Advice to bands on signing your record deal: as you set about building your dream, it's also a good idea to build your own room. Such was the case with Newcastle's YOURCODENAMEIS:MILO, who started their journey in 2004 as darlings of the underground, subject of a fierce signing battle and in 2005, architects of rapturously-received debut 'Ignoto'.
With the touring that followed the release of 'Ignoto' the band recruited bigger and bigger numbers to their army of rock renegade disciples: dubbed the Milo-tary for their regimented devotion to the cause. Nevertheless, they parted company with their record label following that record. But YOURCODENAMEIS:MILO, being smarter than your average five-piece, had ploughed the spoils from the deal into their own dedicated rehearsal and recording space - located under Newcastle's Byker Bridge and affectionately named 'Like A Cat, Like A Fox', after 'Ignoto's working title. And like both a Cat and a Fox, rest was not an option. They were already onto in the next stage of their plan. 'Because we had the studio we just thought let's get our Print Is Dead idea up and running,' explains singer and guitarist Paul Mullen. 'We'd been talking about doing it for ages, much like we're still talking about setting up a record label. But now we had the chance to actually do it.'
'Print Is Dead' had started off as a bar-room idea dreamt up by guitarist Adam Hiles, where they would invite their friends over, have a jam, and see what happened. Milo discovered they had a lot of new friends from their non-stop touring. 'It just snowballed,' remembers Paul. 'There was no pressure to get the album out, it just sort if happened really. It was a really good learning curve - how other people write, how other people go about structure and melody - we got a lot out of it to be honest.'
First they invited Essex hardcore allies Reuben down to see how it would go: a band would visit, one of the Milo boys would pick them up from the station and so would begin a thrilling 14-hour process where they'd play, jam, experiment, chuck out the ideas, think of new ones, and at the end of it they'd record whatever came out. It worked so well it led to similar visits from a multitude of acts including The Automatic, Bloc Party, Lethal Bizzle, Maximo Park and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly. By the end they had an album. And since, within a month of splitting from Fiction they found a new home with V2, the logical thing was to release the sessions as an album (Milo are fond of logic). Released in Autumn 2006 to great acclaim 'Print Is Dead Vol.1' showcased just what an interesting place the UK underground had become, taking multifarious genres (post-punk, hardcore, grime and protest folk) and ramming them through Milo's genreless mangle. It also reminded the world what a vital force this Tyneside band were.
Now, just months after the release of Print Is Dead, they're back with Act 2 of their own thrilling story. Produced by guitarist Justin Lockey, 'They Came From The Sun' is the summation of all these projects and more. 'I wanted it to be more direct to be honest,' says Paul of his band's new opus. ''Ignoto' had a lot of melody in there but we maybe didn't give the melody time to breathe. I think after 'Print Is Dead' my concentration span's grown a bit.'
And 'They Came From The Sun' roars with glorious melodies, from the galloping surf-rock of 'Understand' to 'I'm Impressed's dirty groove and the brave, throbbing electronica that sears through 'About Leaving'. Inspiration, it seems, can come from places more obvious than you'd expect. 'I've been going to loads of football matches,' notes Paul. 'It's amazing to see 3,000 people singing along spontaneously. I just think that's a good thing to be able to do. There's no hidden track of Sunderland chants or anything like that though,' he admits. 'Ross wouldn't have it.'
Hand in hand with this faith in song is a rediscovered love of classic rock: listen how 'Pacific Theatre' kick-starts the album with raging bull velocity in a furious blur of denim 'n' leather. 'I have been listening to a lot of Sabbath,' agrees Paul. 'Volume 4 especially. I've never been a massive Metallica fan, but we've been listening to shitloads of Mastodon; Isis and Tool and all that, I've been listening to a lot more metal since 'Ignoto' came out, and Ross is a massive metal fan. We can't help it, we have to put a big riff in there. It's one of the unspoken laws of Milo.'
Just as effective on the heart as the head, it's a record whose skyward ambition is in full throttle from the title up. 'They Came From The Sun' rightfully conjures up the braven thirst for adventure of classic fifties B-movies, but it's actually the brainchild of Adam; a guitar hero less in thrall to rock'n'roll cliches than. aerial combat?!
A classic tactic of Japanese fighter pilots is to fly with the sun behind you to minimise your chances of being spotted on the ground. And it's central to the fundamental tactics of air combat defined by German WW1 flying ace Oswald Boelcke - and his 'Dicta Boelcke' provides the name for the record's climax. 'The Dicta - which were the rules for air combat, are still taught today. He coined them in 1915 and they're still being taught today, That was his set of rules - always make sure that if you're gonna get shot down you're gonna land in your own territory; always keep the sun behind you, always attack from behind. All the rules that are still taught by Top Gun and things like that, and any connection to Top Gun is fine by us. In an ideal world we wanted to record this album in a helicopter. Even if it was only four feet off the ground so we could say we recorded it in the air. but we can do that next time!'
It's safe to say that Milo can afford to aim higher. Having surpassed their own unsurpassable ambitions on 'They Came From The Sun', 2007 is looking like not just the year of YOURCODENAMEIS:MILO, but the year of everyone who ever shared their dream. After years bogged down in meaningless genre marshes, this is looking like the year in which the British rock bands with giant riffs and bigger imaginations finally claim the musical nation as their own.
And YOURCODENAMEIS:MILO have come up with a genre of their own. 'The other day we were watching an old Quatermass from the fifties,' says Adam, 'and the Professor was working for the Experimental British Rocket Group. And that's kind of us. We just call it Space Rock, to be quicker now.' Still, his eyes swell with military pride as, figuratively at least, he crashes the champagne bottle on the cockpit of his souped-up rocket ship. 'That's us; Milo: The Experimental British Rocket Group!'