Friday, July 24, 2020

Obituary - Steve Hanford

On Thursday 21 May 2020, Steven Hanford (also known as Thee Slayer Hippy), best known as the drummer in Portland based band POISON IDEA, passed away.  He was aged 50. The cause of death was a heart attack.
Hanford was born in Walla Walla, Washington in 1969 before moving to Portland with his family at the age of two. He was playing drums by the age of eight - the same age he allegedly started smoking pot. After playing in a few bands (including Portland’s MAYHEM), he joined POISON IDEA at the tender age of 15, making his recording debut two years later with the album ‘War All The Time’ which not only featured Hanford’s drumming but was also produced by the then-teen.
Come 1990, ‘Feel The Darkness’ heralded what is arguably the greatest of all POISON IDEA albums featuring classics like ‘Taken By Surprise’ and the monumental ‘Just To Get Away’. Again, Hanford produced, this time with aid of the band. It was with this album that the band’s reputation for excess became legendary, with Hanford not being left behind!
Following another intense album in 1993’s ‘We Must Burn’, the band split.  Hanford soon formed a new band, GIFT, with POISON IDEA’s vocalist Jerry A, which released a single album in ‘Multum In Parva’.
He also lended his production skills to albums by Portland post-Hardcore band HEATMISER and indie two-piece CARDINAL.
His addiction, both to drugs and alcohol, lead to a failed suicide attempt and to him spending over seven years in jail (at Oregon State Penitentiary and then Pendleton Correctional Facility) following a succession of pharmacy robberies.  This was in October 2008 and followed an abortive attempt at rehab in which private information was made public by one of the staff.  It wasn’t exactly wasted time though as Hanford joined various inmates and apparently recorded 13 albums with various bands, including two on which he sang lead vocals. 
On release, he collaborated with fellow inmate Sam Redding who started a music programme at Pendleton, on a BLUE OYSTER CULT tribute record and in 2016 went on tour as a hired sticksman with Chicago doomsters, SKULL. More importantly, he stayed clean following his release.  
Coming right up to date, Hanford’s latest project, FETISH, released its debut album ‘World Eater’ in 2019 and included ex-POISON IDEA members, Eric Olsen and Brandon Bentley.
A mere month after that album’s release saw Hanford join THE ACCUSED AD as touring drummer and produce Nick Oliveri;s MONDO GENERATOR’s latest ‘Fuck It’.

It’s kind of a tragedy that I saw POISON IDEA just twice - once at the London Astoria in, I think, 1994. I’m pretty sure the ball of flying hair behind the drumkit was Hanford - surely sounded like it! The second time was several years later at the Highbury Garage - around five years later I guess.
A truly stunning drummer with a fine ear for sound quality, hence his production credits.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Joe Strummer Foundation

I’m sure everyone reading has heard of JOE STRUMMER, the legendary frontman of THE CLASH, solo artist, short-term POGUE, writer and actor. Many have had the tag ‘legendary’ attached to their name, but few deserve it more than Strummer.
What you might not have heard of is a charitable collective in East Sussex, England called JOE STRUMMER FOUNDATION. Its aim is to provide opportunities to musicians and support to projects around the world that create empowerment through music. 
This is achieved via various projects and fundraisers, the latest of which is a rather smart split digital single of CLASH tunes.
The Foundation has three main objectives, being:

  1. The prevention or relief of poverty, particularly of young people, anywhere in the world by providing: grants, items and services to individuals in need and/or charities, or other organisations working to prevent or relieve poverty.
  2. To promote, improve, develop and maintain the education of the public in the art, culture and science of music in all its aspects for the public benefit, in particular young musicians, including by the provision of funds for the purchase of musical instruments and studio rehearsal.
  3. To promote, improve and advance the arts, including music, for the public benefit including by the presentation of exhibitions, public events and concerts.
Their latest project in raising both funds and awareness is a split digital single featuring DIY stalwarts NOSEBLEED and THE ZIPHEADS, both of which cover a CLASH song. It was released on 8th May as a joint venture with Joe Strummer Foundation and Bomber Music, raising funds to support musicians in these incredibly difficult times.
You can get the digital single via Bomber’s bandcamp page with all proceeds going to the JSF, and find out more about the Foundation HERE.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Obituary - Dave Greenfield

On Sunday 3 May 2020, Dave Greenfield, keyboardist with legendary British band, THE STRANGLERS, passed away. He was aged 71. The cause of death was COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
Greenfield was born David Paul Greenfield on 29 March 1949 in Brighton, England.
On leaving school, he played with various bands on American airforce bases in Germany, and also played in UK bands while working for his father’s printing business, and as a piano tuner. 
In 1970, one of his early bands, THE BLUE MAXI released a single on Major Minor Records entitled ‘Here Comes Summer’. Other early bands included prog rockers RUSTY BUTLER and CREDO.
Things changed massively when he auditioned for THE STRANGLERS in 1975 and replaced Hans Warmling as the band’s keyboardist. He stayed with the band through to his passing playing on all 17 studio albums and a multitude of live albums, be they official or otherwise.
The story of THE STRANGLERS is well documented and, it is often said the band was influenced by THE DOORS. At the time of joining the band however, Greenfield had hardly heard Morrison and co, and was said to be more influenced by Rick Wakeman of YES and DEEP PURPLES’s Jon Lord.
His most notable contribution to the band was the baroque-influenced 1982 single ‘Golden Brown’ which started off as a piece of waltz-time harpsichord music during the recording of ‘The Gospel According To The Meninblack’ album. With added lyrics, the song became a number two hit single in the UK, also winning an Ivor Novello award.
He frequently sang backing vocals for the band, and in places used a vocoder. His lead vocals can also be heard on the tracks ‘Dead Ringer’, ‘Peasant In The Big Shitty’, ‘Do You Wanna?’ and ‘Four Horseman’.
Outside of the band, Greenfield had an interest in the occult, which was evident from his wearing a pentagram in many early photos of the band.
Besides THE STRANGLERS, Greenfield released an album with the band’s bassist, Jean-Jacques Burnel, in 1983 entitled ‘Fire And Water (Ecoutez Vos Murs)’ which was used for the soundtrack to the film Ecoutez Vos Murs, directed by Vincent Coudanne. He also tried his hand at production with the 1981 single ‘Back To France’ by Boys In Darkness.
On 26 April 2020, he was diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus during a stay in hospital for heart-related issues before succumbing to complications related to it on 3 May 2020. 
He is survived by his wife, Pam.

My journey on the road to a life with the music of THE STRANGLERS started either late ‘79 or mid 1980 when I saw them play ‘Duchess’ on (I imagine) Top Of The Pops. I managed to score the 7”, even though it had been out a while by that stage.  Still got it too.
I saw the band live just four times, with the most memorable event being on the ‘Dreamtime’ tour in 1986. It was in my home town of Ipswich and someone had been spitting at the band. Vocalist/ guitarist Hugh Cornwall asked them to stop, which was immediately ignored as a great phelgm-ball headed his way. Cornwall stopped the band, dived into the crowd and pulled Mr. Gobber onto the stage. The band then removed his trousers, and undies and stuff a peeled banana on his wiener before throwing him to the roadies.
The last time I saw the band was 2018 at the Auckland Town Hall here in New Zealand. The abiding memory I have of that was during the keyboard solo in ‘Walk On By’, which Greenfield played one-handed while downing a pint. On completion, and still playing one handed, he scrunched the cup and headed it away!! Biggest cheer of the night? Possibly only ‘Get A Grip’ surpassed it.
It’s without a doubt that it was Greenfield’s keyboard skills that set THE STRANGLERS apart from the rest of the Punk throng. His swirling arpeggios and dramatic swell of sound gave their music not just a greater melodic structure and even accessibility, but they also added something much darker and muscular.
It’s tragic that the very disease that prevented THE STRANGLERS completing their farewell tour should be the virus that took the life of the band’s mercurial keyboardist and one of the two pivotal members remaining.
Greenfield maybe gone, but the sound and memories of those who saw and listened to THE STRANGLERS will live forever.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Obituary - Andy Gill

On Saturday 1 February 2020, Andy Gill - best known as guitarist and co-founder of GANG OF FOUR - passed away at a hospital in London, England. He was aged 64. The cause of death was pneumonia.
Gill was born Andrew James Dalrymple Gill on 1 January 1956 in Manchester, England.
It was while at school in Sevenoaks, Kent that Gill met the co-founder of the band he would become infamous with: future GANG OF FOUR vocalist Jon King. Finding a love of art, they both moved to Leeds to attend the progressive Fine Arts Department at the University. While there they both ran the student film society and adopted the guise of Situationists - a radical French group from the 60s which focused on the alienating effects of mass media and entertainment.
The seeds of an idea of forming a band were sown when the pair visited New York City and experienced the then fledgling Punk scene at CBGB’s (a trip actually funded by grants intended for their studies!). However, it was at the infamous Leeds pub, The Fenton, where the band took shape with the addition of bassist Dave Allen and drummer Hugo Burnham. By 1977 the band had fully formed and were soon signed to Scottish independent Fast Product for the release of the ‘Damaged Goods’ single.
To get the band’s political message out there, they then signed to EMI for the single ‘At Home He’s A Tourist’ and the classic debut album, ‘Entertainment!’. Over the successive years, various members left, got replaced, and came back, while Gill remained the only constant on the following nine studio albums. He was reputedly working on mixes of a new album from his death bed, and planning another tour.
Throughout this period, Gill was also a record producer, and produced or co-produced all of the band's albums. He also produced albums for artists such as the THE STRANGLERS, KILLING JOKE, RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, JESUS LIZARD And THERAPY? among others.
Gill is survived by his wife, journalist Catherine Mayer who he married in 1999, his brother Martin and "many family and elective family members who will miss him terribly" said the band in a press statement.

In all honesty, GANG OF FOUR didn’t quite resonate with me in the same voracious way that many of their contemporaries did. I have the first three albums and can see their influence throughout a myriad of bands (notably two disparate bands in FUGAZI and FRANZ FERDINAND), can appreciate that welding of politics, Punk, Funk and Dub and find Gill’s guitar playing to be not just inventive but iconoclastic in style. All of that considered, I still didn’t go and see the band play in Auckland, New Zealand in November 2019. Now, there is one gig I regret not attending...

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Year-end Recommendations 2019

There were some truly stunning records released in 2019, especially when it came to albums.  GALILEO 7 was a band I had never been aware of before hearing 'There Is Only Now' and it would have walked away with the Best Album title had BOB MOULD not returned to stunning form to deliver the best work he's done since 'Copper Blue'. Sad to hear Portland's ABOLITIONIST has split up too, especially in the wake of the band's best two releases (and that's no disrespect to the older stuff - which is great).  The ever-reliable CHANNEL 3 easily got Best EP with 'The Bellwether' while Dirt Cult Records cranked out three stunning 7"s. Not really had a chance to listen to the three albums listed yet, so that Top 10 could change when I do. Add to that, I haven't heard either of THE MUFFS or THE FREEZE albums that were released in 2019... they'd be contenders for sure.
As for gigs, what a fail!!  2019 was the first year in decades where I never saw a live band at all.  I missed the New Zealand Punk It Up! festival as I left it too late to get tickets and FUCKED UP played Auckland when I was in the US! Oh well... might have been good to give the old ears a break!!
Anyway - hope you agree, and disagree, with my Top Tens of 2019. Have a peruse, take a chance on something you've not heard - and enjoy!!

ALBUMS
1. BOB MOULD - Sunshine Rock {Merge}
2. GALILEO 7 - There Is Only Now {Damaged Goods}
3. PARANOID VISIONS - Adverse Reality {FOAD}
4. ABOLITIONIST - Ugly Feeling {1859}
5. GOOD RIDDANCE - Thoughts And Prayers {Fat Wreck}
6. SUBHUMANS - Crisis Point {Pirate's Press}
7. MEMBRANES - What Nature Gives... Nature Takes Away {Cherry Red}
8. SNUFF - There's A Lot Of It About {Fat Wreck}
9. SPERMBIRDS - Go To Hell... {Boss Tuneage}
10. SIGNAL CRIMES - Perfidious Albion {Network Of Friends}
Other Contenders: BRACKISH EDGE - The Cruel Dark Sea {DIY}; REDD KROSS - Beyond The Door {Merge}; STEVE IGNORANT'S SLICE OF LIFE - Don't Turn Away {Overground}; LONG RYDERS - Psychedelic Country Soul {Cherry Red}; DANGER!MAN - Weapons Of Mass Distraction, MOVING TARGETS - Wires, PANDEMIX - In Condemnation {Boss Tuneage}; WARP LINES - Human Fesh, MORE KICKS - S/t, BOTHERS - s/t {Dirt Cult}; PERSONALITY CULT - New Arrows, STEVE ADAMYK BAND - Paradise {Dirtnap}; LAGWAGON - Railer, CJ RAMONE - The Holy Spell {Fat Wreck}; CANDY SNATCHERS - Moronic Pleasures {Hound Gawd}; CASUAL NAUSEA - Demons {TNS}; HIP PRIESTS - Stand For Nothing {Digital Warfare}; JONNY MANAK AND THE DEPRESSIVES - Anybody Wanna Skate {God's Candy}; LENNY LASHLEY'S GANG OF ONE - All Are Welcome {Pirate's Press}; SWEET THINGS - In Borrowed Shoes, On Borrowed Time, JORDAN JONES - s/t {Spaghetty Town}; FONTAINES DC - Dogrel {Partisan}

SINGLES/ EPs

1. CHANNEL 3 - The Bellwether {Hostage}
2. ABOLITIONIST - A New Militance {1859}
3. KIRA JARI - Spooky Freak {Dirt Cult}
4. SUSPECT PARTS - You Know I Can't Say No {Dirt Cult}
5. WEIRD NUMBERS - Minotaur Dreams {Dirt Cult}
6. MYSTERY GIRL - Heart Breaker {Brain Slash}
7. VULPYNES - Dye Me Red {FOAD}
8. CLEVELAND STEAMERS - Maga Maga Maga {Smog Veil}
9. FAST EDDY - Toofer One {Spaghetty Town}
10. DEVILS ELBOW - ID {DIY}
Other Contenders: WET SPECIMENS - Haunted Flesh {Brain Slash}; CTMF - Marc Riley Session 2019, JOHNNY MOPED - Hey Belinda {Damaged Goods}; KONTACT - Life In A Cage {Militant Tendencies}; THE OUTCASTS - Stay Young {Violated}; GIGLINGER - Money Power And Corruption {DIY}

RE-ISSUES/ COMPILATIONS
1. VARIOUS - 1977: The Year Punk Broke {Cherry Red}
2. THE REPLACEMENTS - Dead Man's Pop {Sire}
3. THE DAMNED - Black Is The Night {BMG}
4. JOHNNY THUNDERS - Madrid Memory {Cleopatra/ MVD}
5. D.O.A - 1978: Unreleased Tracks/ Singles {Sudden Death}
6. VARIOUS - Optimism/ Reject {Cherry Red}
7. ADRENALIN OD - The Wacky Hi-Jinx Of... {Beer City}
8. LEFTOVER CRACK - E-Sides And F-Sides {Fat Wreck}
9. EARTH MOTHER FUCKER - I Fuck Therefore I Am {Antigen}
10. REVILLOS - Compendium Of The Weird {Damaged Goods}
Other contenders: DINOSAUR JR - Where You Been {Cherry Red}; BILLY CHILDISH - Punk Rock Ist Nicht Tot!, REVILLOS - From The Freezer {Damaged Goods}; RAMONES - It's Alive {Sire}