Everyone likes a good scandal and Kenneth Anger picked the purple dawn of old Hollywood Land as his subject matter for, Hollywood Babylon.
I found this book some years ago collecting dust in a charity shop. It's egdes are now quite tattered and dog eared as I’ve read it over and over again.
Nothing screams glamour scandal better than a starlet in a fur stole gunned down in a mafia-style killing, venom bitch rumours of casting couch crabs and nymphos ahoy in Charlie Chaplin land. Gods and Goddesses were created and destroyed with one fell swoop of the studio king’s hand as the world lapped up stories of hedonistic orgies. The most notable example, Eric Von Strohiem’s secret studio lock ins where 24 hours of debauchery were caught on celluloid. Exotic actors and actresses with bellies full of caviar and champagne could be seen the next day emerging out of the studio gates looking as though consumed by the vice of the Hollywood dream. Opium induced deaths filled the column inches as well as romantic and not so romantic suicides. Lupe Velez’s, dreams of a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ headline to mark her early death were flushed literally down the toilet pan- apparently sleeping pills and a Mexican dinner do not mix well. Lupe was found the next morning by her maid, head in toilet bowl. Verdict: Death by drowning.
Everyone wanted to be a star. Some left home with nothing but a few dollars, fewer friends and big dreams of the silver screen only to be seen in their final act of dramatics, jumping off the Hollywood sign. One hopeful starlet in particular only grabbed headlines after her suspcious death, most claimed by an amorous Fatty Arbuckle and his weapon of choice? A coke bottle.
Everyone loves a trashy read but what strikes me the most about this anthology of decadent scandal is the vulnerability of those who made up this new breed, the stars. Swept up in the studio system they were merely pawns under the studio mogul’s thumb. Today with the studio system scrapped to give actors more freedom, the Hollywood celebrity reigns supreme where consequently super egos have given birth to…Tom cruise.
And these final words belong to Gloria Swanson, as Norma Desmond in 'Sunset Boulevard', a film which truly evokes the death of the Golden Age of Hollywood, "I'm ready for my close-up Mr DeMille".
Our friend David W. did the artwork and design for These Sins, which we are really happy with. A few favourite album/EP covers are below.
Nirvana's Incesticide EP contains artwork by Kurt Cobain which is quite disturbing and powerful for those that haven't seen it.
New Order's second album, Power, Corruption and Lies is wonderful piece of artwork as Peter Saville mixes both the romantic, classical image of "A Basket of Roses" by French artist Henri Fantin-Latour with Factory's cutting edge design of a floppy disc cut into the back inlay.
Tubeway Army's Replicas album is pretty astounding - Numan looks like a creepy, bizarre human/alien hybrid dressed up to the nines. You can't help but stare at it for a very long time.
Grace Jones' Nightclubbing album is perhaps one of the most strongest, iconic images of her and demonstrates the androgynous strength and power of her music by just one initial glance.
I haven't come across that much new band artwork that I've taken an exceptional shine to however one that immediately springs to mind is the cover for Kasms' Taxidermy single.
A really original idea that no one I can think of has done. Good work! D-Bird
Elastica I almost had a fit when I thought I'd lost my Elastica vinyl but silly me had plonked it on a shelf and put loads of other records in front of it. Panic over. Stutter remains one of my most favourite songs of theirs - you can't really beat 2 minute sharp, short, pop songs.
Smashing Pumpkins People either loathe or love Billy Corgan. Siamese Dream remains one of my most favourite albums and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness deserves a lot more credit than it ever received - a mix of harsh rock and fragile ballads - it is pretty astounding. I love this acoustic version of Cherub Rock although I'm not too sure about Corgan's choice of clothing in the clip.... I'm thinking of doing a Decasia Unplugged early next year. It'd be great to see current bands strip down and do some acoustic stuff.
The Big Pink We are playing with them tonight at 171 Glyn Road in Lower Clapton, E5 at Don't Mention The War. I've been listening to their stuff all week and really like it. I particularly like Too Young To Love and A Brief History of Love. I can't wait to see them live. Reminds me a bit of A Place To Bury Strangers and The Warlocks in some places.
We did an interview with The Quietus on Wednesday evening and lo and behold, it has already been written up and posted on their website. Now THAT is speedy journalism. We really enjoyed the interview and like the article a lot - it really is a great, well-written new website.
You can check it out here: http://thequietus.com/articles/00758-an-experiment-on-a-bird-in-the-air-pump-talk-gloom-winging-it
Now I make no habit of hiding the main influence behind me taking up drumming - the man in question is Mr Dave Grohl.
Growing up listening and watching Nirvana, I was mesmerised by Grohl's drumming. Despite having one of the most enigmatic, tortured, genius frontmen of all-time, watching Dave Grohl drumming struck a deep chord with me and drove me to take up drum lessons aged 13.
You may think I bang on about Nirvana endlessly, but this band mean everything to me. Lyrically, musically...everything they stood for and did. They epitomised all the power a 3 piece could achieve...no other bands at the time had such a basic line-up that was so incredibly powerful. This really gives me a quiet confidence with the approach of The Birds. We don't need to do anything conventional if we don't want to. There's nothing wrong with 2 basses in a band or instrument swapping because that's what comes out of us when we write and perform. The instrumentation we use is the most precise way of us expressing ourselves. If we sat down and procrastinated over everything and swapped for the sake of swapping then we would be the most contrived band out there. We do what we do because it is organic and just happened this way.
Here is a wonderful clip of Nirvana at Live N' Loud - I love the drumming to Scentless Apprentice and the lyrics are so beautiful. The inspiration behind the song was Patrick Suskind's novel, Perfume. Some of you may have seen the film that was made of it last year - the first half an hour was amazing and the rest of it was Hollywood rubbish. I'd love to do a soundtrack for a lo-fi, gripping indie version so if there are any budding filmmakers out there - get in touch!
There are also a few female drummers who I found inspiring when I first started playing. The obvious choice being Moe Tucker from The Velvet Underground. She is an amazing woman and a great drummer. I also like Patty Schemel from Hole, a very understated powerful drummer. This is Drown Soda, which I actually played drums along to during my Music GCSE. No one was that impressed unfortunately and other students were a bit scared of Courtney Love's voice. Ah well.
I also love the drummer from DAF. It's quite unusual having a drum kit in an electronic band but I think it works so well for them. A few people know this, but I actually played drums for Eve Black/Eve White once in a rehearsal - however the dynamics were slightly off with the use of a drum machine as well. It was an interesting rehearsal though and if it worked then maybe there would be no Birds...
Another hugely influential and understated drummer is Stephen Morris from Joy Division/New Order. He's absolutely amazing and his use of both electronic kit with acoustic kit influenced many drummers. This is one of my most favourite songs ever by one of my most favourite bands.
I'm not really a fan of standard 'indie' music drumming mainly because there's too much hi hat and cymbals involved (I'm not really a fan of either) however classic indie drumming can certainly serve its purpose. I love the drumming for Vapour Trail - it's a beautiful song and could have got lost in a quiet sea if it wasn't for the drumming. I love the honesty at the beginning of the clip!
As some of you may know, we've done a cover of Sonic Youth's 100% which is a B-Side on These Sins. Fortunately, the response we've had has been really positive. Being a huge Sonic Youth fan and knowing how many other fans are out there, I was slightly apprehensive when we first unveiled the song. It's not always good to mess with the best...Although Sonic Youth themselves have done this with their cover of the amazing song, Superstar by The Carpenters. I grew up listening to The Carpenters as my father's a huge fan. Sonic Youth's cover kept all the sad, haunting qualities of the original but with their trademark noise still surfacing albeit in a more controlled way.
I love covers especially ones that depart quite extensively from the original. It is very easy to rip something off but very difficult to make something your own.
Dinosaur Jr's cover of The Cure's Just Like Heaven is a good example of this. At first the song sounds quite similar to the original but their version develops in a typical Dinosaur Jr way:
Another favourite cover is Hole's version of He Hit Me (But It Felt Like A Kiss) by The Crystals. Hole originally performed this on MTV Unplugged and also on Jools Holland:
I also love Nirvana's cover choices - everything from Blues hero Leadbelly (Where Did You Sleep Last Night?), Devo (Turnaround) and The Meat Puppets. Lake of Fire which Nirvana performed alongside The Meat Puppets on MTV's Unplugged is a great version. The original song is below for those who haven't heard it:
Another great cover is So Sad About Us originally by The Who and covered by The Breeders on their Safari EP. The Breeders also did a great cover of The Beatles' Happiness Is A Warm Gun on their Pod album.
Of course there are also lots of terrible cover versions out there too. Despite the general consensus, I dislike Nouvelle Vague with a passion and I also dislike Glasvegas' dreadful cover of Be My Baby by The Ronettes. I find this tremendously painful to listen to. I think what both these bands do is just so easy and unchallenging. I just don't get it. They need to get off the middle of the road as it's a boring place to be despite the lure of commercial success. That's not what you should be creating music for. D-Bird
Now The Bird household is awash with many records, films and books - spanning everything from 1960s pop to dark Industrial, Korean arthouse films to The Lost Boys. It's the way we like to do things around here - we don't like to stick to one genre and instead we like to immerse ourselves in everything - whether people agree or not, the best way to learn about music, film and art is to have an open mind.
I've always been a huge fan of Teen movies - however I prefer those from the 80s and 90s to the newer batch of Teen films like American Pie.
One actor who I've always held in high regard is Christian Slater. I love True Romance, Untamed Heart and one of my all-time favourites, Heathers. I saw him perform in the West End at the theatre production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest a few years ago and he blew me away. He's a great actor, shame about the wife-beating though....
Anyway, I felt that Christian still deserved a mention for entertaining me for many years. X-Bird is a huge fan of another icon of ours, River Phoenix so be sure to hear more about him sooner or later... D-Bird
I love male and female vocals - from the beautiful harmonies of The Raveonettes to the harsher raw quality of The Pixies, I have a list of bands that do this and do this so well.
Starting off with Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra - Hazlewood embodied everything masculine and Sinatra embodied femininity at its highest form. Hazlewood's grainy, husky voice in contrast to Sinatra's dulcet tones set up a musical partnership that has never really been matched.
'Summer Wine' is a personal favourite alongside the heavily covered, 'Some Velvet Morning'.
Jumping forwards to the 1980s, my love for The Vaselines emerged after hearing Nirvana's 'Incesticide' EP in which songs like 'Son Of A Gun' and 'Molly's Lips' were covered. Here's a clip of Nirvana doing 'Molly's Lips' with The Vaselines' Eugene Kelly on guest vocals.
I also love the collaboration between Jesus and Mary Chain and Mazzy Star - two of my all-time favourite bands:
My good friends The Raveonettes remain a close source of inspiration and Sune and Sharin's voices are perhaps the most musically entwined I've ever heard. At times it's hard to differentiate who is actually singing and I think that makes them all the more fascinating. Their harmonies are tremendous and I love what they do so much.
Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell's project has also been really inspiring. I've always wanted to do a male/female vocal semi-acoustic project and this is something I'll certainly give more time to in the future or perhaps we may even recruit a guest male vocalist for The Birds at some point.... D-Bird
I have a habit of watching sad films whenever I stay in, which is not that often. Now I know why I don't stay in - most days I'm doing gigs and on those few precious days off, I am consumed by too many thoughts and too many people. This is why I try and spend as much of my time away from myself. D-Bird
Our debut single, 'Lights Out' is available for digital download from I-Tunes from Monday 17th November with our debut EP 'These Sins' to follow on Monday December 8th.
There's a single review in the next issue of Artrocker Magazine and a feature on us too. We've seen the photos by Ren Rox and we love them. We've also got upcoming features in i-D and Dazed and Confused Magazines. We're extremely happy about all this obviously!
We're rehearsing like crazy in between all these gigs so be on the lookout for more new songs at upcoming gigs.
We're going to be screening the video for 'Lights Out' tomorrow at 93 Feet East so let us know what you think. It was directed by our dear friend 241-24-7 and we LOVE the end result. It is just The Birds...completely and utterly... D-Bird
I've been a massive fan of The Knife for a few years now. I was lucky enough to see them twice in 2005 - once at the Norwegian Oya Festival and then again at The Forum. They rarely tour so I made sure I caught them live as much as possible.
I still stand by the fact that they are one of the best live bands I've ever seen. The visual display is thought-enhancing to such a level that you don't need any intoxicants to heighten your senses. They are phenomenal.
However what I truly love about this band despite their melodic dance beats and super visual display, is their ability to write beautiful ballads too. 'Pass It On' and 'NY Hotel' are some of these little gems. I particularly love the video for NY Hotel as it demonstrates the raw versatility of this band - they can do black and white drawings and ballads as well as they can do colourful, vibrant dance beats. All the hallmarks of a great band.
This is a video I made a while ago which I thought I'd share with you!
Mortal Frame Immortal Essence is a five minute video exploring the body as a biological mortal structure cocooning an immortal essence struggling to find harmony with the eventuality of death and decay.
I'm never one to hold back about my love for fanzines. In fact, I have been running my own fanzine Soma Soma Scene for almost 4 years now on quite a sporadic basis. The most compelling thing about fanzines for me, is the people who are behind them - absolute music and art lovers who are obsessed with what they write about. Hence most fanzines are written in an honest, inspiring and sincere way. I never get the same feeling of excitement if I read mainstream printed magazines.
Anyway, I have just contributed an article for the new Section 5 Magazine which will be available at the Shot By Both Sides club night on November 20th at Amersham Arms. The Birds will be playing the next SBBS in December so make sure you come and check it out!!
I also must mention other fanzines I like - Nemesis To Go, The New Thing , Toypirate and Construction House. Have a read of them! D-Bird
No Kisses - a great new Cold and Flu Wave band (as they like to call themselves) who will be supporting us on Sunday Nov 16th at 93 Feet East alongside some other great new bands.
Slowdive - good for staying in when you've got a bad cold and only your blanket for company. I really want to do another set of Shoegaze club nights again. The ones I did last year at the Strongrooms were so much fun - resident DJs were myself, Ulterior and Shot By Both Sides and guest DJs included The Raveonettes. Hmmm..I may consider reprising this so if anyone's interested in getting involved, give me a shout. I also want to do a Grunge night early 2009.
The Velvet Underground - some may say an obvious choice but being one of the first bands to have a female drummer and probably the first rock band to ever have a standing up drummer - they deserve to be mentioned a million times over. Moe is a legend.
Tommi Stumpff - I came across him when I was listening to a German iPod in Berlin. Very dark electronica with tortured vocals. I really like it and I'm trying to track down more of his stuff.
Well, it never really went away! However having a few days off now, I've decided to update Bird matters as much as possible.
I recently bought a book about photographer Miloslav Stibor from a vintage photography shop in Berlin. Unfortunately it is written in Polish so I've just flicked through the photos half a million times.
They are beautiful black and white photos which seem to capture movement, spirit and the female form at its most intimate and fragile. The images remind me of the short film Thanatopsis by Ed Emschwiller. I love that film as it is equally disturbing as it is inspiring. You can view it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAND-yDy4I4
Anyway, as always, PLEASE share your own thoughts and suggestions. We always love to hear them!