Interview: Blabbermouth

On 3 tracks Murray did his bits on top of our previous bits but the rest of the album is just the 3 of us playing all together free, in one take - nobody knowing what is going to happen. It was good to do it that way - exciting.

Blabbermouth have just released their new album The Edge Of Reason, a collaboration with poet Murray Lachlan Young, that was preceded by the single ‘On The 7th Day’. Gavin Brown had a chat with Lu Edmonds and Mark Roberts from the band to discuss the new material as well as their last album Hörspiel, how Blabbermouth got together and their rich musical history that has included working with everyone from Public Image Ltd and The Damned to Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack and much more.

E&D: You recently released the song ‘On The 7th Day’ from your album with Murray Lachlan Young. Can you tell us a bit about the song and how it came about?

Lu: We’ve known Murray on and off for years and I knew he wanted to record. So we did, we went into Unit 2 studios with Adie Hardy and in one day we had almost a whole album done and dusted all of it, live in first takes. ‘On the 7th Day’ Murray overdubbed his bits on top of a track we had recorded with our pal bassist Derek Chai. The song is all about Biscuits, where they came from and who made them and is one of Murray’s texts from his book How Freakin’ Zeitgeist are you?.

E&D: What has the reaction to ‘On The 7th Day’ been like so far?

Lu: Good. We had almost 5.3k views on YouTube thanks to the great video made by our pal Marek Pytel (Reality) – who normally spends his time on wet-plates and Daguerrotype photos, or restoring old 1920s Soviet b/w silent films like New Babylon. So we were lucky to get his expert help and as a result we were encouraged enough to finish mixing the record.

E&D: The song comes from the album The Edge Of Reason, which is out now. How did the creation and recording of the album go?

Lu: The album came out in August on Bandcamp. The idea has been to try and sell enough CDs to fund a vinyl 12″ version. Like most things we do it’s all a fairly random process, because we do not have a label or an Oligarch supporting us. So everything gets done when we can get together. Sometimes that is just before PiL go on tour and when I test my gear, so mark or Derek come down and we throw stuff together. That means we give thanks to PiL for making this happen! We do it at Unit 2 studios in London with our pal Adie Hardy who co-produces all our stuff and who knows how to record drums and everything else. We then listen back and slowly choose bits. On 3 tracks Murray did his bits on top of our previous bits but the rest of the album is just the 3 of us playing all together free, in one take – nobody knowing what is going to happen. It was good to do it that way – exciting.

Mark: Regarding the recording process, both Hörspiel and The Edge Of Reason are all improvised, which as a way of working has really worked for us so far, although we are open to all. I really liked the idea of letting our subconscious take over not trying to have a preconceived idea of how something should be. When we record it is either Lu and me or Lu and me and Derek Chai – our bass player and myself. Derek is also an amazing musician who I met when I did D:Ream. Del has a unique voice and is really open and I love playing with him. We set up, chat about other stuff, drink lots of tea, then we start playing and see what comes out, maybe playing for an hour or two at a time. We have no idea of how anything is going to sound. After that we then sit on the takes for a week or so and then interpret them. With The Edge Of Reason album as Lu mentioned some of the tracks were Improvised with Murray and laid down in one hit others were pre-recorded and the Murray came in to the studio listened and got his words out. All were done first take, very fast.

E&D: Would you like to work with him again in the future?

Lu: Definitely, were it not for Covid19 we’d now be rehearsing for our huge world tour of weird places starting with the UK in September 2020. And we have spare tracks floating about that Murray sang on, so these may come out soon as bonus tracks.

Mark: Yes definitely Murray is great, a brilliant front man, hopefully when gigs are up and running again we will be touring.

E&D: Have you got any tentative plans for further new material?

Lu: Blabbermouth already have 2 full new albums of stuff in the can, fermenting so to speak. Already we got in some singing from Albert Kuvezin (Yat-Kha singer) and also Boris Grebenshikov (also known as “BG” who is a bit like the Bob Dylan of Russia). And we are always hoping to get back into Unit 2 studios and record another few albums’ worth of backing tracks with Adie Hardy, because he knows how to record everything and make it sound like it should.

Mark: Yes, we have quite a lot of material recorded already, but as Lu said we are planning to get in to the studio to record again to add. Due to lockdown we haven’t recorded this year so I think it would be good to see what the collective subconscious is saying.

 

E&D: How has your debut album Hörspiel been received so far?

Lu: We think people were perhaps a bit puzzled, and we got some feedback from singer-songwriter websites that suggested they found it a bit weird (ok, the robot-text was in Chinese, Japanese, Turkish etc. which was a barrier to anyone who likes Anglo singer-songwriters). But we also had very positive reactions from other music-blogs that totally got it, the subject matter of the robot-voice texts on each track and sonically it is a great record for Ears. The 12” vinyl got a lot of positive comments it was mastered by Streaky and cut very well which is often a bit hit or miss.

E&D: Can you tell us a bit about how Blabbermouth got together in the first place?

Lu: Via the great band King Prawn – whose bassist begat Babar Luck who then got a manager called Jim Chapman (now a paramedic saving lives) who got us to make this impossible record – Care in the Community. I really like that record – that’s what brought us all together. Mark is an amazing drummer because he plays the song, not just the drums and I thought “Aha! let’s keep on this”. And he seems to have thought similar about me too. So we did.

Mark: Lu and I met when we were working on a record for Babar Luck and I thought what an incredible musician totally original approach to music and all round great guy we have to work together again, so I did what I could to keep in contact and eventually both our schedules collided so I booked some studio time with Adie Hardy at Unit 2 studios two three day blocks initially, some with just Lu and myself and then some with Lu, Derek Chi and myself and that’s where a good percentage of the first album Hörspiel came from.

E&D: You both have so much musical experience and history, how do you channel it all together to make the music of Blabbermouth?

Lu: We never discuss what we are about to play, I mean we don’t come in with a batch of ideas and chords or whatever. We get set up, tune up and fiddle about so there’s quite a bit of sniffing, coughing and farting about but then – Baf! Something emerges. Every day we manage to get 15 or so ideas down in between the cups of tea. Mark has so much experience in different areas, I also like his synth ideas so much and he is always bang on the nanosecond. If we channel it all together maybe it is down it to being so hard to get into a studio and play, and with someone like Adie who can record well – and when we do get that all set up we maybe feel we have to use as much of it playing, rather than talking about playing or thinking about getting the playing right. That means we have to get lucky.

Mark: For me it’s defiantly about the doing and not the talking. When we are in the studio every note is precious no rehearsing, everything is a take. I think the channelling is through listening, when we play Lu is amazing in the way he lets the music unfold and not trying to impose oneself on the music. Taking time to listen and then react, which may mean you do nothing for a time. Lu is also a master editor, which is integral to how a lot of the Blabbermouth final arrangements unfold. So when initial edits are done we talk away from the studio environment then I live with the edits I and add my synth ideas and send them through to Lu.

E&D: How else have you been keeping busy during this lockdown period?

Lu: Did a certain amount of gardening, built a workshop/shed, tried to teach the kids school stuff etc.. Didn’t go swimming, put on weight. Tried not to panic. Read many weird news articles on the accursed iPhone. Played more guitar with my right hand fingers, recorded an album with the Mekons (Exquisite, also out on Bandcamp), recorded some new stuff for my guitar trio band “Les Triaboliques”, fiddled about with the PiL demo recordings from 2018, learnt how much I don’t know about computers and recording equipment etc..

Mark: Blabbermouth and Murray Lachlan Young released our first single from The Edge Of Reason Album in April, ‘On The 7th Day’. I have been doing some on line sessions and recording my monthly radio show for Threads Radio from home. I took up running tried not to trip up or generally injure myself. Me and the misses put up a fence. I bought a large quantity of flour for making pizzas with the kids or should I say they made the pizzas I looked on… I also work for a Uni so we had to co-ordinate 3rd year students creating, submitting and uploading there final live performances, which due to lockdown were all done online.

E&D: Are there any rescheduled tour dates for Blabbermouth at the moment when this pandemic is under control?

Lu: We had a tour for late September/October, but no – we didn’t get to the point where we could even re-schedule them. We did play the Radio 6 Music festival in Camden in early just before Covid19 March and had a very good time and our pal VJ Jules – who made our 2 amazing videos (see our YouTube channel) – made some huge visuals live onstage with us. That was the idea, a stripped back line up with a wild light-show and projections.

E&D: As mentioned before, you both have so much experience with other musical projects that we would love to hear about. First of all, Lu, How did you come to join PIL and what were some of the highlights of your time with the band in both stints?

Lu: I seem to join bands by default or mistake, but in this case “people knew people” and John Lydon was looking for people to play the Album album and he eventually got in 2 guitarists (including the late, great John McGeoch). The main highlight is to play with Lydon because his singing and brains are unlike all others. It’s a roller-coaster being part of PiL – amazing times having fun and playing music everywhere. Of the few lows – the worst was when McGeoch got bottled and had 40 stitches in the face at a gig in Vienna. Otherwise you are on the bus and cannot get off, the landscape rolls past and it’s a great privilege to do what you want and see the world. Example: we played Lincoln Nebraska on a stop-off from Chicago to Denver. Nobody in town actually believed we were playing there. The club had sold no tickets in advance. But then rumours got round that there really was a big tour bus parked by the club and some weirdo Anglos were floating about in the second-hand bookstores and liquorice emporiums (I kid you not) so eventually the locals all emerged in time for the show, packed it out. Good night had by all.

E&D: Will you ever do anything with PiL again in the future at all?

Lu: I hope so, we have these demo recordings in the can and John always has ideas – just need to get it into shape – but who knows? Things are not easy and we live scattered across the planet.

E&D: Do you have fond memories of your time with The Damned and what were some of the high points in your time with the band?

Lu: There was a lot of laughing but plenty of low ones – getting arrested more than once, being dropped by Stiff Records was terrible and there was also a lot of abuse of all descriptions for a young 19-year old that was a harsh lesson to say the least. But meeting Lol Coxhill (in fact the 5th member of The Damned) was the best highlight of all and I went on to play with him later – he was a top musician and a very funny and mysteriously lovely gent.

E&D: How exciting was punk for you at that point in time?

Lu: Very. Things changed overnight, or so it seemed. A lot of different people got involved to make different music and many still do. Then it all went – ploot! and new Romantics were in and punk was out. Now we have Green Day, but also there is a strong and admirable core of performers, great ideas still coming through and increasingly in parts of the world that you’d least expect – China, Asian countries, Africa…

E&D: You have also played with everyone from The Mekons to Billy Bragg and Les Triaboliques, how did these different musical experiences shape you as a musician?

Lu: I like playing with all the bands because generally they are all my pals. I’ve lost count of how many tours, gigs and albums I have made – all of them a challenge in different ways. In the Mekons I tend to sit at the back and try to weave between the fiddles, accordions and guitars. That’s different to Blokes where one of my main jobs was to keep Ian MacLagan amused (I really miss him the most professional and funniest and best I ever met). Playing with Billy was very interesting on many levels, it was during the Mermaid Avenue phase. I wish people had heard the band more and we had toured China. As for Les Triaboliques, I have to do more singing and weave between Justin and Ben and that’s a good laugh and there is also musical bits.

E&D: You have also contributed on so much world music, how did you get into that and how did that influence your music and your playing?

Lu: There’s plenty people who have done way more than me, all I did is wander about a bit and try and help here and there, mostly with dubious results. As for how I got into it I confess that I am not really British. Like Joe Strummer, I grew up in the shadow of HMG services in various weird places on this planet. So I learned some languages and maybe I have an open attitude to everything that works, that is interesting and tastes good – including music. The world has to move on from the last century, things are changing and we have to appreciate everyone, not denigrate. Am I an old pacifist hippy? Yep!

E&D: You have played music on all corners of the globe, do you feel that playing music can unite no matter where it is played?

Lu: Yes it can, best of all when it is played by the people for the people without interventions from TPTB. Even then, it can unite… I am trying to find examples where it can’t but in the end – as Duke Ellington said – “There are 2 kinds of music…”

E&D: What was your introduction to music and who are some of your formative and biggest influences as a musician?

Lu: Lots of amazing records – Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Golden Gate Quartet. Then Beatles, Stones, Kinks. Pretty Things etc. And also Tom Lehrer. Musicals like Frank Loesser is an all-time favourite, the Boudleaux & Felice Bryant songs and all sorts of other bits & bobs I heard in the street/radio according to whatever different parts of the planet I was in at the time. Where do I start? Punk was just one part of all that. Call it folk music?

E&D: You have produced a number of albums in your time, what have some of the highlights been?

Lu: The Babar Luck album – Care in the Community is one of my favourites and sadly it was totally ignored / buried by the media maybe due to it coming out at the same time as the tragic London bus-bombs of 7/7. Nobody would touch it, maybe because Babar is an “out” Muslim dressed as one talking about all these Muslim social issues that surely filled the minds of Takfiri hopefuls who went out to fight for Da’esh (ISIS) in Syria, paid by who knows. If they had all listened to his lyrics – we may have had a bit more sanity and peace and love… I am also very proud of my last production effort was APE Tempestuous Times, which is a poetry / music record. I like it! It was on The Wire’s August 2020 selection.

E&D: Is producing something you both will do again in the future?

Lu: Why not? We keep trying. I can edit and wrangle anything out of any music/noise and if Mark is in there we have 2 better heads than one, and if Adie records it there’s another level as he keeps putting it in the back of the net.

Mark: I love making records and I have realised that the term producer is very broad and can literally mean anything, which is lucky for me, so, yes we will keep doing it.

E&D: How did you get into producing initially?

Lu: Maybe because nobody else would? I like making impossible records. Slowly building up skills and then realising it can be done on laptops and I got more confidence. Editing is my main thing, it’s like sculpture, making things fit together. I recently edited a film soundtrack with all these disparate sound sources recorded at dawn on the Thames just down from Tower Bridge. A huge finicky job, just a “harmless drudge” as Dr. J said.

Mark: I drifted in to it as Lu said for me it’s all about confidence, I was asked to produce a punk album for a band called the Yorkshire Rats and it went from there. Now we are ready for other projects, we think we have the bases covered.

E&D: What have been some of the proudest moments of your career so far?

Lu: Brian Wilson clicking his fingers along to a PiL groove as we were playing ‘Deeper Water’ on Later with Jools. And Shirley Collins coming up after a gig at Lewes Folk Club and telling the Blue Blokes 3 that we were “a bunch of very naughty boys” because we’d made her face hurt from so much smiling. Just keeping on doing what I wanted to do way back when I was 15 is a highlight. Hoping that will develop further despite the lockdowns and cancelled gigs. Trying not to wander off into the bushes.

Mark: To be able to stay true to why I did music in the first place although like Lu, I have wavered from time to time.

E&D: Mark, I want to talk about your various musical endeavours too but first of all, Who are your biggest Influences as a musician?

Mark: When I was growing up I listened to anything from the Beatles to T connection. As far as my influences go I like musicians who are individuals and have their own voice and musicians who are brave and are not afraid to carve their own path putting music first not caring what other people think – people like, Bill Bruford, Ian Pace, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Eno. Recently I have also been listening to artists like Alice Coltrane, Pharaoh Saunders, and Don Cherry Bert Jansch who made amazing natural honest records catching moments.

E&D: Who Made You want to play drums in the first place?

Mark: I’m sort of responsible for that. My parents really let me find my own path and didn’t force me one way or the other. I used my lunch breaks and after school time to practice drums in a small drum room/cupboard, I wasn’t interested in playing in any bands or orchestras. I was happy to do my own thing hidden away. As soon as I left school I joined a band and my parents, realizing that I really wanted to do this, went and bought me a cheap first kit, which I played for hours at home driving everyone to distraction!

E&D: What was the experience of working with Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack like?

Mark: Both sessions were the result of a call from one of my old friends ‘Johnny Dollar’ John had produced Blue Lines for Massive attack and also was working very closely with Neneh. In about 1991 I was in a band signed to Elektra called the Mothers with Alan Riggs from Delta 5 and I was doing quiet a few sessions for various bands like the Godfathers etc and John give me a call and asked if I would be interested in playing drums for Massive Attack as a one off. Working with Massive Attack was a great experience everyone was totally absorbed in their art and although I played drums for them, only years later I feel I even came close to understanding where they were coming from. The session I did was for their first live TV broadcast to promote Blue Lines, the band also featured Shara Nelson who sang lead vocal on ‘Unfinished Symphony’.

As I mentioned the Neneh Cherry session was the result of a call from Johnny Dollar. This time it was a recording session for a track called ‘7 Seconds’ featuring Youssou N’Dour. I remember going over to Neneh’s house briefly meeting her and having a coffee I think. I set up my drums in the front room there was another room off to the side, which was the control room, John had a clear idea of what he was going for and I played several loops and also percussion and bells and cymbal swells. On the percussion front I was competing with Morris Pert who I think won the day on that one, although my top kit was – cymbals . bells etc was used on the record again it was a great experience.

 

E&D: What was the experience of working with DJ Rap?

Mark: Working with DJ Rap was great, I had just done a four year recording and touring schedule playing for my good friend Peter Cunnah with D:Ream. I feel D:Ream were one of the first bands to take wholly computer driven dance music live and still remain true to the ethos in which it was created. I was introduced to DJ Rap by D:Ream’s manager Mark Beader and I was offered the role of Musical Director responsible for recreating DJ Rap’s album Learning Curve live.

It was extremely tricky to get together again it’s is a case of authenticity, introducing the performance element into a live gig but still remaining true to the music and the way it was created from both a sound and arrangement standpoint. One thing I have learnt from programming and recreating programmed rhythms live is that a lot of drummers and instrumentalists often add things to arrangements for no particular reason other than just to stick it in there. DJ Rap is a true creator and is an amazing musician and the band on that tour were all brilliant musicians and creators in their own right, which made it special. The tour was a one of the best tours I have ever done, we laughed a lot.

E&D: What was the experience of working with Babar Luck?

Mark: Working on the Babar Luck record care in the community was actually how I met Lu. I was introduced to Babar through a mutual friend Jim Chapman whose name has cropped up a couple of times now. Jim had mentioned that Babar had been working with Lu on a record, which I think they were doing at Lu’s and they needed some drums. Jim booked some studio time with Adie Hardy at Unit 2 studios and we went from there. When I listened to what Lu had done it sounded great and there was a real energy in the takes. The main thing was there was no click so putting drums down was a matter of jumping in and hoping for the best and hoping my ears would guide me through. Although the process was tricky in hindsight I think that it all added to the overall feel musicality of the record. Through the years I have come to the conclusion that for me when things are to perfect they tend to be boring, less engaging. I like wonky! Babar is still a good mate and making great music, I recently interviewed him on my radio show for Threads.

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