Posts with #music articles tag

Published on February 23 2016

Well, looks like SOMEONE hasn't been taking their protein pills...

Well, looks like SOMEONE hasn't been taking their protein pills...

Before the notification on my iPad had finished ringing with the news of David Bowie’s death, “Blackstar” was already queued up. Most music nerds probably reacted in such shock, but for me it was equally a kickback of guilt, since I’d already waited nearly 48 hours before listening to the unexpected swan-song album in its entirety.

If you haven’t seen it yet, the title-track’s video is a collaborative effort with director Johan Renck, and typical of Bowie it’s also a miniature sci-fi epic of the most ritualistic sort. The ten-minute story of space theology has been analyzed through and through, with half-truths and retracted comments coming out relating its influence and meaning to Breast Cancer, old Pop-Eye cartoons, and even ISIS. Yet to me the immediate stand-out, and longest lasting image, was the corpse of Major Tom, whose crystalline skull is carried off to be ceremoniously whisked into oblivion. Renck has neither confirmed nor denied whether that was indeed the fictional astronaut, and I agree its better that way. To me, the mere possibility nevertheless shines light on a reflective topic that sits at the very heart and soul of the man's life’s work; that once you jive past the catchy pop tunes, his early avant-garde androgynous value and radically shifting genres, the enduring appeal of David Bowie has always been fuelled by character reinvention.

Every new unveiled persona instilled its own fictitious reality within his work, masterfully bridging the gap between man, music and…whatever the hell Aladdin Sane was supposed to be. The world lost its one truly self-sufficient music artist 45 days ago today, yet throughout the 70’s and 80’s the only people to lose more ‘lives’ than Bowie himself were the era’s video gamers. Whilst each new mask that the Brixton rocker bore was by its own nature a fable, perhaps the reason no other theatrically inclined artist has made the ‘alter-ego’ so essential to their career is because there was a unique, autobiographical grounding behind each of David Bowie’s latest self-imposed roles. Whether you’re Prince, Norah Jones or Chris Sievey, no one could be Bowie quite like Bowie - not even Bowie.

Each character wasn’t simply an escape from his mainstage act or an attempt to trial a new genre. Whereas most artists will retire their creations with as much ceremony as quietly handing back the costume, Bowie made spectacle out of the cycle of reinvention, with death being entrenched as a necessary part of each. The most notorious example was the retirement of the galaxy’s most famous fiery-haired third-dimensional sexual Ziggy Stardust. Even though it was quite clearly setup with the album closer “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”, the extraterrestrial miming rock star’s famous farewell speech at the Hammersmith Apollo on July 3rd, 1973 was ambiguous enough to strike fear into Bowie’s soaring fanbase, but suitably symbolic to suit the concept album and bring it to life on stage.

Bowie would similarly breathe life and reap death with his later creations; the Thin White Duke perished as his creator’s cocaine and red pepper habit finally began to surcease, Halloween Jack ironically ceased to exist after the ‘Diamond Dogs’ tour was renamed to the ‘Soul’ tour, and well, we already discussed the potential astral fate waiting for strung out junkie Major Tom. As these examples are listed off, it’s easy for any casual fanatic to spot the ever present similarities between the artist’s personal strife and those of his characters, although let’s be honest, that job was already long taken up by the music-consuming public, who could start a decade long conversation about Bowie’s sexuality just from Ziggy Stardust’s 1972 Top of the Pops performance, or a controversy of fascist views that were ultimately blamed on ‘the White Duke’s spiraling erratic behaviour.

I tried really hard to not make a pun about Bowie's frequent ch-changes but, well...

I tried really hard to not make a pun about Bowie's frequent ch-changes but, well...

An actor before he was an actor, part of this stems from how Bowie theatrically imbued heavy portions of himself into his alter-egos. His claim that what he did on stage was “theatre, and only theatre…” is perfectly valid, but that just drives the interest in what fueled this actor’s method. Every nervous smile from Ziggy or reference to both Major Tom and his maker’s withdrawing drug abuse ultimately seem rooted in a reality, but how genuine that reality is has often been open to interpretation. I don’t believe Karl Popper ever gave a comment on David Bowie, perhaps in fear that if he acknowledged listening to his work, he may had to upgrade his three worlds concept (the physical world, the mental world and all objective knowledge) to include an additional ‘Bowie World’.

One artist who attempts much of the same biographical blurring in his work as Bowie did is the director Alejandro Jadorosky, who’s aptly titled The Dance of Reality is a must-see retelling of his early childhood living under his strict communist father, embedding every detail with surreal comedy and fantastical metaphor. The great shame is that these two will now never work together, especially since Bowie was capable of carrying on his all-inclusive character creation into even the most obscure of projects. Whilst we all know of Jared the Goblin King from Labrynth or his you’re-a-celebrity-if-you-saw-it theatre portrayal of The Elephant Man, more of Bowie’s strange creations can be found in the 1999 adventure game Omikron: The Nomad Soul (which he also provided a soundtrack and design elements for), or the living magic trick that is Phillip Jeffries in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (a brief appearance that includes ghost transmissions, masked afro-men and the world’s whitest white suit…three minutes with David Lynch well spent).

David Bowie characters: each more predictably unpredictable than the last.

David Bowie characters: each more predictably unpredictable than the last.

One of the most fascinating aspects surrounding the death of David Bowie is that, whilst researching this article, when I searched 'death of Ziggy Stardust', news reports of Bowie's actual passing were what popped up in Google. Despite being his most well known creation, ol' Ziggy doesn't even have his own Wikipedia page - any attempt to search for him simply redirects to the rockstar behind the lightning stripe. Whether this amusing little oddity was deliberately played out or a simple coincidence, I can think of no better demonstration of how much Bowie became his characters, and in turn how they became him.

Even in his latest and last pieces, Bowie was still playing with the create-a-character tool. The strange new figures in “Blackstar” – Button Eyes, the flamboyant trickster and the ‘priest guy’ – may not be his most developed, but they continue his legacy of mixing haunting behavior with something deeper to dig for. Perhaps you didn’t really care much for David Bowie’s canon, and purely enjoyed the fact he could reliably create a great pop beat. That’s perfectly fine – you’re still appreciating the work of an artist who didn’t just refuse to lay down an image, he turned that lack of identity into the core of his brand. Long live the Bowieverse.

Next Time: From Metroid to Mass Effect: How video games tackle Genetic Modification

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Written by The Urban Shepherd

Published on #Music Articles

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Published on June 11 2013

This here is an interview I conducted with Crystal Fighters back in November 2010; during their tour with Foals and just a little while after the release of their debut album Star of Love. It was originally published on Mewbox, a blog for an android music app that just...disappeared

Up until recently I shyed away from strict Q&A interviews, preffering prose, but this was an early departure. Anyway enjoy the read and I hope you've enjoyed their music, both past and present.




Caught just a while before their appearance on stage at Southampton Guildhall as the supporting act to Foals on the 7th of November, Keyboardist Gilbert, singer Sebastian and guitarist Graham from the five piece folk electronic group Crystal Fighters were surprisingly laid back and cadenced considering what a wild charge of energy their stage act was. The group are currently gaining a huge amount of momentum with their fan base and critical reception; their Basque influenced dance music a truly unique result of a wide range of influences and personal inputs. In their own words, the guys really give the full rundown of the type of music they play and just what it sounds like:


Gilbert: It’s fast, energetic, passionate, Basque-influenced, modern, old, dance fun music.
Sebastian: Yes, that sounds good.

How did you get interested in the type of music you play and who were the big influences?

Gilbert: Well basically I met Sebastian, had known him for a while, and then we met Graham in 2007. We’d all had different musical upbringings and music we were interested in and listening to at the time so we decided to get together and make music.

We started out just tried to make stuff that’s fun, trying different ideas here and there. Sebastian’s always been interested in 80’s European music and Graham’s interested in traditional rock and roll, he’s got a background in that as well, and so we’re making all this fun stuff and it was only when Graham introduced us to his friend Laure whose grandfather was from the Basque country and he died shortly after we just met her and she got some of his belongings so she was really enthralled by these things, these books, as she didn’t know him that well. When she showed it to us it seemed really interesting, really characteristic pieces of writing and we started looking into it.

We had all these different influences that we had and we were actually struggling trying to find something that we could connect on, you know we were doing things with one genre and another genre but nothing solid. So when this came around the time was almost there, it seemed such an interesting prospect for us to look further into the culture and musical tradition of the Basque country and to try and combine that with the stuff we were experiencing in London when we were making dance music, and also this stuff that we’d grown up with separately as individuals. So that’s how we sort of got started and now it’s great to be able to make music where we can put in all our different tastes and still have some sort of consistency but not in the more traditional sense of every song sounding the same, if you know what I mean.

What’s your music making process? Where do you get your inspiration for a piece and how do you go about putting it together?

Gilbert: Well we live together so it’s quite difficult if someone’s playing something and it’s good you know it’s quite difficult to avoid and you want to go in there and join in and work on it.
But we’ve taken inspiration from lyrics, passages and sentiments from Laure’s grandfather’s book and then we have also looked towards traditional Basque folk music so a specific piece, specific song or specific melodies, maybe taking bits out of there and trying them…rhythmic ideas as well. But usually it starts with either a big vocal, lyrical idea or a big music idea, like a riff, and then we’ll work from there and sort of get it together.

What’s been interesting for us in writing our album and getting it out is that we play live a lot and it was great developing the songs on the album through playing live. We didn’t set out at first to write an album as it were, we set out to play and make music. How we came to the album was seeing what worked and what we really enjoyed playing.

Critics have noted that the way audiences tend to react really intensely to your music. What kind of atmosphere do you try to create when you play live and what do you hope the audience is left feeling afterwards?

Gilbert: Definitely we try to bring a lot more energy and rawness than you might hear on our records, we feel that’s something we like to do. The whole point is you got to a nightclub and you see a lots of people that aren’t even looking at the performer and all having a great time, everyone’s dancing. Then you go to a gig night maybe and everyone’s looking at the performer and no one’s dancing and no one’s having that good a time. We try to, I don’t know, bring a bit of both situations so the crowd can actually fee involved with the music, hearing it, seeing it, but also take some of our vibe that we bring on stage which is quite deep.

Graham: Well it’s just nice that we hope people leave like they experienced something…unique.

Gilbert: And the thing is that we feed off the crowd completely and our performances to be honest completely depend on how lively the crowd is. That’s at least our perception of how well we’re playing and how much fun we’re having. So we want them to be as involved in the performance for us as we are to them.
Graham: It takes two to tango. (laughs)


The band recently announced via twitter that they’ve been recording some live acoustic tracks to release as a bonus disk with the CD release of their debut album Star of Love in January. Asked if there was any thought of feeling on a follow up album and how it might progress from what has come before they answered:


Sebastian: Yeah I think the idea is that we like the boldness of our first record, and it talks about fairly large time honoured concepts but we’d probably go further into that with grander melodies and larger arrangements and more of the same but wholly authentic. Not that it wasn’t on this one but we were learning how to do things.

Gilbert: More of the same but better.

Sebastian: More of the same but better, exactly.

Your music videos are really striking in their imagery, creativity and just really how unique they feel. Who’s in charge of directing your videos and how the concepts for them put together?

Gilbert: We really like working quite close with the director. When we do video we put it out there with the core idea that we’re going for and see what ideas people have and work with that and we’ve been quite lucky to have met some really cool up and coming directors who’ve done some really nice pieces of work.


Sebastian: Definitely. We like to work with new directors. I know some bands sort of stick with one person but we like trying new techniques just cause the songs have different genres within them so it suits the visual thing as well.

Finally, what is your favourite aspect of the music that you play and what drives you to carry on playing?


Gilbert: I know that playing stuff we enjoy and finding new things within our own ears by combining sounds of one thing that we love with another and trying to put interesting stuff together and, you know, stuff that’s fun and we enjoy listening to.

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Written by The Urban Shepherd

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Published on October 15 2012

Last Updated 10/06/2013


Articles written for Rhythmcircus:

Reviews of Releases 


All The Saints // Intro Into Fractions - 10/02/2012

The Architects // The Here and Now - 30/01/2012

Crazy Arm // Union City Breath - 03/10/2012

Crystal Castles // Crystal Castles III - 11/03/2012

Crystal Fighters // Cave Rave - 29/05/2013

Don Broco // Priorities  - 17/08/2012

Eyeshine // Tone of Echoes - 25/01/2011

Girugamesh // Go - 17/02/2011

Her Space Holiday // Self Titled - 07/09/2011

Laura Veirs // Tumblebee - 17/11/2011

Mother Mother // Eureka - 26/03/2011

Muse // The 2nd Law - 11/10/2012

Seth Lakeman // Tales From The Barrel House - 03/05/2012

She & Him // A Very She & Him Christmas - 13/11/2011

Sucioperro // Reflexes Of The Dead EP - 23/02/2011

Sucioperro // The Heart String And How To Pull It - 11/04/2011

The Xcerts // Stairs To Noise: The Scatterbrain EP - 13/03/2011

We Are The Ocean // Go Now And Live - 22/04/2011

Timber Timbre // Creep On Creepin On - 22/04/2011


Reviews of Shows


Against Me! // The Talking Heads, Southampton 20th of Nov - 26/11/2011

Bellowhead // The Pyramid Centre, Portsmouth - 06/12/2011

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 // Wednesday and Thursday - 21/07/2011

Larmer Tree Festival 2011 // Saturday and Sunday - 24/07/2011

Larmer Tree Festival 2012 // Wednesday, Thursday & Friday - 23/07/2012

Larmer Tree Festival 2012 // Saturday & Sunday - 24/07/2012

Larmer Tree Festival 2012 // Gallery - 22/07/2012

Laura Veirs // Queen Elizabeth Hall, London - 02/10/2012

Maximum The Hormone // Islington Academy - 26/07/2011

We Are The Ocean // Camden - 06/05/2011

The Xcerts // London Borderline - 30/09/2011




Chandrasonic (Asian Dub Foundation) - 28/07/2011

Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo - 26/07/2012

Levellers - 26/07/2012

Laura Veirs - 10/02/2012

Phil Beer (Show of Hands) - 05/08/2012

Roots Manuva - 10/08/2012

Yes Sir Boss - 26/07/2012


Articles written for Drunken Werewolf


Reviews of Releases


Alessi's Ark // The Still Life - 10/04/2013

Beans on Toast // Trying to Tell The Truth (Print Only. Published in Issue #2 of DW Magazine Nov 2012)

Coasts // Paradise EP - 31/05/2013

Dungeonesse // Dungeonesse - 14/05/2013

James Yorkston // I Was a Cat from a Book - 13/08/2012

Josephine Foster // Blood Rushing - 13/08/2012

Joyce The Librarian // They May Put Land Between Us (Print Only. Published in Issue #2 of DW Magazine Nov 2012)

Me and My Drummer // The Hawk, The Beak, The Prey - 22/10/2012

Scott & Charlene's Wedding // Para Vista Social Club - 06/11/2012

The Leisure Society // Alone Aboard The Ark - 13/05/2013

We Are The Physics // Your Friend, The Atom - 19/10/2012




Bastille (Print Only. Published in Issue #4 of DW Magazine March 2013)

James Yorkston (Print Only. Published in Issue #5 of DW Magazine April 2013)

Me and My Drummer - 04/09/2012

METZ (Print Only. Published in Issue #6 of DW Magazine May 2013)

Nataly Dawn (of Pomplamoose) - 15/01/2013

Public Service Broadcasting - 05/11/2012

Scott & Charlene's Wedding - 07/12/2012

Sparrow & The Workshop - 31/05/2013

The Leisure Society (Print Only. Published in Issue #7 of DW Magazine Festival Issue April 2013)

Wolf Alice (Print Only. Published in Issue #7 of DW Magazine Festival Issue April 2013)

Yes Sir Boss - 18/12/2012


Articles written for The Galleon:


Single reviews (Fran Healy // Fly In The Ointment & The Chapman Family // Anxiety) - 02/03/2011

Sufjan Stevens // The Age of Adz - 30/10/2010


Interviews recorded for Pure FM:


Ben Marwood Studio Session - 06/11/2011

Tin Roots - 01/06/2011


Interviews produced* for Pure FM:


Andrew Foster Studio Session - 18/03/2012

Black Stone Cherry - 24/04/2012

Burn The Fleet @ Takedown Fest 2012 - 21/04/2012

Chiddy Bang (pre-recorded) - 17/02/2012

Don Broco @Takedown Fest 2012 - 21/04/2012

Fixers Studio Session - 27/02/2012

I Am The Avalanche - 23/02/2012

Lonsdale Boys Club Studio Session - 16/02/2012

Maverick Sabre - 12/03/2012

Niki & The Dove - 06/10/2012

Proxies @Takedown Fest 2012 - 22/04/2012

Reel Big Fish - 07/02/2012

Rival Sons - 24/04/2012

Underground Railroad Studio Session - 17/02/2012

The Xcerts - 23/02/2012

Yuck - 24/01/2012


*This means, as the station's Head of Music, I was responsible for the organizing of the interview through the relevant press agency, aiding the interviewer/photographer where necessary, editing the recorded interview, publishing it on the website with photo gallery and promoting it through social media outlets and promotions companies.



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Written by The Urban Shepherd

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