On being weird: Nottingham illuminated.
From the Exchange Arcade, a monolithic visage in Portland Stone, you can look West across Old Market Square where Angel Row lies just out of distance concealing the tiny Chameleon Cafe, upstairs of which hosts a dislocated living room-cum-club; and Northwards too among a newly refurbished stretch of the city lies Goldsmith Street, where tucked behind a imposing black ornamental fence lies one of Nottingham’s most famous clubs, Rescue Rooms; if you look East from the Exchange Arcade Pelham Street rises up revealing a tight coterie of shops and bars, of which The Social neatly fits in; further on from The Social and you enter Hockley, the dwelling place of The Old Angel, and further still over towards Sneinton an independent arts centre called Moot hosts one off gigs, film screenings and galleries.
Cities have to feed off of the collective memories of its citizens. They have to create locations and they have to create memories and they have to create common feelings as a way to bond citizens to make them feel part of the polis. Polis is simply a word for collective citizenhood, or belonging to the city. Once these locations are in place (historically: Nottingham Castle, the Prudential Building, the Albert Hall, the Victoria Centre, etc) then they form a weave interlocking all interested parties together.
Humans are of course gregarious creatures, we crave interaction as a necessary for our own internal nourishment and survival. We feel strongly about our relationships with others and where instances occur where we can feel part of something we grasp it with both hands. Locations then, act as a loci for collective memories and for the intimations of togetherness it brings. A sense of place is born of these loci penetrating the collective conscious with dreams of identity and common purpose. Sense of place therefore works to enhance communities as it promotes shared memories and creates unifying bonds.
I say all this because I was recently listening to Nottingham’s own Spin Spin the Dogs’ latest LP Leave Me In Leicester. Nestled among the many challenging yet brilliant songs I found the track Big Ben. Odd, I thought, that they should choose the Big Ben chime as a musical motif on which to hang their song. But wait! There is something else. That last line weighs upon my mind, it’s something about the bending of time, so I play it back and listen again. The last line reads: “so fast that time was bent as if it was caught within a prism.” Well, I wondered, what if we could see time, like light, caught in a prism, refracted out and showing its full spectrum. The past, present and future all dazzling in our eyes before us. Suddenly the connection between this and sense of place occurs to me and it is laid out before me in its simplicity. If we could see time refracted and splayed out then we could see and understand the interconnectivity of life. Our collective conscious would be an open resource, something for mutual benefit and profit. To bring it back round then, location is perceived by the collective conscious within the framework of time, enhancing and augmenting common bonds.
Scenes emerge from common bonds or likenesses, they are a complimentary reflection that helps glue people together. Happenstance has co-opted numerous ventures together in Nottingham and one of the freshest ventures is New Weird Nottingham. Run by a number of members of the band Prize Pets NWN is perfect breeding ground for bizarre new music, here James for Prize Pets answers a few of our questions concerning his band, NWN and the Nottingham music scene.
futuresoundstemporary: Why do you think the scene in Nottingham is a strong as it is, and what makes it stand out?
James PP: When I moved to Nottingham in 2002 there seemed to be loads of great stuff to go to. Damn You! were really active and Luke and Steve from Birds of Delay used to put on bands like Sightings and Chinese Stars at Bunkers Hill then it seemed to dry up a bit. In the last few years a lot of people who went to those shows started to put on there own shows because there was hardly anything good to go to anymore and it was a matter of if we don’t no one else is going to. Now there is Rammel Club, New Weird Nottingham, Beach Hunks, Three Cheers and Spanky Van Dykes just opened so Nottingham is pretty great at the moment.
futuresoundstemporary: Did the scene (Liars club has been around 7 yrs for instance/LOTP has cited Liars club as a big musical influence) inspire you to become the band your are? and what wider musical influences do you have?
James PP: I went to a lot of those first Liars Club shows at The Social as it was the same year I moved to Nottingham, Ricky was booking some good stuff like Crack: W.A.R and Coach Whips and at that time I hadn’t seen shows like that because I had come from a small town were bands just did Ash covers so I think they were pretty influential on me too. I think Rescue Rooms opened the same year and there were a lot of good shows there in the first few years. I joined Spin Spin the Dogs and I got to meet a lot of great people from being in that band, people who have gone on to form awesome bands like Please and Lovvers.
Below Crack: W.A.R – Animal Trap
futuresoundstemporary:What is it that binds all the Nottingham bands and the club nights together?
James PP: I don’t think anything does, I guess the Social, Rock City and Rescue Rooms are all owned by the same people but the most exciting things are happening in smaller places like Chameleon and Moot which is an independent gallery which we put shows on at sometimes. It’s a great big white room hidden away in Sneinton. As for bands, I don’t really know much about other Nottingham bands, just that some are really into this idea that no nottingham band has ‘got big’ and that somehow Nottingham deserves to have a band at number 1 in the hit parade or whatever it’s called now.
futuresoundstemporary: Where do you see the Nottingham music scene progressing?
James PP: I’d like to see more shows happening in different spaces, not just bars and venues. Things crop up for short periods but often don’t last, this is fine as long as something replaces it.
This last answer seems to be perfectly accurate. Collective movements are not active ideas switched on like a light, but are more like balls of clay, left with impressions made years ago and molded over time until they are ready. They are notional and chaotic, being dragged in different directions simultaneously which creates a perfect breeding ground for ideas and evaluation.This also means a unique micro-free market capitalist system in which club-nights, venues, and the music itself has only a short lifespan. It fades and then is replaced by something different.
Interbreeding in this mix are a number of superb bands, creating delay-filled, echoing musical environments. The vocals are often shorn of pronunciation, giving them a wonderful Mark E Smith drawl that sits just slightly uncomfortably on the tumbling drum beat. Take for instance Prize Pets’ New Weirdos, or Guilty Parents’ Gin Phantoms (filtered through 80s American Hardcore and Punk), both fine examples of how to push microphone levels through the red and sound brilliant at the same time. If we then extrapolate that, and move it into its wider, national context, we can hear the sounds of the now defunct Teen Sheikhs, who appeared on Italian Beach Babes, Captured Tracks and Suplex Cassettes; Spectrals, whose single It’s OK (not to be OK) (also released on Captured Tracks) is a dizzying 1:58, replete with haunted guitar, reverb heavy drum kit and dream like vocals; and Dignan Porch, again on Captured tracks, who have played numerous times with Prize Pets and have received much critical attention for their blissed out single On a Ride.
The club-nights reflect this movement also. Three Cheers have been throwing up some big names with Wavves, Times New Viking, Male Bonding and more playing at their club-nights. Similarly Beach Hunks have Your Twenties, La La Lepus and A Sunny Day in Glasgow under their belt adding more weirdness to the scene. New Weird Nottingham have also played host to a number of great UK acts including Mazes, Mika Miko and Girls Names. Cultivation in this area has sown the seed for Nottingham to create its own great bands, from Prize Pets and Guilty Parents, to Human Hair and Lovvers. All of these nights create a blitz of sounds encompassing everything that beautiful and exciting about noise, from the hypnotic to the ear-splitting.
It holds links abroad too, allowing the thriving US noise scene to make a regular rat-run of Nottingham. On Friday 25th June 2010 Ganglians bring their enigmatic, beach boys through a warped kaleidoscope sound Liars Club at The Bodega Social Club. This follows on from the arrivals of Nodzzz, Desolation Wilderness and Real Estate, all of whom share similarities with their Nottingham brethren in terms of sound and style. It’s the international to local scale that is surprising here as it seems to gather up and devour what it needs from all corners of the world and create its own microcosm of world noise music within its walls. A sense of place is then axiomatic, even to new arrivals to the city; it is forced upon you without having to engage with it because it already exists out there in some ephemeral world, like a fog enveloping the landscape. Every person is now part of something, be it history, culture, society or whatever you like to call it; environment permeates the mass conscious and harmonizes it through a world of noise.
To be continued…
Prize Pets play these dates:
May 21 – Moot Gallery, Nottingham w/ Please
June 5 – Beyond Retro, London
June 6 – Dudefest II, Brighton w/ Brilliant Colours, La La Vasquez and more
June 25 – Liars Club, Nottingham w/ Ganglians
June 26 – All Dayer @ Deaf Institute, Manchester w/ Mazes, Milkmaid, Golden Grrrls, Please and more
June 27 – Upset the Rhythm @ Barden’s Boudoir, London w/ Ganglians