Let me share with all fans my short interview with well known English music journalist, songwriter and singer John Robb about music, feelings, plans and current world. He writes for and runs also the Louder Than War website/music magazine. He is also the vocalist in the punk rock band Goldblade and bassist and vocalist in post punk band The Membranes. Enjoy…
Punk is not dead – still truth?:)
Since punk means so many things to many different people how could it be dead? How can you even define it long enough to kill it! Punk could be a spirit, an idea or a mohawk, it could be a building or an attitude to life. No-one owns it. No-one defines it. My version won’t be your version. My version is creative freedom. My version was inspired by that wonderful year from my youth – 1977 but didn’t stay there.
How do you feel during this crucial world times (I mean politics turbulence, Brexit, fast changing technologies…
This is not a phase. This is the eternal and it will only speed up and get better and worse at the same time. Half the world is rushing for the future and the other half is mired in the past. Turbulence is now in your face because of technology. Digital turbulence is part of our lives. Social networking means everyone can claim to be an expert. I claim to know nothing. There is no truth just an infinite contradicting certainties. The world we grew up in is falling apart fast. As an old punk I embrace the madness and as a Musician I soundtrack it.
Creating music or be part of music– what does it mean for you? Is it a long-term process with inspiration coming gradually or it can be spontaneously done – due to modern technology – in a few days?
It can be both. Some songs are written on GarageBand on an iPhone walking down the road. Some are jams edited down in mixing. Some are choir parts that just come into your head. Some are song titles that create an atmosphere for the music to match. Interestingly the new album was fairly quick to write and then a year of editing and mixing. Like Can, the editing was everything. Music means everything to me. It’s blessed and cursed my life. My musical vision is a madness.
Looking at it from a distance, how do you perceive the changing nature of recording technology
Music has always been about technology. Technology has always driven music culture. Even more than drugs. I love the way you can create on your iPhone. I’ve made another album with Patrick Jones – the brother of Nicky Wire from the Manic Street Preachers and I played all the string parts on my iPhone. He still thinks it was an orchestra. Don’t tell him! I like the mix of old style recording – live mics, analogue tricks and hi tech. I like the way you can demo your album on an iPad. I like the way you can move files by email. I like the way you can edit on computer screens. Technology is to be embraced. The melody and spirit are my job.
What would you keep/restore from music hardware history, if you could – what type of recording? Favourite drumm kit/brand?
Old mics. Ribbon mics. Thos huge old echo plate reverbs in barns. We still set up and play as a live band in the studio. With live mics. In many ways our process is timeless. I like to record the drums with ambient mics. I like a bit of spill on the mics. So it’s not a case of ‘bringing back’. I like a Ludwig snare.
It seems that an album could be actually recorded on just one notebook with a smart software. Still I feel that it somehow sounds pretty much the same (take s works with all types of I-gadgets).
Ideas are the currency. The same technology can be warped by imagination. Of course a lot will be lazy copyists but then so is so much guitar/bass/drums music. Smart software is changing fast. Our job is to fuck with it. As soon as you place a vocal on it you define it.
Do you see any connection between recording in the 70s and today, technology left aside?
Yes – I guess I answered that question above but we still record in the same way. The same circle of musician looking at each other and feeling the changes instinctivly. The biggest difference is we get our information from our phones and not from a dirty shared newspaper.
Do you see some change in punk community during last years (neo punk, electro punk, politics opinions in lyrics…)
it’s splintered like all music cultures. The older punk scene has got, older – politically more, er, settled down. Younger bands have taken the mantle and done their own thing with it and great new bands like IDLES have come up and taken the space and brilliantly told people that they are not punk – I support them in this – why should a band this far down the decades be defined by their parents pop culture? Punk was great for me but it should not be a stick to beat the youth with.
How do you approach marketing/promotion of your music?
Full on. I spend an intense year making an album. I want people to hear the album. They have the right to ignore but I will place in front of them. I use social media, the internet, maligning lists. We make home made film clips. We communicate.
It´s possible promote and sell albums without major labels? Any frustration for Digital download?
To a certain point. The curious thing is that the old model still holds strong on music. Without big label backing its almost impossible to break out of cultdom. Being DIY/underground is honourable but its fucking hard work. Creative ambition is tempered by having no money. Frustrating.
Vinyl, CD or MP3?
Vinyl is aesthetically pleasing but like an antique. It’s a grandfather clock compared to the digital time on a phone but when you are out and about which one do you look at for the time. Most of my music listening is on Spotify. I’m rarely at home. I need my muscle fix. One day I’m going to rig up a curtain and behind it will be a iPhone and a record player and I will see if people can tell the difference…I doubt it…!
Do you still believe in a concept of album? My young friends or kids listen 60 sec from song and skip to next…or select only individual songs.
Yes I believe in albums. We just made. Double album and each track feeds into the next track, it ebbs and flows like the seasons it sings about. Do I care that it’s out of sync with people’s listening. Not really. It’s art. People are also welcome to dip in and out of the album in 60 second chunks as well – if that connects with you then great.
What about John Robb/Membranes/Louder Than War project in a next 10 years?
I don’t plan that far ahead but I’m always diversifying. I also make films and TV. Music is always with me though.
Big thanks, John!
Mojo Lieskovský/DOUBLE LOUD
March 24, 2019 Bratislava
NEW ALBUM OF MEMBRANES – EARLY REACTIONS
‘A dark and brooding double album of psychedelic post-punk soundscapes under the tutelage of Hieronymus Bosch…’
Andy Cairns (Therapy?)
’Sounds great – the choir is a special touch’
Ian Brown (The Stone Roses)
‘Whoah! sounds really Epic’
Tim Burgess (The Charlatans)
‘sounds like an epic masteripece! Stark, distopic and heavily drenched in choir gospels, it sounds like a proper soundtrack for these strange days.’
Fabio Pasquarelli (Italian music critic)
‘ Wow this is beyond anything that I imagined. This album is going to blow people’s minds.’
Christina F. (LA youtube channel)
‘Fucking hell – that’s a mighty sounding album you’ve got there!’
Julian Marszelek (journalist)
‘Fucking hell. This is huge! What a sound. Magnificent’
Joe Whyte (music journalist)
‘Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the album. Especially like the dark Barrett-era tinges to some of the tracks. Personal favourite is The City Is An Animal. ‘
Simon Tucker (music journalist)
Membranes finally follow up their critically acclaimed universe-explaining 2015 album ‘Dark Matter/Dark Energy,’ which received rave reviews and radio play on BBC 6 Music and became the bestselling album in the band’s history.
The new album, ‘What Nature Gives…Nature Takes Away’ is a double album, using the band’s own 20-piece choir to juxtapose their dark drones and melancholic epic power across sixteen songs about the beauty and violence of nature. The album features guest appearances from the likes of Chris Packham, Shirley Collins, Jordan and Kirk Brandon, all dealing with various themes of nature.
A diverse work with songs that vary from dark, brooding and cinematic choir-driven post-punk that seethe with nature, sex and death, the album has been described as sounding like Hieronymus Bosch paintings; discordant wild songs about crows, demon flowers, strange perfumes, voluptuous petals, voluminous oceans and treacherous seasons – the poetry of life and death. Musically it shifts from seething musical pulses to epic choir driven post-punk, from dark dub workouts and throbbing dirty disco dark wave, grinding bass driven apocalyptic visions to choir driven dark opera and brooding classical.
Inspired by the DIY aesthetic of punk rock and Buzzcocks Spiral Scratch EP, Membranes formed in Blackpool in 1977. They created their own distinctive bass driven post punk that was big influence on the underground scene and were John Peel and music press favourites before splitting in 1990. When one of their former support bands, My Bloody Valentine, asked them to reform for a festival in 2010 the band returned and recorded their most acclaimed and bestselling album – 2015’s ‘Dark Matter/Dark Energy’ and played at festivals across the world.
The band will be touring the UK and have many festivals lined up in the UK, Europe and Mexico.
Album is available cross all platforms here