Your new single is called ‘Less Jools More Top of the Pops’, what wrong with Jools?
Absolutely nothing, and we do feel bad about name-checking him, when essentially the song is about the gentrification of pop music meaning there are fewer avenues for artists without financial backing to get in front of the audience his show commands. It’s not even so much about music television either, but about getting artists exposure to the general public instead of niche audiences online. Alongside the systematic closure of smaller venues around the country (and how many of them are going to survive the 2020 plague??), it’s becoming more difficult for new bands to even get out there to play and get in front of as many people as possible. The only regular mainstream TV to feature live, diverse music is the Jools franchise. However, without the capital to get to a level to be featured, you’re going to see a dwindling number of working class artists ever get there on your telly. It’s not about Jools (sorry Jools), it’s about what his show now represents: the depressing culling of working class artists breaking through to the mainstream unless those artists fit a particular discourse that validates them as a ‘working class musician’.
What were the music shows that you grew up with? What impact have they had on the band that you’ve become today?
Well we missed the major TOTP epoch really, but the internet has been invaluable in terms of finding all this archive footage of live music that was on everyone’s telly at prime time. Like Lieutenant Pigeon playing ‘Mouldy Old Dough’ was on national television when people were eating dinner. I can’t imagine that happening now because, who’d take the risk? And, crucially, the way people consume television has also changed, I don’t think necessarily for the worse either, but there’s a sense of communal experience that’s lost from having so much on-demand choice. The freedom those shows had was often chaotically brilliant even though its audience was so huge. Putting Bis on the biggest music television show when they didn’t even really have a record out – Chris Cowey was one of the show’s best producers in that respect. Also digging deep into things like Old Grey Whistle Test, Ready Steady Go, (embarrassingly) The Tube, The Word, and obscure US shows like New Wave Theater in the 80s have really basically given us the blueprints for everything we’ve done. There’s always something exciting about seeing an artist at their most raw on television when they know people are watching – the best acts have that unexpected, anarchic explosion unfurling in front of you and, as a kid, seeing that happen on a format you think you understand is bewildering and leaves you with that life-changing state of excitement you never quite shift. I think all of us fell in love with music after seeing bands do it live on the telly.
Do you see any glimmers of hope in music programming in 2020, whether that be on TV or online?
Definitely – the internet, again, is where everything new and exciting will eventually stem and not just because nobody can leave the house anymore. YouTube channels dedicated to showcasing new acts, creating their own local music shows. The audience there is global, and that’s fantastic, but with so much choice, everything becomes niche and it loses some of that communal viewing that made Top of the Pops culturally unmissable. Younger generations who’ve grown up on and around the internet have that distinct way of delivering stuff on those platforms that, if you just leave them alone to do it without trying to pack it with ads, has that same wild west feeling of watching Nirvana on The Word. We’re all getting on a bit now, which is safe to say when you can remember any of the 90s, but even apps like TikTok and the way younger people are using tunes and video on there are teaching us more about new music than any TV show.
One of the more upsetting side-effects of the move to intangible digital music releases has been the demise of the B side, yet your new 7″ comes with a choice of seven! How did that come about and how does it work?
This was absolutely the fault of our label Last Night From Glasgow who say we, as a band, like to ‘make things as difficult for ourselves and others as possible’, which is possibly the best compliment we’ve ever had. We really liked the idea of being able to pick and choose your own adventure with a physical format, the way you would digitally with playlists. Ultimately, we released a bunch of records on our own over the past year or so, but none of them have been available on 7″, so we thought we’d give people the option of being able to pick a single as a b-side. But there’s also an option to have no b-side at all, and people have been choosing that, proving that all of our songs, except this a-side, are awful.
You can ‘build your own B’ at Last Night From Glasgow’s online shop.
We asked Slime City to share their Top 10 music TV moments – here’s what they came up with:
For our money, this is the best moment of music television ever, featuring Liverpool’s The La’s on German TV. An absolute gem of a record, but the follow-up question and how Mavers responds is just golden, unexpected brilliance.
Suburban Lawns – ‘Janitor’ on NEW WAVE THEATER
We came quite late to Suburban Lawns but if it hadn’t been for this clip, I don’t think we would’ve ever heard the band at all. Just a sublime, awkward, weird little performance that barely anybody saw at the time.
Dexy’s Midnight Runners – ‘Jackie Wilson Said’ on TOP OF THE POPS
Napalm Death on TFI FRIDAY
At The Drive-In – ‘One Armed Scissor’ on LATER WITH JOOLS HOLLAND
I think there was something about having the over-enthusiastic audience of The Word uncaged and right up in the faces of the bands that made pretty much all the performances on that show absolutely thrilling. It always felt like a fight was about to break out, and that was usually between the hosts and the guests. But you can always see the bands visually reacting to the visceral thrill of it all, and this performance is particularly special, and not just because the only way it could be more 90s would be if Mr Blobby fell on to the stage at the end.
Jarvis Cocker stage invasion at The Brits
Every king must be dethroned and, if history has proven anybody absolutely correct, it’s Jarvis at the Brits undermining the creepy self-righteous pomp of Michael Jackson’s performance.
Manic Street Preachers – ‘Faster’ on TOP OF THE POPS
Replacements – ‘Bastards of Young’ on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
(We found it here – enjoy: Joyzine Ed)
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion on RECOVERY, Australia
Interview by Paul Maps