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Woo! Strange Happenings at the Windmill and Other Tangential Rants-A Review

Madonnatron, Shame, Warmduscher, Fat White Family, Meatraffle, the Moonlandingz, Goat Girl, Sorry, Pregoblin, Insecure Men and, yes, Secure Men—they’re all there. Large as life and almost as loud. It’s a testament to his storytelling ability that Dave Thomson, author of Woo! Strange Happenings at the Windmill and Other Tangential Rants, a free-wheeling gonzo history of the last ten-plus years of south London’s fertile music scene, can conjure up such a diverse cast of characters. While the rest of the so-called civilized world suffers through a banal, auto-tuned repetition of vanilla pop, south London has been blessed with artists unafraid of criticism or cancellation and therefore transcendent. 

Thomson, who has been an initiate of London’s diverse music scenes since his twenties, hadn’t thought of writing a history of the south London scene in particular, until, as he says: “… after a drunken conversation with Alex Sebley of Pregoblin, during Madonnatron’s debut album launch party (held at the Windmill Brixton in 2017), in which he practically challenged me to write it down, to document it all in some way and capture some of the magic brewing. So, I had a go, the result of which is this book.”

Saul Adamczewski ( Fat White Family, Insecure Men) and Alex Sebley (Pregoblin.) Photograph by Lou Smith.

Written with a cutting perceptiveness akin to Hunter S. Thompson, and with Anthony Bourdain’s ability to nose out juicy metaphors and similes, Woo! is a satisfying read. Like that venerable punk bible, Please Kill Me, or Henry Rollins’ hallowed tome, Get in the Van, Woo! is equal parts how-to DIY guide and spiritual helpmeet for the souls of the moshers, the music-addled and the amp-deafened. It’s a balm of Gilead for feedback-starved formerly (ie, pre-Covid) avid gig-goers, interspersed with canny socio-political commentaries and run through with threads of events from the author’s personal life, including an all-too-familiar tale of friendship on the rocks.

Madonnatron and La Staunton. Photograph by Lou Smith.

Thomson, who owned and operated an alternative record store in northern Lincolnshire before moving to London aged 20, became a confirmed devotee of south London’s musical progeny upon seeing the Fat White Family play at the Electric Ballroom in 2014. As he describes, he was, “…instantly smitten and before long found myself drawn into the heart of this peculiar musical community. I soon realised something uniquely special was happening, but moreover, why it was happening – because unlike the Thatcher years, this time London was suffering too. People felt battered by austerity, exasperated by corruption and angered by gentrification – all of which gave everyone involved a sense of purpose and solidarity, the like of which I had not seen since moving to London all those years ago.”

From attending Madonnatron’s first album launch party (“like a witches’ choir in a Tim Burton movie,”) to Zsa Zsa Sapien’s of Meatraffle’s gold front teeth (“like he’s been punched in the mouth by Midas,”) to the origins of Fat White Family (“Barely noticed at first, like bacteria left to fester within a neglected Petri dish, something alien, unwholesome and seriously strange took form… Something very fucking special,”) Woo! is a series of candid snapshots of a unique place in time. To preserve a history is to perpetuate it; Woo! helps to cast the scene in amber.

Ben Romans-Hopcraft (Warmduscher.) Photograph by Anna Yorke.

At the heart of the book, is, of course, the legendary musicians’ haven known as the Windmill Brixton, described by Thomson as: “… a veritable microculture, a disparate melting pot of musicians, artists, poets, chancers, DJs, bloggers, blaggers, filmmakers, producers, youtubers, self-abusers, ‘oholics of all colours, all persuasions, it takes in the young, the old and every imaginable slice of humankind in between. No one is judged, all and everyone’s accepted, except, perhaps, anyone who turns out to be a cunt.” 

“…The role the Windmill plays in a band’s development is significant, for they are channeling something fantastically unique, an interstellar nursery for all manner of burgeoning talent or any nutter with a mad idea.” (Of course, in world of the Windmill, “sanity is so fucking relative…”) 

Saul Adamczewski and Ben Romans-Hopcraft. Photograph by Lou Smith.

Primarily written and edited during the onset of the pandemic, Woo! delves into many of the terrifying new variables that continue to affect our lives. It may be a book about the past, but it looks to the future, and what we’ll have to do to get there: “We are living through strange, febrile times…Truth and reason so far out of reach there’s nothing left to grab hold of, just a feeling in our bones that we’re at the end of something and the beginning of something else, yet unable to envisage precisely what.” 

You can order your very own copy of Woo! on Warmduscher’s Peasant Vitality website (linked here.) All UK proceeds will go directly to the Brixton Windmill. 

Categories
Punk/Rock Uncategorized

Trashmouth Records Remix Release: Heaven On Earth

New Malden-based, cult favorite, indie label Trashmouth Records have released the second track from their tenth anniversary compilation album. It’s a remix of “Heaven on Earth,” a deliciously chaotic, sonically schizophrenic rocker from Fat White Family’s incendiary debut, Champagne Holocaust.

A statement from Trashmouth Records explains the concept behind the remix album and offers a preview into its contents: “The remixes see the brothers Liam & Luke May, who not only run the label, but have recorded, produced and mixed all of their releases at Trashmouth Studios in New Malden, exploiting their long-standing Acid-House roots (see Decius/Medicine 8).”

“The LP will of course be pressed on the finest affordable, luxurious fake-gold vinyl & encompass a visual history of the label within its artwork, featuring photographs of the now legendary Trashmouth nights at the Brixton Windmill, where bands bitched & bonded, where blood, booze & tears were spilled in almost equal measure & where the seeds of a small corner of modern musical history were inadvertently sewn.”

Fat White Family ringleader Lias Saoudi eloquently explains the incredible importance that Trashmouth Records holds for him: “Where does mediocrity go to die? Simple: New Malden…Trashmouth Records are the only positive energy left in South London, all else is just a congregation of fashionable dust. The only way I can get to sleep at night nowadays is by telling myself over and over again that it was real, that I really did cut a few records with those grand masters, those brothers sonic oracular – Liam and Luke May. That no matter how bad it all gets, they can never take that away from me. That is my truth. THE truth. OUR TRUTH.”

Over the next few months, we can look forward to remix releases from other Trashmouth Records signings such as Madonnatron and Meatraffle, before the release of the album in full.

Trashmouth Records 10th Anniversary Commemorative Photo Collage by Lou Smith.
@lousmithphoto

The track listing is as follows:

  1. Fat White Family – Heaven On Earth (Trashmouth Remix)
  2. Peter Harris & Lee Scratch Perry – Nothing & Then Nothing (Trashmouth Remix)
  3. Warmduscher – Yolk Buns USA (Trashmouth Remix)
  4. Meatraffle – The Horseshoe (Trashmouth Remix)
  5. Madonnatron – Venus & Rahu (Trashmouth Remix)
  6. Taman Shud – The Hex Inverted (Trashmouth Remix)
  7. Weston Decker – Lazy (Trashmouth Remix)
  8. Bat-Bike – Drag & Drop (Trashmouth Remix)
  9. Pit Ponies – Arrogant & Sad (Trashmouth Remix)
  10. Chupa Cabra – Violent Urges (Trashmouth Remix)

Individual remix singles, digital downloads and of course, the limited edition gold vinyls, will all be available on Bandcamp.

Join the label in celebrating their landmark accomplishment of surviving a decade navigating the shark-infested waters of the music biz and emerging as South London’s shining knights of sonic expression by purchasing a copy for your record collection.

Imagine dropping the needle down and having Madonnatron, Meatraffle, the Fat White Family and Warmduscher all in your flat at the same time (only without the possible threats of property damage, hearing loss, and the worst hangover you’ve had since that girl back during freshers week convinced you to drink something called Satan Comes for Pope John XII.) Heaven, right? What could be better?

May the place “where mediocrity goes to die,” celebrate many more anniversaries, and may their signings continue to bless us with their sonic dreams and nightmares alike.

Categories
Pop/Indie Pop Reviews

notes from the trenches: from Black Flag to Black Books

Black Flag vocalist and renaissance man Henry Rollins practices something he calls Protein/Carbohydrate listening. It’s a system in which he organizes his sonic consumption into two categories. New music—stuff he’s never heard before—is classified as protein, while old favorites are classified as carbs. He tracks his daily intake of ‘protein’ and ‘carbs’ in the obsessive manner of any fitness fanatic or health freak.

So far this month, my carb consumption has been way up, and my protein consumption has been way down, nonexistent but for the excellent, Austin, Texas-based band BLACK BOOKS, whose recent single Goodbye Cool (released in early 2020) is eerily prescient in the same sort of way that Contagion is eerily prescient. Watch it and see for yourself…

My roommate’s been playing the most recent HINDS album, The Prettiest Curse, on repeat 24/7, and I don’t mind a bit. The neighbors, however, are absolutely losing it–but then they always behave as though loud music is something physically threatening, like a crazed triceratops bulldozing through the front door. (An absolutely absurd stance on their part, and I find it’s best to help them work through it by blasting Frank Zappa.)

You know what Eve Babitz (cult writer and demi-monde darling of 1970s L.A.) said about really good songs? She said they were like booster shots, like concentrated doses of vitamins. The Prettiest Curse (despite its title) is like having an IV of healthful, revitalizing stuff. Through my roommate’s love of Hinds I’ve discovered the Spanish indie pop singer ESCORPIA, whose recent single Ten Cuidado has a promo video not unlike a three minute snippet of an Eric Rohmer movie. 

In other news of tremendous importance, INSECURE MEN have confirmed via a reply to an Instagram comment that their third album is forthcoming, a joyous prospect indeed.  There’s been a gaping hole in my soul ever since it became obvious that Ben Romans-Hopcraft’s supremely excellent outfit Childhood were not going to be continuing on in the immediate future, and hearing his work in Insecure Men consoles me greatly.

Totally Wired’s favorite “synth sensation,” JESSICA WINTER, has also hinted at new music. (Which reminds me: limited edition clear vinyls of her LP Sad Music, are currently available on her Bandcamp site, and I’d highly advise snapping one up for your record collection.)

DECIUS, a techno/acid-house outfit comprised of members of Paranoid London, Trashmouth Records and the Fat White Family (a combination calculated to make any self-respecting music geek hyperventilate) have released their first EP, entitled Bread and Butter, available wherever you get your music–I can’t keep track of all the ways to get music anymore–but it’s out there, so go get it.

Yours in solidarity and Bandcamp Fridays,

Annie

xxx

header art credit: @judehavoc

Categories
Punk/Rock Reviews Uncategorized

Trashmouth Records: 10 Years Still Not Dead!

Trashmouth Records, an independent label run by brothers Liam and Luke May, is the New Malden equivalent of Muscle Shoals’ Fame Studios.

The Mays recorded, engineered and produced the debut albums of bands such as Madonnatron, Warmduscher and the Fat White Family. “Trashmouth produced and released records by bands that no one else would touch with a 10-foot pole and not only lived to tell the tale but proved to have been visionary in their blind faith.”

As scouts of raw talent and miners of sonic gold Trashmouth Records are unequalled by any in their contribution to recording some of the best music of our era…

Clams Baker, the inimitable front man of Warmduscher (the best boogie band in London, and that bass, my God) spoke lovingly of Trashmouth: “When I think of the South London music scene, I immediately think Windmill, Fat White Family, and Trashmouth Records, then I forget what I was thinking about thanks to the last 10 years they are celebrating! Very blessed and honored to be a part of it. Long live the hustle, I can’t wait to see what they think of next.”

Clams Baker III, Benjamin Romans-Hopcraft and Saul Adamczewski of Warmduscher (and friends) at the Windmill. Photo by Lou Smith @lousmithphoto.

The label is soon to release a celebratory album of remixes. “Trashmouth Records – 10 Years Still Not Dead” marks the 10th Anniversary of the inception of the Trashmouth Experiment & features remixes of some of the label’s favourite tracks and artists…”

Thus far one remix has been dropped, a Trashmouth redux of “Yolk Buns USA,” from Warmduscher’s infamous debut album Khaki Tears (an album which was recorded in a mere three days if the rumors are true.) 

Other remixes which will be included on the album are a Trashmouth redux of “Heaven on Earth,” a sonically schizophrenic rocker from Fat White Family’s scorching debut, Champagne Holocaust, and other auditory delights from Madonnatron and Meatraffle among others. 

Brothers Luke and and Liam May, who founded and continue to operate Trashmouth Records.

In the label’s own words: “The LP will…encompass a visual history of the label within its artwork, featuring photographs of the now legendary Trashmouth nights at the Brixton Windmill, where bands bitched and bonded, where blood, booze and tears were spilled in almost equal measure and where the seeds of a small corner of modern musical history were inadvertently sewn.”

Join the infamous label in celebrating ten years of “Blood, Booze and Tears in Equal Measure…” by purchasing their 10th anniversary record featuring remixes from their top artists, available May 17th on Bandcamp and beyond.

Categories
Reviews Uncategorized

notes from the trenches

It’s been a whirlwind month for the poor suckers out on of the frontlines of the music industry, myself included. Like everybody else, I have been glued to my laptop for livestreams, during which I have broken two Bose speakers and possibly also ruptured my roommate’s left eardrum, but I’m chalking that up to her allergies and not to the volume at which I was blasting MISTY MILLER’s livestream with Easycome Acoustic Club. 

Speaking of recent noteworthy streams, Glasgow’s own indie goth-pop darlings, THE NINTH WAVE (rock n’ roll social workers if ever any did exist) played a livestream show at Leith Theatre with Lucia and the Best Boys, and I hope to hell you blessed your ears and eyes with it—it was the first time the songs from their sophomore album Happy Days! were played live, and thus a red-letter day…

Glaswegian indie rock outfit the Ninth Wave. Photo credit: @olierskine

If you are of the festival going-persuasion, LUCIA AND THE BEST BOYS announced that, come September, they will headline the River Stage at TRNSMT Festival. (Other headliners include Lil Simz—be still, my beating heart!—Sports Team and Walt Disco.) A word of advice, preorder your tickets, plan your wardrobes and sort your granola out NOW. It’ll give you something to live for. And don’t bring a tent if you really want to have fun; tents just get in the way. So does complicated eye makeup, which only summons rain. Just wear some big earrings. Searing the lead singer’s retinas with reflective bling is a far better way to get their attention than looking like a raccoon having an existential crisis.

Lucia of Lucia and the Best Boys. Photo credit @neelastica

The Best Band in all the World, GOAT GIRL, are headlining Wide Awake Fest on Friday, September 3rd where they are billed above Idles. This suggests that there is indeed justice in the Universe. Black Country New Road, black midi, and Tropical F Storm (Iggy Pop’s BBC 6 show turned me on to these freaks, go give their tune “Brain Drops,” a listen, it’ll melt your synapses) will also perform. 

The magnificent South London indie rock band Goat Girl. Photo credit: @hollyemmw

If you like GOAT GIRL then saunter on over to Bandcamp and check out The Most Underrated Band in all the World, MADONNATRON, who are once again flying under the radar. I’m over here chewing my acrylics in anticipation of what fresh sonic delights they are possibly preparing to unleash upon us unworthy listeners. Musica Alla Puttanesca was released nearly 2 years ago and I’m hungry for more…

Speaking of bands rumored to be releasing new albums in the near(ish) future, FAT WHITE FAMILY released their firstborn film, a gonzo digital diary entry romantically dubbed Moonbathing in February. I’m sure the sight of Alex White’s lovely mullet in a bubble bath was enough for many of you to give the film a five-star rating but hearing the Fat Whites revert to their country roots—with Lias on guitar, Nathan on keyboards, and Alex on flute and sax–was melancholy bliss beyond belief.

(Lias Saoudi and Saul Adamczewski of Fat White Family. Photo credit: the incredible @lousmithphoto)

Yours in solidarity and Bandcamp Fridays, 

xxx

Annie 

Header Photo Credit: Goat Girl by @hollyemmw