T in the Park 2007
To open our T in the Park coverage, Mark Edmundson traces the rise and rise of Scotland’s newest dancefloor demi-god Calvin Harris
In a matter of months Dumfries shelf-stacker Calvin Harris has taken the MySpace-sensation route to universally lauded electro producer, touring with Faithless and being linked professionally and romantically with pop icon Kylie Minogue along the way. Now he is setting out on his own headline tour to coincide with the release of his debut album I Created Disco.
Unsurprisingly, from the outset Harris has been compared time and again to that other provincial Scottish dance music sensation Mylo. But it is an association he had fully anticipated and does not begrudge in the least.
‘It’s good, I don’t mind it because really he’s been very successful and it’s an obvious comparison to make; we’re both Scottish and we’re from places people haven’t heard of - and we make electro,’ explains the modest 24-year-old.
‘And it’s good if people aren’t really sure whether they’ll like me or not, if someone says “Oh he sounds like Mylo” and they like Mylo they’ll listen to me and think “Well he doesn’t sound like Mylo but I quite like it”. So it’s fine, I don’t mind it at all.’
Memorably, his potato-headed predecessor made much of the fact that 2004’s all-conquering release Destroy Rock & Roll had been crafted entirely on a G4 Mac, a claim trumped by Harris’ assertion that the weapon of choice for his squelchy electro-funk debut was the altogether more archaic Amiga computer.
‘It’s true, I did that album on an Amiga and a sampler, and a keyboard, and a mixing desk,’ he states plainly before admitting, ‘I’ve since had to buy a Mac because my Amiga died when I completed the album. I guess it was a kind of epiphany, God telling me to go and buy some quality equipment.’
The outcome of his lo-tech bedroom tinkering is a kind of cheeky, skeletal proto-disco that sits snugly alongside the tongue-in-cheek offerings of CSS and Hot Chip. While Harris appears largely unmoved by the abrupt industry buzz he is still sensitive to his detractors.
‘I do a lot of nerdy stuff that people don’t need to know about. People have been suggesting that a monkey could do what I did, especially with ‘Acceptable in the 80s’. It’s a bit trying because it’s advanced technological stuff that some people just don’t get, and that’s okay but don’t slate me for it until you work out how to get a really good drum sound out of a ping pong ball, you know. I try and take all the elements that make music good and push them really high in the mix, and take out all the shit. So you won’t hear any reverb effects or whooshing noises that don’t need to be there, that just kind of muddies up a track and makes it sound stupid. I just strip it down. Often when you strip a track down, especially a dance track, you realise that you’ve actually got no musical elements at all. That’s why people aren’t really into it anymore.’
One can readily see why there has been such a clamour for the young Scot’s timely productions. The album reflects the fact that to today’s youth pop music is less a movement and more a fleeting, superficial amusement.
‘It’s as if occasionally something good comes along and everyone gets terribly excited. I don’t think music is as significant as it used to be, generally. It’s just so accessible, it’s absolutely everywhere, the magic of everything has gone so nothing will seem as important as it used to.’
And what of his own contribution? ‘It’s a laugh but it’s a good laugh. I’d love people to get really into the tunes and really into the production of it, I think that’s fair enough. It’s as important as anything else that’s coming out at the moment, but it’s not as important as say Prince or David Bowie. It’s just not.’
Similarly indicative of our times is the fact that he was discovered through MySpace. Harris makes no bones about the debt he owes the networking phenomenon. Having tried a move to London only to return with his tail between his legs it was looking like stacking lettuces might be all that life was willing to offer until he unknowingly added someone from EMI to his friends list.
‘I sort of gave up towards the end. All my friends had finished uni and were getting proper jobs, and I was still arsing about on tills. It just sort of happened at a strange time when I’d half given up and wasn’t really making music anymore, suddenly everyone started getting interested.’
This sudden interest has enticed him back to the big smoke but you no sooner utter its name and he’s straight down your throat with ‘London’s rubbish, I hate it. I’ve lived here for maybe three weeks now and I’m actually hating every minute, I can’t wait to get back. It’s not so much Dumfries that I miss, but I’m naturally quite socially awkward so London’s probably not the best place for me, being a very densely populated city. Also I like fields and there aren’t many of those around here.’
By now you might guess that while the young man is undoubtedly delighted to have found such recognition for his music he is under no illusions, his patented fly-eye spectacles aren’t rose tinted. When pressed on his work with Kylie Minogue he is similarly demure.
‘It’s very boring A&R stuff,’ he says. ‘Basically her A&R dude heard my demo CD and got me to remix an All Saints single as sort of a test. Two weeks later I was sat there writing songs with Kylie. It was all very strange.’
Word of this working relationship would then lead the News of the World to claim a rather more intimate connection. ‘Yeah it was well funny. This was just the funniest thing that had ever happened to me in my life.’
Though Harris is unanimously tipped for greatness, when questioned about his future, he is happier to focus on the job in hand. ‘When I wasn’t looking I was booked for all these gigs, so I’ve got to get them out of the way and then I can get back to doing what I enjoy most, which is sitting on my own, not speaking to anyone and making music.’ But does he feel any pressure as the world anticipates his next move? Not likely.
‘I’ve already done a good album, I don’t feel any pressure at all. If people think I’ve suddenly gone shit it’s probably because I have, so I’ve only got myself to blame. If they’re still comparing me to Mylo then I can just do what he did and do nothing else after one album, which is absolutely disgraceful. If he’s going to be the benchmark then there’s even less pressure, I don’t have to do anything, I can just go and do DJ sets for four years.’
Calvin Harris plays the King Tut’s Tent, Sat 7 Jul
Three albums in, Interpol remain at odds with much of rock music today and appear completely unfazed by it. And Mark Robertson reckons that’s just what makes them special
In a murky ocean of overambitious, underachieving guitar bands, swinging their fringes, thumping their plimsolled feet and bellowing for attention in the wide world of today, Interpol stand out. Okay, so the razor sharp attire, suits with creases that could cut glass, the lack of pogo-ing, cheesy grins or Day-Glo colour scheme in their photo shoots, and of course their disturbing unwillingness to have Lily Allen chip in some chipmunk vocal stylings on their albums, have also set them apart from the hordes. What actually makes them special, however, is the songs. There aren’t many of them - too few bands ever leave us wanting more these days. They’ve made only three albums in nine years together but each record from their breathtaking debut Turn on the Bright Lights and 2004’s Antics to their third, this summer’s To Love and Admire, has been a strident, distinct declaration of intent that has bewitched as many as it has disturbed.
About 90 seconds into ‘Pioneer to the Falls’, the lead song from Our Love to Admire, singer Paul Banks breaks from his regular sonorous baritone to lift his voice and cry: ‘you fly/straight into my heart/girl I know you try/but here comes the fall . . .’ It’s one of the most beautiful moments in rock music you’ll hear all year. It encapsulates not only what is great about Interpol (they make grand, dynamic musical gestures and sway on a lyrical tightrope between being wilfully oblique and starkly confessional), it also shows they are the kings of the bittersweet.
The New York quartet have been branded many things in their lifetime: dour, pretentious, arch, miserable, Joy Division-obsessed, but to be honest they’re not, and never were, any of these things. Spending time talking with both Banks and guitarist Daniel Kessler about the band, their motivations, their dynamic, even their unusual formation - they formed the band first and became close friends later - they resist battling other people’s preconceptions. In fact they seem almost content to let haters come to the wrong conclusions, assuming, perhaps, if you don’t get it on first impressions, you never will.
While they continue to give upstarts like Editors lessons in all things epic and glacial, they have allowed their songs to grow more complex. The great thing is, they haven’t suffocated under the weight of their own ambitions. Something that is a frequent problem when a band with ideas as distinct as Interpol tries to evolve. Paul Banks understands the dangers of forcing your music to ‘develop’.
‘This album was a natural progression. It’s maybe just a bit more sophisticated and honed in style. We didn’t try to reinvent the wheel; it’s sort of foreign to us to have any concept before going into writing songs anyway. I mean, I could see us approaching an album conceptually in the future but we haven’t tried that yet. That’s why I think you might detect that kind of thread of consistency to our music because we’ve never really tried to do anything except write songs.’
This album was the first the band recorded in New York, its predecessors having been created in a house in upstate Connecticut, miles away from pretty much everything. The benefits of being able to go home every night this time round were tangible.
‘There were times during the making of Antics when I wouldn’t leave the house for like ten days,’ says Kessler. ‘Have you ever seen that Simpsons episode when Homer plays Howard Hughes and he gets crazy? Like you haven’t seen the outside world in a long time. That was us. Making a record in New York is an intense and anxious experience and things fall behind schedule, but then you can walk out into the street and you get distracted right away. You can leave the record behind for the night when you can’t really control anything. I get kind of obsessed about these things. It was a healthy thing to let it go, and go back into it the next day.’
The band are inextricably linked with their city but both Kessler and Banks struggle to quantify its influence: ‘Come back to us once we’ve made a record somewhere else,’ laughs Banks. Their music evokes the grime and passion of the city. It can also personify the unflinching, often blunt attitude adopted by New Yorkers as regards the rest of the world. Somehow, though, they still manage to evoke a degree of romance. Interpol’s New York is a flawed, contradictory dame and here, akin to Woody Allen’s Manhattan, it is captured in crisp monochrome.
One element that goes hitherto unrecognised in the Interpol arsenal is humour. Okay, so not hysterical belly laughs, but a dark, dry wit. This is something that is often overlooked. Banks might not be Richard Pryor but he has a fondness for a cryptic gag, whether it’s new songs about sexual experimentation or perhaps a line about those shoes fitting like a dove.
‘Yeah, the whole ‘No I in Threesome’ [the title of one of their tracks] thing is pretty cheeky; I guess it made us smirk,’ Banks giggles. ‘But as far as wearing shoes that fit like a dove you have to go to LA and watch people. You’ll see what I mean.’
The humour, like the song lyrics, the image and the titles are all open to interpretation. Which is kind of how Interpol like it.
‘You don’t want to guide people. Their own impressions are their own impressions. We’ve made something that might inspire some but we don’t want to give them our exact points of reference. I think it’s that simple. That’s why we don’t always reveal everything. It’s so much harder in this day and age when the internet reveals everything for you. We’re just doing our bit.’
Interpol play Radio 1/NME Stage Sun 8 Jul. Our Love to Admire is out Mon 9 Jul on Parlophone
Expand your musical horizons instantly with some online nuggets from the young bucks of T in the Park
As enjoyable as it seems, a full festival experience cannot be gained from standing rooted to the spot near the main stage or spending three days and nights off your nut in the dance tent. No, if you want to make the most of your TITP time set yourself a challenge to do something different this year; take a chance on a band you’ve never heard, perhaps, or set your sights on a singer with a really strange name . . . and to start you off we’ve compiled this list of un-missable lesser known acts complete with web-based evidence of their brilliance.
First up try some
1 Remi Nicole, a hotly-tipped London-based lass boasting sassy bittersweet pop songs. Catch a short clip of her first tour diary here: http://tinyurl.com/2dn8me and prepare to fall head over heels.
2 Malcolm Middleton and New York bar rock loons
3 The Hold Steady are also pretty swoonsome, if you like your guitar music gruff and gritty around the edges. For further proof and a bit of downright peculiar balloon love, Middleton’s video for ‘A Brighter Beat’, can be found at http://tinyurl.com/29nvnq and for some hilarious news anchors in the bath/bed/swimming pool japery see the video for ‘Chips Ahoy!’ at http://tinyurl.com/2q87hm.
Now, if you haven’t yet fully appreciated the genius of Blood Red Shoes on record then you’re a damn fool, but your chance to play catch-up comes from their wonderfully frantic live performances captured by a fan also on Youtube. Go to http://tinyurl.com/2pcyll and prepare to have your head fried. Talking of amazing gigs, take the most demented show you’ve ever seen, multiply it by about a million and you’ll get close to what it’s like to witness 4 Gogol Bordello play. Even on the sedate Jools Holland show here at http://tinyurl.com/2sf5o8 the eccentric gypsy punks manage to send shivers down your spine.
Finally, if anyone needs convincing about the merits of The Gossip then point them towards the Arkansas trio’s take on ‘Careless Whisper’ at http://tinyurl.com/2rtuus. George Michael’s big guilty feet never sounded so good, or so funky . . .
Man of the year
Paolo Nutini has just experienced the biggest year of his life. He talks to Mark Robertson about the many high points
You’ve had a busy time, touring the world in support of your debut album These Streets. What’s been the highlight?
Appearing at Madison Square Gardens? T in the Park? Sharing a stage with the Stones?
No. Being at Celtic Park for the league trophy getting presented in May. I was sitting next to [former Celtic superstar] Lubo Moravcik in the stands. He said, ‘So, they tell me you’re a big star?’ and I was like, ‘No, no, no. You’re the star here!’ He gave me his shirt. Such a spot on guy. I got to go into the dressing room after the game and they were trying to get me to sing. I wouldn’t so they picked us up and launched us in the bath.
It wasn’t all great fun this year, though. What about the show in Swindon where you were accused of being drunk?
I wasn’t. I’d had a couple of drinks but I leave the partying until the aftershow. It was an insane night. We were in the dressing room three floors up and there was a big group of people outside. I shouted out the window to them and they shouted back up. I went back in. Next thing I know there’s a guy at the window! He’d climbed up the pipes to get in! So we let him in and he shouts ‘Come on up!’ and the girls start trying to work their way up in their heels so I had to go down. Then later someone complained that I was drunk. Swindon, man. Crazy place.
How did you handle touring America?
It’s weird and hard. The label want you on TV so we did Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson, Jay Leno, The Today Show and Conan O’Brien, all with the same song. It’s the way to do it apparently. The funniest one was The Morning Show in Australia. We were standing there ready to go, waiting for the cue when it comes up, ‘Breaking news! Tsunami! Sydney Beach area to be cleared. Watch for updates . . . And now, with “New Shoes”, it’s Paulo Nutini . . .’
What were your best experiences of America?
South By South West was tremendous. I saw a guy called Simple Kid do a great acoustic cover of ‘Paranoid’ by Black Sabbath. He had a video of Sabbath playing on a projector and he looped it so it was him singing in the background and they’d only come in on the chorus. Another highlight was playing a gig with The Stooges. Iggy came up after and he was like ‘Hey! It’s the kid with the voice’. It was amazing. A close second after my manager and I ran to the top of the Rocky steps in Philadelphia.
So who have you met this year that lived up to your expectations?
Paul Weller was amazing. The Stones were great too. Most live up to your expectations and are totally cool. It’s the younger ones who are weird sometimes. I met Joss Stone. We were playing on the same bill and she must have overrun her set by about 40 minutes. She just wouldn’t stop singing. You’d see her on the plane or walking around the hotel looking like a young girl and on stage she’s twice the height, the hair’s twice the size. A transformation.
She’s obviously been subject to the marketing machine big time . . .
I think the American media is just a big bullshit machine. Saying things like ‘Oh, Timberlake’s great in his new movies’. Big surprise - he was a trained actor before he was a singer. Fergie turns up in a Tarrantino film and plays the role as well as any other nice looking, big chested woman in America. It’s no surprise, she’s a trained actress. It’s like this stuff with Britney Spears. Someone has obviously said she should have a breakdown, shave her head, go away for a bit then come back and say she’s okay. It smacks of a manufactured publicity stunt.
What did you make of Amy Winehouse?
As much as I respect her - I mean I think it’s a very creative record - I could probably reference every sound on that record. The whole way through you’re just waiting for it to break into ‘Baby Love’ but instead it goes off somewhere darker. The plan was to have us touring America together but I said no because I kind of knew I would be playing second fiddle.
Any good fiction written about you this year?
I guess there’s the ‘Fratellis rift’? I just said that I thought they were being bigheaded by saying ‘Thank fuck for the Fratellis’ at the Brits. It wasn’t a big deal.
The implication was that they are the saviours of Scottish music. Surely there is space enough for everyone?
Yeah, we should all be flying one flag.
What have you been doing to relax?
I took my Dad’s old record player and I put it up in my room and dug out some great old records. Just sitting in my room chilling out. Doing sketches of tattoos I might get. My plan is to get one but I haven’t found anything that means anything to me yet’
Paolo Nutini plays Main Stage, Sun 8 Jul
Mul - T - Media
It’s an interactive technofest this year at T with the launch of I Saw You at T plus Balado on TV and radio, as Claire Sawers reports
For the first time in the our history, Tennent’s brings a perennial List favourite feature to Balado, with ‘I Saw You at T’. Tennent’s know that you will be having the best weekend of your life at T in the Park, spending time with your mates. They also know that strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet . . . You can send in messages to the friends you make at T, and the best ones will entertain the nation in the pages of The List in our issue out Thursday 19 July. There will also be tickets for T in the Park 2008 up for grabs. Look out for the next issue of The List when we will give you the number to text your ‘I Saw You at T’ message to.
For those of you who are now giving yourself a hard slap on the forehead for not getting a ticket in time, well, all is not lost. This year’s coverage of T is the most extensive ever and armchair music fans will be able to get their fix online, on the radio or on the telly. The Beeb will be bringing live coverage from Balado throughout the three-day run, plus highlights when it’s all over. This year is the first time they’ll be filming the main stages using HD cameras, so you’ll be able to check to see if Arcade Fire have flossed properly. Pour yourself a beer, invite some sweaty friends round to jump on your toes, and enjoy.
Friday 6 July
BBC THREE Live coverage from Balado 7am-8.15pm & 10.30-11.30pm.
BBC TWO SCOTLAND Highlights from Day One 11.35pm-12.35am.
BBC RADIO 1 Edith Bowman live from Balado 1-4pm.
Saturday 7 July
BBC THREE Coverage from Day Two at Balado midnight-3am
BBC ONE SCOTLAND Highlights from Day Two 12.15-1.15am.
BBC RADIO SCOTLAND Vic Galloway presents 10pm-midnight.
Sunday 8 July
BBC THREE Live coverage from Balado 7-8pm & 11pm-1am.
BBC TWO SCOTLAND Live coverage from Balado 8-9pm.
BBC ONE SCOTLAND Highlights from Day Three 11.30pm-12.30am.
BBC RADIO 1 Sara Cox live from Balaldo 1-4pm.
After the weekend
BBC RADIO SCOTLAND Vic Galloway and Des Clarke present highlights, Monday 9 July, 8.05-10pm.
BBC RADIO 1 Edith Bowman and Vic Galloway present TiTP Highlights, Monday 9 July, 7pm-midnight.
BBC TWO Highlights programme, Friday 13 July.
BBC HD CHANNEL Main stage highlights, from Friday 13 July.
BBC TWO SCOTLAND Eight one-hour highlights programmes broadcast later in the year.
There will also be an exclusive red button interactive service across the weekend for digital viewers.
T IN THE PARK MOODMATCHER
If you’re feeling . . .
Happy campers will doubtless already be queuing for the appropriately-named Pet Sounds Arena, where former Beach Boy Brian Wilson will be dispensing good vibrations on Saturday. Perpetuate the summery vibe with Hot Chip (pictured) or the spiky, dancey, punky CSS.
Ahh. Why not relax with some soothing harmonies from Camera Obscura, or try The Pipettes (pictured): therapy by 1950s girl group. If it all sounds a bit twee, give Jamie T a go. There’s much, much more to him than that Sheila business, you know.
The obvious choice for anyone who’s just had about ENOUGH of those mentalists chundering beer would be Malcolm Middleton (pictured), a man who always seems to have a little black cloud over his head. A wee bit of dour humour will do you the world of good. Trust us.
Ice cool, baby
All the hip kids and their asymmetric fringes will be coming up on excellent girly electro funk as New Young Pony Club hit the Futures Stage. Marvel at how they maintain their hairstyles without running water during Blood Red Shoes (pictured) or the ever-brilliant Green Velvet.
So, your tent washed away in the mud, you’re hungover and that hot boy/girl you were scoping out at the burger stand just snogged someone else? You’ve got a few choices: Amy Winehouse (pictured), Rufus Wainwright, Bright Eyes and Jack Penate, or give in to the darkness at Interpol.
Well, it is T in the Park, isn’t it. You’re there to go a little bit crazy. The List staff will be doing no such thing at any of the following: Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dizzee Rascal (pictured) or Wu Tang Clan.
Camilla Pia meets Topshop rebel and new friend of Kate Moss, Beth Ditto of The Gossip, and finds the woman of the moment at ease with her contradictions
It’s hard to know what to make of The Gossip phenomenon. One minute the Arkansas trio’s feisty frontwoman Beth Ditto claims she’s a punk, and the next her band is signing with a major record label . . . then news spreads that they have refused to play in Topshop because of the store’s small clothing size policy, and this is followed by photos of Ditto and new best mate/symbol of skinny Kate Moss splashed all over the press. Over the years I’ve bumped into Ms Ditto on numerous occasions; at gigs, festivals and get-togethers organised by mutual friends, but sudden fame can change even the sweetest of people, and I can’t help but worry that we’ll be confronted with a media-savvy, spin merchant when we are granted an hour with modern pop’s most interesting role model and controversial cover star in a swanky London hotel.
As we enter the reception area Ditto isn’t difficult to spot, looking every bit the glamour-puss in one of her trademark outlandish outfits and surrounded by a gaggle of squealing teenage girls snapping away at her with their mobile phones. We also spy two Sugababes moodily strutting around but rather amusingly no one seems the slightest bit interested in them.
Ten minutes later and The Gossip’s vocalist is immaculately made-up but dressed down in black T-shirt and jeans and giving us friendly hugs as we enter a beautifully decorated hotel room, littered with magazines, clothes and equipment. Bassist/guitarist Brace Paine is also skulking around inside, throwing in the odd quip and trying on different pairs of sunglasses but drummer Hannah Blilie is nowhere to be seen; we are informed that she is still not back from a heavy session the night before. It’s 6pm.
‘We’re just about to order room service, y’all want something?’ asks Ditto. Warm, chatty and quick-witted with a captivating southern drawl, it’s hard not to be charmed by The Gossip’s most tabloid-worthy member. ‘We’re having fun at the moment but I’m misunderstood a lot,’ she says. ‘Things I say are taken out of context and occasionally it all gets really overwhelming. I mean we’re playing venues that hold more people than my hometown. I’m just trying to find my place in it all.’
So what of the old school devotees now doubting the band’s ethics since third studio album Standing in the Way of Control, and in particular its title track, went supernova? ‘I understand that you feel betrayed when a band you like gets bigger but I can’t worry about that. If the people who liked us before don’t like us now then it’s just time to move on. To be honest I expect more from the underground than I do from the mainstream,’ she adds. ‘The mainstream has a lot more to learn and if by hearing about our band from the TV programme Skins some kids get into the underground and the band Bikini Kill then that’s a good thing and people should realise that.’ Fame has evidently not gone to her head and she stresses, ‘My friends are the same ones I’ve had since I was 14. I am really good at keeping a sensible head and accepting that things are moving in a different direction and then dealing with the consequences of that. I’ve been doing this for eight years and I’m ready for a change. Punk can be so self-hating. To me the epitome of selling out is not about being paid or being on the cover of a magazine, it’s about changing yourself to please someone else, doing things you don’t want to do and not being true to yourself and I will never do that.’
And you can’t help but believe her. Her behaviour appears inconsistent at times but then that could be said of most twenty-somethings. If the contradictions provoke discussion about her ‘fat feminist queer punk’ agenda and challenge public and media perceptions of ‘acceptable appearance’ then her job is done. And for every ignorant derogatory comment about her size, there is someone inspired by Ditto’s strong messages about positive body image.‘I feel honoured that some people consider me as a role model,’ she purrs. ‘I’ve had people accuse me of hating thin but I just want to give the impression of loving your body whatever size you are. At our first London show I ripped the NME to shreds for being mean about Manda from Bis’ weight and that has changed now which is really good.’
With a whole host of achievements under her belt, you might assume that Ditto would be close to running out of goals . . . but you’d be wrong. ‘I don’t feel ready to make a new record yet but we really want to work with Timbaland on the next one,’ she explains. ‘And for The Gossip in general I want longevity. I want to be like Sonic Youth and to be what Nirvana could have been. As for me personally I just want to buy my mum a house and have men doing drag of me. Is that too much to ask?’
The Gossip play the Radio 1/NME Stage on Sunday 8 Jul