardt (legendary French gypsy jazz guitarist). But, it comes from all those 60s spaghetti westerns that have the name Django in there, and a lot of dancehall producers were obsessed with Clint Eastwood and stuff like that. It's partly a nod to western films and music, and to repeat the name made it sound kind of rhythmical. I think Dave had told one of his friends the name and he thought it was the worst band name he had ever heard. So, we thought, 'ok, lets go for it, at least people will remember it'!
If you weren't doing this, would you be painting?
We do lot of the artwork for the releases, and we get involved with the videos we work on. It's difficult to find time to have an actual practice, to make work, but the band provides an outlet for that. Hopefully, it will be something I can go back to, once the band calms down a bit. But I've always wanted to make music, and the collaborations involved. It can be a bit solitary making art.
Saturday 16 May, Corn Exchange, 12pm midnight
The CribsInitially lumped in with the likes of The Libertines in the early noughtiess, the brothers Gary, Ryan and Ross Jarman quickly found their own voice as a tremendously independent, alternative indie band, that continues to go from strength to strength, helped by the fact that the one and only Johnny Marr became a member of the band between 2008 and 2011. On the way, Q awarded them the Spirit of Independence award in 2012, and soon after were awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Music at the annual NME Awards. Their new album, For All My Sisters was their third consecutive top ten album, a remarkable achievement for a band that hasn't always had the best of press and radio support over the years. The younger brother, Ross, took some time out, to answer some questions…
How's it going, and what are you up to?
We just got back from Coachella Festival, and we'll be doing Leeds Town Hall next week, headlining Live at Leeds festival, a venue we haven't headlined before, although we did support Kaiser Chiefs there in 2005, I think.

Where do you live nowadays?
We all grew up in the same house in Wakefield, now we've put a great distance between us. Gary lives in the US, on the West Coast, Portland, Oregon, and Ryan lives in New York, on the East Coast. I live here still. It's healthy, it's good! The band is all over the place, it's a long commute!
There seemed to be a bit of a hiatus after your last album. What happened?
We put out a compilation record (2013's Payola), and we saw it as a semi-colon for the band. We didn't know what we would do after that, and what direction we would go in. After five albums, we needed some inspiration. Plus, we had fulfilled our contract with our old label (Wichita) and they had some changes there… So, we had the luxury of time in making this record. It was good, I don't feel you make you're best work when you're under the gun. We were writing when we felt like it. And the record came out sounding more positive, and upbeat.
Another top ten? Must be very gratifying?
We were really happy to be in the top ten, especially in this day and age, how current trends are. I always feel it's never been easy for this band, being on an indie label for most of our career. Even with our current label, Sony, we have created our own label (Sonic Blew). We've never been a band that's had much commercial radio support. But we've toured a lot, every toilet venue, and up to theatres and academies. It's been more of a word-of-mouth thing, and I think that has served us well. I feel like we've been outsiders to a degree. A lot of people have expected us to disappear, but we've got a loyal and interested fanbase.
There has always been an alternative, independent, lo-fi approach with The Cribs…
We were one of these bands that were kind of like anti-technology. There are a lot of old records where you can hear the mistakes that musicians make, and all that was on tape. Now, if anyone makes a mistake it'll be edited out. I've even heard of some bands that will put the same chorus on a song, just cut and paste it in. I think that makes it really sterile, and lacking character. We're not dogmatic about it, it just hasn't interested us. We like to record live as much as we can, and capture the performance. You know, every time you do a gig, it's different. It's good to do a bunch of different takes and work out which one is best. We try and not record what we can't do live.
The legend that is Rik Ocasek (of USA band The Cars) took the production reins this time…
Rik Ocasek was really good at that. He'd go, 'take six was the best', and we might not agree because we hadn't performed it so well, but there was something about that particular take that sounded good. The main reason was that we worked with him – he was on our dream list, he produced bands like Weezer, who we love – Ryan met up with him in New York, and Rik is not usually a gun for hire, he doesn't do that many records, he does records that he wants to do. They hit it off, and he was equally, if not more, excited about the demos, than us!
The plan was always to produce another record, a 'punk' record in conjunction with For All My Sisters?
We've recorded four tracks with Steve Albini, and we've got the other ones ready to go, but we need to pick a time to go and finish it with him. As soon as the time is right we'll head to Chicago. He's a really quick guy. He sees himself as an engineer, not a producer. And our way of working works really well with him, record without doing any overdubs, keep it dead live. We recorded and mixed those four tracks in three days. When we make a record, we entwine the pop side with the punk rock guilt we have. If we do anything pop we feel the need to dirty it up, put some big fuzz on there or something. With this record we decided to keep the two sides separate. So, we're making our more punk record with Albini.
Good to see you back at The Great Escape, where you played the very first one!
Yeah, 2006, when we did something as part of Zane Low's Gonzo MTV show, I think. We're excited about coming down again!
Concorde 2, 16 May 9.45pm
Wagner Hall, 16 May, 12.30am
Jane WeaverLiverpool born, and Manchester based, Jane Weaver has been making music since the Britpop era, beginning with indie hopefuls Kill Laura, and then folktronica project Misty Dixon. As a solo artist since the late 90s, she has developed a cult following with her take on psychedelic folktronica. Last year's The Silver Globe album, her sixth, features contributions from long-time friend Badly Drawn Boy, and David Holmes, while her Bird label (an offshoot of her husband Andy Votel's Twisted Nerve label) is gaining a reputation for releasing quality psyche-folk releases by women!
I have read that the idea behind The Silver Globe concerned the future for musicians and artists in general. Kinda post apocalyptic. Can you tell me more?
My first experience with the music industry was being signed to a major label and major publisher. It was lots of fun at times, but also a baptism of fire regarding the introduction to music as a 'business', even though creatively the band I was in was marketed as an indie band. We recorded lots of 'albums' but most of them didn't see the light of day because of label reshuffles and red tape. This is what happens when you marry the creative and sometimes uncreative.
Being left with nothing and shelved allowed me to see things differently and eventually I ended up working with people who created their own destiny, albeit in a smaller and manageable way. Bearing in mind how much things have changed in the past 15 years in the music industry, in some circumstances it may be more difficult to maintain creative ownership in another 15 years, which lead me to imagine the future, how far we will go to protect our art.
Coldplay sampled one of your songs (Silver Chord). Did they seek permission!?
Yes they did, although I think it was pretty last minute… They'd already been using it live and had recorded the album. It's no big deal really, I think some people expected me to say 'no' because it's maybe not my cup of tea being so commercial. But I'm no Coldplay hater.
I'm also not against sampling, it wasn't offensive to me, and at the end of the day they contacted me and asked me if they could use it. Sample culture is fine as long as people realise they have to ask, instead of not asking and it being a huge and boring expensive legal issue.
I see you also included a Hawkwind sample, and that you are a dedicated fan.. I love that! Why Hawkwind?
In my late teens I listened to a lot of rock music, some of this included space rock and Hawkwind. Church of Hawkwind was recommended to me by a local hippy guy years ago who liked magic mushrooms… It's such a great record, I never tire of it.
It's a bit more electronic that other Hawkwind stuff, I think it's classed as a Dave Brock solo project. It's experimental with a lot of synths and programming on it; it's a journey from start to finish!
I started working on a song and then included a chunk of Star Cannibal. I was far more nervous speaking to Dave Brock than Chris Martin! I kept missing Dave's calls and he never left a number and it was always a number withheld, ha ha, but it was all fine in the end, thank goodness!
How do you feel about the cosmic folk songstress tag?
Well, anything sounds better than 'singer songwriter' I hate that tag more than anything. I would love to look like Stacia from Hawkwind and sound like Kate Bush, so I suppose that's pretty cosmic.
If you were to describe yourself, musically, how would you do it?
I think I can only describe each album really. I just see myself as an artist, I might be doing something electronic at the minute and deemed as 'cosmic' in places, but I don't rule out working on a more minimal level for the next record. I sometimes have skeletal sketches of many ideas, other times huge thunderbolts of technicolor thrown into my head. It's confusing, but I feel very grateful to be able to hear/see stuff.
How is the Bird label going? Any new releases/projects on the horizon?
We've just released the new Paper Dollhouse album 'Aeon flower' which is a really amazing record. The next release is Tender Prey's debut album 'Organ Calzone'. Again, awesome! I'm curating a 'Bird' stage at a favourite festival of mine this year and will be featuring most of the artists on the label plus other stuff I like.
You've been around the biz for awhile, experiencing it from many angles. What do you think has changed significantly, and what advice would you give to those just setting out?
Its so easy for people to hear your music these days. It's great but this also means everything is totally over saturated too, the pressure of social media and having to be on top of your game and have so many followers, etc. It sometimes makes me want to baulk, it's so time consuming too… where's the artistry in it? And yet I love being able to see and share things easily now. Sometimes it feels like we've all now done a marketing A level, without realising it.
It's important to try and create your own world and work with what is around around you, try and do as many things as you can yourself. Be bold but remember the more successful you become, even on a small level, you eventually realise that it's impossible to please everyone!
What attracted you to making music and performing?
I saw Kate Bush on TV when I was five and that was it. She made such an impression on me as soon as I got the opportunity to form a band in my late teens I started gigging and recording.
Tell me about some of your favourite instruments and tools for music making
For the Silver Globe I used a multitude of different keyboards and synths. When I was in the US I recorded at a great studio called Vox in LA, where I used an Orchestron and RMI for' Stealing Gold' and 'Arrows' which was nice. The rest was recorded at Eve Studios near my house in Stockport, using a combination of Roland String Synth, Korg Polyemsemble, Mini Moog and an amazing Vintage guitar synth that was once owned by Status Quo! On 'Mission Desire' and 'Argent' I think I used all of these for full cosmic effect.
Do you know Brighton well? And the Great Escape?
I like Brighton a lot, but alas it's miles away from Manchester, and I don't get to visit as often as I'd like (sorry)
What plans/projects do you have in the pipeline?
I'm collecting ideas for my next album, but it's a secret…
Saturday 16 May, St. George's Church, 8.15pm
RagNBone ManA born and bred Sussex man, Rory Graham is a big bear of a man, and possessor of a truly powerful and versatile voice, one that sounds like the age old blues one minute, soulful another, big-lunged rock the next, reflecting the music that he makes as Rag 'n' Bone Man. Gritty and brooding rock, soul, blues, hip hop and folk can all be heard on his Disfigured EP, the follow up to the Wolves EP, which he gave away for free via Bandcamp. He's both modern and ancient sounding, and many are betting he'll be hitting the big time, real soon. On the phone, he's affable and welcoming.
How's it going, and where are you?
Good, man. Really good. I am upstairs in the Deaf Institute, Manchester, just come out of the soundcheck.
But your local to Brighton?
I'm from Sussex, and lived in Brighton for a few years. I was born and brought up in Uckfield, then I moved to Brighton. There's not much going on there (Uckfield) musically, but it is a nice little town.
I moved to Brighton when I was about 23, and lived there for six or seven years, before I moved to London last year. But we're going back to Sussex in the summertime. I can't do London anymore, it gets me down. I start becoming rude to people without realising it. desentised. I don't like what it does to me.
So, you like Brighton?
There is a sense of freedom you get in Brighton that you don't get anywhere else. Maybe Bristol. It's a similar sort of place but without the seaside. There's just something about Brighton that draws people.
It was in Brighton that you really became immersed in music?
I used to go Slip Jam:B (a long running monthly hip hop jam night) and that's where we formed Rum Committee, a hip hop collective, in 2009. That's when I started performing. I was always doing my own stuff, I just didn't have any music out.
Where did the Rag'n'Bone Man name come from?
I got it from Steptoe and Son. I thought it was cool name. It was well before my time, started in the 60s, and my Granddad used to watch it when I was little. It's still really funny now, y'know. It's not always PC….
The Disfigured EP is great, where did you make it?
I work out of a really small studio in Battersea Park, with a mate of mine, Mark Crew (respected producer). We did it all there, with some other lyricists like Ralph from To Kill A King – I write with him – including some songs that might end up on the album. The album should be out soon, but we are gauging when is the right time to put it out. It's all reactive, when people want it.
Guitar is your main instrument?
Yeah, I play guitar. But, I've spent so much time playing guitar by myself that I find it really hard to keep a rhythm with other bands, so I don't play guitar on stage. I write songs on an acoustic.
Your parents record collections were a major factor in you getting into music…
Both my Mum and Dad had records, vinyl records, and it was like what records looked cool, I'll play that. And then I'd get told off, cause I might scratch them… JJ Cale was big one for me and so was John Lee Hooker's Crawling King Snakes.
Looking forward to Great Escape?
Yeah, man, it's going to be really good. I love playing in Brighton. I have always missed out on the Great Escape. I was going to play it last year, but I felt it wasn't quite the right time. This year I'm going to check out some bands myself. If you get the chance you should check Ideyi…
What were you doing before music?
I used to work as a carer, but I haven't done that for a year and a half. Music is now full-time. But, there is always a back up plan!
Corn Exchange, Friday 15 May, 9.30pm