Suddenly Unexpected Man; The Newly Signed Red Mojo
Not long after this sincere and strident Warrington quintet released the latest in a string of demos '70/80', there blues rock with a hint of funk and disco groove wet the appetite of Scottish indie label Crunch Records who recently snapped them up. Amiable and sincere off stage, as well as focus, vibrant and rhythmic on it Red Mojo have a colourful history that seen this band more than willing to travel around the country spreading their sound and spirit.
The sum of Red Mojo's parts; Mike York (guitar/song writer), Pete Kenny (bassist/song writer), Lee Leonard (singer/lyricist), Matt Dooley (keyboardist) and Andy York (drummer) disclose the secret to getting signed and give a hint as to what is to come from them.
1. Congratulations on signing to Scottish indie label; Crunch Records. How does it feel after all these years of hard work on the underground and unsigned scene to suddenly be able to call yourselves a signed band? Have you changed much as an outfit since signing the deal?
Pete: Well we haven't started driving £200,000 cars if that's what you mean! Nah….. I guess what's changed is that everyone's now kinda thinkin 'actually yeah, maybe we CAN do this' it isn't just a dream anymore but that tiny bit closer to a reality. The important thing for me is that we got signed on the strength of our live performance, which will always come across better than a CD. However without selling the label short, they have admitted themselves that this is a 'foot in the door' deal so we won't be quitting our jobs or thinking we're fucking 'rock' stars just yet. I tend not to tell people I'm in a 'signed' band because most of them think that's bullshit anyway.
Lenn: It's great to finally say that we're signed, we've only just signed though so we've not really had chance for anything to happen to change us, ask again in a years time!!
Matt: We haven't really got out there and made it count yet, in a live way at least. Once we have recorded the first stuff with the label, the machine will hopefully kick into gear again.
Andy: It's nice that someone wants to give us a chance. It gets a bit disheartening at times when you work your balls off for so long and nobody wants to sit up and take notice of you.
2. Your last demo/EP; 70/80 sees Lenn's vocals taking on a funkier edge to match the guitars and basslines. This is most prevalent in 'Sitting On The Fence' and the slow building 'When You're Not Around' that has a trickle of blues coming through it. What motivated you to write these numbers?
Pete: Musically, these tracks were written in classic Mojo stylee, Mike came to a jam with the basic chords of 'Sitting On The Fence' and everyone built up their parts around it. Although actually what Mike plays now and what he played initially are completely different, which is cool because it originally kinda sounded like 'Stan' by Eminem. I'd rather not have Dr. Dre's lawyers on the phone if we ever wanna release it! "When You're Not Around' I thought was just a beautiful, soulful song which I could totally relate to, so I wanted to write a part that reflected that. It's up to the listener to decide whether I achieved that or not.
Lenn: Lyrically 'Sitting On The Fence' was about worthlessness. 'When You're Not Around' was an emotional release that saved me from saying 'F**k it, lets finish this!'. I don't want to get too much into the lyrics, a picture is better if you take what you want from it and give it new meaning.
Andy: We seem to have this knack of writing songs which build up slowly until you reach this thunderous end like in 'when you're not around'. I think we do this really well. 'Sitting on the fence' however shows that we don't just write that type of song and can do the more normal verse chorus verse chorus thing but still make it as interesting as possible.
3. The howling Kaleidoscope on 70/80 shows that you can still rock retro style and display variety. Do you think that not enough bands experiment and try to put diversity in their armour these days?
Pete: In terms of the unsigned world, I think it's difficult to be diverse because you kind of get the feeling that labels and people won't take interest unless you're almost a carbon copy of someone else. The major labels just don't want to take the risk anymore do they? The pattern seems to be that an indie label will release something different then the majors scramble to find acts that are playing almost exactly the same type of music, so they can make their money before moving on.
That song, however, has been accused of just being 'bland rock' though so god knows how 'different' it actually is.
Lenn: Mmmmm. Everybody is diverse and experimental because they say they are, I'll have that I guess. I suppose you can only be as diverse and experimental as your talent allows you to be. If you're well into, I dunno lets say Oasis, your ability might only allow you to move within that template or maybe JUST outside that boundary. This would make you feel like you were being experimental and diverse, when actually all you're really doing is working on 'variations of' an existing concept. I think perhaps that's the main obstacle, moving out of the box.
Matt: I think that its time to go back to the "classic" way of writing songs. Ones that people can actually sing along to. There are too many bands that are bothered about being in the Cool list or how many times they can make obvious drug/sex references in their lyrics. Style over substance. There is no doubting the correlation between good melody writing and long-term success.
4. What was the last gig you attended as a spectator & does it feel strange watching other artists? Are you constantly making mental notes on their performance?
Pete: Actually, the last 'gig' I attended was (UK Rapper) Skinnyman at Sankeys Soap so before that, I guess it was Glastonbury. I love watching other artists, but very rarely is it to scrutinize their performance, I have to be in a mindset to do that. I like to switch off and enjoy it. It's exactly the same as being a film maker, watching a film and thinking something like "the lighting was all wrong in that scene" and "yeah the CGI is very transparent, they should've used Avid" it's like, just shut the fuck up and watch the film!
Lenn: I think the last band I went to see was Coldplay at Bolton, I'd watched them at Glastonbury last year and it was exactly the same show (just a million years longer!). I was bitterly disappointed, I like to treat every performance as something individual the Bolton and Glastonbury shows were almost scripted which made it very boring. No its not weird being a spectator and yes you do make notes, 'note to self, its not difficult with that much financial backing!'. (I do think Coldplay are an awesome band, by the way!)
Matt: I watched Paul Weller at the M.E.N., the third time id seen him, and most definitely the best. Full of energy, diversity and just great tunes including stuff from The Jam, Style Council (not too much thank God!) and his solo career. Played with perhaps one of the finest bands you can get, very experienced artists to a man. Made me realise one of the crucial things about the industry that is lacking today. The idea of musical development. Today only a handful of artists are given the chance to do this, due to the pressures of commercial success. Its no coincidence that my favourite gigs of last year were from people with the most amazing back catalogues, Brian Wilson, Elvis Costello and Paul Weller. I still think that if you are good enough you will break through and last, but I think the days of artists having a 30 year career are sadly over.
Andy: The last concert I went to was probably Glastonbury. That's about as diverse as you're going to get in one weekend. I think being somewhere like that and watching all these bands it's hard not to make notes on performances. Some you'll be walking away thinking that was amazing and I want to do that and then there's others who you watch and think my band would blow them out of the water, we should be doing that instead of them.
5. Do you have a message or comment for your fans in Serbia & Montenegro?
Pete: Thank you very much for your support. We were shocked and delighted to find our music was reaching that far a field. Oh and please get an English speaker to translate that message on our website! haha!
Lenn: Yes, Yes I do. Try to eat a good fresh salad once a week, preferably with some spinach.
Matt: Da, goverim malo srpski jezik. Zdravo a hvala lepo!
6. Please play the role of wise old person and shower your wisdom on honest and hardworking bands out there today. What is the best advice you can give about getting signed? Also, would you have done anything different?
Pete: The best advice I can give is to gig! You can lock yourselves away in a rehearsal room for a year, but if you don't gig, you will find it difficult when you do. You're so used to the comfortable environment of a room where you can hear everything, it's a shock when you get on a stage and you can't hear the guy you've been taking your cues off for a year. Also, you have to love it, cause it's tough. Being in a band is a lot like being in a relationship with someone. Yeah, there will be bad times, gigs when even the bar staff don't clap, but just try and soldier on, because if you get there it'll all be worthwhile, just don't give up. As for us doing anything different, I guess the fact we got signed due to our live performance, it could be said that recording 5 EP's and an albums worth of demos was a waste of time. But I don't see it like that because it gave us a hell of a lot of experience, because recording is extremely difficult. So no, I don't think I would've done anything drastically different.
Lenn: Seriously, don't do it if you're not really bothered, someone else in your band might really want it and its not fair to waste there time – time is your friend and enemy in the music game. Let your head ask your heart what it thinks, the heart will know if it's worth going for. Would I do anything different? Mmmmm, yes. The whole rock n roll cliché thing drugs, alcohol, inflated ego stuff etc. The whole thing wastes so much time, isn't original (seriously) and can (if you're not smart enough) become all that the band is about, getting f*cked! We managed to crawl out of that pit and keep it together, a lot haven't!
Matt: Believe in it, and more importantly enjoy it.
Andy: It's hard bloody work but at the same time it's all worth it. Sometimes you'll play to five or ten people and when it's like that it can get you down until they come up to you at the end and tell you how much they loved what you did was really cool. That's what keeps you going. You have to just stick it out and hope that one day someone will sit up and listen.
7. You are a band that comes alive on stage. Are there any plans to produce a live album in the near future, perhaps as a debut album? Do you know of a band who has produced a live album as a debut?
Pete: No plans as such no, but it is something I would definitely like to do. It is so hard to capture that energy in a studio, so it is a good idea. I would like to do a live video as a single maybe though, like Radiohead did with '2+2=5', just to give the people something different. Plus isn't a live album something you do when you've got nothing to release at Christmas and you need some cash? haha!
Lenn: Narr, people don't support live music enough. If they want it live they will have to leave the house to get it.
Matt: I am always a bit sceptical about that, us being that different live. Are we that bad when we record! But it has to be said, people seem to like the live sets. Live albums are for when you've got nothing else to put out, and usually (but not always, Jeff Buckley Live at Sin-e and Mystery White Boy are phenomenal) are completely shite.
Andy: That's something which is a long way away. It would be nice one day to record a live album though.
8. What are you all listening to at the moment, musically speaking?
Pete: Allsorts! On my 'playlist' at the moment are; Portishead, Aesop Rock, Red Snapper, MF Doom, Lauryn Hill, Cut Chemist, Gomez …… I'll stop there cause it just goes on and on! (and Ariston) Anything with soul basically, I like jazz and funk, trip-hop, hip-hop, and good old fashioned rock music. I'm influenced by a variety of different music. Even listening to a hip-hop track with a dead simple looped bass-line reminds me that you don't have to play really flashy for it to be a good song.
Lenn: Mmmm. Both the 'Audioslave' albums are rackin up some air time on my MP3 player at the moment. Also, Kate Bush- Aerial, Bloc Party- Silent Alarm, Stereophonics- Language, Sex, Violence, Other., Jack Johnson – In between Dreams, anything Marvin and Stevie, The Doors, Elbow, Doves, E.L.O- the list is endless to be fair. I'm eagerly awaiting the next Cooper Temple Clause and Outkast's albums.
Matt: Current stuff im listening to: Maximo Park - A Certain Trigger, Engineers, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Kooks, Richard Ashcroft, Sigur Ros and Arcade Fire.. And classics from The Kinks, The Stones, Beach Boys and John Lennon. Cant get enough of The Kinks" Dead End Street" and Beach Boys "In My Room" in particular.
Andy: At the moment I'm listening to a whole variety of stuff like the Roots, Led Zeppelin, Elbow, Outkast, Doves, Jamiroquai, DJ Shadow, DJ Format, Moloko and the list goes on.
9. If you could change one thing about the modern music industry what would it be?
Pete: I would change A LOT! haha! One of my real hates though is over-saturation. What I mean by that is how much a song is played on radio, music TV etc. I'll give you an example; Coldplay. Fucking amazing band, great tunes, but how many times have you heard "Yeah I thought that song was ace when it first came out, but I've heard it a million times now and I can't stand it"? So I guess what I'd really like is for artists to have more control over their music, rather than sign it away to be (potentially) raped. Oh and ringtones. That shit pisses me off, it's probably gonna get to the point in the future were songs are written purely for mobile phones! People are making billions out of this shit and very rarely is it the artists!
Lenn: Nothing, I've moved passed it, let it be a pile of sh*t forever.
Matt: It hasnt changed since the beginning. It will always be about sales and what is commercially viable at the time. You just have to be lucky and either invent a "scene" or come along and fit in at the right time. So I wouldnt change it. It creates a kind of cyclical action/reaction changing of the scenes. From when Elvis came along to blow away the crooners like Sinatra, Dean Martin etc. through to punk with the Sex Pistols and prog rock, and hopefully someone giving James Blunt a fucking kicking.
Andy: I think the A&R people in these big labels are too scared to sign anything that isn't derived directly from something else anymore. Nobody wants to take a chance. The music industry in general has become a bit monotonous apart from a small handful who have made it through. Bring back the sixties and seventies when anything was possible.
10. Certain media and press institutions, not so long ago became entangled and fascinated in this so-called rivalry between The Bravery and The Killers. Come on tell us, tell us whose side are you on?
Pete: I'm not on anybody's side to be honest. That kind of thing doesn't hurt anybody does it? The media sold their papers and magazines and the bands sold their records. Everyone wins. I think if you're just ripping off 80's bands at a time when 80's fashion, style and music is extremely popular, you're onto a winner really aren't you?
Lenn: The Killers I guess, who gives a f**k about The Bravery their pants don't fit and they look like they should be in panto – honestly! (Oh sorry, the music doesn't really reach out of the box now does it?)
Matt: At least the Killers had about 2 good songs, so them. I would watch actual band fist fights though. There's an idea for ITV or Sky! And hopefully only if we get someone like The Gallaghers Vs James Blunt Vs Duncan or anyone else from Blue.
Andy: If I had to choose one I'd have to say The Killers. The Bravery are just a bit poo. I'm not really a fan of either though.
11. A Question for each of you; what song, book, TV show or poem sums you up and why?
Pete;. I guess the one song that would sum me up is 'No Regrets' by Aesop Rock off his Labor Day's album. It follows the life of a girl called Lucy who is an artist and people think she's weird because she barely speaks and spends all her time doing what she loves. The basic point of the song is to live your dreams, be it wanting to be an artist, musician, racing driver, whatever. You have to live your dream because if you chase it you'll never catch it. Lucy's last words before she dies are 'Look, I've never had a dream in my life because a dream is what you wanna do but still haven't pursued. I knew what I wanted and did it till it was done. So I've been the dream that I wanted to be since day one'. I am a dreamer so this song really reflects how I feel about life. As soon as I stop living my dream it's only a matter of time before that dream is a distant memory. Sorry that's a bit deep but you know how the saying goes; ask a deep question, get a deep answer…… or something like that, right?
Lenn: Ok, erm, yeeess. Right, one song can't sum me up (that's probably why I write my own songs, eventually I'll define myself on paper, then I'll know who I am!) but a few might give you a rough idea: 'Git-Up, Git-Out' by Outkast, 'How' by John Lennon, 'Moving' by Supergrass, 'Are You Gonna Go My Way' by Lenny Kravitz and 'Harlem' by Bill Withers. I wont discuss these songs, listen to them and you'll get a good idea about 'what Lenn's all about!'.
Matt: Book - High Fidelity by Nick Hornby because i used to do all that making mix tapes for your girlfriend stuff and always thought it would be great to run a record shop. Song - Too difficult to choose one, anything that involves love, heartbreak, drinking, having a good night out, self doubt etc... Ok i've thought of one. (Whats So Funny 'Bout)Peace, Love and Understanding by Elvis Costello. Just listen to it, smile and think of me. Ha ha.
Andy: I'd have to say Git-up Git-out by Outkast as well. It just says stop being a bum and do something with your life. That was me about eight months ago. I was a total bum hated my job, got myself really down about things and then I all of a sudden turned things around for myself. Got a new job which I love doing and generally got things back on track. I listen to that track now and can really relate to the point they were trying to get across.