No Wave cult heroes UT have over the past few years been reissuing their classic back catalogue for vinyl fiends to enjoy anew, and this week it’s the turn of their final studio album Griller. Originally released in 1989, the Steve Albini engineered record sees the quartet of Nina Canal, Jacqui Ham, Sally Young and Charlie D combining rock, free jazz and avant garde sounds into a collection of raw, intense tracks.
We caught up with the band to ask about their reflections on the time of recording and releasing the album, and the landscape into which it is re-emerging in 2022.
How did the reissue come about?
In 2016, Simon Keeler of Forte Distribution and UT had an inspired conversation about remastering and reissuing all of UT’s releases. We agreed a reissue schedule, beginning with a double vinyl and CD of UT’s first two EPs – Ut (1984) and Confidential (1985) – that was released in November 2017 on the band’s own label, Out Records, distributed by Forte.
Since then Out Records and Forte have reissued 1981’s Ut Live at The Venue in April 2018, 1987’s Early Live Life in November 2018, 1986’s Conviction in April 2019, 1988’s In Gut’s House in February 2020 and now 1989’s Griller in June 2022.
How did it feel revisiting the album and looking back at pictures, reviews and footage from that time?
It was an invigorating experience reliving so many moments from the past. Of course the photos from those times brought back a lot of memories. But remastering the music was the most rewarding bit, getting a chance to approach aspects of the production that we felt we hadn’t got right the first time round and then having the opportunity to make it better.
Looking back at the album’s original release in 1989, where do you think it fitted into the music scene of the time and what about it has meant it’s been able to stand the test of time well enough to warrant a reissue?
1989 was an interesting transition period. A lot of the bands whose music had inspired us in the late 70s and early 80s (such as Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell in Television and PiL) had reached their peak and disappointingly dissipated by the end of the decade. Grunge was just beginning to emerge, with Nirvana’s first album, Bleach. I think UT had still retained their intensity and were also embracing a more raw and concise recording sound that organically fitted into the grunge aesthetic.
A radio plugger born in 1989 heard Griller recently and said he couldn’t believe it was released the year he was born, as it “sounds so fresh”. When Iggy Pop played UT on his radio show a few years ago, before he played the track he said “And now for something ultra ultra contemporary!” The UT track he played (“Sham Shack”) was released in 1984.
Were there any bands back then that were on a similar wavelength to you or that you felt a sort of kinship with?
The Fall were paramount in terms of bands we felt a kinship with. All of us related strongly to their music. Jacqui managed to get a tape of our music to The Fall through their tour manager, Scott Piering, when they were touring the USA. Mark E Smith loved it and said that if we came to the UK, they would give us lots of support slots with them. This was a huge incentive for us to come to the UK and we ended up supporting them many times until we split up in 1990. And unlike some bands, The Fall never lost their integrity, depth and drive.
We also felt a strong affinity with The Birthday Party/Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Other bands that were on a similar wavelength to us at the time were My Bloody Valentine, Einstürzende Neubaten, Slint, Sonic Youth, Big Black and Nirvana.
Previous bands that originated in the 70s that we felt a strong kinship with were The Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart, The Stooges/Iggy Pop, Television, Patti Smith, DNA, Mars, Pere Ubu and Joy Division.
Thinking of the musical landscape into which the album is being reissued, what has changed since its original release?
The main difference in the musical landscape is that since the 90s there has been widespread exposure to polyrhythms and tonal experimentation through Jungle, Hip Hop and Electronica, so people are much more open to sounds and structures outside the norm.
At the same time, there is the new role of online publicity and social media in which you are forced to be a mini-marketing machine. There is a lot of pressure on artists to engage online, which can often feel like an annoying distraction from the core focus of creating the music.
But this has also allowed the opportunity to be independent of big business and to have more control.
Who are the current bands that you admire? Are there any in whom you can hear or feel a similar spirit to what you were trying to achieve with Griller?
Fontaines D.C. and Yard Act have a similar spirit, but we haven’t come across many current bands that have a similar approach to us and to what we were trying to achieve with Griller. That’s why we’ve only included a few tracks in our playlist from the past 12 months. Many bands at the moment seem to lack UT’s raw passion. There is an alienating detachment and derivative delivery in their approach.
What have you all got going on at the moment/coming up soon?
Our next release will be our Peel Sessions, much of which hasn’t been previously released. Our 1987 Peel Session was available on the first version of the In Gut’s House CD, but we decided to take it off on its re-release by Mute in 2006 because we didn’t think it fit well with the sound of the album and wanted to release it separately. We’ll finally get a chance to do this, along with our 1984 Peel Session, in 2023.
We’re also organising gigs in northern England and Europe for Autumn 2022.
Check out UT’s Now & Then Playlist of tracks from 1989 and the current day.
“You Made Me Realize” from Isn’t Anything, My Bloody Valentine
This song veers unwaveringly from disarming dissonance to exquisite harmony and back again, which MBV so excelled at and made their own.
“Mercy Seat” from Tender Prey, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
A convict’s reconciliation confronting the electric chair escalates in a dizzying and desperate drive that elevates into a magnificent musical maelstrom.
“Bill is Dead” from Extricate, The Fall
Craig Scanlon’s sublime strumming scaffolds Mark Smith’s wonderfully winsome way with words and atypical tender tone.
“Crossroads” from Crossroads, Tracy Chapman
Tracy Chapman’s extraordinary soulful voice winds its way over an African-infused rythmn in this deeply defiant yet viciously vulnerable protest song.
“Fiat Lux” from Haus der Lueges, Einstürzende Neubaten
“Fiat Lux” (meaning “let there be light” in Hebrew) begins with the sound of swarming bees, then moves into a lyrical shimmer heightened by Blixa’s inspired and immersive singing until the faint noise of a riot creeps into the background, rising to an encompassing crescendo. Epic Einstürzende.
“Paper Cuts” from Bleach, Nirvana
The way the song swerves seamlessly from an insistent syncopated rhythm interspersed by guitar feedback and Kurt’s searing screams into a dark anthemic melody has a madcap magnetism.
“Dark Days” from Rough Trade live, Yard Act
A rapping rant about the dark side of modern life reminiscent of Mark E Smith.
“Big Shot” from Skinty Fia, Fontaines D.C.
Great contrasting guitar sounds underpin powerful and imaginative lyrics such as “and home is a pin rusting through a map”. and “nothing scratches off your blame”.
“Crazy” from St Elsewhere, Gnarls Barkley
A stunning vocal performance by CeeLo Green that mines the deep and captures the stages of revelation.
“This is America” by Childish Gambino
Scathing portrait of America. Brilliant words and musical evocation with fantastic lower-depth bass groove. Incredible.
The reissue of Griller is out now on vinyl and CD via Out Records
Find out more on UT’s official website
Article by Paul Maps